Psychology Department

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Senior Thesis Program

Click here for information about Graduation Honors in Psychology

Qualified psychology majors may apply for a year-long thesis program featuring advanced, original research. The program is developmental in that it seeks to offer intellectually curious students an intensive year-long experience of mentorship and collaboration. To be part of this program, students must be willing to invest considerable time and intellectual energy. Students interested in more general research experience are encouraged to, instead, speak with a professor about coordinating an Independent Research project. To be eligible for the Thesis Program, a student must be a Junior or Senior psychology major during the thesis year, and must have a psychology grade point average of 3.30 or better. Normally, students will have also completed PSY 103, 104 and at least one semester of PSY 270, PSY 970, or equivalent experience prior to beginning their thesis.

Thesis students develop, conduct and defend a sophisticated empirical or theoretical research project. The first semester of the thesis year is spent developing a comprehensive research proposal. Thesis students will present a brief public presentation of this proposal at the beginning of the second semester of their thesis year. During the second semester, students complete their research, generate a written thesis, and orally defend the project at a public presentation.

Thesis work is advised and evaluated by a Thesis Committee. The committee is composed of the student's primary thesis advisor, one other member of the psychology department and, if desired, a third committee member. (Thesis committee members are chosen by the student in collaboration with his or her primary thesis advisor.)

Note: If the thesis advisor judges the student's first semester work as insufficient or of poor quality, he or she is free to decline to continue advising the student for the second semester. In these instances, the student would need to either find another advisor, or discontinue the project.

How to Apply

Students who want to apply for the thesis program, should:

          • E-mail Mark Sciutto, Senior Thesis Program Coordinator, to indicate their interest in the program and provide a general topic area. This must be done no later than March 22 for a Fall-Spring thesis schedule or October 1st for Spring-Fall thesis schedule. This step is informational only, and you will not receive any additional information in reply to your e-mail. 
          • Students must also submit a completed application to Mark Sciutto no later than April 15th for Fall-Spring schedules, and no later than November 15th for Spring-Fall schedules. Prior to submitting the application, each student must obtain agreement from a faculty member to be his or her thesis advisor. The application includes a 2-4 page topic paper (w/references), and a list of 10 additional references for future reading. See below for a link to the application, which provides detailed instructions.

Applications are available in the Psychology Department office (Moyer 227), or click here to download (.doc format). Students will be informed whether or not they are accepted into the program within a few weeks after submitting their applications.

Important Deadlines

Application Process

          • Expression of Interest: due no later than March 22nd for Fall-Spring thesis schedules and no later than October 1st for Spring-Fall schedules. E-mail your name and proposed topic area to Mark Sciutto, Senior Thesis Program Coordinator.
          • Submit Application: no later than April 15th for Fall-Spring thesis schedules and no later than November 15th for Spring-Fall schedules.

First Semester of Thesis Year (Students sign-up for PSY 975 Senior Thesis I)

          • Thesis advisor and student should select 1-2 members for the thesis committee no later than the end of the 4th week of classes. Be sure the Thesis Coordinator or Mrs. Larimer are told who the committee members are.
          • Complete proposal paper due to committee members no later than 2 weeks before the last day of classes.

Second Semester (Students sign-up for PSY 976 Senior Thesis II)

          • Brief oral presentation of proposal (approx. 10-15 minutes) held during a Common Hour at the beginning of the semester. Advisors, committee members, and other faculty and students will be invited.
          • Completed thesis due to committee members no later than the last day of classes.
          • Oral defense (approx. 40 minute talk plus question/answer session) - scheduled to take place during finals week

Psychology Thesis Topics - Recent Examples

      • Talent Development in Sports: What Factors Contribute to Future Athletic Success? (Alan Bass, 2012)
      • Role of thought-action beliefs and effect of subtype on stigma towards individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (Evelina Eyzerovich, 2012)
      • Perceptions of Homelessness: The Impact of Causal Attributions, PWE, and Perceiver Characteristcs on Stigma and Intended Behavior (Julie Klein, 2012)
      • Do Media Representations of Africans Influence Stereotypes of African Americans? (Andalisa Lopez, 2012)
      • Coping in Caregivers: Stress and Coping Mechanisms of Hospice Workers (Deborah Ward, 2012)
      • The Effects of Diagnostic Labeling and Race on Teacher Expectations for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (Samantha Busa, 2011)
      • White Students' Perceptions of the Black Student Association (Melissa Martin, 2011)
      • Adjusting to College: Personal Relationships and Social Support (Laura Winger, 2010)
      • Feminist Attitudes & Stereotype Threat (Kaitlyn Ferris, 2010)
      • Effect of Prevention Programs on Implicit Rape Myth Attitudes (Kristina Ciarlo, 2010)
      • Perceptions of Gay Men in Traditional Masculine Roles (Emily Morse, 2010)
      • Personalities of College Football Players (Tom Gambuzza, 2010)
      • The relationship among perceived discrimination, racial identity, and help-seeking beliefs (Erica Gross, 2009)
      • A day in the life: The effects of emotional, situational, and musical factors on uses of music in everyday life (Ben Katz, 2009)
      • Environmental value orientation and individualism-collectivism (Rachel Leavitt, 2009)
      • Self-esteem, appearance contingencies of worth, and the relationship between identity status and disordered eating (Sarah Goldberg, 2009)
      • A feminist redefinition: Reexamining fusion with the consideration of variation in lesbian gender identity (Kaitlin Merritt, 2009)
      • White racial identity development and eating disordered behaviors (Karly Rodriguez, 2009)
      • Minority influence: Persuasion, processing, and investment (Adam Hirsh, 2009)
      • Perceptions of divorce among adolescents: A qualitative study (Elisa Vicari, 2008)
      • Clinician diagnosis and attitudes toward Asperger's and Autistic Disorders (Carey Heller, 2007)
      • Examining Heterosexuals' Interpersonal Judgments of Gay Men: Does The Media Promote a Prototypical Gay Man? (Thomas J. Prevete, 2007)
      • Personality and Mood in Women (Kayla Boisvert, 2007)
      • Arousal as a Mediator of Stereotype Threat (David "Zeke" Strober, 2007)
      • Decreasing arousal decreases working memory systems (Paige Brookstein, 2007)
      • The Impact of a Having a Sibling with a Disability on Perceived Parental Expectations for Academic Achievement and Perfectionism (GraceAnn Furnari, 2007)
      • Does interpreting a stressful situation as a challenge or a threat affect the development of illusion of control and learned helplessness? (Camara Murphy, 2007)

Graduation Honors in Psychology

Students seeking graduation honors in psychology must first be admitted to the Thesis Program and successfully develop a research proposal during the first semester of the thesis year. During the second semester, the thesis advisor, in consultation with the other members of the committee, may choose to nominate exceptional work for honors consideration. The thesis committee decides whether or not to grant honors at a meeting immediately following the student's oral defense. Please note that being nominated does not guarantee the conferral of psychology honors. Students must maintain a psychology G.P.A. of 3.70 or higher to qualify for departmental graduation honors.