Resources for my empirical project (Psychology dissertation)

In the last term of my last year I (fortunately) don’t have any exams. I have two tests, two essays, a presentation, and my dissertation. Both my essays and my dissertation are due on the 12th of May, which means I really should stay on top of my schedule. The plan is to write the essays as soon as possible, so that I’ll have more time to focus on my dissertation. It’s important to note that my dissertation is worth 45 credits (all other modules are worth 15) and can therefore significantly increase or decrease my degree classification.

I have explained how I have approached my dissertation in a previous post, but I have moved on from it just being an idea. Since my dissertation is an empirical project, an experiment, there is a certain strategy that researches use to optimize the whole process. In short, you need to be organised.

Following the idea, I have discussed it with my supervisor to hear his thoughts on it, as he is the one with experience in research area. The design of the experiment involves formulation of hypotheses, determination of independent variables to be manipulated together with dependent variables to be recorded, specification of participants and the sample, and the procedure of assigning participants to conditions (independent variables). I understand that this all sounds very sciency, but in reality it’s pretty straightforward. Especially if you’ve done stats for the last two years.

This reminds me of two books I’ll be using again – both have been used in my stats modules last year and in my first year: How to design and report experiments by Andy Field and Graham Hole (both are lecturers at Sussex) and Discovering Statistics by Andy Field. The first one has all the information about the actual design of the experiment (as mentioned above) and the second one about statistical analyses, specifically which tests to perform on your data.

I believe that the most challenging part of my experiment will be recruiting participants, as the number needs to be close to 160. We are not allowed to pay them, but can only offer a prize draw of £25, which makes it even more difficult. But on the other hand, there should be a lot of input, as the project is after all worth 45 credits.

The resources for my dissertation are Library search and the books I have mentioned. I was asked if I use any study skills books, and the answer is no. Manly because I don’t have exams and don’t need to revise or focus on my lectures for this project, but also because I have had similar assignments in the past and I know what’s expected of me. Perhaps How to design ad report experiments is my study skills book, as it contains guidelines on tackling my dissertation and has everything I needed so far.

As far as my essays are concerned, I will approach them as I have so far (5 Things I wish I had known for my last essay; Improving research for essays), with addition of discussion my essay/essay plan with my seminar tutor or module convenor. I guess I could add this to the 5 Things I wish I had known – use the resources available to you, including lecturers and tutors.

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