2006-07 Hunt Award Research Report
Factors Affecting Psi Chi Members’ Satisfaction with Research Opportunities
Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez
Utah State University
Author note: This research was funded by a Thelma Hunt grant to the first author. Kristina McDougal completed her work as an undergraduate student at Utah State University. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Colorado, School of Social Work. Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez is an Associate Professor at Utah State University. Please address all correspondence to the second author at: 2810 Old Main Hill, Logan UT 84322-2810 or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The present data (similar to those in previous studies) indicated lower satisfaction ratings for research in Psi Chi as compared to other chapter activities. Student involvement in research was lower than might be expected for members (57.1% currently involved). Participation was particularly low for Psi Ch-sponsored research (9.8% of the same) and those students reported lower satisfaction with research than students involved in general research activities. The majority of non-involved students reported lack of participation in research activities because they were “too busy” with work or family obligations (65.1%) and did not know how to get involved (39.4%). Self-reported competence, opportunities for being mentored, knowledge about funding opportunities, and faculty advisor leadership characteristics were all significantly correlated with student satisfaction ratings. Recommendations were offered for improving research involvement and satisfaction.
Factors Affecting Psi Chi Members’ Satisfaction with Research Opportunities
Participation in undergraduate research is important to develop skills and understanding of the research process (Richmond, 1998). Students learn many skills from undergraduate research such as time management, the importance of communication and dependability, and the hard work that goes into the research process (Purdy, 2005). Research transforms the undergraduate student from passive to active learner (Purdy, 2005). Conducting research during their undergraduate career also provides students the opportunity to work closely with a professor, thus increasing the potential of obtaining a strong recommendation letter (Collins, 2001). Research skills and the benefits one gains from participating in research are important for a strong graduate school application (Collins, 2001).
One way for students to obtain meaningful research experience is through their participation in Psi Chi. The National Honor Society in Psychology was established in 1929 to “encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology” (Psi Chi, 2005, p.1). Psi Chi as an organization has these stated goals and, presumably, organizational success is dependent upon achieving them via effective leadership (Hogan & Kaiser, 2005) within the organization thereby assisting student members in engaging and reaching these goals. Effective leadership has been conceptualized using six main characteristics: background and expertise, task-oriented skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, liaison skills, and personal characteristics (Bachiochi, Rogelberg, O’Conner, & Elder, 2000). Studies have shown that leaders who have these characteristics are more likely found in successful organizations (Anderson & Tolson, 1991; Foels, Driskell, Mullen & Salas., 2000; Hoyt, Murphy, Halverson, & Watson, 2003; Sagie, 1996).
Previous research (Bailey & Domenech Rodríguez, 2006) examined Psi Chi advisors’ leadership characteristic and their role in the success of the Psi Chi organization by way of member satisfaction. Psi Chi faculty advisors were studied because of their central role in Psi Chi. Advisors are responsible for overseeing the long-term development of chapters as well as training and providing information to members of their local chapter (Psi Chi, 2005). Bailey and Domenech Rodríguez found that Psi Chi members were not strongly satisfied with the research opportunities available through Psi Chi. This is of concern, given that excellence in scholarship is central to the mission of Psi Chi. The current study sought to uncover specific contributors to student satisfaction with research opportunities available through local Psi Chi chapters at the local, regional, and national levels. Faculty leadership characteristics were included as potential contributors because advisors have the greatest proximity to student members and, because of their institutional affiliation, faculty advisors provide continuity for chapters over time and can be critical leaders within Psi Chi. Research Questions
Psi Chi membership provides many opportunities. Many of these focus on research involvement (e.g., grants, awards, and conferences). Since there is generous financial support for research and ample information about that support is available through the Psi Chi National Office, questions remain about the reasons for students’ relative dissatisfaction with research activities through Psi Chi (Bailey & Domenech Rodríguez, 2006). We asked students to report their specific research experiences, whether through or outside of Psi Chi. We inquired about barriers to participation for those not involved in research. Finally, we examined student members’ satisfaction with research activities and the relationships with (a) students’ self-reported competence in research tasks (b) perceived opportunities for mentorship, (c) knowledge about funding and presentation opportunities, (d) faculty advisor leadership characteristics, and (e) Psi Chi chapter activity. Before addressing these questions, student satisfaction ratings with Psi Chi activities was examined as was the relationship between satisfaction and faculty advisor leadership characteristics to confirm the findings of Bailey and Domenech Rodríguez (2006).
A total of 650 student members participated in this survey. The vast majority were female (86.2%), White American (82.5%) and single (80.3%). The majority were employed (N = 468, 72.0 %). Most participants were currently enrolled in school (N = 622, 95.7%), between the third and fourth year of college (80.8%), and majoring in psychology (N =616, 95.1%). Consistent with what might be expected of honor students, the overwhelming majority (94.2%) reported plans to pursue graduate studies. More than half of the participants (57.1%) were currently involved in research activities. Procedures
Through the Psi Chi National Office, an IRB-approved e-mail was sent to all Psi Chi faculty advisors in the United States asking them to forward an e-mail to at least five student members each. Participants completed the survey by following a link to Surveymonkey.com. Students were entered into a raffle for a $25 gift certificate to amazon.com. Measures
The survey included demographic questions, a questionnaire assessing students’ involvement in research, qualities of their Psi Chi Advisor, interaction with Psi Chi advisor, as well as overall satisfaction with Psi Chi. Student Satisfaction.
Student satisfaction was assessed through questions concerning the number of Psi Chi activities held each year, the amount of communication with Psi Chi members, and the amount of chapter involvement in Psi Chi on a regional and national level. Leadership Scale.
The Leadership Scale (Bailey & Domenech Rodríguez, 2006) measured advisor’s leadership qualities in six major areas described by Bachiochi, et al. (2000), and used a scale of 1 (strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree). The six scales were 1) background and expertise (α = .89 for the present sample); 2) task-oriented skills (α = .89) ; 3) interpersonal skills (α =.95); 4) communication skills (α = .92); 5) liaison skills (α = .86) and 6) personal characteristics (α = .93). According to Bailey and Domenech Rodríguez (2006), scale reliabilities ranged from .85 to .94, and the total scale reliability was .97. In this sample the total scale alpha was .98. Involvement in Research and Self-Reported Competence.
For involvement in research, students were asked if they were involved in independent research and the types of research activities in which they engaged. The list of research-related activities was developed in consultation with various faculty members who supervise students in research activities. Eight items –data entry, data collection (e.g., administering surveys, conducting interviews), participant recruitment, data analysis, coding (e.g., video, transcripts), scoring of tests (e.g., IQ tests, personality tests), literature review or library searchers, and writing of manuscripts, reports—were included on the list.. An open ended item was included for students to report other activities in which they might be involved. Additionally students were asked to rate the extent to which they could competently do the following for each of these activities on a four point scale that ranged from 1 (very competently) to 4 (not at all competently). Non-involvement in research.
A list of seven items (see Table 4) was developed from informal queries to local undergraduate students to generate a list of commonly experienced barriers to research participation. An open ended response option was also included for respondents to include additional reasons for non-involvement.Opportunities for receiving mentorship.
Students were asked four questions about opportunities for receiving mentorship. These questions were: I would feel comfortable approaching my Psi Chi advisor with questions about research, I would feel comfortable approaching other professors with questions about research, I know of opportunities to participate with research through my local Psi Chi Chapter, I know of opportunities to participate with professors in their research. Students responded using the following categories: yes, maybe, and no.Knowledge about funding and publishing opportunities.
Six questions (see Table 7) addressed students’ knowledge of grant mechanisms, research awards, regional conferences, and professors’ research. Chapter Activity.
Participants were asked to report their chapter activity in four broad areas: social, service, academic, and fundraising. These areas are consistent with the Psi Chi National Office descriptions of appropriate chapter activities. Specific questions asked participants how many Psi Chi activities were held each quarter/semester, how many members were involved in research, and how many members attended Psi Chi regional and national conferences. Results
Psi Chi members responded to a number of item (see Table 1). Of interest were the relatively lower student participation (n = 64) and satisfaction ratings (M = 2.10, SD = .80) for students involved in Psi Chi-sponsored research as opposed to research outside of Psi Chi (n = 366, M = 1.67, SD = .63). Replication of leadership findings.
In order to examine whether prior findings regarding the relationship between satisfaction with Psi Chi and faculty advisor leadership characteristics replicated in a different sample, the data were analyzed asking the same question. The findings replicated across the board, demonstrating that faculty advisor leadership characteristics are significantly related to students’ satisfaction with Psi Chi, see Table 2.RQ1: What research experiences are undergraduates involved in?
Of the students who were currently or have been involved with research, over two thirds of the sample reported experiences with data collection (n = 486, 74.8%), literature review or library searches (n = 480, 73.8%), data entry (n = 466, 71.7%), and data analysis (n = 447, 68.8%). Slightly under two thirds reported experience with writing of manuscripts or reports (n = 447, 64.1%) and participant recruitment (n = 430, 66.2%). The least amount of experience –although still substantial—was reported for scoring of tests (n = 325, 50.0%) and coding (n = 286, 44.0%). Almost half of the respondents (46.5%) reported current or past involvement in independent research (see Table 3).RQ2: What are specific barriers to undergraduates’ involvement in research activities?
Of the 278 students who reported no involvement in research, 269 answered the question about barriers to involvement (Table 4). The most commonly reported barriers were work involvement (49.5%), and lack of knowledge on how to become involved with research (39.4%). A sizeable number of students reported lack of interest (n = 74, 27.5%). A post hoc examination of the data reveal that the number of students reporting not being interested in research varies systematically by students’ future plans to attend graduate studies (χ2(7) = 30.91, p < .001, N=590). Students who were interested in pursuing doctorates in psychology were the least likely to report a disinterest in research. Detailed data are presented in Table 5. RQ3: How are the following variables related to Psi Chi student members’ satisfaction with research
activities? (a) students’ self-reported competence (b) opportunities for mentorship, (c) knowledge about funding and presentation opportunities, (d) faculty advisor leadership characteristics, and (e) Psi Chi chapter activity.Students’ self-reported competence.
The relationship between satisfaction in research and sense of competence in performing the activities was statistically significant for all tasks (see Table 6).
Opportunities for Mentorship.
Students were asked about their satisfaction with research generally. When these satisfaction ratings were correlated with the four mentorship items, all correlations were significant. Satisfaction scores were positively correlated with students’ comfort in approaching their Psi Chi faculty advisor (r = .20, p < .01, n = 305) or another professor (r = .23, p < .01, n = 305). Satisfaction scores were also positively correlated with knowledge about opportunities to participate in research through the local Psi Chi chapter (r = .24, p < .01, n = 306) and knowledge of opportunities with other professors (r = .29, p < .01, n = 305). When asked specifically about their satisfaction with research through Psi Chi, respondents’ satisfaction scores were positively correlated with students’ comfort in approaching their Psi Chi faculty advisor (r = .40, p < .01, n = 79) or another professor (r = .25, p < .01, n = 79). Similarly, satisfaction with Psi Chi-sponsored research was strongly positively correlated with knowledge about opportunities to participate in research through the local Psi Chi chapter (r = .44, p < .01, n = 79) and knowledge of opportunities to participate in research with other professors (r = .27, p < .01, n = 79).
Knowledge about funding and publishing opportunities.
All relationships between knowledge about funding and publishing opportunities and general research satisfaction were statistically significant and positive. We report findings for both Psi Chi-sponsored research and research generally. Particularly noteworthy were the moderate to strong correlations for those involved with Psi Chi research, knowledge of funding mechanisms, and awareness of upcoming regional conferences (see Table 7). Psi Chi faculty advisor leadership characteristics and satisfaction with Psi Chi research experience.
Given the interest in examining the experiences of students involved in Psi Chi sponsored research, the analyses in this section were limited to the students involved in research through Psi Chi. Overall leadership skills ratings for faculty advisors were significantly and positively correlated with research satisfaction (r = .33, p < .01). Correlations with specific leadership skills ranged from .22 (personal characteristics) to .37 (p < .01; background). Only personal background did not significantly correlate with student satisfaction in research activities. The other five leadership characteristics all were significantly correlated. Psi Chi chapter activity.
Chapter activity was found to have a significant relationship with research satisfaction whether general (r = .23, p < .01) or Psi Chi-sponsored research (r = .59, p < .01).
In general, this research found that research opportunities and processes within Psi Chi chapters have many opportunities to be strengthened to improve students’ satisfaction. Previous research revealed that Psi Chi student members gave lower ratings for research satisfaction than other Psi Chi-related activities (Bailey & Domenech Rodríguez, 2006). Like the original study, the present data also reflect lower satisfaction ratings for research in Psi Chi as compared to other local chapter activities (see Table 1). As a point of engagement, it is important to examine involvement. The 57% of the sample that reported current involvement can be seen as a marker of success or failure, depending on the perspective. Research suggests that student involvement in research is linked to college students’ success (e.g., Elmes, 2002; Hunter, Laursen, & Seymour, 2007). As the national honor society for undergraduates in psychology, we would argue that 57% is not an optimal level of involvement for the students that represent the highest achieving students within the major.
Becoming involved in research and getting to know a faculty advisor are primarily the responsibility of the student. However, there are a few ways that a faculty advisor as well as chapter officers can facilitate prospective and new members’ networking. Given that over a third of our sample reported not knowing how to get involved, it seems critical to be proactive in publicizing the opportunities that are available and how to pursue them. For Psi Chi faculty advisors and chapter leaders this could take the form of passive (e.g., flyers or e-mails) or active (e.g., announcement in classes, formal activities) information sharing.
For those students that are not involved, realities of daily living such as work and family obligations interfere with research participation. It seems that participation can be encouraged by offering a wide variety of experiences for students as well as flexibility in method of participation. For example, Domenech Rodríguez and Nelson (2006) reported a pilot project to involve distance education students in research activities. Such web-based, flexible applications may serve to increase student participation in research activities and, potentially, satisfaction with research as well. Additionally, trying to engage students in research activities before they become overburdened with other responsibilities may be desirable. Psi Chi chapters could team up with Psychology club or have their more senior members work with incoming students to inform them of research opportunities. As incoming students see that upperclassmen are enjoying research they will realize that this is both fun and academically rewarding.
The finding regarding lower satisfaction in Psi Chi-sponsored research compared to general research gave us pause initially. However, it is possible that Psi Chi-sponsored research activities represent a poor fit for students. For example, in our local chapter, the authors conducted the present research and encouraged members’ participation, however, many students were not interested in the topic area. It might be difficult for a single faculty advisor (or even co-advisors) to provide opportunities that represent a good fit for student members. It might be helpful to engage student members in research by creating pools of faculty research sponsors so that students have greater flexibility in the research projects in which they can engage . In our local chapter, we have maximized opportunities by teaming up with the professor for the “capstone” course in Psychology; the course requires research participation and Psi Chi helps students become familiar with professors’ research by sponsoring faculty panels.
Our findings suggested that increasing a sense of competence, awareness of opportunities for mentorship, and knowledge about funding opportunities could all help improve student satisfaction ratings. Again, chapter activities that engage in passive and active information sharing could address these areas specifically.
Finally, faculty advisors can examine their leadership characteristics and seek opportunities for growth and development in these areas. For example Ossoff (1998) wrote that professors have the advantage of social power and should take the opportunity to invite students to participate in research or simply to talk more about a topic studied in class; a Psi Chi faculty advisor could use personal contacts to motivate student participation in research.
Table 1 Responses across various items of self report (n=650).
|Number of meetings
|Frequency of communication with members
|Frequency of com with dept faculty
|Percentage of members who were active
|Quality of activities
|Number of service events
|Number of fundraising events
|Number of academic events
|Number of social events
|Amount of involvement on a regional scale
|Amount of involvement in Psi Chi research
|Amount of involvement on a national scale
|Number of grants
Table 2 Reported satisfaction ratings.
||Bailey & Domenech Rodríguez, 2006
|Average satisfaction rating
||M = 2.28 (a)
SD = 0.62
|M = 2.23
SD = 0.59
|Correlations between student satisfaction and faculty advisor:
||r (285) = 0.40*
||r (503) = 0.46**
| Task-oriented skills
||r (285) = 0.37**
||r (457) = 0.36**
| Interpersonal skills
||r (285) = 0.38**
||r (507) = 0.35**
| Communication skills
||r (285) = 0.41**
||r (510) = 0.33**
| Liaison skills
||r (285) = 0.39**
||r (509) = 0.40**
| Personal characteristics
||r (285) = 0.39**
||r (513) = 0.30**
| Overall leadership
||r (285) = 0.44**
||r (498) = 0.40**
(a) means and scores are different from those reported in Bailey & Domenech Rodriguez (2006) because they have been reverse scored for the scales to be consistent across studies.
* p < .01, ** p < .001
Table 3 Reported research involvement.
||Ever involved in research
|Literature review or library searches
|Writing of manuscripts or reports
|Scoring of tests
|Independent research experiences
|Assisting a professor with his/her research
|Assisting a graduate student with his/her research
|Assisting a undergraduate peer with his/her research
|Assisting a staff a staff at a university counseling center with his/her research
Table 4 Reported barriers to research participation.
|Too busy with work
|Don’t know how to get involved
|Not interested in research
|Too busy with family
|No faculty whose work interests me
|Not comfortable approaching faculty
|Have conducted research and don’t like it
|Approached a faculty member and was discouraged
(1) Percent of total respondents that perceived barriers to involvement in research (n = 269)
Table 5 Respondents reported goals of future graduate training.
||Not interested in research
||% of total
|No graduate school
|Doctoral degree undecided
|Master’s or PhD
|Master’s or PsyD
|Master’s or Doc undecided
Table 6 Self reported competencies.
|Lit review / library searches
** p< .001
Table 7Comparison of satisfaction between General and Psi Chi.
||Satisfaction with research: General
||Satisfaction with research: Psi Chi
|There are funding mechanisms available for undergraduate research at my university
(n = 305)
(n = 79)
|There are grants that I can apply for through Psi Chi national
(n = 302)
(n = 79)
|There are research awards for undergraduates available through Psi Chi
(n = 304)
(n = 79)
|I know of opportunities to participate with research through my local Psi Chi Chapter.
(n = 306)
(n = 79)
|I know of opportunities to participate with professors in their research
(n = 305)
(n = 79)
|I am aware of upcoming regional conferences
(n = 304)
(n = 79)
** p < .01, * p < .05
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