Students and professionals both know that conducting accurate, valid, and timely research into academic topics such as history, literature, or anthropology is critical to success in the classroom and at work. Writing the results into a paper is also a major step in the process. Here are some basic steps in performing secondary research.
In a recent study, Lane, Zareba, Reis, Peterson, and Moss ( 2011 ) used experience sampling combined with ambulatory electrocardiography (a so-called Holter monitor) to study how emotional experiences can alter cardiac function in patients with a congenital heart abnormality (., long QT syndrome). Consistent with the idea that emotions may, in some cases, be able to trigger a cardiac event, they found that typical—in most cases even relatively low intensity— daily emotions had a measurable effect on ventricular repolarization, an important cardiac indicator that, in these patients, is linked to risk of a cardiac event. In another study, Smyth and colleagues ( 1998 ) combined experience sampling with momentary assessment of cortisol, a stress hormone. They found that momentary reports of current or even anticipated stress predicted increased cortisol secretion 20 minutes later. Further, and independent of that, the experience of other kinds of negative affect (., anger, frustration) also predicted higher levels of cortisol and the experience of positive affect (., happy, joyful) predicted lower levels of this important stress hormone. Taken together, these studies illustrate how researchers can use ambulatory physiological monitoring to study how the little—and seemingly trivial or inconsequential—experiences in our lives leave objective, measurable traces in our bodily systems.
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