University of Wisconsin–Madison

First Year Project

First Year Project Information

First Year Project and Symposium

Content and Requirements of the First Year Project

During the first year in the graduate program, each student will work on a research project under the direction of the advisor. The content of the project and nature of data analysis should be determined in close collaboration with the research advisor and the student’s Mentoring Committee. The scope of the project will be determined by the advisor according to the skill level of the student and the requirements of the research. 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 research 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 oral presentation.
  4. The oral report 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.

Mentoring Committee Evaluation


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.

This committee will:

  1. 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 Director of Graduate Studies. To meet this requirement, a confirmation of meeting report must be filed with the Director of Graduate Studies.
  2. Read the write-up of the project.
  3. Hold a “defense” with the student shortly before or after the First Year Symposium. At the defense, the committee members should provide substantive feedback to and discussion with the student about the project.
  4. Assign the project a grade of “Accept” or “Reject.” Each committee will be required to provide written feedback to the student (individual members of the committee may provide individual written feedback to the student, or the committee as a whole may provide written feedback to the student).

Evaluation of the First Year Project


  1. Each new student will present his or her research to the faculty and other graduate students in a First Year Symposium. The Symposium will be held on a Friday in late September or early October of the student’s second year (with the date adjusted from year to year to accommodate the Jewish holy days and other religious holidays).
  2. A copy of the first year project paper 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.
  3. Each first year project will be read and evaluated by the student’s Mentoring Committee according to the guidelines above.

Although some students may undertake projects that cannot be completed in a year’s time, it is expected that every student will make at least a progress report on their first year research.

Master’s Degree Information:

Minimum Credit Requirements

The Graduate School requires a minimum of 16 credits (cohorts Fall 2013 and earlier) or 30 credits (Fall 2014 cohort and later) taken above 300 level while enrolled in UW-Madison to obtain an MS degree. For a PhD degree, the Graduate School requires a minimum of 52 credits taken (above 300 level) while enrolled in UW-Madison. The Psychology Department currently does not have any additional requirements for these minimums, as long as the required coursework outlined above is completed.