James W. Pennebaker, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596
Graduate Program Perceptual Systems Area Requirements
- Experimental Laboratory Research
During the first semester of the first year, students are expected to become involved in laboratory research in an apprenticeship role with one of the program's faculty members. The nature of the student's involvement will, no doubt, vary with the student's background and with the research area in which he/she is interested. Because of the large amount of substantive and technical material to be mastered, it is unusual for a student to be able to engage in research of his or her own design at the outset. More common is for students to assist initially with on-going research in the laboratory of one of the Perceptual Systems faculty members. Students are expected to take the initiative by seeking out those faculty members with whom they think they might like to work and then discussing apprenticeship prospects. Within the first couple of weeks of both semesters of the first year, students are expected to have associated themselves with one or another faculty member. Once this choice has been made, each student should notify the Program Chair.
A student's performance during this apprenticeship (along with grades and class rankings) is one of the most important factors considered by the program's faculty in their evaluation of the student's performance at the end of the first year. Students should understand that, through this apprenticeship, they are not necessarily entering into a long-term commitment to work with a particular faculty member. It is understood by all that the association is for a particular semester or year, and that students are free either to continue working with their apprentice supervisor (by mutual consent) or to move to another laboratory. Students sometimes assume that a move will be accompanied by "negative sentiments" from the faculty involved. This assumption is not correct; such moves are an accepted feature of the program and are, as such, neither encouraged nor discouraged.
- Second-Year Project
After a student successfully completes the first year, laboratory research takes on an even more important role, and classroom work a less important role. During the second year of graduate school, students are expected to take on an experimental research project and follow it through from beginning to end. The student should take the responsibility for developing a somewhat independent research project: generating ideas that lead to a testable hypothesis, carrying-out the experimental research, and writing a paper which formally documents the project. (Note that it is important for each student to select a project that can be completed within the allotted time.) The project culminates in a written research report, to be completed by the end of the Spring semester. The final written report should be submitted to the faculty no later than May 1; outlines, rough-drafts, etc., should be submitted far in advance of the final deadline. The report will be evaluated by two faculty members. This second-year project may be used for a Masters Thesis by students who wish to attain this degree en route to the Doctorate.
- Qualifying Examinations
This exam is taken at the beginning of the Spring Semester of the Third Year. The purpose of this exam is to provide the student with the opportunity to develop breadth and depth of knowledge in chosen areas. We feel confident that this knowledge will enhance future scientific research as well as future graduate and undergraduate teaching. The Qualifying Examination also provides the faculty with a measure of how well a student can understand and integrate a large body of knowledge. If performance on the examination is not adequate, a student will be counseled about remedial measures and a subsequent re-examination may be given. In some instances, exam performance has led to a student being terminated from the program.
Studying for the exam can be a very rewarding experience. It is also quite hard work, demanding several months of serious study. Students should have the Qualifying Exams in mind during their core course work and should begin concentrated study (with the Qualifying Exam in mind) during the second year. During the months prior to the exams, preparing for the exam should become a student's number one priority.
Graduate Program Perceptual Systems Departmental Requirements
- Course Work.
The Department of Psychology has a number of fundamental requirements that all graduate students must satisfy. These requirements are described in a separate document (Graduate Program Requirements). Basically, there are three "Core Courses" which must be taken along with two "Quantitative Courses." First-year students must take six organized courses (one of these must be a quantitative course and two must be core courses
- First-Year Evaluation.
At the end of the first year, all students are evaluated by the entire faculty. The first-year evaluation is based upon a number of factors including grades, class rankings, and participation in laboratory research (refer to Graduate Student Evaluation).
- Second-Year Evaluation.
At the end of the second year, all students are evaluated by the area faculty to determine competency. For the Perceptual Systems area, the quality of the Second-Year Project will be a major factor in the determination of competency.
- Application to Candidacy and the Dissertation.
Upon successful completion of the departmental requirements and the Perceptual Systems requirements (described on the following pages), the student should advance to candidacy (prepare the dissertation proposal, etc., refer to Admission to Candidacy) and then complete the Dissertation Research and Report. The program is structured as a four-year program. Students should be able to satisfy the departmental and area requirements in three years and complete their dissertation in the fourth year.