Statistics research projects conducted by Hope College students have again won national recognition.

Teams of Hope students earned first place and honorable mention in the Fall 2018 Undergraduate Statistics Project Competition (USPROC) of the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education (CAUSE) and the American Statistical Association (ASA). The awards, announced near the end of March for entries from the fall 2018 semester, are in the Introductory Statistics portion of the competition.

Sophomore Johanna Emmanuel of Wheaton, Illinois; junior Sophia Kleinheksel of Spring Lake; and junior Ian McNamara of Royal Oak won first place for “The Effect of Music on Memory Tasks.”  Junior Christopher Belica of Grosse Pointe Park; senior Kendall Collins-Riley of Chicago, Illinois; and sophomore Safia Hattab of Des Plaines, Illinois, received one of two honorable mentions for their project “The Effects of Positivity and Negativity on Response Length.”  Both teams pursued the projects during the fall 2018 Introductory Statistics class taught by Dr. Yew-Meng Koh, assistant professor of mathematics.

Hope students have earned recognition in the national competition multiple times through the years.  This past fall, Hope teams won first place and third place this past fall for projects completed during the spring 2018 semester.

The winning projects are featured on the CAUSE website and will be announced in the monthly Amstat News Journal published by the ASA.  As first-place winners, Emmanuel, Kleinheksel and McNamara may also be invited to give a virtual plenary talk during the Electronic Undergraduate Statistics Research Conference (eUSR).

“The Effect of Music on Memory Tasks” explored whether or not listening to music with lyrics made more of a difference to memorization than listening to music without lyrics.  The team had 30 random students memorize as many random letters in order as possible in 30 seconds while listening to one of the two types of music.  The study found that, in general, students listening to music without lyrics memorized more of the chain of letters than those listening to music with lyrics.

 “The Effects of Positivity and Negativity on Response Length” had 50 random students write answers to pairs of related questions.  For some, the first question was phrased positively, and for others it was phrased negatively.  The researchers found that, in general, the participants wrote about the same amount for the first question regardless of how it was phrased.  They also found that while participants who first answered a negative question generally wrote less than those who had first answered a positive question, participants in both groups generally wrote less when answering the second question.

In addition to sharing the purpose and results of the experiments, the students’ reports described the methods they used and considered possibilities for follow-up or improvement.  For example, each report noted that the small sample sizes potentially limited the significance of the results.

End-of-semester group projects have been a part of the Introductory Statistics course at Hope for several years. The students develop their own projects, with the assignment including designing their experiment, collecting the data and reviewing relevant literature, as well as analyzing the data and drawing conclusions from it. The teams also make oral presentations regarding their research in addition to writing a paper about it.

CAUSE and the American Statistical Association organize USPROC to encourage the development of data analysis skills, to enhance presentation skills and to recognize outstanding work by undergraduate statistics students. In addition to the Undergraduate Statistics Class Project Competition for students in introductory and intermediate statistics courses, USPROC includes an Undergraduate Statistics Research Project Competition for undergraduates who have conducted research projects that are statistically related but are not based on a statistics course.