PSY 4993/5993: Directed Research
Want to learn more about what psychology research is like and how to get involved? Check out our Research in Psychology Week events and resources.
This course presents the unique opportunity to gain firsthand experience in the research lab of a distinguished Psychology faculty member and is the most common way undergraduate psychology students engage in research. It is required for those pursuing a BS and is highly recommended for all psychology majors.
The activities of a research assistant vary according to the type of research being conducted and the current needs of the lab. Your responsibilities should be discussed with the lab staff before enrollment. Examples of tasks undergraduate research assistants have completed in the past include:
- Recruiting and/or debriefing study participants
- Collecting, coding, entering, and/or analyzing data
- Securing literature sources
- Participating in lab meetings
The academic component of the experience most often includes reading articles and writing a five-page APA-format paper in addition to performing standard lab tasks. Students may be able to register for 1 - 6 credits of PSY 4993. PSY 5993 is always set at 3 credit hours and is the default psychology department lab registration in the fall and spring semesters.
General Expected Academic Work Per Credit
During fall/spring (16-week semester), each credit earned amounts to approximately 3 hours of work per week. See below for examples:
1 credit - 3 hours per week
3 credits - 9 hours per week
6 credits - 18 hours per week
Finding a research position is easier than you may think. Participation in a research lab can be done on a volunteer or for-credit basis. Some paid opportunities may exist as well, but this is not as common. To find a research lab, follow these steps:
- Identify a Psychology faculty mentor/topic of interest. To do this, you will need to spend some time reading about the different research interests of the faculty. There are many faculty options to review, so it can be helpful to think about your interests first. You can work with the following sets of faculty:
- We have over 40 faculty in our department. You can review their Psychology Look Book entry or review the list of research labs as well.
- There are also adjunct faculty, which are faculty that work in other departments but are approved to work with our students.
- Any faculty from the Developmental Psychology department.
- Any faculty from the Educational Psychology department.
- Finally, many faculty will post in our weekly newsletter, the Psych Scoop (view past issues or check your email weekly).
- Apply for the research lab or reach out to the faculty you are interested in working with. There are two main ways to apply for a research lab. Those are:
- Fill out the listed application or follow the application instructions on a research lab website or listed in the Psychology Look Book.
- If no specific direction is provided, or if a faculty requests an email, send a personalized email to faculty or adjunct faculty (scroll down for an email example). In the email, express interest in becoming a research assistant in their lab. Talk about how your interests connect with the faculty member's work and list any relevant academic or work experiences.
- Follow any next steps the faculty may require in determining your eligibility for lab participation. This varies depending on the lab and may include sending a résumé and transcript, meeting for an interview, or providing your availability.
- If you are volunteering, you will be good to go after confirming your eligibility.
- If you are taking the course for credit, review the “Register for Credit (PSY 4/5993)” section next.
- If you are being paid for your position, work with your faculty member in that process. You cannot receive credit if you are being paid for your research position.
Working in a research lab NOT listed?
If you are working in a research lab that is psychology-related but is NOT affiliated with psychology, developmental psychology, or educational psychology department faculty member, you may need to petition to receive PSY 4/5993 credit. Contact advising for more information.
Once a lab position is secured and you would like to take it for credit (PSY 4/5993), work with your faculty mentor or project supervisor to fill out the online Undergraduate Research Contract. The contract is intended to clarify the academic components of the experience, the specific lab duties required of you, and how your work will be evaluated.
After the contract is successfully completed and submitted, Psychology Advising will send you instructions via email to enroll.
Understand your options. Psychology BS majors (and BA majors who elect to participate in research) may complete the PSY 4/5993 requirement concurrently with PSY 3901W: Capstone in Psychology - Research Laboratory OR the semester immediately before PSY 3901W. Students are also welcome to take PSY 4/5993 multiple times.
Plan Ahead. Research positions fill quickly. We recommend beginning to contact faculty and apply for research labs when registration begins for the term you want to take PSY 4/5993 (for example, if planning to take research fall semester, begin applying in April; if planning to take it spring semester, begin applying in November).
Network! Form a relationship with Psychology instructors (both faculty members and graduate students) by attending office hours and inquiring about research opportunities in classes you enjoy. Making these connections will help you stand out when you apply for research positions.
Consider doing research for a full year (or more!) Faculty members often give preference to students who are willing to work in their lab for a full academic year. Any additional semesters you take of PSY 4/5993 will count for elective credit in the Psychology major.
Know the requirements. Many research labs place a high value on academic performance (e.g. GPA, previous coursework, etc.) Some research labs require students to have a GPA of 3.0 or above. If you have a lower GPA, finding a research position is not impossible, but will require significant effort. Start applying early and don't be afraid to ask Psychology Advising for assistance.