Sometimes returns are a good thing. This summer I am having the opportunity to return to my work as a research assistant on the MLS project. If you have followed my blogs from last year, you might remember that the MLS is a longitudinal study that has been going on for over 30 years and this is the last semester before the study will be officially concluded. The study has collected some incredible information while looking at intergenerational drug and alcohol addiction.
I feel very blessed to have another opportunity to work on the study again this summer. It seems there is no end to the number of new instruments (that’s the technical name for the survey forms) that I get to work with. I am always impressed with the clever way that survey questions are worded. In some of my psychology classes, we have spoken about a few of the instruments but they have remained an abstract idea until I have actually been able to see what questions are asked.
Being a writer myself, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the researchers who come up with these brilliant tools. A research question is only as good as the information that it can accurately measure. Good survey questions are nearly an art form and I have never seen a class go into depth on how to formulate them. It seems like one of those untaught research skills that a person learns on their own through working with the material during studies like the MLS.
It is my hope to someday be a researcher who writes great survey questions. For now, I mostly code and input data but it gives me the opportunity to learn a ton from seeing how the instruments stand alone and support each other. They are the skeleton, the frame that holds the whole project together. To understand the meat of the research, you have to get to know the bones. I’m grateful and excited for the opportunity to be working on such a well thought out study of this complexity for a third semester.