M.A. in Gerontology Program
Northeastern Illinois University
Instructor: Dr. Masami Takahashi Office: SCI. 307A
Tel: (773) 794-2884 Office Hours: Mon (5-6)
This course requires completion of assignments
designed to develop the skills gerontologists need: 1) to formulate research
questions and determine the method(s) of investigation likely to obtain
the most meaningful results; 2) to identify literature relevant to one's
study, read it critically, and summarize the pertinent findings; 3) to
collect, manage and evaluate data; 4) to organize, synthesize, and clearly
presents the research findings; and 5) to write research proposals related
As professional gerontologists, graduates of
the program will need to be current in their fields. To do so they must
read and be able to assess the value of professional literature reporting
on research in their own and other branch of gerontology (e.g., developmental,
financial, social, etc.). Most will also be called upon: to carry out theoretical
and applied research and submit the results for publication; to conduct
community and individual needs assessments to determine what services for
older adults are needed; to evaluate existing programs serving older populations;
and to write grant proposals to obtain funding for programs intended to
serve older people. Students who master the concepts and skills taught
in this course will be prepared to perform these tasks. A capstone project
(master's thesis, integrative paper, or project), is required for graduation
with an M.A. in Gerontology. It provides the opportunity for students to
demonstrate that they have become competent enough to conduct theoretical
and applied research in gerontology and report their findings in a thesis;
or to conduct research in humanistic gerontology and write an integrative
paper; or to carry out an applied project in a field setting and describe
it in a form appropriate to its content and the audience for which it is
intended. A student who has completed all of the assignments in this course
acceptably will have the conceptual framework and research tools necessary
to execute any of the three types of capstone projects. For this reason,
PSYC-AGED 408 is the prerequisite course for the Capstone Proposal Seminar,
PSYC-AGED 420, in which students design the formal proposal for their thesis,
integrative paper, or project. Mastery of the materials presented in PSYC-AGED
408 is therefore essential for successful completion of the degree requirement.
By the end of the course, students demonstrate competencies in the three domains: content, skills, and values.
In the domain of Content students will:
1. define the basic concepts used by natural scientists, social scientists, humanists and practitioners in conducting research.
2. know the strengths and weaknesses of various research designs, including true experiments, quasi-experiments, and naturalistic observations.
3. describe the respective advantages and pitfalls of different scientific methods of gathering data including: testing, written surveys, phone surveys, in-depth interviewing, life stories participants observation, and field work with groups of older people and with agencies and institutions serving older people, and explain how to determine which methods is most appropriate for a particular research undertaking.
4. describe the distinctions between the quantitative and qualitative designs and what types of research questions are best addressed by each.
5. enumerate and explain the significance of the special challenges of doing research with older people including: increased attrition by mortality and morbidity, diminishment of sensory functions, lower education and reading skills in older cohorts.
6. list and discuss the audience to be reached by each of the major means of disseminating research findings.
7. use the accepted structure (i.e., APA style) of research papers and articles in all written assignments.
8. make an oral presentation of a research proposal to the class.
In the domain of Skills students will:
1. provide written and oral analysis of gerontological research literature.
2. conduct a thorough multi disciplinary literature search on topic of choice using two or more computer databases.
3. write a literature review in the academic style found in professional gerontology journals.
In the domain of Values students will:
1. explain why well-designed, carefully conducted research accompanied by sound analyses of data and unbiased conclusions that results in published findings is critically important and to whom.
2. participate in discussions and write a position paper on the ethical
issues and behavior demanded of professional researchers including the
negative effects research that is less than conscientious can have on participants
and those that rely upon its findings.
Black, T. R. (1993). Evaluating social science research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Fowler, F. J., Jr. (1993). Survey research methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Publication manual of the American Psychological Association
(4th ed.). (1995). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS & GRADING
1) CLASS ATTENDANCE/PARTICIPATION--Every week some of you are assigned to present articles from the reading list. You are expected to not only summarize them but also generate ideas and lead group discussions (5% of final grade).
2) CLASS ASSIGNMENTS (50% of final grade):
Assignment I (Due 9/11)--5%
Assignment II (Due 9/18)--5%
Assignment III (Due 9/25)--10%
Assignment IV (Due 10/2)--10%
Assignment V (Due 10/9)--10%
Assignment VI (Due 11/6)--10%
3) IN-CLASS RESEARCH CRITIQUE QUIZ--You will read articles and criticize its design, interpretation of data, measurements, etc (11/27) (15% of your final grade).
4) FINAL PRESENTATION (12/4 & 11) (10% of final grade).
5) RESEARCH PROPOSAL PAPER--Using what you developed from past assignments
in this semester, write a research proposal paper. The proposal must include:
a) Cover page
b) Introduction--integrated literature review using at least 15 articles. Include problem statements, study objectives, and research hypotheses.
c) Methods--participants' characteristics, material or instrument description (reliability and validity), and procedure (administration and recruitment processes).
d) Analyses--use of particular statistical analyses.
The paper format must follow the APA manual and should be no longer
than 10 pages, excluding cover page, references, and appendices. Due on
or before 7pm, December 11th (20% of final grade).
*Late submission is penalized each week by subtracting a letter grade from the grade of that assignment (NO EXCEPTIONS).
Class Assignment I: Read Overton's papers (1991; 1998), and make comments or pose questions with regard to research designs/methods (2-page maximum plus an APA style cover page and REFERENCES).
9/4 LABOR DAY (NO CLASS)
9/11 METATHEORETICAL AND THEORETICAL FOUNDATION
Overton, W. F. (1991). Historical and contemporary
perspectives on developmental theory and research strategies.
In R. Downs, L. Liben & D. Palermo (Eds.), The legacy of
Joachim F. Wohlwill (pp.263-311). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
-Consider the ways in which general assumptions that are metatheoretical in nature influence research strategies and methods (esp. pp. 300-311).
Overton, W. F. (1998). Developmental psychology:
Philosophy, concepts, and methodology. In W. Damon (Series Ed.)
& R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. I
Theoretical model of human development (5th ed., pp. 107-188).
New York: Wiley (Read only pp. 154-176).
-Proposes a contemporary relational methodology that is different from the traditional (Bacon-Newtonian) Split position.
Class Assignment II: Pick a general area of professional interest that excites you and that you are willing to work on throughout the term. Generate at least five possible questions or hypotheses that are either theoretical or applied. Play with them, talk to people, and keep the research goal modest. Write one concise page on each question. Remember, all writing assignments must be typed, double spaced and in accordance with the APA style. We will critique them in class. Due September 18.
9/18 American Psychological Association Board of Scientific Affairs (1999). Statistical methods in psychological journals. American Psychologist, 54(8), 594-604.
Achenbach, T. (1978). Research in developmental
psychology: Concepts, strategies, and methods (Read only Ch. 2
& 3). New York: The Free Press.
-"Theoretical concepts and assumptions guide the goals, choice of variables, procedures, methods of analysis and conclusions of all research" (p.19).
Baltes, P. , & Cornelius, S. W. (1977). The status of dialectics in developmental psychology: Theoretical orientation versus scientific method. In Life-span developmental psychology: Dialectical perspectives on experimental research (pp.121-134).
-Discusses the importance of "dialectics" in developmental psychology and clarifies its status as a specific methodology or as a general theoretical orientation.
Class Assignment III: Narrow down your general interests and select 1-2 specific aging topics you would be interested in researching. Write these topics down with a short explanation of your research interests (1-2 page). Try also to generate "key words" associated with each topic. Bring this list to the next class. We will search them in the database at the library and evaluate the feasibility of your research. Due September 25th.
9/25 LIBRARY RESEARCH: THE LOGIC OF SEARCHING DATABASE
Black, Ch1 & 2.
Fowler, Ch1 & 2.
Class Assignment IV: Select a minimum of 10 articles pertinent to your research. Identify the primary constructs and explain how the author(s) intends to measure them. Write a paragraph on each construct (with APA style REFERENCE page) for presenting them in class. Due October 2nd.
10/2 INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH STRATEGIES
Black, Ch3 & 4.
Fowler, Ch 4.
Achenbach, T. (Chapter 4).
-Movement to the context of justification. Operational definitions. Reliability and validity. Experiments and correlations.
Class Assignment V: Write 1-2 page summary each for 5 primary articles you have selected with regard to the issues of validity and reliability. Due October 9.
Class Assignment VI: Develop or locate data collection instruments that you intend to use for your study. This can be a questionnaire, an interview schedule, an observation technique or tool, etc. Issues of operationalizing your key concepts, validity, and reliability need to be addressed. 1-2 pages (For extra 5 points--Pilot test your instrument or measure on 3+ people of the target sample and report what you learned. Include a copy of your measure with the paper). Due November 6th.
10/9 INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH DESIGNS
Black, Ch.5, 6, & 7.
10/16 GENERATIVITY CLUB MEETING
10/23 Black, Ch.8.
Fowler, Ch. 5 & 6.
Campbell, D. T. & Stanley, J. C. (1963). Experimental
and quasi-experimental designs for research (pp.1-37). Chicago:
Rand McNally & Company.
-Considerations of internal and external validity and how to deal with them.
Schaie, K. W. (1978). External validity in the assessment
of intellectual development in adulthood. Journal of Gerontology,
-The issue of external validity specific to aging research.
Schaie, K. W. (1977). Quasi-experimental research designs
in the psychology of aging. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie
(Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging (39-58). NY: Van Nostrand.
-Description of various quasi-experimental designs including threats to their internal and external validity.
Cooney, T. M., Schaie, K. W. , & Willis, S. L. (1988).
The relationship between prior functioning on cognitive and
personality dimensions and subject attrition in longitudinal research.
of Gerontology, 43(1), 12-17.
-Focuses on an issue of experimental mortality.
10/30 ETHICAL ISSUES IN CONDUCTING RESEARCH
Lidsey, R. T. (1984). Informed consent and deception in psychotherapy research: An ethical analysis. The Counseling Psychologist, 12(3), 79-86.
Rosnow, R. (1997). Hedgehogs, foxes, and the evolving social contract in psychological science: Ethical challenges and methodological opportunities. Psychological Methods, 2(4), 345-346.
Schaie, W. (1988). Ageism in psychological research.
American Psychologist, 43 (3), 179-183.
-Suggests implications of ageist bias in psychological research.
*Make individual research meeting appointment.
11/6 Individual Research Meeting.
(Critique exercise articles distributed)
11/13 Research critique exercise.
11/20 GSA CONFERENCE
11/27 Research critique quiz.
12/4 Class presentation.
12/11 Class presentation.
Final Paper Due By 7PM.
[More Suggested Readings]
Brooks-Gun, J., Phelps, E., & Elder, G. H. (1991). Studying lives through time: Secondary data analyses in developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 27 (6), 899-910.
Hedricks, J. (1996). Qualitative research: Contributions and advances. In R. H. Binstock & L. K. George (Eds.), Handbook of aging and social sciences (4th ed., pp. 52-72). NY: Academic Press.
McCall, R. B., & Applebaum, M I. (1991). Some issues of conducting secondary analyses. Developmental Psychology, 27 (6), 911-917.
Rushton, J. P., Brainerd, C., & Pressley, M. (1983).
Behavioral development and construct validity: The principle of
-An advantage of multiple measurements as a more stable and representative estimator.
Sterns, H. L., & Alexander, R. A. (1977). Cohort, age,
and time of measurement: Biomorphic considerations. In N. Datan
& H.W. Reese(Eds.), Life-span developmental psychology:
Dialectic perspectives on experimental research (pp.105-119).
NY: Academic Press.
-An example of the 70's intervention-oriented "phase III" perspective.
Woodruff-Pak, D. (1989). Aging and intelligence: Changing
perspectives in the twentieth century. Journal of Aging
Studies, 3(2), 91-118.
-Proposes an evolving pattern of aging and intelligence research during the twentieth century.