- What is an SMP?
- Options for SMPs in Psychology
- What Topics are Possible for Your SMP?
- SMP Process
- SMP Forms
- Psychology SMP Database
- Highlighted SMP Projects
- View SMPs in Psychology presented in SP20
- View SMPs in Psychology presented in FA20
- View SMPs in Psychology presented in SP21
What is an SMP?
The St. Mary’s Project (SMP) is a year-long, eight-credit, independently executed course of study intended as a capstone experience for a student’s time at SMCM. Working in close conjunction with a professor, you have the opportunity to explore, in depth, a research question or idea that intrigues you. Psychology majors may complete the St. Mary’s Project in any established academic discipline or cross-disciplinary study area.
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 B.S. degree. Specifically, your project must demonstrate (at a minimum) satisfactory performance in regard to the following criteria:
- 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 (e.g., posters, lecture presentations, or other means).
Psychology majors planning to complete an SMP with a mentor outside of psychology must indicate as such using the online SMP Interest Form on or before the Friday of the 6th week in the second semester of your 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.
What do you do for your St. Mary’s Project in Psychology (PsycSMP)?
Students sometimes mistakenly believe that all SMPs in Psychology must conform to a specific model. In all SMPs you will complete a comprehensive literature review of a research topic (~20-30 pgs). Beyond that, there are a variety of ways that the SMP can be completed. In consultation with your mentor you will decide the most appropriate methodology to answer your particular research question.
The recommended option is an empirical project where you use data (newly collected, archival, interview, etc.) to answer a research question. This may, but not necessarily, involve hypothesis testing, and use of statistical methods to analyze the data. This option helps build your skills as a scientist (which is useful even if you do not plan to pursue a career in science/research). For example:
- Improving Belonging in the College Classroom for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Identity Safety Cues
- The Role of Gender and Sexual Orientation in Perceptions of Ghosting Acceptability
- Experiences in Postpartum Therapy and Support Groups
- Influence of the Gut-Brain Microbiome Axis on Conditioned Morphine Reward
- Diagnosis Disclosure and Identity: How receiving a mental illness diagnosis impacts identity
- Singing to Learn: How pitch information facilitates encoding and retrieval
Not all projects have a clear empirical methodology, so instead of a study to follow-up the literature review some projects may include a project-based component (i.e., applying what is learned from the literature review to create a product). For example:
- a book ( for “The Consequences of Negative Representation of People Who Stutter (PWS) in the Media,” after completing a review and analysis of available media, Taylor Foley ’16 authored and illustrated a children’s book with a main character who stuttered, Vera Armstead ‘21 wrote a novella based on a character’s experience with depersonalization/rerealization disorder)
- handbook or brochure (Ally Meyers ’22 created a brochure to serve as a suicide prevention training resource for St. Mary’s College of Maryland Resident Assistants) – although she did build in a data collection component where she got RA’s to provide feedback data in order to improve her brochure content & layout
- informational website (Shanelle Fleet ‘22 created a site as part of her project on Providing
- project proposal (Kelly Shuman ’15: “Using Dolphin Assisted Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”), or program proposal (Bryce Harden ‘22: Developing a School Program to Eliminate Dating Violence)
- documentary (“Seeing Eye to Eye: Autism, Therapy and the Family” was created by MaryLyle Jeanes ‘08 as an attempt to give a wider audience an appreciation for the intricacies, struggles, and triumphs involved in living with autism).
- game (Alyssa Afuang ’23 created Busy Bee Break: A Card Game to Mitigate Burnout Syndrome in College Students)
Again, the research question you investigate will drive the methods for the SMP – not the other way around. Thus, the ultimate project path/option (i.e., empirical vs. product-based) will be chosen in consultation with the mentor as the research question is developed and not decided upon before that.
What topics are possible for your SMP?
In general, PsycSMPs reflect their SMP mentor’s area of research speciality (i.e., not just resprestative of the mentor’s general area of psychology). Why?
We’ve found it is especially beneficial for the SMP student if they work within an area in which a faculty member has previous research experience or content knowledge (this also means there is a better chance for future publications or presentations). It is likely you will have not had a class with every psychology deptartment faculty member and are not aware of their specialty areas. Thus we have provided you with detailed Faculty Research Interest Info on our website; each faculty member has listed possible SMP topics that are within their area of expertise & interests and that they would be especially well-qualified to supervise. There is also a Faculty Research Interests Quick Guide in print copy in the psychology majors’ resource area by Goodpaster 127.
Also think about:
- What are your career interests?
- What was your favorite class in terms of content?
- Would a project you worked on during a directed research experience be something you would like to pursue further?
Since you will be working on this project for a year, if not longer, you want to identify a topic/research question in which you are interested. It must be something that is realistic to accomplish given the resources available to you. In most cases, this is not an issue, but if it is, your mentor will help guide you to a more feasible path.
Some other things to keep in mind
Remember, this is a 400-level project and you need adequate preparation. Successful completion of PSYC206 (Psychological Research, Analysis, and Writing II) is a prerequisite as well as PSYC310 (Scientific Writing and Professional Development). Although it is not a requirement, it is especially helpful to have completed at least one 300-level lab course.
Working on your SMP will be intense at times (what course isn’t?) While course preparation helps, ultimately your time management skills will be the biggest help. You will be meeting with your mentor, in most cases once every one or two weeks. Since you are not required to be sitting in a classroom at a specific time on a few specific days throughout the week, it is mainly up to you to keep yourself on task.
When to start thinking about your SMP
Start thinking about ideas early in your college career. Exploring possible research topics during your sophomore and early-junior years gives you plenty of time to make decisions before your senior year. Here’s a suggested timeline:
- Consider your interests in the various areas of psychology offered at SMCM. As you progress through your psychology major, you will be exposed to different faculty members’ specific research interests. Keep track of those research areas (and research questions) that you find particularly exciting; these interests will be used to pair you with an SMP advisor.
- Don’t be too specific, keep it broad.
- Before your meeting with your academic advisor during advising week, examine the Faculty Research Interests Quick Guide and research interests as outlined in greater detail on the department website.
- You will be required to attend the Research Opportunities Showcase. In your meeting with your advisor, you should discuss the research you heard about and which topics you find particularly interesting. This conversation will be revisited each semester with your advisor and in your Research Methods or Research, Analysis, and Writing II course.
First semester of junior year
- Talk to friends and seniors doing projects.
- You are required to attend the Research Opportunities Showcase in September (watch your email, psyc program TV in Goodpaster Hall lobby, and flyers for notice!)
- Review Faculty Research Interests (on website in detail; Faculty Research Interests Quick Guide print copy outside Goodpaster 127)
- Consider whether you want to collaborate with other students
- Think about whether you want to do the project in your senior year with a traditional credit distribution of eight credits spread evenly across FA-SP or need to do some other variation (possible but not recommended).
- If you plan to start early (i.e., 2nd semester of junior year because you plan to study abroad or graduate early), submit the online SMP Interest Form and Proposal Form (if applicable; linked from within interest form) by 11:59 pm on the Friday of the 6th week of classes (Oct. 7, 2022; Feb. 24, 2023).
Second semester of junior year
- Decide if you want to collaborate with other students.
- 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 Angela Johnson, professor of educational studies (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you would like to use the local public school system
- You are required to attend the Research Opportunities Showcase in early February (watch your email, psyc program TV in Goodpaster Hall lobby, and flyers for notice!)
- Submit the online SMP Interest Form by 11:59 pm on the Friday of the 6th week of classes.
- The SMP Interest Form requires you to choose and rank four general areas of interest in Psychology at SMCM. From these choices, you will then rate your interest in a number of possible topics/research questions related to the respective areas. Please read through and consider these topcs carefully as they will drive the development of your final research topic. You MUST complete the SMP Interest form regardless of the next statement.
- If after reading through all of the available topics, you feel that there is a different topic you really want to pursue, you can elect to write a 3-page proposal (with at least 3 references) about your topic of choice. Proposals meeting established guidelines are due electronically via the Psychology SMP Proposal Form (linked from within the SMP Interest Form) by 11:59 pm on the Friday of the 6th week of classes (Oct. 7, 2022; Feb. 24, 2023).
- Please note that you can propose an alternate project, but it is not guaranteed that it will be feasible/approved.
- Attend presentations on SMP Days at the end of the semester.
Highlighted SMP Projects
Backus, Gabrielle. (2022, May). Improving Belonging in the College Classroom for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Identity Safety Cues.
mentor: Dr. Kristina Howansky
Lanham, Erin. (2022, May). Deception, Rejection, and the Effect of Online Context.
mentor: Dr. Gili Freedman
Minor, Spencer. (2021, May). Multiracial Identity and its Development Through Social Connections.
mentor: Dr. Libby Williams
Morris, Madeleine. (2020, May). Diagnosis Disclosure and Identity: How receiving a mental illness diagnosis impacts identity.
mentor: Dr. Ayse Ikizler
Segal, Abri. (2020, May). Attitudes Towards Animal Cruelty Versus Meat Consumption Behavior.
mentor: Dr. Jennifer Tickle
Thompson, Rachel. (2019, May). Singing to Learn: How Pitch Information Facilitates Encoding and Retrieval.
mentor: Dr. James Mantell
Check out other showcase projects