Create a form for potential subjects to sign up for specific times. Ask them for e-mail and/or telephone numbers so that you can notify them of any change and confirm their appointments.
It's a good idea to provide a card or reminder note where they can write in the time they chose. Include your phone and/or e-mail so they can give you a call if they can't come. If you are going to be using my office for your experiment, you might want to put that number on the reminder as well -- since you'll be there and not at home at the crucial times.
Don't ask to conduct an experiment during class time. If you have a questionnaire, distribute it at the end of class as the students are leaving.
Leave enough time in your schedule to tell the students what you are doing and what you hope to discover after they have finished the experiment. If students are curious about the results, you might offer to send them your abstract by e-mail.
Almost any room on campus is available for your use. The scheduling office is located in the Student Center, near the Student Life Office. If you want to use a classroom in the Learning Center you may have to do your testing at unusual times -- late in the afternoon and evening. The Learning Center is desirable since it has so many similar rooms and the students are comfortable in the environment -- well accustomed to it anyway.
The seminar room in the Psychology Building can be signed out with Margo Lister in the front office. There is often a calendar on the door of the seminar room so you can see what times are available.
My office is available not only for studies using the Biolab and Cognitive programs, but for other studies. Take a look at the door of my office to see what times are open.
The Student Projects Room in the Computer Center may be scheduled by placing a calendar on the door with the times you will be using it. You can create a calendar form in WordPerfect by going to File/New/Calendar. Other students who want to use the Projects Room can then use your calendar to add their times.
Although dorm rooms can be used, it is not advisable. There are too many extraneous variables due to noise, unfamiliarity, and distractions. Studies would be expected to have increased variance.
A point system has been set up by various instructors in Psychology. Points are earned toward extra-credit on tests or participation. It varies with instructor. Point slips are available from Margo Lister in the main office. Sign the slips and indicate the number of hours or partial hours before you give them to the subject. The subject is responsible for turning them in to their instructor.
Once you have decided on a topic for your experiment and have an idea of what equipment you want to use, come see me. My lab assistant and I will try to give you all of the assistance you will need to run a smooth study. Some equipment will require some basic instruction. The lab assistant is trained on all of the equipment and if you have a complex study, may even help you during the experiment.
Personal instruction is available for the SuperLab, the Biolab, and VisionLab. If the hours posted on my door are not suitable for your schedule, we'll work something else out.
Mobile equipment can be checked out for limited periods. Sometimes several people want to use the same equipment and you might make arrangements to share during the same period. When you come to see me about equipment, I'll show you where it is kept, then when you want to pick it up you will be able to sign it out even if I'm not around. Margo or one of the lab assistants will be happy to help.
One of the first things that you should do is begin a search on your topic in Psychological Abstracts and PsycInfo in Mariner. If you are interested in physiological measures, you should include Medline in your search. ERIC is good for topics related to applied settings in education.
We have already taken a look at the thesaurus, so you know that key words aren't always obvious. Play around with all sorts of descriptors until you find one or two articles of interest. Then use the key words on those articles to find other reseach in the same area. Read several introductions to get an idea of the scope of the field. Remember that the articles you want to discuss need not be just like your study. Even animal research might shed some interesting comparisons.
Once you have explored, if you are still coming up empty-handed - remember that I have a thesaurus in my office and we can do a search of the literature together.
If you have chosen a field where there has been a great deal of research or the field is popular, there may be books available. Your second search should begin with Ursus at Mantor Library. Books and journal articles within the system are usually delivered to campus within a few days. The system gets overloaded at the end of the semester and takes longer just when you are in a hurry. Be smart. You should set yourself a deadline of November 1st or March 1st to make your requests.
Both the Media Center and Computer Center have resources which you might find useful to create stimulus materials or testing materials. There are too many functions to list them all, so I'll just list some of the things that students have used in the past.
- Video tape production and editing - Media Center
- Slide production for tachistoscopic presentation of word or picture items - Media Center
- Sound production - Media Center and Computer Center
- Graphic design and digital photography - Media Center and Computer Center
- Color printing, normal and large scale - Media Center and Computer Center
- Color copying - Media Center
- Overhead production - Media Center and Computer Center
The Media Center staff will give you advice about your stimulus materials, if you ask. They know a lot about size/distance ratios, legibility and clarity. They may even have suggestions for a better procedure or graphic process.
We have used SYSTAT in class and conducted numerous analyses; however, there are hundreds of different statistical procedures available. Read the literature in the area of topic to find out what analyses have been performed in the past. Most of you will be able to use the statistical procedures discussed in class, some of you may need to use something unusual. I have tons of books just chock full of stats.
I even have a computer program which will help you decide which statistic to use. It's available in my office.
Most of you will want to graph some of your results. If you want to print the graphs in color, there are color printers in the Art Lab at the Computer Center and one in my office for your use.
In an Appendix at the end of your paper, include the print-out from SYSTAT and copies of any instruments which you developed for the study.
While you are sitting at the computer, it is tempting to go into Alta Vista to look for references. Although the Internet contains lots of information, a huge number of chat sites, and very timely material about current events, it is not a major research resource. People seldom put complete research articles on the Web due to copyright laws.
There are some excellent sites which introduce topics, issues, and ideas. There are quite a few which present undergraduate research. These are a good place to start with your search, but then you should look for the references from which their material was drawn. Articles in journals are edited and reviewed; for the most part, material on the Internet is not. That said, here is a list of some interesting sites in psychology.
© Marilyn Shea, November 1999
Brianne picture by Josh Keezer, mouseover graphics by Josh Glavine
Department of Psychology, University of Maine at Farmington