Psych PDRF Focuses on the Methodology of Research

Kaylee Litson Utah State University

Upon first coming to Utah State University in fall 2013, psychology graduate student Kaylee Litson didn’t know anything about the Presidential Doctoral Research Fellowship. Once she found out about it she applied on a whim and was awarded the grant, beating out numerous applicants.

The St. George native received her bachelor’s degree from Dixie State University in psychology and there discovered her love for statistics. She looked into graduate programs with a statistics emphasis within psychology and picked USU because of its research opportunities.

Working closely with mentor Dr. Christian Geiser, Litson’s research focuses on psychology methodology.

“It’s actually the research before you do the research,” she said. “What we do in our lab is either come up with new methods or revise existing methods or try to fit methods to data. We work to fit a lot of different models so we can explain the variability within them..”

The core of her research is that of traits—such as personality and mood traits—and separating the variability between them to see where the data is coming from.

“We look to see if it’s trait-specific data, if it’s an actual trait, if it fluctuates over different occasions or if different raters report these traits for one person differently if it’s method-specific,” she said.

Litson spends 8 to ten hours daily dedicated solely to working in the lab.

“It’s a full-time commitment,” she said. “I do classwork and everything else with it, but research is my main priority. I’ve really liked that about my program.”

Ultimately, Litson hopes what she’s learned can be beneficial and applied to other researchers’ methodology.

“A lot of what I want to do with this research is provide new methods to researchers,” Litson said. “I want to advance past methods and create new methods that, if people have a certain type of data-set, they can apply these methods and draw maximum information from that data set. I want to help researchers so they can understand more in depth the data they’ve gathered.”

As a Presidential Doctoral Research Fellow, Litson has had the luxury of having various research opportunities.

“I love that I’ve already been able to be involved in so many different research projects in just my first year,” Litson said. “I most likely wouldn’t have the time to do what I’m doing right now if I didn’t have the PDRF.”