7/2/09

New Edition of Dana Dunn's Textbook
on Conducting Psychological Research


Shepherding a textbook from concept to printed page is difficult for even the most experienced writers. In addition to the time and self-discipline needed to write the text, authors in 2009 frequently must deal with unexpected changes in editors and even publishing houses. Both writer and publisher gamble that their investments will be rewarded with positive reviews and strong sales. A second edition means not only that sales were strong, but also that your peers and students find your work useful and effective.

Psychology professors and students have responded so well to the hands-on approach and direct, conversational style of Dana S. Dunn's The Practical Researcher, a Student Guide to Conducting Psychological Research (first published 1998) that a second edition has been published (Wiley-Blackwell-2010). "I wrote the original book primarily for the way I teach here," explained Dunn. "It's intended for smaller colleges, where students need hands-on information about how to conduct a research project.

"I really strive to make the information understandable and straightforward—the reality is that students don't enjoy reading dry academic prose, and they don't learn from it." The new edition of The Practical Researcher features decision trees at the start of each chapter, additional exercises and research tools, expanded appendices, and a glossary. Most significant, the information has been completely updated with contemporary methods, including the use of the Internet. "Library research has changed completely in the last ten years," said Dunn. "The American Psychological Association did not even have an online database a decade ago."

The book can be used by student researchers in a range of psychological disciplines (clinical, social, animal, and more), and even by researchers in other fields, such as nursing.

Writing for the Classroom

Dunn, director of the Learning in Common Curriculum at Moravian and president-elect of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, is the author of at least ten books, with several others "in the works." He shares insights for others who would like to write for the classroom:

  • Begin in your own classroom. If you dislike a book you are using, ask why. Consider how you would change it to make it better.
  • Spend time at the publishers' booths. Publishers and editors are always looking for new talent. At conferences, stop at their booths and introduce yourself. Be prepared to discuss a specific idea for a book you would like to write.
  • Be flexible. Realize that although you are an expert in your field, your editor and publisher know what is needed to publish a successful book. "You must cooperate with them, or you won't be published."
  • Discipline yourself. Be willing to write at least five days a week, even if you write only one to three hours per day. "You must be willing to fit writing into the rest of your life—and that's the hardest thing for most people. It's better to write three good pages a day over a month's time, than thirty pages rushing to meet a deadline."
  • Exercise your writing muscle. Start slowly and build up, but work regularly. "Like an exercise regimen, the more you do it, the easier it becomes." Professor Dunn says he writes almost daily in a small study where he has two desks—his writing desk faces a blank wall; his editing desk faces a tree line.