Participate in Research and Learn about the Science of Psychology
One of the most exciting options available to undergraduates in USC’s Psychology program is the potential to take part in cutting-edge research projects. Because USC is a leading research institution, students have many routes for involvement in innovative studies. Your coursework will provide an important component of your education at USC but we invite all students to expand their horizons by taking part in research activities outside the structured context of the classroom. Undergraduate research can also provide experiences and skills that further your career goals, help prepare you for a graduate education, and assist in clarifying your interests and academic direction. Don’t miss out on this wonderful educational opportunity!
We encourage students to begin their experiences with research at an early stage in their education at USC. To this end, we suggest that students complete PSYC 100, PSYC 274, PSYC 314, and PSYC 316 as soon as possible. These courses serve as critical foundation for your development as a young scientist and are requirements for many of the research options available to you.
Psyc 290x: Supervised Research and Psyc 490x: Directed Research
Psyc 290x and 490x are opportunities to earn course credit by working on research under the supervision of a psychology faculty member.
Psyc 290x allows students to become involved in faculty-led research early in their studies. The only prerequisite is PSYC 100 and it is open to any major. The aim of PSYC 290x is to develop basic research skills and an understanding of the research process through hands-on experience, and additionally, to learn about a particular area under investigation. Students are expected to work a regular schedule of hours, in (and possibly outside of) the lab, and should expect to read published studies, perform a variety of tasks in the lab and interact regularly with other researchers. A reflective or empirical paper must be submitted at the end of the semester as part of the course grade. Students must identify a faculty mentor in order to register for PSYC 290x, and may enroll in 2 or 4 credits in one semester, continuing over multiple semesters, up to a maximum of 8 credits. Credits earned for 290x do not count toward the Psychology major or minor but do count toward graduation requirements. See here for more information and instructions for how to register for 290x. The forms are also available in SGM 501.
Psyc 490x allows students to conduct independent research under faculty direction. The prerequisites are PSYC 100, PSYC 274, and one additional psychology course. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is also required. Generally, a student will contribute to their 490x faculty mentor’s lab on a voluntary basis or while completing Psyc 290x before enrolling in 490x with that faculty member. Some students will design and conduct their own studies while enrolled in 490x. Others will work fairly independently on an ongoing research project in the lab, or prepare a significant literature review under the faculty member’s direction.
Students may enroll in 2 - 4 credits of PSYC 490x in one semester, continuing over multiple semesters, up to a maximum of 8 credits. Note that credits earned through completion of Psyc 490x may not be applied toward the 400-level course requirement for the psychology major. However, Psyc 490x may be applied toward the required, additional psychology course, either upper or lower division, of at least 2.67 units (max 4 units). See here for more information and instructions for how to register for 490x. The forms are also available in SGM 501.
The proposal form for PSYC 290x or PSYC 490x must be completed, submitted, reviewed, and approved by the department chair before the student is given permission to register. Students are responsible for registering for the class after the Undergraduate Advisor has given departmental permission (D-clearance).
How can I identify a Faculty Member to Supervise Research?
If you have specific interests in an area of psychology, you may use our website to identify faculty who might serve as appropriate mentors. The psychology site contains faculty profiles, listing research interests, summaries of the major themes examined by researchers in the department, as well as a handy guide of undergraduate research assistant opportunities.
Your course instructors and the department advisors can also serve as valuable resources. Meet with your professors in their office hours, tell them about your interests, and they’ll help you to find potential mentors.
Do not hesitate to ask for information or reach out via email or visit office hours of faculty members or graduate students. You may need to contact several people in order to find a good match.
Other Research Options
Beyond PSYC 490, there are many other possibilities to become part of a research project. For example, our honors program provides qualified students with intensive research supervision that culminates in a written thesis. In cooperation with the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, we also offer a number of research options. There are also broader university-wide research opportunities. You will also find that the Psychology Department faculty are flexible and open to exploring different avenues for partnerships with students.
- Department of Psychology
- University of Southern California
- SGM 501
- 3620 South McClintock Ave.
- Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
- Phone: (213) 740 - 2203