Music, Memory, and (project) Management: Two students share their thoughts

Ideospectus blog is a community noticeboard, so one of my goals is to bring research to the community’s notice. In that spirit, I am joined by two students who are studying psychology at the Honours (4th year) level at the University of New England, Australia (UNE).

The two students, Paul Godfrey and Melissa Cox, are running online surveys to inform their research projects. This is an important professional development milestone for them, and a requirement of their course. They are allowed only a limited time to collect and analyse survey data, then must report their findings as part of a thesis that they will submit for examination later in the year.

The brief interview that follows serves two purposes: (1) to exemplify the diversity and high potential for meaningful contribution that student research in an Australian regional university has to offer; (2) to allow the students to invite you to their voluntary surveys.

If you are an Australian resident, please consider participating in each. This will be immensely appreciated by Paul and Melissa, and also, will give you some hands-on experience of what a student university project can look like. Details are in the links below, or you can click on the students’ names, above. If you cannot or do not want to participate, please feel free to share the links (or this post) with your Australian peers – thank you in advance.

‘Behind the curtain’: Investigating Australian Musicians’ sleep disturbance, mental health supports and depression

UNE human research ethics committee (HREC) approval no: HE18-081

Hello Paul. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself, and your journey into the world of psychological research?

Hi Justin. I’ve been working as a behaviour clinician for many years, working mainly in the areas of disability and mental health. In the last few years I decided to return to studies to pursue a new career path in psychology. This current research project is part of my fourth years honours thesis and has given me the opportunity to combine all the elements of psychological research in an area that I have always been interested in.

Your project title suggests you’re interested in studying Australian musicians. Could you please tell us why?

I have always had a keen interest in music and the people that make it. This project really stemmed from my curiosity in the public versus private experiences of musicians’ lives, particularly in the area of mental health. In addition, the more I read the more I realised that understanding these experiences, particularly in Australia, is still in its infancy. Previous studies have suggested that anxiety and depression in particular, within the industry, remains a significant concern and I am hoping that this research will add to these findings and continue to highlight the importance of improving the mental health supports of our country’s musicians.

Are non-musicians allowed to take part in your survey too?

Yes, I am interested in hearing of the experiences of both musicians and non-musicians who are 18 years of age or older and Australian residents. For the purpose of this study, the musicians I am focusing on are those who work within non-classical musical genres.

Thanks Paul. Please let our readers know how they can access more info about your study.

My survey can be found by clicking on: https://bit.ly/2ks4Xm1

This link will take participants to a page that describes the study, and there they can choose freely to participate or not. All participants will be anonymous and can contact either myself at pgodfrey@myune.edu.au or my principal supervisor (Dr Justin Gaetano) at jgaetan2@une.edu.au if they have any further questions or concerns about the project. Thank you again for your interest in this study.

Exploration of individual differences in memory functions

UNE HREC approval no: HE18-100

Hi Melissa. Please tell us a little about yourself, and what has brought you to research psychology.

I’ve always loved science, and if you had told me 10 years ago that psychology was a science I wouldn’t have believed you. But since I began studying psychology I’ve been fascinated by the way scientific principles can be applied to the human experience. Given the shocking results of some of the seminal psychology experiments (Milgram’s experiment, the Stanford prison experiment; even Asch’s lines), psychology research is really exciting because you can never be quite sure what you’re going to find.

Why do you think it’s important to investigate memory functioning, and how this might vary from person to person?

Memory function varies from person to person based on a whole variety of factors, whether they be medical, lifestyle, environmental or biological factors. Reduced memory functioning can impair the quality of life of an individual, as seen in people who suffer from some neurological diseases, so I think it’s important to investigate memory functioning and how it varies with different factors so we can better understand how the complex interplay of those factors influences an individual’s memory performance.

Your survey design looks quite sophisticated. Do you have any project management tips for aspiring Honours students?

My first tip would be to do your research and pick a research question that you can reasonably hope to answer in the relatively short time you have to do that in (9 months or so isn’t a long time to design your project, collect data, and write your thesis).

Secondly, make sure you pick instruments with a good level of validity and reliability, and ensure they measure the specific construct you want measured.

Thirdly, get the ball rolling as soon as practically possible. The sooner you get your ethics application in, the sooner it can be rejected (as I’m told happens to everyone, not just me!) so you can fix the issues they come up with and start collecting data. The more time you have to collect data, the more data you’ll get, and theoretically, the more you can rely on your data.

Fourthly, time management skills are vital. Your Unit Coordinators and Lecturers will drill into you that if you don’t have them, you won’t do well, and while in my experience their doomsday predictions were a little extreme, they were definitely right in emphasizing that you need much better time management skills than you need in the undergraduate coursework.

Lastly, don’t be discouraged by hiccups or hurdles. Work with your supervisor to overcome the issues as they arise, and don’t give up hope. You can do it!

Thanks Mel. Please let our readers know how they can access more info about your study.

Information about my study can be found here: http://unebcss.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1ZAPM4IYluiJ3Xn

After reading the information, you may volunteer to participate in my survey or not. The survey will not ask for identifying information of any kind. If you have any questions, please contact myself at mcox21@myune.edu.au or my supervisor (Dr Justin Gaetano) at jgaetan2@une.edu.au Thank you in advance for reading more about my study.

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