Becoming Involved in Research: PSYC 500/550/560

A student interested in completing a PSYC 500, PSYC 550, or PSYC 560 should read about the research area of each professor in the department (look at the psychology website) and then contact the professor to discuss the possibility of a PSYC 500/PSYC 550/PSYC 560. Typically this conversation takes place the semester prior to starting the independent course. In this conversation, the student should be prepared to discuss his or her particular research interests, and how these interests can be met in a PSYC 500/550/560 with the particular Professor.  

Students must register for a PSYC 500/PSYC 550/PSYC 560 using the SPECIAL COURSE OPTIONS PERMISSION FORM before the end of add/drop of the semester in which the PSYC 500/PSYC 550/PSYC 560 is to be conducted. Titles for the PSYC 500/PSYC 550/PSYC 560 appear on the transcript. To download the forms, click here. Once the form has been signed by the faculty supervisor the student takes the form to the Registrar's Office in Biddle House.

PSYC 500 Independent Study

Independent Study begins with a question that cannot be readily answered in the laboratory. Typically a student does an independent study because it is either a topic not covered in any course, a topic not covered in much detail, or a topic that does not lend itself to empirical research at the student level. The work primarily consists of research in the library, in which the student pulls together primary literature into a substantial paper (>20 pages) that answers the question. Students typically meet with supervising professor once a week and generate an outline, drafts of each section, and a final draft. A polished draft (a literature review) is the final product. Grading is typically based on paper and conduct during the semester.

A list of recent PSYC 500 titles:

  • Treatment Options for ADHD: A Comparison of Pharmacological and Behavioral Treatments
  • Effects of Arts Education on Children’s Academic Performance
  • Mental Illness and Homelessness
  • Role of Mirror Neurons in Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • ADHD: Peer Relationships and Self-Esteem
  • Sexual Abuse History and Women’s Current Sexual Functioning
  • Understanding Heterosexual College Women’s Same-Sex Sexual Experiences
  • Which Treatments for OCD Are Most Effective?

PSYC 550/PSYC 560 Independent Research

Independent Research also begins with a question. What differentiates PSYC 500 from PSYC 550 is that for the PSYC 550 students actually do empirical work. Again the topic is one that may not be covered in any course or a topic not covered in much detail. Typically the student works in the supervising professor’s laboratory, but the student may also gather data from the field or another laboratory if needed. The work consists of research in the library, in which the student first puts together a research proposal based on primary literature. The students must get IACUC approval for studies that use animals and IRB approval for studies using human participants. The student collects data, analyzes it and writes an APA style research report. Students typically meet with supervising professor once a week and generate an outline, drafts of each section, and a final draft. A polished draft (a research report) is the final product. Grading is typically based on paper and conduct during the semester.

A list of recent PSYC 550/PSYC 560 titles:

  • Effects of Ginkgo biloba on The Amnesic Effects Induced by Scopolamine in the Day-Old Chick
  • Effects of Glucose on Reactivation of Memory
  • Effectiveness of Three Methodologies in Increasing Memory and Learning in SH Rats
  • Risk Perceptions and Relationship Intentions among Women in a Domestic Violence Shelter
  • Unconscious Processing in the Perception of Music
  • Stigma and Prejudice Toward Women with Eating Disorders
  • Discounting Illness Complaints Having Multiple Physical Causes
  • Self-Efficacy and Risk Perception: Psychological Variables of Women’s Adherence over a 6 Week Weight Loss Program
  • Unconscious perception of faces
  • Unconscious processing of two-word phrases

PSYC 500, PSYC 550, or PSYC 560 with Field Placement

The PSYC 500, PSYC 550, and the PSYC 560 can have a substantial field component. For example, some students doing a PSYC 500 ask questions about the effectiveness of treatments in varying disorders. This type of PSYC 500 lends itself to a field component - “Seeing Literature in Action”. A student who is comparing ADHD interventions can observe at the local schools. A student studying Alzheimer’s treatments can see behavioral interventions in action at the local Alzheimer’s Unit. Typically a field setting is paired with a PSYC 500 and students refer to the observations made in the field in their paper. The student does not typically conduct research in the field and the field placement is therefore more typically done as part of a PSYC 500 instead of a PSYC 550 or PSYC 560. As with other PSYC 500s, the student writes a literature review and integrates the field observations into the paper.

A list of recent PSYC 500 titles (with a field placement component)

  • Effectiveness of “Floor-Time” Behavioral Intervention in Autism
  • Sustained Activities Reduce Agitated Behaviors in Alzheimer’s Patients
  • Factors that Influence Long-term Prognosis of Head Trauma
  • Effects of Stress on Corticosterone Levels in the Day-Old Chick
  • Effects of Lead Exposure on Cognitive Abilities in Young Children
  • The History of Foster Care in the U.S.:  Field Placement at Children and Youth
  • Changing Models of Elementary School Counseling
  • Response to Intervention vs. The Discrepancy Model for the Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities:  Field Placement in School Psychology
  • Animal-assisted Therapy: What Is the Evidence?