Honors in Psychology Guidelines

Students majoring in psychology, whether pursuing the B.A. or B.S. degree, have the opportunity to graduate with honors in the major.

Participation in the University of Iowa Honors Program is not required to earn Honors in the Psychology Major, although Honors in the Major fulfills some UI Honors Program requirements.

There are two routes for graduating with honors in the psychology major—a thesis route and a non-thesis route. Both routes have GPA thresholds and require extra classes (see table for specifics).  The most significant difference between the routes involves the capstone experiences. The thesis route provides students with an independent, in-depth research experience. The non-thesis route provides a choice of two in-depth, firsthand experiences focusing on either research, careers, and/or teaching. As detailed here, independent coursework and written reporting is required for capstone experiences in either route. 

Honors in Psychology Details

Routes for graduating with honors
  Thesis Route Non-Thesis Route

Required GPA
Cumulative at Graduation

3.33 for UI overall, and
3.50 for courses in the Psychology Major
3.33 for UI overall, and
3.50 for courses in the Psychology Major
Required Classes 
Specific Group-Style Courses

B.S track:
Complete Psychology Seminar (PSY:4090) and Lab in Psychology (PSY:4020), which are already part of B.S. requirements
*see Note A

B.A. track:
Complete Psychology Seminar (PSY:4090) or Lab in Psychology (PSY:4020)
*see Note A
*see Note B

B.S. track:
Complete Psychology Seminar (PSY:4090) and Lab in Psychology (PSY:4020), which are already part of B.S. requirements
*see Note A

B.A. track:
Complete Psychology Seminar (PSY:4090) or Lab in Psychology (PSY:4020). And complete one more of these courses or an extra upper-level course (i.e., a 3000-level "PSY" course).
*see Note A
*see Note B

Required Capstone
Comprised of in-depth experiences and their associated coursework, followed by written report(s)
Do a thesis project while completing two semesters of Honors Thesis Research (PSY:4990).

Involves conducting research, writing a thesis, and defending it under faculty supervision.

Do two of the following options (or one twice):

  • Engage with research as part of a practicum or independent research course (see enrollment options below). Complete written reflection.
  • Do internship for career-related experience as part of a practicum (see enrollment options below). Complete written reflection.
  • Be a teaching assistant or peer mentor as part of a practicum or similar (see enrollment options below). Complete written reflection.

*Note A: The usual (non-honors) requirements for B.S. and B.A degrees require 3 upper-level courses. The course requirements listed here are separate from that requirement. That is, for Honors in the Major, students must complete 3 upper-level courses (as usual) and those listed in the relevant box.

*Note B: Within the B.A. track, the thesis route requires one less course than the non-thesis route; it is expected that doing a thesis project will require a substantial amount of extra time beyond the required coursework.

For the capstone under the thesis route, the student completes and defends an honors thesis, which is a written report of an original, empirical research project conducted by the student with the guidance and approval of a faculty supervisor. Typically, completing the thesis project and paper requires two semesters, with enrollment in Honors Thesis Research (PSY:4990).

Students are encouraged to gain research experience with a faculty member prior to beginning a thesis project. This might be with a professor they’ve had for class or someone whose research is of interest.  The laboratory pages of the PBS Department website have information about faculty member’s research interests. Acquiring this initial research experience allows students to become familiar with a lab’s research methodology and questions.  Some faculty members require that a student have prior research experience within their lab before they will agree to supervise an honors thesis.  

At the start of the project, the student and supervisor discuss and sign a Pre-Launch Agreement, which previews the general plans for the thesis project. Immediately after, there is also a brief Launch Survey that the student should complete.

The thesis project culminates in a scientific paper describing the project. The paper should follow APA format. It must be presented (“defended”) to the faculty supervisor and one other honors thesis committee member (typically another faculty member, research scientist, or post-doctoral fellow, chosen in consultation with the student’s thesis supervisor). Following the thesis presentation, the faculty supervisor and committee member will sign the  title page to indicate that the thesis has been satisfactorily completed.  Students may, but are not required to submit their thesis to the Iowa Research Online Repository. There may be issues with later publication of the project so students must consult with their thesis advisor about whether or not to submit to the IROR.  Specifically, a student considering submitting the thesis project to a journal for publication in the future should research journal restrictions on publication to an online, publicly available resource as some journals will not accept previously published work and some classify work in the IROR as published. Submission of a thesis to IROR does allow the student to retain ownership of their work.

The Capstone for the Non-Thesis Route

The capstone for the non-thesis route is comprised of two individualized experiences, each requiring registration in a practicum or internship course and completion of a written reflection. There are three types of experiences that can be selected – one based in research, one involving an internship, and one involving teaching assistance or peer mentoring (see sections A-C below for details). 

These experiences typically occur during the junior or senior years. For each experience, the student secures a supervisor far before the start of the relevant semester. Prior to the semester’s start, the student and supervisor discuss and document a Pre-Launch Agreement, which includes objectives and plans for the experience. It is drafted by the student with input from the supervisor. Immediately thereafter, the student completes a brief Launch Survey. Near the end of the experience, the student completes a written reflection that is evaluated and approved by the supervisor (see Written Reflection Guide). In the “Sequence for Doing Honors in the Major” section below, there is more information about timing and deadlines. 

A) Research Experience:  Under the supervision of a PBS Department faculty member, a student registers for Research Practicum in Psychology (PSY:3994), Advanced Research Practicum (PSY:3995), or the less commonly used Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects (URES:3992, URES:3993 or URES:3994). The experience usually involves direct participation in the execution of research or analysis of research data within the context of a laboratory in PBS. 

B) Internship Experience:  External internships offer a unique experience and an opportunity to gain the requisite experience and connections to be strong candidates for future graduate study and careers by working closely with faculty members. Students wanting to do an external internship for honors in the major must identify a PBS Department faculty member who agrees to be a supervisor for the honors related aspects of the internship. This individual will not supervise the student's daily or weekly performance, rather they will supervise the related components of the experience as required for honors int he major. The faculty supervisor will approve the Pre-Launch Agreement and the Written Reflection, may check in with the student throughout the semester and will have initial conversations with the student as to what they hope to gain from the experience and how it will contribute to future career/educational goals. With this supervisor identified, the student registers for that supervisor’s section of External Practicum in Psychology (PSY:3996), usually for zero credits.  Also, the student must register for one of the following internship courses: Internship in Liberal Arts and Sciences (CCP:1005), Academic Internship (CCP:1201), or the less commonly used options of HONR:3150 or HONR:3160. This enrollment choice and the planned internship should be discussed with the supervising PBS faculty member to ensure its relevance. Review more information about external internship for capstone experience enrollment options and who to contact with questions. The internship experience must involve career-related professional activities through an internship with an approved community or University of Iowa agency

C) Teaching or Peer Mentoring Experience:  Under the supervision of a PBS Department faculty member, a student registers for Teaching/Advising Practicum in Psychology (PSY:3997).Examples of activities that might be included for students becoming a TA as part of the Teaching/Advising Practicum (PSY:3997) are found here: undergraduate TA activities. A less common but potentially viable experience would involve being a peer mentor by serving as a Supplemental Instruction Leader or Learning Assistant for a PBS course.





Step 1—Tell us you’re interested!

Visit one of the academic advisors in the PBS Department (Deb Johnson or Janeil Page-Jamison) and tell them you are interested. Once marked as “honors Interested,” you will receive regular messages relevant to honors in the psychology major. 

Step 2—Decide on a route (thesis or non-thesis) and connect with a relevant supervisor(s)

It can take a while to establish a connection with a relevant supervisor(s) for your capstone, so start the process early.  

*Steps 3 and 4 can be done concurrently or in either order
Step 3—Preregister and complete your capstone experience(s) 

After you have found a supervisor for your thesis (if on the thesis route) or one of your individualized experiences (if on the non-thesis route), do the following in this order:

a. Complete the Pre-Launch Agreement and secure your supervisor’s signature before the start of the semester.
b. Immediately thereafter, and before the start of the semester, complete the brief Launch Survey
c. Start the experience.
d. As you near the completion of the experience, write the report and have it signed.  
--For the thesis route, the report is the thesis, which also needs to be defended before being approved and signed by the supervisor. 
--For the non-thesis route, the report is a Written Reflection. Turn in the completed reflection to your supervisor before the start of finals week, to give them time to evaluate it and to sign the title page. 
e. Turn in the signed title page of the thesis or written refection to a departmental advisor (Deb Johnson or Janeil Page-Jamison) by Wednesday of finals week if you are graduating that semester, or by Friday if not graduating. This can be done in person or electronically.

For the non-thesis option, you’ll do each of these 5 steps (a through e) separately for the two experiences that comprise the capstone project.  

Step 4—Do required coursework  

Ensure that you finish your coursework in time for graduation. The table above shows the specific requirements, whereas the following comments provide some extra details that are relevant to timing and choosing among options. Psychology Seminar (PSY:4090) is a topic-based course in which students read and discuss scientific articles related to the topic. Lab in Psychology (PSY:4020) is focused on doing and communicating about research. The specific subtopics of focus in these two courses change depending on instructor. Different topics will require different lower-level psychology electives as prerequisites. Versions of both courses are offered every fall and spring but never in the summer.  

Step 5—Review your steps prior to graduation

After reviewing your steps, if you are uncertain about any components of the requirements, contact a departmental advisor (Deb Johnson or Janeil Page-Jamison) to make sure you are set for graduating with honors.

There are three different sets of people involved in the honors process.  

  • The PBS Department’s ACADEMIC ADVISORS are Deb Johnson and Janeil Page-Jamison. You will see them to indicate your interest in earning honors, and they are notified when you submit a launch survey. They also receive the documentation of the written reports that have been approved by the relevant supervisor.  
  • CAPSTONE SUPERVISOR is the person (typically a faculty member) overseeing and evaluating your thesis or other type of capstone experience. 
  • The DEPARTMENTAL HONORS COORDINATOR is Professor Prahlad Gupta. Dr. Gupta is available for advice and answering questions about the program, and he will sign the thesis cover page as Departmental Honors Advisor.  
    E-mail: prahlad-gupta@uiowa.edu  
    Office Phone: 319-335-2908


Honors in Neuroscience

Honors in Neuroscience Major

University of Iowa Honors Program

In addition to honors in the major, students may pursue honors study and activities through membership in the University of Iowa Honors Program. University honors students must maintain a 3.33 g.p.a., complete 12 s.h. of coursework designated as honors courses, and complete 12 s.h. of an experiential learning project. Visit Honors at Iowa to learn about the University's honors program.

NOTE: Membership in the UI Honors Program is not required to earn honors in the Psychology major.