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Departmental Honors

The Psychology Department invites all undergraduate majors to consider the completion of a Psychology Honor Thesis project. The format of the program has changed slightly from past years, so we invite you to explore the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) detailed below.

What is the Psychology Honors Thesis?

The Psychology Honors Thesis is a special program available to Psychology majors with a high GPA. It involves doing a year of intensive research in collaboration with a faculty member and completing a written thesis (usually about 20-25 pages) in APA style describing the background of the research topic, the methods, the results/findings, and the implications of work. All Honors Thesis students present their research projects in one of three conferences held over the course of the year. Awards are given to the best poster and best oral presentation each semester.

What are the benefits of doing an Honors Thesis?

The Psychology Honors Thesis is designed to be a "capstone" experience for Psychology Majors, exposing them to the work of research psychologists, enabling them to receive mentorship from a faculty member, and providing them with support in the development of specific professional development products (called "portfolio items") designed to assist them in transitioning from college to their chosen post-graduate field.

Students who receive Departmental Honors also receive special mention in the Commencement Bulletin distributed at graduation. Many employers and graduate programs look favorably on students who take the initiative to pursue honors and conduct an independent research project.

Finally, completing an Honors Thesis gives students a feeling of satisfaction and pride at having completed a challenging research project as the culmination of their undergraduate career.

Can anyone do an Honors Thesis?

No. In order to be eligible to do an Honors Thesis, students need to:

  1. be a Psychology major
  2. have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0
  3. have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in all Psychology courses taken at Hunter College.
  4. have completed Psych 248 (Statistics) and Psych 249/250 (Experimental Psychology).

What is the difference between Psych 396 and Psych 398? Do I need to register for both?

The Psychology Honors Thesis is a two-semester research project that culminates in a written thesis. Students register for 396 in the first semester of their thesis project and 398 in their second semester in order to get credit for their thesis research. In very rare circumstances, students may be able to complete the Honors Thesis in one semester, but a one-semester thesis must be approved in advance by their faculty mentor.

How do I register for Psych 396?

In order to register for 396 you need to:

  1. Find a faculty member mentor
  2. Complete the Psychology Independent Study form (available in the Psych office, HN 611). This form must filled out by both the student and the faculty mentor.
  3. Bring the form to one of the advisors in the Psych office to receive a code to register for the course.

**It is important to note that given the large number of Psychology majors and the small number of Psychology faculty, it is often difficult for students to find faculty mentors. It is best to start your search as early as possible (at least a semester before you plan to register for 396).

What are the course requirements for Psych 396 and Psych 398?

There are five course requirements for Psych 396/398.

  1. Students work a specific number of hours per week in the laboratory of their faculty mentor, working on their research project. Typically, students spend between 9 and 15 hours/week in the lab.
  2. Students complete a written thesis describing their research project. The Honors Thesis must be in APA style, and is typically 20-25 pages, not including references.
  3. Students attend Psych 396/398 class sessions. These class sessions are held on Mondays (11:10am - 12:25pm). Class sessions cover specific information designed to assist students in the writing of their theses (e.g., tips for working with your mentor, how to write an introduction, how to write a methods section, etc).
  4. Students complete five professional development "portfolio" items over the course of the two semesters. These portfolio items are designed to assist them in activities that will be necessary after graduation (e.g., one of the portfolio items is a resume, another is a graduate school application essay). Portfolio items are also explained and work-shopped during class sessions.
  5. All students in 398 must present their thesis research at the end of the semester in one of three conference settings: the Psychology Honors Conference (fall semester), the Undergraduate Research Conference (spring semester) or the Psychology Convention (spring semester).Thesis presentation can take the form of either a poster or an oral presentation.

To see the 396/398 syllabus, click here.

How do I get a grade?

Honors Thesis students receive a letter grade each semester from their thesis advisor, based on the quality of their work on the thesis. However, students must also complete the portfolio items for their section (three items for 396, two items for 398) in order to receive a grade. Students who do not complete the portfolio items will receive an incomplete until they turn in the missing items.

What if I have a scheduling conflict with the 396/398 course sessions?

Students are strongly encouraged to attend 396/398 class sessions, as these are designed to provide them with practical information regarding the completion of the thesis and the production of their professional development portfolio. However, students who have an unavoidable scheduling conflict with the 396/398 class sessions may apply through the Psych Department Advisors for a waiver of attendance.Students with attendance waivers must still complete all the course requirements (i.e., work with a mentor, produce a written thesis, complete the professional development portfolio items, and make a conference presentation of their thesis). Students with attendance waivers must come to a 396/398 orientation session during Deans Hours at the beginning of the semester. Information regarding completion of the portfolio items will be available on Blackboard.

What are the important dates for me to know?

  • Refer to the course syllabus for specific meeting times.
  • All students must attend an orientation session, which will take place in the first week of classes.
  • Honors students are required to attend The Psychology Honors Research Conference, which is held during spring and fall terms.


For further information:

Contact Professor Dawn Dugan, coordinator of the Psychology Departmental Honors program, by email at