COGS 396 Undergraduate Research Project

COGS 396 (3 credits)

This course is intended to provide students with an opportunity to experience hands-on research by pursuing an independent research project under the guidance of an established researcher at McGill University.  This course may only be taken for elective credits.

General Information

Eligible Supervisors: Any professor at McGill University and affiliated hospitals working in a field related to Cognitive Science.  Supervisors often come from Philosophy, Psychology, Linguistics or Computer Science, but may come from other departments.  Here is a list of Established Cognitive Science Researchers at McGill.

Course Coordinator: Prof. Ross Otto - ross.otto [at] (email)

Advisor: Liana Hall DuMond - liana.hall [at] (email)


  • At least one term of undergraduate studies, a CGPA of at least 3.0, or permission of instructor to waive these requirements.
  • A student may take more than one 396 course, but cannot be supervised by the same instructor for two 396 Science courses. Each 396 course must also be for a different project.
  • Cannot be taken under the satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading option.
  • COGS 396 can be completed in Fall, Winter or Summer terms.

COGS 396 Project Eligibility

Cognitive science largely concerns the interdisciplinary study of mental representations and the operations performed on those representations. The chief contributing disciplines are philosophy, psychology, linguistics, computer science, and neuroscience, with some additional contributions from anthropology, biology, political science, and sociology. Common research methods include conceptual analysis, formalization of grammars, experiments, computational and mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, brain imaging, neural stimulation, and neural recording. Any proposal that falls outside of cognitive science would not be appropriate for these courses. If there is any doubt about the project being within cognitive science, the student applicant and potential research-course supervisor are strongly encouraged to examine these two brief descriptions of the nature of cognitive science, prior to submitting a proposal for COGS 396.

The student applicant and potential research-course supervisor could also consult with the supervisor’s representative on the Cognitive Science Program Committee for guidance on what constitutes cognitive science research.

Every proposal for COGS 396 must contain a concise, but clear indication of how it relates to cognitive science. Does the proposed project deal with human, animal, or machine cognition using some of the methods listed above? Does it integrate ideas and/or methods from more than one contributing discipline? The proposal should avoid or translate any jargon that would not be understood by a general academic reader.

How to Proceed 

  • Find a supervisor: typically the most difficult task when setting up a research course.  You have met some professors in lectures and seminars, and there are many more faculty members at McGill doing relevant research.  You may work with any professor affiliated with McGill as long as the project you are completing is Cognitive Science related, but to help you in your search we have provided a list of Established Cognitive Science Researchers at McGill.  It may also be helpful for you to consult the department websites directly to learn more about the professors in each area that may interest you.  The Faculty of Science manages a comprehensive page with all science departments listed together: Science undergrad research opportunities
  • Contact your prospective supervisor: send emails or speak with professors whose research appeals to you.  You should explain that you are a Cognitive Science student and that you'd like to pursue a research project in the professor's lab.  If the professor doesn't know the Cognitive Science research courses, refer them to this website and to the Course Coordinator for information.  For additional tips on how to contact prospective supervisors, visit the Faculty of Science undergrad research website.
  • Meet your supervisor: If the professor is willing to accept independent research students and has space in the lab, a meeting should be set up at which potential research projects are discussed. Usually, the professor will suggest possible topics, but if you have a specific idea for a project, feel free to voice it.
  • Submit the COGS research form: If agreement is reached, fill out the COGS research project form.  When you are filling out the form you will be asked for your supervisor's email address - you must submit a McGill email for this field.  When you submit the form, a copy will be sent to your supervisor for approval, and a copy will be sent to the Course Coordinator for approval.  When both approvals have been given, your eligibility will be verified and you will be contacted by email with instructions to register.

Ethics and Compliance

If researchers are working with human participants or animals or will be dealing with radioactive or biohazardous materials, proper certification must be obtained before the research may begin.

McGill follows strict research integrity standards. Alongside this, McGill cultivates and reinforces a culture that enables its members to identify and resolve conflicts of interest with the support and guidance of the administration and their units.

Cognitive science students applying for COGS research courses must discuss research ethics with their potential supervisor and include on their COGS research form a true statement indicating that: a) the proposed research is covered by an existing, current approval from the appropriate McGill Ethics Board, b) such approval will be sought and obtained before testing of subjects can begin, or c) such approval is unnecessary because no human or animal subjects are involved in the research. Students should also be aware that such ethics approval can take as long as a month or two, depending in part on how many re-submissions must be made.

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