Psychology SIPs

A Psychology SIP is a SIP that earns a unit of credit towards the Psychology major and involves writing an academic paper on some Psychology-related topic. A Psychology SIP can be one or two units, but only one unit can count towards the Psychology major.

Psychology SIP Models

Psychology SIPs generally fall into two main categories: those that involve the collection and analysis of data and those that do not.

Data-based SIPs

The preferred type of Psychology SIP involves collecting and analyzing data that pertains to your question of interest. This type of SIP is often (though not always) a 2-unit SIP that spans the summer and fall quarters. You will learn how to do this type of SIP in Experimental Methods. Data-based SIPs may use experimental or correlational methods and can be conducted in two different ways:

In a research lab setting

In a research lab setting under the supervision of a Psychology faculty member (either at Kalamazoo College or at some other institution). In this type of setting, students typically help the faculty member with his or her ongoing research projects and write their SIP about some portion of the data from the project. Although students may have less control over the design and exact questions being asked in such settings, these are often the best SIPs because you are apprenticing with an expert in the field, so your project will benefit from all of their knowledge and experience. You also typically come out with a great recommendation for graduate school!

In an independent project

Students can design and propose their own research project that involves collecting data through an experiment, a survey, or interviews*. Students who want to design their own project will work with Drs. Hostetter and Batsell during spring quarter to develop a SIP proposal that details their project.  This type of SIP can be a good choice for students with a lot of self-motivation who have a very specific question they would like to ask that can be addressed without complicated methods or equipment. However, there are some common problems with this type of SIP, including lack of resources to find and recruit participants. (*Note that in order to collect interview data, you must take Dr. Gregg’s Narrative Analysis class in the spring, in addition to Experimental Methods.)

Non-Data SIPs:

Although we prefer SIPs that contain data because they are the best type of preparation for graduate school, some students choose to do a SIP that does not involve the collection or analysis of data. SIPs that do not contain data are usually (though not always) one-unit SIPs completed either in Summer or in Fall. They usually take one of two forms:

A Literature Review

This type of SIP involves an extensive review of a single topic in psychology.  It needs to include the various theoretical perspectives that have been applied to the topic, and it often includes a critical analysis of existing studies and novel proposals for future research.  This type of SIP is probably the easiest SIP to do but the most difficult to do really well.

A Proposed Study

This type of SIP most often results from an internship in an applied setting (e.g., working in a camp, hospital, corporation, etc…). In the internship, the student will learn the operations and duties of individuals in this area of psychology.  The final report will include a literature review and a proposed experiment on a topic that is relevant to the placement.  The advantage of this type of SIP is that students get first-hand knowledge of the working conditions of a specific type of psychological professional.  The main drawback is that the placement may have limited resources and support for completing the written portions of the SIP.

SIP Research

Choosing a SIP Topic

The most important aspect of a SIP topic is that it is something you are interested in. You will be spending several months working on this topic; students who enjoy their topic have a much easier time putting in the hours than students who do not.

Proposals for Psychology SIPs
Do I need to write a Psychology SIP proposal?

You do NOT need to write a Psychology SIP proposal if you are planning a research SIP that involves working in someone’s lab (either here at K or elsewhere) or are planning a SIP that does not involve the collection of data ( a literature review or proposed study). If you are planning to collect data on your own or at an internship site (either qualitative or quantitative data), you DO need to submit a SIP proposal to get approval before you begin. Proposals are due by the end of week 7 of Spring quarter.

“Do I need to write a Psychology SIP Proposal” Flowchart
Guidelines for Writing a Psychology SIP Proposal

The following provides an outline you can use to prepare your proposal, and you can vary it depending on your specific project. You should turn this in to Drs. Hostetter or Batsell by Friday of week 6, Spring quarter.

  • Your internship: what it is, what you’ll be doing, how it fits with your academic interests and professional goals. [Omit this if you’re proposing an independent project.]

  • Research: brief statement of your research project

  • Research Question(s): state as clearly as possible the questions you’ll be trying to answer, or hypotheses you’ll be evaluating. You should include information from published sources where possible about what is already known regarding your question and how your project will extend what is already known. Why is this project necessary?

  • Methods: explain your data collection and analysis methods. If you will have “participants” (for an experiment, observations, questionnaires, interviews, etc.), describe who they’ll be and how you’ll recruit them. Include copies of all questions, surveys, etc., that you will use in data collection. Describe how you will analyze the data once it is collected.

  • Your qualifications: classes, knowledge, out-of-class experience, skills, etc. that will enable you to carry out the project.

  • Ethical / IRB Considerations: what ethical concerns will you need to address and/or IRB approval will you need? Have you spoken to the current Psychology representative on Kalamazoo College’s IRB? (Note that a separate IRB proposal must be submitted to the IRB by Monday of week 8).

  • Practical considerations: How will your internship enable you to carry out the project? Do you have permission from the supervisor or individuals at the site to collect data? If an independent project, how will you manage conducting it?

  • References. Provide a complete APA-style references list that includes at least 10 sources related to your research project.

SIP Research and Funding Opportunities

Plumert-Teasley Endowed Psychology SIP Fellowship.

This fellowship was established by K Psychology alums Dr. Jodie Plumert (now at the University of Iowa) and Dr. Stephanie Teasley (now at the University of Michigan), and supported by many other, generous K psychology alums.  

Typically, we are able to award up to $3,000.00 to a single psychology major who is completing summer SIP work.  The money is intended to help with travel costs, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses. 

The three criteria that will be used to choose the awardee include:

  • a research placement with a psychology faculty member at a distinguished academic institution (a letter from the advisor will be required)
  • demonstrated financial need
  • a history of academic success in K psychology coursework.

Plumert-Teasley Endowed Psychology SIP Fellowship Grant Application Link

Kalamazoo College

Here are some on campus resources for you to look at when trying to plan your SIP research.

College Wide Summer Internships and SIP Funding

Summer Research Programs

Visit our Research and Internships page for more information on Summer Research Programs.

Summer Research Programs

Finding a Lab

You may choose based on interest. Identify an area or specific question that you are interested in writing your SIP about. Then, search PsycINFO to identify the researchers who are working on that question and read several of their papers. Then, email them to ask whether they might be willing to let you work with them over the summer on their on-going projects.

You may also choose based on location. If you know that you need to live in a particular location over the summer, peruse the Psychology websites of the institutions that are nearby and read the research interests of the faculty there. Identify those who are doing work that seems interesting to you (you will probably have to be less picky about the topic you work on if you are geographically constrained to a particular location). Then email the people to ask whether they might be willing to let you work with them over the summer on their on-going project.

 In addition, if you apply and are accepted to a summer research program (see here for more information), you may be paired with an advisor who matches your stated interests.

Finally, do not discount working with a Psych professor here at K! Many faculty in the Psych Department are engaged in research during the summer months and working with one of us can be a great basis for a Psych SIP. You should read about the research interests of Psych faculty and reach out to faculty you are interested in working with to see if they have opportunities.

Emailing an off-site advisor in order to find a SIP placement

1) Keep the e-mail short: No more than 2 brief paragraphs, but make sure it is very clear and comprehensive.  The tone should be professional.  Proofread your e-mail painstakingly before sending it.

2) Don’t send more e-mails than you can manage.  (The number depends on you.  Some students in the past have sent 15-30, and then another batch a week or so later etc.).  Thank the researcher and reply to every email you receive, even those that turn you down.  Keep a record of emails going out and coming in.  If you should receive an offer, follow it up quickly.  If you are not ready to commit yet, tell the researcher that you will get back in contact with a commitment by ____ (date – probably around 2 weeks would be okay).  Be sure to follow this up, even if you are not taking the offer.  If a researcher has been particularly generous with time, send a Thank You note – especially if not taking the offer.  And definitely send a Thank You note to the researcher you will be working with!

3) It’s fine to send some e-mail inquiries that might be more generic/all-purpose in content. However, the inquiries you REALLY care about should be as personal and specific to the researcher as possible. 

Dr. Tan’s Tips on Writing a Letter to a Particular Researcher

Tips on Writing a Letter to a Particular Researcher (Dr. Tan)

Below are my suggestions for what to include in a letter tailored to a particular researcher, although it is only a general guideline and you should adapt it to suit your particular needs.  (These guidelines can be adapted for the more “generic” letter too, as well as SIP inquiries of a non-research nature):

Dear Dr./Professor/Mr./Ms. __________, (always address the person by name – do not simply send to “Dear Professor” or “To Whom It May Concern”)

INTRODUCE SELF:  Give a brief personal introduction to yourself (include major/minor and your year in college, and definitely mention Kalamazoo College) and statement of your career goals.

MAKE REQUEST:  Mention your interest in the researcher’s area of expertise, and ask if there are any opportunities to serve as a research assistant on any phase of the researcher’s current projects.  In 1-2 sentences, explain that you are working on a senior thesis (don’t simply say Senior Individualized Project or SIP without giving them a context for it), what this entails etc.  Let the researcher know that you plan to be as self-reliant and resourceful as possible, and that you would not need a lot of their time – several meetings, some replies to questions, and feedback on drafts.  (Most researchers are very busy, and fearful about accepting a needy, dependent student who will drain them of their time and energy).  If you can afford it, tell the researcher that you do not expect to be paid – or are willing to work for a small stipend.  If you have a place nearby where you can live, mention it.  If you do need financial support, I would recommend waiting until a researcher contacts you to explore those possibilities together and/or investigate if there are any possibilities at “K” College.  Specify the dates that you will be free to work.  

QUALIFICATIONS:  List any relevant experience or qualifications:

i) Any prior experience as a research assistant? (Very helpful, but not essential: Researchers do not expect all undergraduates to have had prior experience.  If you have research experience, name the professor, state research aims or questions precisely.  If the work happened to culminate in conference presentations or publications, specify.  If your research experience was a class research project, or a research project you did for a class, I’d recommend mentioning it after your relevant courses, not before); 

ii) Relevant College courses you have taken?  For a research position, definitely mention Statistics and other Quantitative courses (including Math, Calculus, etc.), Experimental Methods (if you have not taken or completed it yet, specify by when you will have done so).  Also mention Psychology courses relevant to researcher’s area (for example: if researcher is studying communication in families with an autistic child, relevant courses may include Developmental

Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Interviewing and Narrative Analysis, etc.  Usually no need to mention General Psychology.) 

iii) If there is anything else you can think of that is of central relevance to the researcher’s area (e.g., for the hypothetical example in point ii): if you have a sibling with special needs, or if you have experience working with individuals with autism, etc.  Otherwise, just skip). 

iv) End by saying that the researcher may contact Dr. _____ at ______ (give both e-mail address and telephone #) for a recommendation (be sure to ask your Professor first).  Personally, I prefer to be contacted by e-mail in order to avoid playing phone tag.  But you might ask your Professor how he or she prefers to be contacted. 

SIGN OFF:  Include full name, e-mail, telephone (and best way and times to reach you).

Some examples of internship e-mails that have resulted in the acquisition of successful SIP internship sites are shown below (used by permission):
1st Example:

My name is Joan Smith, and I am a junior psychology major at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI. I am interested in becoming integrally involved in a research project for the summer months. The research you’ve been conducting on (insert the general area of research) intrigues me, and I am wondering if you could use a research assistant in your lab. Though I would gladly accept a paid position, it is not a requirement. If you do not have a need for a research assistant, but know of others in a similar field that may, I would appreciate it if you could pass my name along.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you.

2nd example:

My name is John Doe and I am a third year psychology major at Kalamazoo, College in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Upon graduating in Spring of 2008, I intend to enroll in a graduate level program to further my current studies eventually entering academia as a researcher.

 I am very interested in research that you are conducting about familial risk in relation to a child’s socio-emotion development.  In my Social Development class we have been talking about the influences of family on a child’s development and ability to move on to school, and I am very interested in looking at this further.

 This summer I will begin working on my senior project, and I am seeking the guidance of an experienced researcher pursuing research in the areas of developmental psychology.  I am writing to inquire if you have any opportunities to serve as a research assistant during the summer of 2007.  Though funding is appreciated, I am able to provide myself with housing and a stipend through my school and therefore do not need any kind of additional funding through your lab.  I am self-motivated and a quick learner; able to work independently while upholding my responsibilities.  I have had experience as a research assistant during the summer of 2006 when I worked with Dr. Barbara Schneider, John A. Hannah Distinguished Chair of the College of Education at Michigan State University.  With her guidance, I studied the differences between rural schools and suburban schools in regards to a student’s academic aspirations and outcomes.  I am presenting our paper at the American Education Research Association National Conference this coming April.

As a psychology major, I have taken the necessary course work to be a useful and efficient research assistant, including Abnormal, Developmental, and Social Development Psychology, Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods, Calculus, and Experimental Methods, a seminar outlining research methods in modern day psychology.  I am proficient with SPSS and large-scale data sets, including the National Educational Longitudinal Survey of 1988 and the Educational Longitudinal Survey of 2002.

You may contact my advisor, Dr. at for recommendations.

I appreciate your consideration in this matter and look forward to speaking with you.  I can be contacted most easily at or at (insert phone) and (# PO Box) Hicks Center, 1200 Academy St., Kalamazoo, MI.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you.

One Unit vs Two Unit SIP

Psychology SIPs can be one- or two-unit. Most students begin working on their SIPs in the summer before their Senior year. One unit SIPs are competed before Fall quarter begins; Two unit SIPs continue over the fall quarter and are completed before Winter quarter begins. It is also possible to do a one-unit Fall SIP, if individual circumstances do not allow for SIP work over the summer. Students who are interested in a one-unit Fall SIP should discuss their situation with the SIP coordinator. It is possible to get Honors on either a one-unit or two unit Psychology SIP

One-unit SIPs are smaller in scope than two-unit SIPs. They typically contain only a literature review, method, and projected results and discussion with no actual data, although some one unit SIPs do contain data. Completed one unit SIPs typically range from 20 to 30 pages in length.

Two-unit SIPs are larger in scope. They often include a literature review, method, results with statistical analyses (or qualitative analyses) of collected data, and a discussion. Completed two unit SIPs are typically longer than 30 pages in length.

Van Liere Symposium

The Van Liere Symposium is an event held every spring when the Psychology Department majors present their Senior Individualized Projects (SIPs) to the members of the campus, families, and guests. This is an opportunity for upcoming majors to learn what SIPs are about and to discover SIP opportunities for themselves.

Psychology SIP Oral Presentation Guidelines

The following guidelines were adopted from Jeff Radel’s web page on effective presentations.

The SIP oral presentation should be approximately 11 minutes in length after which you can expect a 3-minute question and answer period. (There will be four or five talks per session so it is very important that your presentation does not exceed 11 minutes. Please practice and time your talk to make sure it is not too long. Because this is a relatively short talk, you need to be clear on your topic. You do not need to present everything you did for your SIP. Include the most important and/or interesting one or two findings, as well as a brief summary of the relevant background literature. Also, remember that redundancy is important in an oral presentation. We used to say, “In any speech, in the introduction, ‘you need to tell them what you are going to tell them,’ then in the body you, ‘tell them,’ and finally, in the conclusion, ‘you should tell them what you told them.'”

The times listed below are approximate but should help when preparing each section of the talk.

The first four to six minutes:
The literature review should take no more than 6 minutes of the presentation because the audience is more interested in hearing about what you did for your SIP and needs only a basic review of previous research in order to understand your study. The amount of time you spend covering previous research will vary depending on the complexity of your research design. End this section by giving a very clear summary of the purpose of the present study (i.e., your hypothesis).

The last four – seven minutes:
Spend most of the presentation telling the audience what you did for your SIP. Try to make a smooth transition from the previous section by explaining how your study fits into the existing literature (e.g., the present study attempts to replicate what Smith and Jones (1980) did while controlling for gender bias…). You should follow the same logic you would use when writing a paper in APA style. After the introduction and purpose of the present study, move into a description of your methods including the participants and materials. In some cases you may want to include a picture of your apparatus or a copy of the questionnaire participants completed while you describe the method. Do not simply list questions and read them one after another with your back to the audience. Simply use the visuals as examples (e.g., “we asked questions such as x, y, and z” while pointing these out). Once you have provided a brief overview of your methods, summarize your results using figures or tables. Do not include too much information, be consistent in terms of figures and tables with respect to font size and color, etc. As stated before, you do not need to present your entire SIP if you ran two or three experiments.

Simply choose one or two of the most important and/or interesting pieces of your SIP in order to limit the number of figures and tables. Your audience would rather hear a detailed explanation of one or two crucial slides than one or two sentence overviews of 20 different tables. Be conscious of time when you are going through your slides and try to arrange your results in such a way that you could easily skip over two or three if you are running short on time (e.g., you should skip over one experiment altogether rather than cover your interpretation and discussion in the last 30 seconds). After you have presented your basic results, interpret and discuss your findings for the audience. Be clear and emphasize the “bottom line.” Did you have significant findings? If so, review them. If not, were there methodological flaws in your design? Are there one or two possible explanations for your results? Offer suggestions as to what you would do differently in the future if you had to do the study again. End the talk with a clear, concise summary of your conclusions (as listed on your last slide).

Visual Aids:
As mentioned earlier, you are encouraged to use PowerPoint for your oral presentation but transparencies are acceptable as well. PowerPoint offers very nice templates that can be used to help you organize your talk. It is also easy to bring in scanned pictures and documents (e.g., an MRI scan, a copy of the survey given to participants, a picture of participants completing a specific task, etc.). The time spent putting your presentation into PowerPoint will help you arrange the material in a logical sequence. Use high contrast colors for your slides (e.g., large dark text on a lighter background. Some basic recommendations are to make slides BIG, SIMPLE, CLEAR, and CONCISE. A humorous but useful mnemonic to remember when preparing slides for a talk is K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid. Although you may choose, recommended fonts and sizes for slides are discussed in the web tutorial (e.g., Times Roman looks nice on paper but is difficult to read on slides). Lastly, note that PowerPoint slides can be printed off as transparencies if you prefer to use overheads instead of the computer for your presentation. However, you will want to change the page orientation from the default (landscape) to letter size before you start making your slides! If you are a MacIntosh user, remember to save your presentation in PC format as we have PCs available during the conference.

Finally, remember that retention of information is reduced as the talk proceeds. Thus, if presenting a series of points on a given slide, organize them from the most important to the least important so the audience will remember the most relevant information. Also, remember to repeat and emphasize key points. And lastly, practice, practice, practice. First, practice by yourself to get comfortable with the talk. You may start by writing out your talk verbatim but go through it enough such that you can give the presentation in a conversational style (i.e., do not read your notes). Second, when you are comfortable with the talk, practice with roommates and ask them for constructive feedback on what part of the talk was unclear and for suggestions on where to cut irrelevant material.

Psychology SIP Poster Presentation Guidelines

Here are some guidelines for preparing a SIP poster for presentation. These guidelines are targeted toward research posters, but if you are preparing a poster that presents other material (e.g. a report on a SIP internship), you will find that you can adapt much of the information to your particular needs. Note that the style of writing for a poster should should be formal in its style and tone, without the use of contractions (e.g., “can’t,” “3-D”) and avoiding conversational phrases (e.g., “deal with”). However, in general the text on a poster should be much briefer than what you would have in a paper and you should rely more heavily on illustrations, diagrams, tables, and figures. Remember, a poster is not just a paper printed in large font!

General Tips for Poster Design

  • Do not crowd your poster with unnecessary detail. Be selective in your choice of what to include and what to omit. Remember, however, that your poster should tell “a complete story” of the research question, background, procedure, results and implications of your study. However, this does not mean that you have to tell the entire story; it is perfectly okay to omit certain analyses or details if they are not important to the story you are telling.

  • Emphasize the visual. Whenever possible, use graphs, pictures, diagrams, and drawings instead of text. Show, rather than describe!

  • Font size: For the body of your text, use a font style and size that can be clearly read from a distance of 4 feet (usually about 16 to 18 point or above). For your title and name, use larger font. Be consistent with the choice of font, and use one font style only.

  • Poster printing: Posters can be printed in the K College Media Center at a reduced price compared to professional services (e.g., Kinkos).

Helpful Information

SIP Survival Tips
Tips for completing your SIP (Dr Batsell)
  1. Develop a timetable and a regular schedule for the completion of your SIP–It won’t write itself. For example, schedule certain hours or days of the week for library research and writing. Develop these habits early and stick with them!  
  2. If you are in a university setting, talk with the grad students about your SIP (tell them it’s a senior thesis). They are likely to be sympathetic and helpful–some-times more helpful than the faculty member supervising your internship.
  3. Getting in touch with Psychology faculty members during the summer can be a problem. Your best bet is to e-mail the SIP Coordinator at If you don’t have access to e-mail, you can try calling at 269.337.7032. However, the Psychology Department is officially closed summers, so you may not be able to reach anyone by phone.
  4. If a serious problem comes up regarding your SIP or internship and you are unable to reach anyone, send a letter addressed to Psychology SIP Coordinator at the College, describing the problem. In the meantime, do what you can to salvage your SIP.
  5. If you are using a computer to type your SIP, make sure you have: a) a printed copy of your most up-to-date version; b) two copies of the computer files, each on a separate thumb drive; and c) if you are not using Microsoft Word or Word Perfect that you have files which are compatible with that software–e.g., text or RTF format. Check with the Computer Center here (269.337.7237) if you will need to print charts, graphs, or spreadsheet data from other software.
  6. Take copies of the College SIP Handbook and any Psychology Department SIP handouts. These contain important information about the format of the SIP. If there are differences in what is suggested by the two documents, follow the Psychology format.
  7. Remember that all Psychology SIPs must follow the APA style. It does not have to follow the outline of an experimental report, e.g., having a methods section, if it is not an empirical study, but it must follow APA rules for such things as citations, referencing, use of abbreviations, etc. Make sure you have a copy of the APA Manual (5th Ed.). In general, follow the directions for use of the APA format you learned in Experimental Methods. Your goal is to make your SIP look like an article published in an APA journal, not what would be sent to an editor.
  8. Students often ask how long a SIP should be. This is a difficult question to answer but here are some guidelines: If you are writing a draft of an introduction while doing an applied internship, it should be 30-50 pages, minimum. It should describe each study or theory in sufficient detail to show its relevance to the problem you are investigating.   If you are writing a draft of a methods and results section while doing a research internship, it is difficult to prescribe a minimum length. However, keep in mind that if the reader cannot understand what happened in the experiment and what results where found, you will not be able to complete a two-unit SIP and may not even receive credit for a one-unit SIP.
  9. Don’t try to make your SIP longer by using wide margins, extra spacing, or larger than usual fonts. Don’t use cute, fancy, or sans serif fonts. Use something similar to what you see here: Times and Times Roman fonts are commonly found on Mac and PC software. Use bold-face sparingly, not as your regular font.
  10. Start writing early in the SIP quarter. It is the only way to get good quality work of sufficient length.
  11. Like the Terminator, the SIP keeps coming and coming and coming. You can put it aside or out of your mind, but in a quiet voice, it says: I’ll be back.” Procrastination is one of the more serious problems which can develop on your SIP (see items #4 and #10, above).
Tips from former Psych Majors for writing the SIP

1) Start as soon as you can (e.g. request all necessary articles you need and find as many relevant resources etc.)

2) Outline all the resources you have because it makes it ten times easier to write your Lit review

3) Separate your lit review into subtopics because it is easier to organize and to read that way.

If you start early enough, you will have no reason to get stressed out because it will allow you plenty of time to go over it when due dates start to creep up on you. It does get frustrating because in the psych department they really stress the “individualized” part of SIP. Sometimes it feels like you are walking blindly, but know that everyone feels that way and that they will give you sufficient feedback when the time comes!