- SMP Forms
- SMP Resources
- Psychology SMP Database
- Highlighted SMP Projects
- Alternative Capstone Experience
What is an SMP?
The St. Mary’s Project is a year-long, 8-credit, independently designed and executed course of study intended as a capstone experience for a student’s time at St. Mary’s. Working in close conjunction with one or more professors, in or outside of the department, you have the opportunity to explore, in depth, a question or idea that entrances and intrigues you. Many—although by no means all—SMPs are interdisciplinary, bringing together threads from earlier classes taken across the curriculum. Many are highly personal, involving creative or innovative work that ties together four years of study in a meaningful way. SMPs can, in their final form, take the shape of research papers, collections of essays, anthologies of poetry, films, web sites, suites of paintings, graphic novels, operas—all these, and more, have been done in years past.
This project is typically completed over two semesters but can also be extended to additional semesters in special circumstances. Because it is a capstone experience, it must demonstrate the mastery that is ordinarily expected of a person receiving a BS degree. Specifically, your project must demonstrate (at a minimum) satisfactory performance in regard to the following criteria:
The College has established certain guidelines for the SMP:
- It must be student-initiated
- It must demonstrate methodological competence (by identifying an area to be explored and proposing a method of inquiry appropriate for the topic)
- It must draw on and extend knowledge, skills of analysis, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work.
- It must include a reflection on the social context, the body of literature, or the conceptual framework to which the project is a contribution.
- It must be shared with the larger community through some form of public presentation
Psychology majors who started at SMCM in Fall 2018 (catalog year 2018-2019) and afterwards are required to do an SMP. They can choose to complete an SMP in psychology, another major discipline, or a cross-disciplinary study area. If one is planning to complete an SMP outside of psychology, they must notify the academic program coordinator, Angie Draheim, on or before March 1 in the second semester of the junior year. If you choose to go this route, you will need to follow the policies established by those departments to declare your interest and/or solicit a mentor in the field you have chosen.
Psychology majors who started at SMCM before Fall 2018 (cataog years prior to and including 2017-2018) not required to do an SMP but rather can choose do the Alternative Capstone Experience instead.
Students usually work on their SMP throughout their senior year; in certain circumstances, however, one may choose to begin the project in the junior year, and finish it a term before graduation.
First year students and sophomores:
- Consider your interests and keep track of favorite and interesting topics.
- Don’t be too specific, keep it broad.
- Talk to friends and seniors doing projects.
- Attend SMPs and look over the archives.
First semester of junior year:
- Consider whether you want to collaborate with others. Note that collaborating with students will not necessarily make your work load easier.
- Consider whether you wish to incorporate an off-campus experience (e.g., internship) into your project.
- Consider whether you want to utilize the local public school system and talk to Kim Page in Educational Studies.
- Browse the PsycSMP abstract database, and look over the PsycSMP showcase
- Think about whether you want to do the project in your senior year with a traditional credit distribution of FA-SP, or start early in 2nd semester of junior year and do SP-FA. Other variations possible but discouraged.
- If you plan to start early, review/consider Faculty Research Interests (on website and hard copy outside Goodpaster 127) and talk to at least three (3) psychology professors about potential research topics in order to submit a SMP in Psychology Proposal Form to the academic program coordinator, Angie Draheim (Goodpaster 116), by October 1 at 5 pm.
Second semester of junior year:
- Narrow your choice to three topics
- Discuss and develop your topic ideas with faculty members who might be good mentors.
- Visit the Career Development Center and talk to the staff there if you want to include an off-campus component (e.g., internship) to your project.
- Talk to the education facilitator in the Department of Educational Studies, if you would like to use the local public school system.
- Decide if you will be collaborating with a fellow student.
- Attend the SMP Mentor Showcase in late Jan/early Feb and review/consider Faculty Research Interests
- Talk to at least three (3) psychology professors about potential research topics in order to submit a SMP in Psychology Proposal Form which is due March 1 by 5pm to the academic program coordinator, Angie Draheim (Goodpaster 116). Failure to submit the complete form by the deadline will place you last in the mentor selection process.
- Watch out for e-mail from Angie (after the showcase) with links to various faculty sign up calendars for SMP topic discussion meetings.
How to choose a topic
- What areas of psychology interest you?
- What are your career interests?
- Do you want a project to include specific experiences such as doing an off-campus internship or conducting on-site research?
- What was your favorite class and why?
- Would a topic from a class be something you would like to pursue further?
- Is there a faculty research interest area that you’d like to explore?
Students sometimes mistakenly believe that all SMPs in Psychology (PsycSMPs) must involve empirical research that involves quantitative data-collection, hypothesis testing, and use of statistical methods to analyze data. Although many PsycSMPs fit this description, this is not a requirement. Regardless of the form the SMP takes, all students working on a SMP in Psychology must have a Psychology faculty mentor and must complete an extensive review of the relevant literature.
A PsycSMP cannot simply consist of a literature review, but a variety of other approaches and methods can be used in designing and completing SMPs. Literature review based PsycSMPs can, in their final form, be accompanied by the creation of documentaries, websites, handbooks, or program proposals or paired with qualitative data gleaned from animal observations or interviews—all these, and more, have been done in years past.
SMP Blackboard Site
Current PsycSMP students should refer to the SMP Blackboard Site for departmental syllabus, meeting and deadline schedule, budget process information and forms, statistics tip sheets, test and measurement information and more.
Funding an SMP
All PsycSMP students must prepare a budget of anticipated expenses under the guidance of their mentor. The proposed budget will include “student contributions.” Student contributions are items and classroom necessities that students would typically cover at their expense. These items include, but are not limited to, printing research articles, stationary, external hard drives, and local travel. College funds are available for additional support for things like long-distance travel, contractual services, lab supplies, and equipment. The average award is not expected to exceed $200, although it may be considerably more based on the circumstance.
Additionally, there are funds available to help current students present their SMPs at regional or national conferences.
Emily Burr ’17
Overparenting, Autonomy Support, and Locus of Control in Emerging Adulthood
mentor: Dr. James Mantell
Benjamin Ertman ’18
Is It Better to Simply Suppress My Negative Emotions? Effects of Parental Ignoring and Low Expressivity on Child Outcomes
mentor: Dr. Scott Mirabile
Amy Gorovoy ’17
Twitter User-Generated Content and Consumer Behavior
mentor: Dr. Jennifer Tickle
Jacob Lowenthal ’16
The Effects of Unattended Auditory Musical Stimuli on Reading Comprehension
mentor: James Mantell
Maxwell Madden ’18
Examination of the Mechanism of the Fast Acting Antidepressant L-655, 708
mentor: Aileen Bailey
A Qualitative Study of Therapists’ In-session Tears
mentor: Libby Williams
Alternative Capstone Experience (for majors in catalog years prior to 18-19)
8 credits, distributed as follows:
PSYC 490: Senior Seminar (4 credits) generally involves a major term paper (~30 pages) on a topic of your choice, an oral presentation, and some additional requirements (for example, providing a review and critique of one or more of the papers written by other students in the class)
And an additional upper-division four credit course, not used to satisfy any other requirements for the major, chosen from the following options.
- PSYC 402: Advanced Research Methods and Statistics (4 credits)
- PSYC 405: History and Systems of Psychology
- PSYC 410: Service Learning
- PSYC 474: Psychological Assessment
- PSYC 497: Directed Research (4 credits)
- An additional laboratory course in psychology
Keep in mind that although the ACE will involve a different set of activities than the SMP, it will not involve less work. The two courses that make up the alternative experience are designed to require as much of a time commitment as an SMP. In fact, Senior Seminar is very much like the first semester of the SMP.
If you are planning to complete an ACE sequence in order to fulfill your senior capstone requirement, you must submit an ACE Declaration of Intent form to the academic program coordinator, Angie Draheim (GH 116), by March 1 of the second semester of your junior year.