Update 2: Poor Timing

The past few weeks have gone relatively well. I was able to add the finishing touches to my experimental (mindfulness) and control (psychoeducation) programs, post flyers and recruit participants and start bringing people into the lab. This was very exciting for me, it was the first time that everything came together and I felt very official. I have worked out my systems and spreadsheets so the experiment continues to be very organized and controlled. Just when I was very pleased with how things were going though, I ran into a little bit of a problem.


For the first couple weeks of the actual experiment I stayed busy screening, contacting, scheduling and running participants as they qualified, but now in week seven I am having a hard time fueling that supply. As explained earlier, this study aims to help alleviate some symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in college students specifically. I am looking at levels of these feelings before and after I implement my program to see if there are any effects. The problem is though, that participants must exhibit moderate to severe levels of stress at baseline to qualify or the possibility for change due to the experiment is non-existent. I have recruited via SONA, word of mouth, and with many flyers around campus and town and have had a pretty good response rate on my prescreener (which decides whether participants are eligible to participate). However, not many people meet high enough levels of stress at baseline to participate. As I thought about this problem, it really does make sense. Most students here now are not taking many courses, if any at all, and tend to have enough free time to balance their activities. This is in stark contrast to the stressful climate and demands that students face during the school year.


I continue to do my best to recruit a large sample; however, I will not alter my experiment in any way to allow for more participation. It is important that only the population I choose to examine is included in the sample. I think specific and quality data are more important for this study than broad data in larger amounts. So the search continues… Hopefully there will be more participants as the second session of classes starts.



  1. kesandberg says:

    Hi Claire!

    Your project sounds really interesting! I have learned a little about the Mindfulness method myself, and it seems like it could be really helpful (at least, it has been for myself on occasion!). I’m sorry that you are having trouble recruiting individuals…I agree that specific and quality data is more important, so I hope that your search gets better for you as you continue with your project!

    I was curious as to some of the specifics of your measurements for stress. Are you using a questionnaire that the participants take both before watching the video and after? I was also wondering how much time you are leaving between when the participants first watch the video and once you check in again with them to see how Mindfulness worked for them. Do you think there will be variability in how often each participant actually uses the tools that were talked about in the videos?

    I think you project is so relevant and important, as mental illness is such a problem on college campuses. Best of luck with the final part of your project!

  2. acgerhard says:

    I can see how this would pose significant issues. Most students here experiencing academic stress usually have issues with workload/burnout. Given the fact that fewer school activities are competing for time, and that students are taking classes, that just isn’t an issue.

    One question- are you able to reach out to other universities? I don’t know the rules regarding human participants, but you may find other participants at Thomas Nelson Community College or Christopher Newport University, both of which have, as I understand it, larger summer programs

  3. akgosling says:

    It’s a shame that you’re having trouble finding participants for your study…though considering that it means people here aren’t as stressed out as they normally are maybe that’s a good thing 🙂

    I’ve definitely noticed that college is a lot less stressful during the summer. Even though classes meet more often than during the school year, it’s less stressful, simply because there’s less going on, since clubs and such don’t meet over the summer. Are you planning on continuing this research during the year? And have you recruited any non-students?

    I’m also super interested in how you define a person’s stress level. That feels like a tough thing to do, though I’m sure that there are a few commonly used tactics.

    Best of luck on your research!

  4. ecwilliams01 says:

    I hope to pick this study back up for a little during the school year, maybe for a few weeks during midterms just to see how it goes. Unfortunately, for the Monroe project I will need to have everything done before that, but I think it is worth looking in to during a more applicable time. No, I have only recruited students as the population I am examining is just college students (since their mental health is of growing concern). I am using what is called the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale which is a self reported test which has been used by other mental health professionals and has been shown to be externally and internally valid. The wording varies for the questions but it asks about how often people feel they have control over their lives, how often they feel too overwhelmed, etc.
    Thanks for the well wishes and the comment!

  5. ecwilliams01 says:

    Honestly, at the beginning of the study, I did not anticipate this problem so I did not go through the process of reaching out to other universities. At this point though I am almost finished and have used other means to reach more W&M students, but that’s a good thought and perhaps in future research I should do that to gain a larger sample. Thanks for the idea!

  6. ecwilliams01 says:

    Good to hear mindfulness has been helpful for you; I have found it very beneficial as well! No, I am not employing any technique to “stress” the participants before they go through the program. The preliminary stress survey is to just see how stressed they are generally, asking about the frequency that they feel overwhelmed or not able to control aspects of their life. They are asked the same questions in the follow-up survey which is given a week after the initial program. It is my hopes that participants practice the skills they learn during the program throughout the week which helps with their overall stress levels. But yes, there will definitely be variability in terms of how intensely and frequently participants apply what they learn; I did include questions regarding that though in the follow-up survey to get an idea of that part. Thanks for your thoughts!

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