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Social Psychology Students Team up with Residence Life for Research Project

Apr 09, 2013

A capstone research project taken on by two fourth-year social psychology honours students could change the way McMaster University’s Residence Life team communicates with students.

Arinola Akinbobola and Sahana Sivakumaran teamed up with the University’s Residence Life team to study how adolescents – specifically first-year University students living in residence  - prefer to communicate with a cell phone. 

“After meeting with the McMaster Housing and Conference services, we collectively decided to allow them to run and access our survey, as the first-year student sample will allow them to have a better idea of how new generations of McMaster students think, act, and communicate,” says Akinbobola.

The two undergraduate researchers, who will be in McMaster University’s first-ever graduating social psychology class, provided McMaster Housing and Conference Services with a questionnaire that was then sent out to 200 first-year students living in residences.

Students were asked what their preferred method of communication is for different groups of people, including friends and family, when they felt compelled to use their phone and how they preferred to receive information that could be perceived as good or bad.

“Students are our job,” says Brittany Gawley, manager of student leadership and learning. “A big first step to doing our job is by knowing how the students like to communicate. Hopefully the information we collect through this study will help our staff reach students in a way that has impact.”

The cell phone communication study is just one of several capstone research projects being undertaken by fourth-year social psychology students, which will incorporate several areas studied in McMaster’s Social Psychology Honours Program.

Other projects include investigating International students’ sense of connectedness to McMaster University, investigating the factors that hinder as well as complement the development of interracial relationships and researching how undergraduate females’ roommates, influence the perception of their own body image.

Students were tasked with forming their own groups, creating their own research questions and following ethical research standards.

“I found that the interview itself was definitely the most appealing part of the research process, as myself and my other three group members are very interested in this topic,” says Sarah Bonn, who is a member of the group investigating how undergraduate females’ roommates influence the perception of their body image. “It was very compelling to ask another female questions relating to this topic, one-on-one in a secure environment.”

Dr. Leanne Joanisse designed the course to include a research project so students would get this type of experience to further prepare them for either employment or graduate school.

“This project has allowed the students to learn how to collect data and refine their research skills,” says Dr. Joanisse, adding the teamwork skills developed will be appreciated by employers.

All capstone research was presented during an April 5 event that was attended by both Dean Charlotte Yates and Associate Dean Lori Campbell.