Brescia. The Psychology Student s Handbook







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Psych @ Brescia

The Psychology Student’s Handbook



The scientific study of behaviour.

If there are topics that you think should be included in this handbook, please let me know and they will be considered for inclusion in a subsequent version.

My email address is

Prepared by

Dr. John Mitchell, “Dr. John”, Department of Psychology,

Brescia University College, London, ON, CANADA

Affiliated with the University of Western Ontario


Table of Contents

Psychology Modules . . . 3

Which Module is Right for Me? . . . 3

The Modules . . . 3

Minor is Psychology . . . 3

Major in Psychology . . . 4

Honours Specialization in Psychology . . . 4

Specialization in Psychology . . . 5

An Honours Degree . . . 5

Psychology Courses . . . 6

Course Groups . . . 6

How to Read a Course Number . . . 7

Course Selection . . . 7

Math . . . 8

The Honours Thesis . . . 9

What is the Honours Thesis Course? . . . 9

How to Find an Advisor . . . 9

When to look for an advisor . . . 10

How to Register in the Thesis Course . . . 10

Illustrative Schedule . . . 10

What Can I Do with a Degree in Psychology? . . . 11

Going on in Psychology . . . 12

Clinical Psychology . . . 12

Experimental Psychology ……… 12

Counselling Psychology ……….. 12

Other Graduate Programs ……… 13

Graduate School in Psychology ………. 13

Finding a Graduate School ……….. 13

Application Deadlines ……….. 14

Funding ………. 14

Graduate School Applications ……… 14

An Honours Thesis ……….. 15

Graduate Record Exams, the GREs ………. 15

GRE Scores ……… 16

When to write the GREs ……… 16

How to Prepare for the GREs ……… 16

Reference Letters ………. 17

Undergraduate Transcript ……… 18

Statement of Interests ……….. 18

What About Experience? ……… 21

Competition ………. 21

Closing Comments ……… 22


Psychology Modules

Which Module is Right for Me?

Psychology Minor? Major? Honours Specialization? Which module is most appropriate for you will depend on your career plans and what options you want to have available when you finish your undergraduate degree.

The Major is most appropriate for students who want a strong background in psychology but who do not intend to pursue psychology as a career. The Psychology Major is appropriate for students who plan on careers in education, business, law, medicine, the health sciences or social work. The Psychology Major also provides sufficient background to meet application

requirements for programs in counselling psychology (but not clinical psychology).

If you plan to teach at the secondary school level, you may end up taking a Psychology Minor

rather than a Major because of the need to have two teachable subjects. It is simply difficult to construct a degree with primary and secondary teachables and add a Psychology Major. Do not count on psychology as a teachable subject even though there are a few large urban secondary schools that offer a psychology course. The Minor is also of interest to students who want to take a group of psychology courses, but whose main interests are within other academic disciplines.

The Honours Specialization is most appropriate for students who plan to pursue psychology as a career. The Honours Specialization includes more psychology courses than the Major and also includes an Honours Thesis in fourth year (see the section about the Honours Thesis). If you plan to apply to a Psychology Graduate Program in Canada or the U.S., you need to do an Honours Thesis. You would be eligible to apply to some psychology graduate programs with a Major in Psychology, but without the research and writing experience of an Honours Thesis you will be at a disadvantage. If you plan to pursue psychology in graduate school, do the Honours Specialization.

According to University Senate regulations concerning graduation requirements for an Honours degree, the Honours Specialization module must be completed with a minimum cumulative average of 70%, a minimum mark of 60% in each course of the module, and a pass in all

optional courses. Any additional Major or Minor modules taken with the Honours Specialization must be completed with a minimum cumulative average of 60% and you must have a minimum overall average of 65%.

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The Modules


Admission Requirements

Completion of first-year requirements, including 1.0 course in Psychology at the 1000 level with a mark of at least 60%


0.5 course in Psychology numbered 2100-2299.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 2300-2799.

3.0 additional courses in Psychology at the 2000 level or above (Psychology 2990A/B



Admission Requirements

Completion of first-year requirements, including a course in Psychology at the 1000 level with a mark of at least 60%.


6.0 courses:

2.0 courses normally taken in second year: Psychology 2800E, 2885.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 2100-2299.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 2300-2799.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 3100-3299.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 3300-3799.

2.0 courses in Psychology at the 2100 level or above (Psychology 2990A/B is


Note: Students who may wish to enter the Honours Specialization or Specialization modules in

Psychology should take Writing 2101F/G.


Enrolment in this module is limited. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee that students wishing to transfer into this module will be offered enrolment. Priority will be given to students already registered at Brescia.

Admission Requirements

Completion of first-year requirements with no failures and a minimum cumulative average of 65%. Students must have an average of at least 70% in 3.0 principal courses, including the following psychology and mathematics courses, plus 1.0 additional course, with no mark in these principal courses below 60%:

1.0 course in Psychology at the 1000 level.

1.0 course from: Mathematics 1228A/B and Statistical Sciences 1024A/B

(recommended); Mathematics 1225A/B, 1228A/B, 1229A/B (Math 1228A/B and 1229A/B preferred), the former Mathematics 030 or 031; Mathematics 0110A/B, Calculus 1000A/B, 1301A/B, 1501A/B, Linear Algebra 1600A/B.

Note: If Mathematics 0110A/B is selected, then either Statistical Sciences

1024A/B or Mathematics 1228A/B must be taken.


9.0 courses:

1.0 course: Psychology 2800E.

1.0 course from: Psychology 2810, 2885.


0.5 course in Psychology numbered 2300-2799.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 3100-3299.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 3300-3799.

0.5 course: Psychology 3800F/G.

0.5 course from: Writing 1020F/G, 2101F/G.

1.0 additional course in Psychology at the 2100 level or above.

2.0 additional courses in Psychology at the 3000 level or above.

1.0 course: Psychology 4842E.


Admission Requirements

Completion of first-year requirements, including the following 2.0 courses with a mark of at least 60%:

1.0 course in Psychology at the 1000 level.

1.0 course from: Mathematics 1228A/B and Statistical Sciences 1024A/B

(recommended); Mathematics 1225A/B, 1228A/B, 1229A/B (Math 1228A/B and 1229A/B preferred), the former Mathematics 030 or 031; Mathematics 0110A/B, Calculus 1000A/B, 1301A/B, 1501A/B, Linear Algebra 1600A/B.

Note: If Mathematics 0110A/B is selected, then either Statistical Sciences

1024A/B or Mathematics 1228A/B must be taken.


9.0 courses:

1.0 course Psychology 2800E.

1.0 course Psychology 2810 or 2885.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 2100-2299.

0.5 course in Psychology numbered 2300-2799.

0.5 course Psychology 2990A/B.

0.5 course from: Writing 1020F/G or 2101F/G.

5.0 additional courses in Psychology at the 2000 level or above.

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An Honours Degree

If you successfully complete the Honours Specialization in Psychology, you will receive an Honours B.A. You can also receive an Honours B.A. if you complete a Double Major with a minimum cumulative average of 70% in each Major, no mark less than 60% in the courses of the Majors, a passing grade in all optional courses, and a minimum overall average of 65%. See the Academic Calendar or talk to an Academic Advisor for details on module and graduation requirements.


required, admission to these programs is competitive. An Honours degree may or may not help, depending on the program, but it will never hurt your application.

Note that an “Honours degree” and “Honours Psychology” usually mean different things. You will be awarded an Honours degree if you do an Honours Specialization or a Double Major and meet the criteria outlined above. If the graduate or professional program specifies that an Honours degree is required or recommended, an Honours B.A. with either an Honours

Specialization or a Double Major will meet this requirement. Psychology Graduate programs, on the other hand, may specify “Honours Psychology (or equivalent)”. In this context “Honours Psychology” is intended to mean the number of courses contained in our Honours Specialization and, more importantly, completion of an Honours Thesis in psychology.

If you plan to continue your education and professional training after your undergraduate degree you should consider completing an Honours degree. If you plan on a career in business,

education, health sciences, law, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and related programs this can be with a Double Major. If you plan to go on in psychology, do the Honours Specialization.

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Psychology Courses Course Groups

The psychology degree modules specify courses from three different ranges: x100 – x299 (i.e., 100’s and 200’s), x300 – x799 (i.e., 300’s through 700’s), and x800 – x889 (the 800’s).

Courses from the x100 to x299 range (100’s and 200’s) are courses in psychology as a natural science. These include courses such as Cognitive Psychology (Psych 2135A/B), Biological Basis of Behaviour (Psych 2210A/B), and Evolutionary Psychology (Psych 3229A/B).

Courses from the x300 to x799 range (300 through 700) are courses in psychology as a social science. This range includes courses such as Clinical Psychology (Psych 2301A/B),

Developmental Psychology (Psych 2410A/B), and Social Psychology (Psych 2720A/B). Within this range, each of the specialty areas of psychology as a social science has its own number. Courses numbered in the 300’s are Clinical Psychology courses, the 400’s are Developmental Psychology, the 500’s are Personality, the 600’s Educational Psychology and the 700’s Social Psychology.

The 800 courses are research and statistics courses. The Brescia courses in this range are Research Methods (Psych 2800E), Ethics in Psychology (Psych 2814F/G), Psychological Measurement and Statistics (Psych 2885), Advanced Statistics Using Computers (Psych 3800F/G), and the Honours Thesis in Psychology (Psych 4842E).

Thus, in specifying courses from these different ranges, the module requirements are really that you have a certain number of courses in psychology as a natural science, a certain number of courses in psychology as a social science, and courses in research methods and statistics.


How to Read a Course Number

All course numbers are four digits, followed in some cases by a letter suffix. If you see a three digit course number, that is the old numbering system. All courses at UWO were changed from three digits to four digits for the 2008 academic year.

The first (left-most) digit is course level. A 1000 level course is a first year course. A 2000 is considered a second year course and usually has a 1000 level course as a prerequisite, although some courses in the low 2000’s do not have any prerequisites. Although 2000 level courses are considered second year courses, students can also take 2000 level courses in their third and fourth years, depending on module requirements and other courses taken. The 3000 and 4000 courses are upper level, third and fourth year, courses. Courses at the 3000 and 4000 level either have a second year (2000) course as a prerequisite or require registration in the third or fourth year of a degree module.

The second digit is area within psychology, as discussed under Course Groups, above.

The third and fourth digits are course specific and differentiate that course from related courses. The course suffix describes the course as an essay course (E, F, G) or a non-essay course (A, B) and as a full (1.0 credits) or half (0.5 credits) course. Half courses are identified by A/B (half course, not essay) or by F/G (half course, essay). A full year essay course has an “E” suffix. If there is no letter after the course number, it is a full year, non-essay course.

For example, for the course Psych 3209F/G the numbers mean:

3: third year, upper level course; expect a 2000-level prerequisite 2: Psychology as a natural science

09: course specific number, differentiates this course from other third year, psychology as a natural science courses

F/G: half course (0.5 credits), designated essay course.

Course Selection

Once you have taken Psych 1000 and decided to do a module in psychology you will have a wide range of courses from which to choose. Courses such as Research Methods and Statistics are required, but you will have a lot of choice for your other courses.

With a few exceptions, there is a 2000-level course corresponding to each chapter in your Intro Psych textbook. For example, in the Intro Psych textbook Chapter 3 is Biological Foundations of Behaviour and the 2000-level course follow-up is Psych 2210A/B, Introduction to the Biological Basis of Behaviour; for Chapter 11, Development Over the Life Span, there is Psych 2410A/B, Developmental Psychology, and for Chapter 14, Treatment of Psychological

Disorders, there is Psych 2301A/B, Clinical Psychology. Which parts of Intro Psych did you find the most interesting? Use your experience in Intro Psych to help with your course selection.

Psychology 2880E (Research Methods) and 2885 (Statistics) are usually taken during second year. If you are doing the Psychology Major, however, it is not a problem to leave one of these courses to your third year. If you are doing the Honours Specialization in Psychology, you should take these courses together during your second year.


Not all psychology courses are offered every year. In order to offer a wide range of courses and with the number of psychology professors at Brescia, it is necessary to offer some courses only alternate years. For example, if you want to take the Psychology of Persuasion (Psych 3721F/G) and it is not listed in the timetable, you may have to wait until next year. This also means that if you are in third year and a course you want to take is being offered, you may need to take it that year – it may not be available the following year. If you have any questions about whether a course will be offered, it is best to ask a psychology professor. Information on what courses will be offered is developed within the department and is not forwarded to the

Registrar’s Office until they need that information. This means that members of the academic departments – your professors – should have information about future course offerings before the Registrar or our Academic Advisors. Departments typically have at least tentative lists of course offerings for the next three to five years. Core courses such as Research Methods, Statistics, and the Honours Thesis are always offered every year.

Essay courses and minimal writing requirements. You should now that there are specific university regulations on minimal required writing in an essay course. For example, any half year essay course (an F or G course) numbered 2000 or higher requires a minimum of 2500 words in the essay component. According to UWO regulations, students must meet the writing requirement of an essay course to pass the course. You should also note that many non-essay courses have a writing component. If it is a non-essay course that means a minimum amount of writing is not required by university regulations but can be part of the course evaluation scheme at the discretion of the instructor.

Plan ahead with your course selection. When considering courses for your second and third years, you should look into the courses you want to take during your fourth year. What

prerequisites do those courses have? It is very discouraging to arrive in fourth year and discover that you do not have the necessary prerequisite for a course that you really want to take. Make sure that prerequisites are in place.

As your interests develop and you gain experience in psychology, upper-level courses of interest will become apparent. For example, if you develop an interest in developmental psychology and enjoy the course Developmental Psychology (Psych 2410A/B), that will lead to appropriate upper-level courses such as The Exceptional Child (Psych 3434E) and Cognitive Development (Psych 3410F/G). It is worth talking to your psychology prof about courses. If you were interested in their course, ask if there are any related courses or any courses that would expand on the one you found interesting.


If you want to do the Honours Specialization in Psychology you need 1.0 university-level math credits. The Brescia Psychology Major does not require a university-level math course, but the Psychology Major on main campus does so if you are doing a Psychology Major and transfer to main campus you will need 1.0 math credits.

The Honours Specialization in Psychology module has an intimidating list of acceptable math courses, but which math to take is actually quite simple: It must be a math course numbered 1000 or higher with the single exception that Math 0110A/B is acceptable if it is combined with either


Stats 1024A/B or Math 1228A/B. Which math course you take will be determined by which high school math courses you have. Take the math course numbered 1000 or higher that is appropriate for your high school math. If you have high school math courses that allow you a choice of university math courses, take the math that you expect to do the best in and that fits the best in your timetable. Stats 1024A/B and Math 1228A/B is a recommended combination.

Psychology is the science of human behaviour and as a science research plays a central role. The math requirement in the Honours Specialization is one of the components that help to provide important training in the ability to think quantitatively and analytically, training that is important in the pursuit of science.

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The Honours Thesis What is the Honours Thesis Course?

The Honours Thesis course will be unlike any other course that you take during your

undergraduate career. In the Honours Thesis course you, with a faculty advisor, will design, conduct, analyze, and report on an original research project. You will produce an Honours Thesis, an archival work; there are copies of past Brescia Honours Theses in the Beryl Ivey Library. Students find doing an Honours thesis both challenging and very rewarding. You will develop your research question because it is a topic that interests you. You then spend an entire academic year investigating that question using library research and the existing literature, and through your own original research study. It is intellectually very rewarding to have the opportunity to go into that depth with an issue of personal interest.

In developing your research question and then conducting your research you will work closely with your thesis advisor. The thesis advisor is usually a psychology professor at Brescia, but it can be a qualified professional from outside of Brescia. There is no mechanism for arranging an off-campus thesis advisor. If this is something that interests you, you will need to arrange it and have it approved by the department.

In the thesis course, there are periodic meetings of all of the thesis students to discuss matters relevant to all, such as the procedures for ethics review. All of the thesis students meet together with the thesis course coordinator approximately once a month. You will also meet individually with your thesis advisor. Most students meet with their advisor, on average, once a week. During some parts of the year, such as when you are developing your research hypothesis or analyzing your data, you may meet with your advisor several times a week. During other parts of the year, such as when you are testing participants and collecting your data, you and your advisor may meet only a few times a month. This is left up to the individual advisor and student. Most of the time you will be working independently as you read, conduct your research, and write. An illustrative schedule for the thesis course is shown below.


During the winter of your third year you should meet with different psychology faculty to discuss your Honours thesis. You want to find a thesis advisor that satisfies two criteria: 1. it is someone you feel comfortable working with, and 2. it is someone with appropriate expertise. You will be working with your thesis advisor throughout your fourth year, you will be

discussing, weekly or even twice weekly, issues related to your thesis project, they will be reviewing and commenting on multiple drafts of your thesis, and so on. Is this someone you feel that you can work with? If so, do they have sufficient expertise in your area of interest? To truly function as an advisor requires considerable expertise. Most professors are very reluctant to take on an advisory role in an area too far outside of their specialty because they simply will not be able to provide the type of direction that is needed. From the student’s perspective, an advisor with appropriate expertise is much more useful. An advisor with appropriate expertise will be familiar with the methodologies, measurement tools and statistical procedures used in that area of research, they will know the current issues and can help direct your reading. It can, for

example, take many hours in the library to find a good measurement tool, such as an appropriate, validated questionnaire. If you and your advisor share interests and they have appropriate

expertise, they can save you those hours of searching and frustration because they will know where to find that questionnaire; they may even have a copy in their filing cabinet.

The best way to find the right advisor for you is to meet with individual faculty members to discuss your interests. Faculty members will not expect you to start with a specific research project in mind. The more specifically you can discuss your areas of interest the better, but no one expects a student to come to an initial meeting with a research proposal. I have had very successful initial meetings with students who have come with surprisingly specific and well articulated research questions and equally successful meetings with students who have come with only general ideas and vaguely stated research interests. You need to be able to discuss your interests in sufficient detail to allow you and the potential advisor to judge the suitability of your collaboration. You should talk to most if not all of the Psychology professors about your thesis to find the best fit.

When to Look for an Advisor

You should arrange to meet potential thesis advisors beginning in mid to late January of your third year. Faculty members are unlikely to make specific commitments prior to reading week in February. If, however, you wait until the end of term the prof you most want to work with will very likely say, “Sorry, I already have committed to as many students as I can take next year”.

How to Register in the Thesis Course

You cannot register in the Honours Thesis course yourself. Registration in the thesis course is done for you by your thesis advisor. You should contact your thesis advisor during the summer before your fourth year to confirm that you will be doing your thesis and have your advisor enroll you in the thesis course.

Illustrative Schedule


• September: develop your idea, moving from general idea to research hypothesis. • Late September to mid October: develop your methods.

• Mid to late October: Ethics Protocol due, ethics review. • Mid to late fall: Research Proposal Poster (date may change)

• November: literature review, write Introduction, revisions to Ethics Protocol if required. • Late November: Introduction due.

• January and February: Testing participants, data collection.

• Early to mid March: data analysis, writing (expect multiple drafts). • Early April: Final written thesis due.

• April Exam Period: Thesis Conference.

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What Can I Do with a Degree in Psychology?

An undergraduate degree in Psychology is appropriate and popular background for entering Education, Medicine, Law, Social Work or Business programs.

The following list is a sample of some of the careers pursued by students who have graduated from UWO with a degree in Psychology. Note that some careers require additional training (e.g., graduate training).

Job Analyst Rehabilitation Advisor

Music/Art Therapist Public Information Officer

Government* Program Manager Employee Counselor Probation Officer Educational


Teacher Child Care Worker Health Policy Planner Case Worker School Psychologist Industrial


Group Home Coordinator Occupational

Therapist Psychometrist Clinical Psychologist Speech Therapist Counselling


Employment Recruiter

Human Resources Specialist

Test Development Manager

Market Research Analyst

Crisis Intervention Labour Relations Specialist

Behaviour Analyst *Government: Includes municipal, provincial and federal government positions requiring program directors, research analysts, policy consultants, managers. Some of the federal government departments that have psychology graduates include: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, Correctional Services Canada, Health Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs, Ministry of Community and Social Services, CSIS. Other community based, government sponsored organizations have hired psychology graduates as program directors, consultants and researchers.


Information in the above table was adapted from information compiled by the Faculty of Social Science Outreach Program and from the Student Development Centre (SDC) on main campus. The SDC (UCC room 210) has additional resources available; see also information available in the Psychology Resource Centre (SSC 3115).

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Going on in Psychology

There are two broad divisions in graduate work in psychology: Experimental Psychology and Clinical Psychology. When most people think of psychology they think of clinical psychology, but most psychologists are not clinical psychologists. You should pursue that area of psychology that you find the most interesting. If you are interested in seeing what people with graduate degrees in psychology do, the best sources of information are organizations such as CPA ( and APA ( and graduate programs in psychology. Many Psychology Graduate Programs maintain a web-accessible listing of the first post-Ph.D. position of past graduates. Student services (MSSC, SDC) and the Psych Club on main campus have additional resources.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology graduate programs are appropriate for those who want to work as a Clinical Psychologist, therapist, or in Clinical Neuropsychology or Forensic Psychology. To be licensed as a Clinical Psychologist requires a Ph.D. from an accredited Clinical Psychology Graduate Program. Most Forensic Psychology and Clinical Neuropsychology programs are specializations within Clinical Psychology programs.

Admission to a Clinical Psychology Graduate Program is very competitive. For example, the incoming class of clinical psychology graduate students on main campus typically has an overall undergraduate average of 90%. If you are interested in clinical psychology, you may also want to think about counselling psychology. Students who hope to pursue clinical psychology often do not consider, or even know about, counselling psychology. To be competitive for admission into clinical psychology you need a 90% average; an average in the 80’s can be competitive for counselling psychology.

Currently, the most difficult graduate or professional program to gain admission to in Canada is Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Forensic Psychology. Yes, CSI has made its way to graduate school. There are only a few clinically accredited Forensic Psychology programs in Canada (e.g., UBC, Dalhousie). If you want to be competitive when applying to Clinical Psychology: Forensic Psychology, you will need an average in the low 90’s. It is easier to get into medical school than into a Clinical Psychology: Forensic Psychology graduate program.

Experimental Psychology

Experimental Psychology includes other areas of psychology, such as behavioural neuroscience, cognitive, developmental, educational, industrial-organization, physiological, sensation and


perception, social. Graduate programs in school psychology and educational psychology are also offered by the Faculty of Education at some universities (see under Counselling Psychology).

Counselling Psychology

If you are interested in clinical psychology, you should also investigate programs in counselling psychology. Counselling psychology is closer to some student’s interests than is clinical, it is just that they have heard less about counselling psychology or think that clinical psychology and counselling psychology are two names for the same thing. Clinical psychology and counselling psychology are different. Counselling psychologists focus on emotional, social,

vocational/educational, health-related, and developmental concerns as they relate to personal and interpersonal functioning.

Clinical psychologists usually work with clients with serious disturbances in mental health, such as serious anxiety disorders, anorexia nervosa, or depression. Counselling psychologists usually work with clients with less severe complaints, such as those with self-concept and self-esteem problems, problems related to job or academic performance, and marriage and family

difficulties. Some counselling psychologists are in private practice, some work for agencies such as the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), and some work in a hospital or clinic, often as part of a team that also includes a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist or medical doctor, and social worker. If you are interested in working with people with bipolar disorder or with brain damage you want to be a clinical psychologist. If, on the other hand, you want to work as a marriage counselor or to work with clients suffering from problems related to low self esteem, you want to be a counselling psychologist.

Counselling psychology is a recognized division with the American Psychological Association (Division 17) and useful information about counselling psychology can be found at their website ( The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) also has a counselling psychology division, although they have less information online. You may be interested in checking out the Canadian Counselling Association website at

In Canada, counselling psychology programs are typically found within a Faculty of Education. Their home in Faculties of Education reflects the historical development of these programs, not any necessary link of counselling psychologists to school settings. Clinical psychology

developed within Psychology Departments and these departments were not interested in housing a second, potentially competing program. Counselling psychology gravitated to education because early in its development counselling psychology emphasized vocational guidance and advice. Although some counselling psychologists may still specialize in vocational and educational guidance, this is now a minor area of counselling psychology. Once established within Faculties of Education, Counselling Psychology programs tended to stay there, even though their emphasis changed. Counselling psychologists focus on personal and interpersonal functioning.

Many Faculties of Education have three separate streams: training teachers (B.Ed. programs); training education specialists (M.Ed. and Ph.D. programs in educational psychology and school psychology), and counselling psychology programs (M.A. or M.Ed. and Ph.D.). Applications to each of the three streams are separate. There are Counselling Psychology programs at Althouse


other universities. If the university has a Faculty of Education check their website, they may offer Counselling Psychology. There are also many counselling psychology programs in the U.S.

Other Graduate Programs

Apart from going into graduate studies in a Department of Psychology, we have had psychology students enter graduate and professional programs such as Educational Psychology at the Faculty of Education, UWO, Counselling Psychology at OISE/U of T, the Occupational Therapy Masters programs at UWO and at UBC, and the Masters in Speech-Language Pathology at the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders, Elborn College, UWO. The appropriateness of a

psychology undergraduate degree for these programs is clear from the admission requirements for the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology programs at UWO. According to the CSD website, admission requirements include a full course in statistics “preferably taken in a Department of Psychology” and a half course in Developmental Psychology.

To be competitive with your application to programs such as Occupational Therapy or Speech-Language Pathology you should consider completing an Honours degree. If you successfully complete the Honours Specialization in Psychology, you will receive an Honours B.A. You can also receive an Honours degree if you do a Double Major with a minimum cumulative average of 70% in each of your majors, no mark less than 60% in the courses of the modules, a passing grade in all optional courses, and a minimum overall average of 65%. See the Academic Calendar or talk to an Academic Advisor for details on module and graduation requirements. Additional information about programs such as Occupational Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology can be found at Students Services, and online from universities that offer these programs. The UWO link for Occupational Therapy is and for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology it is

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Graduate School in Psychology Finding a Graduate School

In graduate school you will develop expertise in a specific area within psychology and you will work closely with your advisor and a small advisory committee. The most important

consideration in finding a suitable graduate program is the match between your interests and the faculty at that institution. If you want to specialize in treating depression among preadolescents or in understanding the evolutionary origins of human emotions, there must be faculty available with the expertise that will allow you to pursue those interests. When investigating potential graduate programs you should concentrate on the faculty and their areas of interest. The match between the interests of the applicant and potential advisors is a critical consideration. You can have a wonderful undergraduate transcript, record setting GRE scores and glowing letters of reference, but if no one at the institution has compatible interests you will not be accepted.


One of the best ways to find this match is to think about some of the things that you have studied in your psychology courses. At some point you came across information that you found

interesting, something that made you say, “Wow, that is really neat!”, something that you just had to tell your friends, roommate or family about. Who did that work? Where are they? They should go on your list as potential graduate advisors and their institution as a place to apply. Together with finding potential graduate schools from your own readings and course-based experience, every psychology department will have a list of faculty and their research interests on the web (yes, even among clinical psychologists). Have a look. Whose work interests you? If there are a few people whose work especially interests you, you should consider contacting them to request more information. Email in the summer or fall before you plan to apply and express your interest, ask questions about their current research, etc. Doing this can get

information that is not otherwise available, such as the availability of graduate student positions with that advisor, and establish communication with someone who, in a few months, will have the final say on your graduate school application.

An excellent source of information about graduate programs is The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA; ). CPA maintains a Graduate Guide: Description of Graduate Psychology Programmes in Canadian Universities ( ). The American Psychological Association ( ) has similar information about graduate programs in the U.S. You should be investigating potential graduate school programs beginning in the winter of your third year.

Application Deadlines

Most graduate programs have an application deadline of January 15th, although a few (e.g., U of T) have shifted to a January 1st deadline. Very few graduate programs in psychology have a late spring deadline or a rolling admissions procedure. Expect the application deadline to be strictly enforced. However, if all of the components of your application are in place, the Faculty of Graduate Studies may allow a late addition to the file. Be careful however, not all will allow late additions. If the application process has not been started by the deadline, it is rare for a graduate program to allow a new application. If your application is underway and circumstances require the late submission of an item such as a reference letter, do not abandon the application, check with the institution.


Many students think about graduate school but then abandon the idea because the thought of even more student loans is overwhelming. In both Canada and the U.S., graduate programs in psychology provide financial support for their students. This often takes the form of acting as a part-time research assistant (RA) during the first year of graduate studies and then being a teaching assistant (TA) during following years. Graduate schools typically restrict RA and TA duties to a maximum of 10 hours/week. Apart from the financial compensation, the research experience as an RA and teaching experience as a TA are valuable aspects of graduate training. The level of financial support varies by university but it is typically about $18,000/academic year


federal government (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) that are meant to support graduate students. These are scholarships, not loans. Thus, there is sufficient financial support available so you will not have to take out a student loan or work while attending graduate school.

If you are interested in applying for graduate studies, you should consider applying for an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) during the fall of your 4th year. If you are successful, having your own funding makes your graduate school application much more attractive. Even if your application is not successful, that you had the initiative to apply reflects positively on you. There is an internal (Brescia) deadline for OGS applications in mid to late October (specific date varies each year). Talk to an Academic Advisor or the Financial Aids Officer about OGS if you are interested in graduate studies.

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Graduate School Applications Application Components

To apply to a graduate program in psychology you will need: 1. An Honours Thesis

2. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Scores 3. References

4. Undergraduate Transcript 5. A Statement of Interest.

1. An Honours Thesis

It is important that you do an Honours Thesis if you plan on going to graduate school in psychology. Many psychology graduate programs require an Honours Thesis. Even if an Honours Thesis is recommended and not required, an applicant without an Honours Thesis is at an important disadvantage in the competitive application process. Research plays an important part in graduate study in psychology, even in clinical psychology. In most cases the only item in the application that informs the admissions committee of the applicant’s ability to engage in independent research is the presence of an Honours Thesis.

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2. Graduate Record Exams, the GREs

The Graduate Record Exams (GREs) were developed by and are administered by Educational Testing Services, or ETS ( ). ETS is a private corporation that develops and administers some of the most widely used standardized tests worldwide.


There are two different exams that you will consider if you plan to apply to graduate school, the

GRE General Test and the GRE Subject (Psychology) Test.

The GRE General is a general aptitude test. Virtually all psychology graduate programs in North America require GRE General scores. The GRE General Test measures verbal reasoning (GRE-V), quantitative reasoning (GRE-Q), and critical thinking and analytical writing skills (GRE-A). The contents of the GRE General are not related to any specific field of study. The graduate admissions committee will consider your total score on the GRE General, and they will consider your score on each of the three subscales (GRE-V, GRE-Q, GRE-A). Different

graduate programs emphasize different subscales. For example, U of T places greater emphasis on GRE-Q, while Univ. of Windsor emphasizes GRE-A scores. If a graduate program places more emphasis on a specific subscale, this will be stated on that graduate programs website together with other application information.

The GRE General is currently a computer-based test and is offered throughout the year at

certified testing centres. There is an ETS Testing Centre in London. Although the GRE General is offered throughout the year, you have to register for the test in advance. To register for the GRE General and for test information, check the ETS website ( ).

The GRE Subject Test assesses achievement in a specific field of study. There is a GRE Subject Test for Psychology. Not all graduate programs require GRE Subject scores. Check the graduate programs that interest you and if they do not require GRE Subject scores, save yourself the time, expense and stress. The GRE Subject (Psychology) Test is a paper and pencil test. It is offered only at scheduled times at certified testing centres. There is a GRE Subject Test

administered in early fall (late September or early October), late fall (usually late November) and spring (April). You must register for the GRE Subject Test well in advance, as much as 3

months or more in advance. Check the ETS website for specific dates and registration deadlines.

GRE Scores

When you apply to a graduate program the admission committee is going to look first at your GRE scores and your grades. If either of these is below the cutoff, they will not even look at the rest of your application. If these scores are within an acceptable range, then the other parts of your application are considered. Some graduate programs will publish their minimum

acceptable GRE score; typical cut-offs are scores that represent the 80th or 85th percentile (scores in the 580 – 600 range, depending on test). Applicants are not rank ordered based on GRE scores; once your scores are in the acceptable range then the other parts of your application are the ones that matter.

Remember that you will not be ranked based on your GRE scores, that you are working to reach a threshold value. This can make the test less stressful: you need, for example, a score of 600, but whether you get a score of 600, 610 or 620 will not matter.

When to Write the GREs


If you are writing only the GRE General Test, the best time to write is during the summer between 3rd and 4th year or in the early fall of your 4th year. Either of these keeps the test away from busy times in the academic year (e.g., midterms), allows plenty of time for your scores to be submitted and even allows a cushion in case something, such as illness, prevents you from writing your GRE when planned. It also allows time for a rewrite if the test does not go well. If you are writing both the GRE General and the GRE Psychology Tests, it is best to spread them out. You should write the GRE Psychology Test during one of the fall test times. The early fall test (late September or early October) is preferred because this keeps the GRE away from midterms. If you are going to write the GRE Psychology Test in early fall of your 4th year, the

best time to write the GRE General is during the summer before the start of your 4th year.

How to Prepare for the GREs

Your GRE scores are important and you will need to prepare for theses tests. The GREs are very strictly timed and issues related to timing too often have a major impact on test scores. Part of your score is based on how far you get in the test so spending too much time on each question will hurt your score. You need to be familiar with question style and format and with how long you can spend on individual questions. The best way to accomplish this is to purchase GRE General practice books. First, work through the questions slowly to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that appear. You need to be familiar with question styles and formats so that you are not surprised by a question type when you are taking the test. Then work on timing by writing timed practice exams. Practice books and exams for the GRE General are available from ETS and are sometimes available at the university bookstore on main campus.

The best way to prepare for the GRE Subject (Psychology) Test is to get a good Introductory Psychology textbook and read it cover to cover. The GRE Psychology Test usually has a stronger emphasis on social and developmental psychology and fewer questions on

biopsychology and sensation. Once you have re-read your Intro Psych textbook, work through practice exams to familiarize yourself with question style, format and timing.

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3. Reference Letters

Most reference letters neither help nor hinder the graduate school application. Reference letters invariably include statements such as “X is a hard working student” or “Y is a thoughtful and intelligent student”. Every letter the admissions committee reads will include positive but vague comments. You would not ask someone to write a reference letter for you if you thought that they might include bad or even neutral comments. Neither would any of the other applicants. For positive comments to be taken seriously they need to be supported with specific information. “Yolanda is an especially effective communicator. For example, in our Psych X course students had to do a series of oral presentations and …”; “Zoe is a very creative researcher. For example, in developing her Honours Thesis research project she …”. Thus the most effective reference letters come from the professors who know you the best, not necessarily from the courses in which you received the highest marks.


A very important reference letter is the letter from your thesis advisor. Always have a reference letter from your thesis advisor. You worked more intensively with this person than any other faculty member; if they do not provide a reference letter it is very suspicious.

Another important reference letter is from a faculty member who is in the area that you want to pursue in graduate school. If, for example, you want to study cognitive development in graduate school, having a letter from someone in cognitive development, such as Dr. Sutton, is very effective. The cognitive psychologists reviewing your application will very likely know Dr. Sutton and that makes the letter more powerful. Depending on your interests and the available faculty, it may not be possible to have a letter like this, but if it is possible it is very effective. For most graduate programs letters from non-academic sources (e.g., part-time job boss, volunteer supervisor) count very little and may not even be counted as a reference letter unless specified otherwise. You may have had a graduate student TA for a main campus course, especially a lab course, who knows you very well. References from graduate students and post docs, however, have very little impact. Indeed, I have seen members of graduate admissions committees look first at the end of a reference letter to see who wrote the letter; the letter was then read only if the referee was a professor.

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4. Undergraduate Transcript

Graduate admissions committees will look first at your GRE scores and your marks. For marks, most graduate admissions committees consider your average over your last 2 years or 10 full course equivalents. Graduate programs will list a minimum average for your last 10 fill course equivalents, usually a minimum A- (80%) average to be eligible to apply, although this can vary across programs and universities. Note that meeting the minimum average allows you to apply, not be competitive.

The exact name of your degree and your degree program usually does not matter. Degree names and program names vary so much across universities that the name of your degree program has surprisingly little information. At some universities if you do psychology you get a B.A., at some a B.Sc., and at others whether you get a B.A. or a B.Sc. depends on what courses you take. Similarly, the number of courses that make up what is called a “specialization” at one university may be called a “concentration” at another. Application requirements typically specify

“Honours Psychology (or equivalent)” as required or preferred. This means the number of psychology courses that is contained in our Honours Specialization, although for some programs the Major will have a sufficient number of courses. More importantly, it also means you have done an Honours Thesis. For a graduate admissions committee the importance of an “Honours Psychology” program is that it is understood to include an Honours Thesis.

Some graduate programs will list specific courses or courses from specific areas (e.g., at least one course in research methods). The structure of our degree modules, with research methods, statistics, and courses from both psychology as a natural science and psychology as a social science should meet the requirements of most programs. If there is a specific course that is listed that you do not have, contact that graduate program and ask if any of your related courses would


be considered to meet that requirement. Do not assume that this is the case, but also do not give up on a program of interest too easily.

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5. Statement of Interests

Most universities will ask you to include a short statement of your interests in psychology, sometimes called a Personal Statement and sometimes a Statement of Interests. This is one of the most important components of your application. The different applications being considered will all have complimentary reference letters, competitive marks and an appropriate

undergraduate degree. They will differ from each most dramatically in these statements of interests.

Make sure that your statement of interests is well written, informative, and appropriate.

Although this should be obvious, proofread it carefully and have others proofread it for content, spelling and grammar. Typos or grammatical errors tell the admissions committee that your standards are low or that you have problems communicating effectively. Either of those impressions will seriously damage your chances of being accepted.

If the admissions committee is reading your statement of interests, your degree, marks and GRE scores are acceptable. That is, you have made the first cut. This statement is where the

committee learns specifically about you and how you will fit in their graduate program. Avoid general statements or broad descriptions of yourself, your background or your ambitions. The people reading your personal statement want specific, detailed information. Remember, psychologists are scientists – we want data. If you make a general statement about yourself, back it up with specifics. One of the most common flaws of personal statements is that they are too broadly stated and have too little specific information.

Your statement of interest should demonstrate some in-depth knowledge of your area of interest. It is very useful to mention the research of those professors that interests you. Many successful applicants will even name specific professors that they want to work with. Including this information shows that you have done your research and you know who is at that university and what they do. It indicates that you have thought deeply enough about your future that you know the area(s) within psychology that you want to pursue. It also helps the admissions committee match applicants with potential advisors, a critically important consideration.

Your statement of interests is your opportunity to inform the admissions committee about personal and professional development, academic background and objectives, research and field experience and career goals. If you have been involved in scholarly contributions (such as paper presentations at conferences or publications), be sure to mention it, even if the topic is different from what you want to pursue in graduate school. Very few applicants will have scholarly contributions and this will make a very strong, positive impression. For example, in the spring of 2009, eight of our Honours Thesis students presented their thesis research at the 39th Annual Ontario Undergraduate Thesis Conference, hosted by McMaster University. This is a scholarly contribution that will help to set these students apart from other applicants. Also in 2009 one of our Honours Specialization students presented her thesis research at the Annual Meeting of the


Canadian Psychological Association (CP) in Montreal. A CPA presentation by an undergraduate student is rare and this is an item that will attract a great deal of positive attention.

KOD. In an interesting study Appleby and Appleby (2006) surveyed the Chairs of Graduate Admissions Committees in Psychology Departments. They identified a set of common mistakes made by applicants, some of which were serious enough to be classified as a KOD. A KOD or “Kiss of Death” is a mistake that alone is serious enough to lead to the applicant’s rejection, regardless of the quality of the rest of the application. KODs in statements of interest fell into four categories:

1. Personal mental health. You should not be going to graduate school to deal with a family or personal mental health issue, or to cope with some past trauma. Graduate school in psychology is an academic and career path, it is not a form of therapy or an intervention for personal problems (Appleby & Appleby, 2006). If you have personal problems see a therapist, do not go to graduate school as a way to work through them. For a related issue see KOD 3.

2. I want to help people. Do not make statements such as “I want to help people” (what is the alternative, you want to hurt people?) or “I am a strong candidate because friends have always come to me with their problems”. Members of the admissions committee are not interested in an applicant who confuses social support of friends with psychotherapy, who thinks that they are already an effective therapist despite having no training, or who describes excessive or inappropriate self-sacrifice as helping others. The Admissions Committee Chair at one university wrote, “Everyone wants to help people. That’s

assumed. Don’t say the reason you want to go into clinical psychology is to help people” (Appleby & Appleby, 2006, p. 20). The statement of interests should focus on research experience, academic strengths, professional experience and professional goals.

3. Excessive self-disclosure. Do not engage in excessive self-disclosure, the sharing of overly personal information. Excessive self-disclosure is considered a sign of poor interpersonal boundaries and overall poor judgment. If you are going to include information about personal and sensitive matters, such as family experience with psychopathology, it needs to be communicated carefully in a professional manner that is appropriate for a formal

application. Do not include information that should only be revealed to close personal friends or to a therapist.

4. Professionally inappropriate content or style. Professionally inappropriate information or style is a sure KOD. Appleby and Appleby (2006) report that one applicant volunteered the information that they had acted in pornographic movies. Another described herself, at length, as Dorothy on the yellow-brick road to graduate school. For both Dorothy and the porn star, members of the admissions committee will marvel at the applicant’s staggeringly poor judgment and put the application in the reject pile. A professional psychologist needs exceptionally sound judgment; do not advertise poor judgment and an unprofessional attitude. I was once on a graduate admissions committee that rejected an applicant with great GRE scores and a 90% graduating average because of an overly “cute” statement of interests. She included a long conversation between her and her cats as a way of describing herself. It was an attempt to be cute and funny but it was unprofessional (and more than a little weird): KOD. She should have been a star applicant but her file went to the reject


develop expertise as a psychologist and to receive a high level of professional training. Save the cute and clever for texting your friends.

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What About Experience? You didn’t say anything about experience!

Students often overestimate the importance of experience to graduate school applications. Of all the different components of your application to graduate school, this is the least important. An application that is not competitive will not be saved by a long list of work and volunteer experience. Indeed, if the applicant’s marks and GRE scores are low and there is a long list of work and volunteer experience, the reaction is that the student should have directed more of her time and effort to academics and less to other activities. If an applicant has competitive marks and GRE scores, experience can help create a positive impression, but it does not have much impact. There are many valid reasons to volunteer your time and talents, but helping you get into graduate school is not one of them. If a psychology graduate program does consider work or volunteer experience they will say so on their website, otherwise consider it to be of minor importance. However, if you plan to apply to a Faculty of Education, experience is very important.

If you plan to apply to a Faculty of Education B. Ed. program, experience in an educational setting, such as volunteering with a Homework Club, is important. Education admissions committees often want to know if you can function in a real school setting.

If you plan to apply to a Counselling Psychology program, you need to know that some of these programs require volunteer or work experience in a helping profession (teaching, counselling, nursing, mental health, community service, or related). If you have no appropriate work or volunteer experience you will be at a significant disadvantage and some programs will not even consider your application.

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Receiving an offer of admission from a graduate program is competitive. In Canada the acceptance rate into Clinical Psychology graduate programs is typically 5 – 8% and for

Experimental Psychology graduate programs it is typically 12 – 15%. Many graduate programs will list minimum application criteria. Meeting the minimum criteria means that you eligible to apply, it does not mean that your application will be competitive.

There are three stages in the review of graduate school applications. These are: 1. Is the applicant acceptable to the Faculty of Graduate Studies?

2. Is the applicant acceptable to the Psychology Department?


The decision of whether the applicant is acceptable to the Faculty of Graduate Studies is based on marks and GRE scores, with some consideration of the nature of the undergraduate degree. Decision 2 is based on marks and GRE scores, the nature of your undergraduate degree and, if these are all acceptable, then on your reference letters and statement of interests.

Once an applicant is deemed acceptable to both the Faculty of Graduate Studies and to the Department, the question becomes is she acceptable to the specific area and who will she work with. The information for these decisions comes primarily from the statement of interests, with some impact of letters of reference. If a student wants to go into social psychology, for example, the question becomes is she acceptable to the social psychology area and if so, which social psychologist will be her advisor? In the end, individual psychology professors make the decision, “Of the qualified and acceptable applicants, I want this one as my new grad student”.

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Closing Comments

Enjoy your psychology courses and follow your interests – they will lead somewhere interesting and personally fulfilling. If you decide to pursue Psychology or a closely allied area, I know from my experience that you will be entering a fascinating, still developing field. If your professional life takes you in a different direction, I am sure that you will remember your study of psychology with fondness and that this background will serve you well in your future

endeavors. I hope that it will also foster a lasting interest in the science of human behaviour. I want to close with two quotations that, I think, summarize psychology and its importance. The first is from Gordon Allport, a pioneering psychologist of the mid-twentieth century who laid much of the groundwork for modern personality theory. The other, by the poet T. S. Eliot, summarizes our exploration of ourselves in psychology.

“Much of our lives is spent in trying to understand others and in wishing others understood us better than they do.”

Gordon Allport We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

And a final word by scientist and author Carl Sagan:


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Psychology Faculty at Brescia

Dr. Anne Barnfield,

Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Student Affairs. Academic Background

B.Sc., University of London, Great Britain Ph.D., University of Sussex, Great Britain Research and Scholarly Interests

Spatial memory and spatial representations and their development; behavioural effects of sport participation with a focus on child/youth participation; historical attitudes to

perceived sex differences in the brain. Teaching

Introduction to Psychology (Psych 1000) Drugs and Behaviour (Psych 2020A/B) Special topics: Psychology applied to sport Ethics in Psychology (Psych 2814F/G) Child Development (Psych 2410A/B) Personality (Psych 2550A/B)

History of Psychology (Psych 3950F/G)

Dr. Leslie Janes,

Associate Professor. Academic Background

B.A. Political Science; Wilfrid Laurier University M.A. Psychology; University of Western Ontario Ph.D. Psychology; University of Western Ontario Research and Scholarly Interests

Humour, goals and motivation, and explicit and implicit self-esteem. Teaching

Introduction to Psychology (Psych 1000) Human Sexuality (Psych 2075)

Psychology of Everyday Life (Psych 2092A/B) Child Development (Psych 2410A/B)

Social Psychology (Psych 2720A/B) Applied Psychology (Psych 2990A/B) Psychology of Persuasion (Psych 3721F/G).

Dr. John B. Mitchell,

Associate Professor and Psychology Department Coordinator. Academic Background


M.A., Queens University, Kingston, ON

Ph.D., Centre for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology, Concordia University, Montreal, PQ

Post-doctoral Fellow, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Montreal, PQ Research Fellow, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO Research and Scholarly Interests

Motivation, memory for time, order, and sequences (temporal memory), stress and memory, educational psychology.


Introduction to Psychology (Psych 1000)

Biological Basis of Behaviour (Psych 2221A/B)

Introduction to Educational Psychology (Psych 2620A/B) Psychological Measurement and Statistics (Psych 2885)

The Neuroscience of Motivation and Emotion (Psych 3209F/G) Honours Thesis Course Coordinator (Psych 4842E).

Dr. Jennifer Sutton,

Assistant Professor. Academic Background

B.A. University of Kentucky

M.A. University of Western Ontario Ph.D. University of Western Ontario Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto Research and Scholarly Interests

Spatial cognition in animals, children and adults: metacognition in animals Teaching

Introduction to Cognition (Psych 2135A/B) Research Methods in Psychology (Psych 2880E)

Psychological Statistics Using Computers (Psych 3880F/G) Cognitive Development (Psych 3410F/G)

Evolution and Human Behaviour (Psych 3229A/B)

Dr. Christine Tenk,

Assistant Professor. Academic Background

B.Sc. University of Toronto

Ph.D. University of Western Ontario

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Western Ontario Research and Scholarly Interests

Sex differences in brain and behaviour, hormones and behaviour, behavioural neuroscience.



Drugs and Behaviour (Psych 2020A/B)

Psychological Measurement and Statistics (Psych 2885)

The Neuroscience of Motivation and Emotion (Psych 3209F/G) Special topics: Sex Difference in Brain and Behaviour

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