Each year as part of their graduation requirements, Occidental seniors complete their comprehensive examination, or senior comp. Here are a few titles from this year's presentations:
Teaching Evolution Through Analogical Encoding
Visualizing Big Data for Brain-Computer Interface Learning
Emotional Expression: Analyzing Gender Differences between Expressed and Experienced Emotion
A Square Peg and a Round Hole: Distinct processing of Curvature and Rectilinearity in Object Recognition
A Melodic Mnemonic: The Effect of Music Mnemonics and Music Training on Memory
The Effects of Literary Perspective-Taking on Creativity
Measurements of Musical Preference and Judgments of Personality
Comprehensive Requirement: In the senior year, majors carry out a research project on a topic in Cognitive Science. The objectives of the project are for students to participate in scientific inquiry and to effectively communicate the results of their research. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science, research projects can take many forms, including but not limited to experimentation, comprehensive literature review, critical discussion of philosophical or theoretical foundations, and applications of computer science with an emphasis on cognition. This comprehensive research project allows students to explore an area of their interest in depth; students should prepare by selecting courses and seeking out research opportunities that help them acquire the appropriate disciplinary skills and foundational knowledge necessary for a successful project.
As preparation for the comprehensive project, majors are expected to enroll in Cognitive Science 310: Research Methods in the sophomore or junior year. During the junior year, students should meet with Cognitive Science faculty and conduct preliminary research to select a topic suitable for a comprehensive project. Each student will have two Cognitive Science faculty readers who will serve as advisors and give feedback to students on their written work. All majors take the Senior Seminar in the fall semester of the senior year, which guides students as they embark upon their research projects. During that semester, students will present their work in progress to the Cognitive Science faculty at a poster session and will write a draft of their thesis. During the spring semester, complete their projects and revise their papers until the due date. Students submit a final paper and also present their research to the campus community in a public talk.
The Cognitive Science faculty will meet to assess the comprehensive projects. A pass with distinction is awarded to projects that are exceptionally strong, both in terms of the actual research conducted and the effectiveness of how the research is communicated. A pass is awarded to projects that meet departmental expectations. A fail is given to work that does not meet departmental expectations. The grade in the Senior Seminar course is recorded as “in progress” at the end of the fall semester, and is assigned after the completion of the project; assignments completed during the fall semester as well as the final project itself contribute to the final grade in the course.Honors: Honors in Cognitive Science may be awarded to graduating seniors who demonstrate excellence in their course work and distinction in their senior comprehensive project. To be eligible, students must have a 3.5 grade point average in the major and a 3.25 overall grade point average. In addition, the comprehensive project must be judged as a “pass with distinction.”
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