Independent Research Guidelines | St. Lawrence University Psychology

Independent Research Guidelines


For PSYC 496/497 and SYE:  PSYC 468/469

Independent research typically consists of an empirical investigation of some topic under the direction of a faculty member. Initiating and completing an IR is the responsibility of the student.  That is, faculty members are to be considered as advisors and not as prime movers of IR projects.  In addition, it is solely at the discretion of the faculty member to accept a student for an IR.


  • Typically, students should have completed Research Methods (PSYC 205), possess an overall GPA of at least 2.5, and have completed a minimum of 4 courses in psychology with at least a 2.5 average.
  • Students are encouraged to seek out the faculty member best suited to oversee the project with respect to interest, expertise of research areas, and suitability of collaboration.
  • The student should present a written proposal/outline with a clear direction.
  • If the faculty member is unfamiliar with the student, obtaining references from other department members who are familiar with that student is suggested.
  • The faculty member should assess the student's motivation and likelihood of follow through to completion should it be necessary that the project extend beyond one semester.
  • Before beginning, there should be an awareness of, and agreement on, a tentative time-line or schedule for completion of all IR components.
  • Because other enriching experiences exist that students should pursue (e.g., Independent Study, Internship, Senior Project), students usually take no more than one IR in the Psychology Department.


It is expected that there will be regular (e.g., once a week, or once every 2 weeks) advisory sessions throughout the semester.  The student has a responsibility to attend these meetings, as they are considered equivalent to in-class sessions and are a required component of the IR.  A minimum of 9 hours per week (outside the advisory meetings) should be devoted to the project.  This estimation, however, will vary with respect to the nature of the research being conducted and the demands of the project at any particular phase of the research.  The work/progress reports presented at the advisory meetings should reflect as much.


The final paper should be a research manuscript, in APA style, of approximately 20 pages, depending on the complexity of the research.  This paper should be the synthesis and culmination of a series of smaller written projects, outlines, statistical analyses, drafts, etc., that have been completed throughout the semester.


How the process and outcome are weighted to arrive at a final grade should be left to the discretion of the faculty sponsor.  However, faculty and students should discuss and clarify this issue early on so that no ambiguities exist. An IR cannot be taken for a Pass/Fail grade.


For Independent Research to count as a SYE the student is expected to design and carry out research that reflects independent thought and creativity. In addition to the required research manuscript, students will be required to write an epilogue on the order of five pages or more. This epilogue should integrate a student’s Independent Research experience with the knowledge and critical reasoning skills that he/she has developed as a student of psychology, as well as a SLU student in general. An IR can only be undertaken as a SYE if approved by the supervising faculty member. Priority will be given to students with a psychology major or minor, as well as students with a neuroscience major.

(Rev. 4/14)