From Start to Finish: What Goes Into a Study -- Day 2 - 7



If you haven't read FSTF Day 1, check it out here!

Check out the next post, Day 27.

Day 2 - 7: Downtime/Waiting

Week one of IRB waiting comes upon us here. This is clearly expected for a multitude of reasons: 1) the proposal will go to full committee review because of the inclusion of children participants, 2) summer generally tends towards slower reviews since committee members may take some time off in the summer (can't blame 'em, it's beautiful here in the summer), 3) our particular IRB is long and includes multiple studies with multiple changes to protocol and 4) the inclusion of new researchers and research assistants on this IRB requires our new researchers and RAs to take an IRB certification course -- which could take a few days on its own.

The Utah State University IRB has varied, says people in my lab. Some reviews were returned in a week. Some are returned in a few weeks. It seems it has never gone longer than a month. But in a month's time, I'll be doing courses and I really wanted to get the first part of my study (the behavioral aspects) hammered out before courses started.

Tweaking the stimuli is a team effort. I'm hunting for regions of interest involving human cooperation via electroencephalography but before I begin the hunt, I want to make sure I can replicate previous cooperation studies and also make sure those tests are reliable within and between subjects. So a pilot for me is ten participants, each engaging in a classic task that's known to engender cooperation strategies and a classic task that's known to engender defecting strategies. If the two classic tasks reveal similar data across all participants, then we'll be set to jet. However, if the data doesn't come out, then I'll have to either modify the conditions in my stimuli or find a new task altogether.

Of course, I can't do any of this until the IRB comes in.

Combating Downtime With Other Projects and Literature Review

Literature review is a good way to fill the gap of not doing the study I've proposed.

Luckily, you're usually working on more than one project at any given time in a lab. Even when you enter a lab. The first things the lab manager or grad students or post-docs or advisors will have you do is learn how to proctor the current studies being conducted. This has never changed in any lab I've been in.

At the moment, I'm helping run studies and process data in our NIRS lab. The jump from EEG data analysis to NIRS data analysis isn't too bad -- if you learn one instrument, the other instrument is quick to pick up.

Extremely General Materials (read: software) List

I'll be going more in-depth with the study once data has been collected and analyzed. I'll be sharing the materials I used to run the experiments and analyze the data fairly openly here on my blog as well as other reputable places to store code and data. For now, here are the general materials I'll be using:

Excel (or OpenCalc depending on where I am)
Some sort of EEG data visualizer. EEGLab is alright but I'd like to step into some other visualization program for this project.

Sorry for the not-so-informative post. Just wanted to give everyone interested a heads-up on current progress.

I guess if there aren't major breakthroughs, I'll update once a week.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, friends.

Check out the next post, Day 27.

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