Research Methods for AQA psychology


Psychology: Research Methods

Ethical guidelines

The BPS (British psychological society) has set guidelines that researchers have to stick to when doing their studies.




-Deliberately withholding or misleading participants (Ps)

-Any deception used must be debriefed to the participants after the study

Informed consent

-Ps must be given enough information to make an informed decision as to if they want to participate.

-When being briefed, the Ps must be told the aims of the experiment and be told their rights and how their data will be used.

-Ps should be given a consent form with all this information on it.

-Under 16s need parental permission.

-Consent must only be gained if the Ps are in a fit state to give it.

Protection from harm

-Ps shouldn’t come under any physical or psychological harm when in the study, which includes feeling embarrassed or under pressure.

-Ps should be given the right to withdraw at any time in the study

-Ps should leave in the same state they arrived in

Privacy and confidentiality

-Ps data is only to be used with their permission

-No personal data should be collected


Ways of gaining consent



Presumptive consent

A similar group of Ps is asked if they would consent to the study and their response is presumed to be generalisable to the actual Ps

Retrospective consent

Ps asked for their consent after the study has taken place

Prior general consent

Ps consent to multiple studies (including the real study) some time before the study takes place


Briefing and debriefing

Briefings include:

·        Brief summery

·        Ask consent

·        Right to withdraw

·        Tell them they don’t have to participate

·        Standardised instructions



Debriefings include:

·        Full explanation

·        Permission to use data

·        Thanks

·        Questions

Variables (IV + DV)

When doing an experiment there are 2 main types of variables, the IV and the DV. The IV (independent variable) is what the researcher wants to manipulate/change in the study and the DV is what the researcher wants to measure. To have maximum validity in a study, only the IV can be affecting the DV, everything else must be controlled.

Extraneous variables

Extraneous variables are possible factors of an experiment that may be affecting the DV besides the IV. There are 3 main types:

-        Participant - characteristics about the participants that could affect the DV e.g. mood, gender, intelligence

-        Situational – aspects of the environment that could be affecting the DV e.g. weather, time

-        Experimenter – characteristics of the researcher that could be affecting the DV e.g. ethnicity, gender

If an extraneous variable, that effects the DV, is left uncontrolled then that is a confounding variable.

Demand characteristics

Participant reactivity is an example of an extraneous variable where the participants become increasingly aware of the details of the experiment due to clues from the environments. These clues are called demand characteristics.


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