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1. Find an article, podcast, or news clip online or in a newspaper or magazine that discusses research relevant to child-rearing. The article should be of interest to you and published in a source that would be available to many parents. (To find your article, browse a weekly news magazine or an online news outlet, or search online using words like “research [an outcome of interest to you; e.g., childhood obesity, school success].”) Make sure that the report is summarizing a specific investigation (i.e., it’s talking about the results of one research study). Look for phrases like “Researchers have recently found . . . .” Your article may address any number of topics that are relevant to child psychology; for example, the report could address recent findings in prenatal care, educational practices, gender differences, children’s memory, discipline techniques, and so on. The professionals whose work is cited in the article may be psychologists but they might also be educational researchers, pediatricians, or researchers in other disciplines who are concerned with children’s welfare. Look for an article that includes information about where the original report was published. For example, the article may include a phrase like “Research reported in this month’s issue of Developmental Psychology shows that . . . .”
2. Find the full report of the investigation (i.e., the scientific journal article). Primary sources differ from secondary sources in that primary sources arewritten by the researchers themselves and include the actual data or analysis, rather than a summary or interpretation of the work. Primary sources appear in journals that are typically published under the auspices of professional organizations like the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The citations included in the References section of How Children Develop refer to primary sources, including such journals as Child Development, Science, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. Most of these journals can be accessed online through the York University library (https://www.library.yorku.ca/web/). You can also find many primary sources through Google Scholar (Google Scholar
Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. Search across a wide variety of…
). If your popular article does not include all the information you need to find the complete primary source citation, you can generally track it down through a database such as PSYCHINFO. Please sonsult with the course instructor, TAs, or a librarian if you need assistance!
3. Read both the popular and the scientific reports carefully. BEFORE you prepare your assignment, consider the following points: Think about how the findings and the interpretations of each source are similar and how they are different. Consider to what extent the popular article succeeds in summarizing the full report. Think about whether the limitations of the research methods used in the investigation are considered in the popular report. For example, if the research used a correlational approach, are the possibilities of directions of causality or third-variable problems appropriately acknowledged? Or was causation assumed to follow a significant correlation (this happens in the media A LOT!)? If your primary source reports an experiment, are questions regarding external validity acknowledged (i.e., does the context in which kids were tested match what they might experience in the real world? Are the kids reflective of kids in the general population?)? Or are results generalized too broadly? For example, did the authors of the popular account discuss important characteristics of the original participants, such as their ages or sociocultural backgrounds, which could determine the extent to which the findings could be widely applied? Was the description of age-related changes consistent with the investigation? For example, was it clear from the report whether the same children were followed over time, or different groups were studied at each age, or older individuals were retrospectively reporting childhood experiences?
4. Once you’ve considered the two types of articles in depth, write a brief report OR create a short podcast OR video OR create a brief presentation,in which you evaluate the extent to which the popular article provided a fair summary of the original research report.
Begin with a brief summary of the popular account.
Follow this with a description of the original report. To do this, answer the following questions about the original report:
a. What were the major research questions and the authors’ hypotheses, as stated in the introduction to the article?
b. What were the important characteristics of the participants in the research? Identify their ages and important background characteristics. Note how large the sample size was.
c. If the research questions addressed age-related changes, what design for studying development was used? Was this a cross-sectional, longitudinal, or microgenetic study?
d. What research methods were used in this investigation?
e. What were the major findings as they appear in the results section of the article?
f. How did the author(s) interpret the findings in the discussion section of the article?
5. Next, compare the popular account with the original report. Would the typical reader take away any misconceptions from the popular article? If so, which one(s)? What limitations in the summary of the research that you identified in question 3 might lead to such misinterpretations? Is it likely that applications of the findings to childcare would have risks and benefits for children? In what ways? Summarize your conclusions in your report.
6. Finally, Reflect on your experience by briefly answering the following questions:
a. Was the experience of comparing these different types of reports new to you or was it a familiar experience? Were you surprised by the similarities or differences between the journal article and the media report?
b. Were the insights you achieved by comparing these reports relevant to your personal life or professional goals? Why or why not?
7. Your final report should include the citations for both the popular and the scientific articles.
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