General Question

RedmannX5's avatar

Is it rare for a science journal to publish a research experiment done by an undergraduate student?

Asked by RedmannX5 (814 points ) December 15th, 2011

I am in my last year of undergraduate school, majoring in psychology, and I just finished completing a research experiment. Although my results weren’t scientifically significant, the effect sizes were large, which suggests that I would most likely find significance if I were to test my experiment on more participants. My teacher suggested that I run more participants next semester and try to get my research published in a scientific journal.

I was just wondering if it would be worth my time to run these extra 40–60 participants, because it would be a lot of work but would certainly pay off if I could get my research published.

Is it very rare for undergraduate students to publish their research in a scientific journal?

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It’s apparently not all that rare.

I would listen to your professor.

nikipedia's avatar

It is pretty uncommon, especially as a first author, and would be great for your grad school applications.

I know you didn’t ask this but since you’re on the fence about doing the study—what are your current N and effect sizes? Have you done a formal power analysis? You can do one easily here. If you need help estimating Cohen’s d let me know, I can show you how to do it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It’s possible. I published (not as first author) in high school and in college.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Not rare at all. I published as an undergrad, just as a lot of honours students do if the project is a good one.

Rarebear's avatar

Emily Rosa was 8 years old when she published in JAMA

2davidc8's avatar

Go for it. Even if your paper doesn’t get published, the experience you would gain would be invaluable.

tedd's avatar

It does happen, but it is rare.

Not like… OMG YOU JUST FOUND AN ORIGINAL EDITION OF SUPERMAN rare…. But like…. 1/100 rare.

RedmannX5's avatar

@nikipedia My study was a 2×2 between-subjects design, and the Cohen’s d for one of my IVs was 0.50, and for the other IV it was 0.38. I’m pretty sure that 0.38 is a small effect size, but that 0.50 is medium (am I wrong?). Also, the partial eta squared statistic for my interaction was .102, which I believe is also medium. My n=20.

I looked at that power analysis website (thank you by the way, that’ll definitely be handy in the future), but what are the criteria for being an underpowered study? I certainly know the difference between one-tailed and two-tailed, but what does the “observed power” number actually mean or suggest?

nikipedia's avatar

Underpowered means that, given your effect size and your N, you don’t have enough information to reject or fail to reject the null hypothesis.

Officially, studies should shoot for 80% power, so the “observed power” number you’re looking at should be about 0.80 (if you want me to explain more about what “power” actually means I can do that, but it’s long and kind of confusing).

Unofficially, if you need a very large N to get sufficient power to get your effect, reviewers tend to think that your effect is unreliable or unimportant. So I wouldn’t invest too much in your d=0.38 effect. But I have published with 0.52; the 0.50 is a better bet.

Some other things to consider: if you’re working with human subjects, is there any chance that a subgroup of your population is either driving or washing out your effect? For instance, do you see any differences in performance based on sex, or other variables that you have information on (age, ethnicity, tiredness—whatever you think might be relevant to your DVs)?

RedmannX5's avatar

@nikipedia I did work with human subjects, and most of them were undergraduate freshman. My study basically looked at the effects between slow or fast music on retrospective time estimation (i.e participants has to retrospectively estimate the duration of either a fast or slow tempo musical composition). I didn’t find any correlations between the participants musical experience or ability, but I will certainly run some further correlational analysis on gender, age, etc. Thanks for the tips!

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