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Research Methods


									                                   Research Methods

   o Although much of what we learn from studying psychology is obvious, many
     psychological results are surprising.

   o Results that would seem surprising before we know what they are often seem
     more obvious after we become aware of them.

Characteristics of Scientific Findings

       In a scientific discipline,
       (a) ideas are accurately reported and can be verified,
       (b) researchers report findings publicly in scientific journals, and
       (c) work is cumulative with respect to past research.

It is important to recognize some misconceptions about science. Science

       (a) is not always correct,
       (b) does not always follow the orderly progression of steps students learned as
       “the scientific method”,
       (c) is not always completely objective and value-free because it is practiced by
       human beings, and
       (d) is not merely a collection of facts.

How Scientist Solve Problems

Scientific problem solving is a though process. Typically it occurs in steps:
                  (a) identifying the problem,
                  (b) defining the problem,
                  (c) formulating hypothesis,
                  (d) constructing a strategy for solving a problem, and
                  (e) monitoring and evaluating problem solving

   o The evaluation of the solution often leads to the recognition of a new challenge
     and thus the repetition of the process.

   o The steps of the process are not necessarily executed exactly in this order. Some
     problems are refined as the process goes along or as new strategies are tired as old
     ones fail.

The Goals of Scientific Research

When a problem is addressed, the goals of psychological research are:

                       I. Description
                      II. Explanation
                    III. Prediction
                    IV. Control

Research Methods in Psychology

Psychologists employ research methods such as
      a. observation
      b. Case studies
      c. Tests
      d. Questionnaires, and
      e. Experiments

   o An experiment is a carefully supervised investigation in which a researcher
     studies cause-effect relationships by manipulating one or more independent
     variables in order to observe their effects on one or more dependent variables.

   o An experiment should include at least one control group to ensure that differences
     in results are caused by the experimental treatment and not by irrelevant group

   o Because we generally cannot conduct studies on whole populations, we use
     sample statistics (numbers that characterize the sample we have tested with
     regards to the attributes under investigation) as estimates of the population
     parameters (numbers that would characterize everyone we conceivably might test
     who would fit our desired description).

   o The use of sample statistics is based on the assumption that the researcher has
     found a representative sample of the population under study.

   o Although we are never able to prove the null hypothesis (which states that there is
     no difference between two groups under study), we can demonstrate that a
     particular difference has reached a level of statistical significance—that is, one
     unlikely to have occurred if the null hypothesis (of no difference) were true.

Causal Inference in Psychological Research

   o Psychological researchers try to draw causal inferences or conjectures about
     cause-effect relationships.

   o Controlled experimental designs are better suited to drawing such inferences than
     are quasi-experimental designs, which lack at least one experimental
     characteristic (usually random assignment of participants to groups), or
     correlational designs, which shows associations between variables but not which
     variables cause which others ones.
   o Correlation is the degree of statistical relationship between two variables.
     Correlation does not imply causation.

Critical Thinking in Psychological Research

   o Critical thinking is of great importance to psychological research. When people
     do not think critically, they are likely to commit informal fallacies, such as
     irrelevant conclusions, composition, personalization, false cause, and ad hominem

Research Ethics

   o Scientists, including psychologists, must use ethical research procedures. Most
     questions about ethics center on whether participants—human or animal—are
     treated fairly.

   o Research institutions today have standard policies that require informed consent
     by and debriefing of human participant.

   o Most institutions have also set up institutional review boards to study and approve
     proposed research. Some government agencies monitor research practices,
     especially as they pertain to animals.

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