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Experimental Psychology (Sec. 2)
Dr. M. Plonsky - Fall, 2008
Last update 9/7/08.

Course Description


The basic goal of this course will be for you to learn about psychological research. As a result of taking the course, you will be better able to evaluate and communicate the results of research. It is a methods course, rather than a content course. The idea is to learn the skills and techniques used in research, rather than a specific content area.

The ability to perform research is important to science, as well as other areas, such as business and law. Thus, research skills will be useful to all students, including those who do not intend to pursue a career in psychology. The following is a summary of the major goals of this course:


We will use the following textbook (available from the college bookstore): Bordens, K. S., & Abott, B. B. (2008). Research Design and Methods: A Process Approach (7-th Edition). NY: McGraw Hill. In addition to the required text, there are/will be books (e.g., the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association and Statistics Books/websites) that you may wish to consult. You may also wish to purchase a book on the Minitab Statistical Program available on campus.


While I do not formally take attendance, it is unlikely that you will do well in the course if your attendance is poor. This is due to the difficulty and cumulative nature of the material as well as the fact that the exams include some material only presented in the lectures. If you miss a class, it will be to your benefit to find out what occurred during that class from a classmate.

It is expected that you check your university email account several times per week since this is a convenient way for me to communicate with the class. I will let you know when grades are posted and make other announcements via this medium (e.g., if I need to cancel a class, I will send an email early that morning or sooner).


There will be two exams; a midterm and a final. Each will constitute 25% of your grade. The format of the exams may vary, including multiple choice, short answer, essay questions, etc. The final exam will be cumulative. On the exams you will be responsible for both the assigned readings and the lecture material. I should also note that you must print on the exams rather than writing in script. The results of the exams will be posted (assuming you have entered an appropriate code in the Grading Code Collection Form) on the Internet a few days after each of the exams.


The exams make up 50% of the grade and the projects make up the other 50%. Also, class participation and/or improvement in performance over the semester may help you. I will provide you with a conservative estimate of your overall performance in the course after the midterm. Cheating on an exam will lead to an automatic failure of that exam and possibly other penalties. Another way to fail an exam is to not show up for it. If you must miss an exam, it will be a lot easier if you let me know before the exam. If you don't, I will require written documentation of the emergency. Even if you do let me know before hand, I will only allow 1 exam makeup without any questions asked (i.e., no documentation required). I should also note, that in this class I do not recommend postponing any exam.

Concerning withdrawing from a class, it must be done in a timely manner in accordance with published deadlines.  Failure to do so could result in a failing grade or the loss of reimbursable tuition fees. 

What I expect from you:

  1. That you have completed General Psychology (PSYC110) as a prerequisite for this class. If you have not, you will be dropped from this class..
  2. To agree to study this syllabus carefully (ASAP) & refer to it when questions arise about the class.
  3. To acknowledge that effort, by itself, is not enough to justify a worthy grade. In other words, you are graded primarily on the merit of your performance in the class rather than the amount of effort you put into the class.
  4. To acknowledge that previous academic preparation (e.g., biology, math, etc.) matters. Those who are better prepared are likely to do better in the class.
  5. To attend class & give your full attention to the material, as well as conduct yourself in an appropriate manner (e.g., not having personal conversations during lectures or performing other activities that disrupt the class).
  6. To meet the obligations of the course (e.g., reading, assignments, etc.) and not make excuses for your failure to do so.
  7. To treat everyone in class, including the professor, with respect.
  8. To check your university email account several times per week. I will let you know when grades are posted & make other announcements via this medium (e.g., if I need to cancel a class, I will send an email early that morning).
  9. To not plagiarize or otherwise steal the work of others.
  10. To understand & adhere to the UWSP Student Rights & Responsibilities
  11. To turn off or silence cell phones when in class.

What you can expect from me:

  1. To manage the class in a professional manner. This may include educating you in appropriate classroom behavior.
  2. To prepare carefully for each class & begin & end it on time.
  3. To try to learn your name (if class size permits) & to recognize your individuality & treat you with respect, as well as to be honest with you.
  4. To treat all students equally. Thus, I will not discriminate on the basis of your identity, appearance, gender, race, creed, color, viewpoints, disability, whether I like you or not, or anything else.
  5. To have 3 office hours each week during which you are welcome to stop by (no appointment necessary). See contact info for more detail.
  6. To give grades primarily based on the quality of your work.
  7. To return your grades quickly (with your permission) & with detailed feedback. For example, I will provide you with an overall estimate of your grade prior to the 10th week of the semester drop deadline.
  8. To be honest about what I know. If I do not know something, I will say so.
  9. To treat any plagiarism, cheating, or other violations of academic integrity harshly.
  10. To silence my cell phone when in class.

My office is located in Science B-341. I will have office hours from 1-2:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays as well as Tuesdays from 11:30 am - 12:30 noon or you can arrange to see me by appointment. Note that my office hours do not require an appointment. You can see a visual of my schedule here. You can reach me at 346-3961 (and please leave a message if I'm not available) or through electronic mail at mplonsky@uwsp.edu. You can also send me email using a web form. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Tentative Class Schedule
1 1/20-We   Orientation C. 1.
2 9/8-Mo   Science & the Research Process Intro. to Library Research (APA)
  9/10-We     Using Psyc Databases (APA) 
3 9/15   Statistics Review C. 13, Statistics (Dr. Ps)
4 9/22 1  Hypothesis Testing C. 14
  9/24   Developing the Idea C. 3
5 9/29   Psychology With Style
C. 16, APA Format (Dr. Ps)
6 10/6 2 Basic Design C. 4 & 5 (except p. 143-151)
7 10/13   Scientific Approaches C. 8
8 10/20 4a Single Factor Studies  C. 10 (except p. 308-315)
9 10/27-Mo   MIDTERM EXAM  
  10/29   EV's p. 143-151
10 11/3      
  11/5   Control of EV's  
11 11/10 3    
  11/12   Factorial Experiments p. 308-315
12 11/17      
13 11/24 4b     
  11/26   Ethics C. 7, Resources
14 12/1      
  12/3 4c Oral Presentations Effective Presentations (Radel)
15 12/8   Oral Presentations  
  12/10   Oral Presentations  
16 12/16-Tu 4d FINAL EXAM 10:15 - 12:15 p.m.

  1. The reason some days do not have a topic is because of laboratory time, computer training sessions, and the fact that many of the topics will take more than one lecture.
  2. We will not always cover topics in the order listed, however, the readings are listed in the order they should be read.
  3. Most of the readings are listed for the early part of the semester, since you will be busy writing papers, etc. toward the end.
  4. Notice that in an effort to streamline the amount of reading, I am only requiring that you read 10 of the 16 chapters in the book.
  5. Those students who don't take the readings seriously typically have problems in the course.
  6. I would like to emphasize that this schedule is tentative.

Data Sets

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Comments? mplonsky@uwsp.edu.