[Fall 2000]


 Research Methods
 Fall 2000

 M.A. in Gerontology Program
 Northeastern Illinois University

Instructor: Dr. Masami Takahashi   Office: SCI. 307A
Tel: (773) 794-2884      Office Hours: Mon (5-6)
e-mail: m-takahashi@neiu.edu


     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 to aging.


     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.


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.
 e) References

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 Schedule


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).



    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).

  [Suggested readings]
   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.


   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.


   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.


   Black, Ch.5, 6, & 7.


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.

  [Suggested readings]

   Schaie, K. W. (1978). External validity in the assessment of intellectual development in adulthood. Journal of   Gerontology, 33(5), 695-701.
  -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. Journal of Gerontology, 43(1), 12-17.
  -Focuses on an issue of experimental mortality.


   Fowler, Ch9.

   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.


11/27 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   aggregation.
  -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.