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Research

Students in any program offered by the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour can participate in research. There are 3 types of research opportunities, including: 

  • A Library Study or Inquiry Project, in which students investigate and critique an existing body of empirical literature.
  • Independent Research, in which students work on an authentic research project.
  • A thesis is a culminating and comprehensive research project that runs from September through April. 

Click on the categories below to learn about these opportunities in your specific program. 

Expandable List

Library Studies and Inquiry Projects are completed under the supervision of a faculty member. In consultation with the faculty member, students choose a topic of their interest and investigate primary literature related to that topic. All library study students are required to submit a final project at the end of term. Typical assessments include literature reviews, systematic reviews, critiques, and research proposals. Students may also attend lab meetings, colloquia, or participate in other research-related activities. 

Application Process: Students wishing to complete a Library Study or Inquiry Project should email potential supervisors 6-12 months before the term in which the course will be taken (e.g., email supervisors in January for a September PNB 3Q03). Once a supervisor has agreed to take you as a student, please complete the appropriate Permission Form and submit it to Dr. Ellen MacLellan for approval at least 30 days prior to the start of the course (i.e., August 1st for Fall term, December 1st for Winter term, April 1st for Spring/Summer term). 

Internal Supervisors
External Supervisors

  Course  Permission Form  Submit to 
PNB or Combined PNB Program  PNB 3Q03 Independent Library Project

PNB 4Q03 Independent Library Project 

Form Link

From Link (Spring/Summer)

Dr. Ellen MacLellan (pnbia@mcmaster.ca) 
Neuroscience Program  None N/A N/A
Applied Psychology in Human Behaviour  HUMBEHV 3IP3 A/B S – Inquiry Project

HUMBEHV 4IP3 A/B S – Senior Inquiry Project 

Form Link

Form Link (Spring/Summer)

Dr. Ellen MacLellan (pnbia@mcmaster.ca) 

Independent research is conducted in a faculty member’s laboratory.  Students completing independent research may carry out their own research projects, or they may contribute to a larger research study. Independent research may include any or all of the following activities: identifying research questions and designing a research study, reading and critically evaluating literature, programming, collecting data using a variety of research methods, analyzing research data, and communicating results. All independent research students must submit a final project at the end of term. 

Application Process: Students wishing to complete independent research should email potential supervisors 6-12 months before the term in which the course will be taken (e.g., email supervisors in January for a September PNB 3QQ3). Level II students will learn about PNB 2QQ3 opportunities in PNB 2XT0. Once a supervisor has agreed to take you as a student, please complete the appropriate Permission Form and submit it to the designated person for approval at least 30 days prior to the start of the course (i.e., August 1st for Fall term, December 1st for Winter term, April 1st for Spring/Summer term).

Internal Supervisors
External Supervisors

Course  Permission Form  Submit to 
PNB or Combined PNB Program  PNB 2QQ3 A/B SIntroductory Independent Research

PNB 3QQ3/ 3QM3 A/B S – Intermediate Independent Research 

PNB 4QQ3 A/B S – Senior Independent Research 

PNB 4QQ6 A/B – Senior Independent Research 

Form Link (Fall/Winter)

Form Link (Spring/Summer)

Dr. Ellen MacLellan (pnbia@mcmaster.ca) 
Neuroscience Program 

 *topical areas include cellular/molecular neuroscience (BB), systems/circuits neuroscience (CC), or behavioural/cognitive neuroscience (DD) 

NEUROSCI 2BB3, 2CC3, 2DD3 – Research Practicum 

NEUROSCI 3BB3, 3CC3, 3DD3 – Individual Lab Study 

NEUROSCI 3BB6, 3CC6, 3DD6 – Individual Lab Study 

2BB3, 2CC3, 2DD3 Research Practicum Application 

3BB3, 3CC3, 3DD3 Individual Lab Study Application 

3BB6, 3CC6, 3DD6 Individual Lab Study Application

Dr. Nick Bock (bockn@mcmaster.ca) 
Applied Psychology in Human Behaviour  HUMBEHV 4RP6 – Independent Research Project  Form Link (Fall/Winter)

Form Link (Spring/Summer)

Dr. Ellen MacLellan (pnbia@mcmaster.ca 
What is a thesis? 

A thesis is a research project that is completed in a student’s final year of undergraduate study. Typically, a thesis is a year-long (September-April) project that is taken under the supervision of a faculty researcher.  A thesis student may work independently on their own research question, or they may work in a team on a larger research question. In most cases, thesis students participate in all aspects of a research project, from project conceptualization and design to data collection, analysis, and presentation. All thesis students are required to submit a final manuscript, which is basically a long research paper with an introduction, methods, results and discussion. 

A thesis is considered a capstone experience, which is a multifaceted assignment that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students. In a capstone experience, students bring together knowledge and skills that they’ve acquired throughout their undergraduate study together on a final piece of work. Capstone projects are designed to encourage students to think critically, solve challenging problems, and demonstrate mastery of skills such as communication, research, statistics, self-sufficiency, and teamwork. 

Why should you complete a thesis? 

A senior thesis is an excellent opportunity for any undergraduate student seeking to develop their research, writing, interpersonal, and project management skills.  A thesis can be a particularly valuable experience for students interested in pursuing research-based master’s programs.  An undergraduate thesis is like a mini master’s project, so by completing an honours thesis students can evaluate whether they are suited for a career in research. Working with a faculty supervisor is also a great way to develop your network and build professional relationships that might help you in your future career. 

An undergraduate thesis is not required for many professional programs, including medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, public health, and many more (however, please check the admission requirements for the programs to which you are applying, just to be sure!). Therefore, you should not enroll in a thesis in an effort to enter one of these programs.  A thesis is a big commitment – 15 hours of work per week for 9 units of credit – so you should pursue this experience only if you’re interested in developing your research skills. 

Most programs offered by the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour do not require students to complete a thesis. (Only students in the BioPNB program are required to complete a thesis.) A thesis is one of several capstone experiences available to students in PNB, PNB Mental Health, PNB Music Cognition and Neuroscience.  Students are encouraged to consider their academic strengths and career aspirations when enrolling in level IV courses. For example, students considering careers in public health, social services, or health policy may be interested in completing a Semester at CityLAB, where students work with staff from the City of Hamilton to co-create and design real-world projects.  

Students in the PNB, PNB Mental Health, and PNB Music Cognition programs are eligible but not required to complete a thesis. Students in the BioPNB program are required to complete a thesis in either the Biology or PNB Department. Students in PNB and Combined PNB programs can register in PNB 4D06 A/B Senior Thesis or PNB 4D09 A/B Senior Honours Thesis. 

For PNB 4D06 and PNB 4D09:

Step 1 (September 2023): Explore potential supervisors by reviewing faculty profiles on department, lab, and McMaster Expert websites. Visit the following links for a list of internal and external supervisors accepting students in 2024-2025. Review the Letter of Intent and prepare all necessary materials for submission in October. 

Step 2 (October 18th, 2023 at 3:00pm in PC 205A): Learn about different research opportunities and get to know faculty members by attending PNB’s Research Info Session (optional). 

Step 3 (by October 20th, 2023 at 4:00pm): Indicate your interest in completing a fourth-year thesis by completing and submitting a Letter of Intent by October 20th at 4:00pm.   

Step 4 (Late October through December 2023): Internal PNB supervisors will send out interview invites and will host interviews during this time period. External faculty members may choose to interview on a different timeline. If you do not hear from a supervisor by November 30th, you have not been selected for an interview. 

Step 5 (End of January to April 30th, 2024): Interview results will be shared by January 31st, 2024 (or Feb 1st). Once you have found a supervisor, please complete the PNB Thesis Application/Permission Form and submit it to the Undergraduate Administrative Assistant (pnb@mcmaster.ca) for final approval by the Thesis Course Coordinator. The PNB Thesis Permission Form is due by April 30th, 2024. 

For NEUROSCI 4L12 and NEUROSCI 4L09

Students in the Neuroscience program are eligible (but not required) to complete an Honours Thesis. Neuroscience students can enroll in either NEUROSCI 4L12 or NEUROSCI 4L09.  

Students should consider reaching out to potential faculty supervisors in Fall or early Winter of level III. 

After securing a supervisor, please complete the Thesis Application/Permission Form and submit it to Director of the Neuroscience Program Steering Committee, Dr. Nick Bock (bockn@mcmaster.ca), for approval. The Thesis Application/Permission Form must be submitted at least one month prior to the start of the Fall term (i.e., August 1st). 

For Applied Psychology in Human Behaviour Programs

There is no thesis option for students in the Applied Psychology in Human Behaviour program. Applied Psychology in Human Behaviour students who are interested in pursuing research are encouraged to complete an Independent Research Project (HUMBEHV 4PR6 A/B – Independent Research Project). For information on how to apply, please visit Applied Psychology in Human Behaviour independent research.