Studies Pre-Grad Intern) Senior
Imagine landing on a different planet with territories, boundaries, and rules unknown to you. Slowly, this planet no longer looks different, instead you are surprised by how progressively you adapted. As a result, you start feeling comfortable to explore this knew unknown area, of course, with the guidance of its inhabitants. Okay, back to reality. This metaphoric example represents the IE program and its limitless discoveries made by an undergraduate, like myself, with the proper guidance of graduate student mentors and the organization set by its leaders. Students hear about the masters program and might be under the impression that it's a simple step up from undergrad, at least I know I did. How much different could it be? The IE program opened up my eyes to many situations grad students deal with, such as choosing the best school, the right program, taking the GRE, getting accepted, getting financial aid, having the proper advisor, picking a research topic or focus, and balancing life with the study work load - that is to just name a few. I was very lucky, because I was able to work with a grad mentor who had another mentee. Therefore, I was given the opportunity to not only gain, but also share my experience on a more regular basis than the monthly meetings. The internship focused on four main areas: statistical analysis, research, interviews, and exploration.
My grad mentor, James, showed us how to collect statistical data. He said, for each type of research there are various methods. Either you device a sample survey yourself, or look at significant studies and use their tests. Collecting data is followed by formatting it into categories. For example, category A, B, C, and D each have subcategories. Things get complicated with the increase of dependent variables in the experiment. These categories are what the experimenter is measuring. For instance, the survey might have about 40 questions; half are coded and tend to be the reverse of the first 20 questions. This is to measure any inaccuracies from the participant, in a way to figure out if the participant just went down the list and filled in all fours (on a scale from 1-7). The final steps are associated with calculations. Once the data is collected and formatted into the proper sections, the grad student takes the information and starts to calculate the alpha or the reliability. Then the experimenter would make graphs and charts as well as tables and figures. From these calculations the grad student draws his/her conclusion. You might be thinking, how tedious it is to count hundreds of surveys, and make calculations. Well, it is not that complicated with the help of an awesome computer program that does all that work; it works similar to a excel spreadsheet, but is designed for statistical data. The program is worth every penny! The grad mentor explained, with the program he has more time to evaluate the information gathered and draw conclusions for discussions, than sitting for hours counting participants' answers by hand.
After we had an understanding of how data is gathered and analyzed, James gave us the opportunity to do some research on our own. He gave us research topics, such as attention bias, and asked us to look for various things in the empirical and/or quantitative studies. We had to look for the alpha, the factors, the number of items, the tests used to measure, and programs that might help with that particular research and/or other useful information. We had a goal of 10 articles. Finding articles with a reliability of 95% or greater was hard, and quickly noticed that some of the experiments, even though had a low alpha were still published in journals. Also, I learned that the articles are usually structured in the same manner: abstract, introduction, method, procedure, discussion, and results. The main important aspect acknowledged from the research task, was realizing how much effort someone puts in arguing a specific hypothesis or attempting to enhance the information in previous works. A lot of time, effort, and dedication are put in accomplishing such a task.
Some research involves having to administer face-to-face interviews with participants. James set up interviews, which we (his mentees) were allowed to observe. James is exploring on/off-again relationships. He is particularly looking at when and why a couple break-up, the rules set after the break-up, and the renewal process (getting back into the same relationship). Observing the interviews made the theories I read about in my personal communication class come to life. As a broadcast journalism student, I conducted many interviews for stories. It was a bit difficult not being the one asking the questions, because I have taken that role for the past two years, however very educational and rewarding. For my journalism interviews, I usually prepare a set of questions (about five) and then during the interview I ask a lot more, bouncing off of the interviewee's answers. James had a list of questions and an order (the same as you would see in a survey). Instead of the interviewee filling out a survey online the questions were asked verbally giving the interviewee a chance to elaborate on his/her experience. At the end of the interview James asked the interview subject to fill out a questionnaire (this is to test the accuracy of the interview - kind of like a placebo in psychological experiment). For some interviews, he would give the questionnaire in the beginning and for some at the end. Supplying the questions at the end tends to be better, because the interviewee won't anticipate any questions. Overall, both methods work well. You really can learn a lot from people. People want to talk, and in some cases accepting to be interviewed is their only portal to express their opinion-to be heard.
Finally, we were given a chance to explore on our own and report back to James with any findings and or questions about graduate school. Any question we had, anything new we thought of, classes we wanted to visit, professors we wanted to talk toJames was always willing to help guide us in the right direction. Complementary to what we did with our mentor, the exploration assignments due at each monthly meeting, as well as the meetings, also contributed to a clearer understanding of grad school. For example, the task in which each mentee had to interview a graduate professor was a worthwhile experience. First, because each professor has a well of knowledge to share and advice to give and second, you would be meeting a faculty member that you, more than likely, have future interactions with and maybe study in the same department.
James figured out clever ways of showing us, the perhaps hidden secrets or methods grad students have to undergo, instead of just simply telling us the depths of what they experience. The IE program has opened my eyes and taught me how huge of a commitment grad school really is-at first I started worrying whether or not applying was the right decision, but gradually I knew that all I needed now to succeed was determination and dedication. It turns out that applying is the easiest part of the graduate processes. I wish I had taken this internship during the fall semester, because I had already applied and asked many of the questions addressed in the meetings; however there were many things I still didn't know and learning through other people's experience is very beneficial. Even though I asked many questions about grad school before the internship, it wasn't until the internship that the actual reality of graduate programs was truly revealed.