Psy 241 Research Methods

Course Introduction Philosophy of Science and the Scientific Method

Course Aims/Goals
• Learn basic skills for designing and conducting psychological research
– Effectively communicate your findings

• Learn skills for reading, evaluating, and critiquing psychological research • Become a more informed consumer of research

Science of Psychology
• Psychologists
– Develop theories – Conduct research – Answer questions about behavior and mental processes

• Research Methods gives us guidelines, structure, and tools for how to do this

Scientific Method
• How do ask and answer questions? • How do we figure out what questions to ask? • “Scientific method”
– Abstract concept – Not a particular technique or method – Ways in which scientists ask questions – Logic and methods used to gain answers

Scientific Method continued...
• Two important aspects:
– Empirical approach
• Observe behaviors directly • Experimentation
– Systematic control

– Skeptical attitude
• Will be discussed in greater detail next week (Ch. 2)

Things to keep in mind about Science and the Scientific Method
• Science is influenced by context
– Historical – Social Cultural – Moral

• This affects not only how we ask questions/test hypotheses, but also what questions we ask

Science in context
• Historical Context
– – – – Psychological organizations: APA, APS Early 1900s: empirical approach 20th century: computer revolution Shifts in focus: behaviorism to cognitive psychology

Social and Cultural Context
– Zeitgeist influences (“the spirit of the age”)
• Research questions • Resources for science • Society’s acceptance of psychological research

– Potential bias of ethnocentrism

Moral Context
– High standards for integrity and ethical conduct – Scientists do not:
• Fabricate data • Plagiarize • Selectively report research findings

Using the “Scientific Method”
• Uncle Traveling Matt meets the umbrella...

Using the “Scientific Method” continued...
• Uncle Traveling Matt concluded that umbrellas caused water to fall from the sky
– What is wrong with this assumption? – What else could he have concluded? – How could he go about testing his hypothesis?

Steps of the Research Process
Step 1. Develop a research question How? •Be aware of ethnocentrism •Gain personal experience doing research •Read psychological literature •Read theories on your topic •Consider personal experience, think of exceptions, and notice inconsistencies in research •Look how previous research has defined the same constructs •Identify variables you want to examine

2. Generate a hypothesis

3. Form operational definitions

Steps of Research Process continued...
Step 4. Choose a research design How? •Decide what your research question seeks to do
–Describe, predict, identify causal relationships

•Choose appropriate research design for your question 5. Evaluate ethical issues •Identify potential risks and benefits of your research •In what ways will participants’ welfare be protected? •Submit proposal to ethics review committee (IRB/LRB) •Seek permission from those in authority

Steps of Research Process continued...
Step 6. Collect and analyze data
6b. Form conclusions

How? •Collect data through surveys, observational research, laboratory research... •Get to know the data •Summarize the data •Confirm what the data reveal •Present findings at a psychological conference •Submit study (written report) to a psychology journal

7. Report the results

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