Psychology 201W: Introduction to Research Methods
Approaches to Research
- May have to re-submit Research Project Outline for more clarification.
- Project Proposal: Include 5 outside sources for the development of your rationale.
- Project Proposals and Ethics Form due in 2 weeks.
- Go see your T.A.s this week!
Review on Last Week’s Lecture:
- Operational Definition:
Operational define your variables.
Advantages: Restricts the discussion to that of which is observable,
measurable, increases the repeatability of research and increases
precision and consistency.
Disadvantages: Jargon – not accessible to people outside the
discipline, certain coldness to the operational definition.
- Research Design Issues:
If variable is manipulated: eliminate confounds, determine the
number of levels, determine strength of manipulation.
If variable is measured:
- It is not all abut if it is a correct operational definition, but rather if the operational
definition is useful.
How to know it is useful?
o Apply some reasonable research
and literature in the area and
make reasonable connections.
- Relationships between variables:
o Positive Linear
o Negative Linear
o No Relationship
Positive Linear Relationships:
- Increases in one variable, leads to increases in
E.g. Amount of Time Studied on Performance:
Negative Linear Relationships:
- Increases in one variable leads to decreases in
E.g. Amount of Anxiety on Performance: PSYCH 201W
- Increases in one variable leads to increases then
decreases in another.
E.g. Anxiety/Arousal on Performance
- Variables have no relationship at all.
E.g. Scatter Plot – Well and Poorly Outcomes on
Approaches to Research
- The fundamental differences discussed by the researcher.
- The three approaches differ in the degree of control exercised by the researcher.
The three approaches differ in the degree of control exercised by the researcher.
1) Naturalistic Observation (a.k.a. “Field Observation”)
- A descriptive model in which observations are made in a natural social setting.
- Watching things unfold in their natural setting.
- Whatever the phenomena is.
2) Experimental Method:
- A method of determining whether the variables are related, in which the
researcher manipulates the IV and controls all other variables, either by
randomization or by direct experimental control.
- Control variables by using a method like randomization.
3) Non-Experimental Method (a.k.a. “Correlational Method”)
- Measurement of variables to determine whether the variables are related to one
Q: Which gives the observer the most amount of control?
- Experimental Method. PSYCH 201W
Q: Which gives the observer the least amount of control?
- Naturalistic Observation (Field Observation).
Naturalistic Observation (Field Observation):
- Participant Observer/ Concealed Observer (Invisible Observer)
- Observer Bias: Subjective rating of behaviour.
- Reactivity: The known fact of being observed/measured changes the behaviour
- Defining Characteristics of Naturalistic Observation:
Investigator has very few pre-conceptions about the variables that
they’re studying or even the relationship between variables that they
are looking at. The researcher starts with an “open-mind”.
Investigator is not attempting to test specific predictions or general
Investigator is not attempting to make any systematic
controls/alterations to behaviour.
- Problems: There can be many observations made when observing people, maybe
an infinity of observations.
The trick is to pick out particular observations that represent meaningful
patterns of behaviour – NOT EASY!
- Naturalistic observation is what we use when we want to discover new ideas
- Suited to identifying the most useful questions to ask.
- Fertile source of hypothesis.
By watching people to see some behavioural tendencies which is a great way
to form hypothesis.
But in no way can that be an imposition to make cause and effect statements.
- Researcher pretends to be a participant.
- Presence of observer won’t have any kind of influence on the behaviour of the
- Advantages: Can observe specific behaviour that they want to, might be the only
way to gain access to the behaviour of interest – maybe be the best way to gain that
confidence of the participants that you are observing.
- Disadvantage: Potential loss of objectivity in the observer, especially when they
become part of that group - this can potentially create some sort of observer bias,
and the possibility of reactivity (when the participants know that they are being
observed and their behaviour is affected).
E.g. Studying AA (Alcoholic Anonymous) group member behaviour
Do you let them know you are there observing them?
- That could affect their behaviour.
But, they find that people in those meetings tend to behave normal
(they get used to your presence and observing them) quite quickly. PSYCH 201W
The type of personal information that is divulged on a regular basis
makes them more open and used to having people observing them
- To cope they have no trouble divulging important and personal
information about themselves because that’s what they do on a
* In an Experiment:
- We try to test ideas and be confirmation-oriented and it is best suited for getting
- It is a rigorous sense of testing hypothesis.
- Child Research Studies.
- Children tend to become comfortable with observers relatively quickly, that’s why
it would be a mistake to simply dismiss studies of children, where there is an
observer and they are behaving differently.
- Children tend to adapt very quickly.
- There are certain areas of research methods where being a participant observer is
really fine and has very little affect on those around.
- Child Observational Studies with observer.
- Quick to adapt.
- A researcher does not disclose their role amongst the people that they are
- The participants do not know that there is someone observing them.
- Advantage: Less reactivity
If you don’t know that somebody is observing you then your
behaviour is less likely to be affected.
Less likely to react
Behaviour can’t be really affected by something you don’t know.
- Disadvantage: Is it ethical to do that?
It might be acceptable if it is public behaviour, but if it is not public
behaviour and if it is part of a group that you made your way into then
brings up all kinds of ethical issues (invading privacy)
E.g. Gang Member Activity Study:
- How do you do it?
- It takes a lot time and effort to gain the trust of gang members, in order to be
accepted into that group.
- Throw ethical matters out of the window because they are gang members?
But they are still human beings and it is not like everything they are
doing is criminal activity.
Dangerous and tricky. PSYCH 201W
Naturalistic Observation vs. The Experiment:
Naturalistic Observation The Experiment
Suited to identifying most useful
questions Suited for getting the best answers
Fertile source of hypotheses
Rigorous means of testing hypotheses
Weak Basis for Distinguishing Cause. Designed to reveal causal relationships.
Minimum Naturalness (Low External