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Experimental Psychology
Dr. M. Plonsky
Last update 8/08.


There will be four projects as outlined below. The percentage of your grade that each project is worth, as well as the number of references required for each project is indicated. Note that I would prefer the majority of the references you cite to be recent journal articles (that is, within the last 25 years). For more detailed information about a project, click on it in the table below.

Due dates for these projects are given in the tentative class schedule (and are as tentative as the rest of the schedule). All written reports must be in APA format. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation do count, so be sure to proofread your work carefully. In order to receive a passing grade, all projects must be handed in. Projects are to be handed in to my mailbox in the Psychology Dept. Office (D240) within 24 hours of the onset of the class that they are due. A penalty exists for tardiness. For each day the project is late (weekends included), 10% of its total possible points will be deducted. Since this deadline is generous, even one minute late will be counted as one day. When a paper is handed in late (and only when it is late), you must write the date and time it is handed in on the cover sheet. If you do not, then I will write the date and time that I actually encounter it.

1. Statistics Review
2. Data Set Analysis
3. Class Experiment
4. Independent Project Proposal
  a) Outline
b) Draft of the full write-up
c) Oral presentation (peer graded)
d) Final draft of write-up

PROJECT 1. Statistics Review (5 points)

The purpose of this project is to review the material you covered in your Psychological Statistics class (PSY300). This project consists of a number of statistical problems and exercises.

Perhaps the most difficult part of this project is the problems at the end where you must decide which statistical test to use. The notes from your previous Psychological Statistics class should help in this regard. Note that I have placed all of the notes and more from the Psychological Statistics course I teach on the web. In particular, the diagram of some tests of significance may also be helpful to you. In addition, you may consider barrowing a statistics text from the library.

PROJECT 2. Data Set Analysis (5 points)

Background & Purpose

In Psychological Statistics you began working with data. You were introduced to graphing (or making pictures of data) and performing statistical tests to determine whether what you saw in the data (e.g., differences, relationships) where worth paying attention to. In Project 1, we reviewed some of this material. In Project 2, we will try to improve and refine these skills.

The project simply consists of a data set which I will give you at the appropriate time. The assignment is for you is to make sense of the data. I realize that some of you may find this a difficult task, because you may feel that it is too vague. In the past, you have typically been told what tests to run on what aspect of the data. In the real world, however, no one will tell you what test to run or even what data to collect.

The project will be performed in pseudo randomly created groups, with all members of a group receiving the same grade. Ideally, the members of each group will possess different skills that can be shared; thus mutually beneficial learning will take place. Also, the group aspect of the project resembles the real world where you will typically have to work with other people. Each group will hand in one assignment.

As a hands on experience with research, the project has several purposes.

  1. Additional review of descriptive and inferential statistics.
  2. Use of the computer & the program Minitab for handling data.
  3. Review of graphing and brief introduction to MS Excel for this purpose.
  4. Review of title page & results sections of an APA manuscript.
  5. Encouragement of skill sharing among class members.
  6. Encouragement of the social skills necessary for group productivity.


Please submit a a title page, results section, and table(s), figure captions, and figure(s). I want you to show that you know how to describe and analyze data. Thus you should demonstrate a variety of statistical tests. However, I am also looking for a coherent and meaningful description and analyses of the data, thus, simply doing one example of each of a variety of different statistical tests will not be sufficient.

In my experience, students make one or both of two mistakes when performing this project. First, students get so carried away with performing statistical tests (i.e., inference) that they forget to include detailed descriptive statistics as well. Secondly, students do not take the project seriously enough and perform a cursory and shallow analysis. Since the skills that you acquire doing this project will be invaluable for the remaining projects, I strongly encourage you to take it seriously.

Students often ask how many pages should the project be. I have a hard time with this question, since I am looking for quality rather than quantity. Nonetheless, as a rough estimate, I would say that the results section alone should consist of at least 5 pages and there should be at least one or two tables and one or two figures.

PROJECT 3. Class Experiment (10 points)

Background & Purpose

Social Psychology is the study of the influences that people have on the behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings of others. For example, both intuition and empirical research suggest that the physical characteristics of a person have an important influence on how that person is viewed and evaluated by others. However, situational factors also play a role in social evaluation. The purpose of the experiment is to determine the role of physical characteristics and situational factors in determining judgments made about a person.

The following three references are related to this study and will be made available:
  1. Dion, K., Bercheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 285-290.
  2. Landy, D. & Aronson, E. (1969). The influence of the character of the criminal and his victim on the decisions of simulated jurors. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 5, 141-152.
  3. Walster, E. (1966). Assignment of responsibility for an accident. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 73-79.


You will be provided with a detailed handout describing this project at the appropriate time.

PROJECT 4. Independent Project Proposal (30 points total)

This project will be independently formulated, presented, and written by you. I suggest that you begin thinking about it early in the semester and I strongly encourage you to discuss it with me (during my office hours, via e-mail, or whatever). Please take this project seriously as it makes up a total of 30% of your grade in the class. The goal is for you to PROPOSE your own experiment in an area of psychology that interests you. You can think of it as writing a grant asking some agency to fund the project.

As a hands on experience with research, the project has several purposes.

  1. Continued experience with APA writing style.
  2. Learn searching skills (especially of a database that contains abstracts of psychological journals).
  3. Development of grant writing skills.
  4. Development of oral presentation skills.
  5. Development of ability to think and work independently.
  6. Provide an opportunity for research in your own area of interest.

The four parts of the project are as follows:

PROJECT 4a. Outline (5 points)

Includes the title page, and a first draft of the methods and reference sections. At least four references are rquired and one of these must be obtained from interlibrary loan (and please indicate this in your reference section with an asterisk or brief note). Also note that obtaining an article from interlibrary loan can take up to three weeks.

The purpose is to tell me what you plan to propose. Note that since this is a proposal, you will frequently be using future tense rather than past tense (i.e., you have not yet conducted the study and will not in this class).

PROJECT 4b. Draft of the full write-up (10 points)

Please submit a draft of the complete APA manuscript. At least six references are required.  I refer to it as a draft, because it is the first attempt at putting the information into an APA manuscript. For most people, this first attempt will require considerable polishing. I will help with this by giving you feedback which you should then use to work on the final draft (i.e., Project 4d).

Since this is a proposal and you don't have any results, you may combine your results and discussion sections. Thus, in the introduction you should make clear why the project is important, in the methods section you should make clear exactly what you propose to do, and in the results and discussion section(s) you should make clear what you expect to find (results) and why it is important (discussion), respectively. Your reference section should contain a minimum of six references.

In order to keep things simple, you do not need to request a specific amount of money nor am I requiring you to submit a budget and budget justification, etc. like all granting agencies would. Just include whatever apparatus, etc. you may need without any budgetary limitations.

PROJECT 4c. Oral presentation (5 points & peer graded)

Our goal here is to model a professional psychology convention. Thus, the presentation format will follow the style used at scientific conventions. In fact, I will advertise the event within the dept., as the Biannual Experimental Psychology Convention and will invite anyone interested.

The presentation should take a total of 20 minutes; approximately 15 minutes for the actual presentation (12 to 18 is reasonable) and the remainder for questions. For help in preparing your presentation, see Effective Presentations.

This project is peer graded (using a form for evaluating the presentation). This means that each class member (excluding myself and any guests) will rate your performance. Your grade will consist of the average of all the evaluations. On the day of the final, I will give you a statistical summary of the evaluations you received which will include the average for each evaluator as well as the average for each of the questions on the evaluation. This information should help identify your strengths and weaknesses for future presentations.

PROJECT 4d. Final draft of write-up (10 points)

Please submit a polished APA manuscript. It should take into account my comments on the first draft as well as comments you may have received from the audience on your oral presentation. At this point, your reference section should contain a minimum of eight references. Note that you must also submit the first draft that I have already commented on when you hand this in. Note also that I keep the final draft, thus if you want your own copy you should make one.

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Comments? mplonsky@uwsp.edu.