Lab handbook

Updated: 6/26/2019

These are the policies and guidelines that govern the lab. They are written with the aim of transparency, scientific rigor, and support for students.

Statement of scientific principles

We affirm the principle of scientific rigor. Rigor is essential to our other principles, but in rigor we mean a commitment to precise theorizing, measurement, statistical analysis, and hypothesis testing.

We affirm the principle of transparency. All data and replication code will be available via the open science framework. We welcome other researchers to test our analysis. When applicable, we will pre-register our experiments and analysis plans.

We affirm the principle of ethical research. For our research, this primarily ties into transparency. Our research will not invent new hypotheses to test when prior hypotheses are not supported. Guidelines for human subjects research will always be strictly adhered to.

Roles and expectations

Lab Director: Dr. Aaron C. Sparks. The Lab Director will clearly communicate expectations, organize weekly meetings, and coordinate the research process.

Enrolled Student Researchers: Students enrolled for credit in POL/PST 4999 will meet the expectations provided in the individual syllabus (link here).

Non-enrolled Student Researchers: If students are not able to enroll, but would still like to participate in research, they will meet the expectations provided in an individual contract.

Student researchers will complete the work they agree to take on or be in communication with the group if there are unforeseen hurdles. Clear communication is key to ensure the research process moves forward as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Mentoring and development

Undergraduate research is an important component of the Elon experience. We will contribute to scientific knowledge on climate activism and this lab will provide a venue for extensive mentoring and professional development. We are welcoming and inclusive to all students interested in climate activism research. Dr. Sparks has an open door policy; if his office door is open students are encouraged to drop-in, say hello, and ask any questions they may have. The core of lab work is built around the apprenticeship model of development. Students will be able to learn how political science research is conducted and presented. At professional conferences, students will have the opportunity to network with other political scientists and undergraduates from around the world. The Lab Director is committed to enhancing student’s experience and promoting their career aspirations.

Data analysis statistical software

Our data analysis will be primarily conducted in R. (If you are unfamiliar with the R programming language, that is ok. You can learn!) Links to download instructions cane be found here. Typically, individual data management and analysis tasks will be completed by one person and saved in a shared folder with an appropriate file name (eg: study1_SparksV1). Once all analysis is complete the Lab Director will compile the various files to be shared publicly.

Raw data will be stored in the shared project folder and a backup will be kept by the Lab Director. R scripts to clean and organize the data will be shared in the folder. Tasks to clean, organize, or manipulate the raw data in the R scripts should be documented with clear and concise comments using the # operator in R. Anyone should be able to review the R script and know exactly what was done to the data.

Code of conduct

This lab adheres, without daylight, to Elon’s honor code and code of conduct.


College is stressful for everyone. Elon’s services for well-being can be found on the Counseling Services website.


To be eligible for co-authorship on peer-reviewed publications, students must take leadership on at least one of the following aspects of research: research idea generation, theory building/hypothesis generation, writing of literature review (finding articles alone is not sufficient), original writing, data collection (not just data input/cleaning), or data analysis.

Political Science research conferences

We will present our lab research at national political science research conferences. There are resources available to assist in student travel and attendance. All students involved on the project will be listed as co-authors on conference papers and are encouraged to present the paper.

Students are also encouraged to submit their papers to the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Political Science Research conference and any additional conferences of interest.


Official lab communications will be provided through the blog function of this website and a twitter account.