A pair of Memorial master’s students are among 25 finalists from across Canada taking part in a prestigious annual research competition.
Laura Fallon and Meagan McCardle — both graduate students in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science — were selected from nearly 200 entries for the 2017 Storytellers Challenge sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SHHRC).
Their challenge was to create a three-minute video explaining their research in a clear and compelling way that demonstrates how social sciences and humanities research is making a difference in the lives of Canadians.
Each finalist receives a $3,000 cash prize and an opportunity to compete for the top spot in the Storytellers Showcase at the 2017 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences held from May 27-June 2 at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ont. There, the students will present their research stories before a live audience.
A native of St. John’s, Ms. Fallon holds an undergraduate degree from Memorial and expects to complete her master’s in August.
Her storyteller topic focused on the importance of inter-rater reliability, which measures the reliability of empirical research data, in published forensic psychology studies.
Forensic psychologists specialize in applying psychological knowledge to criminal and civil legal matters.
In her video, Ms. Fallon used the example of Olympic diving competitions to explain the concept of inter-rater reliability.
“If you had just one person judging the diving performance, it wouldn’t be very accurate because a judge could have their own biases,” she says in the video. “So you need to have multiple raters judging the performance and you have to make sure those raters are consistent in their judgments.”
For her research, Ms. Fallon examined more than 600 articles published in forensic psychology journals.
She found many articles did not report a measure of inter-rater reliability, while others used an inadequate measure — calling into question the reliability of the data in many of those published articles.
Ms. Fallon says it’s important to demonstrate the reliability of research data in this field because it can affect people’s experiences with the legal system — everything from the way they are read their rights to their treatment in prison.
“Decision-making in the real world is based on this data. I want people to know that data reliability is actually important to them because decisions are being made that can affect their lives.”
Ms. McCardle, who grew up in Kinkora, P.E.I., also completed her undergraduate degree at Memorial and is in the first year of her master’s degree.
Her research aims to improve the legal literacy of young people using video technology.
“We’re trying to see if using technology like a multimedia presentation will help kids to understand their rights better than the methods that are used right now.”
Before a young person between the age of 12- and 17-years-old can be questioned by police, their legal rights must be explained to them. Typically, Ms. McCardle says, an officer reads six pages of information to a young person who is then asked to sign a form acknowledging their rights have been explained.
“The process in Canada for delivering youth legal rights is not standardized, so the rights can be delivered in many different ways by a police officer.”
Ms. McCardle says research shows that young people understand less than half of the information about their legal rights because it’s too long and uses words they don’t understand.
In collaboration with Memorial’s Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, she produced a video to explain youth legal rights using animated characters and narration that is proving to be an effective combination.
Ms. McCardle tested the video among youth at community centres in St. John’s.
“So far, it seems like it’s going to be a success. I’ll be testing 200 more kids in the fall. That’ll be the true test.”
“Social sciences and humanities research enhances our understanding of modern social, cultural, technological, environmental, economic and wellness issues, and helps us to thrive in complex and challenging times,” said Ted Hewitt, president, SSHRC.
“Our finalists have done a masterful job, through the stories they’ve told, of enlightening and informing us on key issues, and have demonstrated communication skills that will serve them throughout their careers. Congratulations to our Top 25!”