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Chapter 2

PSYC 201W Chapter 2: Psyc 201W - Chapter 2 Notes

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A.George Alder

Chapter 2 – Conducting Psychological Research The Initial Observation and Question • How do research ideas arise? o Typically, the research process begins when we observe something that piques our curiosity or concern and ask a question about it • Research ideas can form rapidly or slowly, and they derive from diverse sources, including: o Personal experience o Daily events o Prior research o Theory o Real-world problems o Serendipity Personal Experience and Daily Events • Personal experience can provide a wealth of question to investigate • Key is to notice and reflect on something important, interesting, or perplexing about our own or other people’s behaviour • Our interactions with other people provide fertile ground for generating research ideas o Example  experiences with depressed patients • Daily events that we learn about indirectly provide source of research ideas o Example  media reports ▪ Kitty Genovese (New York) and bystander intervention Prior Research and Theory • In science, one study often stimulates ideas for another • A researcher may conduct a series of studies on a topic, with each study testing a new question that builds upon the findings of the last • Similarly, as scientists learn of each other’s work, they may observe something of interest that leads to new questions • Theories provide key source of research ideas • Scientists: o Test a theory by deriving predictions from it o Use reasoning to postulate an answer, and then they test their prediction Real-World Problems • Throughout psychology’s history, the need to understand and solve real-world problems has generated countless research questions • Questions can arise from a long list of more widespread problems such as: o Addiction o Depression o Other psychological disorders o Family dysfunction o Prejudice o Crime o School o Workplace conflicts • Emphasis on research to establish evidence-based treatments (EBTs) extends to other interventions, such as: o Programs designed to reduce bullying o Programs designed to enhance school children’s learning • Evidence-based treatments (EBTS) – interventions that scientifically controlled studies have demonstrated to be effective in treating specific conditions Serendipity • Serendipity – the accidental discovery of something important; involves stumbling across something by chance – often while looking for something else – and having the wisdom and curiosity to recognize that you may be on to an important discovery • Example  drugs tested to determine whether they help to alleviate a particular disorder but unexpectedly be found to benefit another condition Gathering Background Information • If research already exists on our topic, carefully examining it will provide valuable information about how other scientists have defined, measured, and examined the concepts we are interested in • We are more likely to want to expand upon previous research and thereby make a more original contribution to increasing scientific knowledge Searching Scientific Databases • Even if we generated our idea by reading a few research reports, completing a broader literature search is a key form of gathering background information on our topic • Literature searches are usually conducted by accessing online scientific databases • Good literature searches: o Take time including time spent refining your topic and search parameters o Reading online abstracts of publications ▪ i.e., summaries o Obtaining publications that seem relevant; and o Reading them more carefully to determine their appropriateness for your purposes PsycINFO and PsycARTICLES • Online databases provide a record that includes: o Title o Authors’ names o Publication source and date o Abstract • Parameters – plentiful options • Allows users to restrict searches to: o Keywords o Titles o Authors o Dates o Peer-reviewed journals o Certain populations ▪ Example  human/non-human • PsycARTICLES: o Covers 78 journals from psychology and related fields o Includes all journals published by the APA and the Canadian Psychological Association o Contains complete online version of almost every article it carries ▪ Full-text version • PsycINFO o Tracks almost 2,500 journals covered by PsycARTICLES as well as books and dissertations in psychology and related fields o Larger database and often identifies relevant articles not found in PsycARTICLES o Database of abstracts rather than online articles Databases in Related Disciplines • Depending on your topic, consider supplementing your psychological database search with an online search of research in another field General Search Engines and Google Scholar • Google and other general search engines are marvelous tools for everyday browsing but are inefficient for conducting most scientific literature searches • Yield far too many irrelevant results • Google Scholar is dedicated to searching for scholarly articles and provides an easy interface for restricting searches by: o Keywords o Broad academic areas o Authors’ o Names o Dates o Titles • Google Scholar lists search results according to a “relevance” ranking, which it computes o The ranking appears to be most strongly influenced by the frequency with which an article has been cited in other publications Choosing a Database • Based on the course goals and your campus resources, your instructor may want you to learn how to use a particular database, possibly one not discussed here • There is no overall “best” database because different users place different value on the features of each one Narrowing and Broadening a Search • One key to performing an efficient database search is knowing what you’re looking for • Another key is knowing how to broaden and narrow a search • Boolean operators – the terms AND, NOT, and OR are used to narrow or expand a search Obtaining Articles • Many journals are published online and also in print • Once you identify an article using PsycINFO, Google Scholar, or another search engine, you will be able to obtain a free online copy by clicking a link on the page of search results • If a search engine or database doesn’t link you to an online copy of the article, check your campus library’s electronic and print journal holdings • If you cannot access an article online and a print version of the journal is not in your campus library system, you have several options: 1. Your campus library may participate in an interlibrary loan program that enables you to request access to the article from another library 2. If an article is NOT available through an interlibrary loan, you may be able to find the journal in your public library system or the library of another college or university in your area 3. You can contact one of the article’s authors (usually the first author) and request a copy 4. If you search online using the title of the journal, you’ll probably obtain a link to the journal’s publisher, who may provide an electronic copy of the article for a fee Reading Research Articles • When you locate a research article, you will notice the: o Title o Author names o Institutional affiliation Structure of a Research Article • Abstract o Abstract – brief, one-paragraph summary of the report o Mentions some key details about the study’s general: ▪ Purpose ▪ Hypotheses ▪ Methodology ▪ Findings ▪ Conclusions • Introduction o No official heading labeled “Introduction” o Section begins the narrative and may contain topical headings o Author describes the: ▪ General topic ▪ Specific questions they are studying ▪ Explain why the topic is important ▪ Cite prior research and theory ▪ Hypotheses that are being tested • Method o Divided into subsections o Describes: ▪ Research design ▪ Participants’ ▪ General characteristics ▪ How they were selected ▪ Specific procedures used ▪ How variables were manipulated or measured • Results o Authors describe how they analyzed their data and present their results o Statistical findings may also be shown in tables and graphs • Discussion o Authors reiterate the key findings at greater length but in non-statistical or less statistical terms o Discuss: ▪ Whether hypotheses were supported ▪ Theoretical or practical implications of the findings ▪ Limitations of the study ▪ Issues to be resolved in future research • References o Authors list the sources they cited in the article, using a standard format specified in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association Understanding Research Articles • Research articles vary widely in complexity • Two main ways in which you can extract the important results of a study without having to know the complex statistical details: 1. If a results section is complicated, focus on the written descriptions within each sentence that spell out the findings, rather than on the numbers and technical statistical terms 2. The discussion section that follows the results section is an excellent source for identifying the key findings Reading Review Articles • Qualitative review – authors identify important articles on a topic and primarily integrate the findings in a non-statistical manner, deriving major themes and conclusions from the literature o Example  Annual Reviews • Other research reviews are more quantitative o Experts identify and review empirical reports on a topic, possibly categorizing the individual studies on the basis of their methodological quality o Authors then describe the number or percent of studies that support of fail to support a particular hypothesis or conclusion, and they discuss their findings • Meta-analysis – a statistical procedure for combining the results of different studies that examine the same topic o Quantitative approach o Reviewer identifies empirical studies conducted on the same topic and variables o For each comparison in a meta-analysis, the reviewers examine a statistic called the effect size o Effect size – a statistical measure of the strength of a relation between two variables o The reviewers then calculate the average effect size for all the comparisons, which provides an overall estimate of whether the size of the relation between two variables is: ▪ Small ▪ Medium; or ▪ Large Forming a Hypothesis • Hypothesis – tentative proposition about the causes or outcome of an event or, more generally, about how variables are related • Can be stated in an if-then form as a prediction about the relation between two or more variables • Should be based on a reasoned analysis of existing evidence relevant to the question being studied • If you make rational use of a theory or other findings from a literature search, your prior expert knowledge, or other relevant background information to specify how you expect variables to be related, then you’ve formed a hypothesis Forming Hypotheses Inductively • Inductive reasoning – using specific “facts” to form a general conclusion or general principle • Example  police detectives use inductive reasoning when they gather specific clues and then form a tentative conclusion about who committed the crime and why Forming Hypotheses Deductively • Another common way to form a hypothesis is to derive it from a theory • Theory – set of formal statements that specifies how and why variables or events are related o Broader than hypotheses • When we use a theory to derive a hypothesis, we are engaging in deductive reasoning • Deductive reasoning – using a general principle to reach a more specific conclusion Characteristics of A Good Hypothesis • Testability is a key criterion that good hypothesis must satisfy • If you recall the concept of falsifiability, then you will recognize that for a hypothesis to be testable, in principle it must be possible to gather evidence that will disconfirm it • To be testable, the hypothesis should not be vague; the concepts contained in it should be clearly defined and based on sound reasoning • A good hypothesis generates specific predictions so that it will be clear whether the data support the hypothesis or fail to do so • A successful hypothesis is also supported by the data collected in studies that test it • Exploratory research – no relevant theory or little prior information upon which to develop a hypothesis o Questions asked in an exploratory study need to
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