The Research: The Data Collection

After my project passed ethics, it was time to design the data collection. While waiting (and waiting...and waiting...and waiting...) for ethical approval, I was able to fine tune the survey questionnaire that I would have students fill out. I got some great advice from people who know way more than I do about this kind of research; it helped tremendously. (One of the best things about the UofA is the amount of specialized knowledge that exists on campus. It's truly staggering how many academics there are here with top-notch knowledge. It's easy to take it all for granted.)

You don't always know what to ask on a questionnaire. What factors are relevant? (Did you use the online etextbook or printed textbook?) Which ones might matter? (Have you used etextbooks before?) What kinds of things are probably irrelevant? (Are you male or female? Better ask that one anyway.) There has to be a balance between asking for enough information, and making the survey as short as possible. Ever done an online survey that just seems to go on, page after page? Fill out this big long page, click "next" and the percent completed graph ticks up by only 1%? To get as many participants responding as possible, you've got to keep it as short as possible.

To keep everything in line with ethics guidelines, I didn't work on the online form until everything was okayed. Although I could have coded the forms myself (my websites are all hand-coded, thank you very much), but I didn't have a lot of spare time. Fortunately, the Department of Psychology has a great resource available: the Instructional Technology and Resources Lab. This lab is staffed by an undergraduate student who is enrolled in our internship program. (Plug: If you want to get hands-on experience doing a real psychology job before you graduate, look into it. You actually get paid for it, too.) Lauren McCoy coded the entire questionnaire for me. (Thanks, Lauren!)

Next, via Bear Tracks, I sent out a mass email to all the students in my class asking them to participate. Nothing to do after that but wait. It was hard to be patient, waiting for the data to roll in. And, according to ethics, I couldn't even look at it until the course was over. Argh!

Why aren't you studying?

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