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Research

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get to do research and how do you decide with whom to do it?

To the first question, the answer is by asking a professor. Make an appointment and just ask. Professors doing research want students to work with them. To the second question, the answer is to inspect the list of faculty research areas in the student handbook or on this website. These should give you some idea of who is doing what. Several members of the faculty are affiliated with research laboratories and centers. An interest in a professor's area of specialization and some prior reading are useful but not always necessary. In some areas, special knowledge is required (e.g., statistics or experimental design). In most areas, professors are able to provide on-the-job training. After a course in the area of expertise of a professor, a student is in a good position to help on research, especially if the student has done well in the course.  Sometimes a professor's research group is full, so if your request gets a "no thanks" from Professor A, ask someone else in the department or ask Professor A at a later time.

Students interested in doing any form of independent study (including Senior Honors Thesis) must find a supervising faculty member and complete an Independent Study Form that can be downloaded from this site or picked up in the Psychology Department office, in addition to registering for the course via SIS. Those registering for a Senior Honors Thesis (PSY 199) must also fill out a form which can be picked up in Carol Downing's office in Dowling Hall. For more information on independent study and writing a Senior Honors Thesis, view the Undergraduate Honors page.

Also check out The Tufts Summer Scholars Program for future research opportunities.

Will doing research help me when I apply to postgraduate work?

Definitely. Schools look for distinctive characteristics in their candidates and place an emphasis on your research experience. If you can tell your research story to the graduate schools in a way that shows how much you learned, you will look more qualified and more interesting. Who wouldn't rather have interesting people around?  Professors get to know students with whom they do research. Hence, professors' letters of recommendation to graduate schools are often more detailed and interesting when students have worked in their research labs. Furthermore, starting to get involved with research is the beginning of the process leading to a capstone Senior Honors thesis in the department.

Is research fun?

Yes. The playing with ideas behind research is great fun and figuring out the results is like your own personal puzzle. Sure, there is a lot of effort involved in running a study. You often have to perform the same task many times with skill and dedication, but the rewards are outstanding. Developing and understanding a particular research problem is one of the most exciting things you can do in your academic career and we in the Psychology Department are excited to get you involved.

Can I get course credit for doing research?

Yes, you can get course credit for independent research at three levels. PSY 91/92 (formerly PSY 21/22) are for students just getting involved in research, and PSY 191/192 (formerly PSY 121/122) is a more advanced course in which a greater amount of independence and productivity is expected. However, no more than two independent study type courses (Psychology 91/92, 97/98, 99, 191/192, 181/182, 197/198, 199) may be counted toward the major. These options are also available during the summer, but requires Tufts Summer School enrollment and advanced coordination with a supervising faculty member.

Can I get course credit for doing research off-campus?

Yes. If the research is to be conducted during the Fall or Spring Semesters and directly supervised by a Tufts faculty member, simply sign up for either PSY 91/92, or PSY 191/192 with the permission of your Tufts faculty supervisor. If the research is being supervised remotely by non-Tufts faculty member, you must first find a Tufts faculty member who is willing to serve as your Research Coordinator. This individual is responsible for evaluating your research activities through communications with your off-campus Supervisor. Once a faculty Research Coordinator is obtained, sign up for PSY 99 (Pass-Fail only). These options are also available during the summer, but requires Tufts Summer School enrollment and advanced coordination with a Tufts faculty member. Students are responsible for finding their own off-campus research opportunities. Paid research assistantships are not eligible for academic credit.

Do I have to be a psychology major to do research?

No. All you need to do is take the courses required for the research and enjoy yourself while learning.

Is laboratory work the only type of research a student can do in the Psychology Department?

No. Scoring clinical tests often requires multiple people in order to get reliabilities.  Coding conversations, interviews, and social interactions are tasks many psychologists do as part of their research. Undergraduates have conducted naturalistic observations of children in playgrounds and museums. They've also conducted archival analyses of pre-existing data.

Do I have to do research in which the professors in the department are interested?

Yes and No. It can be helpful, but courses like PSY 91/92 and PSY 191/192 (formerly PSY 21/22 and 121/122) can be based on using your interests, your design, and your execution. Just make sure you ask a professor who's interested in the general area of your research concern to sponsor you. Our department is committed to your civil liberties as a student: you have the right to generate your own research and earn credit for doing it. Seeing students do just that, makes us proud to be your professors.