If you are serious about doing original research in psychology, consider the Psychology Honors
program! As an honors student, you:
- Conduct original research in a research apprenticeship program
The apprenticeship program will introduce you to the process of conducting research in an area of psychology. In collaboration with the professor you select as a supervisor, you will work on one or more projects, learning the methods of research in the area.
- Design original research and report your research in a thesis that you write
Under the guidance of your research supervisor, you will develop and execute a research project. A thesis is a written report of this research project. It is an opportunity for an original piece of work, and so it is a chance to leave your mark on the field. Indeed, some honors theses are published in scholarly journals.
- Improve your readiness for life after university
If you aim to continue on as a researcher, either in an academic or industry setting, your research experience, as well as topics and exercises in the seminar, will help you get off to a running start in graduate school. An honors degree (or equivalent; see the research certificate program as well) is a prerequisite to many psychology graduate studies programs. An honors degree also prepares you for other professional schools, and career paths that may involve a research focus. In the program, you will learn specific skills and acquire knowledge that will help ease the transition from undergraduate to graduate study or the work force. Part of this includes getting involved in departmental activities, and learning how to bring a project to fruition.
In addition to the main component, your own original research, you complete several courses designed to prepare you for graduate school, other professional schools, or your chosen career. This includes two year-long, once-a-week seminar courses, one in the third year and one in the fourth year, for professional skill development, including tutorials and in-class discussions. Discussions in class at times, are about specific research, and at other times, about the process and culture of research. The goal is to develop into an independent, critical researcher, and not only carry out high-quality research, but to be able to think and communicate thoughtfully and intelligently about limitations and biases in research, and how your own work fits in to work that has been done in the broader research community. An important element of the honors program is to clearly communicate what you know to various audiences, including other researchers in your own field, as well as in very different fields (think about it: psychology encompasses a huge variety of approaches, including philosophical approaches, interview-based and qualitative methods, experimental behavioural, as well as biological methods) and clinical professionals, but also the broader, interested public and granting agencies. If all goes well, you will find these seminars to be a fun and engaging experience, surrounded by a close cohort of students who share your passion for psychology and scientific discovery.
Assignments in the seminars are practical exercises. These include plenty of experience giving talks about their research and topics related to their research, as well as preparing career statements and applications for funding, practice with peer review, plotting, analyzing and interpreting data in graphs and posters.
You will also complete several courses designed to hone your research skills, including research methods and statistics. You will use these skills in your own research projects, as well as your reading and critique of other people's research. Increasingly, people have been finding that practical mathematical, methods and statistical skills are valuable for many research-related domains and even careers that are not research-focused.
If, for whatever reason, the honors program is not for you, but you have a strong interest in conducting research, consider the research certificate. The research certificate is often viewed as equivalent to honors in post-graduate programs (but check with the specific program to be sure).
... and note that if you successfully complete the honors program, you also get the research certificate - which makes sense, because the honors program involves a heavy original research component.
What kind of student is a Psychology Honors student? Honors students are typically self-starters, people with a keen curiosity and a desire to move beyond doing what they are told, to put in some serious work and mental effort and find out something new about behaviour, thought and the brain.