Guides for the Budding Student Researcher

Teachers are revving up for the start of the school year, and this year many will be teaching students how to conduct their first research project. APA’s new book series, Concise Guides to Conducting Behavioral, Health, and Social Science Research, features short, practical, introductory books that lead undergraduates through the process of developing and conducting a research project, from start to finish. These guides can be used individually or in combination with each other to complement course objectives.

Titles in this growing series include:

Designing and Proposing Your Research Project (by Jennifer Brown Urban and Bradley Matheus van Eeden-Moorefield).  This book helps students develop a compelling and suitably narrow research question, and then choose the research designs, sampling strategies, and measurements that best address that question. By the time students work their way through this brief book, they will have written a rough draft of their research proposal!

 

Writing Your Psychology Research Paper (by Scott A. Baldwin) gives students everything they need to organize and write a clear, convincing research paper.  From deciding on a topic, to digesting the pertinent literature, presenting ideas, developing a thesis, and editing for clarity and concision, each step is made easy and illustrated with clear examples. A bonus chapter on combating procrastination vividly demonstrates how the best writing is done in chunks, over long periods of time, and that writing is a skill that improves with practice.

 

Coming soon, in November: Kathy Berenson’s Managing Your Research Data and Documentation will present a straightforward approach to managing and documenting one’s data so that other researchers can repeat the study. Since major research funders now require recipients to meet strict standards for data handling, this book will foster a vital career skill for students, while promoting transparency and replicability of research.

 

 

 

 

Paul J. Silvia: On Writing

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, Linda McCarter, Senior Acquisitions Editor at APA Books, spoke with Paul Silvia, Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He is the author of many journal articles and books, including Write It Up: Practical Strategies for Writing and Publishing Journal Articles (2015); Public Speaking for Psychologists: A Lighthearted Guide to Research Presentations, Job Talks, and Other Opportunities to Embarrass Yourself (2010, with David B. Feldman); and the bestseller How to Write A Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2007).  In November, we published his most recent book, What Psychology Majors Could (and Should) Be Doing, Second Edition: A Guide to Research Experience, Professional Skills, and Your Options After College, with Peter F. DeLaney and Stuart Marcovitch.   

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

 

paul silvia

Paul J. Silvia, PhD, is a social-personality psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He has served as the director of the department’s honors program, and he teaches undergraduate courses on creativity, personality, academic writing, and professional skills.  

LM: You’ve been writing about writing for a long time. Has your own writing process changed over time? If so, how?

PS: My “process” is basically obdurate stubbornness: write according to a schedule, typically a bit every weekday morning. If we write a little every week, things will work out. People spend so much less time writing than they think they do.

The scheduled times, though, have changed. Having kids shifted my writing to much earlier in the morning than before, but I still write every weekday. I probably spend less time writing than I did in 2007 (around 10-12 hours a week instead of 20), but I use my time better and choose my writing commitments more carefully.

LM: What writers, academic or otherwise, have influenced you?

PS: My own sense of style owes much to William Zinsser and Sheridan Baker. Baker’s book The Practical Stylist had an enormous effect on my writing. My writing seems warmed-over if you read his book.

Anyone looking to write a book ought to read Scott Norton’s Developmental Editing, which mixes practical advice and quirky hilarity in a way I admire.

Beyond the books about writing, I owe a lot to two psychology professors I worked with as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California: Denis Mitchell and Shelley Duval. Denis Mitchell was the first person to explain to me that writing is the crux of all scholarship. He used to say “Write the book!” meaning that the people who are known for an idea are the ones who wrote review articles and books about it, not necessarily the ones who had the best ideas and did the best studies. It’s hard to unpack all that I learned from Shelley. He invited me to co-author a book with him even though I was still in grad school.

In hindsight, I can see how lucky I was to get such good mentorship as an undergrad, so undergraduate professional development is one of my passions.

LM: What are you reading currently? 

PS: In 2016 I combined two self-betterment goals: (1) waste less time reading online and spend more time with actual books, and (2) read the books I own before buying new ones. I’m going to roll this goal over in 2017 because I’ve been tearing through my shelves.

I tend to impulsively grab non-fiction books that seem interesting, so the topics are eccentric.

I just finished reading The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art, by Anjan Chatterjee. It’s an elegant and provocative book. Before that, I read Felix Martin’s Money: An Unauthorized Biography, a quirky history of the development of money over the centuries, and Alexis McCrossen’s Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life, a fascinating look at the concepts of time and modernity in American history.

Next up is probably Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M. Kennedy. (I’m trying to read the entire Oxford History of the United States).

LM: In November, we released the second edition of What Psychology Majors Could (and Should) Be Doing: An Informal Guide to Research Experience and Professional Skills, which you wrote with Peter Delaney and Stuart Marcovich. What do you think has changed since the first edition came out in 2009?  What should psychology majors be doing differently today, and what does the new book do differently?

PS: The post-college landscape is so different for psychology majors now. We wrote the first edition at the tail end of the boom years, when psychology majors easily found jobs right after college. Because of the bright economy, students handled career uncertainty more easily.

These days, the competition for graduate school spots and jobs is much more intense. I think students are thinking about their post-college life with a colder, more pragmatic eye. They want to know that something will be lined up after graduation.

The new edition resembles an all-new book. It is 50% longer and 40% less zany (let’s just say that not all jokes age well). We have much more to say about the world of work, writing CVs and personal statements, and about the nuts and bolts of preparing for jobs and for grad school.

write it upLM: What prompted you to write Write It Up, and how does it differ from How to Write A Lot?

PS: How to Write A Lot focused on motivational problems in writing, and I think most of its audience is outside of psychology. Write It Up is a “street level” look at writing empirical articles for fields that follow the APA Style Intro-Method-Results-Discussion format.

Like anything else, article writing is easier when you have some tricks, tips, and strategies. I try to distill what I learned the hard way and what others graciously taught me. It starts with picking projects worth writing up and choosing journals, shifts to writing the sections of the article, and ends with dealing with journals.

how to write a lotOddly, a theme of Write It Up is that we should probably write less. I think people should “write for impact” instead of for “mere publication.” People will accomplish more if they focus on their best ideas and craft their papers to be as compelling as possible.

I had wanted to write a book about how to write good journal articles for a long time. But most of these strategies are tacit, and I couldn’t work out my ideas on paper. It took me much, much longer to plan and write Write It Up than most of my other books.

For what it’s worth, I’m proudest of the writing in Write It Up. It was hard to pull off.

 

LM: On your research page, I noticed that one of your interests is interest. What first got you interested in interest? And how do you study interest?

PS: A person who studies interest and curiosity ought to have an answer to that, but I don’t. I suspect that I got into this field because my curiosity is easily tickled, and I take on new hobbies more often than is prudent for a grown man.

Most of my research on interest is done in the context of aesthetics and the arts. It’s a small but valiant area with some incredible researchers. It’s easier to study interest in a context like art than in other areas, like academic ideas, essays, or people.

LM: On a personal note, I know you like to buy and restore old watches. Are you working on any now? What is it about restoring watches that you find appealing?

PS: I do catch-and-release watchmaking as a hobby: find them, fix them, and let them back into the stream for someone else to use and enjoy.

A recent patient belongs to a friend of mine. It’s a big Elgin pocket watch from 1890 (a 15J “G.M. Wheeler” Grade 75, for the fans out there). It was the watch his grandfather used while working in a sawmill, and the case has some scary nicks in it. After that, I have a big pile of Illinois pocket watches waiting in intensive care. I blog about the watches I work on in what might be the world’s least necessary blog: AdjustingVintageWatches.com.

The inner workings of watches are so complex and elegant that it is amazing that people made them so long ago. Watches have dozens of absurdly tiny parts, some measured in the hundredths of millimeters. Placing a .08 mm staff into a .085 mm hole requires a patience and inner calm that doesn’t come naturally to me.

LM: Are you writing anything now?  

PS: The academic life has grant-writing seasons and book-writing seasons. I think the long, bitter winter of grant-writing is nearly over, and the book ideas are coming out of their houses and starting to shovel the sidewalks.

I write down all my ideas for books and articles, and I have around 30 book ideas. Around 18 of them are inane and 2 are good, but I don’t know which 2 yet.

 

 

Open Pages: Clinical Handbook of Psychology

The American Psychological Association recently released the 20th publication in the APA Handbooks in Psychology® series. The five volumes of the APA Handbook of Clinical Psychology actively reflect the state of the art in clinical psychology—science, practice, research, theory, and training—and comprehensively cover our multifaceted and vibrant discipline. Each volume surveys different areas of the largest subfield of psychology:

handbook clinical psych

  1. Clinical Psychology: Roots and Branches;
  1. Clinical Psychology: Theory and Research;
  1. Clinical Psychology: Applications and Methods;
  1. Clinical Psychology: Psychopathology and Health; and
  1. Clinical Psychology: Education and Profession. (Norcross, VandenBos, & Freedheim, 2016).

In this excerpt from the Introduction to the Handbook, the Editors-in-Chief describe their guiding principles:

Throughout the five volumes, authors were asked to infuse their chapters with three themes:

diversity, evidence-based practice, and international contributions. Contributors were asked to mind this tripartite commitment as they considered potential coauthors and drafted their chapters. These superordinate themes are evidenced in content, contributors, and citations throughout the handbook.

Diversity has become a cardinal feature of contemporary clinical psychology. It has been incorporated in word, if not always deed, into the teaching curriculum, into practice guidelines, into theoretical revisions, into research conventions, and into professional ethics. For the purposes of this handbook, we have adapted the APA ethics definition of diversity as referring to age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, and other facets of personal identity and their intersections (APA, 2010).

Evidence-based practice (EBP) in psychology refers to the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preferences (APA Presidential Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice, 2006). EBP is a global juggernaut requiring solid research evidence to guide practice and training. Properly conceptualized, however, EBP does not end with the research results; it begins with research findings integrated with the psychologist’s expertise and then tailored to the unique patient. EBP requires all three legs. Clinical psychologists have largely embraced the properly conceptualized version of EBP because it collaboratively integrates the researcher, the psychologist, and the client.

International or global aptly characterizes the state of clinical psychology. Whereas in the 1960s there were probably more psychologists in the United States than in all other nations combined, this is assuredly not the case today. No more than a quarter of all psychologists are now located within the borders of the United States (APA Office of International Affairs, 2015). Contributors were asked to incorporate research, theory, and practice from throughout the world into their respective chapters. In several instances, we commissioned entire chapters to address the international scene; Volume 5, for example, has a chapter devoted to educational paths around the world and another to professional ethics around the world.

—from “Introduction to the Handbook,” pp. xxiii–xxiv, in APA Handbook of Clinical Psychology (Vol 1) by John C. Norcross, Gary R. VandenBos, and Donald K. Freedheim (Editors-in-Chief). Copyright © 2016 by the American Psychological Association. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, including, but not limited to, the process of scanning and digitization, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Ron Miller: On Abnormal Psychology

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with APA Books authors and editors. For this interview, Mary Lynn Skutley, the Editorial Director of APA Books, interviewed Dr. Ron Miller, of Saint Michael’s College.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

Ron-Miller-Saint-Michaels

Ronald B. Miller, PhD, is professor of psychology at Saint Michael’s College where he has also directed the master’s program in clinical psychology for 30 years.

He is the author of Not So Abnormal Psychology (2015), Facing Human Suffering: Psychology and Psychotherapy as Moral Engagement (2004), an associate editor for the Encyclopedia of Psychology (2000), and the editor of The Restoration of Dialogue: Readings in the Philosophy of Clinical Psychology (1992). He is a founding associate editor of the journal Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy and the former editor of the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.

A fellow of APA, Dr. Miller is currently the chair of the Vermont Board of Psychological Examiners.

It was just announced that your book, Not So Abnormal Psychology, won Honorable Mention in the Textbook/Social Sciences category of the 2016 PROSE Awards. Congratulations!

In the opening pages of this book, you describe personal struggles that ultimately lead you to reject mainstream diagnostic models. Personal revelation is unusual in scholarly scientific writing.  Why did you feel it was important to include?

I think the real challenge in psychology and many aspects of life is to integrate our subjective experiences, which are very personal and unique, with the world of other people—each having their own unique experiences. Sometimes when we do this we find a common or objective truth, and many times we don’t. Experimental psychology can only pay attention to the former, but the latter is as or more important in our lives. I always understood as a psychotherapist that this was a critical aspect of my work—honoring the client’s own experience while also looking for shared experiences that build a sense of relationship. The longer I taught college students, the more I realized they needed to understand that process too.

How do students react to that narrative?

Students always respond well to narrative accounts that illustrate psychological principles and theories. Every instructor knows that. That is why case studies are such powerful pedagogical tools. While this is generally acknowledged by authors of traditional textbooks in abnormal psychology, the justification given is usually that cases pique the students’ interest and sustains them for the “real (much more important) work” of studying the subject matter through quantitative or experimental methods.

My view is that there is a strong epistemological argument that can be made for the role of case studies in validating and communicating clinical practice knowledge. As Dan McAdams has argued more broadly, the creation of narrative is central to our very Being. When the case study is the professor’s own life, the power of the narrative is even greater. My students spontaneously will offer their appreciation for sharing with them the struggles I had as a young adult and graduate student. They say it makes them feel less alone with their own life struggles.

 You’ve said that students are often drawn to psychology by a desire to help others.  How can we teach them about the profession in a way that will kindle that desire?

I think students want to know that there are concepts and methods in psychology that can be applied in the real world that can make a transformational difference in their own and other people’s lives. They want to know how to turn their own lives around or help others they care about or work with to do the same. They have a vision of wanting to do good in the world, and they don’t want to have to give up their values of being a decent human being in order to practice experimentally validated procedures where everyone is following the same therapeutic script regardless of the differences among clients. Nor do they wish to practice techniques that produce statistically significant effects unless those differences are meaningful in the lives of those receiving services.

Why did you title your book, Not So Abnormal?

I was reviewing a number of undergraduate abnormal psychology textbooks at the beginning of the process, and as I read and summarized the descriptions and explanations for the causes and treatments of various diagnoses I found myself repeatedly writing after most of the summary statements, “Not So.” Eventually it occurred to me to simply insert the words “Not So” at the beginning of the title.

“Not so abnormal” makes a broader statement about mental health. What will readers of your textbook take away that they would not take away from a traditional textbook? 

I see the abnormal psychology course as both an opportunity for students to learn about an academic discipline and to contribute to the improvement in the mental health of the millions of students who will enroll in this course during the college years.  It is a rare opportunity to offer intensive mental health education, and this is badly needed in our society today.

I have attempted to provide a coherent integrated framework for understanding human psychological suffering (“psychopathology”) that is informed by pragmatic humanistic values, an awareness of the importance of unconscious developmental mental processes, and an understanding of the power of the family and social-political environment. The goal of this framework is to produce greater self-understanding in the reader, and to lay out a path for transformational psychological change. After reading the traditional abnormal psychology textbook, the student comes away with a knowledge of hundreds of terms and disparate facts that seem to have no coherent relationship to one another. It as though anxiety and psychosis are unrelated phenomena as opposed to the framework I propose where psychosis is the absolute extreme of the anxiety state we all experience from time to time.

Although this may sound like a self-help book, it is also a textbook that covers the philosophical, historical, and social/political context of the development of the sub-discipline of abnormal psychology and the field of mental health as a whole. Rather than ignore the theoretical models that do not fit into my integrated framework (viz., the biomedical and cognitive-behavioral approaches), I discuss their pros and cons, and cite evidence for where I think these models are or are not helpful.

What books do you recommend for students and therapists?

I was heavily influenced by philosophy and literature prior to entering the field of psychology. Some classics that stand out are The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus, War and Peace by Tolstoy, J.L. Austen’s, How to Do Things with Words and Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis And I urge all my students to read Yalom’s  works on existential psychotherapy and Love’s Executioner, which is a great book of case studies.

 

New Year, New You? The Nature of Exercise Psychology

by Trish Mathis

Welcome to 2016! Made your New Year’s resolutions yet? I have, and this year I’ll keep them.  No, really. I’m committed to the New Me in the New Year.

Treadmills-in-the-gym-1200Like many people, I once committed to going to a gym for regular exercise. I’d never been to a gym before and felt like an intruder the minute I stepped inside the door. But I gamely persisted, and amidst all the sweating, wheezing, cursing, and grumbling, I somehow improved my cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, and stamina.

Many people quickly give up on their New Year’s exercise goals. Why? Psychologist James Prochaska offers an explanation. His transtheoretical model of change is a five-stage theory that suggests that people need time to alter their health-related behaviors, that different interventions are effective at different periods in their lives, and that outcomes may vary across these different life periods. One month you might be confident and able to make several significant adjustments to your daily routine, and 6 months later you might be pessimistic and out of sorts, unable to maintain the changes you easily implemented previously. In other words, different times bring different opportunities and reactions, so the key to long-term success is persistence and flexibility.

At the gym, never is this phenomenon more apparent than in January, when eager new exercisers edge out the regulars in their excitement to reach the machines. They keep it up for a week or two, but by the end of the month only a handful of the newbies remain.

Fortunately, the field of exercise psychology exists to help prevent this disappearing act. Practitioners focus on helping everyday people achieve their physical activity goals—not elite athletes training for the Olympics. But people like me who train just for ourselves—for our health and our satisfaction, and maybe a little enjoyment and fulfillment along the way.  When we experience setbacks and need help overcoming obstacles, including our own inertia, pessimistic thoughts, and fear of failure, exercise psychologists have tools and techniques to help.

 

exploring sport & excercise psych        performance psych

References

Hays, K. F. (2009). Performance psychology in action. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Van Raalte, J. L., & Brewer, B. W. (2014). Exploring sport and exercise psychology (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.