Research often begins with a question. Traditionally, answers have been found in lab experiments, surveys, test groups, and interviews.
This program provides an example of research in a field setting. Psychologist Dr. Christina Maslach of the University of California at Berkeley studies job burnout, what causes it, and what can be done to prevent it. Instead of using traditional lab settings, Dr. Maslach conducts her research where the burnout is happening, in the workplace, using a real-world setting as a lab.
By taking this "fly-on-the-wall" approach, Dr. Maslach studies stress as it occurs, relying on subjects' live experiences rather than just their memories or perceptions of past experiences. In this case, she has developed a scale to measure job burnout and a scale to measure the health of the workplace environment. Scientific methods to ensure accuracy are part of her approach. She collects data from carefully controlled measurements and observations, and the research process is methodical. The experiment can then be reproduced and the data tested by other researchers. By sharing data through publishing results, psychologists provide new understandings and new tools, as well as fodder for new questions and debates.
Through this consistent, long-term work, Dr. Maslach's research has shed light not only on individual employees' behavior, but also on the behavior of an entire organization. The application of this research helps individuals develop mechanisms for coping with stress, and assists organizations in evaluating the health and effectiveness of the workplace.
A profile of Professor Maslach is available at http://maslach.socialpsychology.org/ on the Social Psychology Network Web site.