PSYB01 Final Exam Notes: chapters 6-10
Chapter 6 - Observational Methods
Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches
Observational methods can be broadly classified as primarily quantitative or qualitative.
Qualitative research focuses on people behaving in natural settings and describing their world in their own ways.
Quantitative research tends to focus on specific behaviors that can be easily quantified.
- in depth info on few individuals or within a - larger samples
very limited setting - conclusions based upon statistical analysis
- conclusions based on interpretations drawn by - ex: surveys (numerical values assigned to
- ex: focus groups (themes that arise) = non-
Sometimes called field work or simply field observation.
Researchers makes observations in a particular natural setting (the field) over an extended period of time, using a variety
of techniques to collect info.
Reports includes observations and researchers interpretations of findings
Used to study many phenomena in all types of social and organizational settings (social sciences).
Has roots in anthropology and animal behavior.
A researcher uses natural observation when he/she wants to describe and understand how people in a social or cultural
setting live, work and experience the setting.
Description and Interpretation of Data
Natural observation demands that researchers immerse themselves in the situation.
Field researcher observes everything - the setting, the patterns of personal relationships, peoples reactions to events, and
Researchers needs to keep detailed field notes
Goal is to provide a complete/accurate picture rather than to test hypotheses formed prior to study.
observe people and events
interview key informants to provide inside info
talking to people about their lives
examining documents produced int he setting (newspapers, newsletters, or memos)
audio and videotape recordings
Natural observation = primarily qualitative, however could still be quantitative
Researcher must generate hypotheses that explain data and make it understandable = interpret
Analysis is done by building a coherent structure to describe the observations
Good natural observation report will support analysis by using multiple confirmations
Issues in Naturalistic Observation
Participation and Concealment
Is the researcher a participant or non-participant?
Will researcher conceal purposes from other people in the setting or not? Potential problem with participating is losing objectivity necessary to conduct scientific observation. (especially if initially
a part of a group being observed).
Concealed observation may be preferable because presence of observer may influence and alter behavior of those being
observed = less reactive.
Still non-concealed observation may be preferable from an ethical viewpoint.
People often become used to observer and act naturally (ex: The Real World show)
The decision about concealment depends on both ethical concerns and nature of particular group/setting being studied.
There are degrees of participation and concealment = therefore researcher must carefully determine what their role in the
setting will be.
When anonymity is NOT threatened = exempt research = no informed consent necessary.
In non-concealed observation = IC verbal or written
Must be sensitive to ethical issues; whether observations are made in a public place with no clear expectations that
behaviors are private.
Defining the Scope of the Observation
Researchers must limit the scope of their observations to behaviors that are relevant to the central issues of their study.
Limits of Naturalistic Observation
Most useful when investigating complex social settings both to understand the setting and to develop theories based on
Less useful for studying well defined hypotheses under precisely specified conditions.
Field research is very difficult to do = ever changing pattern of events = time consuming.
Must ensure data is consistent with hypotheses.
Negative case analysis: an observation that does not fit the explanatory structure devised by the researcher = therefore
must revise hypothesis.
Refers to the careful observation of one or more specific behaviors in a particular setting.
Much less global than natural observation.
This research is interested in only a few very specific behaviors, the observations are quantifiable and the research
frequently has developed prior hypotheses about the behaviors.
Researcher must choose a setting, which behaviors are of interest and develop a coding system to measure behaviors.
Should be simple allowing observers to easily categorize behaviors.
Researchers can use coding systems that have been developed by others; advantage: system has been proven useful and
training materials are usually available.
Ex: FICS an SYMLOG
Video recorders have the advantage of providing a permanent record of behavior that can be coded later.
Computer-based recording devices can be used to code the observed behaviors as well as to keep track of duration.
The possibility that the presence of observers will affect peoples behavior.
Indicated by high agreement among raters (who code behavior).
For many research questions, samples of behavior taken over a long period over time provide more accurate and useful
data than single, short observations.
Provides a description of an individual = person or setting. Case studies and natural observation overlap. However case studies do no necessarily involve natural observation.
a psychobiography is a type of case study in which a researcher applies psychological theory to explain the life of an
individual, usually an important historical figure.
Typically a case study is done when an individual possesses a particularly rare condition.
Case study presents: individuals history, symptoms, characteristic behaviors, reactions to situations or responses to
Case studies are valuable in informing us of conditions that are rare or unusual and thus providing unique data about some
psychological phenomenon such as memory, language or social exchange.
Insights gained through case studies may also lead to development of hypothesis that can be tested using other methods.
Involves using previously compiled info to answer research questions.
Analyze existing data
3 types: statistical record, survey archives and written records.
Collected by many public and private organizations
The US Census Bureau maintain the most extensive set of statistical records available to researchers for analysis.
Public records can also be used as sources of archival data.
Consist of data from surveys that are stored on computers and available tp researchers who wish to analyze them.
One very useful data set is the General Social Survey
Extremely important because most researchers do not have the financial resources to conduct surveys of randomly
selected national samples; the archives allow them to access such samples to test their ideas.
Written and Mass Communication Records
Written records are documents such as diaries and letters that have been preserved by historical societies, ethnographies,
Mass communication records include books, magazine articles, movies, television programs and newspapers.
Archival data may also be used in cross-cultural research to examine aspects of social structure that differ from society to
HRAF = Humans Relations Area Files = info from ethnographies.
Content Analysis of Documents
The systematic analysis of existing documents such as the ones described in this section.
Like systematic observation, content analysis requires researchers to devise coding system that raters can use to quantify
the info in the documents.
Researchers must define categories in order to code the info.
Use of archival data are a valuable supplement to traditional data collection methods.
Two problems with the use of archival data:
1) Desired records may be difficult to obtain
2) Can never be sure of accuracy of info collected by someone else.
Chapter 7: Asking People About Themselves - Survey Research
Why Conduct Surveys
Common and important method of studying behavior
Methodology for asking people to tell us about themselves = society demands data about issues rather than only intuition
In basic research, many important variables are measured including attitudes, current emotional states and self-reports of
behaviors are most easily studied using questionnaires or interviews.
Survey method is an important way for researchers to study relationships among variables and ways that attitudes and
behaviors change over time.
Survey research complements experimental research findings. Multiple methods are needed to understand any behavior.
A response set is a tendency to respond to all questions from a particular perspective rather then to provide answers that
are directly related to the questions.
Can affect usefulness of data.
Most common response set is called social desirability or “faking good”
most acute when questions concern sensitive topics such as violent/aggressive behavior.
If they trust the researcher, participants will provide honest answers.
Constructing Questions to Ask
Defining the Research Objectives
What is it that the researcher wants to know? = research objectives
Survey questions must be tied to research questions.
Must decide what type of questions to ask:
1) Attitudes/Beliefs: the way people evaluate and think about issues
2) Facts/Demographics: things they know about themselves and their situation = necessary to describe sample = ex: age
and gender. Other factual info you might ask will depend on the topic of your survey.
3) Behaviors: past or intended future behaviors.
Cognitive psychologists have identified a number of potential problems with question wording (stem from a difficulty
with understanding the question):
a) unfamiliar technical terms
b) vague or imprecise terms
c) ungrammatical sentence structure
d) phrasing that overloads working memory
e) embedding the question with misleading information
Avoid jargon and technical terms that people won’t understand.
Sometime you have to make question more complex to define a term or describe an issue.
Avoid questions that ask two things at once.
A loaded question is written to lead people to respond in one way.
Questions that include emotionally charged words may influence the way that people respond and thus lead to biased
Avoid phrasing questions with negatives.
Ex: Do you feel that the city should not approve the proposed women’s shelter?
“Yea-Saying” and “Nay-Saying”
When you ask several questions about a topic, there is a possibility that a respondent will employ a response set to agree
or disagree with all the questions = “yea-saying” or “nay-saying”.
Problem: Respondent may be agreeing with anything you say.
One way to detect this response set is to word the questions so that consistent agreement is unlikely.
Consistently agreeing or disagreeing with a set of related questions phrased in both standard and reversed formats is an
indicator that the individuals is “yea-saying” or “nay-saying”.
Graesser and his colleagues have developed a computer program called QUAID (Question Understanding Aid) that
analyzes question wording.
Responses to Questions
Closed- Versus Open-Ended Questions Close-ended questions, a limited number of response alternatives are given; with open-ended questions, respondents are
free to answer in any way they like.
Close ended = more structured= easier to code = response alternatives are same for everyone.
Open ended= need time to categorize and code= more costly = sometimes answers can’t even be categorized
However can still yield valuable insights into what people are thinking.
Open ended are most useful when researcher needs to know what people think and how they view the world. Close ended
are more useful when the dimensions of the variables are well defined.
The two approaches can lead to different conclusions -> therefore need to have a good understanding of topic when asked
Number of Response Alternatives
In public opinion, “yes or no” or “agree or disagree” dichotomy is sufficient.
In more basic research, it is preferable to have a 5- or 7- point scale to allow people to sufficiently express themselves.
Provide “how much” judgements on any number of dimensions, very commonly used in research.
Have many different formats, the format used depends on factors such as the topic being investigated.
Simplest, most direct scale = 5-7 point scale with endpoints on the scale defining the extremes.
Graphic Rating Scale
Requires a mark along a continuous 100-millimeter line that is anchored with descriptions at each end. A ruler is then
placed on the line to obtain the score on a scale that ranges from 0-100.
Semantic DIfferential Scale
A measure of the meaning of concepts that was developed by Osgood and associates.
Respondents rate ant concept-persons, objects, behaviors, ideas - on a series of bipolar adjectives using 7-point scales.
Ex: smoking cigarettes: good---- bad (evaluation), strong---weak (potency), active----passive (activity).
Research shows anything can be measured using this technique.
Concepts rated along 3 dimensions:
Evaluation (ex adjectives)
Nonverbal Scales for Children
young children can give ratings using smiley emoticons for example.
Labeling Response Alternatives
Sometimes researchers need to provide labels to more clearly define the meaning of each alternative.
Sometimes a perfectly balanced scale may not be possible or desirable.
High frequency scales and low frequency scales as indicated by response alternatives.
Schwartz points out that labels should be chosen carefully because people may interpret the meaning of the scale
differently, depending on the labels used.
Finalizing the Questionnaire
Formatting the Questionnaire
Printed questionnaire = attractive and professional, neatly typed, no spelling errors, easy to identify questions and
If using a point scale, use it consistently throughout, don’t change it.
Consider sequence in which you will ask questions: more important/interesting questions should be at beginning to
capture attention, and similar themed questions should be grouped together.
Before administering you should pilot questions by giving the questionnaire to a group of people and asking them to
“think aloud” while interpreting and responding to the questions.
Administering Surveys Questionnaires
Advantages = less costly then interviews, anonymous.
Disadvantages= must be able to read/write, people find it boring.
Personal Administration to Groups or Individuals
Advantage: you have a captive audience that is likely to complete questionnaire once they start it and researcher is present
so people can ask questions if necessary.
Inexpensive way of contacting people who were selected for the sample.
Disadvantage: low response rates and researcher is not present for people to ask questions if they are confused.
Problem: how to sample people?
Internet is making it easier to obtain samples of people with particular characteristics.
One concern about INternet data collection is whether the results will be at all similar to what might be found using
traditional methods= research indicates that Internet results are in fact comparable.
Problem: ambiguity about characteristics of an individual providing info for the study.
An interesting application is seen in studies aimed at sampling people’s behaviors and emotions over an extended period
of time. With cellphones and such you can contact person and ask them to report their current emotional
reactions/activities, etc. = “computerized experience sampling”.
The fact that an interview involves an interaction between people has important implications:
1) People are likely to agree to answer questions for a real person than to answer a mailed questionnaire. = person is more
likely to answer all questions and complete survey.
Advantage: interviewer can clarify any problems/questions of interviewee, AND interviewer can ask interviewee for
clarification on their answers if needed.
Potential problem: interviewer bias =all the biases that can arise from the fact that the interviewer is a unique human
being interacting with another human.
Interviewer could subtly bias the respondent’s answers by inadvertently showing approval/disapproval of certain
If there are several interviewers, each could possess different characteristics (ex: level of attractiveness, age, race)
that might influence the way respondents answer.
Interviewers may have expectations that could lead them to “see what they are looking for”= could bias interviewers
interpretations of responses or probe certain people for answers. Solution: careful screening an training of
interviewers help to limit such biases.
Expensive and time consuming. Usually interviewer travels to persons home/office.
Most likely used when the sample size is fairly small and there are clear benefits to a face-to-face interaction.
Almost all interview for large scale surveys are done via telephone.
Less expensive and allow data to be collected quicker because many interviewers can work on the same survey at once.
CATI system= computer-assisted telephone interview: questions are prompted on the computer screen and the data are
entered directly into the computer for analysis= lower cost by reducing labor and data analysis costs.
Focus Group Interviews
An interview with a group of about 6-10 individuals brought together for a period of usually 2-3 hours who have a
particular knowledge or interest in topic.
Usually some monetary or gift incentive.
Consists of open-ended questions. Advantage: group interaction is possible.
Usually recored and may be transcribed = then analyzed to find themes and areas of group consensus/disagreement.
Prefer to conduct two/three discussion groups on a given topic to ensure info is not unique to one group = however it is
Survey Designs To Study Changes Over Time
Surveys most frequently study people at one point in time, however researchers sometimes wish to make comparisons
over time = conduct same survey on multiple occasions to track changes in certain variables.
Another way to study changes over time is to conduct a panel study in which the same people are surveyed at two or
more points in time.Ex: “two-wave” panel study = people surveyed 2 times.
Panel studies are particularly important when the research question addresses the relationship between one variable at
“time one” and another variable at some later “time two”.
Sampling from a Population
Most research projects involve sampling participants from a population of interest.
The population is composed of all individuals of interest to the researcher.
Although studying a whole population (if small) is possible, researchers usually opt to select a sample from the population
Can use sample to predict characteristics of population as a whole.
Statistical theory allows us to infer what the population is like, based on data obtained from a sample.
When researchers make inferences about populations, they do so with a certain degree of confidence.
Confidence interval: you can have 95% confidence that the true population value lies within this interval around the
obtained sample result. Best estimate of the population value is the sample value.
However because only using sample, there may be error = sampling error or margin of error (given by confidence
Larger sample size will reduce the size of the confidence interval. = increased accuracy
Most important factor in determing the size of the interval is sample size.
Larger samples are more likely to yield data that accurately reflects the true population value.
Sample size can be determined using a mathematical formula that takes into account the size of the confidence interval
and the size of the population you are studying.
Sample size is NOT a constant percentage of the population size.
Sample size needed does not change much even as the population increases (same degree of accuracy).
Two basic techniques for sampling individuals from a population:
1) Probability sampling: each member of the population has a specifiable probability of being chosen, this is very
important when you want to make precise statements about a specific population on the basis of the results of your
2) Non-probability sampling: we don’t know the probability of any particular member of the population being chosen.
Not as sophisticated, however common and useful in many circumstances.
Simple Random Sampling
Every member of the population has an equal probability of being selected for the sample.
Stratified Random Sampling
More complicated procedure: population is divided into subgroups (or strata) and random sampling techniques are then
used to select sample members from each stratum. Dimensions chosen to divide population must be relevant to problem under study.
Advantage: built-in assurance that the sample will accurately reflect the numerical composition of the various subgroups.
Important when some subgroups represent a very small percentage of population 85
When important to represent a small group within a population, researchers will “oversample” that group to ensure that a
representative sample of the group is surveyed.
Obtaining a list of all members of a population might be difficult, in that case we use cluster sampling: researcher
identifies individuals and then sample from these clusters. After clusters are chosen, all individuals in each cluster are
included in the sample.
Ex: classes = clusters, randomly sample from each class.
Most often, requires a series of samples from larger to smaller clusters - a “multistage” approach.
Main advantage: researcher does not have to sample from lists of individuals to obtain a truly random sample of
Population may be defined but little effort is expended to ensure that sample accurately represents the population.
Cheap and convenient
1) Haphazard Sampling
2) Purposive Sampling
3) Quota Sampling
a “take them where you find them” method of obtaining participants
Likely to introduce biases into the sample= results do not accurately describe whole population.
The purpose is to obtain a sample of people who meet some predetermined criterion.
Not a probability sample, limits sample to a certain group of people.
Researcher chooses a sample that reflects the numerical composition of various subgroups in the population. (Ex:19%
freshmen, 23% sophomores in whole population must be in sample as well).
Similar to stratified sampling however no random sampling occurs in quota sampling.
Problem remains: no restrictions are placed on how individuals in the various subgroups are chosen.
The sample does reflect the numerical composition of the whole population of interest but respondents within each
subgroup are selected in a haphazard manner.
A completely unbiased sample you need:
1) randomly sample from a population that contains all individuals in the population.
2) contact and obtain completed responses from all individuals selected to be in the sample.
However there can still be two sources:
the sampling frame used
poor response rates
The actual population of individuals (or clusters) from which a random sample will be drawn.
Ex: list of numbers to contact residents between 5PM and 9PM.
Rarely will this perfectly coincide with the population of interest- some biases will be introduced.
When evaluating the results of the survey, you need to consider how well the sampling frame matches the population of
interest. Biases are usually minor but could still be consequential. Response Rate
The percentage of people in the sample who actually completed the survey.
Indicates how much bias there might be in the final sample.
The lower the response rate, the greater the likelihood that such biases may distort the findings and in turn limit the ability
to generalize the findings to the population of interest.
Many methods can be taken to maximize response rates.
Ex: researchers should attempt to convince people that the surveys purposes are important and their participation will be a
valuable contribution. Also incentives can be used.
Reasons for Using Convenience Samples
Used a lot in research.
Cheap and not time consuming
Why aren’t researchers more worried about obtaining random samples from the general population for their research?
They are focused on studying the relationships between variables even though the sample may be biased (testing
hypotheses about behavior).
Research findings are still important even if they cannot be generalized.
Generalization in science is dependent upon replicating the results. the results of many studies (using multiple
samples/methods) can then be synthesized to gain greater insight into the findings.
Some non-probability samples are more representative than others.
Chapter 8 - Experimental Design
Confounding and Internal Validity
A confounding variable is a variable that varies along with
the independent variable, confounding occurs when the
effects of the independent variable and an uncontrolled
variable are intertwined so you cannot determine which of the
variables is responsible for the observed effect.
When the results of an experiment can confidently be
attributed to the effect of the independent variable, the
experiment is said to have internal validity.
All other variables in an experiment should be kept constant
through direct experimental control or through
randomization. Then only can you conclude that the
independent variable is the cause of the different results.