Friday, June 26, 2009

Going beyond the University Walls

The best surveys are anonymous. There is an enormous body of research that points to the freedom that being anonymous gives the respondents. Among the arguments for this type of research are the removal of any pressure for the respondents to conform to the expectations (no matter how subtle) of the designer of the survey.

In the past, academic institutions relied on students to be their guinea pigs and often the cohorts chosen were the first years - barely adults themselves, and with limited life experiences. This practice continues. Members of the academic fraternity are still being recruited, often by their own lecturers and tutors. They are surveyed and the findings of the studies are written up in academic journals, and the participants are presented as being representative of the general population!

Many will argue against this. Some will protest that this practice doesn't go on; others will be appalled and call its abolition or at least a true disclosure of what the results reflect.

However, as with many things in life, change takes time and some changes take longer than others. Furthermore, research in general is not immune to pulling power of the prevailing unit of currency, and academic research in particular is even more beholding to those who control the limited pools of research funding. Students are readily available; they are keen to contribute to the body of academic knowledge (and even keener to get good grades?); and they are a cheap source of labour (for this read free). This is the reality of university research. But it doesn't have to be - particularly where non laboratory based research is concerned.

Through the openness of the Internet it is possible to invite the world to become part of the whole academic research process. And that's what I did. I wanted my survey to be different. I knew it was a topic that touched the hearts, minds and lives of many people and it was them that I wanted to invite into my study. Sure, the Monash University cohort, of which I am still a member, were invited to contribute but I wanted to reach out beyond the four walls of the academic institution; beyond even the University's website and its reach, into the real world - the world that most paranormal experients inhabit.

It worked. Over 4,000 people heeded the call to document their paranormal experiences.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Your opinion Counts!

I have posted a new survey and it is particularly relevant to professional psychics, tarot card readers and astrologers.

We do want to survey as many of the psychic community as we can. So get onboard! Just fill in your details (right).

It's a quick survey. It will take only a couple of minutes of your time.

And to say thank you, if you leave your name and email address we will send you the results of our first survey on paranormal experiences.

Get writing now - please :)



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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Psychic Realms

By: Rosemary Breen

Every year millions of hours are spent in private psychic consultations. People choose their clairvoyant, make an appointment or speak on-line immediately, and all this is done often and without much thought.

Why do users turn to clairvoyants? The list of reasons is long and wide. Some seek solace in times of grief; others are looking for excitement and fun. While the motivation for the consultation is rarely discussed, it is the outcome of the transaction (for that is what it is) that interests me more. Clients are unlikely to prepare themselves for their sessions by asking such questions as "what do I hope to get out of this?" or "how will I get value for money?" but these are just the questions, I suggest that should be asked.

Who owns the psychic realms? Who are the gatekeepers and are they charging a fair price for access? Generally, the supernatural planes are not discussed in such terms and yet I think it is for this very reason that so many charlatans are allowed to flourish. The question of whether all psychics are equal is a question for another time. that’s a different issue. What I’m calling for is more accountability and guarantees regarding quality of service.

Is it too much to ask? With the advent of on-line psychic websites it is now possible to choose from a smorgasbord or talent. Photos, audios, bios and even testimonies are the order of the day. But have you ever looked behind these sites, at the small print? It makes for interesting reading, or not, depending on whether you are a user or non-user, skeptic or believer.

Some disclaimer statements refer to on-selling personal information (I wonder what that means, given we are talking about oftentimes very personal information, not only about the client but also those who are drawn into the session, from the metaphysical spheres?) There is even the legal requirement in some countries for psychic sessions to be classified as being for entertainment purposes only. This is a whole issue in itself and one that has been hotly debated in the last year or so in the UK especially. This use of language certainly doesn't help the the grieving widow or the distressed parent. I doubt if they’ve signed up for a round of diversion and amusement and hopefully they are able to look past the wording to the service they require. Such people are oftentimes vulnerable and lacking in objective judgment. Is this a case for more openness in the industry? Websites can reserve the right to edit or omit any feedback items which they consider inappropriate, whatever that means. Seemingly this allows them to control the image which they project. Not very reassuring I would suggest.

I’m not talking about content here. Where are the regulations and consumer protection? There is always the old dictum ‘buyer beware’ but that is not enough. The psychic industry is huge. It involves numerous people - on both sides of the transaction - and yet it’s almost impossible to get any data on the industry. How much money is ‘invested’ in this type of ‘entertainment’? How many individuals derive their income from this source? How many people use the services of psychics and how often do they outlay their cash? And just as importantly, are the end users satisfied customers? Sure, feedback is subjective. Sure, it is open to misinterpretation but what is the alternative. Silence! It’s been the only option for too long.

I don’t know the answer to these questions but I’m going to try and find out. Someone has to.

The writer has recently graduated from Monash University, Australia with a Master's degree in Education. The subject of her dissertation was parapsychological experiences and this work, which was based on an online survey, is still referenced in Wikipedia. Rosemary is currently writing a book on psychic experiences and how to go about choosing a clairvoyant. She can be contacted through her blog sites. and

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

How I launched my Online Paranormal Survey

The first part of this article looked at the how to set up and run a low-cost online survey. Getting the actual instrument working correctly is just one of the factors which contributes to the overall success of an survey. Another important factor is knowing what data is needed. There are two broad types of information - qualitative and quantitative. Both have a part to play in scoping whatever the phenomena under investigation, which in my case were spontaneous paranormal experiences.

Traditionally, in academia especially, researchers either come down on the side of collecting qualitative information or collating quantitative data. There is a deep, historical divide between the two camps who oftentimes regard themselves as being diametrically opposite. There is a third path and, given that my topic of research is considered to be far from mainstream, it is probably not surprising that this option is one I chose. It is called Mixed Methods Research and for those who see the benefits of gathering both 'objective' numbers and 'subjective' narratives, then I suggest this is an option worthy of further investigation.

By and large Mixed Methods Research is still considered to be alternative, not mainstream, by academics. Indeed, there is a lot of heated argument (or to be more polite, intellectual discussion) about the merits, or otherwise, of using this method but, having used it so successfully myself, I am in no doubt that it has a place in research. The book which has become my permanent point of reference for this research model and one that I recommend is Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research by John Creswell and Vicki Plano Clark.

Mixed Methods Research involves the gathering of both statistical and qualitative data - and therein lies its elegance. Statistics can mask the true face of the topic under review - the human element - and in my research, it was the personal impact of parapsychological experiences that I was looking to document. Using the Mixed Methods Research model I achieved this and a whole lot more.

On numerous occasions during the running of the survey participants left me notes thanking me for the opportunity to tell their story. In part, this was because of the topic being investigated but I also believe that the actual design, layout and composition of the survey played a significant part in making the participants feel welcome and appreciated. Indeed, the survey was deliberately designed to build trust. Looking at the alternative, namely face to face interviews, it is relatively easy to build rapport (and indeed, the sales and marketing fields are awash with tips on how to do this). However, when the audience is unsighted and unknown, the demograph is potentially as wide as possible, the main thing, almost the only thing I had to work with was my words. And they worked. A survey is much more than a bunch of question. Take the time to consider how those questions come across and you will be rewarded not only with more responses, but with notes of thanks. Truly amazing, really!

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