Psychology PHD

Program Purpose


The Psychology Ph.D. Program aims to prepare students for applied and academic careers within three specialty areas: Applied Social Psychology, Behavioral Neurobiology, and Theoretical/Philosophical Psychology. The intent is to increase students' knowledge and understanding in an atmosphere of rigorous scholarship, original research, and mentorship. The program consists of four years of course work, including teaching, and research. The Department's Purpose: The department joins students and faculty together to make a thoughtful contribution to the discipline of psychology. Its faculty members and administrators are committed to an educational experience that excites learning and understanding in personal and collaborative settings. At the same time, the department honors the restored gospel as vital for psychological theory, as a guide for professional conduct, and as a source of unique insight. Aware of the history of psychology and as active participants therein, faculty members hold students to high standards of individual and collective performance and understanding. Students are expected to respond to multiple styles of teaching and broad opportunities for engagement in research and application with serious and sustained interest and effort. In this way the department distinguishes itself as a community of scholarship, moral principle, and devotion to the elevation of humankind.

Curricular Structure

The program is a logical, graduated sequence of classroom and mentored activities:

Foundation in established psychological knowledge--A significant portion of coursework focuses on major content areas of psychology, by which to achieve a breadth of understanding of scientific psychology.

A. Biological aspects of behavior (course required)

B. Cognitive and affective bases of behavior (both courses required):

D. History and systems of psychology (course required)

E. Theoretical aspects of psychology (both courses required):

F. Research methodology (course required)

G. Techniques of data analysis (both courses required)

H. Ethical responsibility of psychology


More specific knowledge is also required for the three specialty areas:

Applied Social Specialty:

Behavioral Neurobiology Specialty:


Theoretical/Philosophical Specialty:

A major portion of the program involves activities mentored by faculty, including the skill development activities mentioned above, as well as participating in research teams, preparing the dissertation, and participating in professional meetings and in other professional development and community service activities.

Department Information

Graduate Catalog

Program Information

Learning Outcomes


Psychology Fundamentals and Area Specialization

Be able to demonstrate a comprehensive familiarity with at least four major sub-disciplines within psychology a) behavioral neurobiology; b) cognition; c) development; and d) social.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Human knowledge, Competence
Effective Research Design and Reporting

Be able to design, produce, analyze, and report original research that contributes to the student's self-selected area of scholarly specialty.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Competence
Improve Professional Development

Be able to improve professional development through internships, teaching, and presenting and publishing research projects.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Faith and testimony, Communicate effectively

Evidence of Learning


Assessment Tools

The process of evaluating and improving the program is extensive and ongoing, incorporating a number of diverse activities and types of information:

1. The Graduate Coordinator conducts an annual review of each required course, including the syllabus and other documents. Students also evaluate each course regarding instructor preparation, content, instructor knowledge, delivery, assessment, and outcomes.

2. Mastery of subject matter and research skills is evaluated twice each year by the Graduate Student Evaluation  Committee. These evaluations assess student development and competence as specified by the learning objectives.

3. The dissertation research and preparation of the dissertation are closely mentored by the dissertation adviser. Both the dissertation prospectus and the final dissertation require a successful public defense.

4. Each student undergoes intense review in the fall and  winter. Each area of the student's program is evaluated, and the student is given a formal rating. It appears in a letter to the student that recognizes achievement, development, areas for further improvement, and any required remediation.

5. The graduate faculty engage in intense program review in the form of annual retreats.

6. There is a program of ongoing collection of data regarding student outcomes, including employment and other achievements after graduation. The data are collected at least annually.

Direct Measures

1. Semi-annual review of each student

2. Second-year project and presentation of that project

3. Comprehensive exam

4.  Dissertation and public defense 

Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement


As outlined above, the faculty retreats provide a forum for the graduate faculty review of the program and for active consideration of the recommendations for improvement contained in the Graduate Coordinator's report. Specific goals for improvement of the program are decided on at the retreats and specific goal strategies and follow-up assignments are articulated there. The Graduate Coordinator, standing faculty committees, and ad hoc committees share the responsibility for assuring the realization of the goals.