University of Vermont

College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Psychological Science

The General/Experimental Program

Preliminary Project Policy
(For Students Admitted Prior to Fall 2010)

Revised October 10, 2001


The purpose of the preliminary requirement is:

  • to promote breadth of knowledge. The topic normally may be in the student's specialization area but must be different from the topic of the student's master's thesis and (anticipated) dissertation.
  • to provide the student with the opportunity to develop skills required to conceptualize and complete a major scholarly project.

Format of the Requirement

The preliminary project may take any of a variety of forms, providing the structure of the project permits the student to accomplish the "purpose" described above. These commonly include, but need not be limited to the following:

  1. an extensive and in-depth review paper. The scope of the review should be similar to articles that appear in Psychological Bulletin, Psychological Review, and Annual Review of Psychology.
  2. the design of a complete course. The course topic will typically be at the advanced undergraduate level rather than an introductory level survey course, unless it is a new introductory course that has emerged within the field. The course should not be so highly specialized that it would be unlikely that undergraduates would be interested in taking the course. In particular cases, a graduate course might also be appropriate.
  3. a grant proposal for research.
  4. an independent, empirical research project that includes original data gathering, analysis, interpretation, and write-up in a format appropriate for a professional journal.

Regardless of the format, the student must:

  1. propose and receive approval for the project before beginning it, (i.e., do not begin data collection, writing, etc. before the prelim proposal is approved);
  2. demonstrate (in the prelim proposal) how the project will fulfill the purpose of the preliminary requirement described above;
  3. create some sort of intellectual and tangible product (e.g., an academic paper, detailed course outline with lecture outlines, etc.).

Preliminary Requirement Committee

The student shall have a preliminary committee that consists of three faculty. At least two committee members shall be full-time members of the General/Experimental faculty. The Chair of the preliminary comittee shall be a full-time member of the Psychology Department faculty.

Approval Process for Proposals

The General/Experimental Faculty must approve the student's proposal for satisfying the preliminary requirement.

Step 1. In consultation with the chair of the preliminary committee, the student shall develop a proposal and submit it to members of the committee. The committee will request any needed revisions, and advise the student when he or she is ready to submit the proposal to the next step in the process.

Step 2. The student shall submit a written proposal to each member of the General/Experimental Faculty. This proposal must include the following elements:

  • A completed cover page (Word document) that includes:
    • names of members of the committee, including designation of the committee chair.
    • signatures of all committee members on the cover page indicating that they have evaluated the proposal and recommend it for faculty approval.
    • the title and brief description of the student's master's thesis.
    • the likely topic of the student's dissertation.
    • a brief description of the student's area of specialization.
    • the date by which faculty who elect to make comments must submit their comments (see below).
  • A summary (Word document) of the topic and format of the proposed preliminary project that includes:
    • a statement of the topic or issue to be addressed by the project.
    • the anticipated outcome of the project (e.g., a manuscript to be submitted for publication or preparation of a document that could be used to teach a course).
    • a list of references that represent the area or areas of research that will be included in the prelim.
  • Examples of previously aproved preliminary examination proposals are available from the General/Experimental Program director.

Step 3. Faculty may elect to provide input by making written comments.

  • A copy of all faculty feedback comments shall be submitted to the CHAIR OF THE PRELIMINARY REQUIREMENT COMMITTEE.
  • These comments may include a recommendation about whether the preliminary proposal is acceptable or not acceptable. If the faculty member believes the proposal is not acceptable, he/she must provide a brief statement about what changes (if any) would make the proposal acceptable.
  • Faculty must provide their input within two weeks of proposal.
  • The two week period during which the faculty can comment on the proposal must occur during the academic year (approximately September 1 through May 15).

Step 4. The student and the preliminary requirement committee shall decide how the preliminary proposal should be revised to respond to faculty comments. If any faculty have indicated that the proposal is not acceptable, the committee and the student must meet to determine how the proposal should be revised.

Step 5. The student submits a revised copy of the proposal to committee members. The committee votes to approve it or disapprove it within two weeks of receiving the revisions, provided this two week period falls during the academic year (approximately September 1 through May 15).

Step 6. The student submits a copy of the prelim proposal to the Director of the General/Experimental Program along with a written statement about how the proposal was revised in response to any comments received from the faculty. A copy of the proposal and this statement also shall be submitted to every member of the faculty who submitted comments about the proposal.

STUDENTS SHALL NOT BEGIN WORK ON THE PRELIMINARY REQUIREMENT UNTIL THEY HAVE AN APPROVED PROPOSAL (COMPLETED STEPS 1 THROUGH 6), unless they have received special permission to do so through a petition to the General/Experimental Faculty.

Completing the Requirement

  • The student completes the project outlined in the proposal.
  • When the student and the chair of the committee agree that the preliminary project is ready for committee review, the student submits it to the committee.
  • The committee is to confer and provide feedback to the student regarding whether or not the student's product adequately satisfies the prelim requirement within one month after receiving the completed preliminary project, provided that this one month period falls during the academic year (approximately September 1 through May 15). The committee may take one of two actions:
    • If the committee unanimously approves the preliminary requirement as submitted, the student has fulfilled the preliminary requirement. If they unanimously disapprove it, the student has failed to complete the requirement.
    • If the committee is not unanimous, it shall indicate to the student what revisions are needed.
  • If the committee requests revisions, the student then makes the revisions with the guidance of his or her committee chair. Once the revisions are made, the student then submits the revised project to committee members.
  • Members then vote whether they approve the revised project within two weeks (provided this two week period falls between September 1 and May 15). No meeting is required prior to this vote.
    • If the majority of committee members approves the project, the student has completed the preliminary requirement. If the majority does not vote for approval, the student has failed to complete this preliminary project.
    • Students who fail to complete the preliminary requirement on their first attempt are permitted a maximum of one additional attempt to complete the requirement. This requires successfully completing all of the procedures outlined above, beginning with selecting a preliminary requirement committee and going through the approval process for proposals.

Reporting Completion of the Preliminary Requirement

  • The results of the completed preliminary examination shall be reported to the DIRECTOR OF THE GENERAL/EXPERIMENTAL FACULTY by the chair of the preliminary requirement committee.
  • It is the student's responsibility to insure that the chair of the committee does this.
  • The Director of the General/Experimental Program shall then notify the Dean of the Graduate College that the student has successfully completed the preliminary requirement.

Last modified October 16 2013 11:41 AM

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