PSYCH-PHD - Psychology (PhD)
There are no specific course requirements for admission to the doctoral program. Nevertheless, an applicant should have prior research experience and the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. The Department of Psychology does not require the GRE for admission. The doctoral program’s primary focus is research training, and admission is highly selective.
In addition to fulfilling Stanford University requirements for the degree, the following departmental requirements are stipulated.
The Doctoral Training Program
A student typically concentrates in one of several areas within Psychology. Across all areas, the training program emphasizes the development of research competence, and students are encouraged to develop skills and attitudes appropriate to a career of continuing research productivity.
Two kinds of experience are necessary for this purpose. One is learning substantial amounts of theoretical, empirical, computational, and methods information. Several courses and seminars are provided to assist in this learning, and students are expected to construct a program in consultation with their advisor(s) to obtain this knowledge in the most stimulating and economical fashion.
A second aspect of training cannot be gained from the courses or seminars. This is first-hand knowledge of, and practical experience with, the methods of psychological investigation and study. Therefore, students are expected to spend half their time on research and take no more than ten units of coursework per quarter, beginning in the first quarter.
Students achieve competence in unique ways and at different rates. Students and advisors work together to plan a program leading to the objectives discussed above. For further information, contact the student services manager and refer to the Department Graduate Guide on the Psychology Department website.
The Stanford Psychology Department values a shared appreciation of the full range of approaches and research questions spanned by the department’s five areas. The department seeks to train scientists who are well-prepared to pursue careers that build on their training in any one of these areas and who can interact with researchers in other fields of Psychology. Therefore, students within each department area are expected to construct a program of study in consultation with their primary advisor that includes exposure to other areas in the department while also achieving sufficient depth within their area of specialization to prepare them for their next career stage after graduating.
Free Form Requisites
Professional Seminar Requirement
During the first quarter of graduate study, students must take course Professional Seminar for First-Year Ph.D. Graduate Students.
Core Course Requirement
Students must take four core courses, each from a different area of the Psychology department: Affective Science, Cognitive Science, Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology, as listed below. All core courses must be taken for a letter grade for three units and passed with a B- or better grade. Students are expected to complete four core courses by the end of the third year.
Consistent with the program’s goal of fostering breadth and engagement across all areas of the department, students are encouraged to take all five core courses spanning the five areas of the department. If a student takes five core courses, the units and grade of the fifth course are counted toward the student’s advanced units.
Foundations of Cognition
Classic and contemporary social psychology research
Mind, Culture, and Society
Students may be required by their advisors to take up to two additional graduate courses in their area of specialization. In these cases, the other courses are counted toward the advanced units requirement described below. Students should consult with their advisor about any additional requirements in their area of specialization.
Quantitative Methods Course Requirement
Students are required to take two of the following Quantitative Methods courses:
Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences
Advanced Statistical Modeling
At least one of these courses must be taken in the first year, and both should be completed by the end of the second year. Quantitative methods courses must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a B- or better grade.
In the case that a student has already taken similar graduate-level coursework, with the consent of the advisor, the student may petition to substitute an alternative course for one of the two required courses; for example, to take 252 and 253 but not 251, or to take 251 and another upper-division statistics course. Petitions must be submitted to the department’s student services office and approved by the department’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).
Students who did not take an undergraduate course in statistics should take PSYCH 10 (STATS 60) in the earliest possible quarter within the first year; this is a prerequisite to any graduate statistics course.
Advanced Units or Ph.D. Minor Requirement
Students must complete 12 units of advanced graduate coursework, referred to as advanced units (AU). Students earn AU by taking: (a) non-core graduate psychology courses and/or (b) graduate-level courses in other departments comparable in quality to graduate courses offered by the Psychology Department. If there is any question about the comparability of courses, the student should consult the advisor, student services, and, in some cases, the graduate program committee chair before taking the course.
Courses taken for a letter grade must receive a B- or better to count toward the advanced units requirement. Students may request to count up to 3 units of undergraduate-level coursework toward the AU requirement. The advisor should support the request, and the undergraduate course must be substantive and relevant to the student’s graduate research. Requests to count undergraduate-level coursework must be submitted to the student services manager and may be adjudicated by the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Graduate Program Committee.
A student may complete a PhD minor in another department instead of the advanced units requirement. Students pursuing a minor should register this decision with the student services manager.
Advanced units and/or PhD minors must be completed by the end of the fourth year. The department expects all decisions related to the AUs or the PhD minor to be made in close consultation with the student’s advisor.
The goals of the graduate program in the Stanford Psychology Department are twofold. First, it aims to develop researchers who are expert scholars in their dissertations. The program expects graduates to be fluent in theoretical foundations and debates, empirical findings, and methods of their respective fields. Second, it aims to guide and foster students’ development of an original research program that significantly advances knowledge in their specialization. Therefore, the research requirements, implemented in a series of milestones, are intended to help students obtain the necessary research experience, receive expert and constructive feedback from their primary advisor(s) and their committee, and ensure the successful completion of their dissertation research at the end of the program.
Students are expected to spend at least half of their time engaged in research from the beginning of the first year of graduate study to the completion of the PhD, taking no more than ten units of coursework each quarter.
First Year Project (FYP)
At the end of their first year of graduate study, students must submit a written report of their first-year research activities, called the First Year Project (FYP). This report should resemble a journal article in their area. It is written in consultation with their advisor. The FYP proposal is due at the end of autumn quarter. The final FYP is due on June 1 of the first year. First-year students must also work with their advisor to identify a second FYP reader (another Psychology faculty member) by the end of October in autumn quarter of the first year. Both the advisor and the second FYP reader are expected to read the FYP and provide the student with constructive feedback. It is recommended that students meet with their FYP readers in the summer of the first year to receive feedback.
Dissertation Reading Committee
Students are expected to form a research committee, including the dissertation reading committee, before initiating their dissertation research. The research committee includes the dissertation advisor and at least two additional faculty members, for three members, at least two of whom should have primary appointments in the Psychology Department. See Graduate Degrees for university guidelines for the composition of the dissertation reading committee.
Students must form the committee and submit the Dissertation Reading Committee form to the student services manager by February 1 of the third year.
Third-Year Committee Meeting and Research Plan
Students are required to meet with their committee annually beginning in their third year. For the annual committee meetings, if a member of the student’s regular committee is unavailable (e.g., on sabbatical), the student should recruit another department faculty member to attend instead.
Students must meet with their committee in winter or spring quarter of the third year no later than June 1. At least two weeks before this meeting, students must submit a 1-2 page research plan to the committee.
The third-year research plan, which is submitted to the committee, is a short (1-2 page) document containing a brief overview of the experiments that have been completed and the planned experiments. The research plan is due in winter or spring quarter of the third year and no later than two weeks before the committee meeting.
Third-Year Committee Meeting
The goal of the third-year committee meeting is for students to present their planned research and preliminary data and for the faculty to give students feedback on their research plan, feasibility, and progress. During the third-year committee meeting, students present and discuss with the committee:
Background and hypothesis being tested
Experiments and methods
Potential outcomes as well as pitfalls
After the committee meeting, students should submit the research plan to the student services manager and report the date the meeting took place.
Fourth-Year Committee Meeting and Research Plan
Students must meet with their committee in the fourth year in the autumn or winter quarter. At least two weeks before the meeting, they must submit their Area Review and Research Roadmap (ARRR) to their committee.
Area Review and Research Roadmap (ARRR):
This document has two parts:
Area Review: A manuscript written in the format of a review paper that summarizes current theories, debates, and empirical work in the area of the dissertation, which ultimately leads to the open questions that will be answered in the dissertation. The goal of writing this document is to enable the students to organize and develop scholarly knowledge relevant to their dissertation research. This document could serve as the basis for the introduction to the dissertation and/or a basis for a review paper. The department expects that this section will be the bulk of the ARRR. It expects students to consult with their advisor on this document’s scope and receive feedback from their committee during the fourth-year meeting.
Research Roadmap: This section is short (1-2 pages) and contains a brief overview of the experiments that will be part of the dissertation. Given that this document is written during the fourth year, some of the experiments are expected to be completed, while others are planned/ongoing.
Fourth-Year Committee Meeting
The goal of the fourth-year committee meeting is for students to present their research progress and receive feedback from the committee members on the ARRR. The department expects the presentation to start with a review of the relevant work but focus on the research progress. During the meeting, students present and discuss with the committee:
Background and hypothesis being tests
Experiments and methods
Planned experiments toward dissertation completion
After the committee meeting, students should submit the ARRR to the student services manager and report the date the meeting took place.
Note: Students admitted before 2018-19 may choose to use the prior milestone documents (the Dissertation Proposal and Conceptual Analysis of Dissertation Area) instead of the ARRR. This decision should be registered with the student services manager. Refer to the Stanford Bulletin from your entering year for details about these prior requirements.
Fifth-Year Committee Meeting and Beyond
The department expects that students complete their Oral Exam by the end of the fifth year. Thus, typically, the Oral Exam replaces the fifth-year committee meeting. However, if a student defers the Oral Exam, they are expected to meet with their committee before June 1 of the fifth year to give an update on ongoing research progress and receive feedback. The same applies to the sixth year and so on. After each committee meeting, students should report to the student services manager when the committee meeting occurred.
In the Department of Psychology, the Oral Examination is a dissertation defense. A 5-member committee is formed to review the oral examination. This committee includes the dissertation reading committee, an additional faculty member, and one oral examination committee chair from outside the Psychology department.
The oral examination consists of a 45-minute public presentation to the department of the completed dissertation research, followed by a 10-15 minute period of open questions and answers. Parents and friends are welcome to attend. Following the presentation, the student and the committee convene for a closed part of the oral exam. Each committee member asks the PhD candidate questions regarding their PhD research. After the closed session, the candidate leaves the room, the committee discusses the outcome of the exam, and members anonymously vote on whether the candidate passed the oral exam. Per university policy, the total duration of both parts of the oral examination should be less than three hours.
Per university policy, the candidate must complete a dissertation satisfactory to the dissertation reading committee. Typically, the candidate will submit the dissertation to the reading committee two weeks before the oral examination. Minor revisions to formatting may be made after the oral examination. It is allowable by university policy to have a single additional writing quarter after the defense to finalize the dissertation. The dissertation must be approved and signed by each member of the dissertation reading committee.
Students must complete their oral examination and submit their dissertation before their candidate status expires at the end of the seventh year (per university policy, candidacy status is granted at the end of year 2, and students have five years of candidacy in which to complete all requirements). See Graduate Degrees for more information. The Department will review petitions for a more extended candidacy period on a case-by-case basis.
The department views experience in supervised teaching as an integral part of its graduate program. Regardless of their financial support source, all students must participate in at least five quarters of teaching experience during their graduate study.
Of these five teaching quarters, students are required to apply for 2 of the quarters providing teaching support to a service course, either two quarters of course Introduction to Psychology or two quarters of a core statistics course: course Introduction to Statistical Methods: Precalculus, course Experimental Methods, course Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences, and/or course Advanced Statistical Modeling. Students report whether they prefer the PSYCH 1 or the stats path (or neutral) in their first year.
Introduction to Psychology
Introduction to Statistical Methods: Precalculus
Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences
Advanced Statistical Modeling
Students are prohibited from teaching during the first year of graduate study. Students typically progress from closely supervised teaching to more independent teaching. Some students may be invited to offer a supervised, but essentially independent, seminar during their final year of graduate study.