Three things I have learnt from my URSS experience
1. Research does not always go the way that you want.
My URSS was to understand the use of grammatical structures in three to four-year-olds. If I had time, the plan was to also collect data from adults. Officially, my project started in mid-August. However, I started to call up nurseries a month in advance so that when I started my project, I was not waiting around for nurseries to get back to me. Alas, mid-August came and I was still waiting for nurseries to respond to me. Many nurseries were not too keen on me testing on their children. Additionally, some nurseries had only a few children as it was the summertime.
I thought that I hit the jackpot when one nursery said that could potentially let me test nineteen children. I went there eagerly, expecting children to line up in a queue for testing. However, it turned out that most were on holiday and many parents forgot to return consent sheets. So, from nineteen, I was only allowed to test five. children. Of those five children, none of them were suitable to test. Some children just cried and others refused to talk.
By September, I only had one child. I tried desperately to recruit more nurseries and even asked family members if I could test their children. However, by the end of my project, I had only managed to collect two children participants. This was eighteen less than my target.
Contrary to expectations, I had no issue with collecting adult participants. Therefore, I ended up with my project focusing more on adult grammatical structure used as opposed to children.
If I did not put effort into recruiting children, I would have felt better. At least then, I would know that I could do better. However, at the time, I thinkI tried my hardest to no avail. Sometimes things do not work out and that is okay. I realised that maybe this project may have been easier during term time.
2. Self-confidence is very important.
I was convinced that I would flop my URSS. I had so many worries. Firstly, I prefer to communicate with people face to face. With friends, I will make allowances of messaging and calling. However, I hate doing so when it comes to people I either don’t know or have a professional relationship with. Therefore, I knew that communicating with nurseries and my supervisor would be hell for me.
Additionally, the prospect of running an experiment was scary. I felt like I would do something stupid, such as accidentally swear or get the order of the experiment wrong. What if I ended up with no data due to making lots of mistakes? When I started my URSS, these anxieties, unfortunately, did not disappear. However, I carried on despite them. I was able to finish my URSS with very little problems.
Now, I realise that the biggest hurdle I faced during my project was myself. Getting what I want is more difficult if I am convinced that I cannot do it. Quite frankly, I am surprised I even got to the end of the project with all these anxieties. I am now trying to go into future opportunities with a more positive mindset. I want to think that ‘I can’ as opposed to ‘I can’t.’
If I go on to do research, I now have a better idea of what I want to do. A lot of the psychology literature with children draws on the difficulty of collecting data from children. I have read studies with only twenty participants and thought, surely you could have got more children? However, I realise just how difficult it is in practice. Imagine if it took all researchers seven weeks to get twenty children. Would collecting twenty children take over a year? I would love to further understand how children develop, but I now know that I am unlikely to face a lot of success with this, especially if it is a very time constraint project. Therefore, I know that I do not want to do a project based on collecting data from children for my dissertation.
Also, as part of my experiment, I had to: record the responses of adults; transcribe it into a spreadsheet and code the data. Paying meticulous attention to each sentence could be tedious. However, I was genuinely interested in the adults’ use of grammatical structures. I started to notice that adults were using some structures more than others and found myself wondering why this was the case? To be honest, I was not too keen on my project when I started it. However, I have found myself reading around the topic. From my URSS experience, I know that I would like to further understand grammatical uses in adults.