Psychology

HONORS THESIS GUIDELINES

Psychology Major Manual (pdf)
Prof. Dierker's Thesis Outline
Registrar's Office - The Honors Program
WesScholar - Honors Theses



PROF. DIERKER'S THESIS OUTLINE

THIS OUTLINE WAS DESIGNED BY PROF. DIERKER FOR HER THESIS STUDENTS. THOUGH SOME OF THE INFORMATION IS TAILORED FOR HER RESEARCH, THE GENERAL THESIS FORMAT WILL BE MOST HELPFUL TO ANY PSYCHOLOGY UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE STUDENT.

Welcome to your thesis! I thought that it would be helpful to carefully outline my expectations in regard to both masters and senior projects conducted under my direction. My first expectation is that you read this document multiple times throughout the thesis process!

 We will be working on each of the project topics as a group during the fall semester and will meet once a week for 2 hours with the entire child clinical research group. This will give you the benefit of multiple perspectives as well as a larger number of individuals that you will be responsible for and to. My past experience has been that students working in isolation on a project make progress only around hard and fast deadlines and tend to lag significantly during other periods. I believe that the group process will help with this. Although we will predominantly be meeting in a group setting, you should also feel free to make personal appointments with me as needed.

During the spring semester, your project will likely be at a stage where we will need to spend more one-on-one time together. We will continue to meet as a research group, but will also schedule individual sessions.

Requirements

The following list represents the requirements that you will need to adhere to during the thesis project.

  1. The thesis and related activities should be your first priority this year. Supplemental course work should generally include only the number of credits you need to graduate. In general, your thesis should never take a back seat to your other commitments.
  2. Although it would be silly of me to tell you how to divide your time on various thesis tasks, you should devote 20 hours per week to it with no exceptions. Treat your thesis like a job. You may prefer 2 ten-hour days or 2-hour blocks each day. Whatever works, stick to it. Also expect the unexpected. Twenty hours should be considered the minimum requirement.
  3. Requirements for the thesis include much more than the writing of the final document. You will be expected to play and active and often leadership role in every aspect of the research process (e.g. data collection, data entry, error checking, community contact, recruiting, training, general organization, etc.) These are all equally important aspects of the learning process.
  4. Although the ultimate deadline for thesis work is in April, deadlines that I will set and those that are self-imposed should be met without exception.
  5. Be independent and proactive in your work. Anticipate your next steps rather than waiting for instructions. When you are asked to accomplish something, do not wait to be asked about its status. Give frequent updates at meetings and via e-mail. Never let a task fall through the cracks even temporarily.
  6. When we meet one-on-one or as a group, come with your own agenda items. I will typically have items that I wish to discuss, but you should always be thinking about what you would like to address so that your project makes optimal progress.
  7. Although I will provide the basic time-table. You should establish a more detailed time- table for yourself. I will try to be as structured as possible. However, research is a generally fluid process. We will need to develop some common ground between structure and flexibility.
  8. Use Endnote as your bibliographic software package and keep it continually up to date. Annotate everything!
  9. When I have requested a particular section of your thesis, do not give me your first draft. What you submit should be your best attempt, not your first attempt. I may turn it back to you with general comments or with extensive editing. Resist the temptation to personalize the feedback that you receive from myself or others regarding your ideas, writing, etc.
  10. Use the APA format from the beginning. Submit work to me in the proper format even during the draft stages of your thesis. An APA manual will be available to you at all times in the lab.
  11. Do not allow setbacks to immobilize you! If you become immobilized for internal or external reasons, ask for help.
  12. During the down time (e.g. I am reading your latest draft), make good use of your time on other project tasks.
  13. All of the articles that you collect for your thesis should be photocopied and filed in Rm 300, so that they are available to those working on the projects. Feel free to use my code and use the office copy machine. No original documents or articles should ever leave the lab. ALWAYS make a copy!
  14. You will be responsible for keeping up to date all lab files related to your project.
  15. The thesis requires a great deal of perseverance! However, if you feel as though you have truly lost your passion and interest in the work, please let me know. Don’t forget that we choose to write theses. In the case of the senior project, they are in no way required. Allow this fact to take any undue strain or stress off of your shoulders. You are not stuck.
  16. You should keep updated on all degree/thesis deadlines. If you need my assistance in meeting any of them, you should give me ample lead time.
  17. Additional guidelines regarding project tasks and ethical conduct are listed in the Child Clinical Research Group Guidelines. These should also be followed.

If you think that you will be unable to meet any of these requirements, please speak with me in advance. Otherwise, I will assume that these guidelines are reasonable to you and that you intend to meet them.

If you are unclear about any expectations either small or large, please do not hesitate to ask for clarification.

Recommendations

The following list includes recommendations that will help you through your thesis project. A few of these come from contributions to "Completing Your Thesis or Dissertation". Editor Pyrsak, 1999. Reread them often.

Although writing a strong thesis is not a one-size-fits all prescription, there are a number of things that will help you with the process.

  1. You should become an expert on your thesis topic by conducting an in-depth literature review. Even if only a fraction of the articles that you have read end up in your introduction, this understanding of the literature will make the writing of your discussion much easier (i.e. you will be able to make integrative comments about your findings that directly relate to or extend precious work).
  2. Know yourself and your work style. Identify your pitfalls and make careful plans to avoid them. If you have a tendency to get sucked into "I Love Lucy" episodes for hours on end, think about getting rid of cable TV (seriously).
  3. Break your dissertation up into small easily digestible chucks. Please ask me for assistance with this.
  4. Keep a to-do list handy during a reading/writing session. All sorts of things will come to your mind that needs to be done. Jot them down so you don’t forget and then get back to work.
  5. Do not become so bogged down in the literature search that you put off reading and writing. In a very short time, you will hear yourself continually saying "Oh! That’s a good one, I better tag it! And Uuuooo-eeee! That one fits my idea on …." This is great, but should be time limited. If you are still searching for articles in November and have not done a substantial amount of writing, you will make the rest of the school term miserable for both of us.
  6. Read, absorb, synthesize and write your ideas about what you have read along the way. Your best source of citations comes from the literature reviews of others in a particularly exemplary article.
  7. Start with an outline even if this is revised several times during the writing process.
  8. Create tables as you go that summarize and compare samples, methods and results from studies examining the same question. These tables will make the writing process easier and may even be included in your final thesis (see attached manuscript tables).
  9. Use your thesis time for the thesis! If during this time, you feel like you cannot think anymore, work on the bibliography, methods or tables and graphs, but do something.
  10. If you are having difficulty writing, then try to produce a "spew draft" (i.e. put something down on paper because it will be easier to revise than to produce a perfect first draft).
  11. Once you have a steady stream of research articles coming in, you should be writing something every day.
  12. Always write as much as possible on a topic. It is easier to delete than to add. You will read and write more than will be included in the final draft of your thesis.
  13. Find a quiet place that is free of distractions to write. This may be the lab at odd hours, a study carol at the library (call for more info.), church or wherever.
  14. Set a long enough work interval to make definite progress.
  15. Writing well is one of the most difficult tasks. There are few people to whom scientific writing comes easily. Be brief and to the point. All journal articles and grant applications have length restrictions, so the thesis is good practice. Good writing is shorter than bad writing. The more you can say in the fewest words, the greater your impact will be. Your thesis will likely be between 45 and 85 pages.
  16. Make careful notes of where you leave off each day so that you know exactly what you need to do next.
  17. Use headings and subheadings generously. This will help you organize your writing as will help the reader follow your argument.
  18. Follow Psychological Bulletin guidelines in the writing of your introduction (see articles attached)
  19. Have patience! There is no road map in research. Decisions must be made and altered at almost every step. The product is incredibly rewarding.
  20. Allow wiggle room in setting your own deadlines. Do not let yourself get under the gun.
  21. If you become overwhelmed, farm out activities that can be farmed out (e.g. entering citations, making copies, etc.)
  22. Finally, if you are putting in your 20 hours each week, you will make progress and will have the pleasure of spending your free time without guilt and worry.

WooooooHoooooo! We are on our way. I am looking forward to some exciting research.

Specific deadlines are listed on the following page.

The bulk of the work on the various tasks should be completed during the following months. Specific deadlines are listed below.

Month

   

A

 

S

 

O

 

N

 

D

 

J

 

F

 

M

 

A

 

M

Preliminary Outline and Plan

X

                 

Data collection/cleaning

 

X

X

             

Preliminary data analyses

     

X

           

Literature Search

 

X

X

 

           

Journal Article Collection

 

X

X

X

X

         

Draft of Introduction

 

X

               

Revision of Outline 1

 

X

               

Revision of Introduction

   

X

X

X

         

Draft of Methods

 

X

X

             

Revision of Methods

   

X

             

Revision of Outline 2

     

X

           

Core data analyses/table prep

       

X

X

X

     

Draft of Results

         

X

       

Revision of Results

       

X

X

X

     

Draft of Discussion

         

X

X

     

Revision of Discussion

             

X

   

Abstract and Final Revisions

               

X

 

Deadlines:

  • Outline discussed and approved by September 8th
  • Draft of Introduction due on October 1 (5:00 pm)
  • Revision of Introduction and draft of Methods due on October 20 (5:00 pm)
  • Revisions of Introduction and Methods due on November 19th (5:00 pm)
  • Draft of Results based on preliminary data analyses and revised Introduction and Methods due on December 17th
  • Updated manuscript including Discussion due the last Friday before spring break (5:00 pm)
  • Revisions due on negotiable date at least one week before final deadline.
  • Final Thesis (seniors only) due April 12.
  • The deadline for BA/MA theses is 48 hours after the oral exam. The last day of oral exams in May 3.

You may always turn in interim versions of your project for feedback when needed.