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Update

I will suggest treating the email communication as a figure and adding a note to the figure caption. IMO a caption is overkill when the appendix title is sufficient, but it's an ok tradeoff to cover the bases.

Would still love to have other ideas to have another option or two.

(To be clear, I am not the student.)

Short question

When a study expands beyond the time communicated to participants, how does it affect reporting the results in the examples of communications with participants?

Background

The student conducted a study designed for three rounds. During Round 3 the study was expanded to four rounds; and in Round 4 it was expanded to five rounds.

All communication with participants up to Round 3 set the expectation that there would be only three rounds (i.e., letters to recruit participants, to select pilot study participants, and to give instructions for Rounds 1 and 2 in the actual study).

The appendices have copies of all of the communications. The earliest communications mention three rounds. None of the communications mentions the reason for expanding from three to four rounds or from four to five rounds.

Do you alter the early communications by inserting square brackets with corrected text as you would for a quote, such as “the 3[5]-round study”? Replace all mentions with a generic placeholder, such as “the study”? Add an explanatory note for the reader? Or just leave everything as is? Or ...?

If it makes a difference, the paper follows APA style. The university has no standards for this situation.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems too specific to quantitative social science research. – einpoklum Jul 21 '17 at 21:51
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    Are you saying the academia stack exchange is limited to quantitative research? – RJo Jul 22 '17 at 3:30
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    @shake baby ... Umm, the question is about a dissertation. How is not about academia? – RJo Jul 22 '17 at 3:44
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    @einpoklum: I disagree. While this question may stem from a social-science problem, it is actually mainly about reporting scientific results. The latter may be again specific to the field of social sciences (though I doubt this, see my answer), but even then it would still be on topic. – Wrzlprmft Jul 22 '17 at 8:15
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    Wait - you didn't explain to your own participants why the number of rounds were increased??? Also, all this is almost certainly covered by IRB protocols, and I expect your IRB would want you to explain in detail both to them and to the participants why the parameters of the study were changing. – Bryan Krause Jul 22 '17 at 17:23
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Just describe what actually happened like you did to us. Also explain why this happened. There is no reason to slavishly adhere to some style that doesn’t fit special situations like yours.

In general, your thesis (and any other scientific publication) should contain everything needed to reproduce and assess the results. As the circumstances you describe are certainly relevant to this (e.g., participants may drop out of the study after prolongation), you cannot possibly leave this unmentioned.

  • Agreed, must mention what happened and have done so. The point is not to avoid mentioning it, but to account for it in an way that will avoid confusion when someone is looking (for example) at the sample communications in the appendices, and to not overexplain. Your reply prompted an idea on how to handle the situation. – RJo Jul 22 '17 at 14:47

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