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Undergraduate Frequently Asked Questions

Considering Research in Psychology? Read this FAQ

1. What are good reasons to do research in psychology?

  • You are interested in learning more about a research topic or the research process.
  • You intend to apply to a doctoral program in psychology.
  • Research isn’t for everyone. Be thoughtful about what you want to get out of the experience. Don’t do research just because someone told you that you should do it. Consider your long term goals and whether research will help you reach them.

2. When should I get involved in research in psychology?

  • As soon as you are interested and willing to make the time commitment.
  • If you want to go to graduate school, the ideal time to begin working in a lab is the second semester of your sophomore year or the first semester of your junior year.
  • Note that many faculty recruit research assistants one semester before the research assistant actually begins research. If you are interested in beginning research in the fall, you should contact faculty in the middle of the preceding spring term.

3. If I missed the 1st semester junior year window, am I hopeless?

  • No, don’t give up. There’s still value in doing research later in your undergraduate career.

4. What if I want to study abroad?

  • This does pose a challenge. You might consider getting involved during your sophomore year and asking the faculty member if you can return after study abroad. This should be discussed when you apply to work in a lab—before you actually begin working.

5. How do I get involved in research?

  • Contact individual faculty members by email to ask them about the process. For a list of current faculty and their research interests, click here.
  • Faculty receive many emails and are very busy. If you don’t get a response, send a follow-up in a week.
  • Contact faculty members individually (i.e., don’t copy and paste an email and send it to all faculty). Tailor your email to the interests of the faculty member.

6. How do I decide which faculty to contact?

  • A faculty member with whom you had a class or a faculty member who does research on a topic you consider interesting are both good choices.
  • Be persistent. If the first person you ask says “no,” ask someone else. There is much to be gained from the process, even if you don’t end up in your first choice of labs.

7. Should I work with more than one faculty member?

  • As a general rule, the answer is “no.”  It’s much better to join a lab and stay in that lab for the duration of your undergraduate tenure than to move around from one lab to the next. Most faculty want to work with students who are committed and skipping from one lab to the next shows a lack of commitment.
  • There are exceptions to every rule so you if you are considering leaving one lab to join another, discuss it with your current faculty mentor to find out if it is a good idea.

8. Can I earn course credit for conducting research?

  • Students often earn course credit for research; be sure to discuss the particulars with your faculty mentor when you apply.  Some professors require that students volunteer for some period of time before they offer course credit.

9. How can I learn more?