Departmental Distinction

Section 1


Program Description

All students that want to receive recognition for excellence in their research by graduating with Distinction in Psychology must write a Bachelor’s Thesis, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and the professor with whom the student did the research must write a letter of support. An original and one additional hard copy of the thesis along with an electronic version and the letter of support must be received by the Secretary for the Associate Head for Undergraduate Affairs by the appropriate deadline (given below). All theses and letters of support are evaluated by the departmental distinction committee for the granting of Distinction. Each student awarded Distinction is recognized at the Psychology Department Awards Ceremony and Graduation with Distinction is entered into the student’s permanent academic record.


The Psychology Department has created three avenues for students to follow in achieving Distinction. These provide different levels of support and direction to students in the undertaking of their research and the writing of their Bachelor’s Thesis.


1) Psychology Honors Program is a three semester sequence that begins in the Spring semester of the junior year. Read more about the honors program. Students must have completed at least one PSYC 290 and found a faculty research supervisor before entering the Honors sequence. Honors requires the most time commitment by students but also provides students with the most structure and support during their research and the writing of the Bachelor’s Thesis. Students that successfully complete the three semester Honors sequence, and have their Bachelor’s thesis approved by the distinction committee receive either High or Highest Distinction in Psychology at graduation.


2) PSYC 492 “Capstone Undergrad Research” is a two semester program that has been created to facilitate the preparation of a Bachelor’s Thesis for senior Psychology majors not in the Honors program. Psychology majors generally take the course in the fall and spring of their senior year. Occasionally, senior psychology majors who are very advanced in their research may participate in the course for just the fall or spring semester, but only with permission of the instructor. This course helps students gain an in-depth, background knowledge of their research, and teaches students to make effective oral and written presentations of their findings. The fall semester emphasizes a review of the literature and the spring semester concentrates on the presentation of the results both orally and in the Bachelor’s Thesis. Students that have a 3.0 GPA (both in Psychology and overall), and have their Bachelor’s Thesis approved by the distinction committee are awarded Distinction in Psychology at graduation. Students must have completed at least one PSYC 290 and found a faculty research supervisor before entering PSYC 492.

3) PSYC 494 can be used by students, who are working in laboratories but not enrolled in the Honors program or PSYC 492, to earn Distinction in Psychology at the time of graduation. Senior Psychology majors in this situation must complete the following:

  • Participate in credited research for at least three semesters: For example, students can enroll in PSYC 290 for either one semester followed by at least two semesters of PSYC 494 or in PSYC 290 for two or more semesters followed by at least one semester of PSYC 494. Since research requires a lot of time and effort, plan to begin with a PSYC 290 during or before the junior year.
  • Obtain written permission during the first two weeks of the semester from your PSYCH 494 research faculty supervisor to write a Bachelor’s Thesis under their direction
  • Enroll in PSYC 494 during the semester that the Bachelor’s Thesis will be submitted
  • Write a Bachelor’s Thesis that is based on the research performed in the laboratory
  • Maintain a GPA (cumulative and PSYC) of at least 3.0 at graduation
  • The professor that supervised the research must write a letter of support and submit it to the Secretary for the Associate Head for Undergraduate Affairs no later than the applicable deadline listed below. The letter of support should indicate to the reviewers why the student's work is deserving of Distinction.
  • Submit an electronic version of the Bachelor’s Thesisto the Secretary for the Associate Head for Undergraduate Affairs no later than the applicable deadline listed below. The thesis will be checked for formating and after the student makes any corrections necessary, the thesis will be submitted to the Disticntion Committee for review. After the Bachelor's Thesis has been approved for Distinction, the student must submit two hard copies for archival storage.
  • The Bachelor’s Thesis and the letter of support are evaluated by the departmental distinction committee for the granting of Distinction in Psychology.

Bachelor's Thesis


The Bachelor’s Thesis is a formal report on your research. It should be at least 15 pages in length, excluding title page, table of contents, acknowledgements, figures, tables, captions, and references. The style should follow accepted professional standards for your discipline. The format of the report must be consistent with major professional journals, e.g., including a title page, abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, acknowledgments and references. Include captions for your figures and tables. The thesis must be written in a language that is understandable by any professor in psychology or related field. Your thesis must be formatted in accordance with the Instructions for the Submission of a Bachelors's Thesis for All Levels of Distinction. These instructions are also available in Rooms 12 or 321 Psychology Building. The thesis should consist of:

Title: The title should describe your thesis clearly with as few words as possible.

Abstract: The abstract should present a very short synopsis of your thesis.

Introduction: The Introduction should describe the problem your thesis addresses, review the previous relevant literature, and describe the objectives of the research. In essence, the introduction should make clear to the reader what the question or hypothesis is, why it is important and how your research will help answer the question.

Methods: The Methods section should convey how the research was conducted so that others can replicate and evaluate what was done. This includes a description of the experimental design, of details on how the experiments were conducted, and of the analytical techniques including any statistical or qualitative analyses used.

Results: This section should describe in detail the findings from the experiments. The experimental data should be shown in graph, figure or table formats with appropriate, clear, legible labels and captions. If the experimental results are quantitative, then the appropriate statistical analyses must be used. For qualitative research, the Results section must provide support (e.g. verbatim; narrative; interpretation) for warranted conclusions and describe the efforts employed to ensure rigor with attention to both the specific approach and qualitative standards, in general. Research that consists of an individual case study is NOT acceptable. You must have data to write the Results section. Only in rare cases will the Distinction Committee consider a thesis for distinction without data. In these cases, a letter from the faculty mentor must explain the challenges that prevented the student from collecting data, and the Results section must include how you would have analyzed the data and what you would have expected the data to show.

Discussion: The Discussion section should be your evaluation of the results. You should discuss what the results mean, what their implications are, what the drawbacks (if any) are, and what the future directions of the research might be. The findings and their importance should be put in context for your field and clearly convey the contributions of your work to your field of study. You should show that you have carefully thought about the results, their implications, and that you can think on your own.

Acknowledgments: Thank any coworkers who made your work possible.

References: You should have an adequate bibliography with complete references formatted appropriately for a journal in your area of psychology.valuation of Bachelor’s Thesis


Important: Turn in the electronic copy to Carleen McCormick(, Secretary to the Associate Head for Undergraduate Affairs, BEFORE printing your Bachelor's Thesis. This will allow the format of the thesis to be checked and any formatting errors can be corrected prior to printing the hard copies.


The thesis will be read by the Undergraduate Distinction Committee and evaluated using the above criteria for each section of the thesis along with the letter of support from the research advisor. If the research area falls outside the research expertise of the Committee, other members of the faculty may be asked to evaluate the thesis.


The electronic version must be submitted to the Secretary for the Associate Head for Undergraduate Studies, Room 321 Psychology Building, no later than:

Date of Graduation Date of Submission
January Noon, First Monday in December
May April 15
August Noon, First Monday in July

After approval of your thesis by the distinction committee, any changes requested by the reviewers must be made and then the original and one additional hard copy of the thesis, a final electronic version, and the completed "red border" forms must be submitted to the Secretary for the Assoc. Head for Undergraduate Studies.

Section 2