How should I approach a research vignette?

Information on research, statistics and publications - tips including how to recruit participants, gain funding, understand your results and get them published.
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How should I approach a research vignette?

Post by Ruthie » Sun Mar 25, 2007 4:31 pm

Research vignettes are questions such as, “Studies have shown that therapeutic alliance predicts outcome to psychotherapy in adult populations. How would you test this for children?” They are quite common in interviews for clinical doctorate courses, but you might come across them in interviews for research assistant or research orientated assistant psychologist positions.

They seem to strike dread and fear into the most confident of applicants! So, how might you deal with them?

First things first, stay calm, and your first thought should not be “ARGH, STATISTICS!!!” Remember, there is a lot more to research methods than statistics.

1. What is the theory? You may not know a lot about this. But, for the above example the theory might be that therapeutic alliance is key to the success of therapy. You may have a bit more meat than that, for example, cognitive theory, behaviourism, social constuctivism, systemic theory…

2. What are you hypotheses, or research questions for qualitative research? (These should be based on the theory.) Whatever you do, keep these simple and don’t get your head tied up in knots about statistics just yet.

3. Based on your hypotheses, how will you design the study? Compare two groups? Look at the correlations between two or more variables? Longitudinal or cross sectional design?

4. How will you measure the key constructs? Questionnaires (How will you select them – on the basis of previous literature establishing their reliability & validity? Adapting established questionnaires for use in a particular population?) Cognitive experiments? Behavioural experiments? Participant observation? Physiological measures? Interviews? Focus groups? Again, be thinking about whether you can used established methods or whether you will have to develop your own and how you will go about doing that. If you are designing your own measure, you may need to think about how you will examine its reliability and validity. Its fine to say you would go to the literature and find out what is available if you aren’t familiar with the area.

5. How will you collect data? Through clinics, undergraduate students, support groups, the internet? How many participants will you need (although in an interview situation, you can’t do a power analysis, you can show your awareness of the need to recruit an adquate sample size to carry out your chosen statistical analysis). You might also want to think about practical issues related to recruitment.

7. How will you analyse your data? Remember, don’t panic! Do you want to compare groups, correlate variables…etc. etc. etc. Should you use a t-test, an ANOVA, regression analysis? Concentrate on getting the key concepts right in your head and putting that across rather than using impressive sounding phrases like, “Two-way, mixed cross-over longitudinal design…er no, that’s a…” ;). This might help you in thinking about stats <<insert link to stats wiki here>>

8. Finally, there are another issues to consider. How are your results likely to be relevant to clinical practice? What are the ethical issues with your study and how will you deal with them? What practicalities do you need to consider (e.g. recruitment, time, resources, money, facilities etc.)?

When you're on the spot, its fine to think out loud, consider a number of options and weigh them up - sometimes interviewers might be as interested in your thought processes as in your answers.

And remember...the good news is, its not just about the stats :mrgreen:

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Re: How should I approach a research vignette?

Post by attishu » Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:53 pm

Great post, really helpful thnx Ruthie!

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