Labelling and organising computer files is always important. However, it can be really annoying clicking through folders until you get to the file you want. If you’re using a file often it can be tempting to have it somewhere like the desktop where it’s faster to access. However, if you do this too often your desktop can get overloaded. A solution to this is pinning.
When you open a programme like ‘Word’, a symbol appears in your taskbar to show that the programme is running. Right click a programme in the taskbar and select the option to ‘pin this programme to taskbar’. Now even when you turn off the programme a shortcut will be available in the taskbar.
You can drag relevant files (e.g. a Word file for the Word programme) over the programme shortcut. This will ‘pin’ those files to that programme shortcut. Now if you right click the shortcut it will show you a shortcut to that file(s). This means your files can be neatly organised into folders and subfolders but still be quickly accessible from your desktop. You can unpin anything with ease.
Another useful programme is the Snipping Tool available on most computers. Sometimes you want an image or just part of image. You might want a screenshot of a PDF or Word file. Do a search in your computer for ‘Snipping Tool’ (I recommend pinning it). It’s an extremely user friendly tool that allows you to take pictures of whatever is displayed on your computer. Just use the tool to highlight the part you want and it will create an image for you.
For free computer virus protection try Googling either ‘Super anti-spyware’ or ‘Advanced Care System’. The free version of things like ‘Advanced Care System’ will clean your computer of any junk files without deleting anything important.
Dropbox is an extremely useful tool. Install Dropbox on computers you use to create a dropbox folder. When you save a file in this folder the internet will update that file on your other computers. It’s a good backup for files in case one computer gets broken. You can also share folders with others making collaboration work easier. Just use this link: https://db.tt/c4Dpjxrl
Not everyone can afford or has the time to learn image editing software like Photoshop. Luckily there are free and more simpler programmes out there (e.g. PIXLR.com or just Google ‘free alternatives to Photoshop’, there are loads.)
When you have a folder open click on view and make sure details panel is on. Click on a Word file in that folder (just once or you’ll open it) and details about the document will appear. There’s a tag option. If there are documents or tasks I need to finish working on I like to add the tag ‘to do’. Now when I search ‘to do’ on my computer the documents I need to finish working on show up and are easier to find. It makes keeping track of what you need to do a little easier. Collectively these tips should save you a LOT of time, hope it helps 🙂
Here are a few tips if you’ve gotten ethical approval and are now allowed collect data for a study. If offering participants sweets as compensation for their time, I like to make sure there is a vegan option. I recommend Jellytots or polospearmints available in most shops. If you’re lucky enough to live near a dedicated sweet shop you may even find vegan cookies which come in a variety of flavours.
Some participants won’t take sweets if it’s Lent and to escape temptation may avoid your study during this time. Having some alternative healthy foods is a really good idea.
People can have braces so keep that in mind when choosing foods. Hard foods and chewy candies can be a bad idea.
Depending on how long you plan to run a study, be careful about foods that expire or go stale.
Sometimes researchers pour different sweet bags into one container for ease of access. Be careful if pouring different sweets into the same container. Someone might accidentally pick up something they’re allergic to. I personally like to avoid foods with peanuts in them but other common food allergies include: milk, soya, nuts from trees, eggs and wheat. Keep separate foods separate.
Keep a bin or bag nearby for loose wrappers.
If you’re running studies with electrical equipment avoid bringing liquids, or at the very least make sure there is some distance between them and the machines.
Open bags. Most participants only take a few sweets but if you’ve left bags unopened the rare participant might think of taking an entire bag or two which isn’t nice if you’ve spent money on those bags. Another reason to open bags is that some people may be shy and not want to open anything unopened, even if they really want sweets. Keep everyone happy 🙂
I’ve talked a lot about quantitative research and statistical methods in the past so this post is dedicated to qualitative research.
My Qualitative Research Definition
Qualitative research is the observation, recording and search for meaning in experience as well as the context of that experience. This experience is usually human experience but can also refer to the experience of entities such as a business or organisation.
Qualitative Vs. Quantitative
Quantitative research attempts to be as objective as possible. It’s about looking for facts, exploring numbers and measurements. It typically involves using structured questions or stimuli with a limited amount of predetermined responses. In contrast, qualitative research is much more subjective. It seeks to explore and looks at individuals or cases in much more detail. Qualitative research often looks for themes. Quantitative research tends to require a large number of participants or entities whereas qualitative usually focus on one or a small number of participants or entities.
It’s worth noting that, paradoxically, the interpretation of quantitative research data is itself often a very qualitative exercise since that interpretation for meaning is often subjective.
Researchers sometimes argue which one is better but the appropriateness of a given approach usually depends greatly on a given situation, research question or purpose. In general, a mixed methods approach usually is typically best.
Common Examples of Qualitative Research
Interviews (semi-structured, structured, unstructured/free, cognitive mapping)
Critical discourse analysis
Qualitative Main Advantages
Given the extra detail in qualitative research it is likely to find something important that quantitative research alone could miss.
Qualitative research is more likely to generate research ideas and hypotheses.
Qualitative research can sometimes be more feasible when large samples of a target group are not available or difficult to access.
A potential flaw with qualitative research is nominal or naming fallacy i.e. the idea that you’ve explained something by naming or describing it. For instance, you could name a bed, say it’s made of wood and a mattress and a blanket. You could describe it extremely well and not understand that it’s a place for sleeping. Qualitative research can sometimes facilitate this fallacy when it’s used to find themes.
Qualitative research can be slow and tedious
Privacy is often at risk
The interpretation of qualitative data is subjective. You can never be certain how valid an interpretation is. However, you can approximate validity. One way to do this is triangulation.
Triangulation basically refers to trying to make sure that qualitiative data gathered is of a good quality and that interpretations are of a reasonably high standard. It can result in three outcomes:
One form of triangulation is having multiple researchers interpret the data. These interpretations can then be compared and consistency of interpretations can be assessed.
Another form of triangulation is using multiple methods to examine the same thing. Data and interpretations produced by methods can then be compared and examined for consistency.
Theoretic sampling can be a type of triangulation whereby research data on a sample or parts of a sample are compared with each other. Does research generalise to a different time of day or location or to different people, etc.
Another one is theoretic triangulation whereby you can have multiple explanatory views e.g. behaviourism and cognitivism, expressed attitudes and behaviour, child explanation and nanny explanation and parental explanation etc.
I’m involved in a few things so people kept asking me how I was getting so much done. Here are a few tips for how to deal with heavy workloads.
In order to maximise your performance it’s not just enough to have a good time plan. You also need good back up plans. Things can go wrong, people can interrupt, someone whose name I won’t mention could have the hoover blasting at 3am in the morning and then I’m groggy the next day and get less done. So when you’re making a time plan, make back up plans as well. It’ll stop you from panicking or getting stressed if something goes wrong.
Be very clear on what your goals are and work out the steps you need to take for achievement. Role ambiguity is associated with things like depression and poor self-esteem. So when making plans try and go into as much detail as possible.
Another thing you can do is tell people about your plans or goals. That social pressure can help to motivate you so you’re less likely to quit once you start.
When planning anything always set yourself deadlines. I like to always aim to get stuff done early, so it’s like having two deadlines. I use an unusual strategy that involves milk. Let’s say my deadline is the twentieth of April. I’ll try and get my work done before the expiration date on milk bottles in the shop gets to the 20th. This encourages me not to procrastinate and even if I don’t meet that early deadline I’m not stressed because I’ll have most of the work done and there’s still time till my actual deadline.
Know what you’re priorities are. Be prepared in advance to make choices in case anything conflicts.
If you’ve any other tips drop a comment, might help someone else.
Descriptive statistics involves summarising a set of data. This can involves things such as means, standard deviation, distribution graphs, etc. See the following for more information:
Descriptive statistics are used to describe data for entire group. In contrast, inferential statistics typically involve gather data from a small group to infer or deduce things about a larger group. Inferential is typically used when it’s not feasible to gather data about an entire group or population. Instead, inferential gets a subset (sample) of the larger population. We examine the traits of this sample (e.g. mean) and infer that these traits apply to the larger population.
The given subjects or individuals use in a sample are usually chosen at random. For various sampling methods, go here: https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/sampling-methods-and-zombies/
Imagine a teddy bear factory. One out of every 50 teddy bears is hugged to test if they are cuddly soft and suitable to be sold to children. The factory workers determine if the teddy bears are suitable by sampling some of them and generalising the information they gather to all the teddy bears they produce. This is an example of inferential statistics.
Imagine a teacher wants to know what the average grade of her students are. So she looks at all the student grades and calculates their average score. There’s no sampling being done so this is descriptive.
Imagine a government is trying to determine how much money they need to spend on healthcare. Instead of collecting data from millions of citizens it is fat easier and cheaper for them to collect the data off of a few hundred individuals. They then look at the sample’s average healthcare costs and then use this as an indicator of the average healthcare cost per citizen in the entire country. This is inferential.
Inferential occurs when we don’t gather data from entire population. Sampling is used
Descriptive is used when you look at an entire set of data.
It’s important to note a bit of overlap here. You can examine the descriptive data of a given sample itself. It’s only when we use the sample to deduce or guess further information about a larger population or sample that it becomes inferential.
This is for an old version of APA so this post is a bit out of date. APA is subject to change and there are different types of reports. Some tips here are still useful but please keep in mind that nothing in this post is set in stone.
First: A few things to be aware of
If you’ve a report writing assignment and you’re unfamiliar with the area, start as soon as possible. When giving grinds, I’ve noticed that a lot of students underestimate the time this can take.
Another thing to note; different lecturers/supervisors can have different preferences. Some might like the use of bullet points for lists, others do not. Some might like adding a table to give a visual representation of participants, others do not. Some might like you being very detailed in the procedure section, others do not e.g. ‘Participants were given biros to fill out forms’ Vs ‘Participants were asked to fill in forms’. Always ask for guidelines and remember to ask again should your lecturer/supervisor change. Otherwise, you could get marked down for doing something a previous lecture told you to do and, trust me, it’s really annoying. The more specific or detailed your questions then the more helpful the answers.
Avoid absolutist terminology. Don’t say this study “proves”. Instead, say things like this study “indicates” or “strongly supports”.
If you don’t understand any terminology used in this post, then please look at my previous blog posts for important definitions (e.g. https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/statistics-tips-part-1-basic-definitions-and-the-flying-spaghetti-monster/). With that in mind, let’s get started.
As with the essay writing guidelines I gave you before (https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/a1-essay-writing-tips/), always have a nice cover page. Make sure your college logo is at the top, it helps to give your document a more professional look. Ensure that the following are clearly labelled:
Some universities request that you include a signed statement declaring that the essay you have written is of your work and sources of information have been clearly referenced.
Start on new page. Usually best to aim for 200 words. Usually you don’t give this section a heading. Very briefly:
It’s sometimes helpful to lookup published research articles and see how their written. This can help you get an idea of how to phrase things and appropriate word choice. Some lecturers may prefer you to:
Start on new page. In general, you should thank lecturers/supervisors for advice and opportunity to conduct study. You can thank participants for participating as well as family/friends for their support. Try and keep this section as short as possible. Mix up your terminology a bit e.g. ‘I am grateful towards…’ or ‘Person A must also be thanked for…’
Index/table of contents
Start on new page. Outline report sections (Microsoft Word has a very useful index feature). You might want to have a separate index for:
Abstract, acknowledgements and index should have page numbers in roman italics (i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, etc.). In Microsoft Word, go to ‘Insert’- ‘Page numbers’. Page numbers for future sections should start at 1 and carry on as normal. In Microsoft Word, go to ‘Page Layout’ – ‘Breaks’ – ‘Insert New Section’. You may need to double click on page number, highlight number and unclick ‘link to previous sections’ in the ‘Header and Footer’ tab which appears after the first double click.
Start new page. A title is always a nice touch. A good title should be concise and reflective of the reports content.
You now start your introduction/literature review. The usually has no main heading but you may want to provide headings if you break up the literature review into sub-sections (usually appropriate for large scale projects, not done as often for small research projects done by undergraduates). Your first paragraph should very briefly describe the general background/issue your research examines. Give operational (i.e. clear and not likely to be misinterpreted) definitions of key terms where appropriate. Outline projects main goals. Personally, I like using numbered bullet points when outlining aims (if you’ve more than 1). It makes it easier for the reader to understand your research purpose/s. However, some lecturers/supervisors/graders don’t like the use of bullet points so check with your lecturer for advice.
In subsequent paragraphs you summarise and analyse previous research and research findings. In other words, researchers examined A, hypothesised B based on previous research/theory C, using methods D, found out that E, study had strengths F (e.g. large population size, good methodology) and weaknesses G (did not take into account alternative interpretation of statistics, poor methodology, etc.) Repeat with different studies as necessary.
You might discuss psychometric approaches if you research involves designing or using a new measurement scale. Psychometrics refers to the design, implementation and interpretation of quantitative tests used to measure psychological variables. This will likely impress your lecturers who don’t usually expect this (especially from undergraduates).
Last paragraph. I sometimes like to use the last paragraph to describe hypotheses based on previous research findings. Alternatively, you could mention hypotheses just after you describe general research background in first paragraph. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation/understanding of something. Hypotheses should be based on previous research e.g. previous research has shown that chocolate can enhance happiness. Chocolate contains the hormone ‘serotonin’. Based on this evidence, the present study hypothesises that serotonin levels are positively correlated with happiness. Be careful not to mix up hypothesis, hypothesises and hypotheses (educated guess, guessing, guesses) (singular, active, plural).
Method (centred heading)
Start on new page. Method is broken up into four subsections:
If you’ve done more than one experiment or used multiple methods you might want to break up your research into multiple studies. In this case, you number each study and give it a title (e.g. Method for Study One) and re-use the ‘Design’, ‘Participant’, ‘Materials and Equipment’ and ‘Results’ headings as appropriate. Where relevant, instead of writing out the participants or materials and equipment section, you can sometimes say something like “Participants used in study 2 were the same as those described in study 1”.
Design (heading at left side of page)
This section outlines the research design your study uses, variables the research examines, controls used and general ethical considerations. See my previous blog post on how to choose the appropriate research design(s). You need to list and define the both the independent and the dependent variables. You then explain what extraneous variables you’ve controlled for and briefly explain how you’ve controlled for them. You then outline ethical considerations e.g.
This was a both a quantitative study which used a repeated measures research design. The study had ___ independent variable(s) and __ dependant variable (s). The independent variable was A. A refers to _________. The dependent variable was B. B refers to____________. Participants were recruited on a volunteer basis and participants could withdraw their data or leave the study at any stage. Participants were fully informed as to the purpose of this study and their confidentiality was maintained. This study examined attitudes towards drug use in young adults (target participant population). As such, participants were asked if they had ever taken drugs which may have influence their perceptions.
Participants (heading at left side of page)
This section describes participant demographics which can include: age, ethnicity, geographical location, education, work status, etc. State what sampling method you used and where participants were from (see this blog post for a discussion on sampling methods: https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/sampling-methods-and-zombies/). Some lecturers prefer you use entire words rather than numerical figures e.g. ‘A hundred and twenty participants (n=120) were recruited…’ VS ‘100 participants (n=100) were recruited…’ Some lecturers like it when you add a table summarising information. Some don’t. Always, ALWAYS check with your lecturers to see what their preferences are.
100 (n=100) were recruited through opportunity sampling. Participants were recruited from Northern Ireland. Participants comprised of students and their ages ranged from 18 years of age to 70 years of age. 45 participants were female and 55 participants were male. 51 participants were undergraduate students. 27 participants were postgraduate students. 22 participants were neither undergraduate nor postgraduate students (other). This data is summarised in table 1.
Table 1: Participants
|Status||Number of Participants (%)|
Materials and Equipment (heading at left side of page)
Start new page. Sometimes called ‘Materials’, ‘Apparatus and Equipment’ etc. Check with lecturer for their preference. In this section you outline what materials you used to conduct the study as well as their general purpose. Where relevant (e.g. for questionnaires), you should refer to the appropriate appendix. Personally, as well as the individual appendix I like to refer to the exact page number that appendix is on but that’s usually not necessary). Strictly speaking, the scientific method should require you to mention everything you use down to the colour and brand of the biros that you gave participants. Many lecturers don’t find this necessary.
Ballpoint biros (blue) were distributed to participants. Information sheets were distributed to participants. These informed participants as to the general nature of the study (see appendix A, p. 19). A consent form was given to each participant. This form requested that participants give their written consent before taking any further part in the study (see appendix B, p. 20). A demographic questionnaire was given to each participant so as to measure age, gender and participant status (see appendix C, p. 21). Three versions of a sample text (each with a readability, likability and reliability Likert scale) were distributed to participants. Version one identified the writer as an undergraduate student (see appendix D, p. 22). Version two identified the writer as a postgraduate student (see appendix E, p. 23). Version three did not identify the status of the writer (see appendix F, p. 24). A debriefing form was given to each participant. This form outlined the specific purpose of the study (see appendix G, p. 25).
Procedure (heading is usually on the left)
Explain how you carried out the study. You never explain the function of materials in this section. That’s what the previous section is for. This allows you to avoid wordiness, be concise and to the point.
Participants were given a biro and an information sheet they were asked to read and sign. Participants were then given a consent form that they were asked to read and sign. Participants were then given a demographic questionnaire they were asked to fill out. Participants were then given one randomly selected version of the sample text. Participants were asked to read the sample text and to indicate their opinion of the text by using the three Likert scales provided directly below the sample text. Participants were then given a debriefing form to read and sign. Results were then collected for analysis and participants were thanked for their contribution.
Results (heading to the left)
The content of this section depends on what statistic tests you use. See my previous blog posts on ‘parametric and non-parametric tests’ (https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/statistic-tips-part-5-parametric-vs-non-parametric-tests/) and ‘choosing the correct statistics test’ (https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/statistics-tips-part-6-choosing-the-right-test/). A really good book which guides you on how to report data from statistics tests is: Pallant, J. (2007) “SPSS Survival Manual: A Step by Step Guide to Data Analysis using SPSS for Windows“, 3rd ed., New York: Open University Press. If psychology had a bible, this would be it.
It isn’t absolutely necessary to include every table that every statistic test you use produces; just the relevant ones which would help experts see where you got the data from. Some tables produced by some tests in statistic software packages won’t fit within the margins of Microsoft Word Document. I like to recreate the table from scratch using Word’s table features. It can be a tedious repetitive pain but it fits, looks way neater and your lecturer might gasp and swoon with euphoria.
Discussion (heading is usually on the left)
You’re nearly finished J
Interpret data from results section and use specific examples. What did your study find? What did it not find?
Did your study support any hypotheses you mentioned? Answer this question in the context of previous research findings that you mentioned in your literature review.
Did your study have weakness? If it could have been improved suggest how. Make suggestions for future research.
As with your citations in the previous sections of the document, use A.P.A. format.
The last three sections are ‘Appendices’, ‘List of Tables’ and ‘List of Figures’.
In general, reference only things you have actually cited. An exception to this might be books, articles or amazing blog posts on something like report writing itself or statistics. As always, check with lecturer.
Some Final Remarks
For a detailed research example, go to: https://sites.google.com/site/tierneycv/research-sample
You’ll notice it differs slightly from the guidelines here. That’s because it was tailored to suit a specific group of lecturers. Use it as a rough reference to guide you if you get stuck. In the example, you’ll notice I numbered each section which is a nice touch. Every little thing adds when you’re trying to get the A1. Your college should give you access to other research reports as well through databases such as ‘Psycharticles’. You may notice that different researchers have their own preferences. In particular, look out for research reports that your lecturer/supervisor has been involved in. It’ll help give you an idea of their personal preferences.
Another thing to be aware of is “that” verses “which”. Use “that” when you’re defining something. Use “which” when you’re also making a comment about something. For example:
The pet that I adopted is a puppy. My new pet, which is a puppy, is so cute.
Personally, I think either one has semantic validity (I’ve also got a background in linguistic theories) but a professional/academic norm has already been established and it’s always best to keep your lecturers/supervisors happy. I also recommend getting a classmate or friend to proofread your work. It’s often a good idea to get someone who isn’t familiar with the subject matter to read your work. If they can understand everything then that’s usually a good sign. If not, ask them where they’re getting confused and try to rewrite those sections. Good luck.
Before reading this post it’s recommended you know the difference between parametric and non parametric (see: https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/statistic-tips-part-5-parametric-vs-non-parametric-tests/). The following is a rough guide for choosing the correct statistics test. Con stands for continuous variable. Cat stands from categorical variable (for explanations see: https://dtpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/statistics-tips-part-1-basic-definitions-and-the-flying-spaghetti-monster/)
Some of you studying statistics might notice that instead of doing a MANOVA you could do a series of simpler ANOVA for each dependent variable. However, you should NOT do this because it increases the risk of a ‘Type 1 error’ i.e. where you find a difference between groups but it doesn’t actually exist.