Research Training

The Graduate School provides detailed information about the university requirements, procedures, and format for master’s theses and dissertations (see links below for detailed information). Students must follow all university procedures and requirements. The information here provides supplementary information about the purpose, program- specific requirements, and timeline for the master’s thesis and dissertation document for students in the Clinical Psychology Program.

The master’s thesis and dissertation are meant to help students develop competence as psychological scientists. The written documents and oral defenses provide evidence that the student has developed competence in three main areas:

  1. The ability to critically evaluate theory and empirical studies related to a specific topic. Specifically, the student can:
    • Conduct a literature review that is comprehensive and without bias (e.g., engaging fully with findings that both strengthen and weaken hypotheses)
    • Acquire in-depth, advanced knowledge of a specific topic
    • Integrate theory and empirical findings to generate predictions or research hypotheses
  2. The ability to formulate and conduct a research study. Specifically, the student can:
    • Conceptualize an empirical study that uses measurable evidence to test meaningful specific hypotheses or explore logical research questions
    • Choose a research design that can address the research questions and is feasible given time and resource constraints
    • Conduct analyses that are appropriate to the data and address study hypotheses or research questions
    • Interpret statistical results in relation to study hypotheses or research questions
  3. The ability to communicate scientific information effectively. Specifically, the student can:
    • Write in a clear and concise manner, using APA style
    • Discuss interpretations and implications of study results in oral and written formats
    • Reach and defend conclusions in oral and written formats

The format and approach to the master’s thesis and dissertation will vary based on research areas and labs; however, all students must show appropriate progress towards the above competencies. In addition, the following requirements apply to all students:

  1. Empirical work. At least one project must involve active data collection by the student. This can be accomplished through independent data collection (e.g., with the participant pool, UConn KIDS, online sources such as, etc.) or by involvement in ongoing data collection in the advisor’s lab. In other words, the master’s and dissertation projects cannot both utilize strictly secondary data analysis.
  2. Novel idea development. At least one project must include efforts to address novel study questions or hypotheses. While replication studies of previous work are valuable, students must develop the study hypotheses or research questions for either the master’s or dissertation projects.
  3. Independent thinking. While projects can “piggyback” on large, ongoing studies, the student must be responsible for independently generating hypotheses.