How to evaluate research

Ecological Validity

  • Definition: if a piece of research is high in ecological validity it should generalise to situations or tasks outside of that study setting. A study set in situations that would happen in real life would be said to be high in ecological validity whilst a study conducted in artifical conditions with artifical tasks would be said to be low in ecological validity
  • Comment: Having research that is low in ecological validity is a problem because it doesn't represent a real life setting/task and therefore the results gained may not e useful in explaining real life behaviour.
  • Counter Comment: However, studies that lack EV will generally be conducted under controlled conditions. Due to such high control over confounding variables, researchers are ale to see cause and effect relationships. This can make psychology more credible as a scientific subject.
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  • Definition: The British Psychological society issues ethical guidelines for those engaged in psychological research. These guidelines are basically a set of rules outlining what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in research.
  • Comment: Breaking ethical guidelines is a problem because this may prevent people from wanting to take part in future research if they believe that they can't trust psychologists to be fair to them. Therefore, this damages the reputation of Psychology.
  • Counter comment: However, breaking ethical guidelines is sometimes necessary and justified to study the impact of variables, measures or techniques to allows us to make firm conclusions about behaviour or cause and effect.
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Qualitative & Quantitative data

  • Description: Quantitative measures are numerical and can therefore be statistically tested to show the impact of a variable. Qualitative measures involve written descriptions and interpretations of behaviour and therefore give insight into why a behaviour occurs.
  • Comment: A problem with simply collecting Quantitative data is that it can only show the impact of a certian variable on behaviour but not why. A problem with simply collecting Qualitative data is that it can show insight into behaiour but may be hard to compare participants views or experiences.
  • Counter Comment: However, it is necessary to simply study the impact of a variable to see if there is any effect before going to study the reasons and so this is goo data to use in a primary investigation. However, collecting qualitative data often ensures that the findings are valid to those participants.
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Longitudinal vs Snapshot studies

  • Description: Longitudinal Studies are studies conducted over a long period of time using the same participants and repeated measures to show how behaviour and abilities develop over time. Snapshot Studies are conducted at one point in time and therefore often compare the behaviour of different people. Such studies only tell us what behaviour is present at that moment in time and take one set of data for each person.
  • Comment: The problem with longitudinal research is that the longer the study, the more possibility that findings may be outdated when they become available. It is also difficult to prevent relationships forming between researcher and participant if seen on regular basis. The problem with snapshot studies is that there is no insight into why that behaviour is present, therefore making it difficult to modify it if necessary.
  • Counter comment: However, in longitudinal research a clearer picture about the topic may be gained as changes in behaviour are not attributable to individual differences as the same people have been studied. This means that we may be able to change behaviour where relevant because we know why it occurred. However, in snapshot studies confounding variables are easier to control as the environment can be kept constant. This enables cause and effect relationships to be investigated more easily.
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  • Description: This refers to whether a study creates practical applications.
  • Comment:  If a study is not useful this is a problem because psyhcology's main aim is to benefit society or the individual with its research. Therefore, if the usefulness is limited it is not meeting the goals of the subject.
  • Counter comment: However, if the study is useful then it an lead to practical applications, further research and adds to our academic understanding. The research might not have been useful but it still gave us insight into an issue.
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  • Description: Another word for reliability is consistency or replicability. In a study we may question whether the measure used will give you consistent results over time or can be used consistently between one person and another. It can also refer to the consistency of study findings, have the findings been replicated in other researched or challenged.
  • Comment: Having a lack of reliability and so consistency in research is a problem because this makes it difficult to conclude that the results or measures are accurate. It also reduces the scientific nature of the subject.
  • Counter Comment: However, high reliability allows for the research to be replicated by an external researcher, therefore we can check that the results are accurate and it increases the sceintific nature of psychology.
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  • Description: This questions whether a researcher has measured what they set out to measure. To check the validity of a study is to look at how behaviour was defined and measured and consider whether this was a good way to do it, or if there could have been other factor that could have affected the results other than what was being tested.
  • Comment: This is an important issues because if a measure or study lacks validity we cannot be sure that we have accurately investigated a particular behaviour and therefore findings cannot be applied in the real world. It is also less possible to state cause and effect.
  • Counter Comment: (For use with self reports) Whilst there may be question marks over validity, self reports are the only way that we can obtain thoughts, feelings and attitudes and so remains and important research tool for psychologists. High validity increases the usefulness or research as the findings can be said to be accurate as the study had high controls, therefore no extraneous variables have effected the results. Leads to practical applications.
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  • Description: The way in which the data was collected. The focus is on the research method used and the strengths and weaknesses in relation to the topic area being discussed.
  • Comment: weakness = problems with the methodology
  • Counter Comment: strengths of methodology
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  • Description: Sampling issues refer to who the participants were. We can question the extent to which the sample is representative of the target population or to the world in general as this will affect how much we learn about behaviour in the general population.
  • Comment: having unrepresentative samples is a problem because if the sample is limited then the results cannot be generalised and this makes the findings less useful.
  • Counter Comment: However, if a limited sample is used then participant variables are also limited within the study, which can make it easier to see caude and effect. This aids validity as the results are more likely to be attributable to the IV and not individual differences in the particpants.
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Cause and Effect

  • Description: The extent to which it can be concluded that one thing causes another. Cause is the variable or variables being studied. Effect is the behaviour resulting from the presence of that variable.
  • Comment: If cause and effect cannot be stated this is a problem because it reduces psychology's ability to be classed as a science. The lack of causality also makes it difficult to use the findings in any way to modify or change behaviour.
  • Counter Comment: However, studies that can state cause and effect often have high levels of control this can reduce the ecological validity and so despite meeting the criteria of being scientific it may tell us nothing about causes of behaviour in real life.
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