Unit 1: Research Methods

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RESEARCH METHODS

Laboratory Experiments
- A way of conducting research in a controlled way
- Aim is to control all relevant variables, except the independent variable which is altered to see what effect it has
- Such experiments are classed as artificial

Advantages: effect of confounding variables are minimised, easy to replicate to check the findings, it is possible to establish whether one variable causes a change in another

Disadvantages: due to the experiment being artificial it lacks ecological validity, Ps may show demand characteristics according to what they think is being investigated, deception is often used to reduce demand characteristics which causes ethical issues

Field Experiments
- Behaviour is measured in a natural environment (eg. school, train)
- A key variable is altered so its effect can be measured

Advantages: less artificial so they have a higher ecological validity so relate better to real life, demand characteristics are avoided because Ps do not know they are being studied

Disadvantages: less control over the experiment so other variables beyond the researchers control may also influence the results, if Ps are unaware they are being studied they cannot give consent which causes ethical issues

Natural Experiments
- Measure variables that are not directly manipulated by the experimenter (eg comparing behaviour in single-sex school and a mixed school)

Advantages: it is possible to study variables that would be unethical to manipulate

Disadvantages: deception is often used to avoid demand characteristics which makes informed consent difficult, confidentiality could also be compromised, you cannot randomly allocate Ps to each condition and so confounding variables may affect results and it may be difficult to say what variable caused what result

Naturalistic Observation
- Observing subjects in their natural environment
- Researchers do not interfere with the subjects they're studying at all

Advantages: behaviour is natural so results have high ecological validity, no demand characteristics as the P is unaware they are being observed, can be used to develop ideas which can be later tested in more controlled conditions

Disadvantages: cannot control many extraneous variables which could affect the results, observers' expectations may affect what they focus on and record (observer bias), gaining informed consent without it affecting the results is diificult

TYPES OF RESEARCH

Correlational Research
- Looks at the relationship between variables
- Two variables may rise and fall together, or one may rise as the other one falls

Advantages: casual relationships can be ruled out if no correlation exists, can study variables that it would be unethical to manipulate eg number of cigarettes smoked and incidences of ill health

Disadvantages: cannot establish cause and effect as results could be caused by another variable, results can be misinterpreted, the media sometimes infer causality from a correlation

Questionnaires
- Can be written, face-to-face, on the phone or via the internet

Advantages: practical, allow for a large amount of information to be collected quickly and relatively cheaply

Disadvantages: some people are more likely to respond to a questionnaire making the sample unrepresentative, people may want to present…

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