Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Psychological Sciences faculty members have national reputations for their scholarship and are among the most productive researchers in their field. Through research, working with them can help students discover and disseminate knowledge related to the mind, brain, and behavior and further explore the science of psychology.
Psychology major and minor students may want to pursue undergraduate research opportunities for several reasons: 1) more direct mentorship from faculty and graduate students, 2) help identify or clarify further career goals, 3) improve transferable skills such as writing and oral communication, critical thinking, and information literacy, and 4) improve your CV or resume for graduate and professional programs. For more information on Undergraduate Research in general at MU, please visit the Office of Undergraduate Research webpage.
Students interested in a post-baccalaureate program that requires them to conduct research – which is true of many Ph.D. programs – will gain the most advantages from the Honors Capstone year, though any research experience is beneficial.
Where Do I Start?
Students may take Psychology 2950 or 4950, both titled "Special Problems." These courses are taken with a faculty member and culminate in a research project or paper.
This experience is beneficial for undergraduate students considering graduate school in a psychology-related or research-related field.
For Arts & Science students (e.g., psychology, sociology, history, communication), the hours count as elective credit towards graduation. The course does not count as an Arts & Science Behavioral Science foundation course.
For psychology majors, it is important to note that Psych 2950/4950 does not count as a 2000-level psychology elective course because it is not a "regularly scheduled course." However, the course will count as an additional psychology course. Psychology majors can count up to 40 total hours of psychology courses in the overall hours needed for graduation.
Many faculty members advertise their Psych 2950/4950 opportunities on the bulletin boards around McAlester Hall or on this website. Students can also contact faculty members directly to ask about Psych 2950/4950 opportunities.
You must have an instructor’s permission to take either course.
Before agreeing to the course, the student should ask the faculty member about their expectations of Psych 2950/4950 students. Once the student and faculty member have agreed to these expectations, the student will be given a permission number to register for the course for the agreed-upon amount of credit hours. When you get the permission number, add the course on MyZou, be sure to put in the correct number of hours (the default is 1 hour, so change it depending on how many hours you will take) and there is a box to enter the permission number.
If you have any questions about Psych 2950/4950, including how it will count toward your degree, please contact the Academic Advisor for your major or minor.
Psych 2950 is a research apprenticeship with a faculty member, assisting them in developing and executing research. It may be repeated up to 6 hours maximum. It is a non-regularly scheduled course that provides students with 1 to 3 hours of credit for working on a research project. Typically, students arrange with the faculty member to work approximately 3 hours per week for each hour of credit they receive for the course. To earn credit for this course, students may be expected to enter data into a statistical computing program, schedule research participants, assist with experiments, give directions to survey participants, interview subjects, and gather research articles.
Psych 4950 is an independent investigation leading to a project or paper. It is repeatable upon the consent of the department. It differs from Psych 2950 in that the student is more actively involved in the research process, and the student is usually expected to write a research paper. Students interested in Psych 4950 should contact faculty members directly to inquire about Psych 4950 opportunities. Lists of current faculty members and their research interests are available from the Advising Office.
While we strongly encourage students to participate in research by receiving course credit, at times, students do not have credits available to devote to this experience. Many faculty members will accept volunteer students in their lab. More often, however, students will begin by participating in Psych 2950 credit and then move on to either 4950 credit or volunteering to continue their participation. Additionally, while it is rare for students in Psychology to be offered a paid position in a lab during the academic year, at times, faculty are looking for paid research assistants over the summer (although these positions most typically go to students who have previously worked in that lab during the academic year).
Honors/Independent Research Capstone Program
The vast majority of our Honors Capstone Program students go on to graduate programs related to psychology, medical school, or law school. The research, presentation, and networking opportunities they receive through the honors capstone greatly improve their chances of being selected for these competitive programs.
Students will gain experience with state-of-the-art research and will have conducted every phase of a research project.
Psychology majors who complete the Honors Lab sequence (PSYCH 4976HW and PSYCH 4977HW) and who have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher at graduation will graduate with departmental honors.
This is the only way to obtain departmental honors in Psychological Sciences.
To fulfill all requirements and graduate with departmental honors, students in the Honors Capstone sequence are expected to develop an independent project with the assistance of a faculty mentor, create a journal-length honors thesis manuscript, and present a research poster of their project at both the Midwestern Psychological Association meeting in Chicago and an on-campus event. Honors Capstone participants are not required to be members of the MU Honors College, but participants may receive honors credit towards an honors certificate.
Students interested in the program who do not have the required 3.5 GPA but meet all other requirements can participate in the same program. It will be called the “Independent Research Capstone.” They will not graduate with departmental honors. Everything else about the program is the same.
For more information about the Honors/Independent Research Capstone Program, including how to find a faculty mentor and program expectations and grading scale, please review the following documents:
If you have any questions about the Honors/Independent Research Capstone Program, please contact the Director of the department’s honors program, Dr. Nicole Campione-Barr, at CampionebarrN@missouri.edu.
Support Undergraduate Research
The department incurs significant expenses to ensure students can afford the travel associated with the program. Alumni giving to this program goes directly towards offsetting the costs of these experiences. If you want to give a gift to support the honors program, go to our Give Direct website: https://mizzougivedirect.missouri.edu/Item.aspx?item_id=195.