Graduation with Distinction

The Graduation with Distinction Program (GwD) is intended for students who demonstrate academic excellence through the successful completion of a significant research project during their undergraduate career. This is especially important for students planning to pursue a graduate degree, but is highly recommended for any student with a strong interest in research.

Who is eligible to enroll in GwD?

Open only to students graduating with a major in psychology or IDM related to psychology. Students pursuing a minor degree in psychology as well as those pursuing Program II will be considered as part of GwD outside of the major

Students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and a Psychology GPA of at least 3.5 by fall of senior year (GPA points are not rounded; psychology GPA does not include grades for Independent Study or GwD Course). Psychology majors may register for the Graduation with Distinction program without meeting these GPA requirements but will not receive Distinction if these GPA requirements are not met at the time of graduation. 

Participation in the program is noted on the transcript during the senior year and successful completion results in acknowledgment on the transcript and at graduation ceremonies. Exceptional theses may be nominated by the faculty mentor for consideration for the Karl E. Zener Award, presented annually to an outstanding graduating senior in Psychology.

Summary of GwD Requirements

  • Enroll in two semesters of Research Independent Study (RIS) related to the project with the same faculty member. The faculty member supervising RIS will also serve as the faculty chair for the defense committee.
  • Students are required to obtain IRB approval for their projects before enrolling in the Distinction Thesis Workshop (PSY 496). Any exceptions to this policy require the approval of the Psychology DUS Office. Please note that obtaining IRB approval may require significant time and effort. Students are encouraged to learn what is involved very early in the process by visiting and/or speaking with one of the IRB staff members listed on the Important Contacts page of the 2021-2022 Graduation with Distinction Handbook (download below).
  • Submit the GwD application form by the end of the regular registration period, November 8th, 2021.
  • Enroll in the PSY 496 Distinction Thesis Workshop  during spring of senior year.
  • Complete thesis defense in front of a three-person committee. Oral defenses are normally scheduled between the end of March and mid-April with date and time determined by students and their thesis committee members. In order to be considered for the Karl E. Zener Award, students must defend their thesis by April 13.
  • Present final work at Visible Thinking Undergraduate Research Symposium.
  • Submit electronic copy of final thesis paper to the Office of Undergraduate Studies in Psychology by the last day of exams in the spring.
  • Submit electronic copy of final paper to DukeSpace,  the open-access repository within Duke Libraries.

Additional information

  • Most GwD candidates will follow the requirements listed above. However, students who fall outside of any of these requirements should reach out to the Office of Undergraduate Studies to discuss their specific situation. If after reviewing this information you have additional questions, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Studies in Reuben-Cooke, R. 235 or at 919-660-5719.
  • To learn more about specific deadlines, enrollment forms, and criteria for GwD, Psychology majors should refer to the 2021-2022 Graduation with Distinction Handbook (download below).
  • For general information on the University-wide Graduation with Distinction Program, please click here.
  • Funding support to cover expenses related to GwD thesis may be available through the Office of Undergraduate Research Support (URS).
  • Duke Libraries offer a variety of resources to support GwD candidates in their work including a designated librarian!