Research Methods - AS Notes

These are just simple notes from a lot of the Research Methods unit. These, however, are not complete. I borrowed a friends AS book during my A2 course so I could refresh my memory of AS research methods. Some of the information, such as experimental design, sampling etc. are discussed in the A2 book so I didn't need to take notes on those parts. But this document still breaks down many of the different topics, such as ethics, reliability and validity.

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Research Methods: Validity
Control ­ vital in experiments.
Want to control as many extraneous variables as possible.
If fail to control ­ results meaningless. The IV may have not had a direct impact on the DV due
to the EV's manipulation. EVs caused a change in the DV.
May not have tested what intended to test.
If study too artificial ­ would not act as normally would.
Behaviour not representative of real life.
Mundane realism ­ whether the experiment mirrors the real world.
Realism ­ can generalise results beyond unique research setting to understand `real world'
May be natural but still lack generalisability.
EG. an American study may not be generalisable to all countries/cultures.
A study in a hospital may not be generalisable to all occupations and workplaces.
Internal and External Validity
Internal External
What goes on inside a study. Affected by internal validity ­ cannot
Whether the IV produced the change in generalise results that are low in internal
the DV. validity because have no real meaning
Whether researcher tested what for behaviour.
intended to test. Ecological validity ­ different
Whether study possessed mundane places/settings.
realism. Population validity ­ different
For high validity, must control EVs and people/populations.
ensure you are testing what you Historical validity ­ different times.
intended to.

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Research Methods: Ethical Issues
Informed consent
Participants have the right to be given comprehensive information concerning nature and
purpose of research, and their role in it so they can make an informed decision about
whether to participate.
Where a participant is not told the true aims of the study (what participation will involve) and
so cannot give true informed consent.
Right to Withdraw
Participants should have right to withdraw from participating at any time in a study if they are
uncomfortable in anyway.…read more

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Dealing with Ethical Issues
Ethical Issue How to deal with it Limitations
Informed Consent - Asked to formerly indicate agreement to - If given information about
participate. nature/purpose, may invalidate
- Should be based on information concerning purpose of study.
nature/purpose of study and their role. - Does not guarantee that
- Presumptive consent ­ gain informed consent participants really understand what
from others. Ask a group of people whether study they have committed to.…read more

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Extraneous Variables
Participant Variables
Any characteristics of individual participants that act as extraneous variables if an
independent groups design is used.
Age, intelligence, motivation, experience ­ act as EVs, making results meaningless.
Gender ­ males and females are psychologically different so more of one might mask effects
of IV.
However, only acts as an EV in some circumstances.
Irrelevant participant variables ­ only need to focus on those relevant to the task.
Situational Variables
Features of a research situation that may influence behaviour.…read more

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Standardised procedure ­ ensure all participants are tested under same conditions.
Includes standardised instructions, which are important to control investigator/experimenter
Double blind design ­ experiment cannot communicate cues about research aims because
they don't know them.
Dealing with Participant Effects
Single blind design ­ participant doesn't know true aims of study.
Prevents participants from seeking cues about aims and their reactions.
Experimental realism ­ making task so engaging that the participant pays attention to the
task and not their observation.…read more

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Quantitative Data Analysis
Measures of Central Tendency
Inform about central (middle) values for a set of data.
`Averages' ­ ways of calculating a typical value for a set of data.
Mean ­ makes use of the values of all of the data, but it can be misrepresentative of data as
a whole if there are extreme values. Also cannot be used with nominal data.
Median ­ not affected by extreme scores, but not as `sensitive' as the mean.…read more

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Evaluating Observational Research
External Validity
Observations ­ likely to have high ecological validity. Involve more natural behaviours.
Population validity may be a problem ­ may not be able to generalise if don't have a spread
of participants.
Internal Validity
Will not be valid or reliable if the coding system/behavioural checklist is flawed.
Some observations may belong in more than one category, or some may not be codeable.
Also observer bias ­ what someone observes is influenced by their expectations.…read more

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Studies where participants observed without their knowledge ­ issues of informed consent.
Some observations may be an invasion of privacy, in which case participant confidentiality
should be respected.
Use of one-way mirrors often involves deception.
In observations where participants aware of being studied, still issues similar to all studies
(informed consent, right to withdraw etc.).
Dealing with Ethical Issues
Same general principles apply.
Ethics committee can be used to approve observational designs, and researchers should
consult ethical guidelines.…read more

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Case Studies
Advantages Disadvantages
Rich, in-depth data. Information that may be Difficult to generalise from individual cases as
overlooked using other methods is identified. each one has unique characteristics.
Used to investigate instances of human Often necessary to use recollection of past
behaviour/experience that are rare or unethical events as part of case history (retrospective)
to generate experimentally. and such evidence may be unreliable.…read more

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Evaluating Self-Report Techniques
External Validity
External validity of questionnaires/interviews ­ extent to which findings can be generalised
to other situations/people.
Major factor ­ representativeness of the sample used to collect data.
Internal Validity
Internal validity of self-report related to issue of whether questionnaire/interview/
psychological test really measures what it intended to.…read more


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