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Program Overview

Description of the program

In order to receive the Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, students must complete the following requirements:

  • A minimum of 72 credit hours, including core cognitive coursework, electives, and departmental breadth requirements.
  • Completion of a pre-dissertation project with your primary advisor. The pre-dissertation project culminates in a written report of an empirical project that is of publishable quality in an academic journal.
  • Completion of two qualifying projects with a mentor other than your primary advisor. One of these projects must be a publishable empirical project (on a smaller scale than the pre-dissertation project). The other qualifying project may involve the development of a new research skill (e.g., learning a programming language), or a publishable literature review.
  • Presentation of ongoing research in the cognitive area’s brownbag talk series.
  • Doctoral dissertation and oral defense of the dissertation.

Relationships with Faculty Members

The graduate student’s primary faculty contact is with his or her advisor. However, our program is designed to facilitate interaction with a broad range of faculty members outside classes. Students form an Individualized Mentoring Committee in the first year, which is a committee of three faculty members: the advisor and two others (one of whom must be from the cognitive area). In addition, students complete two projects that are mentored by faculty members other than the primary advisor (these are termed Qualifying Projects). Finally, our weekly brownbag series provides a context in which to get additional feedback from faculty members in an informal setting. In general, our program is designed to foster collegial and intellectually stimulating interactions between students and faculty, in order to prepare students to become independent researchers.

Other Program Activities

  • The faculty and students meet weekly for a Brown Bag, a forum for students, faculty, and outside speakers to discuss ongoing research and/or professional development. The brownbag provides a collegial context for stimulating thinking, widening intellectual exchange, and developing presentation skills.
  • The Cognitive Science Center invites guest speakers to give talks several times a semester. In addition, graduate students can obtain a certificate in Cognitive Science while completing their Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology.


Progress Through the Program

Most students finish the program in 5 or 6 years; the timetable below is based on a 5-year plan for completion.  Occasionally students have completed the program in less than 5 years.

The First Year

  • Formation of the Individualized Mentoring Committee (advisor plus two other faculty, at least one being cognitive), which will oversee student progress until the dissertation. Students meet with this committee at least once per year.
  • Begin conducting research with their primary advisor, in preparation for the pre-dissertation project. Most students have a pre-dissertation project proposed, with pilot data collected, by the end of the year.
  • Students typically take 3 classes per semester, one class in statistics, plus two others consisting of core cognitive classes and breadth requirements.
  • Students typically do not present in the area brownbag during year 1.

The Second Year

  • Complete and defend pre-dissertation project.
  • Present pre-dissertation research in area brownbag.
  • Plan and propose the first of two qualifying projects.
  • Complete course-work to fulfill breadth requirements and core cognitive classes

The Third Year

  • Complete and defend first qualifying project.
  • Plan and propose second qualifying project. Upon completion of this project the student advances to “candidacy” status and is no longer overseen by the Individualized Mentoring Committee.
  • Present first qualifying project in the area brownbag series.
  • Finish required course-work.

The Fourth Year

  • Complete and defend second qualifying project.
  • Form dissertation committee (at least 3 faculty members, comprising the advisor and at least one member of a different area or department).
  • Plan and propose dissertation project.
  • Take elective classes as needed (typically 1-2 classes per semester).

The Fifth Year

  • Complete and defend dissertation.