1. Purpose

You need, as part of the degree programme, to complete a project. The purpose of this project is to demonstrate the following skills:

  • The ability to develop an idea in psychology that is interesting and capable of being studied experimentally
  • The ability to design and carry out the study in a scientifically satisfactory manner
  • A grasp of statistical and analytic techniques and, where necessary, appropriate knowledge and use of computer packages
  • The ability to write a concise scientific report of the study

The project may be conducted by you individually, or as part of a small group.

2. Scope

Your project should be a demonstration of your creative, experimental and analytic skills, not your tenacity in running hundreds of participants. It is important that you have a specific hypothesis in mind, and that you are clear before you start testing about what form the data will take and what analyses will be required. It is difficult to give hard and fast rules as to the number of participants to run as this will vary with the type of experiment. For example, a questionnaire study might require a minimum of 50 participants, whereas an experiment using a within-subjects design might require only 10-20 participants. The data collection should probably take you no more than 30-40 hours. For group projects, where several individuals are involved in data collection, proportionally more testing might be appropriate. It is essential that all members of a group contribute significantly towards data collection, failure to do so may lead to removal from the group.

Research projects should be substantial: to obtain good marks you will need to go beyond just giving out simple questionnaires or replicating an experiment using a small number of your immediate friends as participants. You should bear in mind that the project counts for a substantial proportion of your overall degree mark.

You should not carry out a project and a literature survey in the same specific area of research, but taking both components in the same general area is acceptable. Our criterion for whether the areas are sufficiently different is that it should not be possible to use a shortened version of your literature survey as the Introduction to your project.

3. Supervision

Each project must have a supervisor, who must be a member of the teaching or postdoctoral research staff. Not all members of staff are available to act as project supervisors; a list of those who are and a summary of their research interests can be found in appendix A. Supervision undertaken by postdoctoral research staff will be overseen by a faculty member, who will sign the project proposal form. In such cases the postdoctoral researcher will typically be first marker of the project report. You should identify potential project supervisors via the appropriate link found under 'Projects' on the Year 3 Key Information page, make a note of relevant timeslots for discussion listed by potential supervisors via the same link, and refine your project plans.  

You should have finalised your project choices and submitted your preferences via a Google Form during weeks 2 to 4 of the Summer Term, see the appropriate Projects Timetable via the Year 3 Key Information page for more information on the specific deadline.  You will later be notified of your project supervisor.  If you would like further advice on whom to approach, talk to Paul Bishop (paul.bishop@york.ac.uk) who is the overall Project Organiser. The role of the project supervisor is to provide you with guidance and advice, and to help you with particular problems you encounter. It is up to you to make the most effective use of your supervisor. The optimal frequency and length of meetings will vary, depending on the details of the project, the individual student's needs and their supervisor’s requirements, but might typically be held at least once every two weeks once the project is fully underway. You may arrange further additional meetings with your supervisor as required. Remember that members of staff may not be available for meetings at very short notice so if possible you should email first to make an appointment.

3.1 Ethical Approval

Your remaining task is to fill in an Ethics/Project Proposal Form with the help of your project supervisor and submit it for approval. This procedure will unfold predominantly in the first three weeks of the autumn term of Year 3, though some preliminary planning may be carried out later in the summer term of Year 2, depending on the the project. An electronic version of your ETHICS/PROJECT PROPOSAL form is available via the Projects - Obtaining Ethical Approval page. Please follow the instructions and try to keep the form to two sides. It must be handed in ON TIME (see the appropriate Timetable, via the Year 3 - Key Information page). You must not start testing participants until you have received appropriate ethical approval, and any project undertaken without ethical approval may receive a mark of zero.  You should also ensure your project supervisor has signed the project proposal form and then submit it electronically online: https://forms.gle/81G9EezNgmze9AcZ9

The Google Form will ask you to enter the names of the students on the project, your supervisor's email for confirmation, and will ask you to upload the ethics form and any other attachments (materials, questionnaires) you need to share.

4. Points to Note in Planning your Project

4.1 Research with children

If you are planning to carry out a project in a school or in any other context where there will be contact with children you will require the relevant disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service. You should discuss this with your project supervisor at an early stage in planning your project.

Because York schools are already heavily involved in University research you should not attempt to recruit participants from these schools unless your supervisor has an agreement in place.

4.2 Research with non-human animals

If you are interested in a project that involves experiments with non-human animals, you should consult Prof Katie Slocombe about the feasibility of your ideas. You will need to be aware of the legislation that governs the use of non-human animals in experiments, and you must ensure that your project work is at all times consistent with the relevant conditions imposed by the Home Office. 

4.3 Equipment and materials

Before reaching a final decision about your project design, discuss with your supervisor the facilities and equipment you will require. ALL use of departmental resources, whether psychometric, administrative or technical, must be approved by your supervisor; please do not ask the administrators or technicians for help without your supervisor's prior approval. The department is prepared to fund photocopying associated with your project on the Departmental Office copier. Administrators will provide access for approved use of the photocopier, though at least one week's notice may be required for large numbers of copies. Several weeks' notice will be necessary if you require access to special equipment.

If your project requires use of a computer you should discuss this with your project supervisor at an early stage, particularly if you may need specialised software to run your experiment.

The department is not normally able to provide additional financial help with project work or to provide funds for travel or payment of participants.

The Department houses a test library containing psychometric tests for you to access.  

Test Availability

Unfortunately, owing to the cost of Tests, the Department has a limited stock and multiple copies are only available of a few tests. It is therefore important for you to plan well ahead if you wish to use a psychometric test, particularly if you think we may need to order test forms.
It is not possible for us to loan tests to individuals external to the Psychology Department.

Finding and Booking a Test - Library catalogue

You can browse the contents of the test library using the following link: Psychology Test Library Bookings 

This link should take you straight to the Test Library Catalog, but if not:

  • Once you have logged in, make sure to scroll to the top of the page.
  • In the middle, near the top of the page is a white box with a down arrow on the right-hand side (it also has a little calendar symbol to the right of the box)

The white box drop down menu to access the different psychology catalogues.

  • If it says ‘Test Library’ in this box, you’re in the right place.  If not, just click the down arrow on the right-hand side of the box and scroll through the options until you find the ‘Test Library’.  

Once you are logged in and in the right place, you can use the on-line system to see what tests we have, check availability and request a test and/or record forms. Emily Greener or Natalie Birchall (main reception) will receive any requests and then contact you to arrange for you to pick up the test/s.  Your signature will be required on receipt of the test and when you return it.   

It is sometimes necessary to recall a test; we hope you will respect such requests when they are made.

Ordering New Tests

If you would like to submit a request for a new test to be purchased, then you can consult Amanda Hickey (amanda.hickey@york.ac.uk) who will try to assist you.

Journal Published tests

Tests published in journals will normally be copyrighted. If you intend to use questionnaires or other response forms which will be seen by the general public you should ensure that they are used in their instructed format and clearly and neatly reproduced. If you plan to adapt materials then permission must be sought, and can be a lengthy process.

Terms and Conditions

The tests in the test library are very expensive (i.e., often costing hundreds of pounds) and must be treated with extreme care.  The test library is also a system that can easily go awry which can potentially lead to valuable tests going missing.  Because of this we have certain terms and conditions so we can keep the library organised with as many tests available to you as possible. 

  1. Please book your test through the above system and wait for Emily or Natalie to email you to arrange a collection - we need to do this so we can keep track of where all of the tests are.  Please do not collect the test yourself from the test library. 
  2. We expect you to return the test as it was issued to you.
  3. Please do not pass on or loan a test to another colleague while you have it on loan from the test library.  Please return the test so your colleague can book it out.  
  4. You must sign the test in and out yourself. 


5. Group Projects

If you choose to do so, you may conduct a group project with other students. Where possible the group should consist of no more than three or four individuals. The maximum group size is six. You may find that working with others will help maintain your enthusiasm and allow you to conduct a more substantial investigation than you could on your own. However, you should bear in mind that you will be dependent on the work of others and that full co-operation within the group will be essential for a successful project. All participants in group projects are expected to co-operate in initial planning, designing the study and collecting data. Data analysis, interpretation and writing up the project report must be carried out independently by each student.  Group projects will be marked in the same way as individual projects, but taking account of the role and contribution of each individual as assessed by the project supervisor. Irrespective of whether you are working on a group or an individual project, 10% of your final project mark will reflect your contribution to the project.

When your group project plan is complete you should register the project with Reception by submitting one ETHICS/PROJECT PROPOSAL form with everyone’s name and signature on it.

6. Ethical and legal constraints

6.1 Ethical approval

In preparing your project proposal you must ensure that your plans are consistent with the department’s ethical guidelines [see the undergraduate handbook, and the ethical guidelines published by the British Psychological Society (www.bps.org.uk)]. In particular you will need to give details of how participants will be recruited, how they will give informed consent, what they will be required to do, how they will be debriefed, and how their data will be coded and stored. The project proposal form will prompt you to provide this information.

Project proposals are considered by the departmental ethics committee at its annual meeting late in the Summer Term, and the committee’s decision will be communicated to you by letter towards the end of the term. If the ethics committee writes to you to indicate that it is not satisfied your project plans are consistent with ethical guidelines, or if further details are required, you must discuss the committee’s concerns with your supervisor, and submit a revised proposal as soon as possible.

If your project uses the facilities of the York Neuroimaging Centre (YNiC), you will need additional ethical permission from YNiC that is your supervisor's primary responsibility.

Ethical approval for studies of non-human animals is given by the Biology Department. Prof Katie Slocombe will be able to advise on the necessary forms you need to complete.

6.2 Data Protection Act 1998

Anyone holding personal data on a computer has certain responsibilities. Whenever possible projects should be designed so as to avoid holding any personal data on a computer. Note that data can be held when it is impossible to determine the identity of the participant by any means (including cross reference with data not held on a computer), so a sensible strategy is often to identify experimental participants by number (say) when their data are held as a computer file, and destroy all information about each participant's identity. If you feel it is essential to hold personal data for your project you should discuss this with your supervisor, and make your intentions clear in your project proposal.

7. Strategy and Timing

7.1 Planning

Summaries of previous projects are available for inspection in the Departmental Office, and these should give you an indication of the scope and range of topics others have considered. It may be helpful also to look at some of the projects done in previous years that have ultimately been published. References to a selection of these can be found in appendix B. Scanning recent issues of journals concerned with topics of interest to you can be a useful source of ideas.

7.2 Data Collection

Once you have received ethical clearance, you may begin testing.  All data collection should be completed well before the end of the Spring term to allow you time to analyse your data and write up your report.  When recruiting participants you cannot use SONA or the cohort e-mail lists.  Students should also refrain from paying participants, offering incentives and cannot provide course credit in return for participation.

7.3 Preparing your first draft

As part of our attempt to standardise the help given by supervisors it has been agreed that supervisors should read and comment on only one draft of your project report. Before submitting a draft to your supervisor, aim to take advantage of improvements in clarity and accuracy that can derive from redrafting your report in the light of your own careful re-reading, and of comments made by other readers. The deadline for handing a draft to your supervisor for comments is Week 1 of Term 9. You need to meet this deadline because your supervisor may recommend further data analysis and other modifications to the report which may be time-consuming to complete. Please note that supervisors are NOT allowed to comment on the Discussion section of your draft.

7.4 Preparation of the final version

  • The word count should be clearly indicated at the end of the project report, and should be a maximum of 6000 words. For further details on what is included or excluded in word counts, please consult the Word Limits section of the UG Handbook - Penalties page.
  • No cover sheet is necessary.
  • Appendices should contain information of a supplementary nature only and not be required reading for a good understanding of the main body of the project.
  • Projects should be submitted electronically via the VLE in PDF format.  For further details on submitting work electronically, please consult the Guide to Online Submission of Work section of the UG Handbook - Guide to Online Submission of Work page.
     
  • Retain an archived copy of all the raw data and other relevant materials, which the Department may ask to see.  

Remember!

  • Give yourself time to check your project report carefully for errors before you submit
  • Applications for extensions should be made via the appropriate procedures - see the UG Handbook - Exceptional Circumstances affecting Assessment page for further details. 
  • If you send anyone a copy before you graduate you should make it clear that the project report is still under consideration by the examiners
  • Keep below the word count maximum (see above)

8. Archiving of Project Data

Students must maintain an archived copy of all the raw data from their third-year project until after the degree results are released. Raw data includes computer data files, completed questionnaires, completed consent forms, etc.  Students are responsible for keeping the archived data in a secure place. In addition, it may be a good idea to pass on copies of the raw data to the project supervisor, in the event that the project yields publishable results. The Department may request copies of the raw data when evaluating a project’s authenticity.

9. Assessment (including weightings)

Project reports (90% of mark) are assessed by the project supervisor and one other member of the Board of Examiners, and may be reviewed by the external examiners.

Student contribution (10% of mark) is assessed by the project supervisor.

Reports by students involved in group projects should be written independently; plagiarism will be treated severely (see below). 

The examiners will want to be satisfied that the report you submit is entirely your own work, so you should take particular care to avoid plagiarism. The University regards any form of academic misconduct as an extremely serious matter, as outlined in the undergraduate handbook.  Evidence of academic misconduct may result in a mark of zero for your project, and, in cases of particular gravity, may lead to a recommendation of further disciplinary penalties.

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