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Psychologists agree that if their ideas and theories about human behaviour
are to be taken seriously, they must be backed up by data. However, the
research of different psychologists is designed with different goals in mind, and
the different goals require different approaches. Psychologists use the research
method to conduct their research. Research method are the specific methods a
researcher uses to collect, analyse, and interpret data. Psychologists use three
major types of research designs in their research, and each provides an
essential avenue for scientific investigation. Descriptive research methods are
pretty much as they sound they describe situations. They do not make
accurate predictions, and they do not determine cause and effect. There are
three main types of descriptive methods: naturalistic observation, laboratory
observation, survey and case study. Experimental research in psychology
applies the scientific method to achieve the four goals of psychology: describing,
explaining, predicting, and controlling behaviour and mental processes.
Correlational method studies are used to show the relationship between two
variables. Unlike experimental studies, however, correlational studies can only
show that two variables are relatedthey cannot determine. Each of the three
research designs varies according to its strengths and limitations, and it is
important to understand how each differs.


In many scientific disciplines, naturalistic observation is a useful tool for expanding
knowledge about a specific phenomenon or species. In fields such as anthropology,
behavioural biology and ecology, watching a person or organism in a natural
environment is essential. Most naturalistic observation is unobtrusive, such as a
researcher setting up a camera to film the behaviour of a badger underground. Most
nature documentaries are examples of naturalistic observational study, where days,
weeks or even years of film are analysed and edited, to give an overview of the life
cycle of the organism.
There is often little attempt at analysis, quantitative or qualitative, but the
observational study does uncover unknown phenomena and behaviours. Obtrusive
naturalistic observational study is often used in anthropology, where a researcher
lives with a remote tribe for a period of time and records their behaviour. By living
there, she is influencing their social interactions and habits, but can still make some
excellent observations. Often, anthropologists will adopt the lifestyle of a particular
group of people, in an attempt to understand why they have certain customs and
beliefs. In technical terms, it would be difficult to follow people without discovery, and
it would also be unethical to observe without consent, so obtrusive naturalistic
observation is the only method that can be used with human subjects. Many of the
producers of the recent glut of reality shows try to claim that their shows are
psychological experiments, based around observational study. This is stretching the
idea too far, as there are very few people who would not change their behaviour
when they are aware that a camera is watching. In these cases, it is difficult to make
any realistic and valid observations about their lifestyle. Most criticisms of naturalistic
observation are based around this principle, and an anthropologist or social scientist
has to ensure that they intervene as little as possible.
Advantages of naturalistic observation
1. Natural Behaviours
When there is no effect on the behaviours of the subject, the data collected is much

more correct. Humans or animals shows their true feelings, reactions, and behaviours
when they are in natural settings.
2. Aids In Research Validation
Naturalistic observation is used to validate results from experiments that have already
been done. They help to confirm or disprove this data because it gives a truly accurate
account of results.
3. Puts Thing In Real World View
Tests can be conducted in a real world setting. This makes the answers that are
obtained much more relevant to the hypothesiss impact in true, real life settings. This is
a type of view that is much more difficult, or nearly impossible, to get with other types of
experiments and observations that can be done.
4. Allows You To Study Unethical Topics
There are many things that need to be studied in depth in order for us to understand
them better. However, not all circumstances are fit for throwing people into a scientific
study of their behaviours or emotions. One good example of this would be the effects
that school shootings have on students at the school. Naturalistic observation allows
researchers to gather valuable data, without interrupting the emotional wellbeing of the

Data Collection Methods Used in Naturalistic Observation

Researchers may utilize a number of different techniques to collect data from
naturalistic observation. This might involve writing down the number of times a
certain behaviour occurred in a specific period of time, or making an actual videorecording of the subjects of interest.

Tally counts: The observer writes down when and how many times certain
behaviours occurred.

Observer narratives: The observer may take notes during the session and
then go back later to try to collect data and discern behaviour patterns from
these notes.

Audio or video recordings: Depending upon the type of behaviour being

observed, the researchers might also decide to make actual audio or videotaped recordings of each observation session.

Obtaining a representative sample can occur in a few different ways:

Time sampling: Involves taking samples as different intervals of time, which

may be random or systematic.

Situation sampling: Involves observing a behaviour in a variety of different

situations and settings.

Examples of Naturalistic Observation

Let's imagine that you want to study differences in risk taking behaviour between
teenage boys and girls. You might choose to observe behaviour in a few different
settings, such as on a sledding hill, a rock-climbing wall, an ice-skating rink and a
bumper car ride. After you operationally define "risk-taking behaviour," you would
then observe teens in these settings and record every incidence of what you define
as a risky behaviour.






include Charles

Darwin's journey aboard theHMS Beagle, which served as the basis for his theory of
natural selection, and Jane Goodall's work studying the behaviour of chimpanzees


Laboratory observation is pretty self-explanatory. The researchers bring in people to
be participants in their test, which takes place in an environment controlled by the
researchers, and will make the test as similar to a real life situation as possible.
During a research here at Penn State, a French man was enrolled in a biology lab
where he performed different tests on each other to assess how physical activity
affects the human body. He volunteered himself to be the test subject for this lab. He
was to run on the treadmill for as long as he could and at a constant speed. The
incline, however, was increased every three minutes. While he was running, he had
different physiological aspects measured, such as my heart rate, skin temperature,
breaths per minute and oxygen intake.
An advantage to laboratory observations is that the researchers who are conducting
the test can control certain aspects and have all the necessary specialized
equipment. For example, there was a specific treadmill the person was to use. One
disadvantage in a laboratory observation is that the behaviour of the participant
might not be the same was it would be in a natural setting. For example, the person
did not have the opportunity to drink water while he was being observed. If he had
been in a natural gym environment, he would have had a few sips of water every few
minutes. Also, because he had to breathe into an apparatus every three minutes, his
throat quickly became dry and irritated, causing me to tire faster.
Laboratory observations are very useful when it comes to studies related to
psychology. Even though there are a few disadvantages, I believe the benefits of the
advantages are more important.


The survey is a descriptive research method in which researchers use interviews
and/or questionnaires to gather information about the attitudes, beliefs, experiences,
or behaviours of a group of people. The results of carefully conducted surveys have
provided valuable information about drug use, sexual behaviour, and the incidence of
various mental disorders. Researchers in psychology rarely conduct studies using all
members of a group. For example, researchers interested in studying the sexual
behaviour of American women do not survey every woman in the United States.
(Imagine trying to interview about 140 million people!) Instead of studying the whole
population (the entire group of interest to researchers, to which they wish to apply
their findings), researchers select a sample for study. A sample is a part of a
population that is studied to reach conclusions about the entire population. Perhaps
you have seen a carton of ice cream that contains three separate flavours
chocolate, strawberry, and vanillapacked side by side. To properly sample the
carton, you would need a small amount of ice cream containing all three flavours in
the same proportions as in the whole cartona representative sample. A
representative sample mirrors the population of interestthat is, it includes important
subgroups in the same proportions as they are found in that population. A biased
sample, on the other hand, does not adequately reflect the larger population. The
best method for obtaining a representative sample is to select a random sample from
a list of all members of the population of interest. Individuals are selected in such a
way that every member of the larger population has an equal chance of being
included in the sample. Using random samples, polling organizations can accurately
represent the views of the American public with responses from as few as
1,000 people (OBrien, 1996). It might seem that simply interviewing people with a
standard set of questions would be the best way to gather survey data. In reality, the
truthfulness of participants responses can be affected by characteristics of the
interviewers, such as their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, and social class.
Thus, to use interviews effectively, survey researchers must select interviewers who
have personal characteristics that are appropriate for the intended respondents.
Questionnaires can be completed more quickly and less expensively than interviews,
especially when respondents can fill them out in their homes or online. The Internet
offers psychologists a fast and inexpensive way of soliciting participants and

collecting questionnaire data, and Internet surveys often generate large numbers of
responses (Azar, 2000). For example, an Internet survey posted by researchers who
wanted to collect data about suicidal feelings attracted more than 38,000
respondents from all over the world (Mathy, 2002). However, researchers who use
Web-based surveys must be cautious about generalizing the results of their studies
because respondents represent only the population of Internet users who choose to
participate, not the general population or even the entire population of Internet users.
Moreover, they must take steps to ensure that a respondent can participate in the
study only once (Gosling et al., 2004). If conducted properly, surveys can provide
highly accurate information. They can also track changes in attitudes or behaviour
over time. For example, Johnston and others (Johnston, OMalley, Bachman, &
Schulenburg, 2010) have tracked drug use among high school students since 1975.
However, large-scale surveys can be costly and time consuming. Another important
limitation of survey research is that respondents may provide inaccurate information.
False information can result from a faulty memory or a desire to please the
interviewer. Respondents may try to present themselves in a good light (a
phenomenon called the social desirability response), or they may even deliberately
mislead the interviewer. Finally, when respondents answer questions about sensitive
subjects, such as sexual behaviour, they are often less candid in face-to-face
interviews than in self-administered or computerized questionnaires (Tourangeau,
Smith, & Rasinski, 1997).


Basically, a case study is an in depth study of a particular situation rather than a
sweeping statistical survey. It is a method used to narrow down a very broad field of
research into one easily researchable topic. Whilst it will not answer a question
completely, it will give some indications and allow further elaboration and hypothesis
creation on a subject. The case study research design is also useful for testing
whether scientific theories and models actually work in the real world. You may come
out with a great computer model for describing how the ecosystem of a rock pool
works but it is only by trying it out on a real life pool that you can see if it is a realistic
simulation. For psychologists, anthropologists and social scientists they have been
regarded as a valid method of research for many years. Scientists are sometimes
guilty of becoming bogged down in the general picture and it is sometimes important
to understand specific cases and ensure a more holistic approach to research. Some
argue that because a case study is such a narrow field that its results cannot be
extrapolated to fit an entire question and that they show only one narrow example.
On the other hand, it is argued that a case study provides more realistic responses
than a purely statistical survey. The truth probably lies between the two and it is
probably best to try and synergize the two approaches. It is valid to conduct case
studies but they should be tied in with more general statistical processes. The case
study method permits the collection of detailed descriptive data, which are usually
qualitative in nature. It may provide information on the unique features of particular
individuals. For example, the method is used widely in clinical psychology, where
classic cases such as Freuds cases are often described. The approach plays a
major role in diagnosis and in the planning of therapy or treatment. Alternatively,
case studies may be made of the typical representatives of groups. The advantage
of the case study research design is that you can focus on specific and interesting
cases. This may be an attempt to test a theory with a typical case or it can be a
specific topic that is of interest. Research should be thorough and note taking should
be meticulous and systematic. The first foundation of the case study is the subject
and relevance. In a case study, you are deliberately trying to isolate a small study

group, one individual case or one particular population. In the design of a case study,
it is important to plan and design how you are going to address the study and make
sure that all collected data is relevant. Unlike a scientific report, there is no strict set
of rules so the most important part is making sure that the study is focused and
concise; otherwise you will end up having to wade through a lot of irrelevant
information. It is best if you make yourself a short list of 4 or 5 bullet points that you
are going to try and address during the study. If you make sure that all research
refers back to these then you will not be far wrong. Analysing results for a case study
tends to be more opinion based than statistical methods. The usual idea is to try and
collate your data into a manageable form and construct a narrative around it. Use
examples in your narrative whilst keeping things concise and interesting. It is useful
to show some numerical data but remember that you are only trying to judge trends
and not analyse every last piece of data. Constantly refer back to your bullet points
so that you do not lose focus. It is always a good idea to assume that a person
reading your research may not possess a lot of knowledge of the subject so try to
write accordingly. In addition, unlike a scientific study which deals with facts, a case
study is based on opinion and is very much designed to provoke reasoned debate.
There really is no right or wrong answer in a case study.


Experimental research in psychology applies the scientific method to achieve the
four goals of psychology: describing, explaining, predicting, and controlling behavior
and mental processes. A psychologist can use experimental research to test a
specific hypothesis by measuring and manipulating variables. By creating a
controlled environment, researchers can test the effects of an independent variable
on a dependent variable or variables. As an example of this, lets say that we have a
theory that people who drive sports cars are more aggressive in theory interactions
with others. Our independent variable would be the type of car you drive. Our
dependent variables, the outcome of our research, would be aggression. We would
need to further define aggression so that it is something we can test such as
speeding or cutting other people off in traffic. We now have the basics of our very
simple experiment and can write our hypothesis which is people who drive sports
cars drive over the speed limit more frequently than people who drive other types of
Benefits of Experimental method
One of the main strengths of experimental research is that it can often determine a
cause and effect relationship between two variables. By systematically manipulating
and isolating the independent variable, the researcher can determine with
confidence the independent variable's causal effect on the dependent variable.
Another strength of experimental research is the ability to assign participants to
different conditions through random assignment. Randomly assigning participants to
conditions ensures that each participant is equally likely to be assigned to one
condition or another, and that there are no differences between experimental groups.
This research helps to span across nearly all fields of research another great benefit
of this type of research design is that it can be used in many different types of
situations. Just like pharmaceutical companies can utilize it, so can teachers who
want to test a new method of teaching. It is a basic, but efficient type of research.
Besides the experiment research can give a clear cut conclusions. Since there is
such a high level of control, and only one specific variable is being tested at a time,

the results are much more relevant than some other forms of research. You can
clearly see the success, failure, of effects when analyzing the data collected. In
addition, many variations can be utilized in this research. There is a wide variety of
this type of research. Each can provide different benefits, depending on what is
being explored. The investigator has the ability to tailor make the experiment for their
own special situation, while still remaining in the validity of the experimental research



Correlational studies are used to show the relationship between two variables. Unlike
experimental studies, however, correlational studies can only show that two variables
are relatedthey cannot determine. A correlational study serves only to describe
behaviour, not to explain it. In psychological research, it is important to remember
that correlation does not imply causation; the fact that two variables are related does
not necessarily imply that one causes the other, and further research would need to
be done to prove any kind of causal relationship.

A measure of the relationship


Between two variables.

Ranges from -1.00 to +1.00
Divided into two :POSITIVE
Variables are related in the same direction
Variables are related in opposite direction






Anything that can change or vary

Produce a correlation coefficient ( direction of the relationship and

strength of the relationship )

Allows researchers to predict the value of the other variable.

Benefits of Correlational Research

An experiment is not always the most appropriate approach to answering a research
question. Sometimes it is not possible to carry out a true experiment for practical or
ethical reasons because it is impossible to manipulate the independent variable. If a
researcher was to look at the psychological effects of long-term ecstasy use, it would
not be ethical to randomly assign participants to a condition of long-term ecstasy
use. An experiment is also not feasible when examining the effects of personality
and individual differences since participants cannot be randomly assigned into these
categories. Correlational research allows a researcher to determine if there is a
relationship between two variables without having to randomly assign participants to
conditions. The strength of correlational research is its predictive capabilities. With a
large sample size, you can use one variable to predict the likelihood of the other
when there is a strong correlation between the two. For instance, you could take two
measurements from 1,000 familieswhether the father is an alcoholic and whether a

son is an alcoholicand calculate the correlation. If there is a strong correlation

between the two measurements, it will allow you to predict, within certain limits of
probability, what the chances are that the son of an alcoholic father will also have a
problem with alcohol.




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