64 MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • SEPTEMBER 2013
helps the field
Undergraduate psychology students today have more opportunities than ever to collaborate with professors and
peers, engage in original research and publish their findings.
And that’s a win not just for students but for professors, schools
and the discipline. Here’s why:
It boosts grad school admittance.
“Grad programs are looking for people who look like
grad students,” says Lora Becker, PhD, an associate professor
of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Evansville
in Illinois. “A student who’s thought up a research idea, carried
it out, taken it to a conference, argued it in front of other
researchers and taken it to publication has done everything a
grad student needs to do.”
“For any grad program, students will need research
experience,” adds Diane Bonfiglio, PhD, a professor of
psychology at Ashland University in Ohio. “Grad advisors are
looking for those skills.” Last year, Bonfiglio collaborated with
six undergrads on a research project. Four of them applied to
graduate school in psychology; all four got in.
It reinforces the fact that psychology is a science.
Unfortunately, many undergraduates think of
psychologists’ work primarily in terms of empathy and social
skills. That’s why they need a solid grounding in the science of
psychology, too. “Doing research acquaints them more clearly
with how knowledge is produced in psychology by using
science,” says Jerry Rudmann, PhD, a professor of psychology at
Irvine Valley College in California.
Even students who know they’re not going into research can
benefit, says Becker. “When you’re dealing in a clinical mode,
you have to have some evidence base for what you’re doing, or
you’re just flapping in the breeze,” she says.
It sparks students’ learning.
Even the most dedicated students get can get bored
with lectures and planned labs. Becker shows her students how
research shapes the field. “Taking those students into the lab
excites their intellectual capabilities,” she says.
Research also gives undergrads a chance to prove themselves.
“I’ve heard from faculty that no one is perceived to have novel
ideas until they graduate with a PhD,” says Mariya Toneva,
21, a senior at Yale and one of three student editors of the Yale
BY HARRIET BROWN