Research for Course Credit

Overview

A great way to learn more about psychological research is to become actively involved through PSYCH 399-Independent Study or through the two-quarter PSYCH 397-Advanced Supervised Research. Participating in PSYCH 399 or 397 lets you learn more about the methods used by psychologists and about the topics they study. This is especially valuable for students considering graduate study in psychology, and it can be an educational and enjoyable experience for others as well.

Undergraduate students working with Northwestern faculty members have been co-authors of research papers published in several top psychology journals. Students have also presented their work at professional psychology conferences, including the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association.

PSYCH 397 is designed to provide research training that is comparable to an upper-level research course. In contrast, PSYCH 399 is designed to provide students with an introduction to conducting research. PSYCH 399 is generally less comprehensive than PSYCH 397, and does not fulfill the upper-level research requirement for psychology majors.

PSYCH 397-Advanced Supervised Research

This two-term sequence (PSYCH 397-1 and 397-2) is designed to give students time to complete a substantive research project and should involve conducting original psychological research. The content and methods of the research will vary substantially and will depend on the questions that the student and faculty member choose to pursue. Most PSYCH 397 projects involve testing research participants, but the secondary analysis of existing data is also acceptable.

Often students enrolled in PSYCH 397 are involved in more than one research project, and they may not see an entire study go from development to completion. As part of the PSYCH 397 experience, however, students should be exposed to all stages of the research process (either all with the same study or with different studies). Many students spend the first term of PSYCH 397 reading background literature, becoming familiar with methods, conducting pilot studies, and developing a plan for testing hypotheses. The second term is often devoted more to testing participants, conducting analyses, and preparing a final report on the work done across both terms.

Key characteristics of PSYCH 397-1, 2

  • Two-quarter commitment. PSYCH 397 is a two-quarter sequence with the same faculty member.
  • Prerequisites. PSYCH 205-Research Methods is a prerequisite for PSYCH 397-1, and PSYCH 397-1 with the same professor is a prerequisite for PSYCH 397-2. (Students who have not completed PSYCH 205 may be eligible for PSYCH 399.) Individual faculty members supervising students' research may require certain grades in PSYCH 205. They may also require the completion of other courses, in addition to PSYCH 205, before enrollment in PSYCH 397.
  • Class standing. Most students who take PSYCH 397 are juniors or seniors. PSYCH 397 is also open to sophomores who (1) have taken at least four psychology courses, including PSYCH 205-Research Methods, and (2) have a grade point average of at least 3.4 in their psychology courses. Exceptions require the signature of the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). The PSYCH 205 prerequisite cannot be waived.
  • Content. Students in PSYCH 397 should be exposed to all stages of the research process: the development of hypotheses, the review of relevant literature, the development of a plan for testing hypotheses, the collection of data, the analysis of data, and the preparation of a full research report. Students might not see any single study go from development to completion, but they should be exposed to all these stages and to critical thinking about options at each stage.
  • Papers are required. Students are required to write papers during each term of PSYCH 397. Faculty members supervising the research should evaluate the papers and provide feedback. In many cases, the paper for the first term of PSYCH 397 will be a literature review and/or a research proposal, and the paper for the second term will be a full APA-style report on a research project. The content of the papers should be a key factor in determining students' grades, and students should receive substantive feedback on their papers.
  • Abstracts are also required. Students must prepare an abstract of their work and provide an electronic copy of the abstract in Word or PDF format to the Undergraduate Program Assistant at the end of each quarter.

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PSYCH 399-Independent Study

PSYCH 399 is a one-term course, although students may enroll more than one time. Content varies widely, reflecting the variety of questions asked and methods used in psychological research. However, all PSYCH 399 experiences should provide substantial training in and exposure to research. The student should not, for example, only code data for the entire term, as this does not provide sufficient exposure to research questions and methods.

The PSYCH 399 experience also should include background reading. The student should become familiar with the questions that are being addressed and with the larger context in which the questions are set. Typically, the reading includes key articles or chapters that the professor considers to be most relevant. In summary, the student should become familiar with a research question, the methods used to address it, and some relevant findings. In many cases, this will involve testing participants, but this is not a requirement.

Key characteristics of PSYCH 399:

  • Prerequisite. There are no general course prerequisites for PSYCH 399. However, individual faculty members supervising students' research may require the prior completion of certain courses and may specify the grades that must be attained.
  • Class standing. Most students who take PSYCH 399 are juniors or seniors. PSYCH 399 is also open to sophomores who (1) have taken at least three psychology courses and (2) have a grade point average of at least 3.4 in their psychology courses. Exceptions require the signature of the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS).
  • Content. Individual faculty members have more freedom in setting the parameters for PSYCH 399 than for PSYCH 397. Content will vary, but should include substantial hands-on involvement with the research process and background reading in the research area. In many cases, PSYCH 399 involves direct interaction with research participants, but this is not a requirement.
  • Papers are often required. The content of the paper should be determined by the supervising faculty member. In many cases, the paper will take the form of a brief research report, in which the student introduces and reports the results of his or her research. Another possible format is a research proposal, in which the student introduces a topic and proposes a study. In other cases, the paper may be a written summary of the experiences that constituted the Independent Study. The content of the paper should be a key factor in determining the student's grade.
  • Abstracts are required. Students must prepare an abstract of their work and provide an electronic copy of the abstract in Word or PDF format to the Undergraduate Program Assistant at the end of each quarter.

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Use of PSYCH 397 and 399 to Complete Graduation Requirements

The following rules apply to the use of PSYCH 397 and PSYCH 399 to complete requirements for graduation and for a major or minor in psychology:

  • Only one credit total from PSYCH 397-1 and PSYCH399 may be counted toward the psychology major or minor; a student may count one 397-1 or one 399, but not both.
  • Only one credit of PSYCH 397-2 may be counted toward the major or minor requirements.
  • PSYCH 397-2 fulfills the upper-level research requirement for the major.
  • Students may not register for more than two total credits of PSYCH 397 and PSYCH 399 in any quarter. This includes 399s done in other departments as well.
  • No more than nine total credits of 397, 398, and 399, regardless of department in which they were taken, may be counted toward Weinberg College requirements.

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Identifying a Research Adviser

Students initiate undergraduate research experiences by identifying professors with whom they think they might want to work. They then contact the professors to talk about the possibility of enrolling in PSYCH 399 or PSYCH397.

Only core members of the psychology department faculty can supervise PSYCH 397. Both core department faculty members and those with joint appointments in the department can supervise PSYCH 399. (Most PSYCH 399s are supervised by core faculty members.) Exceptions require the signature of the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS).

Here are some ways to learn about the research activities of faculty members:

  • Read the online faculty profiles. Each profile includes a brief description of the faculty member's research interests, as well as a link to additional information about his or her research.
  • Look at recent publications by faculty members. Some are on the bulletin board on the second floor of Swift Hall, and you can find many others online through the faculty webpages or the university library.
  • Take a look at the research positions posted on the Blackboard site for psychology majors and minors. Some faculty members post ads there for paid and for-credit assistants. Keep in mind, though, that many excellent research opportunities may not be advertised.
  • Look at flyers posted in Swift Hall by faculty members actively seeking students to work with them. Faculty members also sometimes announce in their classes that they are looking for PSYCH 399 and/or PSYCH 397 students.

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Enrolling in PSYCH 397 or 399

To enroll in 397 or 399, follow these steps:

  1. Identify a research adviser. The student should contact a faculty member and ask whether he or she would be willing to supervise the student for PSYCH 397 or PSYCH 399. Keep in mind that only core members of the psychology department faculty can supervise PSYCH 397. Both core department faculty and those with joint appointments in the department can supervise PSYCH 399. Exceptions require the signature of the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS).
  2. Fill out and print a PSYCH 397 or PSYCH 399 application form (see links at the end of this page) prior to meeting with the research adviser. The description of the project and grading basis can be filled out with the adviser if the information is not known.
  3. Meet with the research adviser to complete the form. Be sure to get the faculty member's signature. Some students will also need the signature of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. (See other sections of this document, or the application form, for details.)
  4. Take the completed form to the department office, Swift 102. Give it to the Undergraduate Program Assistant, who will enter information via CAESAR to grant permission for enrollment.
  5. Enroll in the course through CAESAR.

PSYCH 397-1 Application

PSYCH 397-2 Application

PSYCH 399 Application

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