The curriculum of the graduate program is intentionally very flexible so as to allow for tailoring to each student’s background and interests. There is not a fixed sequence of quantitative courses that all students in the program must follow, although there is a general framework described below. The Psychology Department has several course requirements that students in all programs must satisfy. In addition, students may choose to complete a minor course of study in some area outside of Psychology. Typically, a formal minor program requires 5 courses.
Each semester all students in the Quantitative Psychology program register for Psychology 280, the Quantitative Psychology Forum. The Forum is a weekly meeting of all faculty and graduate students in the program, with meetings consisting of research presentations and discussion of professional development issues such as ethics, seeking research funding, reviewing, etc.
The general course of study typically proceeds as follows:
Year 1: The first year curriculum is designed to provide foundational knowledge in statistics and quantitative methods, to get some exposure to topics outside of the quantitative area, and to begin to become involved in research activities with one or more faculty members. Depending on background, students typically take several quantitative courses (e.g., Statistical Methods in Psychology I and II, Test Theory, Multivariate Analysis, Computational Statistics), and usually take one or two courses in Psychology outside of the quantitative program (History of Psychology, and other substantive courses). In addition, students may begin coursework in a minor program. Students might also register for thesis or research credit.
Year 2: Students continue to pursue considerable coursework in the quantitative program, strengthening their foundational knowledge and taking advanced courses to develop special interests. Requirements for other courses in Psychology are typically completed during the second year, and coursework in the minor program is continued. Students also register for thesis credit and should complete the Masters Thesis by the end of the second year.
Year 3: Students take advanced courses in quantitative psychology and in their minor program or other areas of interest. A major activity during the third year is preparation for and completion of Comprehensive Exams. In addition, students typically get much more involved in more advanced research projects.
Years 4-5: Students take a few advanced courses of particular interest, but the focus now is on research. Students are typically involved in several research projects and in developing and pursuing a dissertation topic.
Structure of Comprehensive Exams in Quantitative Psychology (Effective May 1, 2003)
Comprehensive exams are normally completed during the third year of graduate study. The process begins with designation of a Comprehensive Exam Committee composed of at least 3 faculty members from the Quantitative Psychology Program. Additional committee members may be from other programs or departments. (Note that this committee does not necessarily have the same membership as the Dissertation Committee.) In consultation with the adviser and other committee members, the student will select three topic areas of interest for in-depth study. The student will then generate a reading list for each topic area that will include relevant books and journal articles. The lists should be as complete as possible covering the relevant literature, both historical and current. The reading lists must be developed in consultation with the adviser and committee members, and must be officially approved by each committee member. Once reading lists are approved, the student takes an appropriate amount of time to study the material on the lists. This would most typically involve a period of about 3 months, but shall not exceed 6 months. At a time arranged by the student and adviser, the student will then complete a take-home exam. The exam will include questions on each of the three topic areas, and the student will have 30 days to complete the exam. The adviser solicits questions from committee members, and questions are contributed by at least three committee members. While working on the exam, the student may consult any source except for people. The student may, however, discuss questions with committee members. At the end of the 30-day exam period, the student submits the completed exam to the adviser. The exam will then be evaluated on a pass-fail basis by the committee members. The pass-fail evaluation is based on overall performance; in theory it would be possible to fail part of the exam but to pass the exam as a whole. A unanimous positive vote by the committee is required to pass the exam. The student will be informed of the outcome within 14 days of completion of the take-home exam. During that period individual committee members have the option of meeting with the student to ask questions of clarification regarding the student’s written responses. As mandated by the Graduate School, if a student fails the exam he or she is allowed to retake the exam one time after a waiting period of at least three months. A second failure disqualifies the student from further graduate training at UNC. Successful completion of the exam means that the student is ready to begin work on the formal dissertation proposal.