If you plan on pursuing a doctoral-level degree in psychology, then research experience is crucial. It is most important for experimental programs in biological, cognitive and social psychology. For clinical programs, it is more important for the Ph.D. than the Psy. D. Students applying to master’s programs should have a least one semester’s worth of research. Those going for a doctorate should have a full year’s worth or have had experience in non-academic lab settings.
It is possible to gain research experience at Manhattan College in several ways:
- The most common method is to register for a three-credit research in psychology course. These are offered as PSYC 429 during the fall and PSYC 430 in the spring, with different section numbers corresponding to different faculty members. You must get the faculty members permission first. In general, choose a faculty member you have had in class and get along with. Also, the type of project should match your future program of graduate study. Before starting research for credit, one should have taken both Statistics and Research Methods I; although much of the learning is done on site. Typically, students are juniors, although advanced sophomores have also participated. A research assistant performs a variety of duties. These include literature reviews, making up surveys, running experiments and entering and analyzing data. You will learn to become proficient at SPSS, Excel and other statistical, database and experimental software. Research assistants will be expected to have a regular, weekly work schedule. There may also be weekly lab meetings. Scheduling is flexible, with assistants able to work whenever they are free outside of class times, since much of the work does not usually require direct faculty supervision. Research with a faculty member may also be done on a voluntary basis. In the past, students have worked one semester for credit, another as a volunteer, or sometimes worked a year or more on an entirely volunteer basis.
- Another method is to work at an internship for an institution outside the College. Internships are primarily for students pursuing clinically-oriented professions and can be taken for credit or done voluntarily. They are PSYC 375 and PSYC 475 in the fall and spring semesters, respectively. Some internship positions also turn into paid positions. Examples include assisting in a clinical study performed at a hospital in New York City or Westchester County. Please speak with your academic advisor to learn more about internship possibilities.
- A third possibility is to apply for a position as a research assistant in a laboratory setting off campus. Many schools like Columbia and New York University have part-time and full-time positions available throughout the year. They are seeking students with some background in the science to assist in running experiments. Non-traditional academic institutions like hospitals and pharmaceutical companies also hire. Look at the job postings on the boards in the Psychology department.
One of the reasons for getting involved in research is that is allows for conference presentations and journal publications. Our department makes a concerted effort to get our students to do both. There are many psychology conferences each year throughout the United States. Some of these are excellent forums for undergraduate research presentations. The Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) is one. It typically meets every few years in Boston, Washington or New York. The Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC) is another.
A conference presentation involves constructing and presenting a poster about a study. Students must put in at least one semester of work in order to give a poster presentation. Journal article publications require much more effort. At least two consecutive semesters of work, usually much more, are needed before a student can serve as author. So it is always a good idea to get involved with research as early as possible and stick with it as long as possible.