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Association between involvement in a romantic relationship and academic grade point average

Romantic Relationship and Pharmacy GPA

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

This study will be conducted to investigate whether or not there is an association between involvement in a romantic relationship and academic grade point average (GPA) amongst pharmacy students. 

METHODS:

Pharmacy students in their first, second, and third professional years of the traditional Doctor of Pharmacy program at Shenandoah University Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy in Winchester, Virginia will be utilized as subjects for the study. Fourth-year and non-traditional students will be excluded from participation due to limited or no accessibility.  By way of convenience sampling, approximately 355 students from the Winchester and Ashburn campuses of the school of pharmacy will be administered a survey at the end of the spring semester.  Only students who are present and in class on the day the survey is administered will participate.  Based on their responses to the third survey question concerning current romantic relationship and corresponding living status, the students will be separated into groups ranked from least involved to most involved with respect to current romantic relationship status; these groups will be designated single, casual partner, serious partner, and married.  After all students have been placed into a group, their GPAs will be analyzed and compared to examine if there exists a correlation between involvement in varying levels of romantic relationships and pharmacy school GPA.  We hypothesize that involvement in a romantic relationship will have an effect on GPA. 

RESULTS: N/A. 

CONCLUSIONS:

We conclude that involvement in a romantic relationship affects pharmacy school GPA.  Students who will be or are currently enrolled in a graduate program can use the information from this study to make decisions concerning involvement in romantic relationships and extracurricular commitments.

Introduction

While there have been many studies on the effect of academic grade point average (GPA) (given a wide range of variables), it is unknown, up to this point, if relationship status affects GPA, and if so, how it affects GPA (positively or negatively).   The rationale for this research project is that there have been no previous studies on GPA and relationship status for graduate students currently enrolled in pharmacy school.  While limited research has been conducted on GPA and relationship status, there was more focus on adolescents (high school students).  Previous limited studies performed on pharmacy students include variables such as test anxiety, time management, test competence, academic competence, and study techniques.  The scope of this research project is to study the effects of relationship status on GPA for graduate students in pharmacy school.  As a result, the same study can be performed on any graduate school program, not just pharmacy, using the same survey questionnaire. 

We hypothesize that involvement in a romantic relationship will have an effect on GPA.  Relationship status, in this study, is defined as any one of the following: single; casual partner; serious partner; married.  Being in a relationship is defined as all of the latter except: single.  Other variables considered in this project (gender, age, year of study, hours dedicated to studying per week, importance of GPA, and hours worked and/or volunteered per week) are needed and help to isolate the effects of relationship status on GPA.  While the primary concern of this study is to evaluate if romantic relationship status has any effect on the GPA of students in pharmacy school, it may also be extended to discover if there is a positive or negative effect on GPA dependent on relationship status.  If there is no significant difference between relationship status and GPA, then perhaps data collected on other variables might explain a difference. 

Literature Review

Our study is conducted to determine how varying levels of involvement in romantic relationships affect the academic GPA of pharmacy students.  There have been many studies that examined the relationship between dating and the GPA of students.  Many of the studies were conducted using high school and undergraduate college students.  One study was conducted by Phuong T. Pham (2002) at Loyola University.  “Effects of Romantic Relationships on Academic Performance in College,” examined the relationship between dating and academic performance in college.  Pham hypothesized that dating while in an undergraduate program would result in a lower GPA.  A survey was conducted at Loyola University and after analyzing the results, it was concluded that there was no correlation between academic performance and dating. 

A similar study was conducted by Matthew E. Kopfler (2003) at Loyola University that looked at the effects of romantic relationships on academic performance of undergraduate students.  The hypothesis of the study was that students involved in romantic relationships would not perform academically as well as those who were not involved in romantic relationships.   The study was conducted by surveying 75 Loyola undergraduate college students.  After collecting the surveys and analyzing the results, Kopfler concluded that there was no impact on GPA if a student was involved in a romantic relationship.

“Factors that Affect Academic Performance Among Pharmacy Students” was a study conducted by Sansgiry, Bhosle, and Sail.  This study looked at different factors that might have an impact on the GPA of pharmacy students.  Sansgiry et al. used a questionnaire to evaluate factors such as test anxiety, time management, test competence, academic competence, and study techniques and their impact on GPA.  This is a very important question to ask since GPA is used as an indicator of academic performance.  Most colleges and universities set a minimal GPA that student applicants must meet in order to be considered for admittance into the school.  Their study concluded that test competence was an important factor in distinguishing students who will perform well academically from those who will perform poorly.  Other factors that include academic competence, test competence, test anxiety, and time management improve as the student advances through the pharmacy curriculum. 

The two studies conducted at Loyola University derived similar conclusions, that is: the academic performance of undergraduate college students were not affected by involvement in romantic relationships.  Our study advances the focus further by investigating how academic performance, as measured by GPA, is affected by involvement in romantic relationships while enrolled in a graduate college program. The study conducted by Sanger et al. is important because it looked at time management and its effect on the GPA of pharmacy students.  It was concluded from this study that time management does not have an impact on GPA.  Time management was defined as “clusters of behavioral skill sets that are important in the organization of study/course load.”  Time management includes planning in advance, prioritizing work, test preparation, and following schedules.  In our study, we will correlate time management with respect to relationship status by examining the amount of time spent with a partner compared to studying academic material and evaluate if this impacts the GPA of graduate college students. 

Methodology

Participants

Second-year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students from Shenandoah University Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy in Winchester, Virginia (VA) conducted a research study to determine if there exists a link between involvement in romantic relationships of pharmacy school students and their academic GPA.  GPA will be the dependent variable of this study and thus the focus of the research.  The GPA will subsequently be analyzed and compared with involvement in romantic relationships.  Involvement in pharmaceutical organizations, volunteer work, and weekly part-time work will also be considered as future research factors that may have an impact on GPA.  The data for the project was gathered at the two separate campuses of the Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy.  The survey was administered at the main campus in Winchester, VA as well as the satellite campus in Ashburn, VA.  A survey was selected to be the method of choice to obtain data because of its relative low cost of manufacturing and ease of administration.  

Sampling

The population under consideration in this study includes all traditional PharmD students who are currently enrolled full-time. This does not include fourth-year and non-traditional students on clinical rotations. Our sample population will include all traditional PharmD students at the Winchester and Ashburn campuses of the Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy who agreed to fill-out and complete a survey questionnaire within a 10 day period.  The researchers agreed that a limit of 10 days is a sufficient length of time to provide for appropriate completion of the survey questionnaires and for adequate collection of responses. The sample will be gathered through a convenience sampling method and will therefore be given to participants present on the day selected by the researchers to administer the survey.  Because a control group will not be utilized in this study, convenience sampling is the easiest and most effective method to gather participants. The researchers plan to administer the survey to approximately 355 participants across the two campuses of the Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy.

Before data is collected, the researchers will obtain approval for the research study from the Human Subjects Review Board at Shenandoah University.  This board is the equivalent of an Institutional Review Board.  The confidentiality of participants will be ensured for this study as no indentifying information will be collected.

Research Design

Data will be collected through the use of a survey questionnaire.  The survey consists of eight questions designed to gather information about students' GPA and their involvement in romantic relationships.  The survey was created by the researchers and was designed to allow for quick and easy completion. The survey was administered to the students at the end of the spring semester by the researchers.  Administration of the survey at end of the spring semester was chosen in order to allow for the inclusion of first-year students, who by then already received their fall semester grades, in the study.  Each survey questionnaire contains the same questions and can be administered without any prior training of the student participant. 

Each survey question was designed to be a test item for the research study.  The survey is attached as an appendix.  The first, second, and fifth questions are used to attain demographic information.  Gender, age, and year in professional school can all be used as adjuncts in evaluation of the data.  The third question is the first critical test item of the study. It inquires into the current relationship and corresponding living status of the survey respondent.  This question is intended to be a test item that would group students into categories ranging from least involved to most involved as relating to romantic relationship involvement.  Each category was based upon the following answer choices:

  1.   Single
  2.   Casual partner
  3.   Serious partner
  4.   Married

An answer of the respondent to this question is the independent variable and therefore the prime factor for comparison against GPA.  Using responses to this question, the researchers will place student participants in their designated groups, compute and compare the average GPAs for each group, and evaluate for any variances in GPA amongst groups.  The fourth question was used as a tool to gather information about the dependent variable, student GPA.  The researchers decided to use five ranges for the GPA.  This will allow for easier collection and grouping of data in a manner that will facilitate efficiency of management and analysis.  The sixth, seventh, and eighth questions were placed in the survey to gather additional data about the extracurricular activities of student participants.  These responses will be collected and appropriately managed.  The data will not be analyzed in this study but will be made available for future research studies.  The seventh question was based on a Likert Scale and can be used to evaluate whether or not the motivation of a respondent has an effect on their GPA.

Data Collection

Our method of collecting data is through a survey.  The entire sample population will be asked to complete the same survey within a 10-day period.  We have increased the reliability of our study in two ways.  The first is by asking all of the participants to complete the same survey.  This increases the consistency of the study.  The second is by making the survey questions concise and straightforward so that each can be interpreted and understood the same by all respondents.  This is critical because all respondents are asked the same questions, and therefore, it is necessary to achieve similar interpretation among respondents.  It is important to have reliability because without reliability a study cannot have validity. 

Reliability is required in order to assess the validity of the measurement instrument.  We have established that our study has reliability.  We must now determine if it has internal validity.  Internal validity is very important in our study because it shows that our survey correctly assessed the effects of involvement in romantic relationships on the academic GPA of pharmacy students.  Our study is based on a two-group after only model, and therefore, many of the threats to internal validity do not apply.  The history threat does not apply because we do not ask questions regarding past events that might have altered the GPA of a pharmacy student.  For example, a student may have a lower GPA than normal because a traumatic event happened right before a big exam.  Many of the other threats to internal validity cannot occur in our study because of our study design.  Therefore, the internal validity of our study is further substantiated.   

Only complete survey questionnaires will be included in this study.  If all eight survey questions are not answered, that particular survey questionnaire will be thrown out. 

DataAnalysis

The pooled variance t-Test will be used because of the two populations (single and in a relationship), as well as the comparison between two means (mean GPA of students who are single and mean GPA of students who answered as being in a relationship).  Data will be collected using the eight question survey discussed previously and will be coded and analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Scientists (SPSS) program.  The data will be coded corresponding to the answers circled by each participant (for example, if a participant circled the number ‘1' for the question “What is your gender,” that would correspond to “male” and the number ‘1' would be entered under the gender category for our SPSS data sheet; if they circled a ‘3' for the question “What is your current age range,” that answer would correspond to “25 - 29” and a number ‘3' would be entered under the age category for our data sheet).  All of the data will be entered manually by one person and every fifth entry will be checked against that particular survey by a research assistant.  Having all data entered into SPSS allows for easy comparison of different factors on GPA, including testing the study hypothesis.

The first test performed on the data will be to evaluate the average GPA for respondents of all romantic relationship status groups except the ‘single' group.  This average GPA will then be compared to the average GPA of those students who fall into the ‘single' group.  The mean value of GPA for all students who completed a survey questionnaire will also be computed.   An alpha level of 0.05 will be set.  Our objective is to discover any significant variances in GPA of those who are in romantic relationships versus those who are single.  If our P value is less than 0.05 (our alpha value) then there is a significant difference in the mean GPA values for those who are in romantic relationships versus those who are single.  In this case, we will reject our null hypothesis: involvement in a romantic relationship will have an effect on academic GPA.  Accordingly, we will examine significant differences in GPA to see whether there exists a positive or negative correlation to involvement in romantic relationships as opposed to being single.  We will also break down the relationship categories to compare and determine if there are any significant differences between the average GPA of each group.  For example, analysis will be performed to see if there is a significant difference in GPA between students in ‘serious partner' relationships versus those in ‘married' relationships. 

Discussion

The null hypothesis of the study states that there is no effect regarding involvement of romantic relationship on GPA.  If the resulting P value is greater than or equal to our alpha value of 0.05, we would fail to reject the null hypothesis.  Therefore, the projected outcome of the study is that there is no effect on involvement in a romantic relationship and GPA.  However, if the resulted P value is less than our alpha value of 0.05, then we would reject the null hypothesis.  In the latter case, the result would be that there is an effect regarding involvement of romantic relationship on GPA. 

The main reason for this study is to see if being in a relationship has an effect on GPA for graduate students.  As noted earlier, no study has been done on graduate students in terms of relationships and GPA.  While a few studies have been done in the past on relationship status and GPA, the studies were conducted on adolescent (high school age) students.  It was agreed by all of the researches of this graduate student study that there is quite a big difference between the types of relationships in high school versus graduate school, as well as the courses, course load, and expectations of each student.  Quite frankly, there really is no comparison between the two (high school versus graduate school).  While this particular study was done on pharmacy school students, the exact same study can be done to any graduate school program, not just pharmacy.  The eight questions in the survey are not specific to pharmacy or any other program and, although we are only concerned with relationship status (our independent variable) and GPA (our dependent variable), we also asked a series of other independent variable questions.  Further tests and comparisons can be made with the other independent variables collected on the survey questionnaire.  This is especially helpful if there is no correlation or significant difference between GPA and relationship status.  The other independent variables might be able to explain some of the differences between GPA other than relationship status (for instance, if a student works or volunteers regardless of relationship status - perhaps some work has no effect but working full time while in graduate school has an effect on GPA).  How many of the additional questions to use in the analysis of the GPA versus relationship status is up to the evaluators of this study. 

Limitations

Results from this study should be interpreted with several limitations in mind.  First, the study is limited in sample size because only the first through third year students at one pharmacy school were used as subjects for the survey.  This small population would inhibit and prevent the generalization of results and findings from the study to other schools of pharmacy.  A second limitation of the study is the narrow focus on pharmacy students.  This restricts generalizations of study findings and results to other graduate and professional programs (e.g. medicine, law), undergraduate curriculums, and vocational programs.

Another study limitation is the use of different levels of pharmacy students: first-year, second-year, and third-year students.  This limitation may skew results due to the differences in the degree of difficulty between the distinct years of professional pharmacy study, and this can have an impact on GPA.  Generally, the first year curriculum is less difficult and demanding than the second year curriculum, and the second year curriculum is less difficult and demanding than the third year curriculum. Moreover, the difference in the cumulative amount of classes students have completed between their first, second, and third years in pharmacy school can also impact their overall academic GPA.  The results of just one semester of completed classes can be skewed and are more volatile to GPA shifts in the next semester than a student who has completed three years of classes.  Furthermore, there may be other factors influencing GPA for first year students that the survey does not account for.  This study limitation may discount external factors such as moving to a new city and or state, starting at a new school, making new friends, finding suitable housing, and even living away from their family for the first time. 

The study does not take into consideration if a person was in a relationship at some point during graduate school and now is not, and vice-versa.  The survey questionnaire only seeks information regarding current romantic relationship status.  It can be assumed for those who selected ‘married' that they have either been married for the duration of graduate school or were in another of the relationship categories and then got married.  This aspect points out that people do not get married without first being casual and/or serious partners.  For those in a ‘casual partner' relationship, one may wonder how long they have been in the relationship.  For some third year students, perhaps they have finally taken on relationships because they feel comfortable with their GPA and school to take on more responsibility.  For a first year student, classes and program demands are perhaps still not difficult.  This suggests they still can have a romantic relationship without significant effects on GPA.  

Although the survey questionnaire is completely confidential, some students might find a need to over-inflate their GPA.  Instead of asking for them to fill in their actual GPA, ranges were provided in the hopes of keeping over-inflation of GPA to a minimum.  However, over reporting of GPA can still exist. 

Conclusions

It is the hope of the evaluators that this study will shed some light on trends in GPA and what exactly affects it in order to help and inform incoming graduate students.  With this information and correlations (or no correlation), graduate students will be able to make educated choices in terms of relationships and possibly other aspects outside of the classroom as well (for instance, how much time to work without having an effect on GPA).  The results of this study should answer some of the myths of graduate school and “having a life” at the same time. 

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