Senior Project is a unique opportunity at Bard College that provides Senior I and II students with a year-long intensive academic experience in which you gain in-depth expertise in an area of particular interest to you. For the Psychology Program, you may choose to do a senior project that entails an empirical study or a critical literature review. Both are considered research projects in which you will develop a question of interest and gather information (i.e., data) to help you address that question. For those of you doing a literature review study, the literature you evaluate will serve as your “data.” For those of you doing an empirical project, “data” either will be collected by you and/or gleaned from already existing datasets. Regardless of the type of project you choose, your question must be novel, and we suggest that your question be rooted in an area of strong interest to you and about which you have at least some scholastic background.
You are expected to work on your project a minimum of 12 hours per week, every week, except during college breaks, from the start of the fall semester until the project is due at the end of April (or, in the cases of those of you starting Senior Project in the spring semester, from the start of spring semester until the project is due at the end of November). You may work during the January break (or during summer break), but you cannot make up for low effort during the first semester of your project. For most projects in the first semester, you will be doing a lot of background reading, research question and thesis development and experimental design (if an empirical project). For empirical projects, data collection should begin by the end of the first semester. In the second semester, library research and writing should continue. In addition, data collection should end at least 5-6 weeks prior to the due date for the final paper so that data analysis, data interpretation, and final report writing can proceed. Your advisor may have additional expectations (e.g., attendance at a weekly lab meeting).
You are expected to develop a measure of independence over the course of the year. It is expected that you will need a lot of help with research question and thesis formulation, experimental design, and techniques early on, but by the time you write the project you should be proficient in the all aspects – able to understand research methodology, troubleshoot problems, and interpret results with little to no help – and you should understand the background literature in the field and the implications of the work you have done and integrate this material in your final discussion.
On a designated day toward the end of each semester, those of you working on Senior Projects will make a 4 minute presentation to the department (based on your midway paper during first semester, and based on your final paper during second semester). Your presentation should include a powerpoint display, and you should plan to present no more than 4 slides. The keys to a successful presentation are clarity, brevity, and preparedness; and your presentation must be approved by your faculty advisor ahead of time.
Suggestions for powerpoint display:
The role of an IRB is to foster ethical treatment of human research participants. Before IRBs were instituted as a national standard, some researchers conducted studies that resulted in serious and unwelcomed consequences for the participants. For these researchers, the potential gained knowledge overshadowed the harm done to the participants. IRBs have since been instituted to make sure a balance exists between harm to subjects and potential gain.