Undergraduate Research

Here in the Psychology Department, we take great pride the quantity and quality of our research and scholarly activity at all levels. Our faculty publish numerous papers each year in leading scholarly journals, many of which have graduate and undergraduate students as co-authors. As an undergraduate psychology major at UNL, you have the opportunity to be actively engaged in research.

Benefits of becoming involved in research:

  • Gain skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, use of technology, and communication just to name a few.
  • Our students present dozens of papers and posters annually at scientific conferences, and we lead UNL’s College of Arts and Sciences in honors theses submitted.
  • Preparation for graduate school – Conducting research as an undergraduate shows a potential graduate school you are capable of conducting research as a graduate student, balancing your coursework with the additional responsibilities of research, and understanding the importance of research within the field of psychology.
  • Getting to know and work with a faculty member who might one day be willing to serve as a reference for graduate school or a job!
  • Earn academic credit in PSYC 299 or 499 for your research work. These credit hours will count as electives toward your degree. See the Earning Academic Credit information below or schedule an appointment with a Psychology Advisor via MyPlan (instructions) for more information.

Gaining research experience

To start getting involved in undergraduate research, follow these easy steps.
  1. Check out our Undergraduate Research website for more detailed information about the process
  2. Search through the websites of department research labs to find labs in which you are interested.
  3. See if the faculty member directing the lab has any undergraduate assistant research opportunities.  Typically, these are volunteer experiences, but they can be paid.
  4. Search for funding opportunities for undergraduate research through UCARE or the McNair Scholars program.
  5. Determine if you can or should sign up for course credit by talking to your faculty member and/or Psychology advisor. It may be possible to earn academic credit for your research experience by enrolling in PSYC299 or 499. Before enrolling, consider the following: 
    • Can I receive academic credit?  Talk to your faculty research sponsor to determine if he or she requires or allows research credit.
    • Do I need elective credit?  Research credit only counts as elective credit.  If you do not need elective credit to graduate, you would just be paying for credit you do not need.  Schedule an appointment via MyPlan (instructions) with your advisor to calculate if and how many electives you need.
    • Should I register for PSYC 299 or 499?  PSYC299 is used mostly for freshmen and sophomores, and for basic, entry-level tasks.  PSYC499 is used mostly for juniors and seniors, and for more in-depth research tasks.  Ask your research supervisor which course number would be best.
    • How many credits should I register for?  PSYC 299 and 499 are variable credit courses, meaning you can earn between 1 – 6 credit hours each semester based on how many hours you will be working in the research lab.  One academic credit hour equals 50 clock hours of research.  That averages to about 3 hours per week for fall and spring semesters.  So, if you are working 9 hours per week in the research lab, you could register for 3 credit hours.
    • Should I take the course for a grade or pass/no pass?  You need to discuss with your research supervisor whether to take the course for a grade or pass/no pass.  If you do well in the research lab, taking the course for a grade can help boost your GPA.  Be sure to choose the appropriate grading option and number of credit hours (units) when registering via MyRed.
    • How do I register for the course?  Once you have answered the questions above, stop by the main Psychology Office (238 Burnett) or Psychology Advising Center (235 Burnett) to pick up a “green sheet” and then have it signed by your research supervisor.  Return the signed green sheet to the main Psychology Office (Burnett 238) and they will give you a permission code that you will enter into MyRed.  Refer to the 'choosing the appropriate grading option' link above for registration procedures including information about using a permission code.
When to start
The sooner, the better! Start exploring possible research opportunities as a freshman and try to join a lab in your sophomore year, if possible, but ideally no later than during your junior year. Having as much research experience as possible will strengthen your graduate school application, as well as allow you more time to get to know a faculty member who could serve as a reference for you.

Additional information to keep in mind:

As a PhD student, you will be expected to design your own research study, collect the data, interpret the results, write and present the results at conferences, and submit your results for publication. This research will culminate in a dissertation at the end of your graduate program. Getting involved in a research lab as an undergraduate will not only make your graduate school application more competitive, but it will help you discern if you even enjoy research. If not, you may need to ask yourself if you really want to spend 3 – 6 years in graduate school conducting research. Some masters-level counseling and PsyD programs are strictly practitioner-based and do not require the level of research that is expected in PhD programs.


Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences Program (UCARE) pairs undergraduate students with faculty mentors, enriching the educational experiences of the student and at the same time providing a tangible benefit to the research program of UNL faculty. Students involved in UCARE are engaged in a unique “campus job” and conduct research or creative activities with the help of a faculty member.

Undergraduate researchers may work with any full-time faculty at UNL. Students who have completed their freshman year can formally participate in faculty research as undergraduate research assistants. UCARE will provide funding to the students in exchange for assistance on the research projects.

Undergraduate researchers may apply for a Summer Award (June 1-August 15) or an Academic Year Award (September-April). UCARE undergraduate researchers are responsible for finding a faculty advisor to guide and oversee their research project. For more information or to apply, visit the UCARE website.

Tip: Many times in the Psychology department, students will start in a lab as a volunteer research assistant and then discuss a UCARE project with their faculty member once they have been involved in the lab.

Research Conferences

Each year UNL hosts an undergraduate research conference where students present their current research. This is a great opportunity for students to meet faculty and looks great on your resume. Along with the UNL conference, many students take their research to conferences around the state and even around the nation.

Research Opportunities

Current research opportunities for current Psychology majors are sent through our weekly Monday Message e-mails and posted in the  announcements on Blackboard.  You can also reach out to individual faculty members about opportunities.