Research Methods in Family Therapy

By Douglas H. Sprenkle; Fred P. Piercy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
A Graduate Student Guide
to Conducting Research in Marriage
and Family Therapy

LENORE M. MCWEY
EBONY JOY JAMES
SARA A. SMOCK

When reflecting upon what it is like to be a graduate student researcher, one of us (EJJ) has said:

“When I think about it, I can't help but feel that I voluntarily got on one of the
largest roller coasters in the world without meeting the height requirements. What
better way to get my adrenalin pumping, or so I thought. I know where I started,
but I don't know where I will end. Wait! 'Have a nice ride,' my advisor says. I am
not so sure I am ready. Too late the higher I go, the harder it is to see the peo-
ple on the ground where I started, and all I can hear is the click, click, clicking of
the roller coaster. It gets louder and louder the closer to the top I get. Then all of a
sudden there is silence, and there is nothing else left to do but SCREAM. When
asked to make research observations from a roller-coaster seat, I cannot help but
focus on my own anxiety about the ride itself.”

Sprenkle and colleagues (Sprenkle, 2002a) have charged our field with the task of engaging in research that would secure a spot for the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT) in the mental health profession. Although this charge may seem like an overwhelming task for a graduate student, research does not have to be as unpredictable as a roller coaster. The purpose of this chapter is to serve as a guide for MFT graduate students who conduct research. Other chapters throughout this book provide readers with specific information about a variety of research methodologies. However, in this chapter we share general suggestions for students to consider before they get on the research roller coaster. We surveyed researchers in MFT by posting a question on the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) research listserv. We asked for any advice that researchers would like to share with students

-19-

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