Lab Members: Get Research Ready [Spring 2016]

Author(s): Brandy Perkl, Ph.D.

Originally posted: November 20, 2014
Tech Recommendations Disclaimer: The tools the University pays for change periodically so this advice may go out of date easily or not apply other places than the University of Arizona or my lab specifically, I always recommend using the tech your school supports so you can call them for help and so it's free to you. Unless you're planning to go to graduate school, then find what works best for you and get comfortable with it fast because you'll be using it for YEARS.

The first thing new students in my lab often need to do is get research ready - here's how to do that.

Getting Started

If you're getting course credit - complete your forms

The University requires certain forms to be filed for receiving course credit. Here are the required forms for working with me if you need them. In addition to these you should be sure to keep a timesheet with comments on each time entry or a lab notebook with hours of work etc. throughout the semester. (Previous lab members probably have excellent examples of goals and timesheets you can use.)

Complete HSPP (CITI) Training

All lab members must have completed the required courses in Human Subjects Protection and turned in the completion certificate. Our research regularly deals with human subjects (or at the least, data derived from human subjects). You must complete the (free + online) training listed here under the information for CITI before you begin any research work. The Office for the Responsible Conduct of Research can help you with this if you need it. If you have already completed this that's fine, but I have to personally have a copy of your certificate. How this looks and works tends to change every semester a little bit - and it looks different to me than to you, but keep in mind it's short and FREE so if you get to anything else or get confused, ask the ORCR for guidance before you complete!

Here's the instructions that worked this year:

  1. You'll need to register with CITI.

  2. Then select your course once you've logged in. (I don't know if you've registered already, so feel free to skip this if you have.)

  3. After that you need to add the course. You'll click on "Add a course or update learner groups" under University of Arizona Courses, and then scroll to the bottom of the page - select "Human Subjects" and Next. Scroll down again and select "Undergraduate Level BASIC Course" and Next again, and it will load the two modules you need to complete.

This should get you to the training you need - if it asks you to pay for something, it's the wrong course!

Getting Ready for Literature Searches

Typically the process looks like this:

  1. Do surface searches. Develop an understanding of what is out there, what terms are accurate and helpful, etc. and keep track of all of it. Figuring out key terms and where to be searching is a great step to get help from a librarian on. (The chat feature on the UA Library website can help get you in touch with the right librarian to help you with your project - The UA Library.)

  2. Then you can begin actually reading some of the best of the articles you identified and tracking those in an annotated bibliography.

Extras: Write + Cite resources + Real life example of a timeline.

REQUIRED: Tracking Your Searches!

Keep track of your database searches in a log. This log should be made accessible to the team (if there isn't a team you're working with it at least needs to be available to me).

Search Tips

Google Scholar is an excellent place to start, so you should bookmark it and set it up by following these instructions from the library. Bookmark the UA Library Databases if you haven’t already. However, I prefer using Summon now that it’s live. I usually find my articles using Google Scholar and then go plug the DOI into Summon by using the Advanced Search option (change the first field to DOI) to grab the pdf version.

Tip: If you use Chrome you can also install the EZProxy extension to save time getting full text copies of articles you find via regular web searches - this is especially useful if you do your research off campus like I do.

Managing References

How you choose to manage these is up to you, as it depends on your computer and software. BUT you should decide on a strategy (a folder, a naming convention for the articles you download, etc.) before you need it so you follow it every time.

Software/Apps: The University supplies Mendeley for free and the library can help you to learn how to use a reference management software effectively if you have no clue. I prefer the cheap (but not free) PaperPile due to it's ease of use and integration with multiple platforms, including Google Docs. (Dr. Alex Hope shared why he loves it here and I have all the same happiness points with it.)

Pro Tips: I also use an extension for Chrome called Readability to pull webpages offline and save a copy of them if needed. Paperpile does this already for my reference articles since it saves them into a folder in my Google Drive. Via these methods I can access these things on any of my devices to read when I have time. (I write more about this process and why it's so vital in this post.)

Collaborating Online

As a UA student you already have a Google Apps for Ed account - and you can always delete it later should you no longer want it. For both of those reasons, it's what I require you to use for collaboration. (Plus it's very easy to learn.)

  • If you want a more complete introduction to your Google Apps for Education account, you can explore this page.

  • We use Drive (introduction) for every document and file.

  • If you've never edited a Google Doc collaboratively before, watch this video. Now you'll know the basics.

  • Hangouts (introduction) is a great backup for if Adobe Connect is having trouble - we might use it, but only as a second option.


Refresh Your Basic Knowledge

Methods + Stats

If it's been a while since you took certain college courses like Research Methods and Statistics for Business or Psychology (or if you've never taken them) you should review Lesson 2 of this (free + online) Udacity course.

For Meta-Analysis Projects

If you are going to be working on one involving meta-analysis, please review the following as well:

  1. Brief Overview of the Meta-Analysis Process

  2. Review Articles & Meta-Analysis (for I-O Psychology)

Reading Articles

Use the ADIR(M) method to read articles: Abstract, Discussion, Introduction, Results, (Methods). (Bogucka & Wood, 2009; Lunsford, 2014)

  • Step 1: Abstract. Although it is not part of the reading exercise, we tell students to start here and ask, "Is this article relevant enough to proceed to the full text, or should I move on to another article?" OR ask "What is the BIG QUESTION? (what is the problem in the field that this article attempts to address?)"

  • Step 2: Discussion. Ask "What are the researchers' findings?" and "What does it mean? What doesn't it mean? (what are the limitations of this work)"

  • Step 3: Introduction. Put together a 5 Sentence Background (what is the prior work that had led up to this question; what are limitations of prior work?) and define what the specific questions of the study/article are OR Ask "Why did the researchers do this study?" and "Does the research question match up with the conclusions I read in Step 2?"

  • Step 4: Results. Ask "Are the data collected appropriate to answer the research question?" and "Do the data support the conclusions?"

  • Step 5: Thinking it over to be sure you understand. Ask again "What is the BIG QUESTION? (what is the problem in the field that this article attempts to address?)" and "What are the answers to the specific questions?"

  • Step 6: Approach + Methods (optional). Ask "What does the author(s) do to answer their specific questions?" and "What are the basics of what was done?" OR "How can I repeat this study?" and "Are these methods suitable to gather the results reported?"

General Tips

I am not a technology guru, but I am very comfortable with it and I know that can be difficult for some who work with me to adapt to. Working with me will teach you how to be part of a virtual team - even if we do a lot of interacting face to face. You have to be willing to adopt some of my methods, to test, to make a mistake (which is completely fine and normal - if you do fail it just means you learned something). You can't break anything I set up, so it's not a big deal to play and figure out these systems. It's more important that you do use them for us to work well together. If you're new to the tech side of things, I highly recommend reviewing my tips for UA Student's online productivity.

And always, always ask me what I am talking about if you don't understand. I never want to be talking to you in the wrong language!


Bogucka, R., & Wood, E. (2009). How to read scientific research articles: A hands-on classroom exercise. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Fall.

Lunsford, L. G. (2014, Spring). Reading guide - articles. Retrieved from