Psychology Thesis


PSYC 4823: Nicholson Center 471
By Appointment

  Instructor: Stephen T. Paul, Ph.D.                         
Office:    471 Nicholson Center. Office Hours: By appointment
Phone:    (412) 397-5416. E-mail:

I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When and How and
Where and Who.
-- Rudyard Kipling

Overview: In this course, theory is integrated with the practical experience of conducting a research project. Students will contribute to the background study, design-proposal, research-planning, data collection, analysis, and interpretation of a detailed and novel study in an area of psychology. The project will culminate with a student presentation of the research results as an APA style research paper or poster at a professional conference.

Because of the unique nature of this course, students are expected to take the initiative in meeting all of the requirements. In other words, while I expect to be available to you throughout the semester, it is not my responsibility to chase you down and nag you into completing all of the tasks in a timely fashion. PLEASE see the timeline of expected goals below. The penalties associated with missing each deadline are NOT negotiable nor are there ANY acceptable excuses for missing deadlines. My advice is to PLAN AHEAD and BEAT each of the deadlines by days rather than wait until the last minute.

Objectives:Upon successful completion of this course, each student will have:
  1. Demonstrated knowledge of reference works in psychology.
  2. Critically collected, examined, and organized data about an approved research topic. Emphasis will be placed on the intensive collection of relevant print and electronic source material.
  3. Evaluated existing work in a discipline of study and prepared an effective written analysis of that work. The student's analyses will have defined relevant concepts, summarized critical variations, presented a detailed evaluation of current conditions using APA style, and will have used standard written, edited American English.
  4. Prepared and delivered an effective visual and oral presentation of individual research to an audience of professionals (faculty members and students) at an approved research conference. The presentation will have utilized appropriate computer software and other media to have created effective support materials for the presentation and will have shown command of standard spoken and written American English and APA style.
Delivery:The basic outline of this course is as follows:
  1. At the beginning of the semester, the student will meet with me to outline the expectations and process of the thesis experience.
  2. The student will be guided to start planning and thinking about a possible research topic.
  3. During the semester, we will review important issues in research methodology, finalize a research topic, and resolve any outstanding issues.
  4. For most of the remainder of the semester, the student will work with me on the research topic.
    1. Research papers will be prepared electronically following current APA style.
    2. Research papers will be evaluated according to the criteria established by the Psychology Research Paper Evaluation Rubric (linked below).
  5. During the last week or so of the semester, the student will deliver a paper or poster presentation of the research project at an approved research conference location (e.g., WPUPC, or EPA, etc.).
  6. The presentation will be graded according to the criteria outlined in the Psychology Presentation Evaluation Rubric (linked below).
  1. Accomodation: Students who may be eligible to receive learning support or physical accommodations must contact the Center for Student Success at 412-397-4342 to schedule an appointment with a counselor and to learn more about accommodation procedures. To receive accommodations in this course, arrangements must be made through the Center for Student Success.
  2. Lectures & Readings: I expect that you will have read all assigned text materials (if applicable) before we meet to discuss them. When you read, take note of portions that you don't understand well, or that you might have questions about. In this way you will arrive prepared for our meeting to discuss the material like a true scholar.
  3. Academic Integrity: Academic Integrity is valued at Robert Morris University. All students are expected to understand and adhere to the standards of Academic Integrity as stated in the RMU Academic Integrity Policy, which can be found on the RMU website at Any student who violates the Academic Integrity Policy is subject to possible judicial proceedings which may result in sanctions as outlined in the Policy. Depending upon the severity of the violation, sanctions may range from receiving a zero on an assignment to being dismissed from the university. If you have any questions about the policy, please consult me.
  4. Assignments: There are TWO major assignments ("deliverables") for this course:

    1. Research Project: You will collect data that examines a unique research hypothesis (pure replication studies are not acceptable). This activity will result in an APA style paper that you will turn in to me WITH your own assessment (see the research paper evaluation rubric below). In other words, when you finish your paper, you will then grade it according to the rubric and attach that to your paper. If your score comes within 3 points of my score, I will award you a 5-point bonus.)

    2. Project Presentation: You will present your research at an approved site (typically WPUPC).

  5. Grading: The required meetings with me will constitute 25 percent of your final grade, and the final presentation (at an approved research conference location) will contribute another 25 percent. Your final research paper will earn you 50 percent toward your final grade. The breakdown below will be used to determine final grades (based on overall percentage earned by semester's end):

      A = 93.0 - 100B = 83.0 - 86.9C = 70.0 - 74.9
      A- = 90.0 - 92.9B- = 80.0 - 82.9D = 60.0 - 69.9
      B+ = 87.0 - 89.9C+ = 75.0 - 79.9F = 0 - 59.9

Project Timeline: The timeline below reflects the minimum expectations for completing the requirements for this course. The penalties noted in the table represent the minimum cost to your final grade. For example, failing to meet with me during the first week will mean that the best grade possible for you to make would be reduced from 100 percent to 99 percent (up to a mximum of 10 percent for this goal, meaning you did not meet with me at all for the first 10 weeks of the semester - in this case, of course, additional penalties might apply). Please contact me if there is any question pertaining to this timeline or the expected goals depicted within.

    1 Meet with me to discuss the course requirements. Minus 1 percent for each week that passes without a meeting [10 percent maximum].
    2 Meet with me to discuss how to organize the introduction portion of your paper. Minus 1 percent for each week that passes without a meeting [10 percent maximum].
    3 Meetings and/or emails as needed. N/A
    4 Meetings and/or emails as needed. N/A
    5 Draft of research proposal due (introduction and methods). Minus 2 percent for each day that passes beyond this week (including weekends) [30 percent maximum].
    6 Meetings and/or emails as needed. N/A
    7 Finalized methodology due (you know what you will do for data collection, materials are selected or created, etc.). Minus 5 percent for each week (or fraction of a week) that passes without this completed [20 percent maximum].
    8 Meetings and/or emails as needed. N/A
    S P R I N G - B R E A K
    9 Final draft of Methods due (specific details like number of participants, etc. NOT critical). Minus 5 percent for each week (or fraction of a week) that passes without this completed [20 percent maximum].
    Permission from instructors to recruit participants from their classes due. Minus 1 percent for each day that passes without this completed [10 percent maximum].
    10 Final draft of Introduction due (minimum of ten recent and relevant journal references; additional relevant articles published prior to the past decade are acceptable in addition to the 10). Minus 5 percent for each week (or fraction of a week) that passes without this completed [20 percent maximum].
    11 Data collection completed. Minus 10 percent for each week (or fraction of a week) that passes without this completed [30 percent maximum].
    12 Results and Discussion sections of manuscript completed.
    Minus 10 percent for each week (or fraction of a week) that passes without this completed [20 percent maximum].
    13 Presentation format of final paper completed. Minus 5 percent for each day that passes without completing this task [20 percent maximum].
    14 Professional conference presentation completed. Minus 10 percent.
    Final paper due. If the paper is not provided, you will receive a failing grade for this course.

Documents:The documents (and link) below should be helpful in completing the requirements for this course:
  1. Research Paper Format

  2. Presentation Evaluation Rubric

  3. Research Paper Evaluation Rubric