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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
April 24, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Social PhD Program

Students in the social PhD program at Laurier work closely with a faculty supervisor on an original program of research aimed to make a significant contribution in a specific subfield of social psychology. Rather than requiring students to pass comprehensive exams as a part of their studies, the Laurier social PhD program requires students to complete comprehensive research projects with two faculty members other than their primary advisor. The purpose of these projects is to learn and benefit from the mentorship of other faculty, to experience new research methodologies and gain exposure to new research literatures, and to build the student's CV with multiple publications.

Social PhD students take a small courseload of classes in advanced statistical modeling, specialized topics in social psychology, and courses in other areas of psychology (such as cognitive psychology, developmental pychology, behavioural neuroscience, and community psychology). Students are also encouraged to take courses from affiliated institutions, such as the Laurier Business School or the University of Waterloo. Students have the opportunity to apply to teach undergraduate courses while they are in the program, and most students enroll in a practicum on the teaching of psychology during their first or second year.

"The psychology program at Laurier is unique in that it has seamlessly integrated a rich research environment with a true sense of community to create a welcoming and innovative department and atmosphere. Students are encouraged to pursue multiple research interests with each other and with faculty members who act as both mentor and colleague, with the goal of producing leading-edge academic research.

On a personal level, the graduate program at WLU has allowed me to expand my knowledge and experiences beyond the realm of social psychology. I have facilitated weekly Transition to University meetings for first-year students, have taken courses on teaching in a university setting, and have worked with local organizations to evaluate community-based programs.

The value of attaining a PhD is more than completing the required curriculum - rather, it is a culmination of personal growth, knowledge, and education. The program at WLU has proved to be an excellent fit for this journey, where, in addition to earning a PhD, I will have formed friendships that will last a lifetime."

-Enoch Landau, PhD student

Admissions Information

General information about applying to graduate programs in psychology at Laurier can be found here. Students who wish to apply to the Doctoral program in social psychology should indicate "PhD program in social/developmental psychology" when they complete their on-line application.

Applicants to the social PhD program are evaluated on four criteria:

  • Research qualifications, including publications, manuscripts in preparation, and conference posters and presentations. A history of external funding is also an advantage.
  • Letters of reference, one of which should be from the student's Masters thesis advisor. Reference letters should speak to several aspects of the student's potential for a successful academic career: analytical skills, writing skills, statistical skills, work ethic, initiative and independence, quality and originality of research ideas, ability to work with faculty, peers, and undergraduates, etc.
  • The personal statement. Personal statements should be well-written, and should describe the applicant's research interests (including past work and ideas for future research with specific Laurier faculty). Candidates applying for the PhD program with a Masters degree from another university are encouraged to contact potential faculty supervisors to find out if they will be accepting students in the current year.
  • Academic performance, as indicated by undergraduate and graduate GPA.

PhD Curriculum

Seven half-credit courses, two comprehensive projects, and a dissertation constitute the degree requirements. The required courses include:

  • PS800 Advanced Multivariate Statistics
  • PS870 Doctoral Seminar in Social Psychology
  • Another 800-level psychology doctoral seminar: e.g. PS875, PS860, PS861, PS862, PS863, or PS865
  • An elective course. The course may be chosen from the 800-level seminars in psychology, from a Laurier graduate program other than psychology, or from a graduate program at another university.
  • PS876, PS877 and PS878: Research Seminar in Social Psychology I, II and III. This seminar is taken in each of the first 3 years (I, II and III in each of year 1, 2 and 3 respectively) of the PhD program and is marked on a pass/fail basis.
  • PS891 and PS892: PhD Comprehensive Research Experience I and II. During the first two years of the PhD program, all students in the social area must complete two comprehensive research experiences under the supervision of a faculty member other than their advisor. The research experiences can take the form of either: 1) a research project, including a written report, or 2) a review paper; however, at least one must be a research project.
  • PS899: Dissertation.


Admitted PhD students are guaranteed a minimum of $19,000 funding per year for three years. This money typically comes from a variety of sources, including teaching assistantships, Laurier graduate scholarships, and faculty research grant money. Students are often able to supplement this amount with an additional $1,000-5,000 paid directly by faculty members from their research grants. During their studies, PhD students may also apply for travel awards from the department and from graduate studies.

Students who receive a major external scholarship, such as an OGS or SSHRC award, become eligible for "top-up" scholarship funds from Laurier. The amount of these top-up scholarships varies by year, depending on the availability of funds. Many social psychology students at Laurier receive OGS and SSHRC awards during their time in the program (see current graduate student profiles for examples).