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General Requirements- Students must complete required coursework, first- and second-year research, pass the qualifying exam, and complete a dissertation. The Cognitive Psychology concentration of study requires a minimum of 80 credits from coursework, attendance of colloquia, first-year research, and research hours. Students in the Cognitive concentration will also receive evaluation letters both semesters of their second-year of study.
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*One needs to be outside the Cognitive Psychology Curriculum and can be from another department (e.g., Linguistics, Computer Science, Biology, Education).
#minimum 9 of PSYC 969: Dissertation Research
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First-year Research- Students are required to complete a first year research project, which they will present in the weekly cognitive Seminar Series meeting during the second semester of the first year. They are also required to write their project up in journal format (e.g., Journal of Experimental Psychology) and submit it to their Advisory Committee by June 15th. The Committee will provide feedback on the draft by June 30th. A revision of the paper (if necessary) is due by July 30th. This version will be evaluated by the student's Advisory Committee who will make a judgment on acceptability by August 15th. If the paper is deemed unacceptable, the student will be allowed one more revision that is due by September 15th. If this revision is unacceptable, the student will be recommended for termination from the program.
Although the cognitive concentration is
designed to be a Ph.D. program, there may be circumstances in which the student
desires to obtain a Master’s Degree (M.A. in Psychological & Brain Sciences).
For example, a student who does not pass the qualifying exam, may desire to
leave the program with a Master’s Degree. This can be accomplished by
submitting the first year project or some other substantial project to the student’s
Advisory Committee who will determine whether the document is of sufficient
quality to be an acceptable Master’s Thesis. If so, the Thesis is also
evaluated by the Department Chair and the Dean of the College of Arts and
The qualifying exam is taken after the student has completed 2 full years in the graduate program. In consultation with the student's Advisory Committee, a student will choose one of the following options for the Qualifying Exam- 1) NIH NRSA proposal; or, 2) Review paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.
NIH NRSA Proposal- Students will first submit a 350-500 word (approximately one page) abstract of their proposal including the following components to the student's Advisory Committee PLUS two faculty members selected to serve on the Exam Committee: 1) the names of both the student and mentor; 2) an overarching hypothesis of the proposal and its significance; 3) a brief statement of the specific aims of the proposal; 4) a brief description of the major techniques or technical approaches that will be used; and, 5) a summary of expected results and major conclusions if the project were successfully completed. A proposal abstract will be submitted by May 1st of the second year. The committee members should provide significant, meaningful feedback to the student about the proposal within 2 weeks.
Format of the Research Proposal- Students should follow the format and guidelines set forth for the Research Training Plan sections of pre-doctoral NRSA from the National Institutes of Health. The written proposal must contain the following sections as specified by the NIH for the Research Training Plan for pre-doctoral fellowship applications: 1) Specific Aims; 2) Background and Significance; 3) Innovation; 4) Research Design and Methods; and, 5) Literature Cited.
The proposal should be 6 pages (11 or 12 pt, Arial or Helvetica font) including sections 1-4, figures and figure legends, but not including Literature Cited. The proposal must be written solely and in its entirety by the student and may not be a reproduction of any other work completed or in progress. Students are encouraged to discuss their project with anyone, including their faculty supervisor, and members of their Exam Committee, in as much detail as they wish. This can include detailed discussions on aims, experiments, methods, etc. These discussions may include helping the student design experiments and critique the written document in general terms. However, the student must be prepared to orally defend ALL aspects of the proposal including the background, rationale, design of the specific aims, experimental design, data interpretation, pitfalls and methods including all techniques proposed. This aspect of the examination cannot be overemphasized.
The written proposal is due to the Exam Committee by September 7th in the third year. The Exam Committee members must email the area director within three weeks (October 1) whether they feel the oral defense should proceed. The oral defense proceeds as long as there is no more than one dissent among the committee and that dissent is not from the Faculty Advisor.
The Oral Qualifying Exam consists of three parts. During the first part, the student will orally deliver a brief (20 minute) presentation explaining the research proposal to the Committee members. In the second part, the student is expected to defend the proposal to the Committee by answering questions related to the research project. The third part involves a series of broader questions from the Committee in which the student is expected to demonstrate a general knowledge in the field of Cognition.
The three potential outcomes of the qualifying exam are:
Review Paper - Students will first submit a preliminary package of materials to the student's Advisory Committee PLUS two faculty members selected to serve on the Exam Committee. It will consist of the following three items: 350-500 word (approximately one page) abstract of their paper including the following components: 1) the names of both the student and mentor; 2) an overarching hypothesis/area of focus for the paper; 3) a brief description of the length, formatting, and content of the paper; and, 4) a brief summary of the importance or unique focus of the paper. The package will also include a one page outline of the paper and preliminary bibliography (minimum of 10 papers). This is due on May 1 of their second year. The committee members should provide significant, meaningful feedback to the student about the proposal within 2 weeks. The final paper is due to committee members on September 7th. The committee needs to indicate, within three weeks (October 1st), whether the paper is acceptable for the oral portion of the test to proceed.
Content and Format of the Review Paper- This is a research paper in which the student should (a) provide a new integration of an existing body of literature that offers novel ideas, hypotheses, and/or theoretical perspectives, (b) identifies major gaps in the literature, and (c) discusses how those gaps might be filled. The paper cannot be a simple review of the literature; it must provide a synthesis or integration of theory and research on the topic and be issue- or idea-focused. The student's goal should be to become a leading expert in the chosen research question and to demonstrate expertise by providing an integrative review of the literature that moves the area forward. The paper should be original and not derivative of another paper already published or unpublished but known to the student. The paper should be written in a style that is consistent with articles in journals that publish integrative reviews such as Psychological Bulletin or Psychological Review.
The length for the review paper is 10,000 - 15,000 words. These limits do not include front and back matter (e.g., title page, references, and tables and figures). The student and Faculty Advisor should agree upon the intended length of the paper before writing begins. The paper is due to the Exam Committee by September 7st of the third year. The committee members must email the area director within three weeks to indicate whether they feel the oral defense should proceed. The oral defense proceeds as long as there is no more than one dissent among the Committee and that dissent is not from the Faculty Advisor. Students are encouraged to submit their review articles for publication, but this is not required for passing the qualifying exam.
Use of the Faculty Advisor and Exam Committee- Although the paper is primarily the work of the student, it is expected that the Faculty Advisor will provide advice, instructions, and feedback both before and during the writing process. However, the Faculty Advisor should not edit or rewrite any parts of the paper itself. The Faculty Advisor should serve in the role of an external reviewer who provides feedback about the content and style of the paper without directly collaborating on it.
Students should also consult with their Exam Committee members as they consider their paper topic and the scope of the paper. Students should have a conversation with each Committee member after they have developed a plan but before they have started writing. One of the jobs of the Committee is to provide feedback and assistance in finding appropriate materials for the project.
During the writing phase of the paper, students may discuss ideas with their Committee members by asking them to read and comment on parts of the paper. However, the Committee members must refrain from editing the paper. Instead, they should express concerns and point out weaknesses or strengths without telling students directly how to fix the problem.
Although students may not write collaboratively on the paper with their Faculty Advisor or Committee members prior to the oral exam, they may seek substantive collaborative help from Committee members afterwards if they plan to submit the paper for publication.
The Oral Qualifying Exam consists of three parts. During the first part, the student will orally deliver a brief (20 minute) slide presentation of the paper, typically using a small number of slides to illustrate major points. In the second part, faculty will ask questions that stem from the document. The third part involves a series of broader questions from the Committee in which the student is expected to demonstrate a general knowledge of the field of Cognition. The Oral Qualifying Exam should be completed by the end of September. The three potential outcomes of the qualifying exam are:
For both Types of Qualifying Exam- After evaluation of both the written and oral exams by the Exam Committee, a pass, conditional pass, or fail grade and a written feedback report are provided to the student. In the event that the exam or parts of the exam did not meet criteria for passing by a majority of the Exam Committee, the student can elect to retake the exam or parts of the exam. Feedback from the Exam Committee will be given to help prepare the student for the retest. The re-administered exam (written and/or oral) must be completed within one month of completing the first exam. One re-take exam is allowed. Failure to pass the re-take exam disqualifies the student from the doctoral program and he/she will be recommended for termination from the doctoral program.