SPUR 2019: What Would Happen? The Impact of (Hypothetical) Unplanned Pregnancies, Pregnancy Attitudes and Contraception


This project is part of the interdisciplinary research of the HER Salt Lake Contraceptive Initiative. HER Salt Lake provided free birth control to more than 7,400 people in Salt Lake County; 4,400 of those individuals enrolled in a longitudinal study and are helping us understand the social, health, and economic impacts that free contraception has on their lives. Physicians, public health researchers, and sociologists are part of the larger study team. The specific SPUR project has the goal to better understand how study participants think about how a (hypothetical) unplanned pregnancy would impact their lives at the 1 and 2-year follow-up surveys. We will focus specifically on whether economic resources, education, and partner status can help us understand how individuals describe the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy. We further seek to understand how worries about the impact of a pregnancy, and general attitudes about pregnancy prevention and the intentions about when to have a planned pregnancy are linked. The study combines qualitative and quantitative methods and will shed light on how life course and economic context shape different dimensions of attitude about planned and unplanned pregnancies.

Student Role

The student researcher (RA) will be responsible for coding open-ended survey responses about the perceived impact of an unplanned pregnancy using an existing coding scheme. The RA will identify particularly poignant quotes and highlight cases that do not seem to fit the existing coding scheme. Upon completion of the coding, the student will use statistical software (preferably Stata, SPSS acceptable) to identify whether there are systematic differences in the themes across income level, education, race/ethnicity, sexuality, and partner status. The RA will create descriptive tables and describe any patterns that emerge. Subsequently, depending on skill level and interest the RA will shadow the faculty member in the multivariate analyses of the impact coding and/or assist with the literature review necessary for manuscript preparation (basic familiarity with Endnote preferred). The student will also participate in interdisciplinary weekly meetings of the University of Utah Division of Family Planning to get insights about the broader context of the research project and provide occasional updates to the team about progress and preliminary findings. Limit shadowing of family planning providers might be possible based on RA interest.

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

The RA will gain hands-on experience in mixed method data analyses, practice the interpretation of research findings, and gain experience in writing for an interdisciplinary academic audience. The RA will strengthen their mixed-methods data analysis skills, learn how to make tables for an academic journal (detailed instructions will be provided). Assistance in the literature review process will provide insights into the practical challenges of doing research that bridges multiple areas. They will review and synthesize sociological, gender studies, and medical literature, and interpret findings from all three perspectives and hone their skills in bibliographic management. The RA will further have the opportunity to practice oral communication skills through low-stakes participation and presentation in an interdisciplinary research team setting. The research will prepare students for graduate-level training in any of the social sciences as well as for advanced training in healthcare careers. My hope is that the project will yield co-authorship in a peer-reviewed academic publication for the RA. Shadowing and participation in team meetings will enable students to make decisions about future career opportunities related to public health or medical careers vis a vis social science-related careers.

Claudia Geist
Associate Professor

College of Social & Behavioral Science
Division of Gender Studies
School for Cultural & Social Transformation

I have high expectations but seek to provide students/RAs with all the tools they need to be successful. I believe in learning through experimentation and letting student researchers identify a process that works for them - some work best focusing on one task for a long time, others do better when they toggle between 2 or 3 tasks. I believe in asking and being asked lots of questions, and I am transparent about the challenges that come with complex projects with student researchers so the can gain a realistic image of the research process.

Specific Mentoring Activities

  1. Meetings with the faculty mentor Weeks 1-3: twice-weekly one-on-one meetings to clarify expectations and establish research flow Weeks 4-7: weekly meetings to ensure adequate progress Weeks 8-10: twice-weekly meetings to ensure completion of the SPUR project and prep for RA presentation
  2. Attend weekly meetings of the family planning research group at the school of medicine to gain a broader understanding of other related projects and current challenges
  3. Introduction to Sociology and Medicine subject librarians
  4. Daily availability via email or text so RA does not get stuck for too long
  5. A detailed discussion of RA's future professional/educational plans to ensure he/she/they gain the experiences they are looking for and those tasks/activities get priority in the list of RA tasks.