Directed Studies courses make it possible for one or more students to work under the guidance of a faculty member on a reading or research project of mutual interest.  Directed Studies courses are not to duplicate material covered in other Psychology courses, and should contain an element of originality.  Ideally, the course should be based on some issue associated with a topic rather than simply a survey of a topic.


Reasons a student might wish to pursue directed studies courses include:

  • To follow a reading or research project in an area not covered in any of the other Psychology courses.
  • To develop research interests.
  • To gain practical experience of, and involvement in, psychological research.
  • To gain practical experience of, and involvement in, delivering services of a psychological nature (ie. practicum in a psychiatric facility).
  • To attempt to obtain publications as an undergraduate.
  • To continue a well developed project begun in another course.

Three primary approaches are recognized:

  • An extensive literature review of an issue.  The review will be a thorough examination of an issue and include a critical analysis of theory and empirical work, as appropriate.  The student will submit drafts of his/her work for comment and feedback by the advisor at selected times throughout the semester.
  • A series of related short papers, where the student explores different aspects of an issue, or a series of highly related issues.  As with the first approach, critical analysis is an important component of the work done.  This approach may be considered as an advanced level specialist course.
  • A research project, where the student has a substantial responsibility for, or input into, the literature review, research design, collection and analysis of data, and final research paper.

Department Head's permission. A declared major or extended minor in Psychology recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who qualifies for Directed Studies?

Ordinarily, only students who are declared major or extended minors in Psychology are allowed to enrol in Directed Studies, but exceptions may be made for students who have adequate background and a strong proposal.  Psychology majors are limited to 8 credits of Directed Studies, and are strongly discouraged for doing more than one Directed Studies course with the same instructor.  Psychology extended minors are limited to 3 credits of Directed Studies.  To succeed in a Directed Studies course, students must be organized, motivated, and able to work independently.


How do I enrol in Directed Studies?

The student will usually begin with at least an area of interest for the Directed Studies course, and then find a faculty member who share the interest and is willing to supervise a project.  This may require some negotiation between the student and the faculty supervisor to settle on an issue that is of interest to both and of adequate scope for a Directed Studies project.  The student is expected to have considerable input in the development of the project, but should be aware that not all projects will find a willing supervisor.  The project then needs to be approved by the Head of the Psychology Department before the student can register.


Due dates for drafts or milestones in the development of the paper or project and times for advisor-student meetings are to be agreed at the beginning of the semester.  Students will be required to fill out the Directed Studies Contract Form and hand it in person to Tracy Porter
Student Responsibilities

The student will carry the bulk of the work associated with the project, and a sufficient amount of work must be performed to justify the credit given.  Normally this will be in the order of 3 hours per week for each credit.  That is, for 3 credits, the student would work for at least 9 hours per week on the project.  This time may include the time spent in weekly (or, minimally, bi-weekly) meetings with the faculty supervisor.  Some form of substantial written report on the material covered in the course must be submitted (ie. literature review, essay, research report or journal submission, or annotated bibliography).


Throughout the semester, the student must attend scheduled meetings, meet agreed deadlines for handing in work completed, and keep the faculty supervisor apprised of any changes anticipated or problems encountered.  The project, under normal circumstances, will be completed within one semester, and the final product(s) will be turned in for grading by the end of the term.

The Faculty Supervisor's Responsibilities

Although the student is primarily responsible for design and completion of the paper of project undertaken, the supervisor must ensure she/he has sufficient resources to appropriately supervise the student.  This includes having some familiarity with the subject area, availability to attend weekly or bi-weekly meetings, and time for the close reading and provision of feedback for the pre-completion submissions of work and for reviewing some of the literature provided by the student.


It is important that students not be used as unpaid research assistant; instead, the Directed Studies course must be devoted to advancing the student's knowledge (and, optimally, the supervisor's as well).  It is highly recommended that the supervisor provide a formal interim grade approximately two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through the semester.

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