Step 7: Planning Your Procedures and Creating Your Materials

Instructions: Click on the sections below to see the explanations.

The last step before conducting your experiment involves:

  • Planning your procedures
  • Creating your materials

As you do both, make sure that:

  • They are methodologically appropriate.
    • They must be in line with your answers to the previous questions, especially Questions 8 and 9 (operationalized variables) and 13 (controlled variables).
  • They are ethically appropriate:
    • They must follow the IB’s ethical standards
Procedures (Click)

To plan the procedures involved in your experiment, you can once again start by looking at the original study you are replicating. However, there will likely be modifications.

Importantly, your experiment must follow a script listing everything that researchers will be doing and saying during its conduction. This list must be exhaustive and detailed, the criterion being that it should be enough for someone else to replicate your experiment or conduct it in your absence. We recommend that you adapt the following template (parentheses indicate the corresponding materials).

  1. When and where is the experiment conducted? How are participants gathered at the appropriate time and place? (1)
  2. How is the experiment presented (truthfully) to the participants? (standardized instructions or consent form)
  3. How is participants’ consent obtained and how is the protection of their rights guaranteed? (consent form)
  4. How is information related to participant’s characteristics collected? (consent form)
  5. How are participants assigned to the experimental and control conditions? (1)
  6. How are participants instructed to complete a certain task (on a certain stimulus and in a certain environment, if applicable) in the control condition? (standardized instructions and copy of experimental materials)
  7. How are participants instructed to complete a certain task (on a certain stimulus and in a certain environment, if applicable) in the experimental condition? (standardized instructions and copy of experimental materials)
  8. How are participants redirected if necessary? (standardized instructions)
  9. How is the dependent variable measured  in each condition?
  10. How are participants debriefed? (debriefing script)
  11. How is participants’ privacy protected after the experiment? (consent form)

(1) It is recommended that you test the control and experimental conditions separately.

NB. When a step involves the use of a material, a reference to this material must be provided. A copy of the following materials will have to be included in the appendices of your report:

  • Blank consent form
  • Standardized instructions
  • Experimental materials (e.g., list of words, memory test)
  • Debriefing script

Online Procedures (Click)

The IB has made it clear that “online tools and software applications make it possible to achieve the IA requirements in a remote learning setting” (Supporting Guidance May/November 2021). In particular, the IB suggests that students create a presentation (e.g., using Google Slides) with built-in audio instructions, research materials, as well as data collection tools (e.g., Google Forms). As a matter of fact, consent form and debriefing script can also be included, so that the entire experiment effectively consists in an interactive presentation.

Depending on your particular experiment and circumstances, this presentation can be given in real-time by using Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, or similar services; or it can be pre-recorded and emailed to participants as a link with a completion date. Either way, the presentation can embed a timer and other tools that will allow you to control extraneous variables. Alternatively, and similar programs can “lock” participants’ computers and offer other interesting functionalities. 

Finally, one advantage of the use of Google Forms to collect data is that it can be directly exported into Google Sheets where you will be able to store your raw data until you write your report.

NB. Online or not, it is highly recommended that you conduct a pilot study to test your procedures and materials, as well as to familiarize yourself with the experiment and anticipate potential issues.

Materials (Click)

Your materials include everything that will be needed to conduct your experiment, as listed in Question 15:

  • Research materials (used to manipulate the IV and measure the DV)
  • Supplementary materials
    • Consent form
    • Standardized instructions
    • Scoring guidelines
    • Debriefing script
  • Additional resources
Research Materials (Click)

Your research materials are the ones you use to manipulate the IV and collect the DV (e.g., a list of words to memorize and a memory test.) Although you may reuse the ones from the original study you are replicating, it is often more interesting to create your own. Either way, when selecting your research materials, make sure that they are in line with your answers to Questions 8-9 (operationalized variables) and 13 (controlled variables) above.

Supplementary Materials (Click)

Just like research materials, supplementary materials are materials that you (or the original researchers) created to conduct your experiment. The difference is that they play a supporting role and are used before or after the manipulation of the IV and collection of the DV.

They include the following:

  • Consent form
  • Participant characteristics questionnaire
  • Standardized instructions
  • Scoring guidelines
  • List of exclusion criteria
  • Debriefing script
Consent Form (Click)

As explained by the American Psychological Association, “Informed consent is the process by which researchers working with human participants describe their research project and obtain the subjects’ consent to participate in the research based on the subjects’ understanding of the project’s methods and goals.”

Before conducting your experiment, you will need to create a consent form and have it read and signed by all participants. If participants refuse to sign your consent form (which they absolutely have the right to), they should be excused from participating.

Your consent form should cover the following:

  • The rights of the participants, including:
    • To be informed of the nature of the experiment
    • To refuse to participate without facing any consequences
    • To withdraw from the experiment at any point
    • Not to be hurt or harmed in any way, physically or psychologically
    • To have their privacy respected and protected
    • To be fully debriefed
  • The nature of the experiment—You do not have to disclose everything. However, you may not deceive or lie to your participants.
  • The expected duration and general procedures of the experiment.
  • The factors that may be expected to influence their ability or willingness to participate—For instance, discomfort with the stimuli or the task based on personal characteristics or experience.
  • The lack of incentives to participate—beyond goodwill and the intrinsic interest of the experiment.
  • The reasonable benefits of participating in the experiment—E.g., learning benefits.
  • The assurance that the experiment has been approved by your supervisor (your teacher) and their signature.
  • Whom to contact in case of concern following the experiment—Your teacher and their contact information.

NB. If your participants are under 16 years old, you will also need a parental consent form.

Participant Characteristics Questionnaire (Click)

The easiest way to collect information related to participants’ characteristics is to add relevant questions to the consent form that they will sign and return (although it can also be done during the  debriefing). For ethical reasons, all collected data should be anonymous and/or deleted after submission of the report.

Relevant characteristics will depend on your research hypothesis, but may include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race / Ethnicity
  • Nationality / Cultural background
  • First language / Level of fluency in English
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Income level
  • Other characteristics relevant to your experiment
Experimental Script (Click)

While a consent form is required to adhere to ethical guidelines, an experimental script is necessary for methodological reasons. To avoid researcher bias, all aspects of your behavior as researchers should be identical towards all participants in both the experimental and control conditions. This is only possible if you create a script ahead of time and follow it rigorously.

Since you already have your step-by-step procedures, all you need now are standardized instructions. These will ensure that information and directives given to participants are strictly the same. The best practice would actually be to record those standardized instructions, so that even tone and speed are controlled. They should detail everything that you will be saying to your participants as you describe the experiment, the tasks involved, etc. This means that, when you conduct your experiment, you should simply not say anything that hasn’t been standardized ahead of time. For instance, if you anticipate that you might have to redirect your participants, the language that you will be using should be standardized ahead of time.

Scoring Guidelines (Click)

Scoring guidelines are only necessary if the DV that you will be collecting is not already a quantified measure. For instance, if your DV is participants’ estimate of the price of a car in US Dollars, no scoring guideline is required. However, if your DV is participants’ recall of a list of words, you will have to decide what to count (or not to count) as a correct answer. Will synonyms be accepted? What about misspellings?
Indpt, anonym

Exclusion Criteria (Click)

Exclusion criteria have already been covered in Question 13. An example of a list of exclusion criteria can be found here, but yours will obviously be different, based on your particular experiment.

Debriefing Script (Click)

Debriefing your participants right after the experiment is essential for both ethical and methodological reasons. Ethically speaking, the debriefing is an opportunity to give participants full disclosure, including information about the aim, research question, and background theory of your experiment. If possible, results should also be shared with them. If not possible, participants should be told how and when they will be able to access them. Participants should also be reassured that all information collected for the purpose of the experiment will remain anonymous and/or be destroyed once the report has been written. Finally, participants should have the opportunity to express how they feel about the experiment, as well as to ask questions and/or to contact a supervisor (your teacher) if they have any concerns.

In terms of methodology, debriefing is important in that it allows you to survey your participants and thus check for potential participant biases. In that case, data collection can not be anonymous. If a participant reports having changed their behavior based on what they thought the experiment was about, then you might have to re-run your study or to exclude their data from your analysis.

Your debriefing script is simply the text(s) that you will be reading and/or sharing with your participants after the experiment.

Additional Resources (Click)

Finally, additional resources include everything that is needed to conduct your experiment, but that was not created by you (or by the original researchers). This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Location (e.g., classroom, Zoom account)
  • Information delivery and data collection tools (e.g., laptop and projector, Google account)
  • Equipment (e.g., loose leaves, earplugs, timer)

QUESTIONS: Click on the questions below to see the worked examples.

Answer the question below on your individual Experiment Creation Form.

Question 15: List the steps involved in your procedures. (Click)

Your answer should include:

  • Step-by-step instructions to conduct and replicate your experiment
  • List of necessary materials

Table 15: Example of Procedures

Question 16: Select / create your research materials. (Click)

Your answer should include the following:

  • A list of your research materials (e.g., list of words, test questions).
  • A description of each research material
  • A link to a copy of each research material. These materials should of course be the same for all group members.
  • An explanation of your choice of research materials:
    • This explanation is based on your control of extraneous variables and/or ethical considerations. 
    • This explanation is necessary even if you choose to reuse materials from the original study. In that case, you should explain why this original choice was justified.

Table 16: Example of List and Explanation of Choice of Research Materials

Question 17: Create your consent form and participant questionnaire. (Click)

Your answer should follow the templates above, adapting it to your particular experiment. 

This consent form and participant questionnaire should of course be the same for all group members.

An example can be found here.

Question 18: Create your standardized instructions. (Click)

Your answer should include statements with quotations marks to be read out loud verbatim (word for word) as you:

  • Describe the experiment
  • Give instructions to participants
  • Redirect participants

These standardized instructions should of course be the same for all group members.

Table 16: Example of Standardized Instruction

Question 19: Create your scoring guidelines (if applicable). (Click)

Your answer should detail how participants’ individual responses will be translated into quantified measures. When relevant, you should explain your choices in terms of controlled variables. 

These scoring guidelines should of course be the same for all group members.

An example can be found here.

NB. You might want to test your scoring guidelines during a pilot study.

Question 20: Create your list of exclusion criteria. (Click)

Your answer should list characteristics making potential participants unfit, for ethical or methodological reasons, to take part in your experiment. When relevant, you should explain your choices in terms of controlled variables. 

This list of exclusion criteria should of course be the same for all group members.

Question 21: Create your debriefing script. (Click)

Your answer should include the following:

  • Full disclosure (aim, research question, and background theory of your experiment)
  • Findings (if possible), or how and when participants will be able to access them.
  • Protection of privacy: reassure participants that all information collected for the purpose of the experiment will remain anonymous and/or will be destroyed once the report has been written. 
  • Protection from harm: give participants the opportunity to express how they feel about the experiment, as well as to ask questions and/or to contact a supervisor (your teacher) if they have any concerns.
  • Check for potential participant biases.

This debriefing script should of course be the same for all group members.

Question 22: List all resources needed to conduct your experiment. (Click)

Your answer should include everything that is needed to conduct your experiment “from scratch” and that you (or the original researchers) did not create.

  • Your choice of resources does need to be justified, but only when this choice is relevant to your experiment.

    For instance, if the aim is to test the influence of music on attention, noise is an important extraneous variable, so the choice of a quiet space is very important. 

    However choosing Google Slides rather than Microsoft PowerPoint is probably not relevant and does not need to be justified.

An example of a list of materials can be found here.