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Social and Health Psychology Requirements

(This information may be more up-to-date than the Graduate Bulletin.)

The following requirements apply to Social and Health Area doctoral students who begin their studies on or after Fall semester, 2018.  In addition to these requirements, students are strongly encouraged (a) to work with an additional faculty member besides their advisor on research at some point during their graduate training, (b) to attend departmental colloquia and other events, (c) to attend conferences in their field and relevant workshops offered elsewhere, and (d) to be involved in Area service (serving on committees, organizing events, etc.).


All students are required to take Statistics (501/502/508) plus 3 breadth courses in the Psychology Department outside of the Area.  In addition, First-Year Lectures are required for first year students in the Fall semester.  Finally, all students must complete two semesters of Substantial Direct Instruction (SDI) during the first three years of graduate training.


In addition to the 3 outside-Area breadth courses required by the Department, students must take at least 3 inside-Area courses, as described under points 1 and 2 below.

1. Complete two of the following courses prior to advancing to candidacy (normally, that means during the first three years, but under some circumstances one may advance to candidacy earlier):         

  • PSY 541 (Close Relationships)
  • PSY 543 (Attachment)
  • PSY 549 (Prejudice)
  • PSY 555 (Social Psychology)
  • PSY 556 (Stress and Coping)
  • PSY 558 (Social Psychology: Health Applications)
  • PSY 559 (Psychology of Women’s Health)
  • PSY 594 (Psychology of Gender)

Note: Additional courses may be added to this category as current faculty develop new courses and as new faculty are hired.

2.  Complete an additional special topics course in the Social and Health Area (PSY 610 or 620) prior to advancing to candidacy.  Alternatively, students can complete an additional course from category 1.

3.  In addition to the 3 inside-Area courses, all students must complete one of the quantitative courses listed below, or an additional methods or statistics course as approved by the student's advisor or Area Head, prior to advancing to candidacy.  In most cases, this course can also be simultaneously used to fulfill one of the Department breadth course requirements (as a “wildcard”).

  • PSY 505 (Structural Equation Modeling)
  • PSY 506 (Psychometrics)
  • PSY 507 (Meta‑Analysis)

All students must maintain a graduate GPA of at least 3.0 and successfully complete the program of study detailed above (i.e., Area, Statistics, and Department requirements).

Students in Years 1‑4 must also attend Social and Health Area Brown Bag seminars, which meet twice a month during the academic year.  The Seminar is optional for students beyond the fourth year.  Students should give a minimum of two presentations at the Brown Bag Seminars during their graduate training, once during the first or second year and once during the third year or later.


This paper reports empirical research in a form suitable for submission to a refereed journal.  The paper requires approval by two members of the Area faculty (normally, the Advisor and one other Area faculty member).  A final copy of the paper should be submitted to the Psychology Graduate Office by the end of Spring semester of the second year.



The Specialties Paper has the potential to address multiple educational goals, including the following: (1) Evaluation of whether the student is ready to advance to candidacy; (2) Fostering breadth of scholarship; (3) Demonstrating independent research skills; and (4) Obtaining a publication.

University–Level Guidelines:

According to the Graduate School Bulletin (see p. 45), “The purpose of the [Specialties Paper] is to ascertain the breadth and depth of the student’s performance and to appraise readiness to undertake significant original investigation…”  The examining committee is approved by the Psychology Graduate Director and the Dean of the Graduate School on recommendation of the student’s advisor and the Area Head.  It [the committee] must include at least two faculty from the Social and Health Area and must include one or more members from outside the Social and Health Area.  At least one member must be a within-department other-area faculty member. 


The following four options represent possible ways to fulfill the requirements for the Specialties Paper: a review paper, a meta-analysis, an NIH or NSF type of grant proposal, or a research project.  Students must discuss these options with their advisor and select the one that best meets the student’s educational goals and facilitates his or her professional development. Each option is described below.

The Review Paper Option

Students may submit a review paper as their Specialties Paper.  The topic to be reviewed should be worked out in collaboration with the student’s advisor.  The student should identify a target journal (e.g., Psychological Bulletin), and should prepare the review with this journal in mind.

The Meta-Analysis Option

Students may submit a meta-analysis manuscript as their Specialties Paper.  Students interested in this option should plan to take the Department’s course on meta-analysis (PSY 507).  As is the case for submitting a review paper, students choosing this option should develop the topic for their meta-analysis in collaboration with their advisor, and the student should identify a target journal where the manuscript will be submitted.

The Grant Proposal Option

Students may submit an NIH or NSF type of grant proposal as their Specialties Paper.  Before developing such a proposal, the student should consult with his or her advisor, and the Area Head, about the feasibility of the proposal and the chances of obtaining funding. The proposal may be developed in conjunction with the Department’s course on Grant Writing.  The proposal should be developed for a specific target agency or funding source.

The Research Project Option

Students may submit a research project as their Specialties Paper.  If this option is selected, the research project should represent an independent contribution developed primarily by the student, and should be separate from the Second Year Paper.  The project should be prepared for a target journal that is identified by the student.

The Specialties Committee:

Students should give committee members ample time to read the Specialties Paper, and then schedule a defense of the paper in a specially arranged meeting.  Students are not Ph.D. candidates until they have passed this very important milestone.  It is advised that the student complete the defense of their Specialties Paper as quickly after satisfying the Second Year Paper as possible.  The Specialties Paper should be defended during the 3rd year and a final copy of the paper should be submitted to the Psychology Graduate Office by the end of Spring semester of the 3 rd year.  Meeting this deadline is important in order to be considered in good standing and be guaranteed a tuition waiver in the fourth year.

We recommend that students attach to the Specialties Paper a memo to the committee reminding them of the date and place of the defense.  Students are expected to summarize the information discussed in their paper during the Specialties defense, and should also be prepared to answer questions from committee members.  The defense typically lasts one and a half to two hours.  Students should bring the appropriate forms, obtained from the Psychology Graduate Office, to the meeting.


Upon approval of Area faculty, students advance to candidacy following completion of all required Departmental and Area course work, the Second Year Paper, the Specialties Paper, the two semesters of Substantial Direct Instruction (SDI), and satisfactory progress in research.  Students should advance to candidacy by the end of the second semester of the 3rd year.


A written dissertation proposal must be approved, following oral presentation and discussion by the Dissertation Committee.  This committee must include at least two members of the Area faculty, one faculty member from a different area of the department, and one faculty member from outside the department (note that faculty members from other departments who are joint-appointed in Psychology can not serve as an outside member).  With approval, the outside member can be from outside the University.  The committee members are approved by the Psychology Graduate Director and the Dean of the Graduate School on recommendation of the student’s advisor and the Area Head.  The dissertation proposal meeting should be scheduled only after the Specialties defense.  For a proposed study involving new data collection, ordinarily a student should not collect any data (other than pilot data) before the proposal meeting and approval of the proposal.

During the proposal meeting, students will present background literature, the research questions they are planning to address, the proposed methods, and plans for analysis of the data.  Students should include pilot data, if available.  Students should bring the appropriate forms obtained from the Psychology Graduate Office to the meeting.


Students will prepare a written dissertation with guidance from their advisor.  The written dissertation should be circulated to committee members early enough that they have ample time to review it prior to the dissertation defense meeting.  During this meeting, students are typically asked to make a brief presentation covering the hypotheses or research questions addressed, methods, results, a discussion of the results and appropriate conclusions and implications.  The meeting usually lasts 2 hours.  Students should bring the appropriate forms, obtained from the Psychology Graduate Office, to the meeting.  Students should defend their dissertation by the end of their fourth year.


All four graduate training areas in the Psychology Department focus heavily on research; research activity from the time of admission through graduation is required.  Students who are funded on state lines serve as teaching assistants (TAs) for classes taught by departmental faculty and instructors.  For all students, regardless of source of funding, two semesters of Substantial Direct Instruction (SDI) are required. Students must satisfy one semester of the SDI requirement in PSY 310. 

It is also recommended that students take the Seminar on Teaching Methods (PSY 621) in their second or third year.  This course is not a Departmental or Area requirement, however.  It is helpful to take the teaching seminar prior to completing SDI’s.  During those semesters when they are satisfying a SDI requirement, graduate students must receive teaching evaluations from their students.


Students are expected to present their research on a regular basis.  These presentations will typically be made in the Brown Bag Seminars.  As noted earlier, one of these presentations should be during the first two years.


Students are expected to do well in their coursework, to be involved in research, and to meet deadlines for each requirement (e.g., Second Year Paper, Specialties Paper).  The progress of each graduate student is reviewed at the end of each academic year by Area faculty.  Students must obtain a favorable evaluation.  This annual review provides opportunities for positive feedback about the student's achievements and constructive feedback for improving or accelerating the student's progress. 


The following is an example of a possible course of study that would maintain students in good academic standing and position them to complete their graduate studies in a timely manner.  Note that students should conduct research and register for appropriate research credits during each semester. In some cases, the nature of the student’s research may require spending 5 years toward the Ph.D.  If so, the work plan below can be modified accordingly to allow two years for the dissertation.  However, students must advance to candidacy by the end of the third year.



Fall:  First-year lectures, Statistics 501 and 508, one course, plan research and conduct literature review in that area, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars

Spring:  First-year lectures, Statistics 502 and 508, one course, begin research for Second Year Paper, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars



Fall:  Two courses, continue conducting research, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars

Spring:  Two courses, submit Second Year Paper, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars

Fall or Spring: Consider taking seminar on Teaching Methods (Psychology 621); complete first SDI



Fall:  One course, work on Specialties Paper project, continue research, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars

Spring:  One course, submit and defend Specialties Paper, advance to candidacy, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars

Fall, Spring, or Summer:  Complete second SDI

Note:  An additional course can be taken either term.



Fall:  Submit dissertation proposal, hold proposal meeting, conduct dissertation research, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars

Spring:  Submit dissertation, conduct oral defense, attend Area Brown Bag Seminars

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