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The career exploration activities I was engaged with this semester included researching at the Data redacted as a form of job shadowing. I have learned the process of conducting psychological research, and the reality of the challenges and required adaptations present. Having learned about research and how to conduct it correctly in classes, it seemed that the classroom had represented a certain ideal that is not always present in conducting research. As a research assistant for the past year at the Data redacted, my colleagues and I had to adapt the experiment in a number of ways while collecting data.
My responsibilities as a research assistant in the Visual/Spatial Cognition Lab included running participants, posting time slots, meeting with the participants, collecting the informed consent documents, demographic forms, data sheets, and maps the participants would draw on together. I would then meet the participants (one per time slot) at the site of our experiment, the Data redacted at the Data redacted. I would give the participants some brief instruction, have them fill out the informed consent and demographic form, and take their backpack or bag up to our locked office while they filled out the forms.
Upon returning, I would give the participants a more holistic explanation of what the study would entail for them, how long it would take, and what I needed them to do during the trials. I would then take them on some short practice trials, further explaining the procedure, and run them through the actual experiment. Upon finishing the experiment, I would walk them back to our locked office, give them their things, and walk them back down to the entrance, while debriefing them on the experiment and answering any questions they had. Each participant would take approximately 35-40 minutes, preparing for the time slots would take approximately 10 minutes. Upon the participant’s completion of a time slot, and after I had run all participants for the day, generally 3-4 per day 2 days per week, I would take all our equipment back to the lab, lock the informed consent documents in our filing cabinet for the study, organize the data sheets and demographic forms, write the participant number on all their documents, and file them all in the lab’s filing cabinets. I would then update the participants credit online and make sure all our equipment was plugged in, powered off and charging.
These responsibilities awarded me a great deal of individual freedom, as from beginning to end, I ran the participants myself. Through doing this, I learned how to run participants through a study, how structured every aspect of the experiment must be, including scripted instructions for the participants at every stage of the experiment. This was beneficial for me because it helped me understand the intricacy of experiments, and the need for adaptability and persistence. We were forced to throw out approximately one out of every fifteen participant’s data for experimenter error, participants not doing well enough on the tasks, technological malfunctions, and other various reasons. This necessity to disregard a lot of our initial data made certain adaptations to the study, including collecting data to make up for those losses, necessary.
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