The College of New Jersey Logo

Apply     Visit     Give     |     Alumni     Parents     Offices     TCNJ Today     Three Bar Menu

Psychology Senior Experience Options

The Psychology major requires all students to complete a 400-level course that satisfies the “Senior Experience” area in PAWS (prerequisite: PSY299, Research Seminar). There are several options available at the 400-level of the curriculum. All of these options share the same parameters for the capstone paper that you will write, which must be developed over at least three drafts with feedback from your professor, ultimately resulting in at least 20 pages of text. They all also require a presentation of your work to an appropriate audience, such as the Celebration of Student Achievement. Consequently, there are no workload shortcuts for the senior experience! The choice of course should be determined in consultation with your advisor to best advance your career goals after TCNJ.


1. A traditional course at the 400-level. The majority of students will satisfy their capstone requirement with this option. We offer a variety of 400-level seminars, which are designed to support a wide range of student interests and to provide rigorous support for writing the capstone paper. The seminar becomes a community of scholars, pursuing their individual interests related to a common theme while receiving support and feedback from the group. Capstone papers in the seminar allow you to explore an area of psychological knowledge, to answer an intriguing question, or to evaluate a current controversy.  These seminars include at least 1 section of PSY470 (Senior Topics Study Group) offered in fall semesters and 2-3 sections in spring semesters; see the Psychology Advising Newsletter for available options. We also occasionally offer PSY419 (History of Psychology) in the fall or spring when staffing permits. Access any of these courses by enrolling in them like usual when your registration appointment opens. Capstone papers in conventional courses are typically review-style papers that summarize the state of research on a particular topic, question, or controversy.

2. A 400-level research experience. This is a good option for students who have prior research lab experience (e.g., PSY390), and may be an option for certain other students as well. All of our lab groups offer a variety of senior research options, which include PSY492 (Senior Collaborative Research) and PSY493 (Senior Individual Study), which may be available in the fall, spring, or (to a lesser extent) summer. Senior research experiences are sometimes limited to students with prior experience in that lab through PSY390 (Collaborative Research); this prior experience is typically necessary because students need to understand the lab’s focal research questions and methods before undertaking greater ownership over the research process. Access 400-level research options by speaking with the faculty member who coordinates the lab in question, who can tell you more about the options that they sponsor and the process for moving forward. Capstone papers in research labs typically involve designing research studies, collecting data, and/or analyzing data, and subsequently writing an empirical manuscript that reports the results of this scholarship.

Faculty who may be able to sponsor senior research experiences for students who are new to their lab groups include:

  • Dr. Bireta in the Memory & Aging Lab
  • Dr. Crawford in the Replicat Lab
  • Dr. Dahling in the Organizational Psychology Lab
  • Dr. Feiring in the Romantic Relationships Research Lab (prior research experience in any lab required)
  • Dr. Leynes in the ERP Lab (prior research experience in any lab required)
  • Dr. Onyewuenyi in the IDAD Lab

3. PSY487, Senior Internship. This option should be selected with caution because it requires a substantial workload that includes roughly 12 hours/week at the internship site in addition to weekly meetings with a faculty sponsor. Students interested in clinical or counseling internships should not choose this option (and should take PSY 398 for their required field experience). You can complete an internship as your senior experience if you enroll in PSY487 (vs. PSY399 or 398, which would not satisfy the senior experience requirement). Senior internships most commonly follow a 300-level internship, resulting in the ability to manage the on-site workload alongside the labor of the capstone paper. However, first-time internships can also be suitable senior experiences with caution. Access PSY487 by first securing an internship offer and a faculty sponsor, and then following the independent internship application process to enroll in the fall, spring, or summer. Capstone papers in internships typically blend scholarly research with application by reviewing the literature to identify best practices in an area related to the internship role, and then critiquing/evaluating the actual practices of the internship employer.