Research Methods - AQA (A) Psychology

I've basically tried to include everything off the spec and condense each topic down to a page. Hope this is useful :) 

• Experimental method, including laboratory, field and natural experiments

• Studies using a correlational analysis

• Observational techniques

• Self-report techniques including questionnaire and interview

• Case studies

investigation design:

• Aims

• Hypotheses, including directional and non-directional

• Experimental design (independent groups, repeated measures and matched


• Design of naturalistic observations, including the development and use of

behavioural categories

• Design of questionnaires and interviews

• Operationalisation of variables, including independent and dependent variables

• Pilot studies

• Control of extraneous variables

• Reliability and validity

• Awareness of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Code of Ethics

• Ethical issues and ways in which psychologists deal with them

• Selection of participants and sampling techniques, including random,

opportunity and volunteer sampling

• Demand characteristics and investigator effects

Data analysis and presentation

• Presentation and interpretation of quantitative data including graphs,

scattergrams and tables

• Analysis and interpretation of quantitative data. Measures of central tendency

including median, mean, mode. Measures of dispersion including ranges and

standard deviation

• Analysis and interpretation of correlational data. Positive and negative

correlations and the interpretation of correlation coefficients

• Presentation of qualitative data

• Processes involved in content analysis

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  • Created by: Sophie
  • Created on: 27-04-14 10:45
Preview of Research Methods - AQA (A) Psychology

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
Allows us to study cause and effect.
It differs from non-experimental methods as it involves the manipulation of one variable, whilst keeping
all other variables constant.
Therefore if the IV is changed, it must be responsible for any change in the DV.
Directional hypothesis ­ states the direction of the predicted difference between two conditions or two
groups of participants
Non-directional hypothesis ­ predicts simply that there will be a difference between two conditions without
stating the direction of the difference.
Hypotheses must be operationalized!!
LAB ­ controlled experiments carried out in artificial conditions such as a lab, so the researcher can control
the independent variable.
The procedures can be easily repeated
It is easier to control all variables
Consent ­ the researcher can gain full consent at the beginning of the experiment.
High levels of control make it less like a real-life situation and so it is low in mundane realism.
Demand characteristics ­ participants know they're being watched and this is likely to effect their
FIELD ­ conducted in a more natural environment but the IV is still manipulated by the researcher.
Participants are often not aware.
Has high ecological validity as it is more natural and representative of everyday life.
Reduced demand characteristics as participants are unlikely to know that they are taking part in a study.
Harder to control extraneous variables because of the natural setting.
Ethical issues as there is no right to informed consent and it is difficult to debrief participants if they
weren't aware of the study in the first place.
NATURAL ­ experimenter cannot manipulate IV, but where it varies naturally the effect can be observed on a
Allows research where the IV can't be manipulated for ethical/practical reasons. E.g. studies of privation.
Enables psychologists to study real problems like the effects of natural disaster on health and so has
increased mundane realism and validity.
Cannot show causal relationships because the IV is not directly manipulated
Many extraneous variables, which are a threat to validity
Participants may be aware of being studied, causing demand characteristics.
Participants are not randomly allocated to conditions so there is biases in different groups (e.g. some
people having more wealth). Therefore it is hard to generalise.

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
Repeated measures design ­ each participant takes part in every condition.
Weaknesses Ways of dealing with it
One condition may be more difficult than the Make sure tests are equivalent.
other (e.g. giving one test in the morning and
another test in the afternoon.…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
Naturalistic - carried out in a naturalistic setting where the investigator
doesn't interfere in anyway but just observes.
Controlled ­ behaviour is observed under controlled conditions. E.g. the
Strange Situation
Structured observations ­ the observer uses various `systems' to organise
observations e.g. behavioural categories.
Unstructured observations ­ researcher records all relevant observation
but has no system. Usually used for when behaviour is likely to be
Behavioural categories ­ dividing a target behaviour (e.g.…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
Clear (operationalized) ­ there should be no ambiguity. Operationlise the terms
Unbiased ­ questions should avoid bias as it might lead participant to give a certain answer. Social desirability bias ­
respondents prefer to give answers that portray them in a better light.
Constructed to aid analysis using closed questions (quantitative data)(limited range of answers is provided, h/e
respondents may be forced to select an answer that isn't true to their thoughts).…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
Study of a single person, institution or event.
Rich data ­ info that may be overlooked using other methods is likely to be
Used to investigate rare cases of human behaviour that would otherwise
be unethical.
Generalisation ­ difficult to generalise as each one has its own unique
Reliability ­ usually uses recollection of past events so could be unreliable.…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
A correlation is a relationship between two variables.
Scatter gram ­ for each individual we get two scores that are used to plot
one dot for that individual ­ the co-variables determine the x and y position of
the dot. The scatter of the dots shows the degree of correlation between the
Correlation coefficient ­ a number between -1 and +1 that tells us how
closely the co-variables in a correlational analysis are related.…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
How true or legitimate something is; whether a study measures what it intended to
Determined by control of extraneous variables
If extraneous variables aren't controlled, the experimenter may not have actually tested
what they intended to test. Instead the influence of another variable has been tested.
Therefore control is vital and experimenters seek to control as many relevant extraneous
variables as possible.
Mundane realism
How an experiment mirrors the real world.…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
Participant variables ­ any characteristic of individual participants. (only extraneous when independent groups design is used, in
repeated measures all participant variables are controlled.)
Age, intelligence, motivation, experience ­ e.g. in the noise and memory experiment it may have been that one group performed
better because they were younger and so had better memories, or that they were more intelligent, more highly motivated, or more
experienced at doing memory tests.
Males and females are very psychologically different.…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
Informed consent
Telling the participant what's actually going to happen may cause them to guess the aim of the experiment.
From a participant's point of view, they should be told what they're doing so they can make an informed
decision about participating. This is a basic human right.
However, gaining informed consent doesn't ensure that participants really understand what they're doing.…read more

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Content Analysis and Qualitative Data 08/03/2014 10:06
BPS Ethical guidelines
Gives guidance on how to deal with ethical dilemmas and tells psychologists which
behaviours are acceptable.
Ethics committees
All institutions where research takes place has an ethics committee that must approve any
study before it begins.
They look at all possible ethical issues raised in a research proposal and how researcher
suggests the issues should be dealt with, weighing up the benefits against the costs to the
participants.…read more


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