Blogging Your Way To A Thesis In Parapsychology (AKA Superstitions Aren’t So Bad After All)

Siouxsie asked via Twitter if I could resurect a blog post about blogging (how meta…) from a while back – so, just before I run out the door in order to go do some radio-recording volunteering at a central city campus (interviewing people about career choices via street vox pop!), I decided to zip a few details down.

There’s a lot of interest in the influence of online writing upon science communication, some of it will most likely be discussed at a forthcoming convention, called ScienceRewired: The Big Science Communication Summit, and I encourage people to put forward any ideas they have here too.

Firstly – the End Product:

It’s not only colourful, it’s got nice diagrams, some fascinating content, smells lovely and kind of leathery to the taste. If you hold it, it’s quite comfortable in an embrace. I have hugged it often.

But that’s just what I think about it. It’s actually:

 “Anomalistic beliefs in Australians : a Rasch analysis

aka:

Although the nature of paranormal, pseudoscientific and conspiracy theory beliefs has been investigated by a wide range of academics, the creation of an anomalistic belief scale that includes all these hypothesised aspects has been limited in terms of whether they are a homogenous or multifaceted construct.

To address the paucity of empirical evidence, this research set out to construct and validate a measurement instrument of anomalistic beliefs. In addition, the differential patterns of male and female responses were analysed.

The nineteen-item anomalistic belief scale was developed by combining relevant items from a number of currently existing instruments on Paranormal, Pseudoscientific and Conspiracy theory beliefs. Luck factor items and items on Creationism/Evolution were also included. Hence the scale items pertained to five hypothesised aspects of anomalistic belief: Paranormal, Luck factor, Pseudoscience, Conspiracy theories and Creationism/Evolution. The scale was administered in a state-wide telephone survey of the residents of the Australian state of Queensland. The survey, known as the Queensland Social Survey (QSS) is stratified to ensure its representativeness regarding urban and rural respondents and gender, with a total of 1243 people surveyed.

How did it start?

“At least four times a week, write on something strongly related to what you have to produce for your degree, using as much current or influential research as possible. Aim to have at least one post a week that is over 400-500 words, with correctly-formatted references. Do this for a time period of just over three years of part-time study, or at least until the conclusion of my thesis deadline, fairly consistently.

“I aim to use my traveling-experiences and work to enhance my writing – by keeping logs and accounts of what I do and find related issues to paranormal and pseudoscientific investigations wherever possible. Contribute to Science, Feminism and Skeptical blog carnivals and try to maintain a standard that would not have my posts out of place with others of a similar educational background.”

This started around 2008-ish to the completion in 2011.

Posts I wrote while studying included ones like Step To It Science Superstitions (I Don’t Cheerlead In These Shoes) - unfortunately many of the other posts are no longer available, but I also wrote up many of the interviews I did to help inform the study at:

The Scope of Skepticism: Interviews, Essays and Observations From the Token Skeptic Podcast.

Blogging also helped inform the writing of: “The structure of superstitious action – A further analysis of fresh evidence”of which I was third author.

At the moment? I’m studying radio as a full time student, studying psychology part-time… and about to head out the door to do some volunteer work. A blogger’s work is never done! More info can be found at www.tokenskeptic.org.

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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.


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