Research and Courses

Please visit the research page for a description of faculty research interests and courses for course descriptions.

Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The requirements listed here override the Bulletin, if there is a discrepancy, unless students entered the program in the fall of 2013 or earlier, when different requirements were in effect. Please see the University Bulletin webpage to review previous bulletins if you entered before 2014.

Program of Study

Although there is a three-year minimum residency requirement, four years of full-time graduate study are usually required for the Ph.D. The student is expected to carry four courses per term during residency.


Students will devote one quarter to one half of their time to research during the first two years, three quarter time to research during the third year, and full time to research thereafter.

Research Reports

First year research project: First year students will work on a first year research project under the supervision of their primary advisor. The first year research proposal is due January 31st of the first year, and a report on this research in journal form is due September 30th of the second year. The proposal and final report must also be read and approved by the primary advisor and a second reader. Students who have satisfactorily completed this research requirement will be permitted to continue their work toward the doctorate with no formal requirement of a master's degree.

Second year lab rotation report: Second year students will submit the proposed goals they plan to achieve during a rotation in a lab other than that of their primary advisor. This statement will ordinarily be due by September 1st of the 2nd year and a report demonstrating achievement of those goals must be submitted for approval to their primary advisor and their rotation advisor by January 15th of the second year. (In some cases, the second year rotation may be postponed until the second semester, in which case the statement of goals will be due by January 15th of the second year and the report demonstrating achievement of goals must be submitted by the last day of final exams in that semester).

National Research Service Award (NRSA) Proposal: Second year students will prepare an NRSA proposal that builds on their first year research project and their second year lab rotation to develop a proposed program of research and training. The proposal must be submitted for approval to their primary advisor and their lab rotation advisor by the last day of finals in their 4th semester with the goal of submitting a final proposal by the August National Institutes of Health deadline. For more information about the NRSA, see their webpage:

Dissertation and Defense: Students will be required to submit a Dissertation Proposal by January 15th of their third year. An oral examination of the dissertation proposal must be successfully completed by May 31st of the third year, at the latest. The Proposal, which may be based on the student’s preliminary research, includes a review of relevant research, selected in consultation with a faculty dissertation advisor, as well as a research proposal that includes a detailed description of methods and a brief description of planned analyses. The Director of Graduate Studies will appoint a dissertation committee of three or more members with the dissertation advisor serving as chair of the committee. The dissertation advisor will be responsible for advising the student throughout the performance of his or her work, in consultation with the remaining members of the committee at appropriate times.

The dissertation should provide evidence of originality, scholarship and research ability. It should be a contribution to knowledge, ordinarily an experimental investigation, but not necessarily so. Prior to scheduling the dissertation defense, the Psychology Department members of the dissertation committee must approve the adequacy of the student's data analysis, a ‘statistics defense’. The award of the Ph.D. will be recommended to the Faculty Council of the Graduate School following submission of a copy of the dissertation to the Department Chair together with signatures of approval by members of the dissertation committee, including one member from outside of the department or the university. Approval is based both on an acceptable written dissertation and a successful oral defense of the dissertation open to all members of the department.

(return to top)

Course Requirements

Requirements include two statistics courses (PSYC 210a and PSYC 210b), a research methods course (PSYC 211a), the Proseminar in Brain, Body, and Behavior (PSYC 300a and 302a), and a minimum of 6 graduate-level seminars that are not independent readings or research courses. Only those 100-level courses that have been approved by the psychology program will count as advanced, graduate-level courses. Students should select seminars from the approved list in consultation with their advisor. Graduate-level course selection will not be restricted to the psychology program but will be arranged by the student in consultation with the faculty advisor. For all students, one of the advanced course selections must be a third statistics course or advanced methods course chosen in consultation with the faculty advisor. For brain, body and behavior students, two of the courses must be selected in consultation with the faculty advisor to satisfy a biomedical breadth requirement.

In addition to the required seminars, all students are required to register and attend PSYC 316a every semester they are in residence, and encouraged to continue attending thereafter. All students must enroll in a non-credit course on ethics (CONT 300) during the first year and, for students on NIH fellowships, again in the 5th year. Also, students must register for an independent research course each semester in years 1-3, using the course number assigned to their primary advisor. In the first semester of year 2, students should also register for an independent research course using the course number assigned to their lab rotation advisor, and in the second semester they should register for PSYC 250a for their NRSA proposal preparation. In years 4-5, students conducting dissertation research must register for PSYC 400d, after their dissertation proposal has been accepted. Course requirements broken down by semester are shown in the Graduate Program Checklist, which can be found on our Forms for Current Students page.

(return to top)

Breadth Requirement

All graduate students must demonstrate breadth in the field of psychology. This breadth requirement is fulfilled by demonstrating competence in at least six of the nine areas listed below. The requirements may be satisfied in any of three ways:

  1. By having completed an undergraduate or graduate course in that area,
  2. By completing an undergraduate or graduate course offered in that area at Brandeis,
  3. By successfully passing the equivalent of any undergraduate final examination for that course.

Of the six courses, a minimum of two should be taken from areas in Group A and a minimum of two from Group B.

Group A

  1. Physiological/Sensory Processes
  2. Perception
  3. Learning/Comparative
  4. Cognition/Memory
  5. Cognitive Science/Linguistics

Group B

  1. Developmental
  2. Social
  3. Personality
  4. Abnormal

Brain, Body and Behavior students have an additional requirement of 2 courses from a group of biomedical seminars. For more information, please see the Breadth Requirement Form.

All students must complete the Breadth Requirement From before submitting their dissertation proposal, usually in the third year. The form can be found on the Psychology Department’s Forms for Current Students page.

(return to top)

Teaching Fellowship Requirements

As an integral part of the graduate training program, all students are normally required to serve as teaching fellows six times according to the following schedule:

  • Once during the second semester of year 1
  • Once during both semesters of years 2 and 3
  • Once during year 4.

The TF requirement may be reduced for students appointed to qualifying research training grants, with the schedule depending on the period of appointment. All teaching fellows work closely with course instructors and receive guidance in all aspects of course preparation, teaching, and grading. Through exposure to different professors' styles, varied course formats, and presentations on teaching skills throughout their graduate training, teaching fellows come away with a wide range of experiences, providing them with invaluable preparation for academic positions.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement.

(return to top)