Honors Program

The Department of Psychology offers an enriched intellectual experience to members of the Honors College who are majoring in psychology. This program is designed to provide a solid introduction to the nature of psychology and how psychology relates to other fields. Although the honors program happens to be excellent preparation for graduate study in psychology, it is designed to be the core of a liberal arts undergraduate program. 




  • Honors Courses

    The core coursework for a member of the Psychology Department Honors Program is selected from a set of regular courses or honors sections of those courses. Honors sections are typically smaller, limited in enrollment to members of the Honors College, and taught in a more challenging manner than their non-honors counterparts.  Honors students may also ask the instructor of a regular course if they can do an Honors Option for the class. More information and examples of Honor's Options are available on the Honors College website.

    Psychology Introduction

    An introduction to the discipline is provided through Psychology 101H. This course provides an integrated framework for further study of the basic processes of psychology, the techniques and logic of scientific inquiry in this field, and the uses to which such knowledge may be applied.


    These Psychology courses rotate being taught as Honors Courses*: 

    Course Number

    Course Title


    PSY 200H

    Cognitive Psychology


    PSY 209H

    Brain and Behavior


    PSY 244H

    Developmental Psychology: Infancy through Childhood


    PSY 235H

    Social Psychology


    PSY 255H

    Industrial and Organizational Psychology


    PSY 280H

    Abnormal Psychology


    *Not all of these courses are taught as Honors sections each year.


    Psychology honors courses are open to all Honors students.  Honors sections are identified in the SIS system by an "H" following the course number or section number.  Honors students have priority scheduling and should plan appropriately to make sure that they add their courses when the system opens up.

  • Degree Options

    Honors College members who wish to do a second major in Psychology have two options: a second degree (BA or BS) or an additional major.  It is important for interested students to meet with a Psychology Advisor to determine the best option for them. 

    Second Degree

    The second degree requires that students complete a minimum of 30 credits beyond their first degree to graduate. This requires a minimum of 150 total credits, but usually is more. Second degree candidates must satisfy the College of Social Science requirements, in addition to the Department of Psychology requirements. In order to have the second degree listed as honors, students have to complete 10 honors courses total instead of 8, as required for a single honors degree. The second degree is listed on the student’s transcript and a diploma is awarded.

    Additional Major

    Students who complete Psychology as an additional major must satisfy the Psychology Departmental requirements of 31 credits. Additional majors can graduate with the minimum of 120 total credits if all requirements are satisfied for the student's first degree and the additional major.  The additional major is listed on the student’s transcript.

  • Honors Advising


    Each honors major is advised by the Psychology Department, as well as by a member of the Honors College staff in the Honors College. See the Honors College website for advising information and appointments.

    PSY Honors advising is done by the Department's PSY advising team,  PSY course advising will be done by the department's academic advisors.  Appointments can be found on the SIS website under Advising.

    Honors students are welcome to meet with Honors Faculty, Dr. Healey, for career planning, research engagement, and planning for the optional thesis. Students are encouraged to reach out to Dr. Healey directly to set up an appointment.

    Professor Karl Healey, 517-432-3107, khealey@msu.edu


  • Psychology Honors Requirements: A Capstone Experience

    Psychology Honors Requirements: A Capstone Experience

     The Psychology Department has an optional capstone experience available to students in the Honors College. There are two options for Psychology Honors students to complete this capstone experience.

    The options are described below: 

    Option A: Research Thesis Track 

    Option B: In-depth Experience in Lab or Field Experience

    Students should meet with their Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor to discuss the two options if this option is desired.  This experience is for Honors credit and can help meet the student’s honors requirements.

  • Option A: Research Thesis Track (PSY 498H / 499H)
    Option A: Research Thesis Track (PSY 498H/499H)


    The Senior Honors Thesis is a year long research project, planned and carried out by the student with guidance from a faculty member in the Psychology Department. This faculty member will be the Chairperson of the Thesis Committee. The Thesis is an opportunity to exercise the methodological skills and to synthesize the knowledge gained in course work throughout the student's program. Because the programs of Honors Majors are quite diverse, the Senior Thesis projects are similarly diverse. Students are urged to find a Senior Thesis topic that is a natural capstone experience to their own program. Undertaking the thesis is especially good preparation for graduate work in psychology. In almost all cases the Senior Honors Thesis will be an empirical investigation of a problem in psychology. Prior to conducting a thesis, students should be involved in research with the faculty member, before the senior year. Once you are ready to do the thesis, with the approval of the Chairperson of the Thesis Committee, you can request an override to get into 498H and 499H. 

    Psychology 498H and 499H: The activities related to the Senior Honors Thesis are carried out as part of Psychology 498H (Development of Research Proposal) and Psychology 499H (Senior Honors Thesis). Each of these two honors courses involves primarily the work that you do on your Senior Honors Thesis project, coordinated by the Chairperson of your Thesis Committee. Students who enroll in Psychology 498H will receive a grade of ET (Extended Time) at the end of the term. At the final oral defense of the thesis the committee will decide on a final grade. That grade will replace the ET in Psychology 498H and will also be the grade given for Psychology 499H. If a student does not complete the thesis by the end of the term that he or she is enrolled in Psychology 499H, they will receive a grade of ET in that course as well, and the grades will be changed when the thesis is completed. The thesis must be completed by the end of the semester following enrolling in PSY 499H. If the thesis is not completed at that time the thesis committee will decide on a grade for PSY 498H, based on the work completed, and the student will receive a grade of 0.0 for PSY 499H. Students are responsible for being aware of the deadline by which the grade will change to a 0.0 and making appropriate arrangements for an extension if the thesis is not going to be completed by that time. 

    The Thesis Committee: Each Senior Honors Thesis will be carried out under the guidance of a Thesis Committee consisting of two members. The Chairperson of the Thesis Committee will be a faculty member from the Psychology Department chosen by the student. This faculty member will bear primary responsibility for the day-to-day supervision of the project. A second member of the committee should be selected by the student and the committee Chairperson, and should be a faculty member from the Psychology Department who can contribute substantively to the research. It may be someone who also knows the research area, or who is expert in some aspect of the methodology being employed in the project. A third member from within or outside the Psychology Department may be added if desired but it is optional. The Psychology Honors Faculty Advisors can serve the role of the second member of the committee. In rare cases it may be possible for the committee to be chaired by a faculty member from another department, and in these cases one of the Psychology Honors Faculty Advisors must be the second committee member. The committee must meet as a full committee (as opposed to partially or individually) with the student to review the thesis proposal, and later to examine the student on the final thesis. (See Oral Defense of the Thesis Proposal and Oral Defense of the Thesis below) 

    Time Schedule: It is assumed that preparation for research and a Senior Honors Thesis will begin long before the senior year, with participation in research-related activities through formal coursework and through independent projects. Ideally a student will have identified the thesis topic at least by the end of the junior year, and will also have identified a faculty member to serve as the Chairperson of the Thesis Committee. Depending upon the nature of the research problem chosen, some preliminary work may be required during the spring or summer term preceding the senior year and intensive work should begin in the fall. The thesis proposal should be completed and reviewed by the thesis committee by the middle of the term in which you are enrolled in Psychology 498H. The research should then be carried out, and the thesis written with sufficient time to schedule the oral defense of the thesis before the end of spring term. 

    The Thesis Proposal: The thesis proposal is a critical component of the thesis project. It will be the basis for the initial review of the research by the thesis committee, and is a contract of sorts in that, if the research is approved and then carried out as it is described in the proposal, the committee is agreeing that the thesis will be satisfactory. The thesis chairperson should chair the meeting, and arrange a suitable format. Usually the student will be asked to give a brief (usually 5-10 minutes) presentation of the proposal, and then the members of the committee will question the student. The purpose of the oral defense of the thesis proposal is to make the research plan be as good as it can be. It is, essentially, a working session in which the committee works as colleagues with the student to be sure that nothing has been overlooked in the planning and design of the research. Typically the Oral Defense lasts about an hour. It is required to provide the written copies of the proposal to the committee members at least one week before the scheduled oral defense. 

    Completed Thesis: The completed thesis will contain an abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion section, as well as a reference section. Also, it is customary to include an acknowledgements section in which people are given credit for important contributions to the thesis and funding sources are acknowledged. This section is usually placed between the Abstract and Introduction. An oral defense of the Senior Honors Thesis with the members of the Thesis Committee will be conducted in a manner similar to the oral defense of the Honors Thesis Proposal. Typically the student gives a brief (5-10 minute) overview and then the committee asks questions, based on the written thesis given to the committee members. As with the proposal, the committee must receive the thesis a week in advance of the Oral Defense. The committee will be deciding on a grade for the thesis. The most common outcome of the meeting is that as a result of reading the thesis and the oral exam, committee members have suggestions for changes that will improve the quality of the thesis. The committee members pass those suggestions on to the student as the basis for rewriting, and only the thesis advisor has to see the changes to approve them. When the Chairperson of the Thesis Committee informs the Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor that the changes have been made, and when a final copy is submitted to the Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor, then the grade is submitted by the Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor. 

    Presentation of the Thesis Research: On a date typically in late March there will be a Psychology Research Poster Fair at which ALL students doing a senior Honors Thesis in the academic year are required to present their research. In addition, all students are required to present their research at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Fair (UURAF) typically held the first week of April. Posters prepared for the Psychology Research Poster Fair may be presented again at the UURAF. Participation in these events will be part of the basis for the grade on the Senior Honors Thesis. 

    Approval Forms for Proposal and Thesis

    Proposal Form 

    Thesis Defense Form
  • Option B: In-Depth Experience in Lab or Field Research (PSY 497 H)

    Option B: In-depth Experience in Lab or Field Research  (PSY 497H)


    Option B provides students with an opportunity to obtain a capstone experience in psychology that is not data driven as required in Option A. Option B is particularly relevant for students who do not intend to go on for a Ph.D. in psychology.  

    Plan B Options 

    The Plan B Option (non-thesis) requires an in-depth paper in the form of a psychology relevant review article (~20 to 25 pages) related to research or a practical experience that is conducted in a lab or field setting. Internship, research, field experience and research while on study abroad are all possible experiences that could be approved. Regardless of which of these options are chosen, the student is required to sign up for PSY 497H and complete an in-depth research based paper after the practical experience is complete. The paper would be a literature review/critique in an area relevant to an important issue in the field of psychology related to the practical experience or research.   

    Plan B Process 

    The student must first determine which option to pursue. Most of these experiences require instructor approval so the student will need to plan ahead. Once accepted into the practical experience, the student will need to set up a time to meet with their Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor to set up a plan and gain approval of their topic. The student will also need to identify a Psychology faculty member to serve as the Capstone advisor and will assist with the Option B Paper. Once the practical experience is complete, the student will work with the approved Capstone Advisor and the Psychology Faculty Honors Advisor to complete the Option B paper. The paper would be evaluated to make sure articles included are relevant to the problem being investigated in the lab or field experience and the issues are clearly explained and conclusions reached about future research needs. The Option B PSY 497H course should follow the practical/research experience. Once the paper is completed and the faculty member in charge agrees that the paper is satisfactory, the student must complete the Option B Completion Form and send the form and a copy of the paper to the Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor for final approval. 

    The key steps in the process are then as follows:

    1.    Talk to your Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor before your junior year regarding whether the honors thesis or option b capstone experience is right for you.

    2.    Apply for your practical experience or research and identify possible Psychology faculty to serve as your Capstone Advisor.

    3.    Work with your Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor and your approved Capstone Advisor to gain approval for your practical experience and determine the topic for your research based paper.

    4.    After your practical experience, sign up for PSY 497H and begin looking for 20 to 25 relevant empirical articles and chapters for your topic and provide that reference list to your advisors

    5.    Write 2 to 3 page summary of each article that provides information on what the purpose of the research paper was, the methods used, the results found, and the limitations of the research and provide them to your advisor for comments.

    6.    Once the summaries are approved, write an integrative research based paper from those summaries and provide the integrative review to your Capstone Advisor for comments and revisions to be made.

    7.    Complete final draft of paper and have your Capstone Advisor sign off that the capstone experience has been completed on the Completion Form. Turn this in to your Psychology Honors Faculty Advisor for final approval. 


    Approval Forms for Option B 

    Students must declare that they intend to complete Option B by filling out the Application Form. Once the requirements for the Option B plan have been completed, students must file the Completion Form and include a copy of their paper. 

    Application Form 

    Completion Form