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PSYC 2001
Guy Lacroix

Scientific research in psychology The scientific process - How does scientific research proceed? • Who are experts in psychology? • What are the steps? • Measurement of romantic love (Rubin,1970) - Why do scientists refuse to say that a theory has been proven? • Popper (1959) • Wason card selection task (1972) How does scientific research proceed? 1. Develop a research question - Scientific research is a complex enterprise. It requires: • Conceptual and methodological expertise in a highly specialized area of knowledge • Access to the scientific community (written work and “live” contact) • Funding (for technology and human resources) • Time 2. Embed the question in a theoretical context - Theory: It is a set of logically organized constructs that serve to explain and predict empirical phenomena. - Construct: Ascientific concept that is meaningful because it is part of a theoretical network. - Operationalization (of theoretical constructs): To establish a clear relationship between the theoretical construct and its empirical basis in the operations producing the data (Marx, 1963, p. 12). 3. Design the experiment - There are multiple research designs. Selection depends on the state of knowledge. • Descriptive research and case studies • Correlational research • Nonexperimental and quasi-experimental designs • Experimental research - See the forthcoming lectures 4. Conduct the experiment - Once the study is designed, the research conducts the experiment. • Obtains permission from Ethics Review Board • Selects and recruits participants • Collects the data - See the forthcoming lectures 5. Analyze the data - Descriptive statistics: “Methods of characterizing or summarizing a given set of data (Olsen, 1987, p. 8)”. • Averages: mean, median, mode • Dispersion: range, variance, standard deviation • Tables, Graphs, and Figures - Inferential statistics: “The aspect of statistics that deals with methods for making appropriate inferences about populations on the basis of samples (Olsen, 1987, p.A37)”. - Safeguard against making theoretical arguments based on a “lucky” result. - For all inferential statistics, the p-value indicates the probability that the result was obtained by chance. • P < .10 is 1 chance out of 10 • P < .05 is 1 chance out of 20 • P < .01 is 1 chance out of 100 • P < .001 is 1 chance out of 1000 6. Interpret the data - Once the data have been analyzed, the researcher determines what they mean. - If the hypothesis is supported: • What do the results mean for theory? • How can the results be extended? • How can the results be applied? - If the hypothesis is not supported: • Was the methodology wrong? • Was the theory wrong? 7. Communicate the results - Finally, when the research has been conducted, psychologists communicate their data and their interpretations to the scientific community. - The main vehicles vary depending on the scientific discipline, but in psychology, they are: • Posters • Talks  Scientific conferences in all areas of science are organized regularly.  Scientists communicate informally (research in planning, results, networking, …)  Talks: Short formal oral presentations of one or a few experiments followed by a question period • Books (and book chapters) • Peer-reviewed journal articles  This is most important form of scientific communication in psychology.  Written work constitutes science’s collective memory.  The peer-review process ensures that minimal scientific standards are met. Who are the experts in psychology? - Experimental psychologists (Ph. D.) - Clinical psychologists (Ph. D) - Psychiatrists (M.D.) - Many other peripheral professions have some expertise in psychology. - “It takes 10 years to become an expert in any field” How does one become a psychologist? 1. Undergraduate degree in psychology: - Arts or science (other degrees may be considered) - On average, a GPAof 10.8 (out of 12) - Letters of reference from professors - Other requirements (aptitude tests, laboratory work, …) • Clinical psychology • Experimental psychology 2. Graduate degree(s) in psychology: - Five to six years of graduate school are required (a master and/or a Ph. D.) - Clinical psychologist • Course work • Clinical training / supervision • Many programs require experimental work - Experimental psychologist • Course work • Extensive training in experimental research (specialized discipline) 3. Entry into the work place: - Clinical psychologist • Written and oral examinations (and fees!) for membership in the College of Psychologists of Ontario. • Internship(s) • Employment (private practice, hospitals, schools, …) - Experimental psychologist • Astrong publication record (and often, a post-doctoral fellowship) • Some teaching ability • Employment (mainly academia, but also the private sector and government) Where do experts get their research ideas? - Sources are multiple (intuition, observation, specific problems), but mostly, researchers pursue a program of research: - Aset of highly interrelated questions in a specific area of knowledge - They: • Develop and refine methodological techniques • Gather empirical data • Evaluate theories - “Scientific revolutions” (Kuhn, 1962) are rare Hypotheses - In science, questions are answered by posing h
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