I. General Information
graduate student handbook
The staff in the main office will help you with general inquiries about the department. However, their main role is to provide support for the faculty. Thus, you are expected to do all of your own typing, copying, mailing, etc. If your work involves research with a faculty member and this in turn requires staff assistance, such work should be submitted by the faculty member concerned. When serving as a teaching fellow, you can expect the kind of help that faculty members receive for teaching.
Please see the Office Procedures Handbook for information on mail, printing, room reservations, etc.
Course schedules can be viewed through the Agora portal under Course Offering Schedule. The Graduate Program Administrator will contact you about registration, which must completed by the end of the drop/add period. Student Services will charge you a late fee if you don’t register before this date.
Human Subjects Pool
The Psychology Department has a pool of human subjects drawn from undergraduates who are registered in certain courses required for the major (see the undergraduate research credit requirement). Usage of the pool is allocated to individual advisors, so if you would like to post a study that pays in research credis, please apply through your advisor.
Whether awarding cash or credit, studies are run through online software called Sona Systems.
You get your keys in the main office. You may have a key to your lab and to the exterior building entrance for McGuinn.
All psychology journals at Boston College are at O’Neill library. Most can be accessed online.
Graduate students are generally housed within their advisor's lab. You may be given shared office space for holding TA office hours if necessary.
The Office of Student Services is located in Lyons Hall.
The Agora portal allows you to update contact information, check out library books, and look up your account, financial aid information, degree information and much more.
Summer Packet Information
Student Services mails all students a packet of information prior to arrival.
- BC User Name and Password (used to access email & Agora)
- Obtaining your Eagle ID card prior to arrival
- Parking Passes (for a fee)
- BC Health Insurance Information
- Email account
- Registration Information
Funding from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Funding does not apply to B.A.-B.S./M.A. students.
Ph.D. students receive full tuition remission each semester.
BC graduate stipends provide approximately $22,000 over nine months of the academic year. Full funding for three summer months is considered $6,000. Summer stipends are not guaranteed but typically provided by the research advisor through a research assistantship.
Beginning in the first year, a student receiving funding from GSAS serves as either a teaching assistant, teaching fellow, or research assistant (see below).
In return for his or her stipend, a Ph.D. student serves as a Teaching Assistant, Teaching Fellow, or Research Assistant (see below).
Service stipends checks are paid via direct deposit to students' accounts on the 16th of the month in eight installments (September, October, November, December, February, March, April, May). Taxes are withheld from this payment depending on tax forms filled out by the student. Please note that there is no check in January, so plan your expenses accordingly.
Continuing Off Campus
In some cases, an advanced student may have to leave the Boston area yet wish to continue on as a doctoral student. This can be done if the student has completed all course requirements and if the student’s committee agrees. However, the student cannot receive a stipend in this case, because the student will not be able to serve in the capacity of RA, TA, or TF.
All graduate students are required to seek pre-doctoral funding during the first and second year of graduate school. For first year students, application to NSF can be useful to organize your research plans. Consult your advisor early. The application is lengthy and due on November 1. For second-year students, application to an external agency is a requirement only if you did not receive funding on your first year application.
Fundsource provides a search engine for a large number of agencies. You can also Google for foundations with funding in your area of interest (e.g. for developmental psychology, use "Foundation & Research & Child Development” as keywords.)
NSF Graduate Student Fellowship Policies
NSF grants provide $32,000 salary stipend and $12,000 for cost-of-education. Out of the $12,000 for cost-of-education, the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) holds $10,000 for tuition/fees (such as the student activity fee) and $2,000 for the student’s research costs.
If the $10,000 is not all used for tuition, the remaining amount will be allocated for the student’s research costs. Each year, when the tuition cost is known, students will be informed of the total amount that can be used for their research costs in a timely manner. These research funds can be used for items that will facilitate the student’s research program (e.g., computer equipment, conferences, workshops, participant payments). These funds are specifically for the student to conduct research activities specified in their NSF grant (i.e., they cannot be used for projects that do not specifically enhance the research program of the student). Before an item is purchased from the research funds, it must be pre-approved by Barbara O’Brien.
These research funds will carry over from one year to the next, except for the funds corresponding to the final year of the grant (the final date that the funds must be spent will be specified to the student). Students will also be notified of the end date of their research funds (which will depend on the end date of the grant and the end date of BC’s fiscal year).
A student who wishes to delay receiving his or her NSF funding—breaking the three years of funding into nonconsecutive years within five years—should consult with his or her advisor, then request a delay from the Graduate Program Director and Graduate Program Administrator.
Our program assumes that the graduate student is devoting 12 months per year to research and other endeavors in the graduate program. This continuous immersion is the ideal situation in which the student can develop a successful independent research program.
Reaching this ideal requires that students work throughout the summer with, of course, a rest and recreation break. Graduate students receiving summer funding from Boston College are expected to have two weeks of vacation during the summer. The dates of your vacation time should be approved by your advisor in advance. If more vacation is requested and approved, the stipend is decreased by $500 per week. This applies only to those students getting money from the department. If you are being funded externally you should discuss your vacation time with your advisor.
Students and advisors should discuss possibilities for securing funding to support the students’ work during the summer months. The advisor and graduate student should do everything possible to ensure that the graduate student has summer funding. The funding could come from an external research grant, an external student fellowship or internship, or some sort of funding through BC. For example, all faculty members can apply for a Summer-Fall Research Expense Grant of $2,000 or for a Research Incentive Grant of $15,000 (although the latter is more difficult to obtain). These grants may be used to support a graduate student helping to carry out the funded project, and so inclusion of a graduate student should be a top priority in applying for these grants. The project should be related to the student’s own program of research, and the work required should be as a researcher rather than as a clerk or receptionist. Of course, no one can live on $2,000 for an entire summer. Still, every dollar helps, and partial support may be all that can be worked out. Advisors could also help students find research internships that provide valuable experience during the summer. The department is actively lobbying for additional sources of summer funding earmarked for graduate students.
Even with the best efforts, it is not always possible to secure summer funding for graduate students. When students are forced to seek employment off campus, they cannot be expected to devote full time, or in some cases even part-time, to their studies. Advisors and the Graduate Evaluation Committee must recognize this necessary delay in developing the student’s program. When a student can devote only part-time during the summer to studies, then every effort should be made to ensure that the available time is spent on the tasks most central to the student’s program. (Of course, at no time should graduate students be asked to serve as unpaid RAs on research projects unrelated to their doctoral requirements. They have much work to do on their own research.)
Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, and Research Assistants
The duties of a teaching assistant (TA), teaching fellow (TF), and research assistant (RA) are described below.
By university regulation, full-time graduate students may not work more than 20 hours on the BC payroll. Because we expect students on a teaching assistantship or research assistantship to work 15 hours per week, and because teaching fellowships require substantially more time, our graduate students may not be employed elsewhere in the university.
Teaching assistants (TAs) are expected to work on one or two courses per semester, spending an average of 15 hours per week totalled across all courses. Students are required to attend classes and hold office hours to supplement classroom instruction and explain grading decisions. Some weeks students will need to work more than 15 hours (e.g., when papers or other assignments must be graded), and some weeks students will need to work less. The professor should work with the TA to be sure that on average the workload does not exceed 15 hours per week. If this proves to be a problem, the TA should speak to the Graduate Program Director.
The Department Chair (in consultation with the Graduate Program Director and the Chair of the Undergraduate Teaching Committee) periodically evaluates the needs of specific courses for TA support. One criterion is enrollment, which typically must be 35 or more students. Another criterion is need, which is based on the course structure and requirements.
Specific needs for TA support include the following:
- Large amounts of grading
- Significant writing required in a course, which often requires grading by TAs
- Making up exams
- Review sessions
- Break-out or discussion sections
- Guest lectures
- Class demonstrations
- Clerical duties (photocopying, tracking down relevant readings, administrating scantron sheets, etc.)
Not all of the above tasks are relevant to all courses. The level of TA support provided to a course is based on assessment of the overall need.
The course instructor will assign duties to each individual TA as appropriate given the substantive background and skills of the TA and equity across TAs. For example, if a TA has extensive background in the content covered in a course, that TA might present a guest lecture or hold primary responsibility for a review session or a break out section. If a TA has little or no substantive background, he or she might spend a high proportion of time on clerical tasks and would typically not be expected to lecture or run review sessions.
Graduate students with a stipend from grant funding are not required to be a TA. However, to ensure our students receive teaching experience, all students are required to be a TA for at least two semesters during their graduate career.
Teaching fellows (TFs) teach their own course. If department funds are available, students will receive $1,000 in addition to their regular stipend for serving as a TF. Students must apply to the Department Chair for the privilege of teaching their own course. There is no guarantee that the request will be granted. The needs of the undergraduate curriculum, the qualifications of the student to teach the proposed course, and the availability of department funds will all be taken into account in deciding whether the student can teach the proposed course. If students do apply to serve as a TF (typically in their fourth or fifth year), they are encouraged to apply to teach 300 level courses, research practica, or small seminars in their specialty area. Having taught a broader class will probably prove more beneficial when on the job market.
Teaching fellows should state BC’s policy on Academic Integrity on their syllabi and should provide a link to the website.
A research assistant (RA) typically works on collaborative research with his or her advisor. This may begin with assisting the advisor but should evolve soon into the student developing a collaborative project with the advisor. The research assistantship is not to be used for clerical work unless the tasks are related to the research being carried out. (Thus, students should not be expected to make copies for their advisors, for example, if these copies are unrelated to a research project.) Students are expected to spend 15 hours per week as research assistants.
Graduate Research Day
In the spring of each year, the Psychology graduate students organize a one day conference called Graduate Research Day. Graduate students present their research in talks and posters. This is an excellent opportunity for students to develop skill in public speaking or poster presentation. This also helps students to bring their research projects to completion in time for formal presentation. All faculty and students are expected to attend.
Graduate Program Committee Student Member
The student member serves as a liaison between the Graduate Program Director and the graduate students, and attends Graduate Program Committee meetings when invited.
Graduate Student Center
The Murray Graduate Student Center is open to graduate students from all departments. This center serves as way for graduate students to meet socially. The center offers a computer lab, study rooms, dining facilities, and a staff that advocates for graduate students.
The office of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) hosts programs for the research community.
The Connors Family Learning Center also provides one-hour workshops of a similar nature that are specifically on teaching.
Psychology Department Colloquium Series
The department invites distinguished speakers from time to time. The colloquium series is run by a graduate student committee in consultation with the Colloquium Committee. The graduate students are responsible for everything from organizing the speaker’s day on campus to ensuring hotel reservations are made. In addition, they need to work with the Psychology office to locate a room for the presentation and plan room setup and refreshments. All students are expected to attend and participate.
The Graduate Program Director serves on the Graduate Evaluation Committee, which evaluates each student’s progress yearly and makes decisions about special fellowships and awards.
Donald J. White Teaching Award
The university awards the Donald J. White Teaching Award to deserving teaching fellows. Each year, the Graduate Evaluation Committee can nominate one student to GSAS to receive this award, or two students to share this award. Nominations are made by the Graduate Evaluation Committee. The criteria for nominating a student for this award are the student’s teaching evaluations and a written report of the student’s teaching by a faculty member who has observed one of the student’s classes.
Diversity Student Fellowship
The Graduate School has a number of fellowships for minority group students. These fellowships are renewable for a total of five years of support. Notification of this fellowship is made upon admission. Like those on standard fellowships, students on this fellowship serve as research and teaching assistants.
University-Wide Graduate Student Awards
The Graduate Student Association has a yearly awards banquet honoring three students from each graduate school for excellence in their field of study. Awards are also given for Outstanding Leadership, Outstanding Community Service, and the Sister Thea Bowman Award for outstanding service to the graduate office of the AHANA community (AHANA stands for African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American).
As an alternative to a traditional dissertation, Ph.D. students can compile three first author peer-reviewed papers as a dissertation. These papers must be empirical in respected journals, with the work initiated after the student started at Boston College. A student who has published three papers has completed an impressive amount of research that has been approved by experts in their field. If a student chooses the three-paper option, it will require the approval of their dissertation committee, and the student will be required to write scholarly introduction and discussion chapters that consider the three published papers as a related body of research.