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Final Project (Thesis)

Overview     Project Types     Applying     Timeline     Paper Guidelines

(Also see document links box on left side.)


The Thesis Project, required for all majors, is an intensive research project that incorporates work spanning most of two academic years.

The Exploratory Year, usually the student's Junior year, involves exploration of possible topics and project plans, applying for a thesis advisor, receiving an advisor match, registering for thesis blocks, and further revision of the project plan and in some cases initiation of the preliminary project work. The Project Year, usually the student's Senior year, involves implementation (or continuation) of the project under the guidance of the Faculty Advisor, including all the elements necessary for the specific project, culminating in submission to the faculty of the APA-style research report, reviewed by the faculty advisor and a second reader, and presentation of the research at the department's Psychology and Neuroscience Poster Day conference.

More extensive explanation of the steps in the project process are described in the sections below. See also the Final Project (Thesis) Guidelines document

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Types of Projects

Students can propose one of three types of thesis projects:

  1. Empirical Research: A project involving the collection and analysis of empirical data. Examples of empirical research articles can be found in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Cerebral Cortex.
  2. Literature Review: A critical review and synthesis of the literature using primary research (i.e., peer reviewed journal articles) that addresses a particular research question or issue formulated by the student and advisor. Examples of literature review articles can be found in Psychological Bulletin and Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
  3. Directed Field Study: A service project completed in the community under the direct supervision of a Colorado College (CC) faculty member and community site supervisor resulting in a Final Paper relating the practical context to the existing literature. The paper usually takes the form of a Literature Review, though other forms (e.g., Grant Application, etc.) are possible. For a more extensive explanation of the Field Study options see the Directed Field Study Information sheet.

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Application Process

(Timing and deadlines for the application and for all steps in the thesis process are in the next section.)

  1. Meet with Faculty (Blocks 1-4)
    During Blocks 1-4 of their Junior year, students should initiate project discussion meetings with several faculty members. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss student topic interests, faculty research, and possible matches that could lead to a thesis project. It is not necessary for the student to have a fully developed research idea before scheduling a meeting, though the student should consider what topic areas interest them and the areas of research in which each faculty member specializes. Students who are proactive in this process have a better chance of having their first-choice project and advisor request approved.
    • Keeping a written summary of the project ideas discussed with each faculty member will help you to complete the Application Form.
  2. Complete Application Form (Deadline: Third Monday of Block 6)
    During the first semester students on track to complete a thesis during the following year will receive an email invitation/link to complete a Thesis Application via Qualtrics survey software.  Students must complete this application by the deadline in Block 6 (3rd Monday).  If you intend to complete a thesis but did not receive an invitation/link, or if you have any other questions about the application process, please contact Mark Saviano, Statistical/Technical Director for Psychology.
    • The faculty will review all applications and decide on appropriate Advisor-Student matches. Attempts are made to match advisors based on the student's requested preference, however all preferences cannot always be satisfied.

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Project Timeline

Graphical Version of Timeline: (PDF)

While thesis students will register for PY451 Final Project (PY452, PY453 possible), the Thesis Project involves a great deal more time and work than a one block course. To complete a successful project it is important for students to get started early and show substantial initiative in carrying out many of the steps in the process. The following is a general outline of the timing of the steps in this 2-year process:

Exploratory (Junior) Year:

  1. Declare the major.
    Timing: As soon as possible after completing PY202 or by December of Junior Year at latest.
  2. Initiate Discussion Meetings with Faculty.
    Timing: First semester of Junior Year (Blocks 1-4).
  3. Narrow Options To 3 Project Ideas.
    Timing: Blocks 1-6 of Junior Year.
  4. Submit the Final Project Application Form (linked above).
    Timing: Deadline is the third Monday Block 6. (Advisor matches by 1st Mon Block 7.)
  5. Preregister for PY451 Final Project (PY452, PY453 possible).
    Timing: Blocks 7-8 per Registrar's timing.
  6. Project Planning with Thesis Advisor.
    Timing: Blocks 7-8.
  7. (Optional/Recommended) Begin Preliminary Project Preparation.
    Timing: Blocks 7-8 and Summer. 

Project (Senior) Year:

  1. Project Work.
    Timing: First semester of Senior Year (Blocks 1-4).

    NOTE: The kind of and schedule for activities to complete the project work will depend heavily on the type of project chosen (Empirical, Literature, Field) and the specifics of the project itself. It's advisable to work consistently throughout the semester and not leave all the work for the thesis block(s). Reading, data collection, and service activities should ideally by completed by the beginning of the Spring term to allow sufficient time for paper writing and revisions.
  2. Paper Writing.
    Timing: Throughout the process, allowing time for multiple drafts.
  3. Submit Thesis Final Draft.
    Timing: Deadline is 1st Monday Block 7.
  4. Submit Poster Abstract.
    Timing: Deadline is 3rd Friday of Block 7.
  5. Receive Feedback.
    Timing: Feedback by 3rd Friday of Block 7.

  6. Submit Revised Thesis.
    Timing: Discuss the timing with your thesis advisor.
  7. Present Poster at Psychology and Neuroscience Poster Day.
    Timing: Poster Day takes place the 2nd Friday Block 8.

For December graduates :

  1. Students must submit the Final Project paper by the last day of Block 3 in the year they are graduating. It will be read by a second reader and feedback will be provided to the students by the end of the second week of Block 4.
  2. Students are required to participate in Poster Day on the third Friday of Block 4 or present their work in a forum approved by the supervisor.

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Paper Guidelines


All Final Projects result in a paper written according to the style rules described in the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual. The exact format of the sections of the paper will depend on the type of project conducted (Empirical Research, Literature Review, Field Study). Students should consult the most recent version of the APA Manual for more details. Typically, empirical studies should not exceed 20-25 pages of text and literature reviews should not exceed 25-30 pages of text. (Additional pages of tables, figures, and appendices are acceptable.)


Students must submit two printed copies of their Final Project paper to their Thesis Advisor. The paper will be evaluated by the thesis advisor and an anonymous second reader faculty member. Both readers will provide the student with feedback on how to improve the paper before submission of the final revision. The student will incorporate this feedback into a final revision and submit the revision to the Thesis Advisor by the revision date specified by the advisor.


The paper will be evaluated on several criteria of quality, including: the importance of the hypothesis being explored, the depth of analysis, the competence of the work, and the quality of writing. The second reader provides a grade that will count up to 50% of the Final Project grade based on the initial submission before feedback. Late submissions will receive a grade of NC from the second reader. The Thesis Advisor provides the remainder of the grade based on the revised submission that incorporates the feedback from both readers. Late revised submissions will likely not be evaluated in time for May graduation.

If the student meets the GPA criterion for Honors: Graduating with Distinction in Psychology, then each of the readers will decide if the paper warrants Distinction.

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