Jennifer Cullin MA, Anthropology
Is in the second semester of her Master of Arts degree in Anthropology. She began working on a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project with two graduate students in the Master of Public Health program, Ryan Alano and Tiffany Price. The project is supervised by faculty Sara Johnson (Anthropology) and Archana McEligot (Health Science) and intends to investigate cultural factors influencing eating habits among undergraduate students. Therefore, the study targets students in Health 101, asking questions regarding fitness, sleep patterns and understanding of proper food portions and nutritional intake.
I am in my first semester of grad school and working towards my master’s degree in anthropology. Currently I am involved in a study with Dr. Sara Johnson, Dr. Archana McEligot, and two MPH candidates, Ryan Alano and Tiffany Price. This study is focusing on Health 101 students and their fitness status, sleep patterns, knowledge of proper food portions, nutritional intake, and cultural factors that may influence choices made about when and what to eat. When Dr. Johnson first approached me about being involved in this study I was a bit hesitant since I had only been a graduate student for a few weeks, but I decided to jump right into it and I am so glad I did! I had no previous experience in this type of data collection or data entry prior to this study, and I am so excited to be gaining this experience in my first semester of grad school.
We wasted no time at all, data collection started right away. Data collection was definitely a learning experience. We collected data from 8 classes of Health 101 students. This entailed 5 visits to each of the 8 classes. In the first visit to each class Tiffany gave a 15-minute power point presentation that showed the students the correct portions of food that should be eaten, which was interesting because a lot of students were unaware of proper portion sizes. A lot of people think that portions they are given in a restaurant are a portion size, when in actuality it can be two or even three portions! During the first visit in each class we also passed out consent forms, demographic surveys, sociocultural surveys and sleep quality surveys. The next three visits to each class were much less time consuming as we only had to distribute and collect two surveys from each student: a short sleep survey on
sleep from the night before and a food recall of everything eaten and drank the day before. This generally only took about 10-15 minutes or so. The last visit was the student’s favorite visit because we raffled off 6 gift cards as a reward to all of the students who completed everything on all 4 of the previous visits. This helped participation rates stay up, as it served as incentive for students to complete the surveys. The raffle was really fun because these students put a lot of work and time into the surveys and it was nice to be able to compensate them for their effort.
Data collection occurred during class time, so it was very important to be as quick as possible during each visit so that the professors could continue on with their lectures and lesson plans. After the first visit to the first class, Ryan, Tiffany, and I learned a lot about the importance of organization and time management! It was also our biggest class, with 130 students, so it was a little hectic and took up more of the valuable class time than we expected. Needless to say, you learn as you go. In that first visit we stumbled upon unforeseen problems in organization and snags that we quickly learned to solve. It is impossible to know exactly how everything will run and what kinds of problems will be encountered in data collection until you actually start to do it. It is only then can you begin to really comprehend the most efficient way to do your data collection. After that first visit we changed a lot of things and really came to understand how things should be managed during the visits. Luckily after this, most all of the other visits all ran rather smoothly with very few hold-ups.
We have just completed data collection and are now working on entering all of the data into a computer. This is a big job and very time consuming. It is lucky for us that we have several other students who offered to help us with this task. It may not be the most exciting part, but it is one of the most important. I am very glad to be getting experience in using different programs for data entry because these skills are crucial for researchers and future researchers. Next is data analysis and I think that will be the most exciting part. I cannot wait to see what the big picture turns out to be and how all of the data we have collected will come together in the end!