Research methods - Psychology AQA

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Research methods notes
Research method Description Strengths Limitations
Experimental A research method which Offer a high level of Most are laboratory
methods enables a researcher to control over extraneous based meaning the
manipulate the situation a variables which makes environment is
person is in and see what effect it easier to reliably artificial, therefore
it has on a person in order to
establish a cause and findings lack ecological
test a theory to see if it's
effect validity.
correct. There are 3 types:
laboratory, field and quasi. If cause and effect is They are highly
established it is controlled and measure
possible to predict and variables in precise
control behaviour ways which gives
making them highly results that lack
scientific. construct validity as
They're objective they are assed more
because they are not narrowly than they
easily influenced by the would be in real life.
experimenter once set Participants are aware
up therefore results are they are taking part in
not bias. experiments therefore
they may respond to
the demand
differently than normal.
Methods of This is when the participant Unlike observations, it Methods of questioning
self-report explains their views/ideas is possible to access need participants to
themselves, without the people's thoughts and possess a number of
manipulation of variables. feelings through asking qualities to be reliable.
There are 3 key methods:
questions They can be ineffective
questionnaires, structured
Questions allow if participants are
interviews and unstructured
interviews. researchers to find out dishonest, in articulate,
what people would do lack confidence, lack
in certain situations insight or have poor
without having to set memory
them up. It is possible that
participants' responses
are influenced by
researchers when using
interviews or
questionnaires. They
may feel pressured to
give socially desirable

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Observational studies These involve watching and Findings from It is difficult to make
recording people's behaviour. observations are more judgements about
This can be done in a number of reliable as the thoughts and feelings
ways including video recording researchers can see for when using this
and using a check list of criteria.
themselves how method as these
participants behave features are not clearly
rather than relying on observable.
self-reports.…read more

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Qualitative and quantitative
Qualitative Quantitative
Definition Qualitative research gathers information that is Quantitative research gathers data in
not in numerical form. For example, diary numerical form which can be put into
accounts, open-ended questionnaires, categories, or in rank order, or
unstructured interviews and unstructured measured in units of measurement.
observations. This type of data can be used to
Qualitative data is typically descriptive data and construct graphs and tables of raw
as such is harder to analyze than quantitative data.
data.…read more

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Less easy to generalise Research is usually carried out In
Difficult to make systematic comparisons as an unnatural, artificial environment
responses are so varied Development of standard
Dependent upon the skills of the researcher questions by researchers can lead
to structural bias and false
Collect a much narrower ad
sometimes superficial dataset.…read more

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Dependent variable ­ a variable whose value depends on that of another and is measured after
the IV may have had an effect on it.
Confounding variable ­ an extraneous variable in an n experiment which may have affected the
DV which cannot be controlled.
Extraneous variable ­ undesirable variables beside the IV that can affect the DV.
Participant variable ­ this refers to the ways in which each participant varies from the other, and
how this could affect the results.…read more

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This is equivalent to choosing names out of a hat although a computer is more likely to make
the choice.
Advantages Disadvantages
It avoids bias as the researcher has no There is a chance of a `freak' sample
control over who is selected. which would not be representative
The law of probability says that the Compared to other methods, it is time
researcher will normally get a consuming because all potential
representative sample.…read more

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Advantages Disadvantages
It avoids the problem of `freak' samples, It is more time consuming than other
guaranteeing a representative sample by techniques because all potential
making sure all key characteristics are participants need to be assessed and
present categorised before a sample can even be
It is relatively objective because once the drawn
sampling is stratified, it is normally left to The researcher may not identify all the key
chance who is selected from each strata characteristics for stratification meaning
(divided groups from sampling frame)…read more

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Experimental method
There are 3 different types of experiment:
Laboratory experiment
Field experiment
Laboratory experiment - an experiment carried out in a controlled environment.
The method whereby all the key features of the experiment are met. That is, the IV is directly
manipulated, all the other extraneous variables are controlled and participants are randomly
allocated to conditions.…read more

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Random allocation ­ allocating participants by chance; each participant has an equal chance of
ending up in each condition
Ecological validity ­ the extent to which a situation reflects real life
Experimental condition ­ the condition where a variable is actually tested
Control condition ­ the condition that acts as a comparison; where nothing changes.…read more

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Standardisation ­ making things the same across the conditions. An experimenter may
standardise factors such as participants, the environment, tasks, measures and instructions.
2. Counterbalancing ­ often used in repeated measures design to avoid order effects. The order
in which conditions are encountered for is balanced out across all participants. Every possible
combination of order of conditions occurs the same number of times.
3. Randomisation ­ controlling variables by use of chance.…read more



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