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.

 

 

 

 

August Releases From APA Books!

APA Handbook of Giftedness and Talent

Edited by Steven I. Pfeiffer

The APA Handbook of Giftedness and Talent incorporates the most recent thinking and cutting-edge research from numerous fields related to gifted education, including developmental and social psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and education. It consists of six sections: history and global perspectives; theories and conceptions of giftedness and talent development; gifted identification and assessment; gifted education; psychological considerations in understanding the gifted (e.g., family, friendships, emotional considerations); and special issues facing the gifted (e.g., policy and legal issues, perfectionism, bullying).

 

A Telepsychology Casebook

Using Technology Ethically and Effectively in Your Professional Practice

Edited by Linda F. Campbell, PhD, Fred Millán, and Jana N. Martin

This casebook provides practical recommendations on a range of issues associated with electronic-based mental health care. From technologies as simple as the telephone to more advanced webcams and mobile device applications, psychologists are increasingly using technology in their work—a practice known as telepsychology. The book’s recommendations draw from the Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology, which were created jointly by the American Psychological Association, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, and the American Insurance Trust. Each chapter presents a guideline, explains how it relates to professional ethics and standards of care, and applies it to case examples.

 

Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement

Mental Training for Athletes and Coaches

By Keith A. Kaufman, Carol R. Glass, and Timothy R. Pineau

This book serves as a comprehensive resource on the history, theory, and practice of mindfulness in sport. The authors present mindful sport performance enhancement (MSPE), an empirically-supported, six-session program that can be adapted for specific athletic populations.  Each MSPE session includes educational, experiential, and discussion components, as well as instructions for home practice.

Includes handy scripts for mindfulness teachers, athletes, and coaches, and handouts summarizing each session that can be downloaded from APA’s website.

 

Woman’s Embodied Self

Feminist Perspectives on Identity and Image By Joan C. Chrisler, PhD, and Ingrid Johnston-Robledo

This compelling book examines how women relate to their bodies and how attitudes toward the body affect women’s sense of self. In particular, it documents the disturbing, never-ending barrage of standards used to judge women’s bodies. These standards prompt women to pursue life-long body improvement projects, which lead to self-objectification or a negative embodied self. Chrisler and Johnston-Robledo analyze these phenomena using various psychological theories, including objectification theory, stigma theory, terror management theory, and stereotype embodiment theory. Importantly, they also suggest ways to help women and girls achieve a positive embodied self, which includes challenging and resisting pressures to alter and discipline their bodies in unhealthy ways.

 

125 Years of the American Psychological Association

Edited by Wade E. Pickren and Alexandra Rutherford

This 125th anniversary volume describes the history of the American Psychological Association. From its origins in the late nineteenth century, through the two World Wars and the turbulence of the 1960s, to the economic uncertainties of the 1970s and 1980s, the APA’s development has mirrored the growth of psychology as a discipline in the United States.

This special 125th anniversary edition describes the challenges and triumphs that have marked the association’s early years in the twenty-first century.

 

 

Writing Your Psychology Research Paper

By Scott A. Baldwin

This encouraging primer for undergraduates explains how to write a clear, compelling, well-organized research paper. From picking a promising topic, to finding and digesting the pertinent literature, to developing a thesis, to outlining and presenting ideas, to editing for clarity and concision—each step is broken down and illustrated with examples. A bonus chapter discusses how to combat procrastination. Students learn that the best writing is done in chunks over long periods of time, and that writing is a skill that improves with practice.

 

 

 

Designing and Proposing Your Research Project

By Jennifer Brown Urban and Bradley Matheus van Eeden-Moorefield

Designing your own study and writing your research proposal takes time, often more so than conducting the study. This practical, accessible guide walks you through the entire process. You will learn to identify and narrow your research topic, develop your research question, design your study, and choose appropriate sampling and measurement strategies. The figures, tables, and exhibits offer a wealth of relatable examples and tools to apply concepts, including activities and worksheets to practice alone or in groups with other students.

 

 

 

Graduate Study in Psychology, 2018 Edition

Graduate Study in Psychology is the best source of information related to graduate programs in psychology and provides information related to approximately 600 graduate programs in psychology in the U.S. and Canada.

Graduate Study in Psychology, 2018 Edition contains information about the number of applications received by a program; the number of individuals accepted in each program; dates for applications and admission; types of information required for an application (GRE scores, letters of recommendation, documentation concerning volunteer or clinical experience, etc.); in-state and out-of-state tuition costs; availability of internships and scholarships; employment information of graduates; orientation and emphasis of departments and programs; plus other relevant information.

Reforming Statistics in Psychology

David BeckerBy David Becker

Are you fed up with those unsightly wrinkles? Have you tried everything to get rid of them, but nothing seems to work? Well, throw away your anti-aging creams and forget about those harmful Botox injections! Did you know that you can reverse the aging process just by listening to music? Scientists have found that listening to songs about growing old will decrease your age by one-and-a-half years. Amazing!

Not only is this finding amazing, it’s also complete lie. The study itself was real, but the researchers (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2016) weren’t actually interested in testing the effects of music on age. Their true intent was to shine a light on researchers’ overreliance on and misuse of significance testing by generating a statistically significant result that has no bearing on reality whatsoever.

Many people believe that a statistically significant result affirms that a study’s findings are real, but that’s not what statistical significance measures. Statistical significance measures the probability of error in a study’s data. It’s indicated by the p value, which determines the likelihood of rejecting the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis essentially opposes the hypothesis that the researchers are testing. In other words, if the researchers hypothesize that a new therapeutic approach will have a meaningful effect or will be superior to an established approach, the null hypothesis refers to the possibility that there will be no meaningful effect or no differences between the two approaches. A lower p value (.05 is the most commonly used cutoff) suggests a higher likelihood that the null hypothesis is false. However, a high probability of rejecting the null hypothesis doesn’t make the researcher’s hypothesis true; it simply reflects greater confidence in the data’s validity (researchers sometimes refer to a confidence level above 95%, which equates to a p value below .05). Even so, it’s very easy to play with the data until you achieve statistical significance.

Simmons and colleagues illustrated in their study how easy it is to get a false positive by manipulating what they refer to as “researcher degrees of freedom.” These are the decisions that researchers make about how to collect, analyze, and report data—decisions that include when to stop collecting data, which variables to analyze, and which subsets of data to report. Many researchers make these decisions throughout the research process. For instance, researchers may decide to stop collecting data as soon as they have achieved significant result. Or they might change their hypothesis based on the data. Practices like this are often referred to as “p hacking,” the idea being that researchers will massage the data until they come up with a low-enough p value. Simmons et al. estimate that abusing researcher degrees of freedom can lead to a false positive rate as high as 61% in a given study, which they admit might be a conservative figure.

Human Mind series. Backdrop of brain, human outlines and fractal elements on the subject of technology, science, education and human mindIt’s important to note that most researchers who p hack aren’t purposefully trying to be deceptive. Many of them don’t fully grasp the potential consequences of what seem like minor decisions. In a recent example, psychologist Dana Carney rejected a psychological phenomenon she helped popularize—power poses—and essentially admitted that she and her fellow researchers unknowingly abused researcher degrees of freedom to achieve a statistically significant result that had no real-world significance (Peters, 2016).

Even when p hacking is unintentional, social psychologist Harris Cooper (2016) argues that researchers have an ethical responsibility to the scientific community and to the greater public good that obliges them to be aware of the decisions they make, and their impact. He advises researchers to make decisions about data collection as early as possible—primarily in the planning phase before the study has even begun—and to stick with them throughout the study. If the researchers change course, they need to fully report their new decisions so that anyone scrutinizing the study’s findings and methodology will understand the full context. As an example, if researchers decide to create new data sets based on the original data—a practice that Cooper advises should be rarely used—the changes need to be explicitly catalogued with clear explanations. And under no circumstances should researchers edit or omit any of the original data, regardless of which data sets they choose to analyze.

In addition to carefully documenting their decisions, researchers need to better understand the true purpose of p values and how to properly use them. Clinical psychologist Rex Kline (2013) notes in his book Beyond Significance Testing: Statistics Reform in the Behavioral Sciences, now in its second edition, that cognitive errors surrounding significance testing are so common that they can be considered a form of “trained incapacity” (p. 10). Even statistics instructors don’t even fully understand p values, according to Kline, which feeds the “ongoing cycle of misinformation” (p. 10). The problem is so pervasive that last year the American Statistical Association (ASA) released a policy statement laying out six principles to help the scientific community better understand and apply p values. This marked the first time in its 178-year history that the ASA decided to take an official position on statistical practices.

The ASA also suggested other approaches that researchers might use in addition to or instead of significance testing, including one of the most popular alternatives proposed by advocates of statistics reform: Bayesian analysis. The premise behind Bayesian statistics is fairly simple: “Begin with an estimate of the probability that any claim, belief, [or] hypothesis is true, then look at any new data and update the probability given the new data” (Novella, 2016, para. 2).

Kline (2013, Chapter 10) supports the Bayesian approach because it reflects the fundamental tenets of science and critical thinking. Namely, extraordinary claims that seem implausible given what we know about the universe (e.g., listening to music will make you younger) need to be supported by extraordinary evidence. Kline further argues that Bayesian analysis allows us to compare the competing hypotheses of researchers who have differing interpretations about our existing body of knowledge and are studying the same subject from alternate perspectives. Being able to examine new and divergent findings against our current understanding of the world encourages scientists to reevaluate the likelihood of existing hypotheses, which is fundamental to science’s self-critical and self-correcting nature.

Significant

Courtesy of xkcd

Simmons, Nelson, and Simonsohn (2016), however, are skeptical of Bayesian statistics as an alternative to significance testing. They contend that it gives researchers even more opportunities to manipulate data, in addition to those provided by significance testing. Simonsohn (2015) also argues that the default Bayesian test in psychology is biased against small effects.

If there’s one clear takeaway from this controversy, it’s that there isn’t one perfect alternative to significance testing. In fact, as the ASA points out in their policy statement, significance testing can be useful, so long as it’s properly applied. Therefore, completely avoiding p values doesn’t seem like an ideal, catch-all solution. Rather, scientists must experiment with a variety of solutions to see how best to test the validity of their findings.

In the meantime, it pays to be skeptical. The popular media tends to simplify, overhype, and misinterpret the findings of a single study—much like I did at the beginning of this post—without accounting for the complexities of scientific research. It can be difficult for those of us who are not scientific experts to figure out what to believe and what not to believe, especially when our mental filters are already overwhelmed by the constant deluge of information that floods over us every day.

But look on the bright side: At least you can be pretty confident that you won’t become younger and younger until you vanish from existence just by listening to The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four” on repeat.

References

Cooper, H. (2016). Ethical choices in research: Managing data, writing reports, and publishing results in the social sciences. https://doi.org/10.1037/14859-000

Kline, R. B. (2013). Beyond significance testing: Statistics reform in the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/14136-000

Novella, S. (2016, January 8). What is Bayes theorem? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/what-is-bayes-theorem/

Peters, M. (2016, October 1). ‘Power poses’ co-author: ‘I do not believe the effects are real.’ Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2016/10/01/496093672/power-poses-co-author-i-do-not-believe-the-effects-are-real

Simmons, J. P., Nelson, L. D., & Simonsohn, U. (2016). False-positive psychology: Undisclosed flexibility in data collection and analysis allows presenting anything as significant. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed.), Methodological issues and strategies in clinical research (4th ed., pp. 547–555). https://doi.org/10.1037/14805-033

Simonsohn, U. (2015, April 9). The default Bayesian test is prejudiced against small effects [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://datacolada.org/35

March Releases from APA Books!

therapeutic presence

A Practical Guide to Cultivating Therapeutic Presence  

Shari M. Geller

Being fully present with clients can be challenging for health practitioners, given the emotional demands of their intensive work combined with any number of physical and mental distractions, which can make it difficult to establish a healing therapeutic alliance. In this practical guide, author Shari Geller translates empirical research—including neurophysiological evidence—into simple exercises that clinicians of all theoretical persuasions can use to set a pre-session foundation for presence and develop presence throughout therapy. Geller also emphasizes therapist self-care with practices that clinicians can implement in their daily lives, which ultimately translates into more effective therapy.

 

teaching statisticsActivities for Teaching Statistics and Research Methods

A Guide for Psychology Instructors

Edited by Jeffrey R. Stowell and William E. Addison

Statistics and research methods are core components of both Advanced Placement and undergraduate psychology curricula.  Yet, these courses are often challenging for many students.  This book offers original, pedagogically sound, classroom-tested activities that engage students and inspire teachers.  Each chapter contains classroom exercises that are practical and easily implemented, and help students learn core principles in ways that are fun and engaging.  Chapters illustrate basic concepts like variance and standard deviation, correlation, p-values and effect sizes, as well as teaching strategies for identifying confounding factors, recognizing bias, constructing surveys, and understanding the ethics of behavioral research.

 

CBT

Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy

SECOND EDITION

Michelle G. Craske

In this revised edition of Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy, Michelle G. Craske provides vital updated coverage of the literature that explores the theory, history, therapy process, primary change mechanisms, and empirical basis of the approach, as well as likely future developments. This essential primer to cognitive behavioral therapy, amply illustrated with case examples featuring diverse clients, is perfect for graduate students studying theories of therapy and counseling as well as for seasoned practitioners interested in better understanding this approach.

 

 

psych of juries

The Psychology of Juries

Edited by Margaret Bull Kovera

This volume summarizes what is known about the psychology of juries and makes a strong call to arms for more research. Esteemed jury scholars identify important, yet understudied, topics at the intersection of psychology and law, review what research is currently available on the topics, and then suggest new research questions that would advance the field. Furthermore, the authors evaluate the relative importance of research methods that emphasize generalizability versus tight experimental control. Collectively, the chapters present a comprehensive survey of the literature on jury behavior and decision making and offer a robust agenda to keep researchers busy in years to come.

 

Clara Hill on Consensual Qualitative Research

Clara E. Hill PhD is a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland in College Park and one of the nation’s premier research psychologists. A former president of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, Dr. Hill is a recipient of the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy‘s Distinguished Psychologist Award.  She has authored or edited eleven books on psychotherapy and psychotherapy research, including the seminal textbook Helping Skills: Facilitating Exploration, Insight, and Action, now in its fourth edition .

In the video interview below, Dr. Hill discusses her book Consensual Qualitative Research: A Practical Resource for Investigating Social Science Phenomena, published by APA Books in 2012.  Consensual Qualitative Research, or CQR, is an inductive research method characterized by open-ended interview questions, small samples, a reliance on words over numbers, an emphasis on context, the integration of multiple viewpoints, and coming to a consensus within the research team. Hill discusses her motivations for writing Consensual Qualitative Research, and briefly describes the key attributes and comparative strengths of an approach that can generate rich descriptions of inner experiences, attitudes, and convictions.

A transcript of this video is available here.

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.