A senior thesis or honors senior thesis in psychology allows students to conduct an original project under the mentorship of a faculty member. Successful completion of a senior thesis can also be used to satisfy the departmental requirement for a capstone course.
What does a senior thesis/honors thesis involve?
The thesis is designed to expose promising undergraduate psychology majors to some of the steps involved in conducting original research in psychology under the guidance of a faculty member. The steps in completing a thesis may include: searching and analyzing the published literature; identifying important and interesting research questions about thought and/or behavior; formulating testable hypotheses; selecting appropriate research methods and participants; securing ethical approval; piloting materials and procedures; collecting, entering, and analyzing data; and writing up research results. This process will help students develop their critical thinking skills, refine their skills in research design, implementation, and analysis, and improve their writing abilities. A thesis paper can be the basis for a public presentation at a local, state, or national conference, or it can be used as a writing sample for graduate or medical school.
Requirements for a Senior Thesis
To complete a senior thesis, a student must:
- be a declared psychology major
- have a GPA above 3.0 (overall and in psychology)
- have passed PSYC 2210: Research Methods
During the time students are working on their theses, they are required to be signed up for PSYC 4401 during their 1st semester and PSYC 4402 during their 2nd semester. Also, to enroll in PSYC 4402, students must meet the additional requirement of having taken at least 2 courses from the learning and cognition, biological bases, or general course groups.
Requirements for an Honors Senior Thesis
To complete an honor's senior thesis, a student must:
- be a declared Psychology major (see the Director of Undergraduate Studies if you have not declared your major)
- have a GPA above 3.5 overall and in Psychology
- have passed PSYC 2210: Research Methods.
During the time students are working on the honors thesis, they are required to register for PSYC 4601 during the 1st semester and PSYC 4602 during their second semester of the thesis. Also, to enroll in PSYC 4602, students must meet the additional requirement of having taken at least 2 courses from the learning and cognition, biological bases, or general course groups.
A senior thesis does not necessarily follow a strict timetable. Many students who complete theses begin by gaining experience as undergraduate research assistants. With this in mind, below is a rough timeline for students considering theses.
Students should consider becoming involved with faculty research through an undergraduate research assistantship.
Students should begin to identify potential senior thesis advisors. For example:
- a student who is participating in an undergraduate research assistantship might approach his or her research mentor about the possibility of completing a thesis (note: many faculty members prefer that students complete a research assistantship in their lab to gain experience necessary to complete a thesis)
- a student might review the list of professors accepting students for thesis and complete an online application, indicating interest in completing a thesis
- a student might begin work on a senior thesis or honors thesis in the spring semester.
Students must begin senior theses no later than the fall semester of the senior year and plan to spend both fall and spring semesters on their project. A departmental thesis research symposium is held at the end of the spring semester and the thesis is generally expected to be complete at the time of graduation.
Name: Vanessa Buonopane
Hometown: Jacksonville, NC
Area of research: Health Psychology
Research mentor: Dr. Lesley Lutes
"I am currently working on my senior thesis, which is looking at what may impact weight changes in adolescents by observing some aspects of their executive functioning."
Name: Anna Gaddy
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Area of research: Personality
Research mentor: Dr. Jennifer Bowler
"By serving as a undergraduate research assistant I hope to gain the experience needed to be successful in graduate school."
Name: John Reid
Hometown: Goldsboro, NC
Area of research: Cognition
Research mentor: Dr. Jon Reed
"We are exploring a supposition that memory, from an evolutionary perspective, developed for the purpose of storing survival relevant information."
Name: Justin Smith
Hometown: Cypress Creek, NC
Area of research: Clinical Health Psychology
Research mentor: Dr. Samuel Sears
"I'm currently examining the affect of Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) shock on cardiac patient's sense of security."
Name: Juliann Stalls
Hometown: Williamston, NC
Area of research: Social Psychology and Well-being
Research mentor: Dr. Derrick Wirtz
"I am currently working under the supervision of Dr. Wirtz and looking at varying levels of self-esteem and self-control to see which of the two is perceived to be a better predictor to positive outcomes in life."