Research Methods PSY4004D



Research definition taken from the Oxford Concise Dictoinary;

  • The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources etc. in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions
  • An endeavour to discover new or collate old facts etc. by the scientific study of a subject or by a course of critical investigation

Tuckman (1978), on the other hand defines research as:

  • A systematic means of problem solving


  • Establish Facts
  • Reach New Conclusions
  • Discover New Facts
  • Collate Old Facts
  • Problem Solving

Ways to achieve aims:

  • Systematic investigation into resources and materials etc.
  • Study of materials and sources etc.
  • Scientific study of a subject
  • A course of critical investigation

The ways to achieve the research aims, are the research methods. Both sources suggest that research needs to be systematic, with clear aims and the mechanism to carry out the research in mind.

S1P3 & 4


How do we acquire knowledge?

Christensen, Johnson, and Turner (2010) listed the following methods humans have been using to acquire knowledge:

  • Authority - According to Jackson (2006, p.7), “When we accept what a respected or famous person tells us, we are gaining knowledge via authority.” That would also include learning from our parents (when we were young), a religious or political leader and the reliance on textbooks to provide correct knowledge.


  • Rationalism - “Gaining knowledge via rationalism involves logical reasoning.” Jackson (2006, p.8). It might be argued that logical thinking is good. However, logic reasoning based on erroneous facts would lead to a logical conclusion but not necessarily a correct conclusion. 
  • For example, 
    1. Premise: All psychology students are female.
    2. Premise: I am a psychology student.
    3. Conclusion: Therefore, I am female. (Logical conclusion from the given premises)
  • Empiricism - “Knowledge via empiricism involves gaining knowledge through objective observation and the experiences of your senses. An individual who says “I believe nothing until I see it with my own eyes” is an empiricist..” Jackson (2006, p.9).
    1. The downfall for empiricism is that an empiricist would not make a conclusion - one of the important aims for research as discussed previously. If we cannot study all humans, how could we make a conclusion about human behaviours? 
  • Scientific Approach - “Gaining knowledge via science, then, involves a merger of rationalism and empiricism. Scientists collect data (make empirical observations) and test hypotheses with these data (assess them using rationalism).” Jackson (2006, p.9).

According to Jackson, the scientific approach involves both rationalism and empiricism. Is there a place for intuition and authority in the scientific method? Christensen and his colleagues suggest that intuition or hunches could be useful in the formulation of research questions and hypotheses, while experts should also be consulted at all stages of research. For example, the formulation of research questions and hypotheses as well as the data collection and analysis. Therefore, the scientific approach gets the best out of all the other approaches.

A lot of students…


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