This is my treatise to undergraduate psychology students about the issue of research participation. I know that there are other undergraduate majors that often participate in psychology research studies as well, but as the majority of them are psychology majors, they are who I am directing this towards.
With my vast experience of having been an undergraduate psychology major and current psychology doctoral student at two different large research universities, I have some inside perspective to both sides of the issue. The issue? Many undergraduate psychology classes require students to participate in research within the department for course credit of some kind and I believe that these students don’t understand why they need to do that. So I am here to inform them.
For all the psychology majors out there who “just want to understand people”, “just want to be called Dr. So-and-So”, and “just want to go to grad school and will figure out what you want to do then” [all reasons I’ve heard from undergrads for wanting to go to grad school], grad school involves getting a higher degree and getting a higher degree involves conducting research and conducting research involves having participants. Many universities have the psychology students participate in the aforementioned research for the graduate students so that the graduate students can have participants to run and the undergraduate students can learn about various types of research within the field of psychology and possibly more about what they would potentially be doing in graduate school themselves. A win-win, right?
Wrong. Because I don’t know if some students realize that there is someone on the other side of their signing up/no-showing/cancelling a research study. For instance, the time now is 9:13am on a Monday – and I have been sitting here for over 90 minutes for students who voluntarily signed up for 8:00/8:30/9:00am timeslots [and were reminded last night via email, mind you], yet I am currently 0/3 of people showing up. No cancellation of their appointment, no email sent to let me know they’re sick/car is broken/decided to join the circus/etc. Yes, if any of those things occurred, you may not think to email a researcher about your life events – but maybe you should think about it, as that researcher will be there diligently waiting for you to show up.
“But Melissa. Couldn’t you just do homework during that time or be productive somehow?” No. Because I will be constantly jumping up/pacing/asking anyone who walks by if they are my participant so much during the timeslot, that I could not possibly retain anything I tried to productively intake. I call it the Grad Student Shuffle.
Alas. My takeaway point from this is that if you are a psychology undergraduate student and you sign up for a study, show up. Or cancel your appointment. Because who likes to be kept waiting? No one.