It's Student Psychology Conference Season

The academic year's end is presentation time

Posted Apr 12, 2016

As the academic year races to a close, many colleges and universities around the country are hosting student research conferences. Student Research Conferences (SRCs) give students a chance to showcase their scholarly efforts, whether such efforts are lab or library based. Some students may present their honors projects, others will share course projects (say, something from a psychology seminar), and still others will talk about what they did in an independent study or even a class group project.

Many psychology departments routinely host a Student Psychology Conference where psychology majors can present the fruits of their academic labors. Some students will want to give oral presentations (which usually run in the 15 to 20 min range, allowing 5 or so mins for discussion). Others will want to create poster presentations that allow peers, faculty, and interested others (parents, friends, faculty from other departments) to mill about and to ask them questions about the research. Having a luncheon or some other sort of reception, such as a closing coffee or tea with cookies and cake is a nice touch. The point is that effort doesn’t need to cost a lot, rather it’s a great opportunity to have students share their work in a public way.

For psychology majors, learning to give a professional talk in 10 or so mins is a great way to become comfortable speaking before audiences. And it is a great opportunity for students to really identify the key issues in their own work by shrinking down a semester or a year’s work (or a 20 page paper) to a few minutes for introducing the topic, explaining the hypothesis and research methods, detailing the analyses and results, and sharing the implications of the work for understanding behavior.

Many campuses also host an annual Scholars’ Day for students in all academic majors to present a talk or a poster (as part of a larger poster session). These larger efforts afford students, faculty, and interested others to come and go throughout the day to hear or see research that interests them. Moreover, the students themselves benefit from learning about what their peers have been doing in their classes for a semester or in their honors work for the year. Naturally, students who work in faculty members’ labs or on faculty projects should also be encouraged to share what they learned with the larger community. Wise colleges and universities use Scholars’ Days or any SRCs as a recruiting device, showing prospective students that if they join the community they, too, will have a chance to conduct research and to share it with others.

If your campus does not currently have a Scholarship Day (for all majors) or a Student Psychology Conference, considering starting the tradition. If not this academic year, then next spring. Doing so is a great way to host a memorable and meaningful send-off for graduating seniors. It is also a fine way to encourage first year, sophomores, and current juniors to think about doing projects to present when their time comes. All it takes is a dedicated faculty member or two to organize the effort, which entails reserving rooms and equipment (projectors, microphones, etc.) for the day. Good advertising on campus is necessary (if you want to invite other students from other schools to participate, that will require more time, effort, and energy, but is worth it because many students want to add presenting at an SRC to their resumes).

Students should know that SRCs are more than just a resume builder. They are an opportunity to hone public speaking skills and to celebrate their own work and the efforts of others. Certainly, any student who is planning to attend graduate school should consider taking part in an SRC or, if one does not exist on campus, creating one.