Directed Research

Directed Research is a course that provides an intensive research experience, is required of all majors, and carries a prerequisite of Psychology 201 (Research in Psychology I) and Psychology 301 (Research in Psychology II). Students must take at least one advanced class before taking Directed Research.

Directed Research provides an opportunity for every Psychology major to engage fully in the research process and produce a complete study in a single semester. It is taught differently from other courses, too. Although there are scheduled class meetings, there are also (at least) weekly individual meetings with the instructor throughout the semester. At the first class session, students indicate their area(s) of research interest and are then assigned to one of the professors teaching Directed Research based on those interests. Then, with the support of a faculty member each step of the way, each student investigates his or her area of interest, designs a research project intended to extend knowledge in that area, conducts the research, analyses the data, writes a research report preceded by an extensive literature review, and presents the study through a poster or PowerPoint presentation at the Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference (MUPC—see below).

Oral presentations are an integral part of the Directed Research experience. Learning how to communicate your research in a succinct, accurate, and engaging manner not only helps you advance as a psychology major; these same skills are vital to virtually all professional roles. Because we believe that feedback and revision are critical to learning, you will actually give your presentation at least twice (just like turning in a draft of a paper). 

Obtaining survey instruments:

Many high quality research instruments are available in the public domain. Occasionally, however, the best measure for your study is copyrighted. The Psychology Department will purchase copyrighted survey instruments under the following conditions:

a) the instrument is likely to be used by future research students,

b) the cost of the instrument does not exceed $100, and

c) there are no other valid and reliable instruments available at a lesser cost.

Instruments that cost more than $100 and/or are likely to be used only for a single study will be purchased at the discretion of the chair.

Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference (MUPC)

Attendance at MUPC is mandatory for students who are on campus during Spring of the year they do Directed Research. Students who plan to study abroad during the Spring term will present their research projects at the Fall departmental poster session instead, although they will have the option to present at MUPC during their senior year, if they so choose. If unexpected circumstances (e.g., athletic events; illness) prevent students from attending MUPC or the Fall poster session, they will present their Directed Research project, either in poster or oral form, to a group of faculty.

MUPC typically runs from about 9 am to 3 pm. Attendance for the entire day is a crucial part of the conference experience and is expected of all students and faculty. The Department will help coordinate transportation to the conference. Because the conference is held at a different school each year, the details of poster requirements and PowerPoint capability differ. Please be sure to check the conference web site to make sure your poster conforms to the requirements set by the host institution or to verify that your oral presentation plans fit with the technology available.

A few words about conference etiquette: Students often wonder about what to wear for MUPC. Typically, presenters choose to wear professional attire. While you may not feel comfortable donning an interview suit (you may not even own one!), we urge you to show respect for the proceedings by dressing appropriately. Students also often wonder whether they need to stay in a single room throughout a series of paper presentations or whether they can migrate to find their friends’ talks. While you will certainly see migration in between paper presentations, it is usually considered more polite to stay for all the papers in a session. Supporting your friends and classmates is wonderful, but one of the highlights of MUPC is meeting students from other institutions and hearing about their research. We invite you to push yourself beyond the Macalester bubble!

MUPC History

  • 1977 St. Cloud – Elliot Aronson – UC-Santa Cruz    
  • 1978 Macalester – John Darley – U of Minnesota
  • 1979 St. John’s – Stanley Milgram – CUNY
  • 1980 Carleton – Walter Mischel – Stanford U
  • 1981 Augsburg – Thomas Bouchard – U of Minnesota, TV
  • 1982 Mankato State – Eric Klinger – U of Minnesota, Morris
  • 1983 Bemidji State – John Conger – U Colorado School of Medicine
  • 1984 St. Olaf – Philip Kendall – U of Minnesota, TC
  • 1985 St. Catherine – Elizabeth Loftus – U of Washington
  • 1986 Gustavus – Thomas Bouchard – U of Minnesota, TC
  • 1987 St. John’s – Travis Thompson – U of Minnesota, TC
  • 1988 Bethel – Edward Donnerstein – U of California, Santa Barbara
  • 1989 St. Thomas – Michael Gazzaniga – Darmouth Medical School
  • 1990 Macalester – Rosiland Cartwright – Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago
  • 1991 Carleton – David Myers – Hope College
  • 1992 Mankato State – Charlene Muehlenhard – U of Kansas
  • 1993 Hamline – Doreen Kimura – U Western Ontario
  • 1994 St. Olaf – Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi – MN Center for Victims of Torture
  • 1995 Gustavus – Louis Tassinary – Texas A & M
  • 1996 Macalester – Stanley Sue – UCLA
  • 1997 St. Thomas – Margaret Matlin – SUNY, Geneseo
  • 1998 Augburg – Paul Rozin – U of Pennsylvania
  • 1999 Carleton – David Buss – U of Texas, Austin
  • 2000 Macalester – Elizabeth Loftus – U of Washington
  • 2001 Hamline Robyn Dawes – Carnegie Mellon U
  • 2002 UW River Falls – Robert Kail – Purdue U
  • 2003 Bethel – Brad Bushman – Iowa State U
  • 2004 St. Catherine – Megan Gunnar – ICD, U. Minnesota, TC
  • 2005 Bemidji State – Edward Donnerstein – U of Arizona
  • 2006 St. Thomas – Robert Levine – California State U in Fresno
  • 2007 St. Olaf – Christopher Cunningham – Oregon Health & Science U
  • 2008 Hamline – Karl Rosengren – U of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • 2009 St. Ben/St. John’s – Laura King – U of Missouri, Columbia
  • 2010 Macalester – Megan Gunnar – U of Minnesota, TC
  • 2011 Carleton – Dan Simons – U of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • 2012 Gustavus – Laurie Santos – Yale U
  • 2013 St. Thomas – Sarah Gervais – U of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • 2014 Bethel – Angus MacDonald III – U.Minnesota TC
  • 2015 Macalester – Mahzarin Banaji – Harvard University

Policy for seniors who wish to undertake Directed Research and an Honors thesis simultaneously

Typically, Directed Research and Honors theses are two separate experiences; students typically take the former during one semester of their junior year and write their thesis throughout the entire senior year. There are rare instances, however, when students choose to conduct the two simultaneously. If students choose to do research on unrelated topics, in the fall term they may register both for Psychology 300 and for 4 credits of independent research devoted to their Honors topic. If students choose to do research about the same or closely related topics, the following guidelines apply (please note that these guidelines will be modified accordingly for students who wish to graduate in December):

a) Students must take Directed Research in the fall term of their senior year. They will, like other DR students, receive four credits for their work in this course. The literature they review and the data they collect can and should be used for their Honors project, but the final Honors thesis must cover substantial ground beyond the DR project (including, for instance, a much more detailed literature review, a second empirical study, and/or a considerably larger participant population).

b) Students may have different professors advising their DR projects and their Honors theses. Both advisors will be available to the student throughout the project, but the DR advisor will assume primary responsibility in the Fall and the thesis advisor, from January forward.

c) DR students are encouraged to conduct additional work on their Honors while working on their DR projects. However, they will not be eligible for extra academic credit for this work during the Fall term.

d) Students who elect to take DR and do Honors work simultaneously should plan to work intensively on their Honors project during January. They will be eligible for 2 academic credits for this work by registering for an Independent Study with their thesis supervisor.

e) Up to four more academic credits can be earned for Honors research conducted in the Spring through a second Independent Study.