First Year Project

The Department requires that first-year students participate in a research project. The requirements of the project, as set forth by the Committee on Higher Degrees, are as follows.

Faculty Mentor
Each first-year graduate student will be expected to choose a faculty mentor, who will supervise the first-year research. This person is typically the student's primary advisor, but exceptions will be considered by the DGS. It is required that the mentor be a Department faculty member.

Research Project
The first-year project is intended to involve the student in research. The project is intended to allow the student to acquire experience with a) research methodology, and b) the conceptual background (i.e., familiarity with previous findings, issues, and alternative theories) necessary to conduct original research. In some cases, an empirical study will be completed, whereas in others the issues to be studied will be delineated by a thorough literature review and preliminary preparation of materials and collection of pilot data, or the development of an analysis plan of existing data. Depending on the area of interest, first-year projects may vary widely in form and content. For example, acceptable first-year projects might focus on:

  • Reviewing literature on cognition and non-suicidal self injury (NSSI) and developing new studies to examine how emotional arousal effects cognition in NSSI.
  • Design an experiment to learn whether imagining or simulating the performance of a later task helps to retain and retrieve the intention to perform that task. 
  • Designing and partially implementing a computer simulation of priming effects, to be used to predict outcomes of experiments. 
  • Asking pilot subjects to keep a diary in which they record the circumstances in which they used "politeness terms," which is then analyzed to develop hypotheses about the use of politeness as a social lubricant.
  • Surveying the literature on frontal lobe abnormalities in individuals with a specific form of psychopathology and proposing the use of a large, publicly available dataset to replicate and extend these results.
  • Design an original series of experiments to determine whether infants use information about an actor’s object preferences to infer her desire when the goal is ambiguous


Project Plan
A short (no more than two page) description of the proposed project must be submitted to your mentor and Allie in the Graduate Office by Friday, December 16, 2022. 

Research Reports
A written report of the first-year project is required. This report will describe in detail the student's progress in acquiring research skills and the conceptual background necessary to conduct research. A typical report will constitute a prospectus for further work, with initial pilot data or analyses being marshaled to support the proposed approach. In some cases, although not necessarily, this report will serve to launch the student into the second-year project. The paper should be of length suitable to give the mentor a good understanding of the skills learned, and work accomplished. The project report will be due to the mentor by Monday, May 1, 2023 and the mentor will provide an assessment of the student's work and report to the CHD by May 19, 2023.

Relation of first- and second-year projects
The second-year project is more formal than the first-year project. The first-year project often will take the form of surveying the literature and formulating an analysis plan/hypotheses and/or collecting pilot data and reporting speculations about their import. By contrast, the second-year project will lead to a report in the form of a journal article and will represent a more complete research product.