Requirements & Timeline
The Honors Program in the department of Psychological & Brain Sciences (P&BS) is a two-semester program undertaken during the student’s senior year. The primary goal of the Honors Program in P&BS is to provide students with an opportunity to conduct and complete a comprehensive empirical investigation under the direction of a faculty member, who serves as the student's Honors advisor. It is important to note that the Honors Program is not restricted to students who plan to pursue graduate study in Psychology. In fact, a majority of students in the Honors Program do not plan to continue their studies in Psychology.
The Honors Program serves as a capstone experience to a student's career as a P&BS major at Washington University. It is expected that the student will participate in all aspects of the planned investigation, including developing the research question, designing the appropriate methodology, collecting and analyzing data, and completing the written thesis. To graduate with Latin Honors, the student must successfully complete the Honors Program and have the required minimum GPA.
To be accepted into the Honors Program, the student must have both an overall GPA and a Psychology GPA of 3.65 or higher. The program requires that Experimental Psychology (Psych 301/3011) be completed prior to entering the Honors Program. The student also must have obtained an Honors advisor, a faculty member who agrees to serve as the research mentor for the Honors project. (The Honors advisor generally is not the student’s major academic advisor.) Registration for Honors requires that the prospective Honors student meet with the Coordinator of the Honors Program (Dr. Mitchell Sommers) to discuss the proposed project.
The principal requirement for successfully completing the Honors Program is writing the Honors Thesis. The thesis must relate to an empirical study that was conducted specifically for completing the Honors project. Literature reviews or other projects that would not be considered empirical research cannot be used for completing the Honors thesis in P&BS. A project started as part of either independent study or experimental psychology may be used for the Honors thesis, but it must present new or extended aspects of the original project. The thesis must provide a comprehensive report of the Honors project including a critical review of the literature, a description of methods and results, and a discussion of the importance of the findings.
In addition, students are required to present the findings from their investigation at the P&BS Honors Poster Session and at the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium (in the spring). Students must also complete both semesters of the Honors seminar, Study for Honors (Psych 498 and 499). As part of the seminar requirement, students will be asked to turn in a completed draft of the Introduction and Method sections of their thesis by the end of the first semester of Honors.
Psychology 498 (WI): All students in Psychology 498 will present a 30-45 minute talk that reviews the background, rationale, and methods of the project. In addition to providing a terrific opportunity to get feedback on the proposed project, the presentations will serve as the basis for the writing assignments. More details about the presentations, writing assignments, and grading will be provided on the first day of class.
Psychology 498 (WI) Without Honors: Psychology 498 without Honors is designed for students who would like additional research experience under the direction of a faculty member, but who are either unable or ineligible to complete the honors thesis. Therefore, students who either do not meet the 3.65 GPA requirement for enrolling in Honors or do not want to complete an Honor's thesis can still enroll in Psychology 498 with the permission of Dr. Sommers. Please note that this option still affords the student a writing– intensive (WI) course
Psychology 499: Students in Psychology 499 focus on completing their written thesis, preparing a poster for the annual Honors symposium (and for the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium), and presenting their results and discussion to the Honors seminar students.
General Timeline for Honors
By the end of their junior year, students who want to participate in the Honors Program should have an advisor who has agreed to supervise their Honors project. Students should meet with their Honors advisor to identify potential research questions and to obtain necessary background reading. The goal of these initial meetings is to identify the general research question that will serve as the basis for the student's Honors thesis. Please note that a faculty member will likely supervise only one, or at most two, theses. Therefore, the student needs to contact a potential Honors advisor as early as possible.
Special note: If you are planning to study abroad during the second semester of your junior year, it is critical that you contact potential advisors and develop research ideas before going abroad. If you wait until you return from study abroad, it is most likely that you will be unable to find an advisor for your Honors thesis and/or complete the thesis on time.
Reminder: Students must meet with Dr. Sommers before the first Honors class to discuss their projects.
Summer between Junior and Senior Years
It certainly is advisable to maintain contact with your Honors advisor during the summer to continue preparations for your investigation. In fact, for a number of research projects it may be necessary to collect pilot data and/or to begin your Honors research during the summer. This also is the time for you to be reading intensively the research literature related to your project. At the very least, in addition to the reading, you need to determine how you will conduct the research (i.e., the procedures).
Special note: Before any research can commence, you must have completed the necessary forms and received approval from the relevant Human Subjects Review Committee or Animal Studies Committee. Be sure to check with your advisor about completing these forms. This is particularly important for students planning on working with non-traditional populations (e.g., children or clinical populations) because human subjects approval in these cases can take 3-4 months.
At the beginning of their senior year, students should meet regularly with their advisor to finalize details of the investigation. The goal should be to have everything in place (including approval from the Human Subjects Review Committee or Animal Studies Committee) so that data collection, if it has not already started, can begin no later than the beginning of October.
Students should have most of their data collected by the end of the first semester. In addition, students will need to complete a draft of their Introduction and Method sections.
Students should aim to have data collection and analysis completed by the middle of February. Students should attempt to have a complete draft of their thesis to their advisor NO LATER THAN THE END OF FEBRUARY.
Recommendations for Honors are generally due in the Dean's office by the third week of March. As noted, students should submit a completed draft of their thesis to their advisors by the end of February. Once your advisor provides feedback on this initial draft, you should revise your thesis at least once (but typically more than once) based on the comments you receive. The version that you hand in to your advisor in March will be part of the final Honors recommendations. Therefore, the thesis should be in “as close to final form" as possible by the time the Honors recommendation is due.
During April, you should continue to fine-tune your thesis. Your advisor will provide feedback on the drafts that you submit, and you should revise your thesis accordingly. You must turn in a final version of your thesis to your advisor as well as to the Honors Coordinator by the last day of classes for the spring semester.
Special note: Students are also required to present their research at the P&BS Honors Poster Session and at the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium. You will receive instruction on how to design and print a poster. The P&BS Honors Poster Session is usually held on the first or second day of the reading period and the Arts and Sciences symposium is generally held the weekend before that. You should begin working on your poster no later than the second week of April, as you will need to revise it several times based on comments from your advisor