Program Requirements and Curriculum

The following serves as a guide for students to complete the Social-Personality Psychology Doctoral Program successfully.

Requirements for Degree Completion

  • A minimum of 72 credit hours, including core cognitive coursework, electives and departmental breadth requirements.
  • The following courses are required of all students in the Social Psychology program: 
    • PSY 607 Advanced Statistical Methods I
    • PSY 608, Advanced Statistical Methods II 
    • PSY 680, Advanced Social Psychology
    • PSY 609, Multivariate Statistics
    • PSY 704, Advanced Research Methods in Social Psychology
    • PSY 725, Attitudes and Social Cognition
    • Four Social Area Electives (e.g., PSY 864 Interpersonal Relations, PSY 869 The Social Self, PSY 865 Prosocial Motivation, PSY 685 Social Psychophysiology). 
    • Distribution courses in: 
      • Behavioral Neuroscience (PSY 513 Biological Bases of Behavior)
      • Cognitive Psychology (PSY 627 Perception, or PSY 639 Cognitive Processes or PSY 642 Psycholinguistics, or PSY 728 Memory)
      • Clinical Psychology (PSY 624 Psychopathology, PSY 618 Developmental Psychopathology, or PSY 625 Community Psychology) 

Minimum Research Requirements

Students are expected to be actively involved in research throughout their graduate careers. As they progress in the program, the expectation is that students will take increasing intellectual ownership of their research projects, ultimately culminating in students’ ability to conduct research independent of their faculty advisors. To aid in that goal, the area sets three minimum research requirements. However, all students are expected to be involved in conducting further research and writing papers for publication that go beyond satisfying these minimum requirements. 

  1. Second-year research project: The goal of the second-year project is to develop students’ skills in leading a research project from start to finish. The student devises a hypothesis and an appropriate methodology to test it, collects the data and then writes an APA-style paper reporting the results. A committee of three social faculty members, including the student’s advisor, supervises and evaluates the project. The following steps are involved: (1) a written proposal, including an introduction, proposed method, and proposed analysis, must be approved by the committee after an oral defense, (2) the student performs the project, and (3) the student writes up an APA-style paper and orally defends the project to the committee.
  2. Third-year preliminary paper: There are multiple options for a third-year paper, but the typical format is an empirical paper, the goal of which is to provide students with training in writing publishable empirical articles. The final version of the paper should be submitted for publication. A committee of three social faculty members, including the student’s advisor, evaluates the project. The following steps are involved: (1) the student prepares a 3 to 5 page statement of goals, which is presented to prospective committee members, (2) after the committee approves the proposal, the student prepares a paper in consultation with the committee, and (3) the committee approves the paper (or suggests required revisions) and the student orally defends the final product.
  3. Dissertation: The goal of the dissertation is to develop students’ skills in establishing a program of research. The procedures for forming a dissertation committee, gaining approval of a dissertation proposal, and having the final product evaluated are spelled out in the Department's Graduate Student Manual. A student must get the approval of his or her advisory committee before beginning serious dissertation research. There are multiple forms that a dissertation can take, but its typical form requires a fairly extensive written dissertation proposal involving a history of research and thinking on the topic, a rationale for the proposed research, a statement of the research problem and hypotheses, and a description of the proposed method, including statistical analyses. Students are encouraged to gather pilot data before submitting the proposal.

Completion Timeline

Most students finish the program in five years; the timetable below is based on a five-year plan for completion. Occasionally, students have completed the program in less than five years.

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth and Fifth Years

Students begin conducting research with their primary advisor. This research often provides a foundation for students’ first major first-authored research paper (the Second-Year Project). Students also begin taking required classes, such as Advanced Social Psychology (680), Research Methods in Social Psychology, regression and ANOVA, elective social seminars, and/or one of the three required breadth courses in Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical or Cognitive.