Capstone

During their final year at Yale-NUS, Psychology majors work closely with one or more faculty members on an independent piece of scholarly work, the capstone. This project involves designing, conducting, and reporting original research with the goal of adding to our understanding of a specific psychological effect. Although empirical work is strongly encouraged, other approaches to the capstone will be considered on a case by case basis.

Further details about the capstone process can be found in the sections below. The following links should also prove useful as you prepare for and complete your capstone.

 

General preparation

By the beginning of their final year, every student should aim to have taken Statistics and Research Methods for Psychology (YSS2216) as well as at least one laboratory course. These courses provide vital preparation for developing and analysing psychology experiments. As previous students can attest, it is far better to take such courses before embarking on a capstone!

 

Identification of project and supervisor

Students are responsible for corresponding with members of the psychology faculty in order to identify potential supervisors and topics for the capstone project.  The Head of Studies will then ask for student preferences, collate them, and assign supervisors in consultation with the Psychology faculty. Ideally, this process will be complete by the summer before Year 4, though some matches may be finalised at the beginning of Year 4 itself.

 

Range of topics and formats

All capstone projects in psychology must have a substantial empirical component that involves data collection by the student. The collection of original data is strongly encouraged, though other approaches may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Any topic in psychology that is agreeable to the student and supervisor can be selected for a capstone project.

 

Expectations for student and supervisor interactions

Early in the capstone process, students and supervisors should explicitly discuss their expectations of each other and the project’s development. Meetings should occur at least twice per month to discuss progress and challenges. Supervisors can also comment on drafts, though no more than two rounds of comments should be expected for any given section of writing. The mutual understanding of the capstone topic and supervision style will then be recorded on the capstone proposal form (found here).

 

Research ethics

Each capstone relies on data collection from human participants. As such, it is crucial to seek and obtain clearance for data collection and use procedures, as well as to conduct research in a safe and ethical fashion (see the College guidelines here).

There are generally two options available to students to obtain research ethics clearance, which should be discussed with their supervisor and/or members of the Yale-NUS Undergraduate Research Ethics Committee. Note that each route requires time (on the order of weeks, and sometimes months), so plan ahead!

  1. Apply for clearance through the Yale-NUS Undergraduate Research Ethics Committee. This route usually takes several weeks, and it is only possible for projects that entail minimal risk to participants.
    If the project involves more than minimal risk, the student will be asked to submit an application directly to the NUS Institutional Review Board (IRB) for review. Note that all IRB applications require the supervisor to be listed as the Principal Investigator (PI). The NUS IRB typically takes at least 2-3 months to review and approve applications.
  2. Complete the capstone project under a faculty member’s approved IRB application. This route will likely require an amendment to an existing protocol to include the student’s procedures.

Regardless of the route, each student must undergo the stipulated ethical training, receive clearance before starting any research with human participants, and then conduct that research ethically.

CITI

The CITI is a free internationally-recognised online course that will guide you through the principles of research. It will take a fair amount of time to complete, but is transferable across labs and institutions.

  1. Register at https://www.citiprogram.org/
  2. Follow registration steps.
    • Select “National University of Singapore” for Institution.
    • You can use any email address to register.
    • Click ‘No’ to Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits.
  3. Under “Select Curriculum”:
    • If you intend to conduct behavioural experiments (non-fMRI), select the ‘Social & Behavioral Research’ options in Q1 and Q3.
    • If you intend to conduct fMRI experiments, select the ‘Biomedical Research’ options in Q1 and Q3.
  4. When you reach the Course page, complete all the required modules.
  5. Save the certificate of completion.

 

Capstone cohort activities

Unlike many other majors, Psychology does not include a formal capstone course. Students meet with the capstone coordinator and other faculty roughly 4-6 times per semester to present ideas, discuss findings, and troubleshoot challenges. The schedule will be determined by the capstone coordinator.

 

Format of capstone report

The final product should be in the range of 8,000 to 10,000 words and formatted as if for a typical psychology journal article. The report should include an abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion along with a bibliography. The thesis should use formatting guidelines from the APA and use APA conventions for statistics, citations, and references.

 

Assessment

The capstone project includes assessment of four components:

  • A write-up of the question, background literature, proposed methods, and proposed analytical approach. Due at the end of semester 1. (10% of final grade.)
  • A presentation during the capstone “course” during semester 2. (10% of final grade.)
  • The capstone supervisor’s assessment of the process, including independence, resourcefulness, creativity, and navigation of challenges. (10% of final grade.)
  • The thesis itself, which accounts for 70% of the overall grade. All theses will be graded by both the supervisor and one additional psychology faculty member.

Note that there may be minor deviations from these guidelines as needed. The Psychology capstone coordinator will announce any such changes as they arise.