Research Methods

Notes for Reserach Methods from AQA A A2 Level

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  • Created on: 22-06-12 14:16
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Research Methods
Major features of science:
1. Empiricism ­ information gained by direct observation or experiment
2. Objectivity ­ expectations should not affect what they record
3. Replicability ­ methods should be recorded so experiment can be repeated (reliability)
4. Control ­ using experimental methods varying IV and observing effect on DV, all other conditioned
must be controlled for fair test
5. Theory Construction ­ collection of general principles that explain observations of facts.
The Scientific Process:
1. Induction ­ reasoning from the particular to the general. Observations Testable hypothesis
Study to test hypothesis Draw conclusions Propose theory.
2. Deduction ­ reasoning from the general to the particular. Observations Propose theory Testable
hypothesis Study to test hypothesis Draw conclusions.
Popper proposed the hypothetico-deductive model which said that theories should come first and
these should be used to make hypotheses which can be falsified.
Is Psychology a Science?
Scientific research is desirable ­ early psychologists sought to make psychology a science to enable them
to produce verifiable knowledge
Psychology shares the goals of science and uses scientific method, models can be falsified. Miller said
psychologists use the tools of science but the essence has eluded them, so it is a pseudoscience.
Kuhn claimed it couldn't be a science because there isn't a single paradigm (shared set of assumptions),
there is cognitive, behavioural, evolutionary etc
There is a lock of objectivity and control, in psychology the object of study reacts to the researcher
causing experimenter bias and demand characteristics. However, similar problems apply to hard
sciences; Heisenburg said you cannot measure even a sub-atomic particle without altering its behaviour.
Treatment can only succeed if each patient is treated as an individual case (idiographic approach).
Science takes the nomothetic approach, making generalisations and finding similarities, which
psychology shouldn't do.
Some psychologists use qualitative methods of conducting research, which is more subjective. They can
still be valid using triangulation where data is collected from interviews, observations and discourse
analysis and then it is compared for verification.
The scientific approach is reductionist and determinist. Complex phenomena are reduced to
simple variables to study causal relationships and in the development of theories the simpler one is
always chosen. It is determinist because it searches for causal relationships.
Peer Review

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Research Methods
This is the assessment of scientific work by others who are experts in the same field; it is to ensure
any work to be published is of high quality. They are unpaid. There are many reviewers. They
report on the quality of research and their views are considered by a peer review panel. Peer
review serves three main purposes:
1. Allocation of research funding ­ research is paid for by the government and charitable bodies, like
the Medical Research Council (MRC).…read more

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Research Methods
All involve an independent variable (IV) and a dependent variable (DV). The IV is varied to see
how this affects the DV, demonstrating causal relationships. Other variables are controlled as
much as possible, so changes in DV are not due to extraneous variables.
Laboratory experiment ­ conducted in a controlled environment so high internal validity as EVs can be
controlled. Experimenter effects and demand characteristics could affect validity.…read more

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Research Methods
Refers to how much we can depend on any particular measurement, and if we repeat the
experiment we can be sure to get the same results. Observations should be consistent, so more
than one observer should produce the same record. Extent to which observers agree is
inter-observer reliability, divide total agreements by total number of observations. A result of 0.80
or more is good. Reliability can be improved by training the observers to use coding systems and
checklists.…read more

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Research Methods
6. Snowball Sampling ­ start with one or two PPs and ask them to direct you to other PPs.
Ethical Issues with Human Participants
The British Psychological Organisation (BPS) and the American Psychological Association (APA)
provide guidance as to how psychologists should behave. Concern for the protection of human
PPs comes from the Nuremburg Code which was designed to protect against atrocities such as
those uncovered during the Nuremburg Trials after WWII. The code of conduct offers ethical
guidelines.…read more

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Research Methods
Proposed by Russell and Birch ­ reduction (use fewer animals), replacement (use alternative methods when
possible) and refinement (improved techniques to reduce stress).
Inferential Analysis, Probability and Significance
Probability ­ Inferential statistics allow psychologists to draw conclusions based on the probability that a
particular pattern of results could have arisen by chance. If it could have arisen by chance it cannot be assumed
that there is a real association between two variables. If it couldn't have arisen by chance the pattern is
significant.…read more

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Research Methods
Descriptive Statistics
Measures of central tendency inform us about central values of data. Averages can be calculated
in different ways:
1. Mean ­ add up all scores and divided by number of scores. Uses all values but can be unrepresentative I
there are extreme values. Not appropriate for nominal data.
2. Median ­ middle value in ordered list. Not affected by extreme scores but not as sensitive as mean as
not all values reflected in median. Not appropriate for nominal data.
3.…read more


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