Nov 20, 2019  
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2016-2017 
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2016-2017 [-ARCHIVED CALENDAR-]

Psychology, Ph.D

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M.Sc. and Ph.D. Degrees

Graduate training in Psychology at McMaster leads to the Ph.D. degree and is strongly research oriented. The basic approach is that of a research apprenticeship, with the student selecting one faculty member as the research supervisor at the time of application. Normally, the student-supervisor relationship first develops at the time when the student is preparing to submit an application to the Psychology Graduate Program. Students are strongly encouraged to contact a potential faculty advisor and discuss research opportunities with them prior to submitting an application.

The Department provides excellent opportunities for human and non-human animal research in a variety of experimental areas including: Animal Behaviour, Cognition & Perception, Behavioural & Systems Neuroscience, Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Social & Evolutionary Psychology. The Department also offers a Research and Clinical Training (RCT) specialty Ph.D. stream with the Psychology Graduate Program.

No special training is offered in the applied areas such as Human Factors, Personality Psychology, or Industrial Psychology, and applications in these fields are discouraged. Students are not usually required to complete a M.Sc. en route to the Ph.D., but they may do so if they wish. The general requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy are described earlier in the calendar.


Applicants for graduate study in Psychology normally must have received, from a recognized university, either a Master’s degree in Psychology, or a Bachelor’s degree in Honours Psychology, with at least B+ standing. Occasional exceptions are made to the above requirements for students with a background in a related scientific discipline. Students with strong backgrounds in biology, neuroscience, computer science, chemistry or physics are encouraged to apply.

First Master’s year

In the first Master’s year, all students take two courses: Statistics and Research Design (PSYCH 710 ) and Contemporary Problems in Psychology (PSYCH 720 ).  Students entering the program directly at the Ph.D. level usually are exempted from both of these courses at the discretion of the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC). It is expected that at least one-half of the student’s time will be devoted to research on a topic to be chosen by the student in consultation with the faculty supervisor(s) and supervisory committee. Each student submits a report on research progress by May 15 of the first year. Continuation to the Doctoral degree in the graduate training program is determined by the student’s research progress and the student’s performance in Contemporary Problems, Statistics and any other courses completed. If these performances are acceptable, students who enter without a Master’s degree are permitted to proceed directly to Ph.D. studies.  Students must complete Psych 710, Psych 720 as well as a Master’s thesis to obtain a Master’s degree.

Subsequent Years

In subsequent years, students complete:

The equivalent of an additional 1 1/2 full-year courses

Two quarter courses

Additional Information

Aside from these courses, the major activities of the student beyond the first year fall into two categories. First, students are expected to carry out their thesis research and report the progress of this research by May 15 of the second and each subsequent year. For the student to continue in the program this report must show that satisfactory progress is being made. Second, to satisfy the comprehensive requirement the student, in consultation with the supervisory committee, must select one or more topics for intensive study. These topics must not be in the student’s thesis topic area, and must be approved by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee. The study of these topics is then taken up under the guidance of the student’s comprehensive examining committee, which includes the student’s supervisory committee and up to two other faculty members with relevant expertise. After a period of about six weeks the student will be expected to demonstrate mastery of the material to the satisfaction of the examining committee, first in a written submission and then followed by oral examination. The comprehensive examination must be successfully completed within 24 months of entering the Ph.D. program.

Students entering at the Master’s level ideally complete the doctoral thesis and all other requirements for the Ph.D. degree by the end of four years of graduate training. Students admitted directly into the Ph.D. program ideally complete all requirements for the Ph.D. degree within three years. Doctoral students are strongly encouraged to give a departmental colloquium in their final year of study.

Psychology Research & Clinical Training (RCT) Program Stream


The McMaster Psychology Research & Clinical Training (RCT) PhD program stream augments the McMaster Psychology graduate program, by providing a subset of Psychology graduate students, who are in good standing in the program, with an opportunity for clinical training. The Psychology RCT has as its primary objective to train clinician scientists skilled in core competencies surrounding the pursuit of scientific knowledge and the provision of psychological services. Accordingly, our training model is focused on: i) rigorous training in research methodology, experimental design and statistics and ii) clinical psychology training including both in-class learning and practica experiences. Following completion of the program, it is expected that students will have met the requirements for licensing in Psychology in the Province of Ontario.


Enrolment in the Psychology RCT program stream is limited. For this reason, a set number of probationary program spots are opened up to Masters students entering the Psychology graduate program each year. Following the first year in the masters program, successful candidates are formally admitted to the RCT PhD program stream. Admission to the program is awarded according merit, academic standing and space availability. Admission to the program stream is decided by the Psychology RCT Admissions Committee following a screening and interview process.

Because Psychology RCT coursework entails a substantial commitment beyond the standard PhD program requirements, there are several criteria that must be met:
• the student’s thesis supervisor must be in support of enrolment in the Psychology RCT
• the student’s research should be relevant to clinical psychology questions/issues
• the student must have completed the first year of your MSc and be eligible for transfer to the PhD stream
• the student must be in good standing and meeting timelines for program requirements
• the student must have successfully completed the course on Ethics in Clinical Psychology (Psych 751)

Interviews are conducted with Psychology RCT Admissions committee members to ensure the above criteria are met. Typically, interviews are scheduled in the spring / summer terms prior to entry into the program in the subsequent fall term.

Degree Requirements

Students must satisfy the regular Psychology PhD thesis and comprehensive requirements outlined above.

The following Graduate-level training courses are required;

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