Research Methods 1.1 (Research Methods and Techniques)

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Experimental Method

-          An experiment is a method that establishes a relationship between two variables, if psychologists change one variable this can cause a change in behaviour of participants. A hypothesis is formulated to predict the effect of the IV on the DV. The effect that the IV has on the DV must be tested, the conditions must have established controls and it must be possible to replicate the procedure to test reliability.

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Lab Experiment

-          A laboratory experiment is carried out under controlled laboratory conditions which produces scientific research.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = high control allows cause and effect to be established as well as replication of the procedure to test reliability, weaknesses = low ecological validity reduces the study’s application to real life as well as increasing demand characteristics in the artificial environment.

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Field Experiment

-          A field experiment is carried out in a natural setting (i.e. participant’s home).

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = high ecological validity as takes place in a natural setting which also reduces the chance of demand characteristics being shown, weaknesses = low control means that it is difficult to eliminate extraneous variables to study cause and effect.

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Quasi Experiment

-          A quasi experiment is where the IV is occurring naturally or is already established and can’t be manipulated so only the resulting behaviour can be measured by the experimenter.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = it allows the study of the variables that psychologists can’t manipulate in a controlled environment.

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Observational Method ( Naturalistic vs. Controlled

·         Naturalistic

-          A naturalistic observation takes place in setting where the behaviours being observed occur naturally.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = high ecological validity and reduced demand characteristics, weaknesses = lack of control over other factors influencing behaviour.

·         Controlled

-          A controlled observation controls all the possible factors that might influence behaviour/ confound the behaviour caused by the IV.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = reduction of confounding variables, a standardised procedure, weaknesses = artificial situation would reduce ecological validity.

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Observational Method (Participant vs. Non Particip

·         Participant

-          A participant observation is when the observers are a part of or pretending to be part of the observational group themselves.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = less likely to miss discreet behaviours and the data gathered would be detailed, weaknesses = the observations may be objective and the participants may display demand characteristics.

·         Non-Participant

-          A non-participant observation is where the observer is not a part of the group being studied or playing a part of another person in the group.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = able to remain more objective about the behaviours they are observing, weaknesses = may not have the same insight into the behaviours they are observing.

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Observational Method (Covert vs. Overt)

·         Overt

-          An overt observation is when the participant is aware that they are being observed.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = it is an ethical method of research, weaknesses = the participants may display demand characteristics.

·         Covert

-          A covert observation is where the participant is unaware that they are being observed.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = useful as natural behaviour is observed, reduced demand characteristics as the participant’s behaviour wouldn’t be effected by the fact that they know they are being aware, weaknesses = problems with ethics especially informed consent.


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Self Report Method (Questionnaire)

·         Questionnaire

-          Questionnaires are sets of questions that are usually completed as pen and paper tests, but can also be done over the internet or telephone.

-          Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = lots of data from a large sample can be gathered quickly, cost and time effective method of data collection, weaknesses = the data may not be rich/detailed and the questions may be open to interpretation from different participants.

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Self Report Method (Interviews: Structured, Semi S

  • Interview:  Interviews are when participants are interviewed usually face to face and their responses recorded.

            Structured interviews are when the same set of questions is asked to each participant in the same order. Often researchers won’t show any expression/influence for fear of influencing the answers.                         Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = easier to gather quantitative data and therefore easier to analyse the answer and compare participants’ responses, weaknesses = the structured nature is artificial and the respondent may not want to elaborate on their answers. This limits the data that can be gathered.

-          Semi-Structured interviews are when the interviewer has a list of questions but can ask for elaboration on certain questions and are often more friendly and sociable. Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = the interaction is more likely to be seen by participants as more trustworthy and may illicit a more detailed answer, weaknesses = difficult to analyse the qualitative data gathered.

-          Unstructured interviews are when the researcher has topics to discuss but these don’t have to be in the same order for each participant and is more like a conversation. Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = rich, detailed answers given and initial responses can be explored further, more ecologically valid as more like a conversation, weaknesses = as a broad range of topics can be discussed in detail it can be difficult to summarise the data, to analyse the data and make comparisons between the participants.  

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·         Correlational studies use a statistical technique that can tell us about the way that 2 variables are related to each other, the study investigates whether a relationship exists between two variables.Strengths and weaknesses: Strengths = allows the relationship between two variables to be studied without actually manipulating them, it is a test for reliability and validity as well, weaknesses = correlation does not mean causation.

·         Obtaining data for correlational analysis. Correlation is a mathematical technique so requires the two variables to be measured quantitatively so that a correlation can be found. Numerical data for correlations are gathered by self-report, observation or by physiological measures.

·         Positive correlation: This is when as one variable increases so does the other variable.

·         Negative correlation:  This is when as one variable increases the other variable decreases.

·         No correlation: This means that there is no real link/relationship between the two variables. 

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