- 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 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.
Current psychology majors are 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
- Look over the PsycSMP showcase, and browse the PsycSMP abstract database
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.
- 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.
- Consider whether you want to utilize the local public school system
- If you plan to start early, review/consider Faculty Research Interests and talk to at least three (3) psychology professors about potential research topics in order to submit a SMP Proposal Form to the academic program coordinator, Angie Draheim (Goodpaster 116), by the end of advising week in the fall.
Second semester of junior year:
- Narrow your choice to one or two topics
- Discuss and develop your topic ideas with faculty members who might be good mentors.
- Talk to the St. Mary’s Career Development Center if you want to include an off-campus component 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 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.
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?
Students sometimes mistakenly believe that all SMPs in Psychology 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 information 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
The College has determined that it is reasonable for students to be responsible for $200 of the project expenses (based on $100 per 4 credits). College funds are available for additional support. 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
Amy Gorovoy ’17
Twitter User-Generated Content and Consumer Behavior
mentor: Dr. Jennifer Tickle
Claire Kostelnik ’17
Intraventricular Injections of L-655, 708 on Depressive-Like Behavior
mentor: Aileen Bailey
Jacob Lowenthal ’16
The effects of unattended auditory musical stimuli on reading comprehension.
mentor: James Mantell
Liza Moore ’16
A qualitative study of counseling clients with chronic autoimmune diseases.
mentor: Libby Williams
Alternative Capstone Experience
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.
You must submit an ACE Declaration of Intent form to the academic program support coordinator, Angie Draheim, by March 1 in the second semester of your junior year.