3 answers

How do I get psychology research experience?

Asked Sacramento, California

I'm finishing my B.A. in psychology and I have no research experience other than what I've done in statistics courses. Is there a way to get more research experience?

#psychology, #research

3 answers

Lillian’s Answer


Yes, there are multiple ways you can get more experience! Your university should have professors on campus that are currently conducting research. The easiest way to get research experience is to ask to help these professors as an undergraduate research assistant. Here is a great website telling you how to draft an email to ask:


If you know the professor already through class or other means, you can also just ask them in person rather than through email for a faster response. Usually, professors are more than happy to accept help (particularly if it's a volunteer, unpaid position). If they say they are too busy or are otherwise unable to accept you, ask if they have any graduate assistants or other professors they know of that would be interested in accepting undergraduate research assistants.

There are usually multiple on-campus ways to get research experience, but if not, many research facilities outside of your university will hire part-time research assistants as well.

Lastly, any REU (research experience for undergrads) program is also a great way to get research experience: https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/

Hossein’s Answer


Hi Amy,

Believe it or not, you are just on time thinking about research. I hope the following general comment would help you some;

While there are general ways to go about gaining research experience, there are unique routes to research experience specific to each department. I am going to shed light on the former, hoping that will illuminate on some possibilities.

You can write down a list of topics you are interested in doing research on. Start from the subdisciplines first, and then based on your current knowledge of each subdiscipline, write down the topics and areas of your interest. You don't have to come up with an award winning idea at this point in time. I always suggest my students to see where they can find some comfort to their deep personal pain. This helps you out most people persevere and move forward on that specific topic or area. For example, I chose suicide prevention research. It's not uplifting or inspirational for many but got me each little discovery or finding is like a gift from heavens and that keeps me going. There more you go in depth into a you, the more and deeper unique ideas for innovation and discovery you will have. That said, there is nothing wrong with choosing a different area every year or so. That might give one a multidisciplinary outlook, which is another route to creativity. After you have your list in front of you, go look at the faculty profiles of your department and try to match your areas with each faculty at least. Then score each area/faculty entry based on relevance or fit. Then write an introductory really brief email to each faculty and just like your question here, tell them you are seeking research experience seriously and in one or two sentence, tell them you are interested in x topic and wonder if they have any observer/volunteer position in their lab. Try to also meet them even if they say no at first. When you meet them, try to see if they might refer you to their colleagues in other departments, or else, they can give you a bunch of names wherever you might want to be in the next couple of years or so. After you go over each item on your list with associated faculty members, a lot of things will have happened. In case, you can't get anything at that level, do not lose your heart. There is always a good place for the curious mind. We have all been there at some point in our history. Just remember, if you don't ask, you won't get It. Please let me know how I can be more helpful. If there site allows, you can email me privately or set up a phone call. I would be really glad to help. Good luck!

Hossein recommends the following next steps:

  • Target faculty members who currently do research on topics and areas of your interest.

Linda Ann’s Answer


From your school’s website, go to the web pages for the psychology department. Then go to the link for “faculty.” Review each of the faculty member’s research interests and studies each faculty member is currently conducting.

For those studies that you find the most interesting, ask the faculty member for an appointment to talk about their research with you because you want to be an assistant!

That is how you should start-by volunteering your time with a psychology faculty member. Then, in a later semester discuss the possibility of doing an ‘independent study’ for a semester or two with that faculty member. Independent studies are generally 3 credit courses, sometimes even 4.

Doing a independent study OR back-to-back independent studies will provide you with invaluable experiences as an undergraduate student!!

Linda Ann recommends the following next steps:

  • Read about all full-time psychology faculty members research.
  • Make an appointment with at least one faculty member to discuss their research in more detail.
  • Volunteer to help out one faculty member.
  • Consider doing an independent study with one of the psychology faculty members.
Ask a question