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Department of Psychology
Harvard University

Undergraduate Program

Requirements & Electives
Advising & Mentoring
Faculty & Research
Deadlines & Forms

Step One: TopicStep Two: Committee and ApplicationStep Three: ProspectusStep Four: Research ApprovalStep Five: Research and Data Analysis
Step Six: WritingStep Seven: SubmissionStep Eight: Poster and DefenseGradingCalendars of Thesis-Related Dates
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Step Two: Committee and Application

The thesis committee

Who comprises a thesis committee?

A thesis committee normally consists of two members, a supervisor and a reader, and at least one of these must be a department faculty member. In some cases, students may have a co-supervisor, and in many of these cases, their committees will have three members.

What do committee members do?

In some other departments, readers are assigned after the work is done, and in some cases blindly or anonymously. Psychology is such a broad field, and there are so many ways to study a question that the Department feels it is important to have all of your thesis graders to have input into the project before you collect data, which is why we have a thesis committee. In addition to reading and grading your final thesis product, committee members also have specific roles:

Your thesis supervisor supervises the research that you conduct for your thesis. S/he also reads and grades your thesis, participates in your thesis prospectus meeting and your poster defense, files midyear and end-of-year reports for your senior thesis tutorial, and signs off on your midyear report.

Your thesis reader participates in your thesis prospectus meeting and your poster defense, and reads and grades your thesis. On occasion, you might consult with your reader during the year (if s/he has specific expertise you need, if you have modified your thesis project and want to inform your committee).      top

Who can be thesis Supervisors?

Your thesis supervisor can be one of several kinds of researchers:

  • regular department faculty member (assistant, associate, or full professor)
  • department lecturer
  • qualified departmental graduate student
  • member of our Board of Honors Tutors
  • other advanced researcher (with Ph.D. or equivalent), by petition (see application instructions for details)

If your supervisor is a departmental graduate student, non-asterisked member of our Board of Honors Tutors, certain departmental lecturers (email psychology at wjh), or other researcher, you will need a co-supervisor, who must be a department faculty member. Explanations of each category follow.

Department Faculty Members

Regular faculty for 2014-2015 are the following:

George Alvarez

Richard McNally

Mahzarin Banaji

Jason Mitchell

Joshua Buckholtz

Ken Nakayama

Randy Buckner

Matthew Nock

Alfonso Caramazza (on leave Spring 2015)

Steven Pinker

Susan Carey

Daniel Schacter

Mina Cikara

James Sidanius

Fiery Cushman

Jesse Snedeker

Daniel Gilbert (on leave 2014-2015)

Leah Somerville (on leave 2014-2015)

Joshua Greene

Elizabeth Spelke

Christine Hooker

Felix Warneken (on leave 2014-2015)

Jill Hooley

John Weisz (on leave 2014-2015)

Max Krasnow

Yaoda Xu (on leave Fall 2014)

Ellen Langer


New faculty may serve on thesis committees, and faculty on leave do not usually serve on thesis committees.                                    top

Departmental Graduate Students

Qualified department graduate students will have passed their second-year project before you hold your prospectus meeting, have the approval of their own graduate adviser, and be involved in only one other thesis project. Departmental Graduate Student supervisors require a co-supervisor, who must be a department faculty member or asterisked member of the Board of Honors Tutors.

Board of Honors Tutors Members

Members of the Board of Honors Tutors have agreed to consider serving as thesis supervisors or readers for thesis writers in psychology. You do not need to petition to include these researchers on your thesis committee; if you have a board member who is asterisked on the list as a supervisor, you do not need to have a department faculty co-supervisor. Non-asterisked board members do require a department faculty co-supervisor.                     top

Other Researchers

These are scholars who have a Ph.D. or equivalent. If you are requesting another researcher, you should submit a petition statement explaining how this person is an appropriate supervisor for your thesis project. You should note the person's title and affiliation in your statement (e.g., Professor of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School), and if the person is not Harvard affiliated, you should include her/his curriculum vitae (resume).  Other researchers DO require a department faculty co-supervisor.                                               top

Who can be thesis Readers?

Your thesis reader is typically a regular department faculty member (assistant, associate, or full professor), but may be a member of the Board of Honors Tutors if your thesis supervisor is a regular faculty member. If you have two supervisors and they are not members of the same lab, your department faculty co-supervisor can also serve as your reader. For instance, if you have a graduate supervisor who works in a different lab than your faculty co-supervisor, you can list the faculty co-supervisor as the reader on your application.

Where can I get more information?

Additional information on thesis committees and on other aspects of thesis planning is available from other pages of this web section, the Psychology 985 group meetings, your Concentration Adviser, and psychology at wjh.


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