Research Seminar

Topic:  Research on Computer-Mediated Communication

Fall 2012




Instructor: Dr. Thomas Holtgraves
  Office Hours:  MW 3:00 - 4:00 /By appointment



Course Prerequisites:  Students wishing to enroll in this course must meet the following requirements: PSYSC 284, 295; a minimum of 12 additional hours in psychology; senior standing.


Course Description: The purpose of this course is to give students the opportunity to conduct original psychological research, and in so doing use the knowledge and skills that they’ve acquired as majors in  psychological science. This semester students in this class will conduct research on computer-mediated communication (CMC). Computer-Mediated Communication, including both older forms such as email and texting, as well as newer, network-based forms such as Facebook and Twitter, has become a dominant means for communicating and interacting with others. Students in this course will pursue original research on any of the psychological aspects of CMC, including its social, cognitive, personality, linguistic, and pathological dimensions.


To do this, each student will be assigned to a research team of up to five students. Students, working in groups, will survey the relevant literature, derive a testable hypothesis or hypotheses, submit a research protocol to the Institutional Review Board, collect data by either sampling existing content (e.g., Facebook pages) or acquiring new data (e.g., surveying Facebook users), analyze and write-up the results, and make a class presentation.  All projects must: (1) be empirical (i.e., involve data collection and analysis) and (2) examine some aspect of CMC. Although students will be working in groups, each student will required to submit their own work.


Course Format: The course is structured as a relatively informal seminar.  Meetings will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of weekly progress made on student projects.  Periodically, students will be asked to make their work available to all other members of the class.  Other students will then be responsible for reading the material and providing feedback at the next class meeting.  There will be occasional assigned readings.


Course Outline:  Note that there will be variability depending on, for example, the manner in which one will be collecting data.


8/20/12 – 9/7/2012


Complete CITI training (IRB training module) by 9/5/2012


Read and become familiar with relevant social media literature


Discussion of possible research hypotheses in class


Submit research interests


Assignment to groups


9/10/2012 – 9/24/2012


Hypothesis/Methodology development


Introduction Writing


IRB protocol development


9/25/12 – 10/5/2012


Research Proposals Due


IRB submission and revisions as needed


10/6/2012 – 11/11/12


Data Collection


Data Analysis


Results Section Due


11/12/12 – 12/10/12


In-class presentations


Write and submit final report




Disability Adaptations and Accommodations: If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.  My office location and hours are listed above.


Statement of Academic Honesty: For learning to be meaningful and worthwhile it must be based on honesty.  Learning that is not fundamentally honest is incomplete, systematically flawed and potentially damaging to all of us.  Simply put: if you cheat, you don’t learn.  Academic dishonesty, or cheating, damages students and universities because it adds suspicion and resentment to academic competition, and it distorts the meaning of grades.  Ball State University has taken a very definitive position on academic dishonest, as laid out in Section VIII.B of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities.  Academic dishonest, as defined in the Code, includes, but is not limited to, using unauthorized aids during a test, submitting another’s work as your own, and submitting previously presented work as newly executed work without my knowledge or authorization. I am committed to assigning grades based on students’ honest efforts on exams and other class assignments.  All suspected incidents of academic dishonesty will be pursed through the established channels.



Assignments and Grading  
Successful completion of CITI training by 9/5/12*    25 points
Research Proposal (literature review; method): 100 points
IRB approval of project:     25 points
Results Section: Data analyses and presentation:    50 points
Final Paper: 100 points
In-class presentation (power-points)    25 points
Class participation/Feedback on proposals     75 poitns
Total 400 points


Final Grades.  Final grades for this course will be based on the following scale:


A 92% C+ 78-79%
A- 90-91% C 72-77%
B+ 88-89% C- 70-71%
B 82-87% D+ 68-69%
B- 80-81% D 62-67%
    D- 60-61%


*CITI Training.  Federal regulations require that every IRB member, researcher, and key personnel of a research team certify knowledge of federal regulations and policies dealing with human subjects. Consequently, the Ball State University IRB will require that before a protocol is reviewed, the researcher and all key personnel on the research project complete the CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) training.  When you register with CITI and you are selecting the course you need under Question 1, please check the course "Social & Behavioral Research Investigators." This is the one you will need to submit a research protocol through IRBNet.  You must pass each module by scoring at least 80% on the quiz following the module.  For more information and to get started, click on the following link:




Psychological Science (2012) review article of research conducted on Facebook.

A Review of Facebook Research in the Social Sciences by Robert E. Wilson, Samuel D. Gosling and Lindsay T. Graham


Facebook in the Social Sciences (continuously updated bibliography)


Top 25 Science Direct articles in psychology with links to abstracts


Top 25 Science Direct articles in social science with links to abstracts


Website with content regarding ethical (IRB) issues involved in conducting research on-line