Types of Research Methods

WJEC PY3 revision on the different types of research methods.

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  • Created by: Flo
  • Created on: 02-06-12 17:52

Laboratory Experiments

The researcher deliberatly manipulates the IV while maintaing strict control over extraneous variables through standadised procedures in a controlled environment.


- High control means better internal validity

- Replicable so reliability can be cheaked

- Control over all variables allows experimenter to establish causal relationships


- Low ecological validity due to being conducted in artificial setting

- High chance of demand characteristics as Ps know they are being studied

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Field Experiment

The researcher deliberatly manipulates the independant variable, but does so in the subjects own natural environment.


- Higher ecological validity because it takes place in a real life environment.

- Less bias from sampling as subjects are not brought into lab.

- Less chance of demand characteristics (if subjects are unaware of being tested)


- Less controll over other variables meaning more bias likely from extraneous varables so lower internal validity.

- More difficult to replicate exactly so difficult to test tempral validity

- More difficult to record data accuratly

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Natural Experiments

The IV is changed by natural occurance; the researcher just records the effect on the DV. The experimenter is laking in control over the IV (Quasi experiments)


- Has high ecological validity since the IV is a 'natural' change and occurs in a natural environment.

- Less bias from sampling as subjects are not chosen by experimenters

- No/low chance of demand characteristics


- Hard to infer cause and effect due to little control over extraneous variables and no direct manipulation of the IV.

- Virtually impossible to replicate exactly so tempral validity cannot be tested

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A method of data analysis which measures the relationship between two or more variables or systematic pattern exists between them.


- Useful tool for suggesting directions for future research

- Can be used where it would be unethical or impractical to manipulate the variables involved.

- Produces precise information on the degree of relationship between the variables


- Cannot infer the direction of cause and effect

- There might be other unknown variables that can explain why the two variables are related.

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Behaviour is in a natural setting where nothing has been changed either by the researcher or naturally. Ps are often unaware they are being studied and there is no IV.


- Ecological validity is very high as researcher has not changed the environment

- There are no demand characteristics as ps do not know they are being studied

- Can be used to generate ideas for or valadate findings from experimental studies


- Raises ethical issues as Ps are unaware of being studied so have no right to withdraw

- Lack of control over conditions makes replication more difficult

- Cannot legitimately infer cause and effect relationships between variables that are only obsevred but not manipulated

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Case Studies

An ideographic method involving the in-depth study of an individual or particular group. They will often include a wide variety of qualative and quantative data gathering to provide a more discription of an individual.


- Highly detailed and indepth data is gathered 

- Often the only method suitable for studying some types of behaviour

- Often the only method available due to rarity of behaviour


- Lack of genreralisability to the population due to single cases being to small and unrepresentative a sample

- Difficult or impossible to replicate

- No cause and effect can be legitamatly infered

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Written methods of gaining information from subjects and do not necessarily require the presence of a researcher.


- Collect large amounts of standadised data which is easily compared

- Quicker, more efficient and more convinient than other research methods

- Highly replicaple due to standadised questions


- Ps cannot ask for assistance if they do not understand a question 

- Heavily subject to social desirability bias

- Lack flexability for P to explain answer

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Interviews: Structured

A one-to-one conversation involving direct questioning of the P by the researcher. It contains fixed permeditated questions and ways of replying.


- Keeps conversation focused making comparison easier

- Reliable, replicable and easy to analyse


- Prevents the P for explaining their ideas fully 

- Less validity - distorts/ignores data due to insensitivity

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Interviews: Unstructured

A one-to-one conversation involving direct questioning of the P by the researcher. It may contain a topic area for discussion but no fixed questions.


- Allows Ps to explain themselves fully

- Extremely flexable, natural and un-constricted

- Highly detailed and valid data


- Very unstandardised, therefore, not very replicable, reliable or generalisable

- Difficult to quantify and analyse

- Difficult to keep P focused on subject matter

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Interviews: Clinical

A one-to-one conversation involving direct questioning of the P by the researcher. Contains semi-structured guidelines but elaboration is allowed.


- Very flexable, sensitive and valid

- Fairly reliable and easy to analyse


- Flexability leads to more difficulty in replication and bias from the interviewer

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