Research Methods

this is all taken from the AS-Level Psychology CGP revision book exam board: AQA A so if it looks similar thats becuase its from there. 

sorry for spelling and grammar 

hope it helps you in some way

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  • Created by: Georgia
  • Created on: 07-04-13 14:35

Laboratory Experiments

  •  way of experimenting in a controlled way
  •  aim to control variables 
  •  in an artifical setting


  • allows control over the experiment 
  • allows for replication of experiment
  • it allows researcher to see if one variable causes a change in another


  • its artificial and so cannot be used to measure real-life behaviour
  • they may respond in a way that they think they should behave 
  • deception is often used making it hard to get consent making them unethical
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Field Experiments

  • in field experiments behavior is measure in a natural environment like a school, the street or on a train. 
  • a key variable is still altered so that its effects can be measured


  • can establish casual relationships by manupulating the key variable to measure its effects
  • field experiments are less artifical that those done in labs, so they relate better to real-life.
  • the demand characteristics can be avoided by participants if they don't know they're in a study


  • they have less control over the experiment
  • may be unethical because the participants may not know they are involved
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Natural Experiments

a natural experiment is a study that measures variables that aren't directly manipulated by the experimenter


  • its possible to study situations that otherwise would be unethical to do so for example aggression levels of two groups that either watch tv or don't 


  • you can't randomly allocate participants to each condition, and so confounding variables may affect results. 
  • some groups may be hard to find (e.g. people who don't watch TV)
  • their is ethical issues with decpetion, gathering informed concent, confidentiality 
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Naturalistic Observation

naturalistic observation involves observing subjects in their natural environment. researchers take great care not to interfere in any way with the subjects they're studying


  • ecologoical validity - the participant is unaware of the observer and so the behaviour is natural and there are no demand characteristics as they are unaware of the observer. 
  • it can help in theory development as it means the idea can help to develop tests for later controlled experiments


  • extraneous variables - can't control variables that may affect behaviour 
  • observer bias - observers' expectations may affect what they focus on and record. this means the reliability of the results may be a problem - another observer may have come up with very different results. 
  • ethics - you should only conduct observations where people might expect to be observed by strangers. this limits the situation where tou can do a naturalistic observation. debriefing is difficult. observation must respect privacy. getting informed consent can be tricky, 
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Correlational Research

correlation means that two variables rise and fall together, or that one rises and the other falls - but not always that one variables causes a change in the other, e.g. as age increases so might intelligence, but aging doesn't CAUSE intelligence.


  • causal relationships - these can be ruled out if no correlation exists
  • ethics - can study variables that would be unethical to manupulate e.g. is there a relationship between the number of cigarettes smoked and incidenced of ill health.


  • causal relationships - these cannot be assumed from a correlation, which may be caused by a third, unknown variable.
  • ethics - misinterpretation can be an issue. sometimes the media (and researchers) infer causality from a correlation 
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  • practical - can collect a large amount of information quickly and relatively cheaply 


  • bad questions - leading questions or unclear questions can be a problem 
  • biased sample - some people are more likely to respond to a questionnaire, which might make a sample unrepresentative. 
  • self-report - people sometimes want to present themselves in a good light, what they say and what they actually think could be differnet, making any results unreliable. 
  • ethics - confidentiality can be a problem, especially around sensitive issues. 
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structured interviews - follow a fixed set of questions that are the same for all participants

unstructured interviews - may have a set of discussion topics but are less constrianed about how the conversation goes


  • rich data - can get detailed information, as there are fewer constraints than with a questionnaire. unstructured interviews provide richer information than structured interviews
  • pilot study - interviews are a useful way to get information before a study


  • self report - can be unreliable and affected by social desirability bias 
  • impractical - conducting interviews can be time-consuming and requires skilled researchers
  • ethics - confidentiality can be a problem, especially around sensitive issues. 
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Case Studies

Case studies allow researchers to analyse unusual cases in a lot of detail e.g. Milner et al study of HM 


  • rich data - researchers have the opportunity ti study rare phenomena in a lot of detail
  • unique cases - can challenge existing idea  and theories, and suggest ideas for future research. 


  • causal relationship - the researcher has very little control over variables 
  • generalisation - only using a single case makes generalisating the results extremely difficult 
  • ethics - informed consent can be difficult to obtain if the subject has a rare disorder 
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