The Research Process

Last Saturday, the Association for Psychology Undergraduates held a Research Symposium where students from UC Berkeley’s Psychology, Business, and Education departments presented the results of their research projects on topics ranging from the physiology of emotions, to buying behaviors, to the influence of ‘gamified’ pedagogies on equity access in the classroom.

Prof. Stephen Hinshaw of UC Berkeley’s Psychology department acted as the keynote speaker. The topic of his talk was ‘The Research Process’. Most of the time, when learning about what it takes to conduct good research, people talk about objectivity, narrowing down your topic to a specific, testable hypothesis, and meticulously control of every aspect of your study design in order to isolate variables and reach strong conclusions. While all of these are indeed very essential skills for conducting quality research, what is less talked about is the discovery phase of research.


How do researchers come up with great questions in the first place? What inspires students and professors to spend years, whole careers even, trying to answer that one, burning question? Prof. Hinshaw argued that many of the aspects that we have to eliminate in the evaluation phase of research—such as passion and subjective experience—are actually what we need in the discovery phase of research. Often personal experience, whether a simple observation, death of a loved one, or caring for a mentally ill relative, can inspire us to ask questions that generate new hypotheses and research projects. Having a personal connection to and passion for our work is what keeps researchers going through the long, arduous process of conducting meticulous and careful research. Prof. Hinshaw shared some of his personal experience that inspired him to study clinical psychology and stigma towards mental illness. Whether it’s through an internship, volunteering as a research assistant in a lab, or taking a class on a topic that piques your interest, Prof. Hinshaw encouraged students to use subjective experience to learn about their interests and passions in the discovery phase of research; which, for most of us, is what undergraduate research is all about.

What are some of the personal experiences that you’ve had that inspired you to do research? What are you passionate about? Tells us in the comments below!

The Association for Psychology Undergraduates Research Symposium was held on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

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