Reserch Methods Notes

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Research Methods


Research Methods and Techniques

Experiments:  a research method demonstrating a causal relationship, between an independent variable, which is manipulated, and a dependent variable.

Laboratory Experiment:  an experiment conducted in a very controlled environment.

+ high level of control of extraneous variables - high validity

+ easily replicable due to control, i.e. standardisation - improves validity

- artificial, participants may not behave naturally - low ecological validity

- demand characteristics, participants may be aware they are being studied - low validity

- researcher bias/effect - low validity

Field Experiment:  an experiment conducted in more everyday surroundings

+ less contrived - higher ecological validity

+ avoids demand characteristics/researcher bias/effect - validity

- less control of extraneous variables - reduces validity

- ethical issues, participants not aware, informed consent

Quasi Experiment:  an experiment in which the experimenter does not manipulate the independent variable because it is naturally occurring.

+allows research for ethical/practical reasons and study real life problems - higher ecological validity

Observations:  a research method used to watch and record behaviours displayed by people without controls.

Structured:  a system used to restrict and organise the collection of information

+ improves inter-rater reliability, observations more consistent - more reliability

- observers may witness behaviours they expect to see, researcher bias - low validity

Unstructured:  observer records all relevant behaviour, but has no system

+ behaviour studied could be unpredictable - more useful

- most eye-catching behaviours recorded - less validity

Naturalistic:  everything is left as it would be naturally, so the environment is unstructured, but the observation technique might not be

+ provides a realistic picture of behaviour - high ecological validity

- participants may be aware, demand characteristics

- little control over extraneous variables

Controlled:  some variable are controlled, usually in a laboratory

+ controlled environment focuses on specific behaviours

+ control over extraneous variables - higher reliability

- may have artificiality, participants may not behave naturally - low validity

Participant:  the observer is a participant in the behaviour being observed

+ provide useful and special insights - higher validity

+ Record more in-depth details, more qualitative data - higher validity

- observer bias - objectivity

- difficult to record behaviour and act as part of the group, details could be missed - lower validity

Non-Participant:  observer is not a participant in the behaviour being observed

+ psychological and physical distance - objective

- observer could misinterpret behaviours - reduces validity

Overt:  participant is aware they are being observed

+ avoids ethical issues, participants can decide and provide informed consent

- participants know, may alter their behaviour, observer effect - lower validity

Covert: observations are made without the participants knowledge

+ participants behave more naturally, more validity

- ethical issues, no informed consent, deception, invasion of privacy


Self Reports:  a data collection method in which people are asked to report their thoughts, feelings or behaviour.

Questionnaire:  respondents record their own answers to predetermined questions

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