Our research group is continously looking for students interested in doing their Bachelor or Master thesis on the following topics:
A thesis usually involves empirical data collection, but depending on the research question, it is possible to do a non-empirical thesis that involves a systematic literature review or meta-analysis. Students develop the subject of their thesis, research question, and methodological approach in agreement with their advisor (largely) by themselves. If it is explicitly asked for, the advisor may offer more specific guidance.
IT security is currently evolving both in research and in practice. Recently, studies employing Delphi processes and expert opinions have defined core concepts of cybersecurity. On the basis of theses, explicit suggestions have been made regarding the development of cybersecurity education. Does the Ruhr University educate students on all these core concepts and do students wish to gain deeper understanding or more practice in some areas? These questions should be answered by means of a survey that will inform the Bachelor thesis. Hereby, students can redefine, expand, or limit this suggested topic.
Meta science, psychological research methods
A mediation analysis is the attempt to identify and explain a mechanism or process underlying an observed causal relationship between a cause (or independent variable) and an effect (or dependent variable) by including a third variable known as mediator variable. In the mediation model, instead of a direct causal relationship between cause and effect, it is assumed that the cause influences the mediator variable, which in turn influences the effect. Thus, the mediator variable serves to specify the type of relationship between the independent and dependent variable.
For example, higher intelligence could lead to higher income. This effect could be mediated by the educational level: With higher intelligence (cause), a higher level of education (mediator) is achieved, which in turn has a positive effect on income (effect). The psychological literature, however, routinely includes mediation analyses with correlational data: That is, statements on causal processes are being made although the underlying data do not (and cannot) possess a causal structure.
The aim of this thesis is a systematic review in which the frequency of mediation analyses, their appropriateness given the structure of the analyzed data, and their documentation and plausibility is assessed in a psychological research area of choice (e.g., educational psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology). To this end, a systematic content analysis of a random sample of research articles drawn from a defined population of journals is conducted.
Meta science, psychological research methods
The median split describes a statistical method for (artificial) dichotomization of variables. The sample is divided along the median (or central value) of a variable into two equal groups. This is occasionally done to apply specific statistical analyses to the data, or to allow for simpler presentation of observations (e.g., low vs high intelligence instead of a continuum). Further, psychologists are primarily trained in analytical techniques (ANOVA) that require data being categorized in groups (e.g., conditions) and may be less familiar with techniques that can also model continuous predictors. These less important benefits are outweighed by substantial disadvantages of median splits: Depending on the variable, a dichotomized interpretation may not merely be simpler, but inappropriate. There is also a risk to create statistical artefacts, such as multicollinearity. Paradoxically, median splits on the one hand increase the risk of false positives, while on the other they usually go along with a loss in statistical power. Nevertheless, median splits are regularly reported in the psychological literature.
The aim of this thesis is a systematic review in which the frequency of median splits as well as their rationale is assessed in a psychological research area of choice (e.g., educational psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology). To this end, a systematic content analysis of a random sample of research articles drawn from a defined population of journals is conducted.
Cognitive psychology, learning and problem solving, experimental designs
Suppose that you want to control the lights in your hall with two switches, so that you can switch the lights on or off with either switch. The logic of the circuit is simple, e.g., when one switch is up and the other is down, the light is on. Change a switch, so that either both are up or both are down, and the light goes off. This logic is equivalent to an exclusive disjunction: The light is on when either one switch is up or else the other switch is up, but not both.
Designing an deterministic algorithm (electric circuit) from the observable output (light) produced by multiple Boolean operators (light switch configurations) that underlies this system is an example of reverse engineering. In general terms, reverse engineering is the process of inferring how a particular mechanism works, backwards from an existing device to an understanding of how its components should be put together to yield its behavior. This process, conceptualized as a class of cognitive problem-solving, usually involves iterative steps of hypothesis generation and testing until one of potentially multiple matching system descriptions is found.
The aim of this project is to improve our understanding of the reasoning and human sense-making involved in reverse-engineering in various contexts, particularly when systems are designed in a way that purposely increases the difficulty for reverse-engineers to understand the underlying logic, e.g., in adversarial settings such as IT security where system designers use techniques intended ward off attackers.