Research methods

Brief desciption of each of the research methods along with their strengths and weaknesses 

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  • Created by: Ellie
  • Created on: 14-05-13 21:28

Laboratory experiments

  • Controlled research (controls all variables apart from one)
  • Conducted in an artifical setting
  • High level of control over extraneous variables
  • Strict control means you can replicate the study
  • Can establish whether one variables causes change in another 
  • May not measure real life behavious because it's artificial 
  • Participant may respond to what they think is being inverstigated (demand characteristics)
  • Deception is often used and informed consent is difficult 
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Field experiments

  • Conducted in a natural environment 
  • Key variabe is still altered so it's effect can be measured
  • Can still establish causal relationships
  • More ecological validity as they're closer to real life
  • Demand characteristics are avoided
  • Less control = more extraneous variables
  • Participant often can't be debriefed and so may experience stress 
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Natural experiments

  • Measures variables that aren't directly manipulated by the experimenter 
  • Possible to study variables that would normally be unethical to manipulate 
  • No control over variables so hard to say what caused what 
  • Some groups of interest are hard to find
  • Deception is often used = onformed consent is difficult
  • Confidentiality may be comprimised if the community is identifiable 
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Naturalistic observation

  • Observes subjects in their natual environment 
  • High ecological validity as participant is unaware of being observed (no demand charectistics and natural behaviour)
  • Can develop ideas that can be tested in controlled conditions later 
  • Can't control extraneous variables
  • Observers expectations may effect what they focus on (observer bias)
  • Can only conduct observations where people might be obserrved by strangers
  • Debriefing is hard
  • Must respect privacy
  • Tricky for informed consent
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Correlational research

  • Looks for relationships between variables 
  • Casual relationships can be ruled out if no erlationship exists
  • Can study variables that would be unethical to manipulate 
  • Casual relationships cannot be assumed from a correlation which may be caused by a unknown variable
  • Misinterpretation can be an issue 
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  • Can be written, face to face, on the phone or over the internet
  • Can collect a large amount of information quickly and cheaply 
  • Leading/unclear questions can be a problem
  • Can be biased as a certain type of peron may respond to a questionnaire
  • People may want to present themselves in a good light (self report)
  • Confidentiality can be a problem 
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  • Structured interviews follow a set of questions that are the same for all participants
  • Unstructured interviews have a set of discussion topics but are less constrained as to how the conversation goes
  • Lots of detailed and rich information
  • Useful to get information before a study (pilot study)
  • Can be unreliable and affected by self report
  • Can be time consuming and requires skilled researchers
  • Confidentiality can be a problem 
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Case studies

  • Focuses on an individual/small group of people
  • Lots of rich data
  • Looks at unique cases, can challenge existing ideas and suggest ideas for future research 
  • Very little control over variables
  • Generalisation is extrememly difficult 
  • Informed consent can be difficult if subject has a rare disorder 
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