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About Research

What is Research?

Research is an exploration to establish new knowledge and facts. Participating in research will allow you to learn more about research techniques used in the process. Some of the possible jobs you may be responsible for are searching literatures, collecting surveys, conducting experiments, entering data, analyzing data, and much more!

What are the Benefits of Research?

Graduate school: If you are planning to apply for a PhD program, research experience is expected. It will expose you to research methods, academic writing, what it means to be part of a research team, and will help you figure out if you really enjoy research and what really interests you. Research-based graduate programs will look for depth of research experience when reviewing your application along with strong letters of recommendation from faculty.

Direct experiences: Research allows you to learn by direct hands-on experience in addition to what you have learned in class. It is an exciting opportunity to learn and further what you have learned in class to investigate and establish new facts.

Relationship with faculty: Through research you are able to build close relationships with faculty, graduate students, and other research group members. You can ask questions about graduate school or the field of Psychology through this connection. The University of Michigan is a large school and it may be harder to build a close relationship with faculty in large lectures. Again, this close relationship is important if you would like recommendation letters in the future, since doing research with them will allow them to observe you closely and know you better in person.

Lab requirement: Research may fulfill your methods and/or experiential based lab requirement for Psychology or BCN. However, you must check with a psychology Academic Advisor about the specific requirements.

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About Research

In any of your research courses, you will develop a lot of valuable skills which will be applicable not only in a lab or studies, but also in your other courses, major(s)/minor(s), preparation for graduate school, and the job search. The skills below apply especially to Psychology and BCN majors.


Research Skills

Framing a research question
Developing theories / ideas
Gathering information
Observing people / data / things
Clarifying goals / problems
Summarizing results
Synthesizing conclusions

Analytical Skills

Defining problem areas
Creating a system to analyze data
Organizing and analyzing data
Offering new perspectives
Developing new solutions for recurring problems
Evaluating theory and evidence
Comparing/contrasting ideas and information

When Should I Get Involved?

There is no class level limit in getting involved in research. It is advisory to start your research experience as soon as you have topics of interest. This way, you will have more time to explore your opportunities. If you find the research you are doing intriguing, you will have more time to study the subject in depth. If you find the research you are doing is not your top choice and not corresponding to your expectations, you will still have time to try something new.

Try these opportunities during your first two years at UM:

Advanced Research Opportunities

Whether you begin with UROP or an independent study such as Psych 326, you should consider these advanced options:

Psych 422/423: One term advanced project that involves a specific number of hours in lab plus a research-based paper.

Senior Thesis: Two term advanced project conducting and analyzing research leading to submission of a final thesis and poster presentation at the departmental Research Forum. Overall GPA determines which of these options are possible.

Honors Thesis: Same as above, but requires a 3.4 overall gpa. 

How Do I Get Involved in Research?

Psychology Research Laboratories: On this website you will see a list of Psychology Labs by area of psychology.

Faculty Research InterestsThis website will allow you to search for faculty who are doing research with your topic of interest. If a list of faculty appears after your search, check their research and teaching interests description on their profile. Contact the faculty if you want to know more about their research project or want to ask for opportunities to work in their lab.

How do I Contact Faculty? What Should I Say?

Some labs have a link to apply for positions on their lab website while others include contact information. You can also contact the faculty member directly. All contact information is listed on their faculty profile.

When contacting faculty to sponsor you for an independent study course or undergraduate research assistant position, we recommend that you treat it as if it were a professional job interview. It is expected that you have done some background research on the faculty, their publications and current research projects. Explain how you will be an asset to the lab, and how this experience will help you as you develop your career path. Provide a resume with examples of leadership, self-motivation, and dedication to work tasks.

Contact faculty early if you plan to register for course credit. Students interested in research should plan to spend at least two semesters working in a lab. Therefore, students need to contact faculty early in their career to pursue these opportunities, which are an asset to Psychology graduate admission applications (and often the most important component of the application).

Other Research Opportunities

Psych 331: Research Methods in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science

Psych 331 is a research lab immersion experience that also provides a formal lab course experience.  

  • It is the recommended entry lab course for students who want to join a professor’s research lab in Biopsychology or Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience areas. 
  • It satisfies the upper-level LS&A writing requirement (ULWR)
  • It also satisfies the Group 1 lab requirement (course-based lab) for Biopsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (BCN) majors, Psychology majors, or Neuroscience majors.   Alternatively, Psych 331 can be used to satisfy the Group 2 lab requirement (independent lab or second lab) for students in those majors if you will satisfy your Group 1 requirement with a different lab course.
  • It involves about 10 hours per week of biopsychology-related research in a professor’s lab, a once-a-week 2-hr class meeting, and a rigorous amount of writing in order to fulfill the LS&A ULWR. 

The purpose of this course is three-fold:

  1. Provide students with opportunities to gain in-depth practical laboratory experience by assisting in the research lab of an individual faculty member in the Biopsychology or Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience Program.
  2. Introduce students to selected general methods and techniques used in the field of biopsychology and cognitive neuroscience.
  3. Provide practical knowledge about research design, quantification of behavior, scientific writing, the use of animals in research, and miscellaneous techniques used in biopsychology and cognitive neuroscience research.

Intended Audience: Students majoring in either Biopsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (BCN) or in Neuroscience who are interested in gaining actual research  experience while fulfilling their major’s lab requirement and LS&A ULWR are encouraged to apply.   You must apply to the professor whose lab you wish to join.


Submit a completed 331 application form directly to the professor whose lab you are applying to work in (go to application link for detailed instructions). Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until all available positions have been filled. The application describes the available PSYCH 331 lab sections. Make sure to follow up with the professor. Once the student is accepted into a PSYCH 331 lab section, the faculty member will contact the Psychology SAA Office, and an override will be given.

Class Format: Students will attend the PSYCH 331 lecture 2 hours/week and are expected to work 10 hours/week in a faculty member's PSYCH 331 lab.

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