Introducing Introductory Psychology Students to Quantitative Analysis
In this assignment, students investigate a question about personality they have posed by analyzing variables contained in a data set made available to them. That data set includes personality trait assessment results, gender and other background variables, and ratings from measures of happiness and well-being. The data set contains ratings contributed by the students themselves as well as by students in this course in previous years. Students read a related summary of a meta-analysis of personality and happiness and are asked to submit a brief paper identifying their question, relating that question to course materials, and reporting the results of their investigation.
- How psychologists answer questions empirically.
- How to construct a question suitable for quantitative evaluation.
- How to complete and interpret basic statistical procedures.
- How to relate an empirical inquiry to related findings in the scientific literature.
- What a meta-analysis is.
- How to write a simple research paper that involves the presentation of numbers and the interpretation of results.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Teaching Notes and Tips
An instructor could construct a simple data set of this kind using whatever basic measures in psychology he or she chooses. I centered this project on personality and happiness because (a) I begin the course by covering contemporary personality research, (b) students find the particular topic engaging, and (c) the topic permits the use of a supporting and accessible article on meta-analysis, something I want students to learn about at the outset of the course.
My assessment of whether the project meets my learning goals is grounded in my reading of the papers as well as in questions asked in section III, Question 7 of the course evaluation questionnaire (attached). This asks students to specify two things they learned from this module.
References and Resources
N. Lutsky (1986). Undergraduate research experience through the analysis of data sets in psychology courses. Teaching of Psychology, 13, 119-122.
A brief description and formal assessment of the project described above was included in the following chapter:
N. Lutsky (2002). Come, putative ends of psychology's digital future. In The Teaching of Psychology: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer, pp. 335-348.