Psychology Department

Senior Thesis

Psychology majors typically complete an empirically-based thesis. However, thesis projects utilize a variety of empirical approaches such as laboratory work with animals, children, or with Reed students; observational work with children or with adults, on- or off-campus research; questionnaire studies or interview studies. Other work may include investigations utilizing archival data or research employing modeling techniques. This diversity of methods reflects the diversity of our field, and indeed, we regard this very positively, as it suggests that we are providing students with research opportunities within the full range of psychological research.

Thesis performance is evaluated relative to the criteria outlined in the table below. Whereas some aspects of performance are accessible to all members of the committee (e.g., oral and written communication), other aspects are accessible to the adviser alone (e.g., working collaboratively, openness to feedback). The thesis grade is therefore ultimately the decision of the adviser, but with noteworthy input from committee members, and in particular, the two other psychologists on the committee. In an attempt to better calibrate grades across advisers and areas of research, we typically discuss thesis grades at the final department meeting of the spring term.


Competencies students must possess to successfully complete their senior thesis.

Competency Area Specific Learning Objective
Knowledge Base in Psychology

Demonstrate expertise in subject area

Understand broader context/application of own research

Make appropriate connections between own research and different areas within psychology

Clearly articulate implications of psychological science for diverse groups of individuals and species

Demonstrate knowledge of basic translational approaches (basic <-> applied)

Research Skills & Critical Thinking

Demonstrate innovative and integrative extension of previous literature

Attention to detail in design and implementation

Apply ethical standards to research

Apply technical and bench skills to research project

Demonstrate time management and organization

Conduct appropriate data analysis (quantitative/qualitative)

Critically evaluate own research (strengths/weaknesses)

Communication: Written Expression

Master clear & concise scientific writing style

Exhibit expertise in subject area (terminology, etc.)

Master critical analysis of existing literature

Demonstrate logical argument structure

Communicate results in coherent manner to non-experts

Strike an appropriate balance between too much and too little detail

Respond appropriately to feedback

Master APA style and/or scientific equivalent

Communication: Oral Expression

Understand, respond appropriately to questions

Respond appropriately to feedback

Demonstrate ability to organize and present arguments


Demonstrate organizational skills & time management

Demonstrate growth in skills necessary for project completion

Work collaboratively with mentor to develop research plan

Show openness and responsiveness to mentor feedback