Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Research Methods

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Research Methods

Research methods are the foundation for scientific investigations. They allow scientists and psychologists to investigate the world and advance knowledge in their field. This area of psychology makes up the base of carrying out research. For instance, psychologists can use their knowledge of research methods to determine the most appropriate, reliable and valid method to select participants, design studies or analyse data.

Research Methods, Research,  StudySmarterResearch, freepik.com/vectorjuice

Steps in psychology research methods

There are scientific, professional organisations such as the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the American Psychological Association (APA) set up to provide guidelines for the scientific method. The purpose of these organisations is to ensure that research meets quality scientific standards. They:

  1. make sure that researchers do not commit ethical breaches
  2. provide guidelines on reporting findings; this ensures that research is written similarly. This makes research easier to understand and consistent across the field of study
  3. attempt to improve the quality of research by regulating the peer-review process.

Aims, hypothesis, and background information

Reading background information based on the area that the researcher is interested in is a crucial step of research. This should be the initial step that the researcher should take so that they:

  1. familiarise themselves with the topic
  2. form an aim (identify the purpose of their research)
  3. give a rationale for their research (how will the research add to the existing knowledge)
  4. form a hypothesis (this is a predictive statement of what the research results that the researcher expects to find). This is usually formed by understanding existing theories or previous results found.

A good hypothesis should be operationalised and identify the independent and dependent variables:

  • Independent variable is the variable that is manipulated.
  • Dependent variable is the variable that is measured.
  • An operationalised hypothesis means that the reader should be able to understand what the variables are and how they were measured.

Research Methods, Process Hypothesis, StudySmarterThe investigation, freepik.com/pikisuperstar

Design research methods

There are different methods of sampling used in research methods, and these include:

different methods of sampling used in research

below are a few examples

  • Volunteer sampling

  • Opportunity sampling
  • Random sampling
  • Snowball sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Self-selected sampling
  • Systematic sampling

The aim of using the sampling method is to try and obtain as representative as possible sample of the target population. If the sample is representative of the population, then the research findings can be considered generalisable. Generalisability is a sub-type of external validity.

The research design is determined by the context of where the research is being carried out. The researcher also needs to consider if the research variables are naturally occurring or if they will be manipulated.

Designs usually fall into three categories:

  1. Independent groups design
  2. Repeated measures design
  3. Matched-pair design

Experimental designs allow us to test the hypothesis and help us allocate participants to the correct groups.

The research types in psychology are:

  • Lab experiment - research is carried out in a controlled, standardised laboratory setting, and the effects of manipulating a variable are observed.
  • Field experiment - research is carried out in a natural setting, and the effects of manipulating a variable are observed.
  • Natural experiment - research is carried out in a natural setting, and the researcher attempts to observe the effects of naturally occurring variables (there is no manipulation). Participants are randomly allocated to conditions.
  • Quasi-experiment - similar to natural experiments. However, the participants are not randomly allocated as the independent variable is a feature of the participants.

There are several methods used to determine how participants will be allocated to experimental conditions. Ideally, your participants represent the target group you're investigating, and this is done by taking a sample of participants. They are representative of your target group, which avoids issues of bias and increases generalisability.

They can be assigned in multiple ways:

  • Random assignment - participants are randomly allocated into experimental conditions
  • Selective assignment - sometimes, due to inclusion/exclusion criteria, it is not possible to randomly assign participants to groups
  • Control groups and treatment groups -participants with the illness associated with the treatment are usually allocated to treatment groups, and people who do not would be allocated to the control group. This can also be randomly allocated

    Research investigating patients with depression are randomly assigned to a control group (no intervention) or the treatment group (cognitive-behavioural therapy for 12 weeks).

The research aims to be able to assign participants into groups randomly. This is so that bias is less likely to influence the results.

Research methods, Data Analysis Research Methods Participants, StudySmarterData analysis process, freepik.com/jcomp

Examples of research methods used in psychology are:

  • Experimental research

Experimental research is a type of research that involves a researcher manipulating the independent variable to see how it affects the dependent variable. This is usually done by measuring the changes that occur due to the manipulation. Then, researchers can identify how and what factors can affect the phenomena that the researcher is interested in.

  • Correlational research

This is a form of research carried out in psychology to measure the relationship/association between two variables. From the results of correlational research, researchers can identify if there is a positive, negative, or no relationship between the variables. This essentially provides information on how and if changes in a variable will affect the other.

If there is a positive relationship between two variables, the researcher would expect to observe that if there is an increase in one variable, the other one will also increase.

  • Survey research

Survey research is essentially a questionnaire that is used for data collection. In this data collection method, questions are pre-determined and sent to participants to complete.

  • Observational research

Observational research is when a researcher observes and records the behaviour of participants. There are different forms of observational research, such as covert (researcher does not disclose to participants that they are being observed) or participant (researcher integrates and takes part in activities of the participants whilst recording their behaviour).

  • Case studies

Case studies are a form of research method used to collect in-depth data. This type of research investigates a single person or a sub-group of people who share a common characteristic that the researcher is interested in investigating. Usually, various research techniques such as interviews, questionnaires and observations are used to collect data.

  • Interviews

Interviews are a research method that involves a researcher asking participants to answer questions. Similar to other research methods used in psychology, there are different types of interviews.

Some examples of different types of interviews used in psychology research are:

  • structured interviews
  • unstructured interviews
  • focus groups

Ethics in psychology

There are ethical standards that researchers need to make sure that researchers must follow. This is to prevent research from harming participants. Before the revision of ethical standards in research, research was found sometimes to cause harm to participants.

In Milgram's (1963) study, participants were tricked into giving electric shocks to fake victims (actors in the experiment). This caused severe psychological trauma upon following up on the participants' well-being.

Some examples of ethical standards that research needs to follow:

  • Informed consent - permission to participate in research needs to be asked after knowing what they will do in the research. Before agreeing, researchers must inform participants of any risks. In public settings, consent is not always given; however, as people act naturally, the British Psychological Society (BPS) deems it acceptable.
  • Confidentiality - researchers must keep participants anonymous in their reports; they must not be identifiable.
  • Rights to withdraw/Debriefing - at any point of the study (including after), participants must have the right to stop being in the research and have their data removed. Once the study has ended, they need to be debriefed, which explains the study thoroughly (especially in the cases of deception).
  • Deception - there must be a strong justification for informed consent to be subverted through deception if researchers wish to keep the nature of the study hidden (according to the BPS), and there must be no alternative procedure that allows for informed consent.
  • Protection from harm - the risk of the experiment should not be higher than what they would experience in their everyday lives (although this is hard to determine, one participant may work with dangerous machinery for a living, whereas another may work from home).

To make sure that the research can be considered reliable or valid, the researchers need to make sure that the research follows a standardised protocol.

Standardised protocol means that the same instructions and conditions of the experiment, such as the time of the experiment, are used for all participants.

When reporting research, the researcher must report all the materials used in the experiment. This should be written in enough detail so that someone else could replicate the study, and it is vital in research.

Research analysis methods

The purpose of the research analysis in psychology is to establish if the null hypothesis should be accepted or rejected. The data analysis method used depends on whether the data is:

  • Qualitative - the most common methods are content analysis and thematic analysis
  • Quantitative - these typically use inferential tests to test the hypothesis
  • Mixed - tend to use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods for research analysis

Descriptive and inferential statistics

The typical data analysis method uses descriptive and inferential tests; the type used is determined by the conditions of the data collected.

For example, normally distributed data use parametric tests, whereas non-normal data typically use non-parametric tests.

Descriptive tests are typically analysed in all quantitative data.

Research Methods - Key takeaways

  • Research methods are the foundation for scientific investigations. They are what allow scientists and psychologists to investigate the world and advance the knowledge in their field.
  • There are scientific, professional organisations such as the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the American Psychological Association (APA) set up to provide guidelines for the scientific method. The purpose of these organisations is to ensure that research meets quality scientific standards.
  • The initial step of research is to do background research, and from this, aims and hypotheses can be formed.
  • The design of research methods should consider many aspects of research, such as participant selection and allocation to experimental groups, research design, ethics and procedures
  • The research analysis method should consider how the data will be analysed and how it will be tested to see if the hypothesis can be accepted or rejected.

Frequently Asked Questions about Research Methods

Research methods are the tools and process of carrying out research to support or disprove theories in research.

Examples of four types of research methods are:

  • quantitative 
  • qualitative 
  • analytical 
  • descriptive 

Examples of research methods used in psychology are:

  • Experimental  
  • Correlational
  • Survey  and 
  • Observational research 
  • Case studies 
  • Interviews

A research design is a part of the research method. Research methods give a detailed overall description of how the research was done. Research designs are determined by the context of where the research is being carried out. 


Designs usually fall into three categories:


  1. Independent groups design
  2. Repeated measures design
  3. Matched-pair design

It is important to understand research methods because:

  • Researchers can decide on the most appropriate, reliable, and valid way to conduct research.
  • It makes it easier to read previous research.
  • The research is more likely to be approved in the peer-review process and accepted by the psychologist researchers' community. 
  • It produces consistent research across the area of study.

Final Research Methods Quiz

Question

What are interviews?

Show answer

Answer

An interview in psychological research is a conversation between two people, one of whom asks questions (interviewer) and the other responds to those questions (interviewee).

Show question

Question

State the three interview types.

Show answer

Answer

Unstructured, semi-structured, and structured interviews.

Show question

Question

Which interview type uses only close-ended questions?

Show answer

Answer

Structured interview.

Show question

Question

In the following research scenario, ‘an investigation of young women’s perspective of body changes that’, what could be an appropriate interview type to use and why?

Show answer

Answer

Semi-structured interviews could be an appropriate method to collect data as it allows the researcher to guide the conversation, as interviewees may not be sure what they should talk about. However, as this method is not rigid, they can also openly express their opinion and experiences.

Show question

Question

What would be an appropriate interview type to use when researching sensitive topics?

Show answer

Answer

Unstructured interviews, as the participant can choose what they wish to talk about and evade topic areas if they are too sensitive. This approach can combat ethical issues raised.

Show question

Question

What is the definition of open-ended questions?

Show answer

Answer

Open-ended questions are when interviewees respond in-depth and however they choose.

Show question

Question

What are three examples of methods used to analyse data obtained from interviews?

Show answer

Answer

Statistical analysis, thematic and content analysis.

Show question

Question

Why does structured use different analysis techniques for semi-structured and unstructured interviews?

Show answer

Answer

Structured interviews collect quantitative data and use statistical analysis, whereas semi-structured and unstructured interviews collect qualitative data and use thematic and content analysis.

Show question

Question

What are the advantages of using interviews as a data collection method?

Show answer

Answer

The advantages of using interviews as a research method include having a higher response rate than posting questionnaires. Additionally, the interviewer can build a report with the interviewee, so the interviewee may answer more truthfully, increasing the validity of the result.

Show question

Question

What are the disadvantages of using interviews as a data collection method?

Show answer

Answer

The disadvantages of using interviews are that data collection and analysis requires trained personnel, can be time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, qualitative data is difficult to analyze and argued not to be empirical data.

Show question

Question

What is meant by observation technique?

Show answer

Answer

Observational techniques is when the researcher (observer) watches how participants behave and how they act to understand more about participants thoughts, actions, and beliefs.

Show question

Question

What are the different types of observational techniques? 


Show answer

Answer

The four types of observational techniques are overt, cover, participant, and non-participant observations.

Show question

Question

For the following research scenario, what would be the ideal type of observation technique to use: ‘research investigating if prison guards conform to violent behaviour’?

Show answer

Answer

The ideal observation design to use would be covert participant observations. The design would involve the researcher instigating violent behaviour and identifying if other prison guards conform to this behaviour.

Show question

Question

For the following research scenario, what would be the ideal type of observation technique to use: ‘Research investigating how often bullying occurs in a playground’?

Show answer

Answer

Non-participant, covert observations would be the ideal observation design for this research as, ethically, the researcher cannot participate in it. Also, if children knew they were observing them, they would bully others less.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between structured and unstructured observations?

Show answer

Answer

Structured observations use coded schedules identified before the investigation to measure the variables investigated. Whereas in unstructured observations, researchers do not have specific instructions of which behaviours they should record. Instead, the researchers record as much data as possible and then determine what behaviours they are interested in.

Show question

Question

What type of observation design did Mary Ainsworth use in her famous research that investigated attachment styles between mothers and their children?

Show answer

Answer

A structured observation.

Show question

Question

What is the Hawthorne effect?

Show answer

Answer

The Hawthorne effect is when participants may easily interpret the research hypothesis and act accordingly, reducing the validity of findings.

Show question

Question

What are the advantages of structured observations?

Show answer

Answer

  • Easy to replicate; therefore, it is easy to identify if the design and data collected are reliable.
  • The data collected is easy to interpret using statistical analysis; therefore, it is easy to identify any patterns and trends between the variables being investigated.
  • Observer bias is less likely to occur. 

Show question

Question

What are the disadvantages of structured observations?

Show answer

Answer

  • Participants may easily interpret the research hypothesis and act accordingly, reducing the validity of findings. This effect is known as the Hawthorne effect.
  • As behavioural categories are predetermined, important behaviours may be omitted if they do not fit into the fixed categories.

Show question

Question

What are the advantages of unstructured observations?

Show answer

Answer

  • The researcher can get the in-depth information to help them understand more about a phenomenon.
  • Researchers can observe unexpected behaviour of participants as this method is less rigid than structured observations. 

Show question

Question

What are the disadvantages of unstructured observations?

Show answer

Answer

  • Observer bias can easily influence the research, decreasing the validity of results.
  • This method produces qualitative data, which is much more difficult to analyse than quantitative data. 

Show question

Question

What are some examples of observational research designs?

Show answer

Answer

Some examples of observational research designs are structured observations, for instance, controlled observations and unstructured observations, such as natural observations.

Show question

Question

What is time sampling?

Show answer

Answer

Collecting data at different intervals of time.

Show question

Question

What is situation sampling?

Show answer

Answer

Collecting data in different settings and/or situations.

Show question

Question

What are the different types of methods researchers use to analyse data?

Show answer

Answer

  • Tally counting.
  • Video/audio recording.
  • Observer narrative. 

Show question

Question

What is the definition of case studies?

Show answer

Answer

A case study is an in-depth investigation of a person, a particular group, or an event to obtain a comprehensive description/understanding of a phenomenon.

Show question

Question

Give two examples of infamous case studies in psychology?

Show answer

Answer

Genie and Phineas Gage.

Show question

Question

Why are case studies used in psychological research?

Show answer

Answer

Case studies can provide insightful, in-depth information regarding a phenomenon that may not be replicated in experimental conditions. This may be due to ethical issues.

Show question

Question

What are the common data collection methods utilised?

Show answer

Answer

Common data collection methods used are:

  • Observations.
  • Interviews.
  • Psychometric tests.
  • Questionnaires.
  • Primary data.
  • Secondary data.

Show question

Question

What is a ‘triangulation’ approach, and why is it often used when researchers employ case studies as a research design?

Show answer

Answer

Triangulation refers to when researchers use multiple data collection methods as a part of their research design. This method is often used in case studies because they require in-depth information that cannot usually be achieved using one data collection method.

Show question

Question

Why would semi-structured interviews be used as a data collection method?

Show answer

Answer

This method allows for open and close-ended questions to obtain qualitative and quantitative. Moreover, the interviewer can prepare themselves to a certain extent, and responses are more likely to represent the interviewee's feelings.

Show question

Question

Of the following options, which are examples of secondary data?

Show answer

Answer

Medical records.

Show question

Question

What are the advantages of using primary sources for data collection?

Show answer

Answer

Primary sources are beneficial as a data collection method as they provide details about the perspective of the ‘case’ at a particular point in time. Because the person does not have to think retrospectively (backwards), data is less likely to be missing and valid than remembered past events. This method can provide information that the individual may be less willing to share in person.

Show question

Question

What are the different types of analysis methods used when researching case studies?

Show answer

Answer

Tally counting, thematic and content analysis are commonly used analysis methods in case studies.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between thematic and content analysis?

Show answer

Answer

Both analyses derive information from qualitative data and identify themes and patterns in behaviour, words and themes. However, content analysis quantifies words, themes and concepts to understand their meaning and relationship. In contrast, the thematic analysis provides data by stating the themes and patterns, giving evidence with transcripts (qualitative data) extracts.

Show question

Question

What is inter-rater reliability?

Show answer

Answer

Inter-rater reliability is when scores from two trained professionals are compared to identify if they have recorded the same or similar results.

Show question

Question

Why is it important to check inter-rater reliability?

Show answer

Answer

It is essential to check inter-rater reliability to ensure that the researchers are measuring the same things. It can also highlight if the researchers or measures used are biased when analysing data.

Show question

Question

What is a potential issue of quantifying qualitative data?

Show answer

Answer

A potential issue is that important information concerning the case study may be omitted, which may be essential for understanding the underlying processes (factors influencing the phenomenon of interest).

Show question

Question

What are the advantages of using case studies to investigate a phenomenon?

Show answer

Answer

  • Research in psychology uses case studies as a first step to explore potential variables and form hypotheses that can be tested in future experimental studies.
  • Uses various forms of data collection and analysis methods to obtain detailed information about a particular phenomenon in a particular context. Different methods facilitate the determination of whether the results are reliable.
  • May collect detailed data from unusual cases that cannot be replicated.

Show question

Question

What are the disadvantages of using case studies to investigate a phenomenon?

Show answer

Answer

  • It can be time-consuming to collect data due to the triangulation approach (using many data collection methods).
  • Because qualitative data heavily influences case studies based on personal accounts rather than observations, some psychologists argue that this design lacks empirical evidence.
  • There are limitations to generalisability as the research examines a single ‘case’, and the findings may not be generalisable to the ordinary public.

Show question

Question

Why are correlational studies considered a non-experimental research method?

Show answer

Answer

Experimental methods involve manipulating variables. However, this is not a requirement of correlational data as variables are measured via observational techniques.

Show question

Question

What are the three types of correlational studies?

Show answer

Answer

Natural observational, survey and archival are three types of correlational research.

Show question

Question

What would be the most appropriate type of correlation to use if a researcher was investigating a relationship between the amount of time spent playing video games and aggressiveness?

Show answer

Answer

Surveys would be the most appropriate method, as respondents could complete a questionnaire that includes questions concerning identifying time spent playing games and a scale that measures aggressiveness.

Show question

Question

 What type of data does archival correlational research use?

Show answer

Answer

Archival correlation research uses secondary sources to collect data, such as historical documents, previous research, and case studies.

Show question

Question

What advantage does naturalistic observational correlational research hold over the other types?

Show answer

Answer

As the research is carried out in a natural setting, participants are more likely to act in their ‘usual’ manner. Therefore, results can be considered highly valid.

Show question

Question

What do the negative and positive signs before the correlation coefficient number indicate?

Show answer

Answer

The sign before the coefficient value indicates the direction of the association/relationship between co-variables. A negative value is indicative of a negative relationship, and a positive number is indicative of a positive relationship between the variables.

Show question

Question

A correlation coefficient of -0.7 was reported. How would you interpret these results?

Show answer

Answer

A strong, negative correlation was found between the variables.

Show question

Question

What do scatter plots tell us about correlational data? 


Show answer

Answer

Scatter plots provide visual data of the strength of association and direction found between co-variables. If the data points are close to the gradient line and have a positive gradient, this indicates a positive relationship. If the gradient is negative, the association is negative.

Show question

Question

What are the advantages of using correlation studies?

Show answer

Answer

  • Correlational research has many uses in psychology, such as providing preliminary results to determine whether further research should be conducted to understand the reasons for finding the association.
  • It can be used to determine if there is a relationship between new and established measures, for example, between the results of two different scales measuring anxiety. If a strong positive correlation is found, the scale has high concordant validity, i.e., both scales measure the same thing. This has important implications for the clinical setting.

Show question

Question

What are the disadvantages of using correlational studies?

Show answer

Answer

  • Cause and effect cannot be established, so research cannot conclude whether one causes the change in the other or vice versa.
  • Since correlational studies only measure co-variables, other potential confounding factors are not considered. The confounding variables may be a better explanatory factor for the study's outcome, making it difficult to determine the validity of the results.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Research Methods quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.