Honors Program in Psychology – Fall 2023

The Honors Program in Psychology is a chance for seniors to undertake substantial independent work culminating in a project of exceptionally high quality. This year, the Psychology Department is experimenting with a new approach to Honors as a way to encourage more students to consider undertaking an Honors project and to expand the range of methods students can employ to deepen their expertise in psychological science. As in years past, the Honors project represents a significant scholarly accomplishment (and will require a significant amount of work) above and beyond our typical capstone expectations. The new program has several distinctive elements:

  • Rather than proposing a totally new project for their Honors endeavor (as we did in the past), students will identify a project that is already completed or in process (the “starting point”) and propose an extension of that project.
  • Students can propose to extend their “starting point” through a new empirical investigation; the development of a new theoretical model, assessment tool, or intervention; the design of a new course syllabus; or another outcome consistent with the project’s aims and with the field of psychology.
  • Students will participate in a spring Honors seminar during which they’ll report their progress on their projects, develop research skills, provide and receive project feedback, and practice presenting their work.


Proposing an Honors project:

  • By October 16:

Students discuss their potential “starting point” with a faculty member (typically the person with whom they conducted or are conducting that project) and declare an intention to propose an Honors project. Please use this form to signal your intent.

  • By December 13:

Students submit their “starting point” project and a proposal for their Honors project to the department chair. The “starting point” submission should indicate the context in which the project was completed (e.g., Directed Research; advanced course; independent study) and the faculty member who oversaw that project. The proposal for the Honors project – the extension of the “starting point” – will typically run no more than 2-3 pages, single-spaced, and will include:

  • a brief summary of the “starting point;” 
  • a description of the proposed project’s goals and the activities the student hopes to undertake to reach those goals; 
  • a brief account of the contributions the proposed project seeks to make; and 
  • a tentative plan for the product that will result from the Honors project (e.g., paper spelling out a new theoretical model; new assessment tool; proposed program; grant proposal; syllabus unit or lab activity).

Please use this cover sheet to ensure your proposal is complete and meets the criteria for proposing an Honors project. You’ll be prompted to make a copy of this form, which you can submit, along with your “starting point” and Honors proposal, via email to the chair – Jaine Strauss ([email protected]).

The department chair will designate two faculty to evaluate each submission using these criteria

  • The “starting point”:
    • Synthesizes and analyzes relevant research and theoretical frameworks.
      • It is relatively comprehensive, capturing key sources relevant to the project, including contemporary and foundational scholarship.
      • It puts a range of theories, ideas, findings and sources – including conflicting evidence and perspectives, when relevant – into conversation with each other.
    • Has clear aims, hypotheses, or conclusions and successfully supports those aims, hypotheses or conclusions. 
    • Seeks to contribute to the literature in novel ways (e.g., testing competing theories; applying past research in new domains).
  • If the Honors proposal calls for gathering or (re)analyzing data:
    • The research questions follow logically from the literature reviewed in the “starting point.”
    • The proposed study design is clear and appropriate to the goals of the project. 
    • The potential contributions of the study for the field are evident and compelling.
    • The proposed project is feasible within the available time constraints and with minimal faculty guidance.
  • If the Honors proposal does not include gathering or (re)analyzing data:
    • The proposal is clear and specific about the new work that the student will undertake.
    • The motivation and justification for the proposed new work are apparent.
    • The new work builds systematically on the “starting point” (e.g., integrating new areas of scholarship rather than merely adding new citations to scholarship that has already been included).
    • The potential contributions of the project for the field are evident and compelling.
    • The proposed project is feasible within the available time constraints and with minimal faculty guidance.
  • By January 6:

The chair will notify all applicants of the department’s decision about their Honors proposals. If admitted to the Honors program, students will be assigned to a faculty supervisor (often but not always the person who oversaw the original project) and will be cleared to register for the Spring semester Honors seminar.

  • Throughout the Spring semester:

At the start of the Spring term, Honors students will meet with their faculty supervisors to develop a timeline for their projects. They will typically meet with their faculty supervisor either weekly or biweekly for about a half-hour. Although students are expected to conduct much of their Honors work independently, they are encouraged to seek out resources to help them achieve their goals (e.g., reference librarians; other faculty; your peers). Honors students will also participate in weekly seminar meetings, during which they will discuss their progress on their projects, develop research skills, provide and receive project feedback, and practice presenting their work.

  • By April 19:

Students will meet with a committee of three faculty (their faculty supervisor plus two other faculty, one of whom may be from the Psychology Department and the other of whom is typically from another department) to present and defend their Honors project. A complete, polished draft of the Honors project is due to the committee at least one and preferably two weeks before the defense date. The defense usually begins with a 15 minute presentation – open to guests – and then moves to a closed session with just the committee and the student for about 45 minutes. At the end of the defense, the faculty supervisor will meet with the student to let them know whether they will graduate with Honors and, if so,  what revisions they need to make before submitting the final version of their Honors thesis to the Academic Programs office.


Questions to ask yourself (and possibly to discuss with department faculty) before applying:

  • What is my motivation for proposing an Honors project? Does the Honors process align with that motive, or is there a better/different way for me to fulfill my aspirations? For instance, if my primary motivation is that doing Honors will look good on a CV when I apply to graduate school, would it be better for me to invest time in a research lab so that I can develop more grad-school-relevant skills?
  • Is there a topic about which I’m passionate? Do I want to really “nerd out” about this topic during the second semester of my senior year? Am I excited about doing the added work that this project entails?
  • Do I have a specific idea for how to expand a project that I have already completed or will complete by the end of the Fall semester?
  • Am I able to work largely independently on my Honors project in the second semester of my senior year?



  • Is there a minimum GPA for participation in the Honors program in Psychology?

No, there is no minimum GPA. We urge potential applicants to talk with their faculty advisors about whether undertaking an Honors project is a good fit for their interests and background. If your “starting point” project received feedback suggesting significant areas for growth, the odds of being accepted into the Honors program are likely to be low unless you engage in substantial revision of that project before applying. 

  • What happens if I apply for Honors and then decide I don’t want to complete my project?

This is not an uncommon occurrence; as students evaluate their workload and priorities, they sometimes decide that the Honors program is not for them. If you are enrolled in the spring Honors seminar and the drop/add deadline has passed, you can either withdraw from the course or you can work with the course instructor to determine what work you will need to complete to earn a passing grade in the seminar.

  • What if I miss the October deadline to indicate an interest in Honors?

Please check with the department chair. It may be possible to still complete an Honors project, assuming you turn in your “starting point” and Honors proposal on time in December.

  • What if I miss the December deadline to submit my proposal?

Unfortunately, this deadline is strict. The faculty have limited time to review the proposals before the Spring semester. We urge you to start your proposals early so that you can turn them in by the deadline. We will send out reminders to help ensure everyone knows the deadlines are coming up.

  • I plan to graduate in December. Can I participate in the Honors program?

In future years, it will be possible for a December graduate to complete an Honors project. There is not sufficient time for someone planning to graduate this December to complete an Honors project.

  • Can my Honors project in Psychology be combined with an Honors project in my other major?

Our policy has been that a project can only result in Honors in one department. In the past, a few hardy souls have conducted two Honors projects – one in each major. Please confer with your faculty advisor to determine what makes the most sense given your majors and your plans for the future.

  • I have an idea for a project about which I am very excited, but I think I’ll need a lot of faculty guidance.

We’re so glad that you’ve got a project in mind! Because our faculty have many commitments right now, we cannot guarantee that someone will be available to provide more intensive supervision of your project. Please talk to the faculty member whose work most closely aligns with your project, and they can help you sort out your options.


Previous Honors Projects

You can read these honors projects on Digital Commons.