Will I Participate in Research As a Graduate Psychology Student?

One of the major elements of any graduate psychology program is learning how to conduct, analyze and use psychological research. The level of involvement within that research varies from program to program and degree to degree. A general rule of thumb is that master’s level students will spend a moderate amount of time in the lab, while doctoral candidates will spend considerably more time conducting research.

Psychology Research at the Master’s Level

Research is a part of all psychology graduate programs, as understanding the scientific method is a key component to professional psychology. The degree and nature of the research varies greatly throughout different psychology departments. Most programs offer at least one course that instructs students on the ins and outs of conducting research, how to stay within ethical boundaries, how to minimize extraneous variables and flaws and how to analyze your findings. Some programs will allow master’s level students to conduct their own novel research as a part of their master’s thesis presentation and defense.

Psychology Research in Doctor of Philosophy Program in Psychology

Doctoral candidates who are working on their doctor of philosophy (PhD) will actively engage in psychology research. Almost all PhD programs require a great deal of research as part of the doctoral dissertation, as well as part of the general curriculum. Most PhD students will create, plan, implement, analyze, write, present and defend their research to a board of professionals in the field. This exposure familiarizes the student with psychological research so they may continue to conduct research, teach at the collegiate level or be informed consumers of research within their psychology practice.

Psychology Research in Doctor of Psychology Programs

Another type of doctoral program is the doctor of psychology (PsyD) program. Students in PsyD programs will learn the tenets of how to create, conduct and analyze data. They will learn to become informed and skilled consumers of modern findings, but there is a much lighter focus on the detailed ways in which to conduct research. These programs are geared towards students who plan to work directly with clients, rather than teach or do research.

Research is a major part of the curriculum for most graduate level psychology degree programs. At the master’s level students receive formal training so they can better understand the scientific method and how to apply it to psychological research. At the doctoral level there is a divide in how much emphasis is placed on conducting research. While both types of programs teach students about the how and why, the PhD program will more strongly highlight the mechanics of how psychological research is conducted. PsyD programs will give more of an overview so upon graduation, the psychologist can use findings in the field as applied to their practice.