Research Methods

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What are the major features of science?

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Science is a means of finding out about our world ie. gaining knowledge.
The key features of scientific method are:

1) Empiricism - information is gained through direct observation or experiment rather than by reasoned argument or unfounded beliefs.
2) Objectivity - scientists strive to be objective in their observations and measurements
3) Replicability - one way to demonstrate the validity of an observation is to repeat it, if outcome is same, this affirms truth of original results
4) Control - scientists seek to demonstrate causal relationships to enable them to predict and control our world
5) Theory construction - one aim of science is to record facts, but an additional aim is to use these facts to construct theories to help us understand and predict the natural phenomena around us - a theory is a collection of general principles that explain observations and facts

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What is the scientific process? What does induction and deduction involve?

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1. Induction:
reasoning from the particular to the general.
Scientists may observe instances of a natural phenomenon and come up with a general law or theory. Made disocoveries about the world through accurate observations, and formulating theories based on the regularities observed.
Example: Newton's Laws

2. Deduction:
reasoning from the general to the particular.
Formulating a theory and setting out to test its propositions - collecting data to prove your theory.
Example: Darwin's theory of evolution

Hypothetico-deductive model was proposed by Karl Popper - suggested that theories/laws about the world should come first and these should beused to generate expectations/hypotheses which can be falsified. Falsification is the only way to be certain.

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Can psychology claim to be a science?

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  • Scientific research is desirable - early scientists sought to create a science of psychology as this would enable them to produce verifiable knowledge as distinct from common sense
  • Psychology is a science as it shares the goals of sciences and uses scientific method but others say the essence of science has deluded some psyhcologists and at best it is a psuedoscience
  • Kuhn's views - claimed that psychology could not be a science because there is no single paradigm (ie. shared set of assumptions) - a science such as biology or physics has a unified set of assumptions, whereas psychology has a number of paradigms or approaches - cognitive, behavioural etc. so Kuhn proposed it was a 'prescience'
  • Lack of objectivity and control - some psychologists claim that human behaviour can be measured as objectively as physical objects but is this true? there are demand characteristics, experimenter bias etc.
  • However, Heisenberg argued that it is not even possible to measure a subatomic particle without altering its 'behaviour' during an experiment - the presecence of an experimenter changes the behaviour of what is observed, even in Physics.
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Are the goals of science appropriate for psychology?

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Inappropriate to view a person experiencing distress as a complex physical-chemical system that had gone wrong - treatment could only succeed if each patient was treated as an individual case (the idiographic approach).

Science takes the nomothetic approach, looking to make generalisations about people and find similarities.

Qualatitive research: can still be scientific insofar as they aim to be valid.

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How is the scientific approach reductionist and determinist?

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It is REDUCTIONIST because complex phenomena are reduced to simple variables in order to study the causal relationships between them.

- May tell us only a little about real behaviour, but without reductionism it is difficult to pick out any patterns or make any conclusions

It is DETERMINIST in its search for causal relationshups i.e. seekign to discover if X determines Y - If we don't take a determinist view of behaviour, this rules out scientific research as a means of understanding behaviour.

-May oversimplify the relationship but provides insights into important factors, such as the influences of nature and nurture.

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Validating new knowledge

What is peer review and what are its 3 main purposes?

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Validating new knowledge

It is the assessment of scientific work by others who are experts in the same field - the intention is to ensure that any research conducted and published is of high quality.

Peer reviewers unpaid, usually a number for each article, task is to report on quality and then their views are considered by a research panel.

3 main purposes:
1) Allocation of research funding - public bodies who give funding require reviews to enable them to decide which research is likely to be worthwhile.

2) Publication of research in scientific jounrals and books - peer review prevents incorrect or faulty data from entering the public domain.

3) Assessing the research rating of university departments - future funding depends on receiving good ratings from the RAE peer review.

Internet makes articles more accessible - 'wisdom of crowds' approach

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