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Research Opportunities

Submitted by kemacklo on Tue, 04/05/2016 - 3:13pm

The Department of Psychology recognizes that many students want to acquire research experience during their undergraduate degree. Research experience provides students with valuable learning opportunities and a more thorough understanding and appreciation of the scientific process. Students who acquire research experience are better prepared for graduate and professional programs and will be more competitive in the admissions process. Professors are often looking for students who can assist them with their research programs, and there are several ways for students to get involved in this research.

Volunteer as a Research Assistant

Students can acquire research experience by volunteering to be a part-time research assistant (RA). Professors and their graduate students will often place a notice in the Monday Memo seeking volunteers, so be sure to check the Monday Memo each week if you are interested in these opportunities (the Monday Memo is emailed to all psychology majors and is posted on the Psychology website). You can also contact professors you are interested in working with directly to learn if they have any volunteer RA opportunities available. Professors will want to review your transcripts and resume before they meet with you to determine if you are a good fit for a position. Although professor’s expectations for volunteer RAs may vary substantially, most will require a commitment of 5-10 hours a week, for at least one session (fall or winter typically, although students can volunteer during the spring and summer). The time commitment for volunteer RAs is flexible, however, and takes into account your other academic deadlines and responsibilities. Students who serve as volunteer RAs receive valuable training in a specific research area (e.g., neuroscience; clinical psychology; industrial-organizational psychology). Typical activities undergraduate RAs perform include conducting literature searches, recruiting and running participants (i.e., collecting data), scoring tests and measures, coding of responses to open-ended questions, record keeping, entering and organizing data, and using SPSS to perform statistical analysis.

Psychology 499 (Research Experience in Psychology)

Students who have completed PSYC 312 may wish to consider gaining research experience by taking PSYC 499. PSYC 499 is a course that allows you to obtain research experience while earning academic credit. The calendar description of the course can be found here. PSYC 499 is a quarter course, which means that students must complete two PSYC 499 courses to receive credit equivalent to one 400-level half-course. All work in the course is graded “pass or fail” and there are no exams or papers. Students are responsible for finding a supervisor before they can register for the course, so check the Monday Memo and contact professors directly to learn about opportunities in different labs. Supervisors determine the kinds of tasks and activities students will complete during the course and these requirements may vary substantially from supervisor to supervisor and for different students (i.e., different supervisors may ask you to complete different kinds of tasks, and you may complete different tasks than other 499 students, even 499 students supervised by the same supervisor). PSYC 499 is a good alternative for students considering a volunteer RA position, because you receive academic credit for similar work, the course appears on your transcript (“Research Experience in Psychology”), and the commitment is limited to the fall or winter session (i.e., once you complete your two half-courses, your commitment is complete)."

How many hours must I commit to this course?

Students are expected to work six hours per week for the 13-week term. In the Spring and Summer sessions, this is pro-rated over the number of weeks of those terms.

What are the pre-requisites for this course?

(1) Psychology 312
(2) Completion of 3.0 full-course equivalents in Psychology
(3) Consent of the department

How do I register for this course?

You cannot just register for this course on-line. First, you have to find a supervisor. Sometimes, you will find information about opportunities in the Monday Memo, but you can also email individual professors who you would like to work with and ask if they are interested in supervising you for Psyc 499. When you find a supervisor, the supervisor will create a course outline and submit it. The department’s Undergraduate Programs Advisor will then register you in the course. Outlines must be received one week prior to courses starting in any semester.

Psychology 504 or Psychology 505 (Research in Psychology)

PSYC 504 are 505 are research courses in which students complete a formal research project for academic credit. The calendar description of these courses can be found here and here. The project is supervised by a faculty member (and may be co-supervised by a graduate student); students are responsible for securing a supervisor before they can register for the course. Keep in mind that most professors will only be interested in supervising projects related to their own research program, so be sure that you are committed to a particular area of study. Depending upon the complexity of the project and the length of time required to complete it, students will register in PSYC 504 or PSYC 505 (PSYC 504 is a full-course and PSYC 505 is a half-course). The major course requirement is a written report that follows APA format and organization (with an abstract, introduction, methods section, results section, and discussion). PSYC 504 and 505 are excellent ways to obtain research experience for students not in the Honours program (including students thinking of applying to the Honours program in a subsequent year).

Please note the following:

  • It is important that you contact the potential supervisor well ahead of the start of classes of the term in which you would like to take the research course. For instance, if you wish to take a research course in the Winter term, you should find a supervisor early in the Fall term.
  • A research course must be approved by the Department of Psychology before a student may be enrolled in it. The outline you have negotiated with your potential supervisor must first be approved by the Department of Psychology. Revisions may be necessary, so again, it is crucial that this process be initiated well in advance of the start of the term in which the course is slated to be offered.
  • The primary research course supervisor must be either Psychology faculty or hold an Adjunct appointment with the Department of Psychology. See the Psychology People page for a complete listing.

Honours Degree Program

The BA and BSc Honours degree programs are popular with students preparing for graduate studies in psychology (M.Sc./Ph.D.) and after-degree professional programs (e.g., law, medicine, speech pathology, social work, education). Students complete the Honours program in their final year of studies. Please review the application process and admission requirements, applications are due in the January prior to your final year. Admission is competitive. Students in the Honours program complete a research project and write a thesis under the supervisor of a faculty member. Students are responsible for securing a thesis supervisor, and you cannot be admitted to the Honours program unless a professor has agreed to be your thesis supervisor. Remember that most professors will only be interested in supervising projects related to their own research program, so check their publications and research interests carefully to be sure that there is a good match with your interests (some flexibility in what you are willing to study may be useful here in securing a supervisor; some professors are very popular supervisors and you may need to be prepared to look beyond your top choice). Honours students must register in PSYC 598 (Honours Thesis and Seminar). The class meets twice a week during the fall and winter sessions. The major requirement is a written thesis that follows APA format and organization (with an abstract, introduction, methods section, results section, and discussion). Students also give presentations about their research in the PSYC 598 seminar and at the Annual Student Research Conference, normally held at the end of April. The Honours program requires a serious commitment to research during your final year and is the Department’s most intensive research opportunity. Click here to see a list of faculty and adjunct faculty seeking Honours students in the most recent application year. A list of recent theses can be found here.