Submitted by Matthew D. Schulkind on Monday, 8/3/2009, at 10:42 PM

The group project has a number of goals. I want you to gain some experience generating a research question, designing an experiment that will answer the question, constructing the materials for said experiment, collecting the data, analyzing the data, reporting the results of said analyses, and interpreting the results so that they make sense to the scientific community. To do that in the time allotted, we have to take some short cuts. For example, none of you will have an opportunity to research your area of interest thoroughly. You will not have time to collect a large and representative sample of the population of interest. In short, there is little chance that the experiment that we design will be of publishable quality. That is OK. Our main goal is to run a simple experiment to give us a flavor for the steps involved in doing research.

Step #1: Choosing a Topic
Choose something that interests you. It does not have to be of psychological or even academic interest. I would rather you work on a question that interests you than a question that sounds stuffy and important; however, your study cannot relate to illegal
(drugs, alcohol) or highly personal information (sexual behavior). One group in the past looked at the effect of smoking on illness and academic performance. One group (composed of rowers) looked at how well different measures of physical ability (e.g., 2-mile run) predicted racing times.

Once you have chosen a topic, please write a short proposal (somewhere between a paragraph and a page). The proposal should consist of the question of interest, why it interests you and a brief description of the design of your experiment (e.g., we will collect data using a questionnaire that will include the following questions). Because we have limited time, choose a design that is overly simple rather than overly complex. 

Step #2: Designing the Experiment
I will read your proposal and give you whatever feedback I can. From here on out, it will be your responsibility to schedule appointments with me to talk about your project. Ideally, you should come up with a few ideas of how to run your study. We can talk about the pros and cons. I will help you simplify things that are too complicated, and be more meticulous about things that require rigor. As I wrote in the syllabus you may not do any data collection until I have approved your procedure.

Step #3: Analyzing the data
After you collect your data, we can meet and talk about how to code the data and enter into a computer file compatible with SPSS. We'll talk about how to analyze the data and I can help you understand what the SPSS printout means.

Step #4: Writing up the project
The last step in the project will be to write up an APA-style report. The paper will consist of four sections.

The "Introduction" will describe the research questions and why it is important. It will also explain how you chose to address this question. Finally, you should present a brief overview of your experiment (note: this may or may not overlap with your explanation of how you chose to address the research question). You may include references to previous work in the area but you are not required to do so.
The "Methods" section will describe the materials and procedure (the What? and How?) of your experiment. One section should be devoted to the Subjects: How many? How did you recruit them? What steps did you take to insure that you obtained a random, representative sample? A second section should cover the materials that you used in the experiment. How did you select the items that appear on your questionnaire? What was each question designed to measure, etc.? If you did not conduct a survey, describe how/why/the source of the materials that you used.

The "Results" section will present the results of your statistical analyses. Be sure to follow APA format to the letter. The proper format for reporting your results has been presented throughout class. Check the solutions to your homework assignments and/or your notes. Ask you if you have questions. You will be HEAVILY penalized for deviations from this format. Use graphs and/or tables where appropriate to make sure that the reader understands the nature of your data.

Finally, the "Discussion" section will interpret what the results mean in terms of your original question. This is also a good section to talk about limitations on your study; i.e., Why didn't the experiment work out the way you thought it would? Or, you can discuss possible future directions for your research. What you would do the next time to make the study even better? What do the results of your experiment suggest would be an important question to pursue in future research?
 

Taking Notes