Psychology 300

Directed Research in Psychology

Fall 2011


Professor:             Joan Ostrove

                                    Olin-Rice 325



Office hours:     Wednesdays, 1 - 3 p.m., and by appointment


Course overview            


The purpose of this course is to provide you with a chance to conduct psychological research.  You will plan, design, carry out, and write up your very own empirical research project!  This is a great opportunity that will introduce you to aspects of the field that you might previously have heard or read about, and with which you will now have first-hand experience.  This is a very labor-intensive course, so expect to spend a lot of time on it, especially doing things that you often don’t think of as part of your school work (recruiting participants for your study, running an experiment, analyzing data).  That is, of course, in addition to writing…  You’ll write and re-write a lot in this class, and should be proficient in APA-style (the editorial style of pretty much any psychology journal article you’ve ever read) by the end of the semester.  This class is both hard and fun!  Hopefully, the course will be set up so that you get plenty of help with the hard parts, and lots of company and lots of payoff for the fun parts.  By the end of the course, you will (hopefully!) have developed:


·          an understanding of the decisions and responsibilities associated with research in psychology

·          proficiency in collecting and analyzing data

·          proficiency in communicating (orally and in written form) in the language of psychology


Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference (MUPC)  You are required to present your work at MUPC, to be held in the spring (Saturday, April 28th, at Gustavus Adolphus College).  This is an exciting and important opportunity for which we’ll spend time together preparing.  You’ll be surprised at how much fun it can be to work really hard on a project all semester and then get a chance to share it with others.  If you’re planning to be abroad in the Spring, we will make alternative arrangements for you to present your work.


Forms / References / APA Style


Websites:  The psychology department’s website includes all of the forms you must fill out in order to have your project approved (Review Form for Proposed Research):


Publication manual:  The real, official reference for all things related to APA style is the publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition).  You should already have this because it was a required text in Psych 201.  There are a couple of copies of the publication manual (as it is known) in Lee’s office.  The library has at least one. If you’re planning to continue study in psychology, it’s a good resource to have and could be worth purchasing yourself (check, among other places, APA’s website [])


Structure of the class / Assignments


This class is officially scheduled to meet from 10:50-11:50 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Much of that time we will not meet as an entire group.  Instead, you will have short individual meetings with me every week (either during regular class time on M or F, or at other times; I will pass around a sign-up sheet for individual meetings on our first day together in our section) so that we can facilitate the progress of your particular project.   We will meet together as a group every Wednesday, during which time I’ll provide information about different aspects of the research process and we’ll have a chance to discuss those issues as a group (especially as they pertain to your own work).  In addition, much of what makes research both more fun and more manageable is the knowledge and support and information we get from others who are engaged in a similar process.  Please plan to keep ALL of the regularly scheduled course times open because we will need to have additional full class meetings at some times during the semester.


Psychology research is (usually) conducted and (virtually always) written up in a quite structured fashion.  There are four parts to the manuscript, so your assignments will be set up accordingly, with a few added steps to facilitate the process.


Individual library session (required; 5 points deducted from your final grade if you do not attend)

As you are developing your research topics and working on reviewing the research literature, you will have an individual meeting with either Beth Hillemann or Leslie Mollnar in the library.  They will provide you with information and strategies about navigating PsycINFO and other critical databases and resources that will be tailored to your particular needs.  This is an invaluable opportunity and the library staff has been incredibly generous in making themselves available to you.  You must complete your library session by Wed, Sept 21st.


I.  Introduction outline

Your first assignment will be to write up a paragraph that describes your proposed area of research.  This will be followed by an outline of your plan for your project.  What is your research area of interest?  What is a key unanswered question or issue in that area that you will address?  What are the relevant areas of literature that you will read and critically review in order to design your own project?  For each heading and subheading of your outline, you must cite at least one relevant reference from the psychology research literature that you’ve already read.


II. Introduction/Literature Review

              The introduction to a psychology research paper states the broad issues to be addressed, summarizes the previous research done on this topic, indicates the “gaps” that the current project aims to fill, and states the hypothes(i/e)s of the current project.  The publication manual provides guidelines for writing this section, you can base your introduction on others that you’ve read, and we’ll talk more in class about how to write the literature review.  You’ll do yours in two steps:

1)       Draft – A first draft of your literature review.

2)       Revised literature review – A revised version of your literature review based on my feedback and whatever other literature you’ve read in the meantime.   It should be well-organized, well-argued, and clearly and concisely written.  The revision will be due with the revision of your Method section (see below)


III. Method

The method describes all aspects of the procedure that you follow to conduct your study (who are the people, what will they do as part of participating in the study [including how you will debrief them at the end, if necessary], what variables are you interested in and how are you measuring them, how are you going to analyze the data).  The general idea is that someone reading your Method section should be able to replicate your study themselves; that means there is an extensive amount of extremely informative and important information in this section!  Again, this is described in the publication manual, you’ll have read a bunch of different method sections, and we’ll discuss how to write a method section in class.  As you prepare to write your method section, you’ll also be working on your PRB proposal, otherwise knows as the Research Proposal Application see link at  This will be described more extensively in class, but you should be prepared during this time to be gathering materials for completing this form.  There are two parts to the method assignment:

1)       Draft – A first draft of your method section.

2)       Revised method section – A revised version of your method section (to be turned in with your revised Introduction).


IV. PRB Proposal

The Institutional Review Board is the name typically given to the committee that decides whether or not a proposed research study is appropriate and meets ethical standards for research.  In the department here, we have named this the Psychology Review Board (PRB) Our section will serve as a “review board” for proposals from the other sections of Directed Research, and people in the other sections will review your proposals.  This is a critically important step in the research process and I expect you to take it very seriously.


V. Results

The results section is where you describe the results of the statistical analyses of your data.  Not to worry, I’ll be very available for personal statistical consultation, and we’ll spend time in class reviewing the basics of what you’ll need to do both conceptually and in terms of using the computer.  Plus, you should be really well prepared for this after RIP I and II, right?!  There are lots of specific APA guidelines for summarizing results in both the text and in tables and graphs, so you’ll need that publication manual handy…


VI.  Discussion

The discussion section is lots more than a restatement of what you found in “regular” language.  It also addresses why you think you found what you did, how your findings fit in to the broader literature, what the limitations of your study were, and what the larger implications of the study could be. 


VII. Manuscript

Here’s the whole thing, all put together.  The sections should flow easily, one to the next, and the entire paper should be a coherent presentation of a study that someone else could implement just by reading about what you did.  The complete manuscript also includes a title page, an abstract, reference pages, notes (if necessary), tables (if you’ve got them).  Again, here’s where the publication manual is really helpful.


VII. Poster

As you complete the draft of your manuscript, you’ll create a poster presentation about your work.  The ability to communicate your ideas and the results of your work succinctly and clearly is a critical part of the research process.  There are samples of other students’ posters hanging in the halls around the Psych Department, and we’ll talk a lot toward the end of class about how to create an effective poster.


Summary of evaluation/course grade calculation


o     Introduction outline                                           5%

o     Introduction draft                                                10%

o     Method draft                                                           10%

o     PRB proposal                                                          10%

o     Revised intro and method                            10%


o     Results draft                          10%

o     Poster draft                           5%

o     Final poster                          10%

o     Final manuscript              20%

o     Process*                                 5%

o     Implementation**           5%


*The process grade is based on the amount of energy, enthusiasm, and overall hard work you put into this entire project

**The implementation grade is based on how successfully you actually carry out the mechanics of your project (developing whatever measures/experiment you use/design; collecting an adequate amount of data; analyzing your data)


Chronological summary of important dates (subject to change)

Friday, Sept 9 – group meeting

Monday, Sept 12 – group meeting

Wed, Sept 14 – group meeting

Fri, Sept 16 – Introduction outline due

Mon, Sept 19 – individual meetings begin this week

Wed, Sept 21 – group meeting

Fri, Sept 23 and Mon, Sept 26 [no individual meetings] – Introduction draft due Mon, Sept 26

Wed, Sept 28 – group meeting

Wed, Oct 5 – group meeting

Fri, Oct 7 – Method draft due

Mon, Oct 10 – group meeting (SONA and Survey Monkey)?

Wed, Oct 12 – group meeting (SONA and Survey Monkey)?; PRB proposal due

[we will likely add group meetings this week and next (Mon and Fri) to review PRBs]

Wed, Oct 19 – group meeting

Mon, Oct 24 – Introduction and method sections revision due

Wed, Oct 26 – group meeting

Wed, Nov 2 – group meeting

Wed, Nov 9 – group meeting

Wed, Nov 16 – additional individual meetings for data analysis

Wed, Nov 23 [no meeting] draft of results due

Wed, Nov 30 – group meeting

Mon, Dec 5 – poster presentation draft due

Wed, Dec 7 – in class poster presentation

Mon, Dec 12 –final poster due

Friday, Dec 16 – final manuscript due

Other course policies:


·          Academic integrity:  I expect all of you to follow the college’s guidelines regarding academic integrity, outlined in the Student Handbook.  Please talk to me if you are not clear how these guidelines apply to the course.  I will report any suspicion of academic dishonesty to the Dean of Academic Programs.  Academic dishonesty will result in at least a failing grade on the assignment, and a second instance of dishonesty will usually result in a failing grade in the course.


·          Late work:  You may not receive extensions on work in the class, except in the most extraordinary circumstances (in which you will need documentation from the Dean of Students’ Office or Health Services).  Work that is turned in late for any other reason will have one quarter of the point value of the assignment taken off for each day that it is late (the “day late” begins immediately after the time the assignment is due)


·          Incompletes:  I will only grant incompletes under extraordinary circumstances that occur in the second part of the semester.  This will not include being really busy at the end of the semester.


·          Written assignments:  Please type, double-spaced with 12-point font, all of your assignments for this course.  Please do not use margins that are larger than 1 inch – all around.  Don’t use smaller margins, or smaller font, either – length is not necessarily strength.


·          Accommodations for students with disabilities:  I will provide any reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities that will assist in making this course accessible and will provide an optimal educational experience for everyone. Please speak to me at the beginning of the semester so that we can make an effective plan.  See for additional information and assistance.


·          Religious observance: If you will miss class or an individual meeting because of a religious observance, please let me know in advance to make alternate arrangements.


·          Cell phones:  Please turn your cell phones and other mobile devices off or to a (completely) silent (vibrate is not silent!) mode while in class or individual meetings.  Except under extraordinary circumstances, you may not make or accept phone calls or text messages during class.  If you know you are expecting a call or text in an emergency situation, please try to let me know in advance of class that this may happen.  If you must take a call, do so quietly outside of the classroom.