image description
162003Volume 16, Issue10October 2003

Presidential Column

Henry L. Roediger, III
Henry L. Roediger, III
Washington University in St. Louis
APS President 2003 - 2004
All columns

In this Issue:
Dissertation Dilemmas

About the Observer

The Observer is the online magazine of the Association for Psychological Science and covers matters affecting the research, academic, and applied disciplines of psychology. The magazine reports on issues of interest to psychologist scientists worldwide and disseminates information about the activities, policies, and scientific values of APS.

APS members receive a monthly Observer newsletter that covers the latest content in the magazine. Members also may access the online archive of Observer articles going back to 1988.

Read more

Latest Under the Cortex Podcast

Trending Topics >

  • Thumbnail Image for Disaster Response and Recovery

    Disaster Response and Recovery

    Disasters like Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut draw massive media coverage, trauma interventions, and financial donations to victims. But psychological research shows the efforts don’t always yield the intended benefits.

Up Front

  • Dissertation Dilemmas

    Everyone with a PhD must have thought long and hard about how to conduct dissertation research. Everyone currently in graduate school must contemplate the same topic. Those two groups include virtually everyone reading the Observer. In my own case, conceiving, proposing, conducting, presenting, writing, defending, and publishing my dissertation consumed about one and a half years of my life, maybe more. For all of us, it is a crucial rite of passage into academia. Despite its critical importance, I see curiously little discussion of dissertations and how they should be approached. Different universities, disciplines, sub-disciplines, and even individuals have diverse opinions on what a dissertation should be. I will consider some issues in this column, continuing reflections on various topics in academia during my presidential year.

APS Spotlight

  • Preserving the Spirit and Respect of Academia Through Traditions

    Through degree ceremonies, academics reach each other and the public. I was fortunate to receive an honorary doctorate of philosophy from the University of Helsinki, Finland along with 11 other people from various countries and disciplines (10 other academics and a musical composer). The degree conferment ceremony, which took place June 5-7, 2003, seemed noteworthy for its power to magnify people's appreciation of academia in ways worth pondering. The University of Helsinki is one of 12 that have been ranked as European leaders in basic research and are thus included in the League of European Research Universities, along with universities in Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Geneva, Leiden, Heidelberg, Leuven, Milan, München, Stockholm, and Strasbourg.


  • The Final Exam

    "Hey Pops, you want to help me study for my Algebra final?" asked my son. I replied, "Sure thing, we've been working together all semester, so why stop now? Did your teacher hand out a review sheet?" "Yeah, take a look at this practice test we got today." "So what's the first problem?" Graph the following equations. "Hey kiddo, do you remember how we graph absolute values?" "Not a clue, we did that six units ago back in September!" Flipping back 200+ pages in the text, I muttered under my breath something like, "That's just great. You didn't tell me we were taking a comprehensive final!" Why do some instructors administer exams at the end of a course that cover an entire semester of content while others test only the last unit or two? Ask most students and they will tell you that some instructors are simply more mean-hearted than others.

First Person

  • Writing Grant Proposals

    As a follow up to "Applying for Research Grants" [Observer, September 2003], this article describes general elements of each section of a grant proposal. Keep in mind the content and organization of proposals will vary by granting agencies. Abstract The abstract is one of the most important parts of your proposal and will likely be the most frequently read section. The length, content, and tense of an abstract for a grant proposal are different from that of an abstract written for a journal article (Locke, Spirduso, & Silverman, 2000). Abstracts are typically 200-300 words and written in the future tense. They summarize all parts of the grant application, including your data analysis plan, resources that will support your proposed study, and the environment in which your research will take place. The abstract should be written last to ensure inclusion of all parts of your proposal.

More From This Issue

  • Psychologists in Non-Traditional Academic Departments

    Psychology in a Community-Based Medical School By Glen Aylward A community based medical school uses private hospitals for its clinical work and teaching, while a normal medical school would have a university-owned facility. As a result, community schools are more practice-oriented and less research-driven. I would like to address the unique challenges encountered in this type of academic setting, and the impact of a "non-traditional" academic environment on my research endeavors. My setting is atypical, in that I have only a small number of interns and post-docs, no psychology graduate students, and no research laboratory.

  • King’s College London – Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre

    The Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, one of the world's top psychological research institutions, is trying to bridge the gap between 'nature' (genetics) and 'nurture' (environment) as they interact in the development of behavioral dimensions and disorders. The Centre is highly interdisciplinary, bringing together experts from diverse disciplines, such as epidemiology, child and adult psychiatry, developmental psychopathology, development in the family, personality development, cognitive development, statistical genetics, and molecular genetics.

  • New Psychological Science Associate Editor Peter C. Gordon

    Peter C. Gordon, director of the graduate program in cognitive psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named Associate Editor of Psychological Science. Gordon plans to continue the PS tradition of publishing commendable, timely research on a diverse array of topics. "PS is a great journal," he said. "It publishes very high quality papers that are of general interest and that are fairly short. Those characteristics make being an Associate Editor very rewarding. The particular mission of PS makes balancing scientific rigor with novelty and breadth of interest the primary goal." Gordon brings to his role expertise in memory and language comprehension.

  • Jones Named IPAT President

    APS Charter Member John "Jack" Jones has accepted the position of President at the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, an assessment and interpretive report company known for revolutionizing questionnaire format. "Jack brings extensive professional experience to IPAT, in both management and service delivery," said Robert McHenry, controlling shareholder of Oxford, England's OPP Ltd, the brand management and services company that owns IPAT.

  • The Origin of One

    It is an ability we take for granted every day. We see one apple, we think one apple. We see a dozen roses, we think 12 roses. We dream of an ice cream cone piled high with each of the 31 flavors. It is easy to assume that our ability to conceptualize numbers is a basic part of being human, an ability we are born with. For APS Fellow Susan Carey, Harvard University, however, the human capacity to represent natural numbers is a cultural construction, and not completely of an evolutionary origin.

  • NINDS Researches Social Decision-Making

    Imagine politicians using functional magnetic resonance imaging in focus groups to plot their campaigns and craft their messages. Or the marketers of everything from candy to Cadillacs using it to package and promote their goods. That's not exactly what Jordan Grafman is striving for as chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, but he readily concedes his research just might be translated into such activities some day. Consider his research on social decision-making. "We're studying how people develop and execute cognitive plans," Grafman said.

  • Scientists in the Service

    Psychological Science Onboard a Submarine By Jeff Dyche I didn't join the Navy to become a psychologist. I don't know anyone who has. Most people join the armed services to learn a skill or trade, or to obtain a higher academic degree, knowing the military will cover the costs to bring those goals to fruition. But I already had my PhD before even interviewing with the Navy; they wouldn't look at me without one, just like in academia. My interview for the Navy, particularly here at the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory where I am a research psychologist in the submarine medicine department, was no different than any college interview for assistant professor.

  • Senators Support Behavioral Research at NIGMS

    When NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences was created in 1962, Congress specifically mandated the institute to support basic behavioral science. Forty years later, the Institute commits no funds to such research. For the past several years, in a recurring scenario reminiscent of the movie "Groundhog Day," in which the main character keeps reliving events, APS has raised this issue with Congress, Congress has asked NIGMS to establish a program in behavioral science research and training, and NIGMS has ignored Congress.

  • APS Leaders Are On Board with CAPS

    Current and past officers of APS are talking the talk and walking the walk when it comes to APS's Campaign for Advancing Psychological Science (CAPS). As citizens of psychological science they already give their time, overseeing the Society; now they are also leading by example in APS's new fund raising initiative. APS President Henry L. Roediger, III kicked off CAPS with a $1,000 contribution.

  • Prentice Hall to Publish APS Readers

    The American Psychological Society is pleased to announce a partnership with Prentice Hall to publish a series of Readers using articles from the APS journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. The Readers will accompany Prentice Hall's psychology textbooks. Consistently ranked among the top psychology journals for impact on the field, the concise reviews in Current Directions cut across disciplines and specialties. The original concept of the journal offers the means for scientists to quickly and easily learn about new and significant research outside their major field of study. "This is a clear way for APS to fulfill its core mission," said APS Executive Director Alan Kraut.

  • Understanding Emotion in Abused Children

    Under the iron-fisted rule of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian families in the 1980s were pressured by the dictator's social engineering policies to have more children than they could afford. As a result, thousands wound up in "orphanages" - more like child warehouses or prisons - confined to cribs with minimal speech or human touch, no toys, and only the barest necessities of feeding and health care. Many of their stories, along with those of other abandoned children from across Eastern Europe, have happy outcomes, as the children are adopted into loving families in the United States or elsewhere.