Psychology Honors Program

What is the Psychology Honors Program?

The Psychology Honors program in Psychology is a two-semester sequence offering advanced and highly motivated students additional academic challenges and an opportunity to engage in scholarly research under close faculty mentorship. The Honors student recruits a research mentor from among the Psychology faculty and works in the mentor's lab while preparing and writing a senior thesis.

The Honors Thesis is usually an empirical research project, planned and conducted with the student's faculty mentor, commonly in the lab's area of research. Under some circumstances, the thesis may be a scholarly paper that reviews a major research area. All Psychology Honors students must complete a two-semester registration sequence: typically, this will be PSYC 405 (3 credit hours of work on the Thesis proposal) and PSYC 406-WR (3 credit hours of work writing the Thesis). Under special circumstances and with the agreement of the mentor, the Undergraduate Coordinator and the department Chair, students may substitute a PSYC 401 (3 credit hours minimum) experience for the PSYCH 405 registration (see Research Opportunities for information about PSYC 401.) In this case, the student's two-semester sequence will be PSYC 401 followed by PSYC 406-WR. This may require uncredited extra work for the student who will be preparing the thesis proposal without the coverage of registration hours for that work, as PSYC 401 covers research assistantship work in the faculty lab, rather than preparation of the Thesis proposal. Note that following the 401-406 sequence will also mean that the student's transcript will show only one semester of "Honors Research," as PSYC 401 is not an Honors class.

The ideal sequencing for completing the Honors thesis calls for finding the research mentor during the first semester of the junior year, completing a PSYC 401 in that lab in the second semester of the junior year to become familiar with the lab and the data set. At the end of the second semester of the junior year, the student will apply to the Honors Program, typically with the PSYC 401 lab mentor having agreed to be the student's thesis mentor. Studentts whose 401 mentor does not agree to serve as the thesis mentor or students who do not have an established relationship with a faculty reserach lab prior to the start of the senior year and the beginning of the Honors Program will at least be at a serious disadvantage and may not be able to participate in the program (see Requirements for admission below). In the senior year, the Honors student continues to work in the lab while completing the PSYC 405 and PSYC 406-WR sequence in the final two semesters of their degree program.

The program culminates in an oral defense of the thesis, administered by the student's Honors Thesis committee, consisting of their faculty mentor and two other faculty members.

Why do Psychology Honors?

The Psychology Honors Program is intended to provide outstanding students majoring in Psychology with opportunities to become involved in original research and scholarship, in close collaboration with a faculty mentor. This experience gives students an opportunity to integrate what they have learned by designing their own projects. The Psychology Honors Program contributes to the development of skills that will be useful in a broad range of later endeavors and is an advantage for entrance into graduate and professional schools. While it is not often formally required for admission, very few doctoral programs in Psychology admit students who have not completed an honors thesis or other significant research project. Above all, the Psychology Honors Program gives qualified and motivated students an intensive exposure to scholarly work.

Requirements for admission into the Psychology Honors Program

  • Formal acceptance as a Psychology major
  • At least 18 credit hours in psychology (students may apply while completing the final hours toward this total; they must be registered for the hours that will complete this total at the time of application and admission will be conditional on the completion of 18 hours with the required GPA)
  • Have a GPA in Psychology classes of 3.4 or higher
  • Have an overall University of Louisville GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Have made arrangements with a faculty research mentor to serve as the Thesis mentor.
    The student is responsible for finding a mentor; making these arrangements is considered to be an important part of the Psychology Honors Program. The Undergraduate Coordinator can offer guidance and support, but a student who cannot make arrangements for a thesis mentor will not be able to participate in the program. Finding a mentor may require several contacts with a number of labs over a period of weeks or more; this is a selective process and not all students can be guaranteed to find mentors.

University Honors Program vs Psychology Honors Program vs Arts & Sciences Graduation Honors

There are two honors programs available to qualified psychology majors: the University Honors Program and the Psychology Honors Program. Please note that the University and Psychology Honors programs are different and have slightly different criteria for acceptance. Students can complete either one (although this is less common) or both programs.

The Psychology Honors Program thesis can be used to satisfy both the Arts and Sciences thesis and/or the University Honors thesis requirement. Please note: you are not required to have been in the University Honors Program to submit an A&S thesis for eligibility for graduation honors. However, to use the Psychology Honors thesis to meet the A&S requirements for honors at graduation as listed above, a proposal must be submitted to the Arts and Sciences honors thesis committee for approval. This does not happen automatically as part of the Psychology Honors program. Details, including committee composition and deadlines for proposal submission and oral defense, are available at http://louisville.edu/honors/Enrichment-opportunities/senior-honors-theses/senior-honors-theses.html.

The criteria for graduating with honors in the College of Arts and Sciences (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) are different from those of either honors programs and are as follows (taken from the Undergraduate Catalog, University Policies for the College of Arts and Sciences):

Baccalaureate degree students who have earned a minimum of 60 hours of degree credit in residence in the College of Arts and Sciences will be eligible for consideration to graduate with College Honors. Final determination of a student’s eligibility to graduate with College Honors will be based on the student’s standing upon completion of the degree. In determining eligibility for graduation with College Honors, the College takes into consideration not only the University cumulative grade point average, but also an “expanded cumulative grade point average” which is calculated only for the purpose of determining eligibility for graduation with College Honors and only if a student’s University grade point average is 3.5 or above. The “expanded grade point average” is based on the grades in all college-level work. In the case of repeated courses, both the original grade and credit hours and the replacement grade and credit hours will be included in the calculation. Similarly, grades and credit hours excluded from the University grade pointaverage through application of the academic bankruptcy provision will be included in determining a student’s expanded grade point average. In the case of work done at other institutions, all grades and credit hours in all degree-applicable courses will be included in determining a student’s expanded grade point average. Students should consult the Director of University Honors with any questions concerning eligibility and requirements for graduation with College Honors.

For a student to qualify for graduation cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude, the grade point average and the expanded grade point average must both satisfy the stated minimum requirement. The minimum grade point average requirements for graduation with College Honors are: cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude. The grade point average and the expanded grade point average must both satisfy the stated minimum requirement. The minimum grade point average requirements for graduation with College Honors are:

  • Cum Laude: 3.5
  • Magna Cum Laude: 3.75 with no College honors project, 3.65 with College honors project
  • Summa Cum Laude: 3.75 with College honors project

To graduate summa cum laude (or magna cum laude with a 3.65-3.74 expanded grade point average), a student must have not only the requisite University and expanded grade point averages, but the student must also give evidence of scholarship and originality by submitting a research paper, or independent study report, or other independent work (college honors project).

Timeline for the Psychology Honors Program

This is the standard timeline; some variability may be possible. Students who cannot complete this standard sequence may need to meet with the Undergraduate Coordinator to determine whether their circumstances will permit completion of the Honors Program. It is highly desirable, and required by some faculty mentors, that a student intending to complete the Honors Program will have completed both PSYC 301 and 302 by the end of the junior year and before beginning the Honors sequence. Normally, these classes are completed by the end of the sophomore year by Psychology majors. Students coming late in their academic plan to the Psychology major may find it impossible to complete the Honors Program without taking additional semesters to do so.

Junior year first semester (finding research lab): Send emails to potential mentors, schedule and complete interviews, formalize arrangements for PSYC 401 in the spring.

Junior year second semester (preparation for Honors Program work): Work in faculty research lab for PSYC 401 credit, discuss with lab mentor the possibility of completing Honors thesis in the lab, formalize arrangements for Honors mentorship, apply for Honors Program. At this point, some students will choose to apply for the Honors Program; others may choose instead to work for another semester (or two) in the research lab without participating in Honors.

Senior year first semester (first semester of Honors Program): Register for PSYC 405, complete the thesis proposal and submit it for approval to mentor and department by deadline (note that the A&S Honors Thesis proposal deadline is in September for the fall semester and February for the spring semester; this often requires completing most of the work on the proposal prior to the start of 405.)

Senior year second semester (second semester of Honors Program): Register for PSYC 406-WR, write the thesis and obtain approval of the mentor and department by deadline (note that the A&S Honors Thesis deadline is in early March for the spring semester and early October for the fall semester; this may require completing some of the written thesis during the 405 semester), schedule and pass the oral defense of the thesis.

To apply for the Honors Program

Please download the application and turn in a completed hard copy with an unofficial transcript to your Honors thesis mentor. Your mentor is responsible for determining whether you meet the GPA requirements for Honors and are prepared for undertaking the thesis project. Note that it is the student's responsibility to find an Honors mentor and to complete the paperwork required to register for Psych 401, 405 and 406 with that mentor.

For questions not addressed above, contact:

Dr. Rich Lewine, Undergraduate Coordinator

Psychological and Brain Sciences

rich.lewine@louisville.edu