A Little Closer to Home: A Review of MAPP’s (UEL) Theses

Overview

This article aims to supplement the interesting work carried out by the HIC on Master level Theses within the USA. Coincidentally, several positive psychology colleagues, including myself, have started to accumulate their students’ research output and impact, thereby enabling us to ascertain trends in both topic areas and methodologies. The collation and examination of MAPP Theses and Cappstone projects (MAPP USA) is a proposed focus of a symposium currently under review for Moscow, 2012.

 

History

MAPP UK based at the University of East London has been running for just over 6 years. In that time, 83 dissertations [14.5% = Cohort 1; 23% = Cohort 2; 37.3% = Cohort 3; 25.2% = Cohort 4) have been successfully completed within the general population as well as several industries including: health, education, financial organizations, government/public policy and public sector/local councils.

Overall, ninety percent of the theses were completed and handed in on time. 20.5% were completed under the Full time MAPP structure, and utilised the supervision of 10 different positive psychology supervisors.

The majority of the dissertations focused on studying individuals followed by organisations/teams and communities/public policy. Three studies were deemed cross-cultural (comparison of cultures) and 98% of the Theses were topics intrinsically chosen by the student.

 

Topic areas

MAPP students have focused on a wide variety of topics, including: Correlates and predictors of Well-being (SWB/PWB); Self Determination; Self Regulation; Resilience; Locus of Control Theory; Inspiration; Character Strengths; Mindsets; Massage; Psychological  Capital; Synchronicity; Posttraumatic Growth; Engagement; Creativity; Goal setting; Mindfulness; Positive psychology Interventions/Programmes; Fashion; Biofeedback; Altruism; Positive relationships; Positive anger; Positive failure; Evolution; Performance Psychology and many, many more.

 

Methodologies

The research method designs have included: Quantitative [e.g. Experimental; Quasi-experimental; Survey; Intervention evaluation (RCT)], Qualitative [Interpretative Phenomenological analysis; Phenomenology, Grounded theory (constructivist and essentialist); Discourse Analysis; Action research; Thematic analysis; Content analysis), Theoretical and more recently Mixed Methods (Explanatory; Exploratory, Concurrent), demonstrating MAPP at UELs’ holistic approach to understanding positive psychology.

Qualitative, Theoretical and Mixed methods

Content Analysis

1

Phenomenology

1

Discourse Analysis

1

Action Research

2

Thematic Analysis

9

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

11

Grounded Theory

13

Theoretical

5

Mixed Methods (Surveys with IPA/TA)

2

Mixed Methods (Interventions with TA)

4

Total

49

Quantitative  methods

Intervention evaluation only

11

Surveys only

23

Total

35

 

 

 

Impact of Theses on ’real world’

In sum, the impact of the student’s dissertations has been aplenty, ranging from media and book writing to the creation of previously non-existent roles (e.g. wellbeing consultant within their organisation). Furthermore, we have a solid population continuing on to conduct PhD study in the areas of positive psychology (E.g. Emotional Intelligence; Eudaimonic well-being; Subjective Well-being; Post-Traumatic Growth; Self Esteem; Aesthetic experiences) as well as publishing in peer reviewed journals (E.g. see publications section this edition). Overall, we look forward to the widening impact of the dissertations as the number of completions increases.

 

Future directions

In September 2012, we will be able to add to the growing data base of MAPP (UEL) theses with the hand in of both Cohort 5 Part Timers and our largest Full time cohort to date. We intend to maintain and update our database as a resource for future students to help show the variety of both topic areas and methodologies used by MAPP students before them.

Trends seen over the past 6 years show a developing interest in the applications and benefits of Mindfulness for individuals and organisations. Furthermore, there has been a trend to focus not only on Subjective well-being, but more Eudemonic well being and its components. Theoretical research remains an interest for MAPP students, whilst mixed methods are increasingly becoming the method of choice. This may be due to the extended research structure now in place, which allows time for additional methods to be undertaken. Survey/questionnaires remain the most popular choice within quantitative research; however, slowly overtaking this is intervention- based research, with some students utilising previous MAPP students’ procedures and interventions as guidelines for their own research.

 

Suggestions for future research

Due to the extended research period (1 year) students are now in a better position to complete 4, 6 and potentially even 12-week follow-up data collections in order to add to the sparse longitudinal positive psychology literature.

Furthermore, with the increase in full time international students, it would be great to implement more cross cultural research as only 3% of the Theses, thus far, have employed a cross cultural perspective.

In line with my own research interests, it would be exciting to start testing the boundaries of qualitative research, by introducing new methods of data collection and novel methods of inquiry. Observation analysis, art analysis, blog analysis are all areas of potential research that future student may want to consider.

Finally, we have really started to push objective experimental aspects of data collection, with students beginning to use EEG’s and genetic testing to provide a more biological perspective of well-being.

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