Research Opportunities in the Psychology Department
Is research right for you?
The Psychology Department at Edinboro has a number of faculty who are active in research. Students can be an integral part of that work, becoming heavily involved in planning, conducting, and presenting research, under the close supervision of a faculty mentor.
Conducting research in psychology at Edinboro University is a unique opportunity to go far beyond typical coursework and truly understand psychology as a growing science by contributing to that growth in a very real way. Students often present their findings in a variety of settings, including undergraduate conferences, as well as regional, national, and even international conferences. A few students even make the kinds of discoveries that make their way into textbooks for the benefit of other psychologists, as well as the general public. You will also gain valuable experience that will help you toward your goal of a productive, fulfilling career.
You should know, however, that participating in research is not for everyone. It is absolutely not a requirement for graduation. Also, because research labs are small (faculty usually work with 1 to 7 students at a time), not everyone has the opportunity to take part in research, and it is up to each faculty member to decide whether you would be a good fit in their research lab.
To help guide both you and a potential faculty mentor in determining if research is right for you, the mentor may ask you questions like these. Consider how you would answer them:
Where do you want to take your degree? Students involved in research have a variety of career interests. Many student researchers hope to further their education in a graduate level program after earning their bachelor’s degree. Some student researchers even hope to become psychology professors themselves and have their own lab someday. Other students seek research experience to strengthen employable skills, such as critical thinking skills. Because research is a significant commitment on the part of the student, professors typically want to make sure that you will be motivated and interested in the work.
What’s your GPA? Research students usually have a high GPA (around a 3.50), and some faculty may have a minimum GPA requirement for consideration to participate in research with them. Some faculty may put special weight on GPA in Psychology classes, or on your grade in certain classes, such as Experimental Psychology (PSYC 227).
Do you have time for this? Research is a significant time commitment. You can expect to be involved in a variety of activities; reading the literature on a subject, meeting with your faculty mentor, conducting studies, scheduling and collecting data from research participants, maintaining lab equipment, writing presentations or papers, etc.. There may also be a need for flexibility, as your lab may be very busy at some parts of the semester and slow at others. You should evaluate your time commitments, including school, work, family, social, extracurricular, Greek, and athletic activities, as well as your commute time, and decide if you should take on this much responsibility. Be honest with yourself and your faculty mentor. Students have had bad experiences, and have hurt their relationships with faculty, by taking on more than they could handle.
Have you had relevant courses? Faculty may prefer students who have already had some background in the research area. Some faculty may not work with students until they have taken Psychological Statistics (PSYC 225) or Experimental Psychology (PSYC 227) or other classes that are relevant to their areas of research.
How many credits do you have? Some faculty prefer senior students with a good number of courses under their belts. Other faculty do not recruit seniors because students are asked to commit several years to their labs, and therefore they take students early on in their college careers. Some faculty who require multi-year commitments may take students on a probationary basis for a semester or longer, to see how things work out. On the other hand, some faculty conduct short-term research projects that take only a semester or year, after which you would be free to seek other opportunities.
Are you responsible, and can you work in a team? In all circumstances, you must act responsibly, ethically, and professionally. Also, you must be able to take direction from the faculty, and often, from other students. In some labs, students work in teams, and you must be able to work with your fellow students. The faculty mentor may ask for references or other relevant experiences, or choose not to take students if there are questions about their conduct or demeanor.
Is there room for you? Because faculty must give a great deal of attention to lab projects and supervise students running those projects, they can work with only a handful of students at a time. Unfortunately, promising students are often turned away. It is therefore a good idea to make your interest known as soon as possible, as many faculty will keep you in mind if a spot opens up.
Benefits of doing research
If you are successful in research, you will likely receive some or all of the following:
- Experience that would be featured prominently on your resume
- A very detailed letter of recommendation that will go far more in depth about you than a typical letter from professors who have had you in class
- Course credit in PSYC 397/ 497 (up to 12 credits, covering the Lab and Capstone requirements)
- Exposure to, and hands-on training in, the science of behavior
- The personal fulfillment that comes from breaking new ground- making discoveries that no one ever has
- A lasting professional relationship with a faculty mentor, with lots of individual attention and career guidance
- Camaraderie and friendship with fellow lab workers
Drawbacks of research
Time and effort- you must be willing and able to put in both. Your faculty mentor will provide expectations, and doing research will likely mean less time in things you would otherwise be doing. Some labs require quite a bit of training, and you would be expected to work in the lab throughout your college career, earning more responsibility, and taking on the role of mentor to newer students. Other faculty take on students each semester to run a different project. Ultimately, being involved in a research activity is very demanding of your time, and requires a high level of responsibility and conscientiousness on your part.
How to get involved
Talk to your advisor. Discuss your interests and career goals and your advisor may suggest faculty for you to approach about research.
Research Internship (PSYC 396) – For those who find a research opportunity outside of Edinboro University. A little-known opportunity in the Psychology Department, the Research Internship is much like the highly successful Clinical Internship. If you find an opportunity to conduct at least 450 hours of summer research in a supervised fashion, you can receive 12 credits, 3 of which would count for the Capstone experience in your curriculum. See Dr. Gary Labine (Compton 103) for details.
Reading groups – Some faculty conduct reading groups in their area of interest. Usually, the professor (and sometimes students) will make available an interesting journal article or book chapter, and it would be discussed in an informal setting. Unlike research labs, these groups are usually open to anyone who would like to join and learn more about a particular area of psychology. Watch for postings in Compton Hall for announcements about these groups.
Originally drafted by Peter McLaughlin PhD and revised by the EU Psychology Dept. Research Committee