Departmental Requirements

Current Students and Faculty

University and Departmental Requirements
Below you will find a brief list of University and Departmental requirements for graduate study at the University at Albany, SUNY. Please note that this brief listing is provided as a convenience. Please consult appropriate sources for more detailed information. Further information about graduate policies and procedures can be found on the Department homepage and in the University Graduate Bulletin (under the headings “Graduate Policy and Procedures” and “Department of Psychology”). Specific technical and procedural questions may be addressed by Dr. Sylvia Roch, Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology, or by the director of your graduate program area.

Departmental Requirements for Graduate Study

This section provides an overview of departmental requirements for graduate study in psychology. Please read the appropriate sections of the University Graduate Bulletin regarding University and Department requirements. Please also refer back to this section often for updates.

* indicates that a form is required (see Graduate Level Departmental Forms Page) for completion of a specific requirement. You must use the appropriate forms for reporting completion of these requirements. Please use the Checklist of Required Department Forms as a guide. These forms are to be placed in the Graduate Director’s mailbox.

  • Select and reach agreement with an Initial Research Project advisor and notify Graduate Director of project advisor’s name by the end of first semester*
  • Complete APSY 510 and APSY 511 (with at least a “B”)—the student must repeat APSY 510 and/or APSY 511 if a “B-” or less was earned
  • Maintain at least a “B” average over all courses
  • Repeat any course in which an “E” was earned, and obtain at least a “B” on the retake
  • Finish the Initial Research Project by the end of the second year*
  • Complete the tool requirement—must be approved by Advisor*
  • Complete two (2) courses outside area of specialization—must be approved by Advisor*
  • Complete required courses specific to area of specialization
  • Take and pass Qualifying Exam by the end of the fourth year of residence*
  • Take at least 36 hours of credit (of the 66 hours required) in residence at the University at Albany
  • Be in residence at least one academic year after attaining "advanced standing" (i.e., after completing the Initial Research Project, or after two years of study, whichever comes first)
  • File for candidacy after the completion of all aforementioned requirements has been met*
  • Maintain continuous registration while pursuing degree
  • Form a doctoral dissertation committee*
  • Obtain approval of the doctoral dissertation proposal*
  • Complete and defend the doctoral dissertation*
  • Attain Ph.D. within eight years from date of initial registration (If extension is required, file appropriate form*)

Description of Departmental Requirements

Initial Research Project
All graduate students in the Psychology Department, including those entering with a Master’s degree, are required to complete an Initial Research Project in the first two years. Satisfactory completion of the initial research project requires the student to conduct an empirical study and write a research competency paper similar in scope to a paper submitted to peer-reviewed journals. This paper should include (1) a substantive review of relevant literature; (2) a detailed description of methods and materials used to generate empirical data; (3) fully documented data analyses; and (4) a discussion of issues raised by the results. Projects limited to qualitative literature reviews are not acceptable for this requirement. The paper must be written entirely by the student.

Students are responsible for consulting with faculty regarding their willingness to supervise the Initial Research Project. The Graduate Director must be notified in writing (see form) of each student’s advisor by the end of the first semester of graduate study. The research project and written paper are expected to be completed by the end of the student’s second year of graduate study. Students may not sit for Qualifying Exams until the Initial Research Project is completed.

The Initial Research Project may be converted into a Master’s thesis if the student chooses to earn a Master’s degree. The student should consult with her or his advisor regarding this option. A second reader and an oral defense are required. (See University requirements and forms.)

Transfer of Credits (Waiver of Required Courses)
If a student has had prior graduate work, he or she can transfer up to 30 hours toward the University requirement of 66 total hours. To accomplish this, the student must take the relevant transcript(s) to the Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology, and he or she will take the steps necessary to process the request. However, using prior graduate work in lieu of Department requirements is another matter. Students may be waived out of PSY 510, 511, or any other required course, only with the written recommendation of the course instructor and approval of the Department Chair. If you think you qualify for a waiver, see the instructor.

It is important to remember that students entering with prior graduate work cannot assume that they will receive credit for previous course work or be waived out of any program requirements (e.g., the Initial Research Project cannot be waived.)

Grades and Academic Performance
In the first year of doctoral studies, students take the two-semester sequence of statistic courses, APSY 510 and 511. A student who receives a grade lower than a “B” in APSY 510 or 511 must repeat the course. (Students who earn less than a “B” in APSY 510 cannot enroll in 511.) Students must maintain a “B” average in the two outside-of-area courses. Failure to do so means either that one of the courses must be repeated or that additional ones must be taken with grades sufficient to balance low grades previously earned, thus attaining the “B” average. A GPA of less than “B” constitutes grounds for dismissal from the University.

Research Tool
Students must develop and demonstrate expertise in a technique or skill used in conducting or evaluating research. The research tool requirement involves a course or experience that (1) goes beyond the basic program of study; (2) has a clear benefit for the student’s research capabilities; (3) includes a demonstration that the student has successfully used the technique or skill in a meaningful way; and (4) has a structured evaluation procedure.

Possible ways in which to fulfill the research tool requirement include courses in computer programming, mathematics, electronics, biochemistry, histological techniques, foreign language, pharmacology, and advanced statistics. However, formal coursework is not a requirement for the research tool. Structured and supervised projects or experiences are also possible (e.g., gaining skills in administration of structured clinical interviews, specific interventions, or assessment technologies). The student’s advisor must approve the manner in which this requirement is met (i.e., the area of study, work to be completed, and method of evaluation).

The research tool requirement must be fulfilled during the student’s residence at the University at Albany. A student must earn at least a B in a course intended to satisfy the research tool requirement. Course credits taken in conjunction with completing the Tool Requirement do not count toward the 66 hours required for the degree. Furthermore, any course used toward the research tool requirement may not be included in the two outside-of-area courses.

Outside-of-Area Courses
Each student is required to take two graduate-level courses outside his or her own graduate program area (i.e., clinical, I/O, cognitive, social, or behavioral neuroscience). These courses must be offered by the Department of Psychology at the University at Albany and represent two different graduate program areas within psychology. Quantitative/statistical methods courses may not be used to satisfy this requirement.

Each graduate program area may identify particular courses for its students to take. The student's faculty research advisor, with the approval of a majority of faculty in the student's graduate program area, will determine whether a specific course meets this requirement. The purpose of this requirement is to increase the breadth of knowledge gained. The courses selected for this requirement should bear some meaningful relationship to the student's professional preparation. Ideally, these courses will enable students to view their work from various perspectives.

All graduate students must maintain a B average in the two courses outside their own specialization. If a student earns less than a C in one of these courses, and is still retained in the program, the student will repeat the course regardless of the student's overall average. Students may not use any course to fulfill both the outside-of-area courses and research tool requirements.

Area of Specialization Specific Requirements
Each Area of Specialization (i.e., behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology,industrial/organizational psychology, and social-personality psychology) has its own specific requirements for students. Students should consult his or her area head and/or advisor for more detailed information.

Qualifying Exams
The department qualifying examination requires a student to perform independently and professionally within their area of specialization. This demonstration will require broad-ranging mastery of conceptual and methodological issues in the area, and may be exemplified by a comprehensive test, an integrative review article, or a grant proposal. The specific format may vary by the student’s Area of Specialization (e.g., Cognitive, I/O, Social/Personality, etc.) and may also be determined by the student’s Qualifying Examination Committee, which must include at least three faculty members within the student’s area of specialization. It is the student’s responsibility to consult with his or her advisor regarding the examination format, committee membership, and time line specific to his or her area of specialization. All graduate students are required to complete the Initial Research Project before they may take the qualifying examination. Areas of Specialization may also have additional requirements that need to be met prior to taking the qualifying examination. A student must have completed the doctoral qualifying examination before the end of the fourth year of study.

If a student fails the qualifying examination, he or she may take it once more. Failure on the second occasion constitutes a basis for dismissal from the program.

Dissertation Requirements
Students must submit an acceptable dissertation that demonstrates that they are capable of doing independent scholarly work and are able to formulate conclusions that would modify or extend previous knowledge. Students must be formally admitted to candidacy before the dissertation proposal can be accepted and approved. Please note that these guidelines are based in large part on University policy, and in remaining part on Department practice and policy, which has been in place since 1985. As always, petitions for waiver or revision may be presented to the Graduate Director.
1. The choice of the Chair of the doctoral dissertation committee is the student’s, and each student is free to make this decision as he/she wishes. Once the choice of a committee Chair is made and agreed upon by both, the student and the Chair will decide upon other potential members to be approached and invited to participate.

2. Each committee shall have a minimum of three members. There may be additional members and/or consultants. Once the committee is formed, the student is responsible for notifying the Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology of the committee membership.

3. Two of the members, including the Chair, shall be voting faculty members of the Psychology Department at the University at Albany. The third member may be a member of the faculty of the Psychology Department, another department at the University at Albany or another academic unit, or in an occupation pertinent to the student’s program of study

4. All committee members must hold the earned doctoral degree, or title of Professor.

5. A faculty member may continue as a committee member of chair if s/he should leave the department. The responsibilities of the committee pertaining to the supervision of the dissertation are as follows:
A) The total committee must unanimously approve he dissertation topic.

B) All members must be available to consult with the student as the research proposal is developed. Students are urged to circulate copies of their proposal among the entire department faculty for suggestions.

C) Upon receiving a written proposal of the research rationale, design, and analysis, the total committee shall meet with the student to ascertain the student’s grasp of relevant information and to suggest and decided upon modifications to the proposal.

D) Every member of he committee must sign approval of the final version of the proposal on the appropriate form. This signature constitutes agreement to approve the final dissertation if it has been executed as proposed, and written in an acceptable scholarly style.

E) The Chair of the committee will be the individual must actively guiding the student during the data gathering and analysis stages. It is the student’s responsibility to keep the other members apprised of progress. The total committee is responsible for consulting with student upon request. The Chair of the committee may call meetings of the total committee periodically.

F) If the research is to be conducted away from the Albany campus, arrangements with the appropriate authorities must be agreed upon prior to approval of the proposal. Normally, the Chair will be the responsible liaison with the off-campus facility.

G) Two of the three members or a simple majority of the committee if larger than three must provide approving signatures to the final completed copy of the dissertation submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies.
6. Each student must give an oral defense of the dissertation before the faculty of the department prior to the preparation of the final typed form. The chair of the dissertation committee will determine the format of the oral examination. Copies of the dissertation will be available for those who wish to read it prior to the defense. Within the format determined by the dissertation committee Chair, other individuals attending the defense may raise questions and discussion pertaining to the dissertation.

7. Upon the completion of revisions, if necessary, the student must present the final typed copy to the committee for their approval signature. This copy is to be delivered to the Department Chair for signature of approval. The Chair of the Department will transmit the dissertation and the recommendation of the award of the Ph.D. degree form to the Office of Graduate Studies.