Independent Courses: Research, Honors Program, & Senior Thesis


The University requires a written, signed syllabus/contract between the instructor and student for all non-scheduled undergraduate courses.

Syllabus/Contract for Individually Arranged and Non-scheduled Courses

The form should be completed and signed by both instructor and student, and then the student should bring it to the Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval. Because such courses require the instructor’s permission, students must register for these courses in the Psychology office. The signed syllabus/contract serves as permission of the instructor for the purpose of registering the student. The Psychology office will keep these signed contracts on file.

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Thesis Courses

During registration for the fall, submit a syllabus/contract form for both parts of the thesis course. You do not need to submit a second contract during registration for the spring; however, you will need to contact and request to be registered for the second course once your spring registration opens.

Independent Courses

The Psychology Department offers two courses in independent research. Both require permission of a faculty member and additional registration paperwork (see above).

PSYC2205 Undergraduate Research

Course Description: An opportunity to participate in research projects in the laboratory of a faculty member. Students are encouraged to obtain permission of the instructor before they register for their other courses, so that they may keep open the time slot for the laboratory meetings associated with the laboratory.

PSYC2206 Independent Study

Course Description: This course offers students the opportunity to study a topic of personal interest, working independently under the supervision of a faculty member within the Psychology Department. A student may obtain the consent of a faculty member to serve as his or her instructor by contacting the faculty member directly. The instructor, working with the student, decides on the nature of readings and related activities involved as well as the precise form of scholarly work required.


No Teaching Assistants

These courses cannot be used as compensation for teaching assistant duties.

Student Employees

If you are enrolled in Undergraduate Research, Independent Study, or a thesis course, you cannot be paid for the same work. Thus, you would not be hired as an employee for the same semester that you are enrolled in the course.

Put another way, if you are an employee in a lab and also enrolled in Undergraduate Research, Independent Study, or a thesis course in that lab, the work you are doing for pay must be entirely separate and unrelated to the work you are doing for credit.

If the two kinds of work are indeed separate, your advisor needs to email us to explain the differences between the work.

The Psychology Honors Program offers students (both B.A. and B.S. majors) an excellent opportunity to get involved in research. The program is for students with strong academic records who wish to devote a substantial amount of time in their senior year to a senior honors thesis.

Summary of Due Dates

Junior Year

November 1: Application to the Psychology Honors Program
April: Submit your thesis proposal to your advisor and second reader.
April (Registration for Fall): Submit a Syllabus/Contract Form for PSYC4495 and PSYC4496.
May 1: Honors Thesis Proposal Approval Form

Senior Year

April: Submit your thesis to your advisor and second reader.
May 1: Honors Thesis Approval Form

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I participate in the Psychology Honors Program?

One of the best ways to learn is through doing—joining the Psychology Honors Program will allow you to explore your interests in the field of psychology and learn the scientific method through hands-on experience. Joining the Honors Program helps many students discern their future career path. Some students get bitten by the “research bug,” others find out that they are more interested in counseling-based psychological careers, while still others decide that their passions lie in a completely different field. Students who have completed the Honors Program in Psychology at Boston College have gone on to careers in psychological research, medicine, teaching, counseling, and law, to name just a few. Participation in the Honors Program is an excellent distinction in general; it is a particularly noteworthy distinction for those students who wish to apply to graduate school (in psychology or otherwise). The Honors Program provides the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member outside of the traditional classroom setting. Participating in the Honors Program will teach you to think critically, to address and test questions systematically, and to communicate your thoughts and ideas to others.

How is the Psychology Honors Program distinct from the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program?

The Psychology Honors Program is different from the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program. Students are admitted into the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program when they are admitted to Boston College, while students are invited into the Psychology Honors Program based on their academic record after the first two years at Boston College. Participation in both the A&S Honors Program and the Psychology Honors Program requires the completion of an Honors Thesis. Therefore, if you are already part of the A&S Honors program, the Psychology Honors Thesis will satisfy the requirements for both the Departmental and A&S Honors designations.

How can I participate in the Psychology Honors Program?

The Honors Program requires a GPA of 3.6 in Psychology and overall. Students who meet the GPA requirement at the end of their sophomore year will be invited to join the program. Students must also meet the GPA requirement at the time they graduate.

You will receive a letter from the Honors Program Director at the beginning of your junior year inviting you to apply to the Psychology Honors Program. If you are interested in applying, you would then identify a Psychology faculty member who is willing to supervise your work. You complete a preliminary application by November 1 of your junior year. On this application, you need only indicate the topic you plan to research and the name of your thesis advisor.

During the spring of your junior year, you develop a ten page thesis proposal due May 1. It is recommended that you take an independent research course during second semester to work on the proposal. If you plan to study abroad this semester, you could instead work on the proposal during the fall of your junior year.

How do I find an advisor?

First, you should identify the area of psychology in which you are most interested. Faculty members at Boston College specialize in a range of sub-fields. Determine which area you are most interested in by exploring individual faculty members’ pages.

Once you have narrowed down the area in which you are most interested, you will need to choose an advisor (a faculty member or part-time faculty member in the department). If a faculty member suggests that you work with one of his or her graduate students as your thesis advisor, then you would meet mostly with the graduate student, but the faculty member would have ultimate responsibility and would be the primary reader on your thesis.

It might be clear to you from your exploration whose work is most interesting to you. If you are still unsure, you should contact one of the graduate student coordinators (see below) for advice. They would be happy to speak with you in person or communicate by email to help you figure out which faculty members’ work is most relevant to your interests.

Finally, you should contact the faculty member with whom you would like to work. You do not need to know yet exactly what you would like to study, but you should approach a potential advisor, state the general area in which you would like to do research, and ask whether he or she would be willing to supervise you in your Honors Thesis. Try to contact potential faculty advisors as soon as you can since faculty may be limited in how many new honors students they are able to supervise.

What kind of research will I need to conduct?

In most cases, the proposed research will be part of an ongoing project in the advisor’s research laboratory. Alternatively, students may conceive of a project independently and approach an appropriate advisor to serve as supervisor. The literature review, data collection, and data analysis must always be completed by the student alone, along with supervision from the thesis advisor.

How can I identify a research question?

You will work with your advisor to develop a specific and testable research question. You should set up an appointment to meet with your advisor to have a brainstorming session. The next step is to read, read, read about your topic of research. The more informed you are, the better questions you will ask.

Can I participate in the Psychology Honors Program if I plan to study abroad for all or part of my junior year?

Yes, we accommodate students studying abroad by allowing for some flexibility in meeting required deadlines. If you are planning to study abroad in the fall semester, you should contact the graduate student coordinators (see above) as soon as possible to identify a potential thesis topic and advisor. Then, you should contact the faculty member with whom you are interested in working, secure his/her approval, and prepare your preliminary application before you go abroad. Alternatively, the preliminary application may be submitted via email to the Psychology Office anytime before the November 1st deadline. Students who are abroad in the spring of their junior year may work with their advisor over the summer (via email if necessary) to develop a proposal, which will be due to the Psychology Office on the first day of classes in the fall. We do expect that you will be ready to fully engage in your proposed research by the beginning of your senior year.

What do I need to do now that I have decided to participate in the Psychology Honors Program?

  • On this site, read about faculty research interests and the different research laboratories in the Department.
  • Contact one of the Honors Program Graduate Student Coordinators by email to discuss either through email or in person your research interests and identify a potential faculty advisor.
  • Contact your potential advisor by email and request an appointment to discuss your ideas for your Honors Thesis and to determine whether this faculty member could serve as your advisor.
  • Once you have an advisor, discuss with your advisor who might be a second reader for your thesis, and contact that person to ask him/her to serve.
  • Print out and complete the preliminary Application to the Psychology Honors Program and submit it to the Psychology Office by November 1.
  • During April of your junior year, submit your research proposal to your advisor and second reader.
  • During registration for the fall semester of your senior year, submit a Syllabus/Contract Form for PSYC4495 Senior Honors Thesis I and PSYC4495 Senior Honors Thesis II. You will not need to submit a second contract during registration for the spring, but you will need to contact and request to be registered for the second course.
  • By May 1 of your junior year, submit a Honors Thesis Proposal Approval Form to the Psychology Department office. (We do not need a copy of your thesis proposal.)

What does the 10-page thesis proposal look like?

Your proposal should be written in accordance with the following format:

I. Introduction
State your research question. (1 paragraph)
Review previous research carried out on this and related questions. (6 pages)
II. Methods
Participants: Describe your participants. Who will they be? How will you find them? Age? Sex? How many? (1 paragraph)
Procedure: Describe precisely what your participants will be asked to do and how long the procedure will take. (1-2 pages)
III. Hypotheses
What do you predict, and why? (1 paragraph)
IV. Data Analysis
How will you score or code your data? Will you have a second coder for inter-rater reliability? How will you analyze your data? (1/2 page)
V. Discussion
If your hypotheses are confirmed, what will you conclude? What will be the significance of these findings? What study could then be carried out next? (1 page)

How is my research proposal approved?

Your proposal is reviewed by two faculty members and a decision is then made about whether to admit you to the Honors Program. If your advisor continues to support your proposal, and if your research ideas are clearly thought out, it is highly likely that you will then be admitted into the program. You will receive a letter approving your proposed research plan from the Honors Program Director.

What are the course requirements for completion of the Psychology Honors Program?

In addition to the requirements of their B.A. or B.S. major, students in the Honors Program enroll in the following courses.

Junior Year (Optional)

  • PSYC2205 Undergraduate Research (3 credits)
  • PSYC2206 Independent Study (3 credits)

Senior Year

  • PSYC4495 Senior Honors Thesis I (3 credits)*
  • PSYC4496 Senior Honors Thesis II (3 credits)*
  • One 5000-level PSYC course (3 credits)

*One semester may count as an elective to fulfill your Psychology major requirement.

Submit a copy of your thesis to your advisor and your second reader (a full- or part-time faculty member, postdoc, or doctoral graduate student chosen by you and your primary advisor) by mid-April of your senior year. The exact deadline is decided by your advisor.

When your advisor and second reader approve your thesis, submit an Honors Thesis Approval Form to the Psychology Office. This form is due May 1. Also submit an electronic copy of the thesis via email to by this date.

Finally, you will present your thesis as a poster at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference in May of your senior year.

How will I know that I have completed all the requirements of the Psychology Honors Program?

At the end of your senior year, you will receive a letter signed by the Director of the Honors Program and the Chairperson of the Psychology Department indicating that you have distinguished yourself by satisfying the requirements of the Psychology Honors Program. You should keep this letter and use it to provide documentation of your exemplary work to future graduate programs and/or employers.

How can I get involved in research in the Psychology Department if I decide not to apply to the Honors Program?

There are other opportunities for students to be involved in research in the Psychology Department outside of the Psychology Honors Program, including the opportunity to write a senior thesis.

Further information

For more information, contact the Director of the Psychology Honors Program, Karen Rosen.

Library Thesis Submission

The BC Library encourages each student writing a thesis to submit it online. Instructions can be found on their website.

Students may choose to write a thesis during the senior year. In most cases, the thesis will involve original, empirical research, although theoretical papers will also be permitted. Students must obtain the consent of a faculty member to serve as their thesis advisor.

Junior Year

Those who are interested in writing a thesis are encouraged to participate in independent research with a prospective thesis advisor during the junior year to develop a thesis proposal. Before their senior year, students who plan to write a thesis are advised to complete PSYC1120 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I and either PSYC1121 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research II or a Research Practicum.

Senior Year

Seniors who are engaged in writing a thesis may enroll in PSYC4490 Senior Thesis I in the fall and/or PSYC4491 Senior Thesis II in the spring. Only one semester may count as an elective to fulfill your psychology major requirement. The thesis due date is determined by your advisor.


Students whose theses are judged to be of exceptional merit will receive a letter that their Senior Thesis “approved with distinction.” This is recorded in the Psychology Department but not noted on transcripts. Download the Senior Thesis Approval Form for a thesis approved with distinction. The form is due to the Director of Undergraduate Studies by May 1.

Library Thesis Submission

The BC Library encourages each student writing a thesis to submit it online. Instructions can be found on their website.

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