Student Views on the Value of Undergraduate Presentations
Reprinted with permission of Psi Chi Honor Society.
Student Views on the Value of Undergraduate Presentations
P. Carmody, PhD
Psi Chi Eastern Regional Vice-President
Saint Peter's College
Psi Chi was founded to advance the science
of psychology and to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence
in scholarship. To that end, Psi Chi serves two major goals,
the first to recognize academic excellence, and the second
to develop a climate for creative development. Encouragement
of student research is a method of achieving the goals and
mission of Psi Chi. Chapters provide programs to augment and
enhance the traditional curriculum. The regional and national
conventions where members present their work and interact
with others provide a sample of the practical experience expected
of professional psychologists. In support of investigating
the effects of the programs, Psi Chi established the Thelma
Hunt Research Award in 1996 ("Psi Chi Announces Two New
Award Programs," 1996). The award was designed to advance
the professional development of members, to encourage active
involvement among members, to use behavioral research to address
policy questions, and to stimulate research-based reports
for Psi Chi publications. One question posed by the National
Council at the 1996 midwinter meeting concerned the tangible
impact of student presentations on student researchers. How
does the experience of presentation influence excellence in
scholarship and development? This report describes the findings
of a survey supported by a 1997 Thelma Hunt search Award.
the question, several groups of Psi Chi members were surveyed
in 1997. Alumni were randomly selected from the mailing lists
of two chapters.1
Over 120 surveys were sent in March; 36 alumni returned completed
forms. Undergraduate and graduate samples were drawn from
the student presenters at the regional meetings of the Eastern
Psychological Association in Washington, D.C., in April, and
at the 25th Annual Hunter College Psychology Convention in
New York in May. Surveys were distributed to 65 presenters;
37 returned the surveys by mail. On-site samples were drawn
from the national meetings of the American Psychological Society
in Washington, D.C., in May and the American Psychological
Association in Chicago in August. Surveys were distributed
to 32 presenters; 22 of these surveys were returned. Undergraduates
who attended Psi Chi events as members of the audience completed
and returned surveys on site; the 32 surveys returned by audience
members represented a group of nonpresenters-. Of the total
249 members contacted, 127 returned the survey (52%).
form was a single sheet with four sections. Respondents completed
demographic information including year of graduation from
an undergraduate program; membership in Psi Chi (graduate
or undergraduate); whether graduate school was considered,
entered, and completed; employment status; and presentation
experience. For the respondents who had presented, 10 questions
were asked: seven were checklists of options, and three were
open-ended questions on what was learned, and the respondents'
regrets and gains from the experience. For the respondents
who never presented, six questions were asked, with no-yes
format, on the opportunities available for presentation experience.
All respondents were asked to complete the fourth part of
the survey in which ratings on a 4-point scale were assigned
to statements on the value of undergraduate research, the
role of the advisor, and the effect of presentations on the
presenter. Respondents were given options to obtain a copy
of the results, either by providing their name and address
on a separate post card, by sending an e-mail message, or
by reading the results in Eye on Psi Chi.
have provided several descriptions of the profiles of presenters
and nonpresenters. Among the alumni, 44% had presented a poster
or paper at a conference as an undergraduate. In review of
the 36 alumni with completed surveys, differences were observed
in the distributions of careers for presenters and nonpresenters.
For example, 75% of the respondents working as psychologists
did present as undergraduates. In contrast, 75% of the respondents
working as social workers and counselors and 89% of the respondents
working in administration and business were nonpresenters.
Graduate school was a major goal for all presenters and 96%
of the nonpresenters. In fact, among alumni, 93% of the presenters
and 82% of the nonpresenters had entered graduate school.
presenters with completed surveys (16 alumni and 60 undergraduates)
answered several questions concerning their motives to conduct
research and the source of their ideas. The options most frequently
endorsed for the source of their research were courses in
independent study (61%), psychology (38%), honors (24%), and
research methods (14%). When asked to identify who inspired
them to conduct research, endorsements were course instructors
(56%), self-motivation (55%), mentors (33%), and fellow students
(14%). Presenters indicated that the reasons they presented
were personal challenge (89%), graduate school (76%), encouragement
from a professor (59%), and career (34%). Presenters were
asked to reflect on their feelings at the time of their first
presentation. Feelings before the presentation of excitement,
tension, worry, and calmness were followed after the event
by relief, excitement, calmness, and surprise as shown in
had several considerations immediately following their presentation:
to present again (86%), a further commitment to psychology
(72%), never to present again (4%), and to change careers
(3%). No one indicated they would leave psychology in the
short term. Long-term impact included other presentations
(50%), meeting new contacts (43%), new opportunities (37%),
graduate school (36%), and a career in psychology (34%). Some
reported considering leaving psychology long after the experience
of presenting (3%).
questions, presenters reflected on their gains and regrets
from the experience of public presentation. Two main dimensions
emerged from a review of the statements, one concerning a
sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy, and the second
the pleasure that their work was accepted and valued by a
receptive audience. Table
1 presents many of the free-response statements. Some
presenters regretted not preparing sufficiently for the presentation
or for the questions following the presentation (7%), and
others indicated the experience of preparation was pressured
and stressful (3%). Other respondents regretted presenting
a poster rather than a paper; two presenters indicated there
was little interaction from the audience at the session and
that the session was not well attended. One presenter regretted
not starting research work earlier in their academic career.
who did not present, 82% of the alumni and 53% of the undergraduates
indicated they never considered presenting their research.
When asked if a professor encouraged them, 41% of the alumni
and 53% of the undergraduates indicated yes. No one indicated
that a professor discouraged them. About one half of the alumni
and one third of the undergraduates attended conferences,
and one third did observe other students present. Finally,
47% of the alumni and 56% of the undergraduates wish they
included 15 statements focused on three dimensions: (a) going
beyond coursework to present undergraduate research; (b) the
role of the faculty member; (c) the overall effect of undergraduate
presentations. All respondents rated the dimensions on a 4-point
scale ranging from disagree strongly to agree
strongly. A multivariate analysis was applied to the
15 ratings using the two independent variables of Alumni Status
(alumni vs. current undergraduates) and Experience (did vs.
did not present). The overall effects were significant for
the variable of Experience (F = 2.329, p = .009) but not for
Alumni status or the interaction of the two variables (p >
.05). The analysis included 101 respondents who were inducted
into Psi Chi as undergraduates and who answered all questions
in the fourth section of the survey. All groups strongly agreed
that presentations helped to advance one's career and increase
one's skills. Presenters agreed more strongly than nonpresenters
that going beyond coursework was fun and promoted personal
growth. While all groups strongly endorsed the statement "Faculty
should be a sounding board for interested students,"
all groups strongly disagreed with statements that "Faculty
should not encourage students but leave them alone" and
"Faculty should discourage students from the stress of
presentations." Among the Alumni group, presenters differed
from nonpresenters in their ratings for the role of the faculty
advisor. While Alumni nonpresenters preferred faculty to work
actively with students, Alumni presenters preferred faculty
to encourage students to work on their own. In terms of the
overall effect of undergraduate presentations, all groups
strongly endorsed "personal satisfaction" and agreed
slightly with the effect of "career success." All
groups were neutral on the effects of "better chance
at graduate school admission" and "better chance
at graduate student financial assistance." However, presenters
had lower ratings than nonpresenters of "higher grades"
as an effect. Apparently, for those who did not present, the
impression is that higher grades are a result.
the findings of the survey address the question of the effectiveness
of the experience of public presentation in meeting the goals
and mission of Psi Chi? Articles appearing in Psi Chi literature,
including the quarterly publication Psi Chi Newsletter,
replaced in fall 1996 by Eye on Psi Chi, have continually
endorsed student participation in conferences and research.
Messages from the presidents of Psi Chi over the past several
years have stressed the importance of the presentation experience
in personal and professional development (Davis, 1995; Dutch,
1992; Horvat, 1994; Jackson, 1997; Jalbert, 1996; Lubin, 1993).
Undergraduate students in psychology have been informed that
student research is one component of a well-balanced application
to graduate study (Schumacher, 1994; Takooshian, 1993). Faculty
members are also aware of the richness of collaborative research
with undergraduates (Davis, 1995). Recommendations have been
offered on how to foster and recognize student excellence
in research (Bockert & Newman, 1995; Newman, 1995) including
the hosting of conferences designed to highlight student presentations
(Levine, 1993). Preparation for the graduate admissions interview
is enhanced by the experience of presentation of one's own
work (Horvat, 1994; Jackson, 1997; Jalbert, 1994, 1996). The
ability to take command of a topic and present the material
at an appropriate level may be a determining factor in admission
to a program as well as receipt of financial support for graduate
training (Carmody, 1996; Takooshian, 1992). The value of conducting
original research is stressed as a method of enriching the
teaching of college courses (Takooshian, 1990), and plans
to choose an advisor and follow through on delivery of the
findings of research have been offered (Davis, 1995; Takooshian,
Based on the findings of the survey, it is evident that Psi Chi members are committed to the profession of psychology. Over 90% of the presenters and over 80% of nonpresenters have entered graduate school, an indication of the continued interest of our members in academic excellence. Courses in psychology continue to be a source of research ideas, and faculty continue to be a major inspiration to initiate student research. Students relish encouragement by faculty and wish to have faculty attention during the course of undergraduate research. Students are motivated to conduct research by personal challenge, personal commitment, and preparation for graduate school rather than by the expectancy of higher grades and enhanced acceptance into graduate programs or financial assistance. Personal growth is a major outcome of the experience as confirmed by the many statements of a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy and by the pleasure that the work was accepted and valued by a professional audience. A desire to present again was confirmed by a large majority of respondents.Psi Chi continues to be a major supporter of student research with the sponsorship of programs that highlight student paper and poster sessions at regional and national meetings, and with granting awards for research excellence (Newman, 1995). For example, the Edwin B. Newman Award for Graduate Research, the J. P. Guilford Awards for Undergraduate Research, the Allyn and Bacon Awards, the Regional Research Awards, and the Undergraduate Research Grant Program continue to provide national recognition for excellence in scholarship, an effort most recently endorsed by Jackson (1997). With the addition of the Thelma Hunt Research Award, Psi Chi continues to provide funds to initiate projects for faculty and students and to recognize the contributions of members who exemplify academic excellence ("Psi Chi Announces Two New Award Programs," 1996). Based on student views of the value of the experience, the programs developed by Psi Chi have been successful in the achievement of the goals of creative development of our members and recognition of academic excellence.
Bockert, D. P., & Newman, S. E. (1995, Summer). Fostering and recognizing student excellence in research: Part two. Psi Chi Newsletter, 21(3), 6-7.
Carmody, D. P. (1996, Spring). From classroom research to presentation. Psi Chi Newsletter, 22(2), 6-7.
Davis, S. F. (1995, Spring). Convention season, Psi Chi, and you. Psi Chi Newsletter, 21(2), 1, 11.
Davis, S. F. (1995, Summer). The value of collaborative scholarship with undergraduates. Psi Chi Newsletter, 21(3), 1, 12-13.
Dutch, S. E. (1992, Winter). Message of the president: Things to do in '92. Psi Chi Newsletter, 18(1), 1, 28.
Horvat, J. J. (1994, Winter). Message of the president. Psi Chi Newsletter, 20(1), 1, 3.
Horvat, J. J. (1994, Summer). So, you didn't get accepted into graduate school--now what? Psi Chi Newsletter, 20(3), 1, 28.
Jackson, K. A. (1997, Winter). Building upon Psi Chi's strong foundation. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(2), 64.
Jackson, K. A. (1997, Spring). Following a dream. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(3), 64.
Jackson, K. A. (1997, Summer). Accomplishing our purpose. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(4), 64, 62-63.
Jalbert, N. L. (1994, Spring). How to get into graduate school. Psi Chi Newsletter, 20(2), 6-7.
Jalbert, N. L. (1996, Spring). Yet another formula for successful graduate school application in psychology. Psi Chi Newsletter, 22(2), 1, 4.
Jalbert, N. L. (1996, Fall). Psi Chi should be more than one line on your resume. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(1), 64.
Levine, J. C. (1993, Fall). Building upon our solid foundation. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19(4), 8-10.
Lubin, B. (1993, Winter). Message of the president. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19(1), 1.
Lubin, B. (1993, Summer). Message of the president. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19(3), 1, 34.
Newman, S. E. (1995, Spring). Fostering and recognizing student excellence in research: One aspect of the Psi Chi mission. Psi Chi Newsletter, 21(2), 4.Psi Chi announces two new award programs.(1996, Spring). Psi Chi Newsletter, 22(2), 1, 16.
Schumacher, S. J. (1994, Fall). A suggested plan of action for graduate school admission. Psi Chi Newsletter, 20(4), 11-13.
Takooshian, H. (1990). Teaching, research, and the question of interaction. New York State Psychologist, 41(4), 44-45.
Takooshian, H. (1992, Summer). Psi Chi advising: Five suggestions. Psi Chi Newsletter, 18(3), 4-5.
Takooshian, H. (1993, Spring). Involving students in report-worthy research. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19(2), 4-5.
1The Psi Chi chapter at Fordham University, Lincoln Center was founded in 1983, and the chapter at Saint Peter's College was founded in 1985. Alumni represent persons who graduated during the years 1982-96. The survey included approximately a 25% sampling of the 360 Fordham alumni and 85 Saint Peter's College alumni members of Psi Chi.
THE AUTHOR: Dennis P. Carmody, PhD, Psi Chi's
Eastern Regional Vice-President, is professor of psychology
at Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, N.J., where he helped
found the Psi Chi chapter and served as the faculty adviosr
until 1996. Dr. Carmody is particularly well-versed in the
topic of this Hunt Award research--he has sponsored over 50
student presentations at local, regional, and national meetings.
The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Carmody was most recently
honored as the winner of the 1997 Psi Chi/Florence L. Denmark
National Faculty Advisor Award.
Dr. Carmody received his PhD from Temple University in 1980. Over the past 20 years, he has conducted research on eye movements, vision, and medical decision making at four medical centers and hospitals. His most recent research interests include developmental disabilities in school settings, optometric intervention in children with autism, and neurofeedback intervention in children with ADD.
A licensed psychologist in New York, he lives with his wife Deborah in New Jersey and spends free time scuba diving off Long Island and New Jersey and keeping a 1956 DeSoto on the road.
Special thanks to the Awards Committee of Psi Chi for support of this research through a 1997 Thelma Hunt Research Award and to the alumni and students who participated in the survey.
Address all correspondence
concerning this article to
Dennis P. Carmody, PhD
Department of Psychology
Saint Peter's College, Jersey City, NJ 07306
telephone: (201) 915-9418;
fax: (201) 332-7826
web page: www.spc.edu/~carmody_d/psichi.html
Open Comments From Student Presenters
Remarks concerning personal gains
- improved self-confidence (12%)
- a sense of accomplishment (7%)
- experience proved their courage and skills (7%)
- personal growth (5%)
- improved self-esteem (3%)
- pride (3%)
- overcame insecurities especially about public speaking
- surprised at their own abilities
- indicated they had initially underestimated their own abilities
- additional effort was worthwhile and beneficial
Remarks concerning social gains
- pleasure in sharing research with a receptive audience (14%)
- pleased their work was valued (12%)
- presentation served as a stepping stone to a career (3%)
- learned that research is important and exciting
- furthered their commitment to psychology
- recognition of their ability to work as a teacher and researcher