Research Assistantship FAQs
What does an undergraduate research assistant do?
Undergraduate research assistants help faculty with new and ongoing research projects. This may involve a variety of activities, from helping design and carry out a research study (e.g., recruiting participants, collecting data) to analyzing and presenting the results of a study. Undergraduate research assistantships are a form of supervised out-of-the-classroom study and research assistants typically earn elective course credit in psychology. The specific projects, activities, and credit earned are decided in conjunction with a faculty supervisor.
Are there prerequisite courses for being a research assistant?
Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 1000 or 1060) is a prerequisite for completing a research assistantship for credit. However, many faculty members have specific preferences for students working in their labs - such as having completed a research methods and/or statistics course. You should read each faculty member's research description for an indication of his or her preferences.
What is the difference between research assistantships, senior theses, and senior honors theses?
Being an Undergraduate Research Assistant is a semester-long endeavor in which students can gain research skills and work in the lab of a faculty member in psychology. Students typically register for PSYC 4501 as a 2-credit psychology elective and contribute 6 hours weekly to lab activities; the only pre-requisite is PSYC 1000. Students who continue for a second semester can register for PSYC 4502. If you have never helped a faculty member with research before, it is recommended that you begin with a research assistantship.
Completing a Thesis (PSYC 4401, 4402) or Honors Thesis (PSYC 4601, 4602) is a year-long sequence and capstone that involves developing an independent research project under a faculty mentor's supervision and requires a thesis paper and departmental presentation. Thesis students must be psychology majors, must have passed PSYC 2210, and need a minimum 3.0 overall and psychology GPA. Honors thesis also requires at least a 3.5 GPA overall and in psychology. Plan to complete thesis requirements no later than the spring semester of your senior year (some faculty prefer that you begin in the spring semester of your junior year).
Note: Both research assistantships and theses depend on the availability of faculty mentors, which varies from semester to semester. There are typically more students interested in both research and theses than there are available mentors.
Which faculty research lab would be a good fit for me?
You will be asked to indicate up to four professors whose research labs interest you. Begin by reading the description that each faculty member provides by clicking here. Try to identify areas of research that interest you, or that you would like to learn more about. Research assistantships are a good opportunity to explore how different faculty members in a range of specialties conduct research.
What information do I need to complete the online application?
The online application will request the following information:
- GPA (overall) & GPA (psychology)
- Major and minor
- Grades in PSYC 1000, 2101, & 2210 (if complete)
- Four professors whose research interests you
- Why are you interested in being an undergraduate research assistant, in general?
- Why are you interested in assisting the specific professor(s) you listed?
- How did you hear about becoming an undergraduate research assistant?
- Have you ever been an undergraduate research assistant before? If yes, describe your experience.
- Describe any work or volunteer experiences that might be relevant to being a research assistant.
- Is there a professor in the psychology department that knows you well and would be willing to recommend you as an undergraduate research assistant? If so, please provide the professor's name below.
Think about how you will answer each question carefully, since your answers will be viewed directly by potential faculty mentors. Click here for a list of faculty mentors and the online application.
What should I do next if I did not receive a research assistantship?
If you did not receive a research assistantship, please consider applying again next semester. To better your chances of obtaining an assistantship, please consider some of the following suggestions: (a) taking statistics and research methods as many professors prefer students with these courses, (b) earn good grades - particularly in psychology courses and particularly in statistics and research methods, (c) attend classes and psychology department events regularly so that you can get to know your professors, and (d) attend the Psi Chi Undergraduate Assistantships Recruitment and Information Session that is held each semester.
I received a research assistantship - how do I register for course credit?
If you have been offered a research assistantship or thesis opportunity with a faculty member, you will need to complete a course contract with your faculty mentor in order to receive credit for your assistantship. Please click here to link to the contract.