Experimental Procedures: Collecting data

Self-report and/or interview assessments:

Instead of paper forms, participants will complete electronic forms on iPads.  There are several steps to setting up iPad data collection:

  1. To open the intended documents, first click on the form you want to use inside of the participant’s study folder. Click on the bottom left icon (looks like a square with an arrow pointing up) and click the Acrobat application that says, “Open in Acrobat.”
  2. Before starting the assessment with the participant, fill out the administrative fields (Subject ID, Date, etc.). Only use the participant’s assigned E-number, NEVER their name. The only place that their name should appear is in their signature on the consent documents. All other documents in the lab should refer to the participant by their E-number.
  3. Complete the assessment with the participant. If it is an interview-based measure, ask them the questions and fill out the requisite fields. If it is a self-report measure, lay the iPad flat and give them a stylus to use to select their responses. As a healthy habit, please make sure to double-check that all edits were indeed saved in the intended Box folder after exiting Acrobat.
  4. After making sure that all questions and signatures have been filled out and you are ready to move on to the next document, swipe up from the bottom of the iPad to exit out of Acrobat and close the current document. This will automatically save any edits to the folder in the Box application.

Navigate back to the Box application and click on the next document you need. Repeat steps 5-8 until complete.

Symptom Rating Assessments – Full-Time RAs Only

The quality of a clinical assessment depends upon a number of factors, including the interviewer’s skill level, the rapport developed between the interviewer and patient, the severity of the patient’s symptoms, and their personality type. The length and effectiveness of the clinical interview will be determined in large part by a combination of these factors. In order to conduct a fluid and successful assessment, it’s crucial to understand how to navigate through a structured interview while taking into account your unique interaction with the participant. For example, a patient with schizophrenia and disorganized speech will be more challenging to interview than a patient with bipolar disorder who is not currently experiencing a manic or depressive episode. Although both participants will receive the same set of assessments, each session may require a unique approach to the interview. Extensive training and practice with diverse cases will not only solidify your knowledge of diagnostic criteria and symptom measurement but will help you develop your own flexible style as an interviewer.

In general, an interview will typically last 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours, but it’s not uncommon for the process to take up to 2 sessions, 2 hours each. As such, the first study session(s) is solely dedicated to clinical assessments. Although it can vary case by case, your experience with a participant is far easier and more pleasant after developing a good rapport. In order to develop rapport, it’s crucial to consistently remain patient, self-contained, confident and sympathetic throughout an interview. In the case that a participant makes you feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed or unsafe, Dr. Erickson or another experienced RA will always be available to assist you.

In addition to administering your measures, you will have to create a write-up for any participant that has met diagnostic criteria and present their case at our weekly Diagnostic Consensus Meetings (DCM). As a group, we will discuss your participant’s symptom ratings and confirm or re-evaluate your diagnostic decisions. Detailed training on DCM write-ups will also be a part of your symptom ratings training. 

Computerized tasks:

After assessment data has been collected, it is time to administer the computerized tasks.  For some studies, these tasks will just involve participant making button-press responses.  For other studies, these tasks will involve an EEG set up beforehand.  

While running the participant through the task, it is very important that you present the task instructions in a standardized way.  Each experiment will have a sequence of instructional/demonstration screens that you will read out loud to the participant. Then, there will be a small number of practice trials.  Make sure to stand in the room with the participant to make sure that they understand the task and provide corrective feedback if necessary.  At the end of the practice, you will be prompted to decide whether or not to repeat the practice.  This will be a judgment call; if the participant seems to understand the task, then you can advance to the experiment.  If you believe that the participant should repeat the practice, please do this as many times as it takes for the participant to understand the task requirements.

During the experiment itself, it is important to keep participants awake and engaged with the task.  Use the break screens to encourage participants, chat with them about their experience, let them know you appreciate them doing their best, etc. The happier the participant is about doing these (admittedly boring) tasks, the higher the data quality.

As with the informed consent procedures, administering assessments and conducting computerized tasks fluidly takes practice.  You must be able to demonstrate to the lab coordinator that you can perform these steps independently before you will be “signed off” to conduct these procedures with participants.

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