Psychology is an incredibly diverse field of study. It is extremely versatile with lots of potential for cross-collaboration among a number of fields. As an undergraduate, you’ve likely been exposed to a wide range of topics through your classes. Which ones did you find most interesting? Was it the class lecture on autism? How children acquire language? Or the fact that women suffer from depression more than men – and identifying the reasons why?
Articulating clearly defined research interests will be paramount to gaining entry to graduate school in psychology, especially research-based programs. In my opinion, the most important quality you will need is passion for the subject matter at hand. What do I mean by passion? What topics do you frequently engage in discussion? What particular topics catch your eye as you browse news or magazines? What topics can you (almost) literally discuss all day long and never get tired of discussing the ins and outs of?
There are a number of ways that you can identify your research interests. The first one I mentioned is through material you’ve been exposed to in class. The second is just good ol’ life experience. I had always been interested in the media, but it was an internship experience that piqued my interest even more. At the time, I was working as the “behavior specialist” with teenagers at an alternative school. One of the interesting observations I made was how much influence music artists hold over their beliefs. The students would spend all day talking about them and quoting lyrics from songs (which I guess isn’t all that surprising knowing how fanatic teenagers are about their favorite music artists!).
I started to wonder about how song lyrics and music video images influenced their views of what it means to be a man or woman. I skimmed through studies in scholarly journals and realized how much we still don’t know about the real-life impact of media images. What worked in my favor was that there was a serious lack of information about how media images and consumption affects youth (and I was just the person to solve this problem, I said in my personal statement!).
Follow a similar process and you may have just uncovered a research interest for yourself!