PSY 1059 Topics in Advanced Research Methods: Health Psychology

1.  Practical Application of Theories, Concepts, and Scientific Methods

Each student in this course will develop an independent research proposal that emerges out of one of several prominent health and/or social-health psychological theories. The research proposal will involve (a) conducting a review of the relevant scientific literature, (b) drawing on theory and existing research to generate a testable hypothesis, (c) designing a study to test the hypothesis—including operationalizing variables and selecting or creating measures—and (d) identifying and describing appropriate data analysis techniques and predicted results. Students will also work in small groups to complete several assignments, which involve designing studies that use different designs to address health and health-related research questions and thinking critically about the strengths and weaknesses of each design.

2.  Conducting Feasible Components of a Research Study.

In addition to their independent research proposal—which will focus on the development and planning of a research project—students will work in small groups to complete a series of assignments that require them to design studies using a variety of methodological approached to address health psychology research questions (e.g., self-reported health or health behavior, physiological measurements). Students will have the opportunity to see their study plans through to data collection and analysis. After developing a research question and hypothesis, students will work in small groups to design a study that can be conducted to test their hypothesis. This assignment will involve selecting or developing study measures and manipulations, collecting health-related data including physiological measurements and covariates (from their classmates), conducting statistical analyses on those data, and reporting the results.

3.  Training in Research Skills. 

Students will give oral presentations. Each student will give an individual presentation on his/her independent research proposal, which will describe the theoretical background, relevant empirical work, development of the research question and hypothesis, proposed study methods, strategy for data analysis, and predicted results. Students will answer questions about their proposal and will have the opportunity to revise their proposal based on feedback that they receive during their oral presentation before they submit the written research proposal papers. As audience members during their classmates’ presentations, students will have the opportunity to think critically about others’ proposed research and will gain experience asking questions of their peers and providing constructive feedback in a professional manner. Students will also give small group presentations on each of the group assignments, which require them to think about the ways in which different study designs can be employed to address research questions and to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each design. Students will learn how to collect physiological and survey measurements, which they will administer to their classmates. This course component will also give students experience using SPSS to conduct analyses, interpret output, and report study results.

4. Data Analysis and Interpretation

Students will be given the raw data from their group’s surveys and physiological measurements (or will be given existing physiological data from my lab). In their small groups, students will be responsible for organizing and transforming the data as needed (e.g., reverse-scoring items, creating composites), conducting statistical analyses in SPSS, interpreting the results, and presenting their findings (a) orally in a group presentation to the class, and (b) in an individual written paper, similar to a Results section in a journal article. They will also practice making figures in Excel and/or Powerpoint.

5.  Writing

Students will submit individual written research proposals that they have developed by drawing on a prominent finding or theory from health psychology. The proposal will describe background literature, present the hypothesis and rationale, and describe the methods for the proposed study (including detail about operationalizations, measures used, participant sample employed, etc.) as well as a summary of the proposed data analysis strategy, and a description of their predicted results.

* A full syllabus for this course is not yet available.