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Majors & Minors

Course Catalog


Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes approached from physiological, cognitive, behavioral, social and applied perspectives. Majors in Psychology receive training in the scientific approach as it has been applied to the study of such topics as: brain function, perception, learning, motivation, memory, development, social influence, attitudes, organizational behavior and mental disorders and treatments. Understanding how these topics have been investigated scientifically requires the development of critical thinking skills, quantitative reasoning skills, and speaking and writing abilities necessary to communicate research knowledge to others, as well as an appreciation for the ethical issues involved in dealing with colleagues, clients and subjects. Although these skills are developed throughout the Psychology curriculum, demonstrated competence in the Statistics and Research Methods courses is essential. Psychology majors have gone on to successful careers in research, counseling and teaching, as well as such fields as medicine, business, journalism and law. A major and a minor are offered in Psychology. PSY 100 is a prerequisite for all courses in the department. Neuroscience Concentration The psychology and biology departments offer neuroscience concentrations for their majors. Each concentration (biology or psychology) consists of 4 or 5 credits in addition to the courses required for the majors. Interested students should contact their advisors or the chairs of the biology and psychology departments.

Requirements for a major


Total courses required Ten
Core courses PSY 100, PSY 214, PSY 215
Other required courses The content area core requires four courses:
  • Two courses should be chosen from PSY 280, PSY 300 or PSY 301, PSY 330 or PSY 331, PSY 380 or PSY 381, PSY 350
  • Two courses should be chosen from PSY 260 or PSY 261, PSY 290, PSY 232, PSY 360.

The laboratory component requires two psychology laboratory courses at the 200-level or above, in addition to PSY 215 (Research Methods).

Number 300 and 400 level courses Four
Senior requirement and capstone experience Majors must satisfy their senior requirement by completing the thesis for either PSY 493 (one-semester thesis) or PSY 495 and PSY 496 (two-semester empirical research and thesis) with a C- or better.

The major also requires successful completion of a departmental comprehensive examination. The exam is administered in sections to senior majors in PSY 493 and PSY 495. Performance on the exam is part of the grade in PSY 493 or PSY 495. To certify for graduation with a major in psychology, students must earn a 70 percent or better on all sections of the exam.

The senior capstone experience in psychology has two basic components: breadth of knowledge and focused in-depth investigation. You will demonstrate breadth of knowledge by successfully completing a comprehensive exam, given in three parts that cover major areas of the field (e.g., cognitive, developmental, learning, personality, physiological, social). You will also have the opportunity to pursue an area of psychology in greater depth by completing a senior thesis. One thesis option allows you to perform an empirical investigation of a research problem (review background evidence, design and carry out a study, and write up the findings) over both semesters of your senior year. The other thesis option is a one-semester in-depth, integrative review of the scientific literature on a topic in psychology. All students will publicly present their work. Both options allow you to apply the skills and knowledge that you have acquired over your first three years, and pursue a topic in which you are most interested.

Additional information Psychology majors must complete a total of two courses in the natural sciences, computer science, and/or mathematics outside of psychology. MATH 135 does not meet this requirement.
Recent changes in major The senior requirement was changed from completing the seminar with a C- or better to completing the seminar thesis with a C- or better. Effective Fall 2010.
Writing in the Major

Writing in the psychology major is accomplished in many ways, using multiple methods. As a science that engages in active communication with colleagues at the regional, national, and international level, in conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications, psychology requires critical reading of the literature and writing in the major, using discipline-specific (APA) style. In courses spanning the curriculum from Introductory Psychology to the upper 300-level courses, students write short opinion papers, critical reviews of popular media, reviews of research articles, and reports of empirical findings. Special focus on the mechanics of formal writing assignments as appropriate in our discipline is a critical part of a required core course in the major, Research Methods (PSY 215). In addition, each student major is required to take two additional laboratory courses that provide significant experience writing laboratory reports and major project papers. In these courses and others (e.g., the senior capstone experience), development of writing skills includes a mix of one or more of the following: feedback on multiple drafts, conference meetings with faculty advisors, and collaborative writing with peers and peer review. Finally, the senior capstone experience (PSY 493/495) includes a thesis on a topic chosen by the student. One thesis option allows students to perform an empirical investigation of a research problem (review background evidence, design and carry out a study, and write up the findings) over both semesters of your senior year. The other thesis option is a one-semester in-depth, integrative review of the scientific literature on a topic in psychology. Both options of the APA thesis represent a culmination of skill-building for writing in the major that prepares students for graduate work in any area of psychology and other careers such as law, medicine, social service, and business. The thesis is certified by the department and deposited in the departmental archives. Thesis findings are sometimes presented at regional or national conferences, or even published in peer-reviewed journals.

Requirements for a minor


Total courses required Five
Core courses PSY 100
Other required courses The department will consider PSY 214 or PSY 215 to be a 300-level course for the minor (if a student so chooses).
Number 300 and 400 level courses Two