Carnegie Mellon University

Senior Thesis Projects

Senior theses are independent research projects that students complete in close collaboration with a faculty mentor.  Students who complete a senior thesis project select their own research topic, meaning that they have the opportunity to find answers to the research questions they find most compelling.

Who can complete a senior thesis?

Any student in the department may elect to complete a senior thesis project, provided that they have a Psychology faculty mentor who agrees to supervise their work.  Students with GPAs that are 3.0 and above may be invited to apply to complete a Dietrich Senior Honors Thesis in the second semester of their junior year (Learn more about the Dietrich Honors Thesis). 

Students who do not meet this GPA requirement can still complete a departmental thesis.

What does a senior thesis project entail?

Senior thesis projects vary depending on the student’s research interests, but they always involve the direct application of the skills that students learn in their Research Methods courses.  To complete their project, students typically:

  • Conduct a literature search in which they review and synthesize previously published research on their chosen topic
  • Generate a hypothesis
  • Collect and design experimental stimuli
  • Collect data (often including recruiting and testing participants)
  • Analyze data
  • Write an APA-style research paper describing their hypotheses, methods, and findings

Many students who complete a senior thesis also present their work at Meeting of the Minds, a university-wide research symposium held each May on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus.

How long does a senior thesis take to complete?

Students typically spend one academic year (two separate semesters) planning, conducting, analyzing, and writing up the results of their research projects.  Students typically apply in the spring semester of their junior year and begin work on their projects in the fall semester of their senior year.

What kinds of projects do students complete?

Students often work on thesis projects that complement the research that their faculty advisor is currently conducting.  Learn more about faculty research.

Below are some of the senior thesis projects of recent graduates.


Hayley Rahl
(DC ’14)

Title: Brief Mindfulness Meditation Training and Stress Reactivity: Mechanisms and Outcomes

Mindfulness training has long been shown to improve both mental and physical health.  Hayley created training programs that separated awareness and acceptance, two critical components of mindfulness training, to see if they have different effects.  As part of the study, Hayley analyzed participants’ responses to computer tasks that measured whether the training programs altered participants’ attentional control and emotion regulation.


Anna Van de Velde
(DC ’15)

Title: Towards Improving Diagnosis of ADHD: Assessing Diagnostic Potential of a New Clinical Test

Anna collaborated with the Being Well Center, a clinic dedicated to the assessment and treatment of attention disorders.  Through their work they have developed a tool they believed to be helpful in diagnosing ADHD.  She was trained on the tool and then administered it to undergrads at CMU who do not have an ADHD diagnosis.  She then compared the results to those of the patients at the Being Well Center to determine if the tool was an effective way to diagnose ADHD.  


Halley Bayer
(DC ’15)

Title: Offline Associative Learning

Halley tested whether offline processing, or continued thinking of information outside of conscious awareness, could help promote learning. The study used real-world stimuli (teaching participants names of owls) and investigated what type of distractor task worked best to facilitate offline processing.  The study was designed using Qualtrics survey software and was run online using Amazon Mechanical Turk, allowing participants from across the United States to participate in the study.