Research Assistant Information

Welcome! This page is for potential or current RAs and describes the tools we use in the lab. Thanks to Michelle Shteyn for compiling this information! 


Thanks for your interest. We hire new research assistants regularly. Please complete an online application HERE. You will notice that the application asks you to indicate which grad student you are interested in working with. These are our current grads: Connor Gibbs.

If the link is broken, please contact Prof. Sherman. Students who are invited to be RAs can sign up for PSY 99/99P or PSY 199/199P. The first quarter should be pass/fail (P) and after that, research units can be taken for grade (includes writing a paper, see below). Here is the distinction:  PSY 99/99P is for any students who are undeclared, still in the pre-major, and/or are freshmen and sophomores. For a student to be eligible for PSY 199P or 199, the student must be in full major and junior (or higher) level standing.


With the Gmail account you registered during your application, activate Google Calendar and Google Documents, and learn how to use them. There are many articles and training videos online. We use the calendar in our lab to manage lab room space. We use the documents to collaborate.

  • 1) Review this How to Become a Research Assistant Flowchart.
  • 2) Complete the Mandatory UCSB Human Subjects training, 'id' PSYC-SH-DA-064, 'sponsor email', 'id owner' Sherman. After completion, you will get an email with a certificate. Print and submit it in Step 4.
  • 3) Go to UC Learning Center to complete "Non-Supervisor - Safety Rights, and Responsibilities" training. The training is called "Safety Orientation" on the UCLC. If you are already a UCSB employee (e.g. you work at the bookstore) you should already have a UCLC account that you can use to complete the training. If you are not a UCSB employee, Prof. Sherman will need to request for you to be given a non-employee UCLC account. Email Dr. Sherman with your name and Perm number so he can request an account for you. The steps for how he can request an account are found here under the "Requesting UCLC non-employee accounts?" section. After you are given this account, then you can complete the training. Print the certificate of completion. Bring Step 1 and 2 certificates to the undergrad office for Step 4.
  • 4) Get a 99/199 form from the undergraduate advisor, get description of duties and IRB code from the graduate student or Prof. Sherman, and have the form signed by Prof. Sherman. You can have Dr. Sherman sign your form using DocuSign. If you are unsure if you should get a 99 or 199 form, us this flowchart to help decide.
  • 5) Bring all forms back to the undergraduate advisor and submit.          



The stages of our research process are: 

  • Brainstorming and idea generation (usually not RAs) 
  • Literature search
  • Planning methods and materials
  • Submitting Institutional Review Board (IRB) application (usually not RAs)
  • Building study materials on paper or online
  • Running participants
  • Data entry
  • Verifying and cleaning data (usually not RAs)
  • Statistical analysis (usually not RAs, but here are interaction instructions)
  • Sharing the results in a poster, talk, or manuscript (usually not RAs)
  • Your involvement in these processes will depend on your skills and motivation.

Each week you are earning units to participate in our lab, and Dr. Sherman and/or the graduate students will give you tasks and requests by email. Prof. Sherman has office hours each week and encourages you to stop by and discuss research and how things are going in the lab. What you get out of this experience will depend on your effort and engagement. If you are genuinely interested in research careers or grad school, take responsibility for your participation by communicating what you’d like to work on and getting more tasks from us if you finish one early. The more responsible and responsive you are, the more interesting tasks you will receive.

Study Materials

We primarily use Qualtrics to build and deliver studies. I may ask you to edit surveys there.

Data Entry

Data entry is when you are adding to existing data files, either from a log or a questionnaire. Usually, you will enter numbers into a spreadsheet in preparation for analysis. You will be trained in this process and introduced to the software. We mostly use Google Docs, Excel, and SPSS. Accuracy is paramount. Go slowly and be aware that your work will be checked.

Lab Space

We operate in Psych 1506 (Prof. Sherman’s lab) and Psych 2513 (Dr. Kim’s lab). You will be given Google Calendar access to Kim Rooms 1-4 and Sherman Rooms 1-2. Additionally, we may use the shared lab space of 2619. Use your door code to enter and train with the materials and script until you are ready. It is appropriate to test-run other RAs and/or me. See ‘Scheduling’ below.


When it’s time to start the study, schedule Google Calendar slots 2-3 weeks in advance between 8am-5pm, avoiding the lecture time of Psych 1 and Psych 7 if possible. Create slots in Google Calendar for a particular research room for as many weeks as you can anticipate your schedule. Call each event “Graduate Student Name (insert):[your initials]”. Next, we use SONA to schedule and communicate with research participants. Contact me for a login to use with our lab. Seven or more days ahead, make slots in SONA for when you’re available to actually run. Then, delete any unfilled Google Calendar spaces. They should agree completely.


  • Are you familiar with performing a literature search? The purpose is a broad sweep to identify relevant research. At this stage, don't actually read the papers, just take notes about them. See this explanation and also read about Boolean search logictruncation, and wildcards. It’s especially importantly to use “” to form phrases. Notice how different your results are in Google when you search social memory vs. “social memory”.
  • Activate off-campus library access.  
  • Start by reading about the research question. If the area is self-esteem, read the article on Wikipedia to get oriented to the concepts and terms.
  •  Go to UCSB Library’s databases and choose the best database. PsycInfo is the central database for psychology. We also commonly use Google and Google Scholar. For medical papers, use PubMed. For economics, JSTOR. For education, ERIC.
  • Search! If you get too few results (usually <20), broaden your keywords. If you get too many (usually >200), use quotes, different terms, or more terms. The “right” number of results is a tricky issue to nail down. It depends on the research question. Communicate clearly with me about your search terms and database and what you’re finding and I’ll be able to direct you.
  • Good progress! Now search again using different keywords. For example, a project about randomness might include these different search terms, searched separately or together in various combinations:  
    • fate fatalism causation causal cause randomness meaning control
    • “personal need for structure” “need for cognition"
  • Document your process. Include the database, search terms, and notes about the search process.    Was it easy to answer the question? Of the citations you found, were there many more, or were you scraping the bottom?
  • When you find a good, relevant article, use Web of Science ( --> databases ---> Web of Science) to check which articles have cited that article since it was published, and look for new material.
  • Document your findings. Using a Google document or spreadsheet, include the citation, abstract, and your summary of why you included this article, the central finding of the article, and any questions you have for me and our team about the citation             


Most letters should be formally from Professor David Sherman.

If you had contact with Dr. Sherman through a class or through his research lab, you may request a letter of recommendation for graduate school or another opportunity. He writes each recommendation individually, so you need to request a letter for each different program. In order to be able to write an impactful and relevant letter for you, please include the following documents:

  •  Unofficial transcript (download this on GOLD)
  • If you took a class with Prof. Sherman, mention the date, class, and your grade.
  • If you worked as an RA, mention the dates you worked in his lab.
  • Statement of purpose or application essay, or if none, a brief description of why you're applying
  • Deadline of the recommendation
  • School/program opportunity description or webpage
  • CV or resume
  • If your rec needs to be mailed, include a stamped, addressed envelope.

On Macs, you can choose File:Print:PDF to create PDF files from any application.

After receiving this information, Dr. Sherman will set up a meeting during his office hours to discuss whether he is an appropriate letter writer.

Contact Information

David Sherman, Ph. D.

Psychological & Brain Sciences
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660



If you are taking Psy 199, you have options for your quarterly PSY199 paper. We would like you to pick one that's useful for you. If you don’t like any of these, propose something else to the graduate student you are working with: anything that is useful or interesting to you, so long as it is original, new work.

199 papers are due Monday of finals week at 4pm, by email to the Ph. D. student you are working with, CC’d to Prof. Sherman, and in hardcopy to the undergraduate advisor in the main Psych office.

Often we assign some research article for RAs to read that is relevant to the study/studies they are running and then ask them to write a research proposal that is related to/inspired by what they read. Should be about 3 or 4 pages.


Write a complete job description and CV (curriculum vitae) or resume.

CV and resume: Pick two "pretend job positions" to which you are applying and briefly describe it at the beginning so I know the goal of your CV/resume. These should be two different positions you are applying for when you submit either a CV or resume (different jobs require each). You could use any of the careers you described above, but realize that the positions you pick should correctly reflect your understanding of the difference between when a CV is appropriate and when a resume is appropriate. A CV is an "academic resume" and has different content. A resume, on the other hand, is for more professional positions and requires more description of duties. Both should include all relevant experience you'd had up to this point as an undergraduate, but don't worry if you don't have too much experience to report. You can find out how to write these here.

You might have a CV/resume written already, but I want you to go through these websites in detail and make as polished of a CV and resume as possible, as if you were actually turning these in with an application. Remember all this is to your benefit so I want you to want to do the research and reading for this. Hopefully it'll be fun, but most of all, informative. Let me know if you have any questions at any point.


Career Research: Go to and research the different careers on the right hand sidebar. Pick at least 1 "research" position and 1 "applied" position. It doesn't have to be in psychology, but it obviously should be a career where you can use your Psych B.A. Most of the jobs you'll find on the site are more applied/professional positions, but remember that in research you can study basically anything you want.

For each, we want you to address in 2-3 pages double spaced each the following: summarize the career you envision specific to your interests (beyond the general description provided on that website), how you can start catering your undergraduate from THIS MOMENT to prepare and gain experience for this position, and the training and credentials required after undergraduate (i.e. grad or professional school) to obtain this position. You might have to do some outside research on your own to learn more about these careers. In the essay, please provide links back to the website for each career so I know which ones you picked.

This assignment is for your benefit. What would you like to pursue? If you'd like a fourth option, think up another task and ask us about it.