By Kylie Stamper
The spring semester of a student’s senior year is a big one. They are in charge of figuring out what they want to do with their life; they are balancing schoolwork, finding jobs for after college, going to or playing games, attending conferences, workshops, senior events, and, finally, graduation. For psychology seniors, the spring semester is what they have been preparing for over the past year.
Beginning with a class called research apprentice, taken during the junior year, psychology students start preparing for their senior research project. “The spring semester of their junior year, if they meet the right criteria, if they’re good enough, if they have good grades and are interested then they can start working on their research project and they can start bringing in ideas. We start to put together the beginning of their research project and as seniors they begin to work on it,” said Carrie Lane, associate professor of Psychology.
The seniors start by doing all the research, finding the background information, and finding ways to carry out their studies. Then they create demographic questionnaires and surveys that help collect data. Once they reach the final stage of the projects and after data collection is done, they go into data analysis. They use a program called SPSS that assists in programming and coding the information. The entire process takes about a year from start to finish.
Lane said, “They have to get it approved by the IRB (the Institutional Review Board) and make sure it’s ethical for humans, then they collect data, analyze it, write it up, and they go to the conference in the spring and present it, assuming it gets accepted.”
This year, five seniors have spent time researching and they have submitted their research to the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association convention. If their work is accepted the students will travel to Boise, Idaho during the week of April 9-12 to present their study. The juniors will also have an opportunity to present their work in Wichita to get a feel for presenting at a conference.
Each study is different and will require a different set of knowledge from each student. Projects range from those that affect campus directly to those that could affect the town of Winfield and the world.
Lauren Strain, psychology senior, chose to study students in different majors and the correlation between personality and which major they pick.
“I started to entertain the fact that I’ve heard a lot of people change their majors throughout their freshman or sophomore years because of personal interest or personal life experience. So I figured out biology majors are going to be more scientific minded, psychology majors are more creative, accounting majors are more quiet and more introverted with a mathematical mindset. It interests me and then I decided to take it further and see if people are more satisfied with their major as they go from freshman to senior year,” she said.
Rosana Macias, psychology senior, chose to focus on her sport for her research. She plays soccer for the Lady Builders and found her project idea during a practice. She said one coach would tell them to just run until he said to stop and another coach would give them a specific amount of time to run. “I was thinking while I was running, ‘I really wish I knew how many I had left, I feel like I could set my mind and figure out how much I need to push myself.’ So I was wondering how I could put that into a lab situation and do that for my senior project,” she said.
Macias and Dr. Lane came up with the idea of using puzzles to simulate the situation. Macias used two different groups of “testers” and five puzzles. One group was told how many puzzles they would be doing and with each puzzle Macias would tell them how many they had left. The other group was just told to finish each puzzle as it was handed to them without knowing how many were left. She said, “I wanted to see if there was a difference between the two; if you perform better knowing how many puzzles you have or if you perform better not knowing.”
Although the research process is stressful at times, most students agree that it is a valuable experience. Macias said, “It is a very good experience for me but there have been times when I literally said ‘I regret doing this.’ Compared to a paper, you’re stressing out for a week maybe but with this I’ve been stressing out for a year. But it’s a very good experience for me and I am glad that I’m doing it.”
“It will benefit us in the future. We’re going to have to do research with whatever field we go into psychologically so I think it gives us an idea of what it’s going to be like. The purpose is to see what you’ve learned and to apply it. It focuses on growing you and preparing you for grad school in the future. It’s really cool, actually, if you think about it,” said Strain.
Dr. Lane will oversee the entire process for each of the five students involved in research. She is looking forward to the outcome of the projects overall but she says she is most excited about the final presentations. She said, “The journey itself has been fun. But to see them present and to share their ideas with other people and to see people be excited about what they did, that’s the fun part. That will be fun for me to see.”
Kylie Stamper is a sophomore majoring in communication. You may email her at email@example.com.