Guidelines for Research
The goal of the ACEP research committee is to advance the field of energy psychology by encouraging publishable research through the provision of seed grants, and by helping to disseminate this research by citing or posting it in abstract form on the ACEP research website.
The following guidelines for research are provided in order to assist researchers who would like to submit their work to the ACEP research committee for consideration for funding. Funding is generally awarded in the form of seed grants. In other words, money is provided to cover a portion of the costs involved in the research project, rather than the entire project. It is the intention of the ACEP research committee that the provision of seed grants will assist researchers in leveraging any additional funds required to complete their research (by providing a partial match for other potential funding sources). This policy allows the ACEP research committee to extend support to the greatest number of qualified research projects. However, ACEP funded projects must demonstrate (and this must be outlined in the researchers' initial request for funding proposal) an ability to be carried through to completion. ACEP will not fund projects that may be abandoned midway through the research process due to the exhaustion of ACEP funds. ACEP-funded projects that are abandoned midway to completion may be required to refund the ACEP grant.
The following questions should be taken into account when considering whether to submit a proposal to the ACEP research committee:
1. Is my project best described as a research study, or is it more appropriate to be submitted as a case study account?
For example, Gary Craig posts an extensive array of case study accounts addressing a wide variety of topics relating to energy psychology on his website. It is helpful to ask yourself, "Am I interested in writing up a case study to share with other clinicians and researchers, without the structure required by qualitative or quantitative research, or do I want to approach my area of interest within the academic constraints required of research targeted to be published in scholarly research journals? Both approaches are equally valid. It is important, however, to clarify which approach you want to pursue at the outset.
The goal of the research committee is to try to increase published research in the area of energy psychology, and therefore, we are focusing our funding efforts on projects that are targeted toward publication in scholarly journals. Because the field of energy psychology includes individuals from a wide variety of fields, it is critical that you be aware of any research requirements in your field (i.e., ethical research requirements, informed consent of subjects, etc.). While most fields have many of these requirements in common, you need to be aware of any specific guidelines spelled out by your area of expertise (i.e. nurses, counselors, psychologists, physicians and social workers, etc. have published research standards that their members are bound to uphold).
2. Am I able to complete all aspects of this research, or do I need to include other people as part of my request for funding?
It is important to consider all the steps that will be required in order to complete the research. The ACEP research committee does not edit case studies or compile and write up the final research findings. Submitted proposals will be reviewed in light of determining whether the individuals making the request can complete the project. Initial questions to ask yourself include, "Will I be able to complete the data analysis, or do I need to include someone who can accomplish this aspect of the research in my request for funding?"; "Do I need additional personnel to be involved in this project if I will not have the time to write up the results in a publishable format?" Again, while case study accounts are of equal value to publishable research, the focus of this committee is to fund research projects that will result in published research.
Excellent resources for researchers who need some additional help can often be found at local colleges or universities. Research librarians are trained to help find resources, and often hire graduate students who are eager to be helpful. Colleges and universities are also excellent places to find graduate students (or talented undergraduate students) who are inherently interested in publishing scholarly research. As co-authors, graduate students are most often willing to participate without being paid, because publication in academic journals is a necessary requirement for their subsequent employment in academia. If a graduate student is not being asked to serve as co-author, it is appropriate to pay them for their services, whether these services involve data analysis, data collection, etc. Another potential source of assistance are interested faculty members from local colleges and universities, who must also publish in their fields to maintain their employment, and who may be interested in participating in a research project that is within their scope of expertise. At the very least, they will generally provide brief telephone or email assistance in steering you in the direction of available resources, testing instruments, methods of analysis, etc.
3. What journals in my field (or a complementary one) look like possible places to submit my research for publication when it is completed?
A quick internet search, coupled with a trip to a local college or university library, can expand your awareness of journals in your field of practice that you might not be aware of. In addition, there are many journals that are more topical (for example, those that deal with child abuse, or trauma, or violence in families or communities) and that publish research conducted by a wide variety of researchers (psychologists, physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, counselors, social workers, etc). These interdisciplinary journals are as varied as ones that adhere more closely to disciplinary fields of research and practice. Journals differ tremendously in terms of what types of research they publish. Some publish primarily quantitative studies (studies using statistics and numerical data as the primary data to be collected and analyzed), while others publish primarily qualitative studies (studies using words and descriptions as the primary type of data collected, such as field notes, participant observation studies, ethnographies, etc.) and still other journals publish studies that include both quantitative and qualitative research methodology. A fairly straightforward and easy-to-read book on qualitative research design is Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to Theory and Methods by Robert C. Bogdan and Sari Knopp Biklen (published in 1992). Even though this book is addressed to researchers using qualitative methodology in education, it is easily applied to other fields.
Reviewing journals that might be interested in publishing your research is an important first step. All peer-reviewed scholarly journals publish guidelines for contributors (generally in the back of the journal; also available on-line). Reading these guidelines ahead of time and looking at the types of articles that have recently been published in the journal can save you a great deal of time in deciding which journal to submit your work to. Most journals require that you submit your work only to that one journal for initial consideration, and this process can be very time-consuming. While journal editors that are "caught-up" on their workload usually try to respond back to you in two to three months, waiting to hear whether your article is acceptable can easily take six months or more. The entire process (from submission to final publication) often takes one to two, to even three, years. Knowing this ahead of time (and asking the journal editor about the turn-around time for their journal) can save you lots of frustration in the long run (and the run can sometimes be very long!). E-journals (those that are published on the internet) generally have shorter turn-around times, but these vary.
It is also important to take into account that it is a very rare article indeed that is accepted "as is." Much more common is a conditional response known as a "revise and resubmit." While getting a "revise and resubmit" is more heartening than receiving a rejection, it does not mean that the journal is bound in any way to accept your research article even after you have revised it, although it certainly increases your chances. An integral part of being a published author is learning to differentiate when it is appropriate to say, "I guess there's just not a good fit between my article and this journal," and turn around and send it out to a different journal, or, when it is appropriate to do a major rewrite and resubmit. Journals often include reviewers' comments in their rejection letters to you, and these can be very useful feedback on your work. They can also be incorrect, however, and reviewers can fall prey to "too-quick-of-a-read" problems, "not-understanding-your-field" issues, and other such errors on the part of the reviewer. Most importantly, it is important to keep an open mind: "Is this reviewer suggesting something that will improve the quality of my work?" or "Should I re-submit my work with relatively few or no changes to another journal?" The skill of receiving rejection letters, considering the relative merits of their comments, acting (or choosing not to act) on their recommendations, and then submitting your work to another journal, is initially hard to learn (nobody likes rejection letters!), but is essential in becoming a published researcher.
4. Hmmm, given the discussion so far, do I really want to bother with research at all?
While all of the above may sound daunting, designing and carrying out research can be surprisingly easy and satisfying. In addition, a large majority of research projects can be designed and carried out with relatively small costs to the researcher.
As a researcher, your primary investment is your time. As clinicians, however, (as many members of ACEP are), much of the documentation required in a research study is very similar to the documentation required to produce your case notes of therapy sessions. Allen Rubin, PhD, has written a useful guide to single-case study design for EMDR practitioners which is also relevant to practitioners in the broad field of energy psychology. This guide is entitled Empirically Validating EMDR with Single-Case Study Designs: A Step-by-Step Guide for EMDR Therapists.
An important consideration in planning your research is deciding what instrument or instruments you will use to measure change. Two books are recommended for exploring this and getting ideas about publicly offered (i.e. free) measurement instruments: Measures for Clinical Practice: A Sourcebook (by K. Corcoran and J. Fischer, published by The Free Press, NY, 1987) and Measures for Clinical Practice: A Sourcebook, Second Edition, Volume 2, Adults (by J. Fischer and K. Corcoran, The Free Press, NY, 1987). The publicly offered measurement instruments are easy to administer and to score, and are possibilities to consider along with the many excellent instruments that are available to use for a fee from the instrument's author(s). In some cases, the same group that is offering the instrument for sale can also score the instruments that are available for a fee.
When considering the data analysis phase of data collection, keep in mind that the statistical analysis of data has gotten much easier with the advent of computer programs. To use one example, SPSS (the statistical package for the social sciences), is a computer-based program available to most students through university and college computer data labs. Most graduate students (and some undergraduate students) are required to learn to use it. One very viable option in analyzing research data is to hire a graduate student to tutor you in data entry and analysis, or if you prefer, to do it for you. The advantage of being tutored is that you then can do it yourself the next time.
It is most important that a study have a statistical design developed in advance. It is most disconcerting to find at the end of the study that important information was either not collected, or was collected in a format that is not usable. If you are not familiar with good statistical design please to seek such advice in advance so that the study design can produce valid data analysis later.
5. Okay, I still want to do this. How do I proceed?
One of the most straightforward and less daunting types of research is a single-case study design. It is also the design that often fits most easily into the time constraints of a practitioner (click here to read the article on Single Subject Design Studies).
6. What do I need to do to begin to put together a proposal for ACEP seed grant funding?
In the process of deciding what you are trying to find out (i.e., your research question) and how you will measure and describe any changes, you will want to take into account the resources you have available to you. Do you take detailed case notes? If so, including a descriptive, qualitative component to your research makes sense. Again, Bogdan and Biklen's book provides clear directions on how to produce "rich field notes," notes that are often quite similar to well-written case notes. Please be aware that there are numerous excellent resources on research design and instruments that the ACEP research guidelines are not citing--the three or four references that have been cited here by name are included merely as possible starting places for novice researchers.
What are you really interested in exploring? The first piece of advice given to those new to research is that your subject matter should be absolutely compelling, interesting, and exciting to you--in addition to being fun and invigorating! While quality research is not nearly as hard to conduct as it is often made out to be, it does require a time commitment and the energy to follow it through to completion (and any rewrites and revisions required to get it published) This is much easier if you are really and truly interested and motivated by what you are doing. Research is not for everyone, and if it seems like it will be a horrible drag before you begin, it may well be. It may be a good idea to push yourself a bit--to look over the resources suggested here, and to look over articles in journals that correspond to your areas of interest. However, if after exploring these resources you still think, "Why would one want to bother?"--you probably will not want to proceed.
It is particularly important that the research being generated is methodologically sound and well-presented. ACEP has limited funds and it is important that these funds be distributed in a careful and considered manner if we are to advance the acceptance of energy psychology in mainstream practice. While there is often considerable debate about whether mainstream acceptance is necessary, or desirable, the purpose of the ACEP research committee is to assist researchers in pursuing this goal. Again, please bear in mind that there are numerous other ways to disseminate information about energy psychology that are equally as valid as publication in scholarly journals. Those wishing to publish in scholarly journals, however, are bound by the conventions of scholarly journal acceptance protocols.
7. What if I want to conduct research that follows a more classic experimental design than either single case study research or qualitative research does?
The following is a basic outline for experimental research. Some academic or professional departments or divisions may require this more classic experimental design. As with all of the research methods described in this document, it begins with a commitment to conducting research in a manner that adheres to the professional standards for scholarly research spelled out in the researcher(s)' own discipline of study or practice. The following outline is developed using EFT as an example, but certainly applies to other energy modalities.
- In some academic or professional settings, research should be guided by a Principal Investigator who is affiliated with a recognized university. This individual should have a number of refereed publications in accredited journals establishing a reputation as a researcher and publisher of valid studies.
- Under the direction of the Principal Investigator, a number of
credentialed clinicians could undertake standardized treatment of
individuals in the sample population. By having a number of clinicians
conducting treatment, the case could be made for EFT, for example, being
a modality that has positive outcomes with different clinicians, and
this also allows for an analysis of the effect of possible clinician
variables, such as gender, geographic location, etc.
- One modality should be used in the initial research, EFT for instance.
Clinicians would be directed to complete the EFT sequence in a
standardized way (for example, either with or without shortcuts).
- There should be a standardized practice around recruitment of subjects.
A major issue to consider is whether participants will be offered
inducements to take part in the study, (i.e. free treatment, cash,
etc.), and the ethical implications of these inducements.
- Several methods of assessing the efficacy of EFT should be employed.
One method of pre/post testing could be to utilize a standardized test
prior to and following treatment. Possible examples include the HAM-D
(Hamilton Depression Inventory), MMPI (Minnesota Multi phasic
Personality Inventory), BDI (Beck Depression Inventory). In addition,
pre and post SUDS levels should be obtained and analyzed.
In summary, such an approach should include the following elements:
Rationale for Research
Review of Literature
b. Parameters of Sample
Presenting Complaint: Will the presenting complaint be a physical or emotional one? In either case, it must be standardized.
Demographics: Will the sample of people be of diverse backgrounds or (for example) a standardized sample of women over 40?
Exclusion/Inclusion Criteria: Who will or will not be included in the
sample? For example, will people who have had meridian/touch-based
treatments in the past be excluded? Will anybody who has had prior
treatment of any type for the presenting problem be excluded?
Prior Treatments & Intervention History (checklist format): It will
be important to document any history of treatment, psychotherapy,
psychiatry, or medical intervention for the presenting problem and
whether or not these facts are included in the study. It is important
to define both the excluded population as well as the included
population so that questions about whether results can be generalized
can be addressed.
Number of participants in the sample--the sample should be large enough to do multivariate statistics.
Determine statistical associations, correlations and statistically
significant differences between pre and post treatment levels of
How will define treatment success be determined; i.e. 80% decrease in symptoms at 12 months?
Please note, the following websites (amongst others) provide references to ethical standards for research as defined by individual fields:
8. To sum up, what should my request for funding proposal include? How long should my request be?
Requests should be no more than 10 typed pages. Proposal requests, regardless of the type of study that you wish to do, should include the following questions in addition to your budget page and curriculum vitae or resume(s) of research project personnel:
(Please see the section: Ethics, IRBs and Human Studies Protection)
1. Research question or hypotheses
2. Rationale for research (why are you choosing to explore this question--why is it an important question)
3. Review of literature (what has already been done to look at this question)
b. Parameters of Sample
1. Who are you doing this research with (how many--one person, many people); how and why did you decide to include that particular person or people? Have they participated in similar interventions in the past; briefly, what is their history?
c. Methods and Research Design
1. What measurement instruments are you using?
2. How will you assess how the participant(s) are doing pre and post treatment?
3. Procedures - what will you do in the study and/or clinical sessions?
4. What type of follow-up will you do? (90 and 180 day followups are recommended).
d. Data Analysis
1. How will you analyze your data?
2. How will you know you've been successful (have you been successful and why or why not)?
3. Have you consulted a statistician to assist you with data interpretation?
e. Ethical and Professional Considerations
1. How does your research comply with the specific ethical guidelines in your field? (Note: researchers who are affiliated with colleges or universities and some organizations will be required to submit their research protocol to an ethical guidelines or human subjects review committee (IRB) for approval).
2. What are your credentials as a practitioner/researcher?
3. How do you define your principles of practice such as consent, confidentiality, and protection of participants/subjects?