Research Methods and Statistics II

Course Code: PS 312                Spring 2002

Professor: Fedorchak                Plymouth State College


Required Texts (available at the College Store in the HUB; if you were enrolled in my PS 311, you should already have these three books):

Research Methods in Psychology by Shaughnessy and Zechmeister (4th Edition, McGraw-Hill).

How to Think Straight About Psychology by Keith Stanovich (6th Edition, HarperCollins). [Note: This is a paperback and there are plenty of "used" copies available, but I would highly recommend that you spring for a new copy and keep it forever.]

Elements of Statistical Reasoning by Minium, Clarke & Coladarci (2nd Edition; also a paperback).

Course Goals: During the first semester (PS 311, Research Methods and Statistics I), you were introduced to the logic of experimentation, the differences between correlational and experimental research, and the role of probability estimates (via formulas and resampling techniques) in determining the presence or absence of an "effect." We also spent a good deal of time discussing the various types of confounds and the ways to avoid them.

The goals for this semester are to give you hands-on experience planning, conducting, analyzing (both logically and statistically) and, last but not least, writing up actual experiments. As such, you can expect to do quite a bit of writing, as well as quite a bit of thinking about what you are going to write. Sometimes you will be working in groups and sometimes by yourself.

We will spend time in the computer cluster learning how to enter data into statistical package programs (SPSS), running analyses, and learning what the results mean. You will also, as a class, collect data for a class-wide experiment, and eventually as a member of a small group (2 or 3), collect data outside of class for your own experiment. By the end of the semester each person will have carried out his or her own experiment, analyzed the results and written it up for "publication."

At the end of the semester you will present your research in poster format at our annual Psychology Department Spring Research Festival, which will be held here in Hyde Hall at the very end of the semester. You should approach this semester as if everything you do is a lead-up to your final project, because…it is.

Grading: Half your grade (50%) will be determined by your final project, primarily the paper and poster presentation, and my subjective determination of how much effort you put into the project. Although the partners or teams will collaborate on conducting the experiment and possibly preparing the poster for presentation, each person will ultimately write his or her own paper.

As for the remaining 50% of the grade, I will not be giving any full-class, formal exams as in PS311, however, there will be some shorter, focused quizzes designed to verify whether or not you really understand certain concepts (e.g., using the statistical programs; interpreting their outputs). As before, I will also have occasional mini-projects (e.g., write a paragraph on some topic) that will not be graded, but will count as "points" to be added up at the end of the semester.

Finally, as a lead up to the final project, you will be asked to hand in various "stages" of research proposals that I will comment on and hand back. I will begin by asking you to describe your plans very informally, as if you are writing to a friend, then slowly refine the product until it approaches the tone of a formal research proposal or article. To provide feedback at each of these stages I may use the audiotape method that I have employed in other classes. Each person will receive an audiotape of my comments, and will hand back this tape along with each successive resubmission of the proposal-in-progress.

Attendance: I expect you to be here for every single class. Research Methods and Statistics is one of the most important classes you will take as a psychology major. Long after you have forgotten the content (i.e., what we "know" about behavior) of many of your other courses, or after that content is overturned by newer findings, the methods used to determine the causes of behavior will still be more or less the same. Regardless of where you are eventually employed, or what your career involves, you will at some point find yourself hearing about or being informed of or being expected to adopt a belief about a possible cause of some type of behavior. You may find yourself surrounded by people who do not understand the limitations of correlational studies, who do not appreciate the power of expectancy effects (like the champions of Facilitated Communication) or understand how easy it is to be convinced by invalid forms of proof. Develop your understanding of these concepts, as well as your confidence in that understanding, and in the future you may be able to spare yourself or your organization a lot of wasted time, money and embarrassment. Fail to develop that understanding, and you or your organization may someday be the proud owner(s) of some future QuadroTrackeresque device.

Office Hours: Formal office hours will be Mon and Wed: 10 AM —> 12 PM, Tues: 11 AM -> 12 PM, and other times by appointment. My office is Hyde 429 (north end of building, next to the elevator), my e-mail is pfedorch@mail.plymouth.eduand my office phone number is 535-2580. If your are planning to drop by during any of my scheduled office hours, please call to let me know you are coming. If I'm not there, leave a message on my voice mail.