Senior Thesis project
PSY 4991-3
General Course Overview
First Semester
Second Semester
Third Semester
Appendix A - useful websites
Appendix B - parts of the paper
 

General Course Overview
The Senior Thesis is a multisemester course during which students will develop, conduct, and write up an original psychological study. Students should start three semesters before graduation, registering for 1 hour per semesters for 3 semesters for a total of 3 course hours.

Requirements
Students registering for Senior Thesis must meet the following requirements:
1. overall GPA of 3.0 or better
2. a "B" or better in both Statistics (PSYC 3500) and Experimental (PSYC 3600) Psychology
3. a mentor in the psychology department willing to supervise the project

Course Objectives
By the end of this project, the student will have done the following:
1. communicated clearly and effectively using appropriate technical language in both written and oral form
2. demonstrated knowledge of a specialized literature through reviewing empirical studies, analyzing research findings, and drawing appropriate inferences in reference to reliability, validity, and significance from a variety of materials
3. formulated an original hypothesis
4. designed, run, and analyzed a research study
5. written a thesis using APA style
 

Why should you do a research project?
A thesis project is not easy; it requires a lot of time and effort. You will be doing a large research project, over the course of three semesters, with the finished written project probably averaging somewhere between 30 to 70 pages. You will be required to defend your ideas many times as you go through this process, both in oral and written form. You will probably encounter a variety of problems as you do your project, with participants, computers, etc. And there will probably be times in which you will want to throw your hands into the air and quit.

Why then, would you want to do a research project? First of all, it will help you professionally. Whether going to graduate school or the workforce, completing a project of this magnitude demonstrates that you have motivation, and drive, as well as a variety of useful skills that set you apart from the other applicants. In addition to helping you get a job or into a graduate program, this project will teach you how your research fits into the whole psychological community.

According to Danziger (1990), the science of psychology can be viewed as operating within three concentric circles. The first circle or the core of science is the research report. The researcher collects data, analyses the findings, and distributes the results to the rest of the scientific community. This report both supports and defines the scientific community; the credibility of the scientific community rests on the validity of the report. The second circle is the research community, comprised of authorities in the field, whose task is to replicate the results, examine the report for alternative accounts, and so on. The final circle is the broader professional community who will apply the material in their own research and practices.

As the report is circulated to the larger contexts, more members of the scientific community are included. Research is first shared with others that have directly overlapping interests and then with others who benefit from the results in a more tangential way. Each level is embedded in a broader context and should be viewed as an integral part of a larger whole.

The objective of the course is to have you learn how your own research fits in with the larger whole. You will learn the connectivity of the research - the researcher, the institution, and the larger scientific community. Research is not in conducted in a vacuum - the sharing of ideas is central to the expansion of knowledge and that the work of the individual is both driven by and contributes to the scientific community.

Danzinger, K. (1990). Constructing the subject: Historical origins of psychological research. New York: Cambridge University Press.
 

Procedural Issues

First semester

1. Develop tentative ideas.
Make a list of different research projects that you are interested in doing. Think about certain topics that have interested you or maybe you could build on a project that you did in PSYC 3600. After you have thought about some different areas that interest you, go to the library and do a modest literature review on these areas. As you research these topics, your ideas will become more fully formed. By the time you have completed this preliminary search, you want to have enough information for 1 or 2 pages of material on each idea. Next, set up a meeting and discuss your ideas with your mentor. Be able to articulate not only what you want to do in your research project, but also have some tentative ideas about the "when, where, and how". Your mentor is to give you guidance only, not to hand you a research project. During this meeting, you and your mentor will discuss the feasibility of the project. Are there any constraints, laws, or other possible problems of which you need to be aware? Set up a timetable. By what date should you have certain components of your project finished? Plan your research properly and do not wait until the last minute to work on components of your project. Expect delays in your data collection and analysis (e.g. various computer problems, difficulty getting participants).

2. Form a committee
Once you have gained approval from your mentor, form a committee. This committee consists of two or three people. One is your mentor; the others will provide additional guidance in your research project. Choose people that you think will complement your project. If you decide to use a third person on your project, it could be someone from outside the psychology department. If you are not sure, ask your mentor for suggestions. Set up a meeting with each person individually to discuss your ideas. Make sure that each committee member receives a 2 page typed summary on what you will be doing.

3. Prepare your proposal
Now it is time to prepare your proposal. Make sure it is formatted properly, typed, and well-organized. In your proposal, include:
1. Title
2. Introduction - What is your research problem? Be precise. Include enough background information to provide a rationale for your selection of this problem. What are your expected findings? State them clearly in your hypotheses.
3. Research Methodology - What will you be doing to examine your research problem? Include a discussion on the type and number of participants in your study, any apparatus or materials that you will be using, and how you will conduct the experiment.
4. Design and Data Analysis - How will you analyze your data?
5. References
6. Appendices - Include any questionnaires, etc. that will be used in your study. Also include your consent form.

Be as thorough as possible here. Maybe give a copy to some of your friends to check for obvious grammatical errors. Be sure to credit and cite all of your sources. Submit the proposal to your major mentor for comments. It will take your mentor a while to read the project, so don't expect to receive it back the next day. When you receive your proposal back, make whatever changes that you and your mentor agree upon as soon as possible. Submit the proposal back to your mentor, with a copy of the original proposal and a page indicating the required changes that you have made to your proposal. Remember, revisions are a natural part of good writing and research; you may have to do several rewrites.

After you and your mentor agree that your proposal is in good shape, you then submit copies of it to your committee members and try to set a date for the committee to meet as a whole. Keep in mind that they will probably not be able to meet on the spur of the moment and they need time to read and review the project. Allow 2-3 weeks between the presentation of the proposal to your committee members and a meeting date. Usually this is an informal meeting, but you will be asked to explain why you are doing this experiment so be prepared for these type of questions. When you meet, the committee may have suggestions and/or require changes to your proposal.

4. Human Subjects Review Committee
You will need to submit your proposal to the Human Subject Review Committee (also called the IRB or Institutional Review Board) and secure permission to do this project. This is to ensure that you are following proper research guidelines. See the following web site for information on how to apply to the IRB.
 

Second semester

1. Data Collection
In the second semester, you will conduct or run the experiment after you have received committee and IRB approval. Make sure as you do the experiment that you follow proper APA research ethics and guidelines. This includes
1. obtaining proper informed consent from your participants which includes informing them
a. that they can decline to participate or withdraw from the experiment at any time
b. that information about them will be kept confidential
c. how to contact you if they have concerns or questions
2. an explanation of the study as soon as possible after the data are collected

Keep in contact with your mentor to make sure that you are staying on track with your research project.

2. Analyzing the Results
Many researchers collect pilot data. This allows them to test their materials and procedures to see what kind of data they will be collecting. Many times, what seems to be a good idea on paper doesn't work in the field. Therefore, it is recommended that, when you have obtained a sufficient amount of data, you should begin to analyze your results. Checking your results soon after you begin your data collection ensures you that there are no major confounds that could be affecting your study. It is easier to fix problems now than to wait until all of the data has been collected and then attempt to explain why something didn't work.

Make sure you do the proper analyses. Your mentor will help you here. NOTE: Falsification or fabrication of data is a serious offense. DONíT DO IT! If you are caught, it will result in your failure of the course.

3. Conference Submission
Start looking for possible conferences that you could submit your paper to, either undergraduate, regional, or national conferences. Ask for suggestions from your mentor. Many of the regional and national conferences have deadlines for submission or intent in the fall for presentation in the spring or summer. The undergraduate conferences usually require submission by late winter or early spring for presentation in the late spring. Submission of a project requires at least an abstract of your study. Intent just indicates that you plan on submitting an abstract of your project at a later specified date.

Decide if you will be doing a paper or a poster presentation. For a paper presentation, you will speak in front group of people about your research project for a set period of time (usually between 10 to 20 minutes), using either slides or overheads to help you make your points. In a poster presentation, you will display your research project on a poster board in a room with other displays and answer questions from people who walk around looking at the different posters. This usually lasts one to two hours.
 

Third semester

1. Interpret your Results
All of your data collection has been done and now you should be started on analyzing your findings. It is important that all of your data be kept neatly organized! Do not be surprised if you must run more statistics on your results than you originally thought. Sometimes, when you obtain certain results, you must run further post hoc analyses.

You must also interpret of your results. Did you find what you expected to find? If not, why not? What are the implications and conclusions that you can draw from your findings? How do your results fit in with past research?

2. Final Write-up
When you write up your results and discussion, be sure to make any appropriate changes in your introduction and method section. This is particularly important if you modified your design in any way while conducting the study. Your proposal will probably have been written in future tense; change it to past tense. Your final paper will include the following (required are * - see Appendix B for a sample of how some of these sections will be typed).

*Title page
*Signature page - when you have defended your thesis, all of your committee members will sign this page, indicating their acceptance of the project.
*Fair Use and Duplication Release Form - You will be giving a copy of this thesis to the library. This page states what is and is not permissible to copy from your paper.
*Abstract - This is a brief summary (150 words or less) of your research project.
Acknowledgments - This is a thank you page. Here is where you thank everyone that provided you with assistance, gave you permission for copyrighted materials, etc.
*Table of Content - Your table of contents lists the location in your senior thesis of everything listed here as well as the location of your introduction, methods, results, and discussion.
List of Figures and Tables - If you have more than 3 figures and tables, you should make a separate list of their location. Tables and figures should be included in the body of the paper and not placed at the end of the paper.
*Body of text - This includes your introduction, experiment(s) methodology and results, and general discussion
* References
Appendices - This includes any special materials that were used in your study (surveys, supplemental analyses, etc.).

3. Final Defense
After you have written your thesis to the point that your mentor finds it acceptable, it is time to gather your committee and defend your project. Defending your project means that you present the results and implications of your findings to your committee. Again, set up a date in which the whole committee can meet and give each person on the committee a copy of your final paper at least two weeks in advance. In addition, place a notice in the department that you are defending your project and leave a copy of the paper at the front desk for other people to examine. This is an open defense, which means that people can come and listen to your presentation. On the day of your defense, give a 20-30 minute presentation on your project. Focus mostly on the results and your conclusions. Use overheads and other visual materials. Afterwards, the committee will ask you questions about your thesis project and on areas related to your project. On average, a defense lasts about 45 minutes to 1 hour (it just seems longer than that). After you have defended your project, your committee will sign the signature page (note: your mentor may wait to sign the page until you have incorporated the suggestions that the committee makes to you about your project).

4. Final Printing and Binding
When you have completed all of the above, then you are ready to bind your thesis. You may either have it hard bound or soft bound. In either case, the final project needs to be printed on 8.5"x11", 20 lb. white paper. The type should be a standard type, black ink, either 10 or 12 points and should be laser printed. The paper should be free of corrections, smudges, etc. and double spaced. The text should have a top, bottom, and right side margins of 1" and a left side margin of 1.5" (for binding). The paper should be written in APA style, left justified, with a header and page numbering. You need to make at least 1 bound copy for the library and one for your mentor. It is recommended that you also make 1 copy for each of your committee members and one for yourself.
 
 
 

Appendix A
References and Websites that will be useful in your project


Appendix B

Sample Title Page
 
 








Title of Project
 
 
 
 
 
 

by
 

Student Name
 
 
 
 

Senior Thesis

A thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of the Bachelor of Arts/Sciences
Psychology, Counseling and Guidance
Valdosta State University
Date







Sample Signature Page

This Senior Thesis "Title of thesis" by Student Name, is approved by:
 
 

Major Professor         _______________________________________
                                Name Academic Rank

Committee Members _______________________________________
                                Name Academic Rank

                                _______________________________________
                                Name Academic Rank

Dept. Head             _______________________________________
                               Name Academic Rank
 
 
 

Sample Fair Use Page
 
 

FAIR USE

This Senior Thesis is protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States (Public Law 94-553, revised in 1976). Consistent with fair use as defined in the Copyright Laws, brief quotations from this material are allowed with proper acknowledgment. Use of the material for financial gain without the author's express written permission is not allowed.
 
 

















DUPLICATION


I authorize the Head of Interlibrary Loan or the Head of Archives at the Odum Library at Valdosta State University to arrange for duplication of this Senior Thesis for educational or scholarly purposes when so requested by a library user. The duplication shall be at the user's expense.

Signature _________________________________________________________________

I refuse permission for this Senior Thesis to be duplicated in whole or in part.

Signature _________________________________________________________________
 
 
 

Table of Contents Page

TABLE OF CONTENT

Title Page ............................................................................................................
Signature Page ....................................................................................................
Fair Use and Duplication Release Form .............................................................
Abstract ..............................................................................................................
Acknowledgments ............................................................................................
Table of Contents ................................................................................................
List of Figures and Tables ..................................................................................
Introduction ........................................................................................................
Methods...............................................................................................................
    Participants..............................................................................................
    Materials and Apparatus..........................................................................
    Procedure.................................................................................................
Results.................................................................................................................
Discussion...........................................................................................................
References...........................................................................................................
Appendix A.........................................................................................................
 
 

Sample list of figures or tables
 


LIST OF FIGURES

1. Title of figure 1 ................................................................................................................
2. Title of figure 2 ................................................................................................................
 
 


LIST OF TABLES


1. Title of table 1 ................................................................................................................
2. Title of table 2 ................................................................................................................