Courses and Milestones

The goals of our experimental training program are:

(a) Give students training and hands-on experience in a high caliber research environment, resulting in demonstrated research competence and productivity.

(b) Provide an education in psychology which is broad enough and deep enough to allow students to develop the necessary skills to pursue any area of research specialization in which they are interested, including research and teaching at a research-intensive university, teaching at a liberal arts college, or working in industry or for a non-profit.

(c) Give interested students teaching skills and experience, including the opportunity to be an instructor of record and to co-mentor undergraduate students in research.

(d) Give students an understanding of various methods for collecting data, including fMRI, EEG, eye tracking, virtual reality, behavioral observations, cognitive tasks, and questionnaire development, as well as strong quantitative skills, that can be transferred to academic and non-academic settings.

Students in the Experimental Training Program (ETC) do not have a prescribed list of courses. Instead, they are required to complete the following:

  • Three statistics/methods courses (9 credit-hours), including PSYC 5133 ("Inferential Statistics") and PSYC 5143 ("Advanced Descriptive Statistics"), the latter two to be taken in the first year of the program.
  • Three courses (9 credit-hours) in a concentration, with 6 credit-hours to be completed prior to the M.A. degree being granted; concentrations include social, developmental, neuroscience, cognitive, and other topics, to be considered and approved by the ETC on an as-needed basis.
  • Two courses (6 credit-hours) of electives.

At least three courses (9 credit-hours) that count toward the 24 credit-hours specified above must be graduate-level psychology seminars selected from among PSYC Seminar in Developmental Psychology (6323), Seminar in Quantitative Method (6343), Seminar in Learning or Cognition or Memory (6353), Seminar in Personality and Social Psychology (6373), and Seminar in Physiological Psychology (6413). In order to teach a course as the instructor of record, students must first complete Seminar in Teaching Psychology (602V).

In the event that a student has already passed a graduate-level course that they believe is comparable to one of the required courses, they may petition to waive the required course.

Throughout the program students are expected to be continually involved in research with their primary advisor, and they may work with other faculty as well.


  • First-Year Project. Incoming ETC students become actively involved in research from the start of the program. In their first year, they complete a first-year project, which results in a first-year talk.
  • Master’s Thesis. A master's thesis project is required for all doctoral students and should be completed by the end of the second year of study. Students must first propose an empirical research project and once approved by their committee the research is undertaken. The thesis project culminates in both an oral defense and a submitted document. If a student has already completed an empirical master’s thesis in psychology, they may petition to have the master’s thesis project waived.
  • Third-Year Project. Students who complete the master’s thesis requirement should begin their Third-Year Program of study. This project serves as the student’s comprehensive examination, and at minimum, consists of an in-depth, independent and integrative project. Students should work with their mentors and advisory committee to ensure the scope of the project is satisfactory to meet the requirements of doctoral candidacy. Examples include (but are not limited to): a conceptual analysis that often serves as the springboard for student’s dissertation work, mastery of a methods-related competency central to the student’s area of expertise, or a meta-analytic or systematic review of an area of research. Students may include other pieces to their third-year project, including training opportunities and other matters of professional development consistent with their long-term goals. This project usually takes the good part of a year, and culminates with submission of a document (e.g., theoretical paper, research grant, empirical research paper) to their committee and an oral examination. Successful completion and defense of the third-year project is a prerequisite to doctoral candidacy.
  • Dissertation. The student’s dissertation is an independent empirical research project designed to produce novel findings that could make a significant contribution to the research literature. This research project is larger in scope than the master’s thesis, and also culminates in a written document and oral defense.