2024-2025 Graduate Course Catalog 
    Jul 21, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Course Catalog

Social Psychology, PhD

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Laura V. Machia, Ph.D.
430 Huntington Hall


Sara E. Burke, Ph.D., Jennifer Clarke, Ph.D., Brett K. Jakubiak, Ph.D., Jessie Joyce, Ph.D., Laura V. Machia, Ph.D., Leonard S. Newman, Ph.D., Jeewon Oh, Ph.D., and Zahra Vahedi, Ph.D.

Program Description:

Since its creation in 1924, the program has embraced research as a central focus for the training of social psychologists. We train students with the skills necessary to function as applied or research scientists within one or more of the many sub-domains of social psychology. Our program explicitly adopts multidisciplinary themes to create a unique graduate training experience. The central focus of the social psychology program is the scholarship of the causes, consequences, and/or remediation of social challenges. Students are encouraged to pursue specific research interests that complement this broad programmatic theme.

Student Learning Outcomes

1) Demonstrate broad knowledge of the field of social psychology and a deep understanding of its basic principles - Examine the causes, consequences, and/or remediation of social challenges

2) Conduct reviews of the social psychology literature and integrate/synthesize that literature

3) Design and conduct systematic research of important challenges facing society

4) Utilize classic and contemporary quantitative methods to conduct statistical analysis for their research

5) Present research by means of poster presentations and/or talks at professional conferences

6) Follow ethical guidelines of the American Psychological Association

7) Demonstrate expertise as a psychology instructor

Program Requirements

Consistent with the general goal of the program, students are strongly encouraged to become involved in research at an early point in their training by participating in faculty research projects and by carrying out individual research under the guidance of faculty members. Accordingly, all students obtain extensive training in research methods, both within a classroom setting and in actual research practice. Students are required to take 90 credits of coursework and complete a series of Milestones.

Required Coursework

The courses offered in the program consist of intensive exposure to the prominent theories and methods in social psychology. 

Conceptual Core (15 credit hours)

Department Core (9 credit hours)

An additional 9 credit hours of PSY courses outside of social psychology. These courses should be selected in consultation with the advisor to optimize the student’s training.

Methods Core (minimum of 9 credit hours)

Dissertation (18 credits)

Independent Research or Other Courses

Students chose additional courses to complete the minimum 90 credits for the PhD. Students are encouraged to work closely with one or more faculty members in a research program and to develop a program of research. Research is reflected in courses including PSY 997, 690, or 990. Students should take courses that strengthen their training. Electives should be selected in consultation with the advisor. We strongly recommend students select electives that will further their statistical or methodological skills.

Total Credits Required (90 credits)


In addition to the required coursework, all students must complete the following milestones:

  • Give a research presentation at Brownbag during the first year.
  • All students are required to complete a Masters. Students who completed a Master’s thesis elsewhere may petition for that thesis to satisfy this requirement.
  • Successfully pass a Qualifying Examination.
  • Successfully complete a dissertation

Optional Concentrations

Please keep the “triple dipping rule” in mind as you consider the following optional programs to complement your MA and PhD programs.

The triple dipping rule - Per university policy (link: http://coursecatalog.syr.edu/content.php?catoid=25&navoid=3251#34-0), specific courses/credits can be counted toward up to two (but no more than two) graduate programs or degree. The courses listed in the Program of Study for the Master’s in Psychology count towards the PhD in Social Psychology.

Concentration in Neuroscience (optional)

In addition, students are expected to:

Present at least one special seminar and participate in other research days organized or sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program during your tenure as a student.

Attend program-sponsored seminars given by outside speakers, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty.

Concentration in Advanced Quantitative Methods in Psychology (optional)

The program has two goals. First, students will receive training in a wide range of advanced statistics or quantitative methods. Such breadth assures that students have maximum flexibility in designing a curriculum that best fits their individual career goals. Second, the program emphasizes competence in the application of knowledge and analytic skills acquired through coursework to students’ own research.  Together these will help promote the pursuit of high-quality research and research-focused careers in academic and non-academic settings.

Requirements (part a)

12 credit hours of coursework focusing on statistical or quantitative methods at the 500-level or above. Select from these courses:

Requirements (part b)

An approved empirical research product demonstrating competence in the use of an advanced statistical or quantitative method.

A research product that demonstrates competence in the use of an advanced statistical or quantitative method may include one of the following options:

(b-1) submitting a manuscript based on empirical research using an advanced statistical or quantitative method for peer review, or

(b-2) successfully defending a thesis, qualifying exam, or dissertation using an advanced statistical or quantitative method. Specific statistical or quantitative methods on which the product is based may be different from those in the student’s elective coursework or desired specialization areas in psychology.

To confirm that this requirement is met, the student must

  1. submit to the committee a two-paragraph description about at the initiation of the project or proposal of the milestone: indicate the advanced statistical or quantitative method to be used in their project, along with a statement that the student alone will conduct the advanced statistical or quantitative method analysis. The committee will indicate if the proposal is sufficient for this requirement.
  2. After the completion of the project, the committee must review and approve the final product along with a short statement confirming that they conducted the advanced statistical or quantitative method.


The program is strongly committed to the recruitment of individuals from diverse backgrounds.  Applications are considered for the fall term only, and the deadline for receipt of the completed application is December 1. Only full-time students are considered for admission. 

The admissions committee consists of social psychology area faculty members. This committee makes decisions on the admission of applicants to graduate school; students who have or will soon complete either bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and who qualify in the judgment of this committee are admitted. To make this judgment, the committee considers a candidate’s complete application and whether the research interests of this student matches with a member of the faculty.

Financial Support

The department makes a determined effort to offer each student who is in good standing financial support in the form of a stipend and tuition remission. Stipends may stem from several sources including, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Outstanding students are placed into competition for University-wide fellowships. In addition, students are encouraged to apply for available external funding.

Satisfactory Progress

Students’ progress is reviewed by the program faculty each year. The requirements for satisfactory progress are as follows:

(a) Academic or course-related requirements. Students should make progress toward completing their coursework.  A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, exclusive of independent study courses, is required to maintain good standing with regard to GPA. In addition, students are required to earn a grade of B or better in all required courses.

(b) Research

Students are expected to actively participate in a research group, demonstrate the ability to function independently in all phases of the research process, and make timely progress toward completion of research requirements.

Deadlines for Research milestones (note that these are deadlines, but we recommend earlier completion of defenses):

  • a research presentation at Brownbag by May 30 of the first year
  • successfully defending the master’s thesis by May 15 of the third year
  • submitting a first attempt at passing the qualifying examination by August 15 of the third year (successfully passing the qualifying examination by August 15 of the fourth year)
  • successfully defending the doctoral dissertation in time to submit by the Graduate School deadline for an August graduation of fifth year.

c) Professional Development

Students are expected to develop professional skills and materials in preparation for a scientific career, broadly speaking. 

In addition, all students who receive department funding as a Teaching Assistant will be evaluated each semester by the faculty member assigned to the course. Each student’s overall performance will be assessed (e.g., teaching effort and performance, attendance, meeting deadlines, following course guidelines and policies, professionalism, etc.). In addition, if the TA assignment includes teaching, the faculty member may conduct an in-class observation to evaluate each student’s teaching skills and individualized feedback will be provided. It is expected that a student’s overall performance each semester, as assessed by the faculty member assigned to the course, will meet or exceed expectations in order for a student to remain in good standing in the program. 

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