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Seminar in Psychology Syllabus 


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Course Objectives:

The Seminar in Psychology course is a capstone course intended to provide you with the opportunity to integrate the skills that you have acquired as a student in psychology. You will be required to:

  • Identify a topic of interest and conduct a literature search in your chosen topic
  • Summarize and integrate recent articles from the primary research literature
  • Reduce your topic to a meaningful question or hypothesis that can be empirically tested
  • Design an appropriate experiment for evaluating your hypothesis
  • Statistically analyze and interpret simulated data that are based on your experimental design
  • Write an APA-Style research proposal including a literature review, a description of the methodology and appropriate statistics, and a discussion of possible outcomes of the study

Each semester the topic area for research proposals is restricted to a central psychological phenomenon.   The topic area for Spring 2002 is:

Behavioral Compulsions

You will read several articles that introduce this topic and describe the scope of the phenomenon.  From this basic introduction you will be asked to identify a specific problem and formulate a research question. 

What You Are Expected to Do in the Seminar Course:

The Senior Seminar is different from most of the other content courses that you have taken in psychology. This course is very similar to an independent study course. You are expected to make use of your knowledge of psychology to develop an experiment and a write a final research paper. Almost all of your work will be conducted outside of the classroom and in the library. The weekly meetings serve to analyze and evaluate target articles and to help you organize and sharpen your work. You (and I) will be doing quite a bit of reading and re-reading as well as writing and re-writing. Don't fall behind- it can be quite painful (for you and ME) if you need to catch up the last few weeks of the semester. Psychology students preparing to take the senior seminar should be able to

  • Identify a specific problem from a central psychological phenomenon 
  • Reduce the problem to a meaningful question or hypothesis that can be empirically tested
  • Know basic library skills
  • Identify relevant sources for research in their topic of interest
  • Evaluate the quality of articles and know which to include in their thesis and which to exclude
  • Have a familiarity with the basic rules for writing research reports in APA format

What You Need to Know to Design an Experiment and Interpret its Results:

In order for students to be able to design an experiment, analyze the data and interpret the results they should be able to:

  • Distinguish between an experimental group and a control group
  • Understand the importance of operational definitions
  • Define the term variable
  • Identify independent variables and dependent variables
  • Understand the distinction between correlation and causation
  • Interpret correlation coefficients
  • Understand the meaning of confound or a confounded variable
  • Identify randomization and counterbalancing procedures
  • Understand main effects and interactions
  • Distinguish between reliability and validity
  • Distinguish between non-experimental, experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational designs
  • Understand the difference among between-subjects, within-subjects, and mixed designs
  • Understand the difference between descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Understand the difference between parametric and nonparametric statistical tests
  • Understand what the normal curve implies
  • Understand variance, standard deviation, and standard error
  • Compute some basic statistics (e.g., standard deviation) by heart
  • Determine when to use t-tests and ANOVAs
  • Use critical tables for statistics
  • Understand exactly what p means
  • Interpret t-ratios and F ratios
  • Understand the need for post-hoc tests
  • Organize raw data and convert data to line graphs or bar graphs

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This page was last modified January 10, 2002

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