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Programme Structure and Curriculum

PhD in Psychology

Programme Structure and Curriculum

The PhD in Psychology Programme is a full-time four-year programme. The maximum registration duration of the programme is five years, unless special approval for longer duration is granted by SMU. The programme does not offer a terminal Master's degree.

The curriculum consists of course units in:

Foundation courses (6 course units)
Elective courses (2 course units)
Empirical Research Project (1 course unit)
Master Thesis (12 course units)
Advanced Research Topics (ARTs) courses (3 course units)
PhD Dissertation (28 course units)

Students are required to complete a total of 52 course units (cus) to meet the graduation requirements.

To receive the PhD degree in Psychology, the student needs to first complete all requirements of the Master degree in Psychology. The requirements for the MSc degree in Psychology include successful completion of the relevant 20 cus comprising the Master thesis (12 cus) and the relevant Foundation and Elective courses (total of 8 cus). These requirements are important because they also help prepare the student and equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct the PhD dissertation and other advanced courses for the PhD degree. Please note the Psychology PhD programme does not offer a terminal master degree. That is, the MSc degree in Psychology is awarded as part of the progression towards the PhD degree. A student who did not complete all the PhD degree requirements is not automatically awarded the MSc degree, although in exceptional circumstances he/she may be awarded the MSc degree if the student successfully completes all the MSc degree requirements and is deemed by the School to be in good standing and of satisfactory performance.

Students will complete most of the Foundation and Elective courses in Years One and Two of the programme. Students will focus more on research projects, and contribute to academic publications and presentations as they advance progressively in their training.

Programme Schedule (Sample)

Term 1
Term 2
Term 3

3 Foundation courses

1 Elective course

3 Foundation courses

1 Elective course

1 Empirical Research Project

Form Master Thesis Committee

Prepare Master Thesis Proposal


2 ART courses

Submit written Master Thesis Proposal

Oral defence of Master Thesis Proposal

Conduct Master Thesis research

1 ART course

Conduct Master Thesis research

Submit written report of completed Master Thesis research

Oral defence of completed Master Thesis

Revise and re-submit Master Thesis Report

Submit approved Master Thesis Report to PGR Office

Prepare PhD Dissertation Proposal


Pass PhD Qualifying Exam

Form PhD Dissertation Committee

Prepare PhD Dissertation Proposal

Submit written PhD Dissertation Proposal

Oral defence of PhD Dissertation Proposal

Conduct PhD Dissertation research

Conduct PhD Dissertation research Conduct PhD Dissertation research
Conduct PhD Dissertation research

Conduct PhD Dissertation research

Submit written report of completed PhD Dissertation research

Oral defence of completed PhD Dissertation

Revise and re-submit PhD Dissertation Report

Submit approved PhD Dissertation Report to PGR Office


Years One and Two

Foundation Courses

Research Methods in Psychology
Psychological Measurement
General Linear Model
Multivariate Statistics
Personality and Individual Differences
Social Psychology
Cognitive Psychology
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Cultural Psychology
Evolutionary Psychology

Elective Courses

Systems in Psychology
Social Cognition
Lifespan Development
Judgment and Decision Making
Psychology of Emotion
Psychology of the Self

Students should have formed their Master Thesis Committee by the end of Year One, and completed and defended their Master's Thesis by the end of Year Two.

Year Three

Students are expected to complete all coursework requirements and pass the PhD Qualifying Examination by the end of Term One of Year Three. The PhD Dissertation Committee is also expected to be formed by the same time. Students are expected to work on their dissertation proposal, defend their dissertation proposal, and conduct the PhD dissertation research.

Year Four

Students are expected to complete their dissertation research in Year Four. Students will prepare and conduct the final defence of their dissertation research.

Last updated on 25 Aug 2017 .