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Doing Research in Psychology
Learning how to conduct empirical research is central to the education of the psychology major. By reading about research, designing studies, serving as the experimenter for volunteer participants, analyzing research data and writing about research results, psychology students develop systematic, rigorous ways of thinking about people. Students also practice valuable communication skills by presenting research conducted in Research Methods, Advanced Lab, and/or Independent Research at Psychology Research Day. After conducting research while at Muhlenberg, students often continue such work in graduate programs, and in business settings that increasingly depend on their employees to understand people and to know how to learn about them in systematic ways. Scroll through the information below to learn more about the various ways to get involved with a research project in psychology. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the chair of the Psychology Department, Dr. Laura Edelman (née Snodgrass).
Students are introduced to research immediately in Introductory Psychology. This foundation continues through other courses in the major including Psychological Statistics, Research Methods, Sensation & Perception and others. Several upper-level courses require students to develop and implement their own research projects (e.g., Cognitive Processes). Most notably, the 400-level Advanced Research courses focus on conducting research in a particular area of psychology: conditioning, perception and cognition, social and personality psychology, and clinical psychology. In these courses students develop their own unique hypothesis and design a research study to test it. They then follow-through by running, analyzing and presenting the study. All students in the major are encouraged to present their research at appropriate venues (e.g., Psychology Research Day). For more information on the courses offered by the Psychology Department, see Psychology Major and Courses.
Research Apprenticeships with a Faculty Member
A particular strength of the department is the faculty, whose members are not only excellent teachers, but also productive researchers. Many students (freshmen through seniors) work with faculty members as research assistants and collaborators. Students may volunteer their time in a research lab, they may enroll in the Psychology Apprenticeship course (PSY270; .5 course unit), or they may receive Independent Research credit. As a result of these collaborations, students often co-author papers that are presented at research conferences, and many Muhlenberg psychology students give presentations at the annual Undergraduate Psychology Conference of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges. After an apprenticeship, students also often develop their own research ideas and go on to Independent Research or Honors Theses. For information about the research being conducted by each faculty member in the department, visit the Faculty Information pages. If you are interested in the research described, contact that faculty member and see if he or she has room in their research lab for an enthusiastic, responsible new member!
We encourage juniors and seniors in particular to consider conducting an Independent Research (PSY970). Students work closely one-on-one with a faculty mentor in developing and implementing their ideas. Many of these projects are presented at local or national conferences, and will sometimes result in publication in a psychology journal! Any type of research, but especially independent theses such as these are also very positive additions to a graduate school application. All students in the major are encouraged to present their research at appropriate venues (e.g., Psychology Research Day, LVAIC Undergraduate Psychology Conference, Eastern Psychological Association Conference). For more information about doing an independent research project, contact the faculty member who has an area of expertise related to your interests.
Psychology Thesis Program & Graduation Honors
Visit the Senior Thesis web page for more information about this program