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Path to Degree

Critical Social/ Personality Psychology

Path to Degree:

First Year

Much of a student’s time during the first year is devoted to required course work—the core integrated courses in Theoretical and Historical Foundations of Social/Personality Psychology, Research Lab, Research Methods & Design, Statistics, and Current Issues in Social/Personality. Students also are involved in research. Students are encouraged to participate in research apprenticeships, such as working with faculty advisors on some aspect of their current research; and, in the second semester, the formulation of a question and initial literature review for the Second Year Research Project. Students also participate in other events including Program Meetings, Program Committees, and gatherings with other programs.
During the first year, the student is assigned a faculty advisor who helps the student become socialized into formal and informal aspects of the program. During the first year, the advisor helps the student explore the research and publications of all the other faculty members in preparation for the student’s decision to pick/select a research mentor at the end of the 2nd semester of the student’s first year. In some instances, a student may declare that his/her 1st year advisor is the person she/he wants to be his research mentor. Once selected, the student’s research mentor is the student’s primary advocate and performs all advising and mentoring functions.
Students in the first year can participate in research groups, enroll in an elective course, take one or more of the research modules, and participate in a subcommittee (e.g., Executive, Brown Bag, Admissions, House, Social, Web).
During the spring of the first year, students are provided guidelines/instructions for the Program’s First Doctoral Examination. With the assistance of their advisors, students begin preparing their conceptual examination during the spring term. Students submit their final examination about mid-June between their first and second years.

Beyond the First Year
There is great variation in students' interests, intellectual goals,  research projects, concurrent activities. and life demands. All these lead to variation among students in actual time required to complete the Ph.D. The Program in Critical Social/Personality is designed so that it is possible to graduate within five years, although most students take six or seven years. Throughout your time at the GC, students are expected to participate fully in the life of the program, volunteer for committee work, and present his/her work in some public event. In some cases more time is needed, for example, when the dissertation involves collecting longitudinal data or if the student is adding extra courses as part of an interdisciplinary concentration or certificate program. In other cases, such as those for students who have completed some course work at other institutions, the schedule of requirements may be shortened. Students work with advisors and mentors to establish and maintain the schedule that is best for them. What is important is that there are specified goals and a plan to achieve them. Also, students need adhere to the university-wide requirement that the CUNY Ph.D. is completed no later than 8 years after matriculation
 Students follow a sequence such as:
First Year: Core required courses; Participation in Brown Bag Seminars, Program Meetings; Collaborative research with faculty

Second Year: Course work and participation in Brown Bags and Program Meetings; Design, conduct and write-up Second-Year Research Project; Advancement to Level II (this comes with successful completion of the First Doctoral Examination and 45 course credits, and brings a reduction in tuition -- see University Handbook for details)

Third Year: Course work and participation in Brown Bags and Program Meetings; Continued involvement in research; Write and defend the Second Doctoral Examination early in the Third Year

Fourth Year: Continued participation in program activities and optional course work; Submission of Dissertation Topic Proposal; Advancement to Level III (the comes with the completion of all course work, the approval of the Dissertation Topic, and it brings a reduction in tuition -- see University Handbook for details); Write and defend dissertation proposal Dissertation research

Fifth Year and Beyond:  Complete and defend Dissertation.
Your life at the Graduate Center happens in classrooms but also in faculty offices, over coffee with friends, on committees, in brown bags, on email with international visiting scholars and through a series of academic milestones designed to scaffold your development as a scholar. These three milestones are:
Log Project - First semester of first year
The Logs are completed in the first semester of the first year that students are in the program. It is a project that is worked on for a required lab course that supplements the Theoretical and Historical Foundations of Social/Personality Psychology I core course taken concurrently. This project involves looking at a decade of the students' choosing and tracking developments and other happenings within social/personality psychology, another scholarly discipline or social/personality psychology outside of the United States, and one other area of interest alongside each other. Journals are kept over the course of the logs development in order to reflect on the research process and keep track of how and what elements are included or eliminated from the timeline that the log creates. These logs are developed over the course of the first semester in the lab and are presented at the beginning of the second semester to the program.

First Doctoral Exam - Second semester into summer of first year
This milestone is a paper that is begun as a part of a required lab course.  It involves analytic writing about a concept of each student’s choosing in social/personality psychology from the field’s beginning, moving forward in time, depicting its development, critical turning points, and evolving methodological approaches in research. An original source for the concept is chosen (a book or article where the concept first appeared) and then five additional sources that depict the concept's advancement through time are chosen as the sources to be discussed in the paper. Ordinarily completed in June of the first year in the program, To remain in good standing in the program, students must successfully complete the First Doctoral Examination no later than the end of their second year in the program.
Second-Year Project - Second semester of first year to beginning of third year
The Second Year Project is an opportunity for students to conduct their own research before getting to the dissertation stage. Some Second-Year Research Projects are part of larger ongoing research projects conducted with faculty. Thinking about this project typically begins in the second semester of the students' first year with students ranging in their start-times of actual research for it. Some collect data for it during the summer between their first and second years, while others collect the data during their second year. While the research, data collection, data analysis, and/or writing of the project is being done, students attend a required weekly Second Year Project seminar with their cohort. This seminar acts as a space for students and a professor to talk and support each other on their projects as they do them.  
Second Doctoral Exam - Third year to beginning of fourth year
This is a critical literature review that is typically begun after the second-year project is completed (first semester of the students' third year) and should be completed within the next eight months (i.e., the beginning of students' fourth year). Course electives, participation in research groups, and research involvement on faculty projects often frame the topic of the Second Doctoral Examination and even the Dissertation. For some students, the second doctoral paper becomes the literature review for the dissertation. For others the Second Doctoral Exam serves as a broader review of a topic that leads the student to a more specific question and literature for their dissertation, and for other students it bears no relationship to their dissertation research.
For their Second Doctoral Examination, Social/Personality Psychology students have the option of taking the examination as originally conceived (Option I) or have a second option of preparing and taking an oral examination (Option II):
Option I - The second doctoral examination is a review paper that poses a conceptual or methodological research question in a topic area. In the attempt to answer that question, it reviews the literatures relevant to that question, and suggests new directions for future research and revisions of a particular theory or theories relevant to the topic.
Option II - Oral Examination: Students will select two areas of scholarship within the field of social/personality psychology and generate a reading list for each in consultation with a faculty committee of three GC doctoral faculty chosen by the students. The Chair must be a member of the Social/Personality Doctoral faculty.
Dissertation – Fourth year to program completion
Soon after completion of the Second Doctoral Examination, students prepare a brief proposal of a dissertation topic. If all other requirements are in place, the student is then advanced to Level III and candidacy. The next step is the preparation of the formal Dissertation Proposal and the selection of a three-member Dissertation Committee. The composition of the Dissertation Committee is of utmost importance and thus worth considerable reflection and consultation between the student and primary advisor. Ideally, the Dissertation Committee is Chaired by the student’s intellectual mentor, who may change at this point, as well as two other faculty whose expertise complement those of the Chair and also provide necessary methodological support. If you would like to invite a scholar to be a member of your dissertation committee who is not on the GC Psychology doctoral faculty, you may petition to include this person, specifying his/her area of expertise and submitting a copy of his/her CV to the Executive Office.
The Dissertation Proposal must be approved by the three member faculty Dissertation Committee. Following this preliminary approval, the document is presented and discussed at a meeting of the student and her/his full Committee, which then confers formal approval of the Dissertation Proposal when they deem it ready.  After the Dissertation Proposal is approved, the student must apply to the Graduate Center Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval to conduct the proposed research, which must be granted before the student begins the dissertation research.
The student is then launched into the actual doing and writing of the dissertation. When a final draft is approved by all three members of the Dissertation Committee and Evaluation Approval forms are submitted, it is then sent for review to two outside faculty readers. A date for a Dissertation Hearing or Exam is set. At that meeting, the student presents her/his work and responds to questions posed by all the readers. At the end of the meeting, the Dissertation may be approved as is, or the student may be asked to make additional changes in the document. When all is finally approved, the student files the Dissertation with the Dissertation Librarian for the Graduate School.
Course Requirements: Advancing Through the Program
The Critical Social/Personality Psychology program requires that a minimum of 60 credits be completed, through a combination of required and elective Ph.D. level courses (i.e., 700 and 800 level courses). [1] A grade of B or better must be obtained in all required courses. These credits are apportioned as follows:

  1. 29 credits for the following required courses:
    • Theoretical and Historical Foundations of Social/Personality Psychology (3 credits)
    • A second theoretical course in social theory, environmental theory, or contemporary social psychology (3 credits), such as Comparative Participatory Democracy and Social Movements or Critical Psychology: History, Theory and Methods of a Tradition, among others
    • Research Methods and Ethics (3 credits)
    • A course in advanced qualitative methods (3 credits), such as Methods of Qualitative Research II or qualitative Methods Modules, among others
    • A course in advanced quantitative methods (3 credits), such as Psychometric Methods or Hierarchical Linear Models, among others
    • Statistical Methods in Psychology I & II (two semesters, 6 credits)
    • Critical Psychology Lab (two semesters, 2 credits)
    • Second Year Research Seminar I and II  (two semesters, 6 credits)
    • Current Issues in Psychology (5 semesters, 0 credits)
  2. 9 credits must be obtained through elective courses offered by the Program (or co-listed with the Program)
  3. Remaining credits for course work may be taken in any psychology area or related discipline (e.g., sociology) with the approval of the student's advisor. Social psychology and related courses may also be taken as part CUNY’s consortial arrangement with other universities in New York City.
Although individual schedules may vary due to transfer credits and other circumstances, an example course progression is as follows:
First year, first semester:
  • Theoretical and Historical Foundations of Social/Personality Psychology
  • Research Methods and Ethics
  • Statistical Methods in Psychology I
  • Critical Psychology Lab I
  • Current Issues in Psychology
First year, second semester:
  • Statistical Methods in Psychology II
  • Critical Psychology Research Lab II
  • A second theoretical course in social theory, environmental theory, or contemporary social psychology
  • An elective
  • Current Issues in Psychology
Second year:
  • Second Year Research Seminar I and II (two semesters)
  • One qualitative and/or one quantitative methods course (one of each is required). [2]
  • Current Issues in Psychology (two semesters)
  • Electives
Third year:
  • Any remaining required courses
  • Electives
            Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy. Students must have completed the following to fulfill all requirements for advancement:
  1. have taken and received a grade of “passed” on their first and second doctoral examination
  2. have taken and “passed” with a “B-“ or better grade, Statistics I, Statistics II, and Methods and ethics
  3. have completed 60 credits.
  4. have submitted an approved ‘Topic Proposal Form’
            Degree Requirements. Students must have completed the following to fulfill all requirements for final doctoral degree:
  1. A full-time [3] course of study for each semester of enrollment
  2. At least 60 credits of approved graduate work, of which at least 30 must be taken in residence.
  3. Demonstrated competence in research skills shown through completion of two semesters of statistics with a grade of B or better in each semester
  4. First and Second Doctoral Examinations in the chosen discipline
  5. Completion of a Second Year Research Project
  6. Completed and approved Dissertation
Updated: 12/30/14

[1] Students with the Graduate Center Fellowship should also check the requirements of their award for any additional requirements.
[2]This is a recommendation; students may also take these courses in their first or third year.
[3}Full time status can be maintained for the purposes of financial aid, fellowships, and other requirements, by advanced students through the use of non-credit bearing weighted instructional units (WIU’s), alongside of course credits. WIU’s are noted on the registration form for research, teaching, exam preparation, and other activities relevant to training.