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Thesis Research Project

Overall Purpose: The overall purpose of conducting research in education is to guide school psychologists in the process of employing evidence-based practices in educational settings. One of the primary roles of school psychologists is to evaluate research findings, translate these findings to practice, pursue action research, and conduct investigations and program evaluations for effective service delivery with children. To help achieve these ends, the student will be involved in a research project that is associated with the field of school psychology and contributes to their development as an applied scientist-practitioner in school psychology.

Early Steps Toward Research: Early in the program, students will have the opportunity to interact with school psychology and other departmental faculty regarding current faculty research as well as their own interests in the field of school psychology. Selecting a topic and thesis advisor is an important first step in the process. It is our strong recommendation that you begin exploring potential topics for your thesis as early as you can within the program. Talking to faculty and finding out about their interests is an ideal way to become familiar with a variety of potential thesis topics. Faculty can often provide higher quality guidance and feedback when they have expertise or knowledge in the topic, although many faculty members are willing to consider other topics as well. Overall, it is suggested that each student attempt to identify a topic of interest that is aligned with ongoing faculty research projects, existing student research, and/or that mirrors unique interests or knowledge of at least one faculty member you could ask to be on your committee. It is important to focus on research that is practical and feasible to be completed during your program. Faculty members can help to guide you in this area. It is entirely acceptable to explore a few potential topics early on before settling on one. You also may want to talk to current and former students to explore the variety of topics that have been studied in the past. To be able to conduct research with human subjects while at the University, it is imperative that all students go through Human Subjects training through the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB at Miami has a two-component educational program for addressing federal and university policies regarding the protection of research subjects. Each student should take this coursework during her or his first semester in the program. Information about this process can be gained through a faculty member or online http://www.units.miamioh.edu/compliance/irb/irb_training.htm

Student Collaboration for Thesis Projects: Students do have the option to choose to work collaboratively with one or more students on their thesis. When permitted by the thesis committee chair, this allows for the collection of more (and often better quality) data. However, each student needs to have unique research questions and write their proposal and final thesis independently. If you want to pursue this option, you will need to talk with faculty more about the possibility and be sure that such a proposition is deemed acceptable.

Course Sequence for Research Development: The school psychology program is developmental and attempts to provide formative courses to help you develop as a scientist-practitioner who can conduct research that is applied and pertinent to the field. For instance, during the first semester of the first year, all students will take a course in Educational Research (EDP 651) that will help them to understand the research process and to develop a line of inquiry that may be pursued for a thesis topic. In the following semester, students will then take a statistics course (EDP 667) to help build their knowledge for the type of measurement and statistical analyses needed for conducting formal and applied action research agendas. Then, in the first summer of courses they take, students will encounter the research seminar course (EDP 652) which is designed to help them further address the procedures and particulars of the thesis project, as well as allow students to hear about current school psychology faculty research. EDP 652 along with EDP 800 provide students course credit for conducting their thesis research. Students are assigned a ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Unsatisfactory’ grade according to the advisor’s evaluation of progress toward task completion. Once the thesis is successfully defended, course credit for the final EDP 800 course taken is provided.

Additional Supports: Take advantage of computer-based supports such as the free online reference citation manager and access tool such as Mendeley http://www.mendeley.com. In addition, the King library, Howe Writing Center, and other faculty are additional potential sources of support. For APA style support, you should obtain a copy of the latest APA publication manual. In addition, you can contact specialists at the Howe Writing Center or use a reference such as the Purdue Online Writing Lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/664/01/. We also recommend that you read several completed theses (available through Ohio Link Electronic Theses and Dissertation Center) and talk with former or current students who have completed their theses. Finally, we hope your cohort will provide each other with encouragement along the way…you can be each other’s support network!

Topic Appropriateness and Suitability: Examples of types of research that are often acceptable (depending on topic, advisor preference, etc.) include: experiments, quasi-experiments, correlational studies, action research, single-subject designs, surveys, meta-analyses, content analyses, archival studies, and qualitative (e.g., interviews, focus groups) studies. Other types of research may also be acceptable. Literature reviews alone are not considered acceptable for the thesis.