Research methods notes for PSYA1 AQA

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PSYA1: Notes on research methods
SPEC CHECK: Candidates will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and
understanding of the following research methods, their advantages and
· Experimental method, including laboratory, field and natural experiments
· Studies using a correlational analysis
· Observational techniques
· Self-report techniques including questionnaire and interview
· Case studies
Laboratory Experiments
These are conducted in an artificial setting
Control confounding variables are controlled meaning higher internal validity
Replication these can be repeated easily as the procedure is standardised.
Causal Relationships can be identified as all variables are controlled it is easy to
see what causes something else.
Artificial experiments lack ecological validity as they do not take place in a real
life environment.
Demand characteristics participants know they are part of a study and therefore
demand characteristics can come in to play.
Ethics sometimes deception is used which is considered to be unethical.
Field Experiments
Where behaviour is measured outside the lab in a natural environment like a
school or street The IV is still manipulated each time to measure its effect.
High in ecological validity as they take place in real life places or situations.
Causal relationships can still be identified.
Avoids demand characteristics as participants are not always aware they are part
of a study and this prevents them from acting differently.
less control meaning less internal validity as confounding variables are hard to
Ethics participants in a natural environment may not want to be part of a study.
Natural Experiments
Researchers measure but do not control variables, independent variable is not
directly manipulated by the researcher.
High in ecological validity as they take place in real life.

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Ethical you are not interfering in the way people are living their lives and your
observations do not directly affect them.
Confounding variables hard to control any extra variables that may affect
Ethics deception is sometimes used and sometimes participants are not aware
they are part of a study. This means there is no informed consent.
Naturalistic Observations
This involves observing subjects in their natural environment researchers take
care not to interfere with what they are studying.…read more

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Practical quick to conduct and quite cheap
Bad questions or leading questions can influence the answer
Biased sample some people are more likely to respond to a
Self report some people want to present themselves in a better way
Social desirability bias.…read more

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Operationalisation of variables, including independent and dependent
Aim: This is a statement of what the study's purpose is (what the researcher is
trying to discover)
Directional: Will specifically predict a difference with reference to the real
NonDirectional: Will predict a difference but will not specify
1. The independent variable: Directly manipulated by the researcher
2. Dependent variable: Measured by the researcher
3. Extraneous variable: A variable that could affect what you are trying to
4.…read more

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Repeated measures design:
Where participants take part in all conditions
No participant variables the participants are the same each time so there
will be no differences between individuals that may later affect results.
Fewer participants are needed
Order effects learning effects/fatigue effects
Matched pairs design:
There are different participants in each condition but they are matched based on
variables such as age, personality or occupation. Some studies use control
groups which have not had any IV manipulated to make a direct comparison.…read more

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Random Allocation
E.g. by drawing names out of a hat means everyone has an equal chance of
taking part in each condition. Random allocation should ensure groups are not
biased on key variables because they are determined by CHANCE.
Extraneous variables (such as noise, age etc.…read more

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Non Participant observation
The researcher observes the activity without getting involved in it
The researcher can remain objective throughout the study
The researcher loses a sense of the group dynamics by staying separate
from the group.
Structured Observations
This is when the behaviour categories that are going to be used are
defined in advance
You can gather relevant data because you know what you are looking for.
Interesting behaviour could go unrecorded because they have not been
predefined as important.…read more

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Time interval sampling if the behaviour occurs over a long time period, you
could choose to measure behaviour after a certain time interval. E.g. every first
10 minutes of the hour.
More convenient for researchers to carry out
If interesting behaviour is recorded outside of the time interval then it
could be ignored and not recorded.
Inter observer reliability
Reliability can be improved by having more than one researcher
monitoring the same behaviour as results can later be compared.…read more

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Clear language should be used, if specialist language has to be used then it
should be clearly defined.
The behaviour of the interviewer and appearance should also be
It should be decided whether a structured or unstructured interview should
be used.…read more


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