Is psychological distress impactful differently across ages and genders?

Feb 15, 2024

Is psychological distress impactful differently across ages and genders?

Overview of this Assessment
  
Lab Report Guidance session
recording (starts at about 10 minutes)
slides
The major assignment for HPS301/781 casts you into the role of a Research Psychologist. You will be required to analyse some data obtained from a research study and to write a report based on your findings. The assignment must be presented as a formal laboratory report (see example lab report on CloudDeakin and/or https://www.deakin.edu.au/students/studying/study-support/academic-skills/reading-and-writing-for-science) and should contain an abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and reference sections. Given that this is a Research Methods unit, the assessment of your report will focus primarily on the results and discussion sections and this is reflected in the weighting of marks (see below).
 
Thus, the primary aims of this assignment are to:
Develop your skills in using appropriate statistical techniques to test a specific research question,
Broaden your understanding of research designs,
Develop your report writing skills; particularly the ability to report statistical results, the ability to interpret statistical results in the context of past research, and to integrate previous work into a structured argument.
 
A secondary aim is to apply the work you have been undertaking in HPS301/781 to a ‘real world’ problem in psychological research. Hopefully, you will come to appreciate the way we use statistical methods to help answer questions about important issues.
We will provide you with the data set early in the trimester (it is available now – see below), as well as information about the study methods, and specific research questions. 
Your task will be to analyse the data and then write a lab report on the results. Thus, you will need to draw on the skills you have been developing over the course of the trimester. You can consult the Seminar Activity Instructions documents on CloudDeakin for help with analysing the data and interpreting your output. Furthermore, a Zoom session (date to be advised in a News post) will be scheduled closer to the due date for any student queries regarding the assignment.
The main focus of the assessment is on your ability to understand, analyse and interpret the appropriate statistical analyses to test the hypotheses and to report the results correctly. Overall, your ability to write a psychology laboratory report (following APA conventions) as a whole will be assessed. The necessary readings for AT1 can be found in the Lab Report section of the HPS301/781 CloudDeakin site. There is no need to go beyond these readings, but you are welcome to source additional readings if you want.
Submission
 8pm, Friday, April 29th, submitted via CloudDeakin. 
The assignment is to be submitted as a word document or pdf (.docx OR .pdf), as well as your output (can be a separate file or you can copy your output into your lab report at the end – call it an Appendix) to the CloudDeakin dropbox for the HPS301/781 site. The purpose of this is so we can see which analyses you have run in Jamovi, and if the analyses match the results. 
The dropbox will activate closer to the due date. 
Word limit
For this task you must submit a lab report that includes the sections outlined below. The word limit is 2,000 words (excluding your Abstract, Reference list, and any Appendices) with a 10% leeway (this means that no marks can be awarded for work beyond 2,200 words). HPS781 students please note that you have an additional 500 words for your reflection piece (see the last section of these instructions).
Formatting
Please ensure that you submit your work as a typed/word processed document, using a standard font (Times-New Roman) and suitable font size (12 pt) with double-line spacing. Your document should be formatted with 2.5 cm margins on each side. Please make sure that you spell-check AND carefully proofread your work prior to submission. For guidance with APA formatting, see this APA style guide (thank you Dr. Michael Do), and the example lab report referred to above.
Weighting
This assignment is worth 40% of the total grade for this unit.
Unit Learning Outcomes
The assignment assesses (ULO2), as students will need to autonomously conduct appropriate statistical analyses given specific research questions. As this assignment is a lab report, students will be required to defend conclusions drawn from obtained results (in the Discussion section) (ULO3). Finally, as a lab report, students will be expected to adhere to APA style guidelines (ULO4)
Background to the study
Mental health is a significant problem in Australia and manifests in psychological distress for individuals of differing ages and genders. With symptoms including depression and anxiety, and associations having been found with many negative outcomes, it is important to understand who might be at risk. Personality has been identified as a key risk/protective factor for mental health and psychological distress. One area of personality research where the research is mixed on this question is the emerging field of ‘light’ personalities. At its extreme, this fascinating personality constellation describes archetypal saints, but most individuals know someone who would be high on Kantianism, Humanism or Faith in humanity. These traits have been juxtaposed against darker personality traits which have been linked to mental health. And while there is limited evidence linking light traits to psychological distress (as protective factors), a direct test of this research question is warranted.
In this study, you will build on previous research, examine these questions and try to better understand light personalities.
Your lab report will need to use the provided literature to argue for the merits of this study, and lead to the following research question:
Does age, gender and each of the light personality traits (Faith, Humanism, Kantianism) predict psychological distress?

References (click to access them)
Please note that while you are free to examine other sources if you wish, you are not required to. We have also prepared a reading guide  to help glean the important parts of these papers.
https://www.aihw.gov.au/suicide-self-harm-monitoring/data/covid-19
With that first link, you may have to paste the link into a browser. Please note that this report has a section focused on suicide. You do not need to read that section if it causes distress, rather, stick to the section on ‘Psychological distress’. 
Aghababaei, N., Mohammadtabar, S., and Saffarinia, M. (2014).
Hengartner, M., Tyrer, P., Ajdacic-Gross, V., Angst, J., and Rossler, W. (2018)
Kaufman, S., Yaden, D., Hyde, E., and Tsukayama, E. (2019)
Paulhus, D., and Williams, K. (2002).
Lab Report Sections
You are required to submit a formal laboratory report for this assessment. The sections of the report are detailed below. As this is a research methods unit, the majority of the marks (70) are allocated to the results and discussion sections. Thus, your ability to report the results correctly and then interpret them appropriately is the main focus of the assessment.
Abstract (5 marks)
The abstract should be a summary of the rationale, methods, results, and conclusions of the report. This should be no longer than 150 words (no leeway here).
Things to include in this section…
A brief statement of the study background/aim(s) [the word limit is too brief to include hypotheses]
Important to mention the study design, which variables (not scale names) were measured (i.e., age, gender, Kantianism, humanism, faith in humanity and psychological distress), and also mention sample key demographics (e.g., how many people participated in the study).
you may not have words to state the hypotheses, but you can infer them when summarising key findings (e.g., ‘as hypothesised we found that…’)
Make reference to the method of statistical analysis (e.g., ‘Multiple regression analyses revealed that…’)
State any implications and a broad conclusion drawn from the findings which is related to either prior theory or your study aim(s).
Introduction (15 marks)
The introduction needs to provide a succinct and directed review of the relevant literature on the problem of mental health and psychological distress in Australia, and how age, gender and personality (see the light triad) are related to psychological distress. You should indicate why this topic is of interest to researchers, the individual, and society (hit the head, the heart and the wallet). You need to end with clear aims and specific hypotheses related to the research questions. The most important thing to remember is that the introduction is providing an argument for the hypotheses to follow. Thus, you will need to develop specific hypotheses which address the research question listed above (it can be 1 or more hypotheses pertaining to this research question). The hypotheses should flow smoothly and compellingly from the literature you have presented.
This section is only worth 15 marks, so be very concise and use the following questions to guide critical reading of references and write up of the Introduction section to your report:
Is psychological distress a problem in Australia?
Is psychological distress impactful differently across ages and genders?
Is personality related to the experience of psychological distress/mental health?
What does the research say about dark personalities, and therefore light personalities and the experience of psychological distress/mental health?
The key in your Introduction is to convince your reader that your research question needs to be investigated.
Method (5 marks)
In the method section you need to describe the participants, measures, and procedures which were utilised in the study. The important point to remember when writing a method section is that you need to provide enough information so that the experiment can be replicated by another researcher. We have provided the information pertaining to the measures and procedure for you to insert into your method section (view and download here: Method – T1 2022). However, you will need to report on the sample size, age (include age range, Mean age and SD), gender distribution (raw numbers and percentage) of the participants by analysing our data-file.
Your data will include some variables that are ready to be analysed in their current form, however you will need to create an overall measure of Psychological Distress. Pay close attention to any instructions the method section might give for calculating total scores from individual items and use the “Compute” function in jamovi to help you out. Hint: You can easily make summed scale values by using the SUM command.
Results (35 marks)
Along with the discussion, this is the major component of the report and you will be assessed on your ability to conduct and report the statistical procedures. Thus, here you need to present the results of the study – only present and describe them; there should be no interpretation of the data at this point.
There are really two parts to the results section.
In the first, you should present the descriptive statistics for all continuous variables in your multiple regression analysis (not gender as it is categorical and covered in your Method). Include key descriptives such as means, standard deviations, and min/max (lowest/highest) values. Briefly (1-2 sentences) explain what you see in terms of means, range and/or SD (without repeating the statistics from the table) for the interpretability of your inferential stats. See the example Lab Report for a good example of how to do this.
In the second part, you will present a multiple regression analysis (preceded by a correlation table). Make sure that these results are directly linked with your hypotheses (e.g., ‘Multiple regression analyses were conducted to test … It was found that …’). See your Seminars for how to write these analyses up. While you can do the relevant assumption tests for your own interest, such tests are not required for this assessment task (we have already examined them and determined there are no problems for the required analysis).
As the trimester progresses, you will become familiar with the specific analyses that you will be conducting to answer your research questions:
Does age, gender, Kantianism, Humanism and Faith in Humanity predict psychological distress?
Conduct a multiple regression to answer this question. You will need to consider the directions of some predictors (but not necessarily all). You will also need to decide between a standard multiple regression and a hierarchical multiple regression (the general argument put forward in your Introduction should justify this choice).
For each analysis you are required to report the results in the conventional manner (see your Seminar materials on CloudDeakin for illustrative examples of how to report the various statistical tests in APA format). You will need to compute the Psychological Distress variable by summing the DASS-21 Depression, Anxiety and Stress subscales (see Seminar 2 for summing such variables). 
Discussion (35 marks)
The findings of the study should be discussed in relation to the aims and hypotheses presented in the introduction. You also need to discuss the findings with reference to prior research, in particular the literature that was cited in your introduction. There should be clear statements as to whether the hypotheses were supported.
It is generally a good idea to discuss one or two limitations. However, these limitations should be relevant to your specific research design rather than generic limitations (such as ‘correlation/regression does not imply causality’ or ‘the sample size was not large enough’). Even better is to be able to tie these limitations to future research directions.
Questions to help you write up your discussion section:
How do the present findings inform your research question(s)? (i.e., were the hypotheses supported? What do the results mean?)
How do findings advance current knowledge in this area?
What might explain any unexpected findings, or how might you further explore them?
Were there any factors that may limit the conclusions you draw from this data?
What findings were most important, and what is the big picture conclusion drawn from this study?
Scientific writing style etc. (5 marks)
This will also be assessed independently as well as within the demonstration of other criteria.
The word limit is 2,000 words (excluding your Abstract, Reference list, and any Appendices) with a 10% leeway. It is nonetheless important to be concise in your writing. 
Required Files
Data set and Method document.

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