Comps Opportunities and Overview
Our Comps program encourages students to choose both an area and approach that meet a student’s interest and approach they wish to use in exploring that interest. However, there may be some constraints regarding one’s topic selection and approach. In general, during the Spring term of the Junior year, students select a broad core area (of the three areas) in which they have an interest. Within that broad area, they choose a more specific topic they wish to explore with the help of the instructor of the Capstone seminar course in which they enroll. In addition, they can choose from a variety approaches that would allow for exploration of their topic. Among the possible approaches are: an empirical study involving data collection and analysis, literature review entailing an in-depth exploration of work pertaining to a specific topic, an applied project allowing students to apply psychological principles to real world issues, or course development involving construction of a course syllabus and lectures based on a collection of readings. The department permits both individual and team projects. Finally, students write a comprehensive paper that properly reflects the investigation or project. Below, are details regarding the timing, preparation and conduct of your Comps experience.
Students register in the Spring of the Junior year for a Capstone seminar. During the first 3 weeks of the spring term, all Junior students are registered first for a general Capstone seminar (Psych 299). The purpose of that seminar is to present a broad review of various areas in psychology and many psychology professors present reviews of their respective areas of interest. In addition, during that course, students meet with a variety of faculty members to discuss potential projects. Based upon student interests, students are assigned to one of three area Capstone seminars (Psych 397-the biological area, 398-the cognitive and developmental area, or 399-the social and clinical area) where they remain until the end of the term. In these specific area Capstone seminars, reflecting the 3 core areas of the major, students and faculty explore through a variety of readings the various topics proposed by the students. In addition, faculty leading these seminars and sometimes fellow students offer critiques of evolving proposals in an attempt to help each student sharpen their questions, procedures, presentation, and literature reviews. Moreover, faculty supervisors meet with individual students or student teams whose projects they are planning to supervise. Note that in addition to the faculty supervisors in charge of the various seminars, additional faculty not participating in the seminars may also be able for supervision. At the close of the area Capstone seminars, students submit a final proposal that defines their areas of exploration, their hypotheses, and procedures for studying that area. Proposals are submitted to the faculty member who supervises the project. The work in the seminar, both the proposal and participation receive a letter grade. Students must achieve a proposal grade of C- or better to move onto their Comps project. A lower grade requires a revised proposal before registering for Psych 400.
Comps Projects Conducted
Based on the proposal completed during the Spring term, students now conduct their projects. They register for Psych 400 for the Fall term (usually 4 credits). Depending upon the approach of each project, the activities of the Fall term Senior year differ, e.g., data collection, library research, field work, etc. However, at the end of the Fall term Senior year, all students hand in a next to final draft of their final paper. During the Winter term of the Senior year students revise their paper completing a final draft of the paper. Since different projects require different time-frames for completion (e.g., empirical projects take longer because of added data collection) some students are expected to complete projects during the first half of the Winter term, whereas other students complete projects at the end of the Winter term. Faculty and students together determine the time-frame for completion. Students register for additional Psych 400 credit (usually 2 credits). Projects recommended for distinction are submitted to an external panel for final evaluation. All students present either posters or oral presentations explaining their projects during the Spring term of their Senior year.