If you are looking to gain some additional research experience, it is a great idea to get involved with a research lab here in the Department of Psychology as a research assistant (or RA). This is particularly important if you are thinking of going to graduate school in psychology or a related field.
An RA position has the potential to provide you with:
- Hands-on research experience
- Greater contact with graduate students and professors
- A sense of community
- A letter of recommendation
To learn more about the research interests of our faculty members, please visit: Faculty Research and Teaching Interests.
Professors are often looking to have undergraduate students volunteer as research assistants in their research labs and this provide you with a valuable opportunity. These opportunities are most often extended to students with a CGPA of 7.0 (B+) or higher who are in their second or third year (i.e., have completed between 23 and 83 credits) and who are in the Specialized Honours program. The typical expectation is that you devote at least 5 hours a week to the position. Sometimes paid positions are or become available.
Tips for Becoming a Volunteer Research Assistant
If you are interested in gaining research experience, have 5 hours or more a week that you can devote to a volunteer research assistant position, and have a CGPA of 7.0 (B+) or higher, it is recommended that you follow these steps.
Identify up to 6 full-time faculty members with whom you might like to work
Take a look through their research interests and papers. Be sure to look at their website to see if there is specific information about how to apply for a research position.
Reach out via email
Compose an email outlining the following:
- Your interest in becoming a research assistant and how much time you can devote
- Why you are interested in that faculty member's lab
- What you would bring to the position (highlighting a strong GPA and/or other experience or skills that you might have)
Be sure to carefully proofread each email. Do not send group emails, but instead try to tailor some of the content to each professor. Include your resume and unofficial transcript.
If you do not hear back, do NOT be discouraged—professors are busy and receive many emails! Follow-up with another email one or two weeks later. If you still do not hear back, try a different lab, or try back again just before the start of the next term. After trying multiple times with a lab, it is likely that they are not looking for new research assistants at this time.
Typically the best time to contact faculty members is just before the start of a new term. Professors are used to receiving these emails, so don't be shy—reach out.
If you are not successful securing a position...
Try and try again, but strategically. If your GPA is lower than a 7.0, put more energy into improving your grades before looking for additional research experiences. Ask others (friends, family) to read your email and resume to make sure that there are no typos or grammatical errors, and that they are well-written. Consider attending a workshop at the career centre.
If you are successful in securing a position...
This is your opportunity to make a favourable impression, so be sure to do your best.
- Take initiative
- Are on time, professional and detail-oriented
- Offer to cover other people's shifts when needed
- Have a positive attitude towards whatever task they are asked to do
- Work well both independently and with others.
Even if you are working primarily with a lab manager or graduate student, be assured that they will share their impressions with the professor leading the lab.
For More Information
Faculty research interests cover a broad range of theoretical and applied issues. Students interested in learning about the type of research conducted by faculty in the Department of Psychology can visit: Psychology Department Faculty Areas of Interest
Or you can visit the following sites:
- Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science
- Developmental and Cognitive Processes
- History and Theory of Psychology
- Quantitative methods
- Social Psychology and Personality
- Specialty Stream > Clinical Neuropsychology
Also of interest to students
- Research Funding Opportunities for Students
- Undergraduate Research Participant Pool
- Research at York (RAY)
- Ethics Procedures for PSYC 4000 and 4001 FW14
Affiliated Research Centres
- Centre for Vision Research
- York Institute for Health Research
- Centre for Feminist Research
- Institute for Social Research
- LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution
- Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science
- Centre for Refugee Studies