William Zak: Having Patience with the Research Process

Research is a process. This has been my main takeaway from my IDEA Grant experience thus far. I submitted my first research proposal to Florida State’s Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects Research on May 21. Two weeks later, I was assigned several points of modification to both the proposal, as well as the informed consent form. The majority of the modifications were straightforward – I had to add additional names to the listed investigators line, edit certain phrases, and add a debriefing form. The most complicated modification was a request for the submission of a HIT form for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. I was unfamiliar with this document, so I contacted Alex Martin, the graduate student with whom I work. When he and his other peers were also unfamiliar with a HIT form, we had to reach out to others within the IRB for more guidance. Correspondence with several different people was needed to complete this task, which took time. Furthermore, Alex and I set up a meeting with the professor that reviewed my project to confirm that we were making the appropriate changes. After this, I was finally able to resubmit on June 30. Currently, approval of the modifications is still pending. 

William Zak

           In addition to modifying the proposal, I have spent the past month creating the Qualtrics survey that would be used for data collection. I initially had anticipated that this would not consume a significant amount of time. However, this too was a process. The first task was to determine which measures would be included in the questionnaire battery. Over 20 established measures used to evaluate the behavior and psychological functioning of individuals were carefully selected. Next, we had to draft questions that related specifically to my research interests related to exercise, electronic device use, and skill learning. Then, I input these questions into Qualtrics and determined the question format that would be the most user-friendly, whether this would be using individual multiple-choice questions, a question matrix, or another question type. After this step, I had to decide how to best organize the question inventories. Initially, they were added from a list in alphabetical order. The first measure on the list related to one’s capability for self-harm. This is a more intense measure that can be troubling to participants, so it is not an appropriate inventory to begin the questionnaire. The final step before publishing the Qualtrics form was also the most tedious. For computerized data analysis to occur, responses to different questions need appropriate values. It was necessary for me to assign appropriate values for each listed repone to each question on the survey. 

           While I have at points felt that my research has been delayed and that I am behind my initial goals for this project, I have realized that this is not the case. Because it is a collaborative process that requires the input of many different people from the beginning to the end of the project, research takes time to plan, execute, and share. I have enjoyed talking to and learning from the others involved in polishing my IRB proposal, as I have learned about how to best recruit, communicate with, and maximize the safety and privacy of individuals participating in my project. It is most important that each project is done safely and effectively than it is that it is done quickly. This experience has taught me to be patient and trust the process, and to not become discouraged when my original time goals have not been met. Although I have not yet been able to collect data, I have enjoyed this research project and have developed a better understanding of what it means to be a research scientist. 

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