Research Methods

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What are laboratory experiments? What advantages and disadvantages are associated?

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 Laboratory experiments are conducted in an artificial setting.


1. Able to control the effects of confounding variables. (validity)

2. Easy to replicate and check the findings. (reliability)

3. Possible to see if one variable affects another.


1. Conducted in an artificial setting. (low ecological validity)

2. Participants more likely to display demand characteristics.

3. Ethical issues over the use of deception. (consent issues)

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What are Field experiments?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of study?

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Field experiments measure behaviour in a natural enviroment like on the street or in a shop. A key variable is still altered so that it's effect can be measured.


1. still able to identify causal relationships. (harder to do compared with lab study)

2. High ecological validity

3. Demand characteristics can be avoided if the participant does not know they're in a study.


1. More likely to have confounding variables

2. Ethical issues as consent, privacy and briefing are issues. (can't debrief everyone)

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What are Natural experiments?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of study?

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Natural experiments measure variables that aren't directly manipulated by the experimenter, eg. comparing behaviour between a single-sex school and a mixed school.


1. Able to study variable without ethics becoming an issue


1. Deception might be used making it difficult to get fully informed consent.

2. May be hard to find a specific group, eg. a community without tv.

3. Unable to allocate participants. (little control over variables)

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What are Naturalistic observations used for?

What are the advantages and disadvantages involved?

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Naturalistic observations are used for observing subjects in their natural enviroment without interfering in anyway with the study or participant.


1. High ecological validity as behaviour is natural and without demand characteristics.

2. Able to develop ideas that can be tested in a controlled enviroment later.


1. Ethics. (Consent, Privacy and debriefing)

2. Observer bias as there may be a focus on a specific behaviour to fit the researchers expectations

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of using questionnaires?

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1. Practical as the observer can collect a large amount of data quickly and relatively cheaply


1. Leading or unclear questions can cause problems

2. Easy to get a bias as not everyone will participate

3. Confidentiality could become an issue when dealing with sensitive issues.

4. Social desirability. (wanting to present themselves in a good light)

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What types of interview are there? 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of interviews?

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Sturctured - when questions have been pre-set and are the same for each participant

Unstructured - when topics may be set but the interviewer has more choice of question


1. Able to get detailed information. (Unstructured provide richer information)

2. Useful as pilot studies.


1. Impractical as they are time consuming.

2. Social desirability possible as participant will want to look good.

3. Confidentiality issues on sensitive issues.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of Case studies?

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1. In-depth study of a rare situation.

2. Can challenge existing and theories and suggest ideas for future research.


1. The researcher has little control over variables.

2. Difficult to generalise as each case is unique.

3. Informed consent may be difficult if the subject has a rare disorder.

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