Honors

The department awards College Honors with the Bachelor of Arts to students who have demonstrated an outstanding level of scholarship within the major. 

A student can become eligible for College Honors by earning...

  • an overall college grade point average of 3.25 or better*,
  • a grade point average in Psychology of 3.5 or better*, AND
  • faculty approval of a completed Honors Project that demonstrates a high level of sophistication with psychology, intellectual creativity, and research skills.

*Only courses completed at Occidental (vs. transferred) are used to calculate grade point average.


Honors Projects: An Honors Project in psychology is an empirical research project developed by the Honors candidate that is clearly and appropriately informed by previous coursework and personal intellectual interest, culminating in an APA-Style manuscript. Honors Projects must be completed in accordance with the required phases (below) and associated deadlines. Facutly approval of the project must be granted by two members of the department who deem the manuscript to be of superb quality. (Approval is not granted automatically for completion of the manuscript.)

The deparment requires that Honors Projects be completed according to specific phases to ensure that students develop each aspect of the research with sufficient quality, and to provide feedback about whether the project is progressing in a timely manner. Although exceptions do occur, students typically need at least 3 academic terms to initiate and complete an Honors Project (e.g., Fall, Spring, Fall or Spring, Summer, Fall). Typically, candidates will have developed ideas based on prior knowledge of a topic and related research experience.

For specific deadlines associated with each phase, refer to documents sent by the department chair each semester.

Phase 1) Proposal

Students must submit a written research proposal of the highest quality (clear, coherent, and complete) that indicates he/she is ready to proceed at the start of a semester. Thus, proposals should be submitted during the preceding semester - providing supervising faculty members with enough time to evaluate proposals. However, students who develop projects during an academic break (e.g., via Occidental's Summer Research Program) may submit their proposals by the first day of classes, of the semester in which the project is to begin. Proposals must conform to APA format and include the elements below:

  • Appropriate literature review
  • Appropriate methodological framework
  • Reference section with 8-10 central references
  • Human / Non-human animal subjects protocol draft
  • Identification of 2 departmental readers: supervising faculty and secondary reader (who have alredy agreed to the candidate's request)
  • Honors Proposal Submission Form 

Phase 2) Proposal Approval

Departmental approval of an Honors Project proposal will be determined by the two designated readers, by the end of the first week of classes for the semester in which the work is to begin. For proposals judged to be below honors standards, but still methodologically sound, students will be denied honors eligibility. However, such students may elect to continue the proposed work for educational purposes, as independent research.

Phase 3) Implementation

Students should apply for and obtain IRB approval as soon as possible, prior to or upon receiving approval for their proposals. (IRB applications can be revised later, if the proposal evaluation produces suggestions.) Students should then collect and analyze data, per the proposed procedure. The entire project should then be written up and submitted. For some projects, it may be possible to complete the manuscript within the same semester. For other projects, student may need to collect data for 2 semesters. In this situation, students should have collected at least 25% of their data and conducted preliminary data analyses to ensure that the research protocols are working as planned (ceiling or floor effects are not occurring, subjects are fully engaging in tasks, etc.).

Phase 4) Project Evaluation

A completed, final-draft manuscript must be submitted to the 2 readers at least 3 weeks prior to the last day of classes for that semester, to allow readers enough time. Based on the evaluation received, students must make revisions to their manuscript by the end of the final exam period. At that point, the two readers will decide whether or not to approve the Honors Project.