Curriculum

Ph.D. Concentration in Developmental Psychology

The developmental psychology concentration emphasizes the collaboration of full-time faculty members and graduate students on research projects, as well as traditional classroom instruction.

Students in the developmental psychology concentration typically take 50 to 60 credits beyond their bachelor’s degree. Graduate classes in psychological sciences are typically seminar courses with enrollments ranging from three to 15 students. Students ordinarily take two or three courses and work on a research project each semester.

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must take and pass a General Examination, usually during their third year of graduate study, and must write and successfully defend a dissertation. Most students require four to five years to complete the work for the Ph.D. degree. Prior to completing the Ph.D. General Examination, students receive a master’s degree based on a research project and a successfully defended thesis.


Coursework

Students must take a number of content courses as well as research credits throughout their career at the University. A listing of departmental courses can be found in the UConn Graduate Catalog.

Required Core Developmental Courses

All developmental students must take at least five of the developmental courses listed below.

  • PSYC 5410. Advanced Developmental Psychology
  • PSYC 5420. Cognitive Development
  • PSYC 5425. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
  • PSYC 5440. Development of Language
  • PSYC 5450. Infancy & the Effects of Early Experience
  • PSYC 5460. Social & Personality Development
  • PSYC 5470. Developmental Systems

Students may also substitute one of the above courses with another developmental-related course from another division or department if they obtain permission before. Examples of substitute courses include:

  • PSYC 5445/COGS 5140. Neurobiology of Language: Typical and Atypical Cognition and Language Development
  • PSYC 5424/COGS 5150. Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Across the Lifespan

Quantitative Research Courses

All developmental students must take the following statistics sequence (completed usually in the fall and spring of the first year).

  • PSYC 5104. Foundations of Research in the Psychological Sciences I
  • PSYC 5105. Foundations of Research in the Psychological Sciences II

Breadth Courses

In order to expand the student’s knowledge beyond their specific area of study, a minimum of 9 credits (typically three courses) of graduate work outside the student’s concentration is required. Usually, any graduate class outside the student’s concentration or the Department will count as breadth. There are a few additional restrictions, including:

  • The intro stats sequence (PSYC 5104 & PSYC 5105) may not be used to fill the breadth requirement.
  • No more than two quantitative courses, defined as courses that count for the Graduate Certificate Program in Quantitative Research Methods, may be used for breadth.
  • No more than one breadth course may be taken with any one instructor, aside from the following classes: a course in grant writing; PSYC 5100, 5140, 5285; COGS 5001.
  • Three credit hours of PSYC 5801 taken with a faculty member outside the student’s Division will meet Department breadth requirements as one course. However, the Head of that faculty member’s Division must consent to this.
  • Upper-level undergraduate classes in other departments and other courses may be considered for breadth on a case-by-case basis.
  • Courses in other departments that are cross-listed as PSYC courses will not count towards the departmental breadth requirement if the PSYC version of the course is in the student’s concentration, even if the student registers for the course under the external department course number.
  • Students entering the program with a master’s from a different (Psychology or non-Psychology) department or concentration may have up to 6 breadth credits waived (up to two classes).

Research Credits

The University requires that graduate students enroll in a certain number of research credits every semester to track the students’ research progress. Most of the research credits are taken under the student’s Major Advisor, except for courses listed under GRAD. GRAD courses have no advisor.

Students should take the following credits every semester they are enrolled in the program:

  • PSYC 5400. Research Seminar in Developmental Psychology (Developmental Brownbag)
  • PSYC 5499. Research Team, Developmental Psychology
  • PSYC 5800. Research in Psychology or PSYC 5801: Independent Study in Psychology

Students should complete a total of 9 credits of the following before defending the master’s thesis:

  • GRAD 5950. Master’s Thesis Research
  • GRAD 5960. Full-Time Master’s Research — only enroll if you do not hold an RA or TA position and you are not taking any other courses.

Students should complete a total of 15 credits of the following before defending the dissertation:

  • GRAD 6950. Doctoral Dissertation Research
  • GRAD 6960. Full-Time Doctoral Research — only enroll if you do not hold an RA or TA position and you are not taking any other courses.
  • GRAD 5950, 5960, 6950, and 6960 can be taken any semester for anywhere from 1 to 9 credits.

Academic Milestones

The following information supplements the Ph.D. program sequence with information specific to students in the developmental psychology concentration.

Masters: Timeline & Plan of Study

Timeline: Students should complete a masters project by the end of their third year.

Plan of Study: The Graduate School requires that a MS Plan of Study.pdf form, signed by all members of the MS Advisory Committee, be submitted to the Registrar's Office (with original signatures) and a copy to the Psych Graduate Program Coordinator. The Plan of Study lists 30 credits which include 9 credits of GRAD 5950 and 21 credits of coursework. For complete details on Content and Research Credit requirements for the MS, please visit the Course Requirements page. Only list the minimum required 30 credits, as you will need the remaining credits for your PhD Plan of Study (courses can only be listed on either the MS or PhD Plan of Study).

Masters: Committee, Thesis & Defense

Thesis Committee: Your major advisor, another advisor from the developmental psychology concentration, and a third advisor from a different program or department. You may have additional advisors if you prefer. You are encouraged to discuss with your advisor the best time to form the committee and who best to ask to serve on the committee

Thesis Format: There is no formal requirement (e.g., min. page length) for the thesis format. You are encouraged to discuss with your advisor the appropriate format, structure and length. Students are encouraged to look at masters theses from previous graduate students in the department and the program to guide formatting and structure. All theses are posted on the Digital Commons and are available to all students.

Thesis Proposal: No formal proposal is required, although students are encouraged to discuss their masters project with all members of their committee prior to the defense.

Thesis Defense: Meet with your advisory committee to establish the details for your MS oral defense as well as schedule a room. Email the Psych Graduate Program Coordinator two weeks in advance of your oral defense date with the date, time, location, room number, advisor name, and working copy of your thesis.

The defense will consist of approximately a 30-minute talk where you will present your research project. Then, you will answer questions from the audience and your committee about it.

Document submission: Before you submit your thesis to the Registrar's Office make sure you have completed all the guidelines regarding formatting proposals. The Graduate School gives some specifications on the required formatting.

Submit the following forms to the Registrar's Office and the Psychological Sciences Graduate Program Coordinator at the time of your thesis submission in Digital Commons:

Doctoral Plan of Study

Plan of Study: The Graduate School requires that a Doctor of Philosophy Plan of Study form, signed by all members of the Dissertation Advisory Committee, be submitted to the Registrar's Office (with original signatures) and a copy to the Psychological Sciences Graduate Program Coordinator.

Plan of Study Content: The Plan of Study lists 30 credits which include:

  • 15 credits of GRAD 6950 or 6960.
  • 15 credits of Ph.D. content coursework (a combination of division-specific requirements and breadth courses; see this page for more details). Content courses listed in the Masters plan of study cannot be listed on the Doctoral plan of study.
  • The intro stats sequence (PSYC 5104 and PSYC 5105). The intro stats sequence should be listed under the "Related Area" section on the Plan of Study.

Plan of Study Submission Timeline: The Doctoral Plan of Study form should be completed and submitted when not more than 18 credits of coursework for the degree have been completed.

Doctoral General Examination: Timeline & Overview

Timeline: It is recommended that the process begin after February 1 of the student’s third year, and be completed by August 31 of the same year (seven months). However, the process allows for some flexibility, and students should consult with their primary advisor and committee to develop their specific timeline.

Overview: Before admission to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, the student must pass a preliminary (or “comprehensive”) examination in the field of concentration and related fields. This examination will test the student's mastery of a broad field of knowledge, not merely the formal course work completed. Passing the exam is typically accompanied by a stipend increase as they go from Graduate Assistant Level II to Level III.
Students will prepare two literature reviews on topics likely to be related to their dissertation topic, or any area that the student is considering for a dissertation topic. The student’s faculty committee will evaluate the proposal and papers. Students should meet with committee members to share their ideas and receive initial feedback (e.g., whether the proposed topic is of appropriate scope) prior to drafting the proposal.

Evaluation: The examination will be evaluated at one of three levels as determined by the committee:

  • Passed at the Doctor of Philosophy Level: The student has passed the examination at a high level by meeting all expectations (B- or above) on both papers. This is the expected outcome for most students.
  • Failure at the Doctor of Philosophy Level, Option to Revise the paper: The student does not pass at a high level, but is given an opportunity to revise the papers. If the papers are sufficient in many respects, but have a few notable deficiencies that are relatively straightforward to address, then the option to revise will be considered.
  • Failure at the Doctor of Philosophy Level: The papers are deficient in many ways and/or severely so. The student does not pass, and will not be advanced to candidacy for the doctoral degree.

Doctoral General Examination: Committee, Proposal, Document, Defense

Committee: Your major advisor, another advisor from the Developmental Program, a third advisor from a different program or department. You may have additional advisors if you prefer. IMPORTANT: in addition to the three faculty members on your General Examination Advisory committee, a minimum of two additional faculty members must also be present for the defense.

Proposal: A written proposal containing the questions being addressed in each review, and a detailed outline of each review will be approved by the committee by one month before you begin writing the papers. The proposals should be approximately 1000-1500 words in length. Two lists of references should be provided:

  • Approximately 10-20 “Completed Readings” should be listed to demonstrate that the student has begun reading the relevant literature (not included in word count).
  • “Intended Readings” should include about 20-40 additional references that the student intends to consider for the final paper.

These numbers are merely rough guidelines that will vary with the student’s current mastery of the literature, and the final paper is not limited to these references. The faculty will evaluate the appropriateness of the scope and content of each paper, with an eye toward guiding the student to a manageable balance of breadth and depth. The faculty will also determine whether there is too much overlap between the topics/content of the two reviews.

The proposal is not defended orally, although students are encouraged to meet with their committee to receive feedback and discuss ideas.

Document preparation: The student is expected to write the two review papers, styled similarly to papers published in Frontiers, Psychological Bulletin, Psychology Review, etc. Each paper should be approximately 8,000-10,000 words (roughly 20 pages), not including references. These estimates are meant as rough guidelines; the faculty will be looking at whether the substantive goals are achieved and not counting words. In both papers, students will need to demonstrate the following:

  • Mastery of the relevant literature.
  • An ability to critically analyze and synthesize previous research, rather than simply reviewing/listing. Students should freely offer their personal evaluation of the existing research, candidly and constructively describing its merits, shortcomings, etc. Remember that this exercise is intended to assist you in developing and refining the direction of your future research, including informing the topic and scope of your dissertation question.
  • An ability to clearly connect method/data and theory.

Defense: The faculty will have the opportunity to ask students questions about the papers and topics in an oral defense. The student will briefly summarize each review in a 10-minute presentation, followed by a discussion with the faculty. The written documents must be submitted to the faculty at least two weeks before the oral defense unless otherwise agreed upon by all committee members in advance. Failure to meet this deadline will require the cancellation and rescheduling of the defense.

Document submission: Once the preliminary exam is completed, submit the Report on the General Examination for the Doctoral Degree to the Registrar's Office and a copy to the Psych Graduate Program Coordinator.

After the General Exam has been approved by The Graduate School, please inform the Department’s Administrative Manager.

Doctoral Dissertation Timeline

Timeline: Students should complete their dissertation sometime between their fifth and seventh year.

  • At least six months before graduation: Your proposal should be defended and submitted to the Graduate School. Your Plan of Study should be approved and submitted to the Graduate School.
  • By the fourth week of the semester you plan to graduate: Apply for graduation.
  • Four weeks before the dissertation defense: download the Dissertation Tentative Approval Page and begin to complete it.
  • Two weeks before the dissertation defense: Email the Psychological Sciences Graduate Program Coordinator with the date, time, location, room number, advisor name, and working copy of your dissertation. Submit the Dissertation Tentative Approval Page to the Registrar's Office and a copy to the Psychology Graduate Program Coordinator. This form is to confirm that the advisory committee has been consulted and tentatively approved the dissertation pending the results of the oral defense. Also, announce your oral defense in the University Events Calendar following these instructions.
  • One week before the dissertation defense: Complete and submit the Dissertation Defense Signature form to the Psychological Sciences Graduate Program Coordinator only. This form indicates your dissertation examiners and solidifies that all members involved will be present at the Ph.D. defense.

Doctoral Dissertation Committee, Proposal, Defense, & Document Submission

Committee: Your major advisor, another advisor from the developmental psychology concentration, and a third advisor from a different concentration or department. One of the associate advisors can be from another concentration in the Department or, with proper qualifications, may be from another department in the University or from outside the University. You must have a minimum of three advisors that qualify these requirements. You will also need two Dissertation Proposal Reviewers outside of your advisory committee.

Proposal: You will work with your major advisor and your committee to determine the format for your proposal. Think of this document as a contract between you and your committee about the requirements you need to reach in order to be awarded a doctoral degree. Requirements for the proposal from The Graduate School include:

  1. A dissertation proposal cover sheet, which outlines the requirements below.
  2. The completed and signed Dissertation Proposal Approval form.pdf (with a copy attached of current IRB approval for human subjects and/or IACUC approval for animal subjects to be used in the research).
  3. An accurate title.
  4. A concise statement which includes:
    1. the purpose, importance, and novelty of the study
    2. methods and techniques to be used
    3. availability and location of research facilities
    4. a statement concerning the use of any human or animal subjects that are involved in the research
  5. A selected bibliography.

The proposal is to be as brief as possible without sacrificing completeness, and should follow the guidelines set forth by the program or by your academic advisor. Please limit appendices and other attachments to those that are essential. Proposals of unnecessary length are discouraged since reviewers lack the time to read them.

You will defend your proposal orally in a closed defense, which means only your committee will be in attendance. Once your proposal and any revisions have been accepted, submit the above documents to the Associate Head for Graduate Studies for final Departmental approval and signature. After receiving final approval by the Associate Head for Graduate Studies, submit the original form to the Registrar's Office and submit a copy to the Psychology Graduate Program Coordinator.

Document preparation:
Students are encouraged to look at dissertations from previous graduate students in the Department and the concentration to guide formatting and structure. All theses are posted on the Open Commons and are available to all students.

Defense: Meet with your advisory committee to establish the details for your oral defense.

Once you have passed your defense, make sure to get the Report on the Final Exam for Doctoral Degree form signed by all advisors and reviewers. Submit the form to the Registrar's Office (with official signatures) and a copy to the Psychological Sciences Graduate Program Coordinator.

Document submission: Before submitting your dissertation to the Registrar's Office, check that all requirements for formatting have been completed. Detailed information regarding format guidelines can be accessed on the Registrar's Doctoral Dissertation Preparation Specifications web page.

One of the required documents on the Dissertation Submission Checklist is the confirmation of the electronic submission of the Survey of Earned Doctorates. All research-based graduate students are required to complete the survey online. Please read it carefully and complete it accurately.

Complete and submit your Dissertation Submission Checklist to the Registrar's Office and a copy to the Psychology Graduate Program Coordinator.

Note: If you hold a Graduate Assistantship you will not be able to submit the Dissertation Submission Checklist until the absolute last day to hand in paperwork. However you can submit your dissertation to the Digital Commons prior to that date.