Planning and Conducting Research

Routines are a huge part of our lives. We follow a certain order, and that is because we think that they are the right way. The same can be said about research. Planning and conducting research in psychology is essential because psychologists have established a reliable and valid way to investigate phenomena. Let's take a look at the order of planning and conducting research in psychology! 

Planning and Conducting Research Planning and Conducting Research

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Table of contents
    • We will start by looking at the steps in psychological research by learning the 10 steps in planning and conducting research.
    • Then we will apply what we have learned to an example from research methods in social psychology,
    • And to finish off, we will look at some of the core features of scientific research.

    Planning and Conducting Research, Someone drawing their processing of something they are researching an idea and analysis, StudySmarter Research needs to be carefully planned and conducted to prevent finding results that are reliable or invalid,

    Steps in Psychological Research

    Psychological research aims to test a theory, but the point of research is not just to prove that we are right but, more importantly, to prove to others that our idea is right.

    If you told someone that there is a pot of gold at each end of a rainbow, no one would believe you; however, if you showed the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they would.

    The notion described is known as empiricism, a crucial feature of scientific research.

    Empiricism refers to the idea that a theory should be verifiable via observation that can be experienced through our five senses, e.g. we should be able to touch, smell, hear, taste or see it.

    For research to be accepted by the scientific and psychological community, it must be empirical, reliable and valid (we will get into the latter two a little later). For research to be established as empirical, reliable and valid theories, it needs to be tested vigorously and meticulously, following the guideline of how research should be conducted.

    10 Steps in Planning and Conducting Research

    The first three steps involve deciding what you wish to research. First, researchers decide roughly a research area or topic they want to explore.

    • The first step is very broad, so the researchers do a literature review of the area of interest to narrow this down. From this, researchers establish a gap, essentially something that has not been explained by empirical research, and this is something that is usually researched. Unless there is a theory with which they do not necessarily agree.
    • Next, the researcher needs to formulate a hypothesis. The hypothesis needs to be a predictive statement of what the researcher expects to find that is testable and operationalised, meaning it needs to identify variables that will be tested and how they will be measured.

    A good hypothesis is: "Participants who slept more are more likely to perform better than sleep-deprived participants in the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE); cognitive abilities test".

    The example shows that the researcher will compare sleep deprived versus non-sleep deprived participants (independent variable) to see if changes in sleep patterns affect cognitive abilities measured using the MMSE test (dependent variable).

    Planning and Conducting Research, Pictures illustrating how cognitive abilities are affected in sleep-deprived versus rested people, StudySmarterThe image shows how the independent variables (sleep-deprived versus rested) affect the dependent variable (cognitive abilities), created in Canva using images from

    Following these steps, the researcher can begin to design their research. This is when the researcher establishes how they will actually measure the variables.

    Conducting the research

    The following steps involve actually carrying out the experiment.

    • Next, participants need to be recruited using a sampling technique. There are various sampling techniques, but researchers should aim to choose one that is not influenced by their bias or subjective opinion. If this does occur, then the research will have issues with validity.

    Low validity refers to research that does not measure what it intends to. It can be caused by factors such as bias or using inaccurate tools to measure variables.

    Generally, it is believed that the sampling method influenced by little experimenter bias is a random sampling method, and volunteer or opportunity samples are the most affected.

    Random sampling methods use a generator to pick participants, so the researcher has little to no influence over the latter, which recruits whoever is available at the time. In addition, researchers should try to recruit a large representative sample so that the study's findings are generalisable.

    These are methods used when collecting primary data; data from the original source rather than secondary data. Secondary data has been collected previously from a primary source, such as a diary and do not typically use these methods.

    Following this, the researcher collects data from participants through conducting their research. The method can be either quantitative, qualitative or a mix of both.

    Quantitative methods is a data collection method that collects numerical data, such as close-ended questions in questionnaires and interviews, or numerical data collected from experiments.

    In contrast, a qualitative method is a data collection method that collects non-numerical data, such as responses to open-ended questions, case studies or unstructured interviews.

    Planning and conducting research: Data analysis

    After the data has been collected, it should be analysed using appropriate tests. The main purpose of research is to test if the findings empirically support or disprove the hypothesis. Therefore, statistical tests, such as hypothesis testing, are carried out.

    If research is trying to establish a relationship between two variables, such as time spent playing video games and aggression, then they would test the hypothesis using correlational analysis.

    Once the data has been analysed, it should be investigated and interpreted to identify what the study results infer. The final step is to write up the experiment in the form of a psychological report.

    Overview of the 10 Steps in Planning and Conducting Research

    Let's summarise what the 10 steps in planning and conducting research are!

    1. Identifying research question
    2. Carrying out a literature review
    3. Formulating hypothesis
    4. Planning research design
    5. Recruiting participants via sampling methods
    6. Collecting data
    7. Analysing data
    8. Statistical tests to test the hypothesis
    9. Making inferences concerning results found
    10. Writing a psychological report of the study

    Research Methods in Social Psychology

    Although the steps in planning and conducting research are the same across all psychology domains, let's look at how research methods in social psychology may be carried out.

    Example of Planning and Conducting Research in Social Psychology

    Researchers carried out an experiment to identify if there was a relationship between media violence and aggression. As this is a correlational study, the researcher did not need to identify the independent and dependent variables.

    The researchers recruited 50 participants using a random sampling method and decided to measure the variables by:

    • Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire over six weeks that measured how often they saw violent matters reported in media outlets.
    • At the end of the experiment, participants completed the Aggression Questionnaire (AGQ), a self-report scale used to measure different forms of aggression, such as physical, verbal, hostility etc.

    After the data was collected, the experimenters analysed the data and completed a correlational analysis to identify if the data supported or disproved their hypothesis. The results inferred that people who are exposed more to media violence report higher aggression levels. The experiment was reported in the form of a psychological report.

    Planning and conducting research, man with magnifying glass over various forms of statistic reports, StudySmarterResearch can reveal a lot about society, performance vector created by -

    Reliability and Validity in Research

    As we mentioned earlier, two of the core features of research are reliability and validity. If research lacks reliability or validity, the results found are likely inaccurate and will not be accepted by the psychology community.

    Reliability refers to consistent results. If a study is replicated and similar results are found, then the study is considered to have high reliability.

    In comparison, validity refers to the accuracy of results, and understanding if the test used in the experiment is measuring what it says it measures.

    There are different types of reliability and validity. To carry out a study with high validity and reliability, they can implement different methods and techniques in their research. A few of these are shown in the table below.

    Type of reliability/ validityDefinitionHow tested
    External reliability If a measure consistently measures what it intends to even when carried out under different conditions, e.g. different settings and different individuals.Method called test-retest; each participant could carry out the same experiment twice but at different times of the day. If similar results are found, then the study can be considered to have high external reliability.
    Content validityThe measure should test every aspect of what is being investigated. A questionnaire, for example, that consists of questions that measure each symptom of anxiety, can be considered to have high content validity.

    Another important tool to ensure that research is valid is that researchers should identify types of bias and how they could control them.

    For example, if experimenter bias is an issue when the researcher's subjective opinion may influence the findings, this should be managed. A double-blind experiment is a method to combat this issue; this is when neither the experimenter nor participants know if they are taking part in the control or experimental group.

    Planning and Conducting Research - Key takeaways

    • For research to be accepted by the psychological community, it needs to be empirical, reliable and valid.
    • There are 10 steps in planning and conducting research.
    • There are different types of reliability and validity in research, and different techniques can be used to measure them.
    • When planning and conducting research, researchers need to ensure that bias does not influence the study otherwise, it may be criticised for lacking validity.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Planning and Conducting Research

    What are the steps in planning and conducting a research?

    The 10 steps in planning and conducting research are:

    1. Identifying research question
    2. Carrying out a literature review
    3. Formulating hypothesis 
    4. Planning research design 
    5. Recruiting participants via sampling methods 
    6. Collecting data
    7. Analysing data
    8. Statistical tests to test the hypothesis 
    9. Making inferences concerning results found 
    10. Writing a psychological report of the study

    What is planning and research?

    Planning is when someone meticulously chooses how they wish to do something, and research is when someone investigates a theory, hypothesis or research question. 

    Why is planning and research important?

    When carrying out research, researchers must meticulously plan it to gather reliable and valid data. If data is unreliable or invalid, then the conclusions inferred from the study will not be generalisable or true. 

    What should a researcher do in the process of planning and conducting research?

    While planning and conducting research, researchers should follow the 10 steps in planning and conducting research. In addition, they should identify potential factors that may influence the reliability and validity of the study and try to control them. 

    What is conducting research in psychology?

    Conducting research in psychology is carrying out an empirical investigation to either support or disprove a theory or hypothesis. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    If the researcher's subjective opinion influences a study, then can it be considered valid? 

    Which of the following does reliability refer to? 

    Which of the following does validity refer to? 

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