TitleThe title of the article clearly and succinctly describes what the article is about. The title is relevant, concise, clear, and interesting. While the authors could have done a better job at using single key words, rather than key word pairs, the provided key words are representative of the key elements of the article.
The abstract of the article is very relevant and well-written. The first sentence of the abstract is a statement of the problem that the article aims to address. The second sentence gives a brief description of the methods used in the study (a survey was sent to training directors who were asked to report on four ethical issues). The third and fourth sentences of the abstract gave broad information about the results that were collected. The fifth and final sentence was an interpretation of the results which demonstrated the strongest findings of the study. There were no independent or dependent variables in this study as the study was based solely on survey data. The abstract provided sufficient information to allow the reader to determine whether he or she may be interested in reading the rest of the article. The only information that seemed to be lacking from the abstract was a mention of the statistical analyses methods used to make sense of the collected data.
The first paragraph of the introduction sufficiently explains the problem that the researchers aim to examine. In this article, the problem is that many university counseling centers that are used as training facilities for up and coming counselors struggle with ethical issues such as competency, professional behavior, and confidentiality practices. The problem is extremely important as ethics are the core of psychological and counseling practices. Further, because counselors in training are meant to learn good ethical conduct from their training sites, it is important to ensure that ethical practices are being carried out at these locations. This certainly warrants the study.
The authors do not clearly state a conceptual framework to provide a context for the study. Rather, the authors seem to be operating under the assumption that the reader is familiar with standards of ethical counseling practices. While the authors do illustrate a case study in the introduction in order to make clear their point about what sort of ethical issues they are looking for, there is no discussion of theoretical framework or foundation. Also lacking is a clear statement of the hypotheses, predictions, or research question. However, careful reading of the text reveals that the researchers are looking to answer the question: to what extent are ethical issues a concern for the agencies at which training directors of the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies work? Furthermore, the article contains no literature review. The article contains an introduction with a case study, a discussion of the survey that was used and the collected data, and a discussion of the results and their implications.
The sample population used in this study consisted of seventy-two training directors. While the researchers assert that this is “an average and acceptable response rate,” it is a bit low in my opinion. For most studies based on survey data I prefer to see at least one hundred respondents. Otherwise the study runs the risk of being externally invalid. The researchers did not use any techniques to identify the characteristics of the survey population, other than to electronically contact “training directors who were members of the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies” (p. 270). The researchers created their own survey for this study, which is concerning. If the survey is new and has not been tested in any other study, it is impossible to know the validity or reliability coefficients for the measurement. Also, it is impossible to know if the survey items were leading or included any loaded language. The article did not discuss any of the psychometric properties of the survey, such as reliability or validity. However, the researchers may be hoping that their study will be duplicated using the same measure in order to establish reliability and validity data.
The majority of the article is a discussion of the results of the study. As such, little attention is paid to the materials used in conducting the study or in collecting the data. Other than a description of the electronic transmission used to send out the survey and data regarding how many respondents participated, the study’s scientific procedures are not thoroughly described in chronological order. The design of the study is omitted from the methodology section as well. Though it is understandable that the researchers would need to use a survey with open-ended questions for the sort of data they were hoping to collect, very little information about the design and procedures – even the statistical analysis – is provided. Clearly there is not enough information to replicate the study.
While most well-written studies have a header for the section on the study’s results that makes it clear to the reader what will be included in that section, this article does not. There is no such header or section. Rather, the article jumps from “A Survey of Ethical Issues in UCC Training” to “Discussion.” It is the opinion of this reader that the article is poorly organized. The article does not describe any coding procedures, either, which would be necessary if the survey resulted in open-ended responses from the participants. Since there is no clear hypothesis, the results of the study are not connected to any pre-established predictions made by the researchers. On a positive note, however, the tables and figures are clearly labeled. While Table 1 is well organized, Table 2 appears to be a list of notes from participants and researchers.
Discussion and Conclusion
The strengths and limitations of the study are delineated, but based on untrustworthy data. The findings are not discussed in terms of the conceptual framework or hypotheses because no such information was provided. The researchers simply discuss the ethical issues facing training centers and make their claims about improving such issues.
Though some references are from the 1970’s and 1980’s, the majority of the references are current and relevant. The citation format also appears to be appropriate to APA guidelines.
My overall impression of this article is that it is well written technically, but the content is disorganized, lacking in crucial information, and impossible to duplicate. The study itself seems to be poorly conducted as well. The article’s strength is that it discusses an important issue and valid implications, but the data on which these implications are made cannot be presumed to be valid. The study requires a complete makeover in order to be considered valuable or successful.
- Brown, C., Murdock, N. L., & Abels, A. (2014). Ethical issues associated with training in university counseling centers. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 8(4), 269-276.