Let me go ahead and apologize for missing last week! I was in charge of Homecoming for my sorority, and unfortunately I find it incredibly hard to write when I am anxious. While I love my role in the sorority this year, I am a little too much of a micro-manager, so I found it difficult to plan and execute what would have been five events for our alumni and still pretend to lead a normal life.
Let’s talk about paper writing! I’m going to go ahead and admit it: I find paper writing similarly as painful and bittersweet as my blogging experience. Let me be clear, I love blogging and I love writing, but it is also very difficult for me. While I relish in the final product of my ideas being out there for the world to see, or a well-constructed thought being communicated efficiently, I simply resent the process and the anxiety that I feel along the way. I tell you all this because I want you to know that it is OK if you feel the same way, and if you don’t, then kudos to you!
On to the next disclaimer: Just as I have no way to know what kind of research you readers may be doing, I also have no idea what kind of writing style you may be using. For these reasons, my points about paper writing will be very general and hopefully useful for all. So here we begin! Read the rest of this entry
Happy Tuesday, readers!
I feel as if we have packing for our metaphorical research journey together, and we are finally ready to embark! Today I would like to talk about actually conducting your research. The thing is, I have no idea what you might be researching, and since the only experience I have is in psychological research, I would like to talk about general research tips. So, based on my personal experiences, here is a list of things to keep in mind:
Give yourself as much time as you can:
In my case I did summer research, and I felt as if time just rushed past me. Six weeks into my project, I only had two participants. Two. Around week seven I cracked down, did some serious recruiting, and things really took off for me. That being said, I don’t advise procrastinating, but rather being realistic about how long research might actually take.
Have a plan for the who, what, when, and how of your project. I dedicated myself to visiting the assisted living facility every Sunday, for at least one hour of recruiting and any additional time it took to conduct the actual research. On average, I was at the facility for around three to four hours every Sunday, and then I would go home and work with my data. Having a plan will help you stay on track and motivated.
Adapt to the demands of your project:
As I mentioned above, I had decided to do research every Sunday during the summer. It took me about three weeks to figure out what time to go on Sundays. If I went before 10 a.m., the residents would be sleeping. Yet, they had lunch at noon. Then, if I went in the afternoon they had Sunday service at 3 p.m., and then dinner directly after. Through a process of trial and error, I figured out that the perfect time for me to go was at 10 a.m., then take a break for lunch, and then continue from around 1-2:30 p.m. Obviously, your project is going to pose different demands, but the point is to mold yourself to what needs to be done.
If your original plan doesn’t work out, just go with it:
There were multiple aspects of my original research plan that just didn’t work out. I didn’t have as many participants as I had originally wanted. I didn’t conduct a post-test 4 weeks later as I had originally planned. I also had to add in participants that weren’t necessarily depressed. My point is, when conducting research, you have to adapt to the situation. At first I really beat myself up because I felt as if I was failing at my project. Luckily I have an awesome advisor that said, “Ashley, the fact that you’re out there doing the research is the important part. Everything else will work out.”
These are just a few points that I hope will aid you in your research. Really, the overall theme of this post is to persevere in whatever your research throws at you. If you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences, please comment below!
So far in the past two weeks we have talked about finding your purpose and choosing your topic for your research project. Today, I would like to walk your through how to do an IRB application. Every University will have an IRB Board, which is a panel of judges that will assess your research project. You must get the approval of the IRB before starting your project. This ensures that everything is legal and safe for both you and your project participants. Because the application can be a little daunting, I’m going to upload an example of a blank application will all of my comments on how to fill one out. So here it is:
With all of my comments and directions in mind, I would still recommend taking your application to your research adviser with any questions or issues you may have. Feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments below!
Ok friends, let us recap here. In my last post I discussed the first step to the research process, which is finding your purpose. Now, with a fuel behind our fire we are ready to move on to the second step! The second step of research is, of course, picking your topic. To be honest, I don’t have any mystical guru magic to help you pick your topic, but I will inform you of my own personal process.
I picked my topic about a year ago, and that is really hard to believe. Looking back, from start to finish, my project has taken me a year to complete. So here I was a year ago, with a senior thesis and a grant application awaiting me, and I had to pick what I was going to do. The first thing I did was come up with a few ideas which I was interested in researching. I think that the best way to think of ideas is to find a question that you would like to have an answer for. That is what research really is: having a question and putting in the time and effort to get an answer.
When coming up with my ideas I knew I wanted to study something associated with the elderly (gerontology minor, duh!), so I came up with a list of ideas that looked something like this:
- Study whether giving residents in nursing homes a pet/plant would lower depression.
- Do a meta-analysis on the percentage of people that pass away within a few months of entering a nursing home.
- Study whether playing music to residents in a nursing home would lower their depression.
So as you can see, a common theme was lowering depression, and I had also thrown in the meta-analysis because I thought that looking at the percentages would be interesting. A meta-analysis is when a research compares and contrasts results from several different studies and look for patterns within those studies.
I took my list of ideas to my advisor, and she helped me to narrow down my project. We talked about each idea in length, and eventually picked the most doable/interesting. We ruled out the meta-analysis almost immediately because, though I could have done it, it was the least fun and interactive. Next, we ruled out the pet/plant idea because there would be too many other factors to consider (such as the residents state of living, dementia, etc.) and we decided the study would not yield accurate results. That left us with my music-listening project!
As you can see, picking my topic was a process of thinking about what I was interested in, and then consulting my advisor on what was practical. No matter what you are studying, the process for topic selection should be very similar. Next week I will discuss general obstacles in the beginning of a project, including the dreaded IRB application process. Feel free to comment below on how you chose your research topic!