Caffeine is thought to increase productivity and allow people, more specifically, students, to study for more extended periods. With the continuous stress and lack of free time, students often use coffee to stay alert and dedicate more time to completing a task. Mahoney et al. state that approximately 92% of students drink coffee (668). However, apart from this effect, it is interesting to know whether coffee can impact the quality of their performance. Hence, the research question examined in this report is the following:
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- Does caffeine improve students’ ability to write essays?
It is essential to study this topic for two main reasons – firstly, in the United States, coffee is a popular drink. However, caffeine intake can turn into an addiction, and despite its perceived positive impact on one’s alertness, overconsumption may have a negative effect on one’s health. The literature provides conflicting evidence on the topic of caffeine intake and the quality of essays of students. The central hypothesis of this project is that drinking coffee can positively affect the quality of essays written by students. To test the theory, an interview with a student who regularly uses coffee when writing essays will be conducted.
- H1: Students drink coffee as a habit, not to boost their productivity, and thus they see no effect on the quality of their essays.
Mahoney et al. report that over 90% of students drink coffee, with an average intake of 173 milligrams of caffeine per day. However, some students report intaking caffeine from other sources, such as energy drinks, alcohol, or other drinks, and the primary reason was to either feel awake or enjoy the taste of the drink.
- H2: Students can dedicate more attention to writing an essay if they drink coffee, which positively affects the quality of their writing.
In a study by Lee et al., students reported two primary factors of motivation – the aroma of the coffee and its ability to prevent sleepiness (1386). Therefore, most students do not rely on coffee as a source of improved writing skills.
- H3: Coffee improves cognition, helping students write better essays because they can think of more creative ideas and develop stronger arguments.
According to Haskell-Ramsay et al., caffein “decreased reaction time and increased alertness” (560). Based on this, one can suggest that when writing an essay and drinking coffee, students can produce better results.
To test the hypothesis regarding the motivation of students to drink coffee, an interview method was selected. The main reason for this choice is the ability to conduct a semi-structured interview, where some of the questions will be prewritten, and others can be asked by an interviewer to clarify some aspects of a conversation. The qualitative approach is the most suitable for testing hypotheses since it will allow the researcher to understand the experience of students and carry out an in-depth examination of the problem. Hence, the collected data from the interviews will allow exploring new ideas because the students may notice a different impact of coffee on them when they write essays, such as better productivity, mood, or motivation to study, which are not included in the interview questions.
This form helps address the research question by allowing them to examine the experience of a student with coffee and essay writing, summarize the findings, and interpret them based on the results and literature. The limitation of interviews is the fact that it allows exploring ideas rather than testing and finding concrete evidence that would support the hypothesis about coffee. To measure critical concepts of caffeine intake, it is necessary to ask the following questions:
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- Please state your age and educational background.
- How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? What is the pattern of your coffee intake habits (do you drink in the morning or right before you begin to study?)
- Do you drink coffee when you need to write an essay?
- Do you notice a difference (such as a higher grade or a better understanding of the topic) when you drink coffee as opposed to when you have no caffeine?
- Why do you think you drink coffee?
- When did you begin to drink coffee?
These essential questions will help determine why students choose to have coffee and whether they see the beneficial effect of the drink on their studies, more specifically, their essays. This questionnaire is not lengthy and is easy to complete since it focuses on the perception and experience of students and not concrete knowledge of the subject, and the flow allows the interviewer to ask some follow-up questions. For this reason, the semi-structured form was chosen because it combines formalized questions, and the ability to dedicate more attention to a specific topic is necessary.
Since the research question focuses on students who drink coffee, the target population must be enrolled in any educational facility for full-time studies. Two participants were included in this study, one of which drinks coffee on a regular basis, and the other drinks it only occasionally. This allows examining different patterns, motivations, and the effect of coffee intake. Both participants were females, one aged 19, and the other was 22 years old. Both were enrolled in a full-time study course and had a prolonged history of drinking coffee.
The sampling mechanism is consisted of outlining the key characteristics of the target population that will help test the hypothesis about the impact of coffee on students. Hence, the participants had to be enrolled in an educational course and had to intake coffee, either regularly or occasionally. The specifics of this research did not imply the need to have a control group of subjects, more specifically, students who did not drink coffee.
This would provide little insight into the issue since comparing the essays of students who drink and do not drink coffee would not allow for an adequate assessment of the caffeine impact. The only quantifiable feature that could be compared was the grade that a student received for an essay written when drinking coffee as opposed to the evaluation of an essay without any coffee. However, issues such as different subjects, levels of knowledge, and writing skills could affect the results. Hence, the subjective opinion of students and their perception of where they think they can write a better essay when they drink coffee was the focus.
Hence, prior education, subjects that a student was learning, or other related factors were not considered during sampling. Age was the factor that mattered since it was important to compare the perception of the same age group.
An essential question for this research was the amount of coffee taken by a student in a day or other period. Since the sampling method implied engaging with candidates who drink coffee, this was the main criterion of selection. A convenience sample is an approach that allows choosing participants. The limitations of the chosen method are mainly connected to the number of observations. Since the chosen population corresponded with the selected framework, no coverage error was present. Additionally, all participants were interviewed; hence, no non-response error was present.
The answers to the interview questions are presented as a transcript in the Appendix. In general, the responses suggest that students mainly drink coffee as a habit or because they enjoy the drink. Participant 1 stated that they usually have a habit of drinking coffee in the morning before classes, as part of their breakfast, or in the evening when they begin to study. Participant 2 drinks coffee occasionally because she enjoys the drink; however, she notices that it can have an adverse impact on her mood, which is the reason behind limited consumption.
Most likely, this is associated with the behavioral effects of coffee described by Mahoney et al., since this drink can improve mood (668). The respondents were aware of the effects it has on their awakeness and ability to study for longer, however, the participants did not report any connection between the quality of writing and caffeine.
Therefore, students choose coffee or energy drinks when they need to concentrate and study for exams or routinely when they have to work on assignments. The main factor here is the impact on productivity or the capability of a student to concentrate on learning the material for extended periods of time. However, the participants did not cite the quality of writing as their reasoning for intaking coffee. From here, two primary questions arise – either they are unaware of the drink’s effects, or in their experience, essays written with or without caffeine do not differ. For instance, Participant 1 stated:
“I usually have a cup of coffee when I work on my homework since I find that I can read for longer. If a part of my assignment for the day includes an essay, I will write it, but I do not specifically drink coffee when writing.”
It does not appear that the participants were tainted by error. The responses include bias since this research is focused on motivation and perception of the examined students and does not quantify aspects such as the number of grammatical errors or quality of ideas in an essay with or without caffeine. This suggests that improved quality of essay writing is not a factor, which motivates college students to intake this drink. In general, the collected data supports hypothesis one, which suggests that coffee drinking is a habit. Participant 1 uses coffee for studying, which provides partial support for hypothesis two. However, none of the respondents noticed a positive impact on essay writing.
In this research, the data collection method provided some insight into understanding the relationship between caffeine and essays written by college students. However, the methodology and quality of results can be further improved by incorporating quantitative methods, for instance, surveys or conducting an experiment, which would demonstrate the actual effect that caffeine has on essay writing.
In this case, the researchers will be able to test two groups of students, one will be drinking coffee, and the other will have non-caffeinated drinks only. The participants will write essays on the same topic, and the results will be evaluated based on a number of errors and the novelty of expressed ideas. It is evident that in this case, the educational background of both groups, as well as similar Grade Point Average. Since in this research, the participants did not notice any difference in the quality of their writing when drinking coffee, the described study can help find more evidence on this topic.
Despite this, one can argue that the chosen methodology was satisficing for this research since the findings allowed understanding that students themselves do not notice an improvement in their essays when they drink coffee. It is possible that the interviewer effect was present, however, the purpose of the research was not disclosed, and the students were encouraged to answer honestly. Currently, the hypothesis of this research regarding the improvement of the quality of writing was not proven. Instead, it appears that most individuals drink it as a habit or for enjoyment.
Sources of error in this research can be connected to vague questions. Perhaps asking more direct and essay-specific questions, such as an average grade and ability to concentrate on the writing, would provide more insight. As was previously mentioned, no sources of error from the sampling method were present. Among the script errors, one can note that a majority of questions focus on patterns of coffee intake.
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Perhaps the interview can be improved by adding more specific questions that address issues such as grades for the essay. However, in the interviews, the participants stated that they could not recall a difference. Additionally, a larger sample would provide more insight into the issue and help understand patterns of intake from various viewpoints. In general, a different approach to testing the hypothesis and a more significant number of participants can improve the accuracy of the result and help understand the impact of coffee on essay quality better.
Haskell-Ramsay, Crystal et al. “The Acute Effects Of Caffeinated Black Coffee On Cognition And Mood In Healthy Young And Older Adults.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 10, 2018, p. 1386.
Lee, Yun Ju, al. “Dietary Habits Score, Nutrients Intake And Dietary Quality Related To Coffee Consumption Of College Students In Incheon.” Journal of Nutrition and Health, vol. 46, no. 6, 2013, p. 560.
Mahoney, Caroline, et al. “Intake Of Caffeine From All Sources And Reasons For Use By College Students.” Clinical Nutrition, vol. 38, no. 2, 2019, pp. 668-675.