The Formation and Purposes of the Research Club
The Psychological Research Club of Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD) was formed in the fall of 1996. Its purpose was to give students opportunities to do extracurricular research projects in order to (1) sharpen their research skills, (2) facilitate their performance in conducting the required independent research projects in the advanced research methods class, and (3) improve their vita for graduate school admission. During the 1996-97 year, there were seven student members in the club, which was affiliated with Psi Chi. The club conducted a large-scale survey study on student values, and the study was presented at various regional psychological conferences. During the 1997-98 year, the club became an independent organization with its own constitution and bylaws. There are currently nine student members; all but two are new. The faculty advisor has been with the club for the last two years.
The following gives a sample of activities that the club members conduct on a regular basis. Keep in mind they are extracurricular.
The members meet, on average, weekly or biweekly to discuss various issues.
Division of Subgroups
The group is divided into subgroups, each with a different activity such as literature review, proposal for human - participant committee, participant recruitment, data collection, data entry, etc.
The club has successfully raised funds from the club-funding organization at the college, from the department, and by holding a bake sale.
Presenting At and Attending Conferences
The members prepared and presented posters and oral presentations at various regional psychological association conferences.
Club members completed a survey study on student values. A total of 408 students at MSCD and at the Community College of Denver were surveyed using the Rokeach Value Scale, which has 18 value items that the participants ranked. The results were compared with those found by Rokeach 30 years ago. Significant differences were found in that, consistent with political, social, and cultural changes, today's students gave those values related to personal happiness more importance than their counterparts 30 years ago. This paper was presented at the Great Plains Psychological Conference, Rocky Mountain Psychological Conference, and the First Conference of the Psychology Department at MSCD.
With mostly different members, the club conducted an experimental study on the effect of media portrayal of ideal body image on eating behavior. The members made 4 videos of thirty 10-second still advertisement images, 2 for women and 2 for men. The videos contained either "ideal body" or "normal body" images. "Stereotyped headbands" were made for a filler activity intended to give participants opportunities to eat. Brownies (unhealthy food) and fruit (healthy food) were purchased to be used to measure the dependent variables.
The club first ran a pilot session to identify and solve possible procedural problems. The original intention was to study the responses of 60 men and 60 women. With unforeseen difficulty in subject recruitment, only 15 male participants were included. Nine of them watched the "ideal body" video and 6 watched the "normal body" video. The results showed that, compared to watching the "normal body" video, watching the "ideal body" video increased consumption of food, both healthy and unhealthy, for men with high self-body image, but it decreased the consumption of unhealthy food for men with low body image. The paper was presented at the Great Plains Psychological Conference and will be presented at the 2nd Annual Conference of the Psychology Department at MSCD.
As this is a very novel undergraduate student organization, the club has experienced some challenges along the way of its growth.
As the purpose of the Research Club is to conduct extracurricular activities, the commitment level of the members becomes crucial. An additional challenge with students at MSCD is that they are mostly nontraditional students with heavy commitments to their families, their off-campus work, and their regular course work. Many may lack realistic estimates of time commitment needed in doing research. It is vitally important to emphasize to prospective members that it takes a time commitment that is equivalent to one college course in research methods for a year. This involvement with the club will last one year, and they will not see the fruit of their work until months later.
Set and Enforce the Timeline
With a group of people, the work must be divided and a timeline established. It is very important to stress that assigned work is expected by the deadline with satisfactory quality, and certain rules must be established to enforce such a timeline.
The Group Process
Like any collaborated work, the group dynamics are important to be recognized as a factor contributing to either the success or failure of the group. It should be stressed to the members that they are working towards a common goal and that any personal feelings are to be put aside for the benefit of the group.
Authorship should be decided at the very beginning of the project with clear undfirstanding of responsibilities associated with it. One suggestion is to have no primary author, but to list all authors alphabetically. In the same manner, given limited resources it should be decided early on who should attend the conferences and who should present the paper.
The Role of Faculty Advisor
The primary role of the faculty advisor is to provide guidance to students throughout the entire process, particular in research design, statistical analyses, and writing of the paper in APA style. Given the uneven level of preparedness of students, a certain amount of teaching should also be expected.
Another role of the faculty advisor is as the manager. In this capacity, the faculty advisor keeps the group running smoothly, solves personnel problems, sets and enforces the timeline, etc.
It should be emphasized to the prospective faculty the tremendous time commitment and responsibilities of this position. However, the reward is also great when all the hard work has come to fruition.