Second Year Project

The second-year research project is a written report, in the style of a journal article, and an oral report, in the style of a ten minute talk at a scientific meeting, of original research carried out during the first two years of residence at Harvard. This work may be something begun during the first year.

This guide describes the components of the second-year project and the expected timeline and action items that need to be completed during the second year. Successful completion of the second-year project is a requirement to progress to the dissertation stage of the doctoral program.

I. Establish committee. Students are advised by a committee of two faculty members during their second-year projects. This committee typically includes their primary mentor and a second faculty member who the student invites to serve as their “second reader”. Both faculty members are expected to be available as a resource to the student throughout the year. 
Action item: Students should invite a second reader to join your second year project advising committee, following consultation with your primary mentor. Please note that faculty members are not required to say yes. There are valid reasons a particular faculty member might not be available for your committee (e.g., an impending leave). If any student is having difficulty finding a second reader, please consult with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).
Timeline: Students should establish their committee by the end of October of their second year.

II. Prepare and submit written proposal. Students should prepare a written proposal for their second-year project. The proposal itself should cover the following topics:
• Introduction to general research topic
• Specific research question
• How the study is poised to contribute to the literature
• Design of experiment(s)
• Proposed data analyses
• Predicted results and theoretical interpretation
• References
When drafting their proposals, students should be explicit about the question(s) the study is designed to answer, the proposed data analyses, and how the findings will bear on the question at hand. Proposals should be understandable by a general psychology audience.
Action item: Students should write a proposal and disseminate it to their advising committee and to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Students are welcome to seek feedback on drafts of the proposal and engage in discussions with their mentor and/or second reader (or others) as they are preparing the proposal.
Timeline: Students should submit the written proposal to their advising committee at least two weeks before their scheduled second-year project proposal meeting (see Item III).

III. Hold proposal committee meeting. Students should hold a proposal committee meeting attended by their advising committee. This meeting is an opportunity for students to receive feedback from their committee about the content, quality, and scope of their project. The meeting is also intended for faculty to evaluate whether the project, as proposed, is well-suited for a second year project or whether it needs to be revised. Faculty will have read the written proposal before the meeting (having received it two weeks before the meeting). 
Often, students prepare a brief presentation featuring the highlights of their proposed project and provide an update on the progress they have made thus far. Students often bring discussion about specific questions or challenges associated with the project for committee input. Committee members often bring questions they had when reading the proposal for clarification or open discussion. Note that there is some variability in expectations for this meeting’s length and format, so students should consult their mentors on specific expectations.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the committee will judge whether the project is satisfactory for the second year project requirement. If it is not judged satisfactory, the committee will engage in discussion with the student about necessary revisions. For example, the advising committee might raise the concern that the proposed research is unrealistically ambitious, and may discuss with the student the need to simplify the project. The advising committee and student are expected to discuss proposed revisions and come to a common understanding of any changes required.
Action items: a. Schedule meeting. Students are responsible for scheduling the meeting and providing confirmation of the meeting’s date, time, and location. Note that coordinating faculty schedules can be challenging, and faculty often schedule meetings weeks in advance. Therefore, students should work to schedule this meeting several weeks before the target meeting date. Further, students might need to schedule the proposal committee meeting for days or weeks before the final deadline. 
b. Prepare for meeting. Students should speak with their mentors about the expected format for their meeting, and prepare accordingly. Students are expected to answer questions about their proposed project, report on its progress to date, any roadblocks, and comment on a timeline for the project’s completion. Students should also expect to engage in discussion with the committee, who will offer feedback on the project.
c. Paperwork. Students should bring the Second Year Project Approval Form to the meeting and should collect their advising committee’s signatures indicating whether they “sign off” on the proposal as-is or require revisions. This form should be returned to the Graduate Program Coordinator by the meeting deadline (stated on the attached Timeline document).
Timeline: The meeting should take place by the deadline stated on the Timeline document.

IV. Submit written project report. Students should prepare a written report of the second year project. The written report should include the background and logic reported previously in the proposal, with the addition of the actual project’s methods, results, interpretation, discussion, and conclusion. Students should ask their mentors about expected length and detail to include in this report. Many students produce a product similar to a draft of a manuscript that would be sent out for review at a scholarly journal. However, it is not required that second year project written reports are published or in publishable form.
Action items: Students should submit the written report to their advising committees and to the Graduate Program Coordinator.
Timeline: The committee should receive the written report by the deadline stated on the attached Timeline document.

V. Complete departmental talk. Second year students present ten minute talks to the department near the end of the Spring semester. Students each give a talk, often using visual aids (slides), and field questions from the audience. The second year project talks conclude with a reception celebrating the accomplishments of the class.
Action items: Prepare for the talk.
Timeline: The talks occur on a set date stated on the Timeline document. Students should reserve the entire day for the talk activities.

VI. Committee evaluation due. Following the submission of the written report and attendance of the departmental talk, the faculty evaluate the student’s preparedness to enter the dissertation state of the program. Faculty judge the work as “PhD Pass” or “MA Pass”, or “Fail”. Students who have met the requirement at the expected level receive a grade of “PhD Pass”. A student whose performance was not up to the level expected of doctoral students, and who is expected to leave the program with a terminal master’s degree, can be given the grade “MA Pass”. In some cases, students will be required by their readers to make substantial modifications or do additional work. Such cases will be treated on a caseby- case basis in consultation with the CHD. Finally, students could receive a grade of “Fail” if they are not meeting, or poised to meet, expectations for doctoral students.
Action items: Grades will be collected by the Graduate Program Coordinator. No action
is needed from the student.
Timeline: The grades are due by a set date stated on the Timeline document.

Extensions. We expect students to meet the deadlines set by the CHD. However, if unusual circumstances arise that would require an extension on the written submission, students may petition to the CHD for an extension. Petitions should be submitted in writing (by email to the Graduate Program Coordinator) by two weeks prior to the project deadlines. The petition should include a summary of progress to date, a reason for the request, and a detailed timeline for completion. It is not feasible to receive an extension on the oral presentation, as they are planned several months in advance and held all on the same day.
Petitions are reviewed by the CHD and deadline extensions will be considered, at the discretion of the CHD, into the fall semester. All students must have their Second Year Project requirement met by the end of September. If students fail to successfully complete the Second Year Project by the end of September of their G3 year, they will be transitioned to probationary status. 


Master's in passing
Students may be recommended for the non-terminal degree of Master of Arts upon completion of the relevant GSAS residence requirements, program course requirements, and first and second year projects. Clinical students must also pass the General Exam.
Instructions for applying for the master's degree can be found here

Second Year Project Timeline 2022-23

y2p_timeline22-23.pdf355 KB
second_year_project_approval_form.pdf100 KB