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The Benefits of Being a Research Participant

BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student
Nichola Burns, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student

This post is from Nichola Burns, a third year undergraduate BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student at Salford.  In this post, Nichola reflects on her time as an undergraduate and the benefits of participating in research during her studies.

The Benefits of being a Research Participant

When you enter your psychology degree, research designs and methods will not be as familiar to you as they are when you leave.  One sure fire way to gain an in-depth knowledge of research is to participate in research that is being carried out in the university.  The psychology department uses a system called SONA, which is software that enables you to create experiments and take part in research.  On SONA, you are given some information before you apply to participate.   SONA also means that you can experience a range of different studies in order to gain a deeper understanding of psychology.   You can also choose to take part in experiments from one area of psychology.  We all have a dissertation to think about and prepare for, and participating in studies in your chosen area can fill you with ideas.  Also in psychology, you can take part in research that is going on in the psychology department whether this is quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods.

For me, participating in research offers the following advantages: 

  • You get to keep information sheets which you can use to inform your future research assignments.
  • You get to see the questions typically asked on consent forms and possible variables.
  • Participating in experiments helps bring to life the journal papers you will be reading, and adds strength to all your assignments.
  • When filling out other people’s questionnaires, electronic or hard copy, you really get a sense of how much you are willing to complete them. 
  • You can gain an understanding of how to compile surveys for testing new concepts and bringing together two or more concepts.
  • You can gain knowledge of the strengths and limitations of research methods.
  • Being tested on offers insight into your thoughts as a participant. This means you may be more able to anticipate what participants will be thinking when running your own experiments. 
  • When you get to the 3rd year, you will be better prepared to keep participants’ attention and attain quality data. 
  • The Psychology labs are full of equipment that can be used for testing.  You can get a feel for what is really possible when participating in the lab.
  • You can get to see how researchers are adding new equipment or adapting older pieces to current studies. You can see what others are testing and the innovations they perform in testing.
  • Again you get to see the limitations, adaptations and complexities of lab testing first hand.
  • When using this equipment in your dissertation you will be able to understand what it feels like, how it affects performance and if it is compatible with your dissertation study.
  • You can gain a better understanding of participant bias.

Your aim is to have the best knowledge you can gain for your dissertation and one of the best ways to achieve this goal is to become a participant.  Afterwards, you can ask the researcher questions be it methodology, the effect they are testing for, or other papers in the subject area. I am sure they will not mind, everyone answered my questions!    This knowledge adds to your ability to carry out research that is interesting, fun and worthwhile.”

If you have any questions about this post, you can contact Nichola by email: n.burns@edu.salford.ac.uk

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