Honors FAQs        Honors Thesis Application

Psychology is an empirical and STEM discipline which relies on data to answer questions about the brain, mind, and behavior. We encourage all of our majors to get involved in the wonders of research and the generation of new knowledge. To fully explore your interests in psychology, the Department of Psychology at ASU has a number of activities that are specifically designed to encourage and support honors students in Barrett.   

An Honors Thesis in Psychology is expected to be a project of original empirical research that adds to knowledge in the discipline. Students in the honors program complete theses on a wide range of topics using a range of methodologies and the projects evolve from a blend of student interest and faculty expertise. The Department recommends that Barrett students participate in the Psychology Honors Sequence.


We offer a structured, intensive sequence for advanced students to help pursue an empirically-based Honors Thesis in Psychology. The Honors Thesis Sequence is the core of the psychology honors program. Beginning each January, the sequence spans one calendar year and consists of a two-semester sequence which is offered Spring and Fall. The seminar helps provide structured support for the cohort of students who are working on their theses with Psychology faculty. Seminar activities include professional tool skills  in writing and defending a thesis and preparation for applications to graduate or professional schools. Doing a thesis in psychology is also excellent preparation for any number of professional roles because of its analytic, scientific, and communicative demands.  

Enrollment in the sequence is limited with applications welcomed from all qualified, well-prepared psychology majors. Expectations for student preparation are more fully described in the program brochure and Honors Thesis Application. Applications for the Psychology Honors Thesis Seminar are due in mid-November for admission to the sequence in the January.

As described in the application materials, if a student applies to complete a Psychology Honors Thesis outside the Honors Sequence, they have the same expectations for preparation and committee structure as for students applying to the sequence, and they should used the application document to receive permission to enroll using the PSY prefix. Alternative honors projects can be completed using the prefix of HON. 


The department offers a small number of sections of some courses that are designed for honors students. These are smaller, separate seminar courses that are limited to honors students or by instructor permission (footnote 19 courses). When available, we particularly recommend that you seek out an honors section of Statistics (PSY 231 instead of PSY 230), as well as enrollment in the honors section of PSY 351 (Social Psychology) which is periodically offered.

Research Opportunities

In the thesis sequence, you will be immersed in a research project that you have designed so it is essential that you acquire firsthand research experience in preparation for the thesis sequence.  Research opportunities abound through our department's labs and you will undoubtedly find an ongoing study that will suit your inquisitive nature across the field of psychology including research in behavioral neuroscience, clinical psych, cognitive science, developmental psych, quantitative methods or social psych.

Currently available research opportunities can be found here.  If you don't see a research lab that quite matches your interests, visit our Research Lab pages and don't hesitate to directly contact the faculty member who directs the lab's research projects. Course credit (PSY 399, 499) is available for students who serve as research assistants in various psychology labs and many labs accept volunteer research assistants.

All students preparing to do a Psychology Honors Thesis (PSY 492/493) are expected to have completed a supervised research experience in PSY 399 before beginning your thesis project. 


What is an honors thesis in psychology?

Psychology is a scientific discipline that studies behavior and mental activity. In this it is a very broad field, which overlaps with many other disciplines in the university. Psychology is also an empirical science and our faculty feel that the honors thesis should have an empirical component rather than being a solely theoretical review paper. We encourage all our majors to get actively involved in research at all levels and feel that such research should be part of the thesis experience as well.

Thus, the honors thesis in psychology is a project of original scholarship which includes an empirical component and which the student undertakes under the guidance of a faculty member. The specific research question that the thesis engages and the details of the project are determined by the student and faculty member. Students work with faculty in developing research questions for their theses and in designing and executing studies to inform us about those research questions.

Thesis projects may involve the collection of new data or may use existing data sets to answer to new research questions. Because of the complexity of projects in psychology and the need in many cases to collect data from people or animals as subjects of study, there is a great deal of planning involved and projects are thus scheduled to require two semesters of academic work.

The thesis serves as a capstone experience for our majors. The experience is aimed at students who are our best students in terms of their capability and in terms of their engagement with the major. Before beginning a thesis, we expect students will have substantial progress in the major and already had some experience in research endeavors usually as a supervised research experience via a PSY 399 course.

When does the psychology honors sequence occur?

The year-long sequence is spring and fall semesters. Thus, it is held in a calendar year, rather than an academic year. Students begin the sequence in spring semester of their junior year and complete the sequence and defend their honors thesis in the fall of their senior year.

What does the psychology honors thesis sequence involve?

There are a total of four courses (12 hours of credit) involved in the sequence, all of which are honors credit. Students enroll for PSY 497 Honors Thesis Seminar and PSY 492 Honors Directed Study. In the fall semester, students enroll in a second semester of PSY 497 and PSY 493 Honors Thesis.

During the spring semester, students develop the ideas, background and methods for their study. At the end of the spring semester, they write a paper and make a formal presentation of their proposed project to the seminar and their faculty mentor.

During the summer (when warranted) and fall semesters, students complete the data collection, do analyses of their data, and write up the study as a formal thesis. The honors thesis is then defended to a committee and the seminar class.

What does a student do to prepare for the honors thesis sequence?

Get an early start on substantive course work in psychology; do well in their coursework; and get involved in Psychology research activities with faculty-directed labs.

Expectations for applicants include the successful completion of:

  • PSY 230/231, PSY 290 with a minimum GPA of 3.4;
  • at least two, 3-credit upper division Psychology content courses (PSY 300 level or higher -- does not include PSY 394 UTA, PSY 394 Adv Advising Assistant, PSY 399, PSY 484, PSY 499);
  • at least one research experience beyond PSY 290 (usually a PSY 399 experience with a faculty member in the department);

Students without this level of preparation are at disadvantage in terms of having the ideal honors thesis experience. Because the seminar has limited capacity, we reserve the class for those who are engaged and prepared for the experience. Typically, we have admitted all students meeting our expectations for preparation.

How do I apply?

There is an application process to help us make sure that you have met the expectations for preparation. An Honors Thesis Application should be submitted to the Honors Coordinator, Dr. Mary Davis (mary.davis@asu.edu). Once admitted to the Honors Thesis Sequence, students will be given permission to enroll in PSY 497 and PSY 492. 

Can I begin the sequence in the fall?

No. The honors thesis sequence begins Spring semester only and runs two semesters ending in Fall. Begining the sequence in the spring semester has a number of advantages and remains the best timing option. Having the sequence run each calendar year also provides the greatest flexibility, both by having the summer available to work on the project and also by providing for a cushion in the event that the project is not completed by the end of fall semester. This timeline is also best for the student who is aiming to go forward to graduate or professional school in that thesis projects are largely completed by the fall period of applying to graduate school and student personal statements and the faculty letters of recommendation are more mature and well-informed.

What if I want to spent junior year abroad?

Study abroad can also be a very important, positive experience for students as is completing a thesis. If psychology majors who want to do an honors thesis in the sequence also want to study abroad, it requires more planning and probably some flexibility. It is true that there are more good opportunities than time to do them all, and sometimes students need to prioritize their choices.

Many students use the fall of their junior year or the summer either before or after junior year as a time to participate in such programs. It is not unusual for us to get an application from Spain or Australia in late fall to begin the sequence in January. If you elect this option, do not forget to submit an application by the November deadline. Remember that you still need to complete the expectations for preparation for the sequence.

What if I am a transfer student, or am shifting majors to psychology as an upper-classman?

Upperclass students new to Psychology should carefully review their academic progress and longer term goals to evaluate the importance of the honors sequence for them. Although it is possible to be admitted into the program, transfer students or new majors may need to take additional semester(s) of study in psychology. It is imperative that such students plan carefully with their advisors.