Category Archives: ethics


My personal radiograph

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These past few weeks have been anything but  typical. I’ve given a campus tour to prospective students which took me to the robotics program of the university, some of my classes went on temporary hiatus and life has thrown me a few curve balls, the least of which being  the news that the soreness in my foot is not due to a sprain but a stress fracture.  Things have been a bit fragmented lately in more ways than one.

Given all the events of the last few weeks it  seems likely that my thesis would have stalled a bit. Much to my chagrin however, quite the opposite seems to have happened. I’ve been granted conditional ethics approval for my first study and I’ve written most of my research proposal. I’m still trying to work out how that happened. One minute my proposal was 1000 words long and seemingly in the next minute it had expanded to 4000 words! Of course it’s Murphy’s Law that something will go wrong with my thesis at some point, but that’s okay. Being a bit ahead now will help.

Moving from anticipation of setbacks to past challenges I seem to have made some progress with my writing. When I was working on my last draft I really focused on trying to move from the general to the particular and making sure my point was clear  and it seems to have paid off.  That’s not to say that there isn’t still plenty of room for improvement with my writing or that I didn’t dive straight into the details, because I did, but I can see progress. The coursework side of things also seems to be going well. I passed my latest counselling assignment and got some positive feedback. It’s already funny looking back at how alien counselling techniques and psychological test administration, scoring and interpretation seemed at first. I’m by no means an expert in these areas yet, that will take years of practice, but I am certainly learning a lot and becoming more confident.

Until next time, good luck for your endeavours and I hope your last few weeks have not been as fragmented as mine!



Filed under A day in the life, ethics, research proposal, test administration, thesis, writing

Ten precious weeks: Ethics, participant recruitment, exam results and a looming deadline

I’ve written and re-written the first line to this post three times. Why? I don’t even know where to begin. So much has happened in the last few weeks.The first cab off the ranks on my Honours news highway is ethics submission. That particular process led me through even more twists and turns than I mentioned in my last post. If I could go back in time and give myself a tip, it would be to expect that it would take longer than anticipated. Regardless, I now have ethics approval for my study! Subsequently, I have entered the participant recruitment phase like all the other Honours students. This means that I am now checking my email with ridiculous frequency, just in case someone has contacted me wanting to volunteer. Sadly, repeatedly hitting your email  refresh button will not make the recruitment phase go any faster…

Ever wondered about the inner working of an Honours student’s mind at this stage of the year? Wonder no more:  

Why isn’t anyone signing up? How can I get more participants? What if I don’t get enough participants? How many people do I really need? What if it takes me ages to get volunteers and I end up with no data?

The above is a decent cross-section of discussions with fellow Honours students over the last week. You might have noticed the recurring theme, a desperate wish for more participants, and quickly! To be honest, I think we all need to relax a bit. Yes, we need to actively search for volunteers, but at the same time volunteers are just that, volunteers. There is only so much you can do to let them know about your study and then the rest is up to them. Let’s see how zen I am about this next week though…

I think this growing anxiety over recruitment is because time is galloping away. My thesis is due in TEN WEEKS. In this time I am aiming to (read: must) have collected data from thirty participants, entered it into SPSS, analysed it, written and edited my introduction, method, results, discussion, references and acknowledgements. And of course binding and submission. Piece of cake I say with tongue firmly in cheek! I know that I will make it happen because I must. Life is nothing without a challenge.

While the last few weeks have been eventful, they have been equally surprising. At the end of last semester I sat several exams. It was with trepidation that I made my way upstairs to the noticeboard to find my marks. As usual, it took me three attempts to locate my student ID among the others not to mention those all important grades. I am not exaggerating when I say that I saw my marks and laughed in astonishment. I honestly could not believe it. I had thought I had done well in one exam, but not that well! And as for the essay exam I had been worried about, I had also earned a good grade. Finding out my results was such a morale boost, I now have a fighting chance in the competitive entry process to postgraduate psychology. I ‘just’ have to defend this chance by throwing my all into the rest of the assessment tasks and my thesis!

Until next time, thanks for reading and good luck with your studies : )

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Filed under ethics, Honours year, Research, statistics

The highs and lows of research: Research proposal, thesis committee meeting and ethics submission

Earlier in the year a lecturer described research as an emotional process full of highs and lows. Wondering why?  Read on…

About a month ago I broke into a silent victory dance outside the psychology office.  I had just submitted my research proposal!  It felt so good to finally hand it in after two months’ research, writing and discussion.  Correction, it did feel good until later that night during ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ when I realised I had made an error with one of my hypotheses.  It turned out later that it was right, but I did not find that out until my thesis committee meeting.  Can you imagine what my stress levels were like during the intervening time?!

My thesis committee meeting fell on a chilly June morning.  I began this rite of passage with a brief summary of my project before my study design, analyses and introduction were discussed.  It might sound daunting being seated round a table with lecturers and trying to hold your own, but the experience was not as intimidating as you might imagine.  It was reassuring to hear that I shared my problem areas with previous Honours students and everyone thought my project was worthwhile.  The guidance I gained, fresh perspectives and new ideas were invaluable.  I still wonder what I looked like after that meeting though, having watched the mingled expressions of relief, amazement and information overload on the faces of other students after their meetings.  I remember feeling disbelief that it was all over, that I could shelve my introduction for a while and get my study ready.

Applying for ethics approval, the first step in preparing my study, was also an emotive experience.  I had submitted my electronic application and its numerous attachments for letters of introduction and consent forms etc. a few days after the deadline.  I was worried.  My late submission meant I would be unlikely to gain ethics approval until August, giving me less time to collect data.  Someone up there was looking out for me though because I was informed my submission would be reviewed earlier than I expected.  I sat in the library grinning from ear to ear,  fist pumping the air, little caring what anyone thought.  I had been unbelievably lucky.  What did I learn from this experience?  Chiefly, that I never want to be in that situation again.  I plan to check deadlines religiously in future, and to let someone know in advance if I am unlikely to meet them.

Achieving these three research milestones introduced me to the highs and lows of research that are all part of the experience.

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Filed under ethics, Honours year, research proposal, writing