Honors in Psychology

Honors in psychology provides a unique opportunity to design and carry out original research under the close supervision of a faculty member. It is designed for students who have a specific area of interest, would enjoy delving into that topic and thinking creatively about it and can work well on their own. Students are invited to apply for honors in psychology when they have demonstrated strong academic achievement in their courses and meet eligibility requirements. If you are not sure whether you should apply to earn honors, please talk with your academic advisor, a member of the Honors and Student Research Committee, or any other trusted faculty member.

Eligibility requirements

  • 3.4 GPA overall, 3.5 GPA in psychology
  • completion of PSY 280 and PSY 290 with a B or higher
  • application and sponsorship by a faculty member in the department


  • Students are expected to complete at least six credit hours of PSY490H
  • Students must also enroll in and complete PSY475H during the fall semester of their senior year.

Maintaining your status
To remain in honors, you must maintain the GPA requirements, make substantive progress on your project, meet your faculty sponsor's expectations and requirements and maintain your academic advisor's approval.

Application process

To apply, complete the application, which contains the following documents:

  • Student’s personal statement describing her or his professional goals and aptitude for scholarly work.
  • Letter of support from a faculty sponsor who will supervise the work. This letter should describe the general area of research and the student’s qualifications.
  • Letter of support for pursuing honors from a second faculty member.

During the academic year, the Honors and Student Research Committee will review applications and return them to the student within two business weeks of submission. Students should contact any member of the Honors and Research Committee if they have any questions about their application.

Types of projects

Topics can range from independent research (experimental, correlational or qualitative) to a program evaluation to a detailed critical analysis of literature. The scholarship must exceed in both depth and breadth the scope of a typical research paper for a class. The Honors and Student Research Committee recommend that each student work with her or his faculty sponsor to refine the original idea into the type of project most appropriate to the topic that meets the student’s interests and meets the goals of honors in psychology.

Project examples

The best models of projects are those published in the primary literature in the field of study. However, the scope of published work often exceeds the scope of what is expected of undergraduate students. Several successful models of honors theses by previous students are available for review in the Psychology Department office. It is also important to familiarize yourself with the standards that will be used to evaluate and approve all thesis projects. These standards are available in the psychology office and on the department website.

Selecting a topic

Begin with a topic that you are passionate about. Your topic may be something that you are simply curious about, or something you always choose to investigate in courses that allow you to select topics. Your topic may be an extension of a project started in a related course (e.g., PSY290, PSY40x, or HDV400).

Selecting a faculty sponsor

Students must work with a faculty sponsor willing to supervise their project. Factors to consider when selecting a sponsor include: the faculty member’s area of expertise (content, methods; see the faculty section of our site for descriptions of faculty research interests); faculty availability and faculty interest (in your topic). You should also consider whether this faculty member is someone with whom you are likely to feel comfortable and with whom you can work effectively. Students may select a second faculty member to provide additional expertise to the project.

A good approach when seeking a faculty sponsor is to have an idea of what you want to do, then meet with the faculty member and present your idea.

Just because your topic does not match a faculty member’s specific expertise does not mean that she or he will not work with you. Faculty members can and do supervise projects that are outside of their own research interests, as long as it is a topic with which they have some familiarity. Once you have found a faculty member who is willing to supervise your project, meet with that person to set up a schedule of regular appointments. Make sure that you both have a clear understanding of expectations.

The Honors and Student Research Committee will review all honors thesis projects at the proposal stage. It will work closely with the student and faculty sponsor to guarantee that the proposed project will meet the established standards for conferral of Honors in psychology. Students submit a written proposal to the Honors and Student Research Committee that includes a statement of the problem, literature review and methods section. Within 15 business days of receipt of the proposal, the committee will provide a written review and, if necessary, schedule a meeting with the student and faculty sponsor to review possible revisions. The committee will consider up to three revisions as part of the review and approval process.

Time frame

These are only examples timelines for you to follow.

Four-semester empirical project

  • First semester: identify idea; recruit faculty sponsor; develop idea by reading literature and writing introduction; submit application for honors
  • Second semester: refine introduction; prepare literature review and choose methods; submit proposal to the HSRC; take PSY490H (two credits); submit protocol to Human Subjects committee at end of semester
  • Third semester: recruit sample and collect data; enter data; take PSY490H (two credits); take PSY475H
  • Fourth semester: analyze data; write results and discussion sections; submit thesis to HSR Committee; present research; take PSY490H (two credits)

Two-semester project
For example, an extension of PSY40x or HDV400 project.

  • First semester (fall): develop a project from previous course such as PSY40x or HDV400; prepare literature review and choose methods; submit proposal to HSRC; submit protocol to Human Subjects Committee; take PSY490H (three credits); take PSY475H
  • Second semester (spring): collect and analyze data; write discussion; submit thesis to HSRC; present research; take PSY490H (three credits)

Note: To register for PSY475H in the fall, a student must have selected a faculty sponsor, applied for honors and been accepted the previous spring term.

Completion process

  • When the student and the student's committee consider the project complete, it should be submitted to the HSRC. The HSRC committee will review the project within two business weeks and 1) identify it as sufficient, or 2) ask for revisions. A project may be deemed insufficient if still incomplete or unsatisfactory at the time of graduation.
  • Only students whose projects are identified as sufficient will graduate with honors.
  • Projects must be submitted at least four weeks prior to the last class day of the semester. Projects will not be accepted after this date.
  • Students must present their work in a public venue. Acceptable venues include poster and paper presentations at professional conferences, paper presentations at Quest or psychology department colloquia.


For more information about the honors program in psychology, please email psyhonors@oswego.edu.