Keith Markus' Urban Sprawl

Course Information
Course Description
My Guidelines
My Availability
Blackboard Page

General Information
Course Description:
    PSY 791.  Prospectus Seminar.  Assists students in the identification and delineation of researchable topics with suggestions for appropriate methodologies.  Acquaints students with the process of writing scholarly and research reports;  library research; and documentation styles and techniques, leading to the development of a thesis prospectus by the end of the semester.  (Graduate Bulletin, pg. 70)

My Guidelines:
    Different professors develop their own approaches to sponsoring theses.  What follows outline my current guidelines.  These are subject to change.

    Time line:  Talk to me at least 18 months before you plan on graduating.  Research cannot be rushed.  Each subtask of your thesis will typically take longer than you expect.  In is important to begin PSY 791 with a clear general idea of what your project will involve.  When you complete PSY 791 (not necessarily in one semester), you want to have a complete research proposal, approval from the John Jay Institutional Review Board, and everything else that you need to begin collecting data (assuming an empirical thesis, see below).  Data collection takes a long time.  Plan on at least 6 months after you collect your data to analyze your data and to write, revise and further revise your thesis.

    Method:  In order to sponsor a thesis, I want to see a clearly defined method in the proposed research.  By method, I mean some procedure by which you can discover that you have an incorrect or defective theory or hypothesis.  The most common such method, the empirical method, allows you to test your ideas against observational data.  Another such method involves making your theory sufficiently precise that it can translated into language a computer can interpret.  In many cases, this may not require anything more sophisticated than a spreadsheet.  Using this method, you can discover either that you cannot make your theory precise or that your theory has unexpected or implausible consequences.  Another available method involves formalizing your theory in such a way that you can attempt to derive a contradiction either from your theory or from its negation.  (Non-Euclidean geometry was discovered in this fashion by a determined Euclidean attempting to refute it.)  I remain open to any variety of method, so long as it serves the above purpose.  Mechanisms for self correction play an essential role in scientific inquiry.

    Literature review:  In addition to reviewing the available research bearing on your topic, also expect to do some additional reading about the particular research method that you adopt for your research.  You should successfully complete PSY 715 before beginning the thesis.  Nonetheless, you cannot expect to get by with what you remember from an introductory research methods course.  Learning more about the method that you will use forms part of the process of doing a thesis.  I do not expect you to become an expert, but I do expect you to understand what you are doing.

    Access to data:  Access to data presents a primary concern for any empirical thesis.  We do not have a subject pool.  It is up to you to determine a means of collecting the data you need.  As one option, you can solicit volunteers.  As another, you can find a way to test a new idea against an existing data set.  As a third option, you can make use of any off campus institutional contacts that you may have.  Your sample size depends upon your research design.  Here are some general rules of thumb:  Plan on at least 100 cases in your data set.  In a design without a manipulation, plan on 30 cases per variable.  In a design with a manipulation, plan on 30 cases per level of the manipulated variable.  The more subtle the phenomenon of interest, the larger the required sample size.

My availability
    There is a limit to how many theses I can sponsor.  Nonetheless, I am willing to discuss thesis topics informally even if I do not end up sponsoring the thesis.  As a general rule, the sooner you talk to me the better.  Check with the Psychology Department for my office hours, or email me.

    Registration and Grade.  To make things easier, please register with me for PSY 791 (some professors prefer that students register with Dr. Wulach).  That way I can report your grade directly to the registrar without any intermediate steps.  Note that PSY 791 only covers the proposal stage of the thesis, not the completion of the thesis.

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