Empirical Study Requirement
m.a. in applied developmental psychology
Instructions for the Empirical Study Requirement of the Master’s Degree in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology Boston College Lynch School of Education
The purpose of the Empirical Study is to demonstrate proficiency in developing, conducting, and writing up an original empirical research study in the field of Applied Development and Educational Psychology, under the supervision of a core program faculty member. The Empirical Study option serves as the comprehensive exam in the Master’s program in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology. This option will be undertaken by students in the Developmental Research focus area, in coordination with the Research Internship.
The Nature of the Study
The Empirical Study will be led by the student, but will be developed and conducted under the supervision of a program faculty member in conjunction with the student’s Research Internship and PY714. Most Master’s Empirical Studies will be developed to use the faculty member’s existing data, or to collect data in collaboration with or as an add-on to current research efforts of the faculty member. Students should bear in mind in considering research topics that these should fit within the research expertise and interests of the faculty. A variety of research methods are appropriate possibilities for the Empirical Study, including survey, experimental, participatory action, and other quantitative and qualitative methods.
The Empirical Study needs to be conducted to conform with the ethical guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA). If appropriate, the study (either individually or under the auspices of the supervising faculty member’s research program) must also receive human subjects approval from Boston College (www.bc.edu/research/oric/human.html).
The Empirical Study will be written up following the guidelines of the APA style manual (available in O'Neill Library or online at www.apa.org). The aim is a research paper of presentable quality. Students are encouraged to submit their paper to a professional conference and/or journal. Papers average approximately 30 pages in length, inclusive of tables and references.
Procedures: Semester Prior to Graduation
Beginning at least one semester prior to the semester of graduation, students in the Developmental Research Focus Area must register for PY714 and gain a research internship placement with a program faculty member. This will include a research internship of 10 hours per week for one semester or 5 hours per week for the entire academic year. During the first semester of the research internship, the student should select a topic and begin to design their Empirical Study. From this initial planning, each student should prepare a 2 – 3 page proposal which outlines the proposed empirical study. This proposal should delineate the theoretical and empirical rationale for the study, the specific research question(s) and hypotheses which will be assessed, and the methods which will be employed for collecting and analyzing the data. A preliminary bibliography of at least 10 key sources should be included with the proposal.
After completion of the initial proposal and reference list, each student should meet with the Program Coordinator and their Research Internship supervisor to discuss their proposal. The faculty members may request revisions to the Empirical Study Proposal prior to its final acceptance. It is expected that the Empirical Study will be conducted under the supervision of the faculty member with whom the student completes her or his Research Internship, except under unusual circumstances.
Semester of Graduation
Register for PY 888 Comprehensive Exam for the semester in which you plan to complete your Empirical Study. This should be the final semester of the Master’s program, with graduation occurring at the conclusion of this semester.
Complete the Critical Literature Review/Empirical Study Form, which requires the signatures of both the Supervisor and the Program Coordinator. Also complete a Transaction form (application to take the comprehensive exam and to graduate). Submit these two forms, as well as a copy of your Program of Study, to the Dean’s Office for Students and Outreach, Campion 104. Deadlines for the submission of these forms are April 1 for summer graduation, September 5 for winter graduation, and February 1 for spring graduation.
Please note that different types of empirical studies take varying levels of time and commitment. The proposal and form deadlines are developed to be consistent across all Master’s students in the Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology program. Students completing the Empirical Study option may well require substantially more time to complete their study, and hence are strongly encouraged to complete and receive approval on their proposal prior to the listed deadline.
Completion of Study and Grading Structure
The Empirical Study is due to the Supervisor by the Submission Deadline noted (May 15 for summer graduation, October 25 for winter graduation, and March 15 for spring graduation). The Empirical Study may receive a grade of Pass, Pass with Distinction, or Fail. However, candidates should be aware that supervisors often require a revision before assigning a final grade. For this reason, the required deadlines allow time for revision. If a revision is required, the revised Review must be handed in by the Revisions Deadline noted (June 30 for summer, December 1 for winter, and April 25 for spring graduation). Assuming a passing grade, the Supervisor must submit a Comprehensive Exam Report at least two weeks prior to graduation in order for the program requirements to be met.
If a student receives a grade of Fail on the Empirical Study, s/he will not meet the requirements for graduation. Per university policy, a student who fails her/his comprehensive exam (Empirical Study) is entitled to take the exam one additional time. That is, following feedback from the Supervisor, a student is entitled to complete one additional revision of the Empirical Study, which must be submitted within one year (by the Revisions Deadline the following calendar year). If undertaking a revision following an initial failure, a student must once again register for PY888 and submit the appropriate forms in the semester in which s/he plans to complete the Empirical Study and graduate. This final revision will again receive a grade of Pass, Pass with Distinction, or Fail.