AS Psychology: Research Methods : What type of Experiment?

So many different types of experiments.. Which to choose? For what reason? Advantages and Disadvantages? I've got it covered!

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Contents, so to speak..

Want to know what I'll be looking at with you? Well, These are a list of the different types of Research Methods I will be focusing on. Lab, Field, and Natural are the most common (and arguably, important, so make sure you understand those. If not, ask your teacher, as I can't claim to know everything, as Much as I'd like.)

  • Lab
  • Field
  • Natural
  • Case Study
  • Questionaires
  • Correlational
  • Interviews,
  • Observations
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Lab Experiments are..

  • Done in controlled, artificial environments (A Laboratory, obviously..)
  • Able to completely controll all the variables.


  • Highly objective and systematic. With a completely controlled, standardised procedure.
  • Easy to obtain large amounts of detailed information
  • Allows for easy replication - Repeated tests -> Reliability! 


  • Artificial environment may lead to demand characteristics (guessing purpose of experiment and reacting to either fit to/go against expectations.) or unnatural reactions/behaviour,  - Thus can't be applied to real life?
  • Ethical concerns - eg. Applying unnatural levels of stress, etc.
  • There may experimenter bias. - eg. Bribery to make participants react in a certain way, having favourites..
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Field experiments are...

  • In a natural setting- ie. a street, school, supermarket.
  • Controlled, much like a Lab. Experiment, only in a more aplicable to real life setting.


  • High External Validity (Meaning it is more generalisable, it's similar to real life situations.)
  • High degree of controll, as with Lab. Experiments.
  • Little or no Demand characteristics, as Participants are reacting naturally, as they are unaware it is an experiment.


  • Ethical concerns, such as lack of consent.
  • Extraneous variables (Interfences from outside world, like loud noises, etc.)
  • Difficulty in replicating, as exact situation may change (eg. Participants & their moods)
  • Sample bias: Experimenter may only pick certain people, or for example, mothers are more likely to be found in supermarkets, or Teachers at schools.
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Natural Experiments are ...

  • Any situation in which experimenter has no controll over variables (eg. British people's patriotic mood around the Jubilee - You have to wait for the jubilee, you can't change the day!)
  • Quasi-Experiments: The independent variable is not manipulated by the researcher.


  • Participants aren't aware they are being tested on.
  • (See Field experiment, as they are extremely similar!)


  • Have to wait for a certain event, making repition difficult, ( and who likes waiting?! )
  • Extreneous variables
  • (Again, See Field Experiment, but the Ads&Disads listed here are the main few, I would say! But learn them all!)
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Case Study

Case Studies are...

  • A detailed study or evaluation of a single indivual, event or group.


  • Produces rich, detailed data on the specific thing  you are studying


  • Cannot generalise the findings, as they can only be applied to that individual study
  • Findings are from one indivudual, and thus are not easily repeated.
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Questionaires are...

  • Questions, like a written form of interview.


  • Gain large amounts of data quickly and cheaply. (What do you mean 'cheaply' isn't a a good word!?)


  • Only the people willing to participate in the questionaire will complete it, creating bias on people on have the time, or are interested in the study will take part.
  • Questionaires take skill, you have to be able to read/write, so may get some bias on that everybody who enters will be educated, or not a child.
  • People can lie, meaning demand characteristics.
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Correlational Experiments are...

  • Testing a hypothesis using an association found between two variables.


  • Can collect a lot of data quicker than a lab. experminet, it is more efficient.


  • Does not show a 'cause and effect'.
  • Many Hypothesis cannot be easily examined, rendering research 'useless'?
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Interviews are...

  • face-to-face conversations based on a question-and-answer format.
  • Structured , meaning they are scientific, quantitive and closed questions.
  • or Unstructured, meaning they are non-scientific, qualitative and open questions, more like a discussion.


  • Qualititive, rather than Quantitative in their content.
  • Good Reliability
  • Easily analysable, if structured.


  • Little relevence to research,
  • Data difficult to analyise, if Unstructured.
  • Interviewer Bias: Personalities could change course of interview.
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Observations are...

  • Watching and reccording behaviour without interfering.


  • Observations occur in a natural setting, they don't know they are being observed.
  • Allows investigation where other methods aren't possible, perhaps as results cannot be numerically recorded.


  • Researcher Bias: Researched cannot remain unbiased. May have favourites, and one person's view will differ to another's.
  • Small-Scale replication is difficult.
  • Lack of controlled variables
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Thegirlwhoknewtoomuch - Team GR

this is great, well sumarised, something i always find it hard to do :)

Aimee Smith

Thegirlwhoknewtoomuch wrote:

this is great, well sumarised, something i always find it hard to do :)

Oh, it's no problem! Thank you for your comment, always means a lot <3

Also, loving the fact you're a Mika fan. Mika is the best. You're the origin of love, my dear! <3 **

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