Web-based research is inherently interesting to students. Students also recognize the relevance of Web skills to their future activities whether they plan to go into academics or business. Graduate students are eager to learn skills that will help them collect and analyze data in a manner that can reduce the time to complete a project by a factor of 10.
At the time of this writing (July, 1999), I am unaware of any other book in English to fill this need. This book is designed, therefore, to be useful to several different classes in which segments on this new form of research might be presented. Because it attempts to satisfy the needs of several different courses, it contains more material than could be easily covered in a semester. To help instructors decide what to pick and choose for different uses, the connections among the chapters are explained in Table P.1. Chapters that are prerequisite to each chapter are listed in parentheses. Bold indicates the aspect most emphasized.
Note that Chapters 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 emphasize content topics in psychology. Each of those chapters includes data (on CD) that can be analyzed to answer a question in psychology. These chapters can be selected or skipped without much interruption to the flow of the book. These chapters also provide good ideas for students to present to the class as projects.
I have found it helpful to assign students to do one replication study and one original study in a semester lab course. Students must write an APA-style report on each study and present it to the class with their ideas of what should be done next. By replicating a study, students learn more about the topic than they get by merely reading and reporting articles to a class. After replicating a study, students often think of original ideas of how to test a theory.
Students who have the assignment of designing an original project can begin by replicating one of the studies from Chapters 7 through 16. Having replicated and analyzed the study, the student will soon see ways to revise it to test new ideas. These chapters also devote attention to computer analysis of the data. There is a measure of redundancy in explanations of how to do the comptuer analyses. This additional description permits a student to skip to one chapter and still be able to follow the next. Some repetition may also help reinforce the techniques and help students see that the same techniques can be used in more than one type of experiment.
In a graduate course on computer techniques in Web experimentation, the instructor might choose to assign Chapters 2 through 6, 9, 11, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and possibly Appendix A. That would be 14 chapters that could be supplemented by reprints of current articles and online resources. If students are assigned to devise an individual project, you can suggest that students select from Chapters 7, 8, 12, 13, 15, and 16 as sources of ideas for student projects. Project ideas are also included in the exercises to the chapters. For advanced computer projects, Chapter 20 opens the door.
An instructor of an undergraduate laboratory in research methods might present a brief segment (2-3 weeks) on Internet research as part of a larger course that includes research design, statistics, and report writing. One approach would be to get students interested in the Web with a few online experiments. Then teach them Chapter 9 or 11, and follow that up with one of content chapters (Chapters 9 and 10 or Chapter 11 and one of 12, 13, 15, or 16) that explains how to analyze data from one such study. Students could be assigned to replicate the study, then to devise and conduct an original study that investigates a new issue in their chosen area of study.
The instructor who wishes to include only a brief segment (1 week in class and 1 week of homework) on Internet research might assign students to do three activities on the basis of two chapters only. (1) Make the stimuli using factorWiz (Chapter 11), which allows a student to create a Web experiment without knowing HTML. (2) Serve as a participant in the study using the appropriate materials on the CD. It is very helpful to students to experience the experiment as a participant in order to understand the theory and analysis of the study. (3) Analyze the data provided on the CD to understand how to analyze the data from such an experiment. (If APA-style writing is part of the course, the instructor could assign students the task of writing an APA style paper on one of the studies whose data are included on CD.) Each of the topics in Chapters 12, 13, 15, and 16 illustrates the analysis of an interesting interaction between two factors. The purpose of the limited treatment would be to make students aware of the possibility of Internet research, give them a basic tool for constructing a student project, and teach the concept of interaction. Having completed this segment, the student would be in a position to design and carry out an original project that extends the topic.
A 4-week plan for undergraduate research methods would present Chapters 1 through 6, which provide the foundation. This plan would be especially useful for a research methods sequence that takes a year, rather than a single semester. Chapters 1 through 6 could be covered in the first semester (or quarter); Chapters 9 and 11, with a selection from the content chapters, would then fit well in the second course in the sequence.
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