First Year Project and Symposium

Content and Requirements of the First Year Project (FYP)

During the first year in the graduate program, each student will work on a research project under the direction of their advisor. The content and scope of the project, as well as the nature of the data analysis should be determined in close collaboration with the research advisor and the student’s Mentoring Committee. How much gets done, how final the product is, how complete the data analysis, and so forth, are matters that cannot be set generally for all laboratories.

However, the following four characteristics are required of all First Year Projects:

  1. The project must involve working with real data. Ordinarily this will mean collecting all or part of the data. However, it will sometimes be appropriate for a student to work on data collected by other laboratory members. Literature reviews, designs of experiments, research proposals, and so forth, are not acceptable by themselves.
  2. The data under study must undergo some kind of appropriate analysis. In the case of a completed experiment, this may be a partial or complete statistical analysis. In the case of pilot results, the analy­sis may be aimed at assessing the viability of the project and describing results to date.
  3. The project must be an APA style paper (10-15 pages is acceptable). The paper should include (a) why the project is being done, (b) what methods have been used, (c) what the results are to date and what they mean. The paper is due one week prior to the First Year Project Symposium.
  4. The public presentation of the project will be presented at the First Year Symposium and should be in the format of a convention paper. The time limit will be approximately 15 minutes with 5 minutes allowed for questions.

FYP Process

Step #1: Formation of Mentoring Committee

As early as possible (no later than the second week of the Spring Semester), the student (in consultation with their mentor) will select a Mentoring Committee and once this is done, will fill out the Established Mentoring Committee Form

Step #2: FYP Proposal Creation

In concert with their mentor, the student will design a potential project that would satisfy the requirements of the FYP above.

Once the student and mentor are in agreement about the project, the student should put together a FYP proposal document succinctly outlining the necessary background information, hypotheses, methods, and analytic approach. This will typically be around 5-10 pages (as the full final FYP paper will be 10-15 including full results and discussion). This document should though be sufficiently detailed to allow committee members to evaluate the content in a meaningful fashion (i.e., should include specific measures, to-be-conducted analyses and how they’ll be interpreted relative to the hypotheses, etc.). Students should consult with their mentor if there are questions about either the length, level of detail, or general content.

The proposal paper should be sent to the members of the Mentoring Committee at least one week prior to the proposal meeting (below). The student will also put together a short presentation (~10 minutes) on the same material to present at the proposal meeting (the short length reflects the fact that the purpose of this presentation is to spark discussion, not rehash every detail in the written proposal).

Step #3: FYP Proposal Meeting

The Mentoring Committee will meet with the student before the end of the Spring semester of the first year to provide feedback on the design and feasibility of the project, to assess progress on the project, and report to the Graduate Coordinator.

Meetings typically last for 1 hour. However, students should confirm this will be sufficient with their advisor and Mentoring Committee when scheduling. The meeting will start with the short presentation prepared by the student after which Mentoring Committee members can ask questions and/or provide input on the project (with an eye toward ensuring that the final product will hit the departmental benchmarks for a successful FYP). The student should thus be prepared to answer questions the committee members might have (from theoretical framework to specific measures or analysis approaches).  It is ALSO an opportunity for the student to ask questions of their Mentoring Committee to help refine their methods, analytic approaches, etc. (again, with the eye toward producing the best possible FYP).

Once the student has presented and all questions have been asked and answered, the student should be asked to step out of the room and the Mentoring Committee should have a discussion regarding whether the project is appropriate for an FYP and the student’s presentation and response to questions during the meeting indicates the level of understanding and engagement that is expected for a student at their stage. If the answer to this question is “Yes” – the student/mentor should fill out the corresponding First Year Project Proposal (Spring) Meeting Form.

If the answer is “No,” the mentor should report this outcome to the Director of Graduate Studies immediately upon which next steps will be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the issues at hand.

Step #4: FYP Presentation, Paper, and Defense

Each new student will present their research to the faculty and other graduate students in a First Year Symposium. The Symposium is typically held on a Friday in October of the student’s second year.

A copy of the first year project paper (see Content and Requirements section above) is due to the Graduate Coordinator one week prior to the presentations. This will be the final paper that will be evaluated by the student’s committee. The Graduate Coordinator will distribute copies of the manuscript to the student’s committee. Each first year project paper will be read and evaluated by the student’s Mentoring Committee.

The student + Mentoring committee will hold a “defense” shortly before or after the First Year Symposium (typically after). At the defense, the committee members should provide substantive feedback to and discussion with the student about the project.

The Mentoring Committee will assign the project a grade of “Accept” or “Reject.” These decisions should be indicated on the associated Departmental Form which must be completed by the mentor.

If the Mentoring Committee’s decision is “Reject” this should also be reported immediately to the Director of Graduate Studies as it impacts the extent to which the student is in Satisfactory Progress.