PSYC*2360 – Introductory Research Methods
Chapter 1: Scientific Understanding of Behavior
Uses of Research Methods
• Many occupations require the use of research findings.
o Mental health professionals must make decisions about treatment methods, assignments of clients to
different types of facilities, medications, and testing procedures. Such decisions are made on the basis of
research; to make good decisions, mental health professionals must be able to read the research literature
in the field and apply it in their professional lives.
• Limitations of Intuition and Authority
o Adoption reduces a major source of marital stress, and the stress reduction in turn increases the chance of
o Intuitively reasonable.
o When you rely on intuition, you accept unquestioningly what your own personal judgment or a single
story about one person’s experience tells you about the world.
o Involves finding an explanation for our own behaviors or the behaviors of others.
o Might develop an explanation for why you keep having conflicts with a co-worker, such as “that other
person wants my job.”
o Other times, intuition is used to explain intriguing events that you observe, as in the case of concluding
that adoption increases the chances of conception among couples having difficulty conceiving a child.
o Numerous cognitive and motivational biases affect our perceptions, and so we may drew erroneous
conclusions about cause and effect.
o No relationship between adoption and subsequent pregnancy.
o Hold this belief because of a cognitive bias called illusory correlation that occurs when we focus on two
events that stand out and occur together.
o When an adoption is closely followed by a pregnancy, our attention is drawn to the situation, and we are
biased to conclude that there must be a casual connection.
o Ascientific approach requires much more evidence before conclusions can be drawn.
o Aristotle would argue that we are more likely to be persuaded by a speaker who seems prestigious,
trustworthy, and respectable than by one who lacks such qualities.
o Many of us might acceptAristotle’s arguments simply because he is considered a prestigious “authority”
and his writings remain important.
o Many people are all too ready to accept anything they learn from the news media, books, government
officials, or religious figures.
o The statements may not be true.
o The scientific approach rejects the notion that one can accept on faith the statements of any authority;
again, more evidence is needed before we can draw scientific conclusions.
• Skepticism, Science, and the EmpiricalApproach
o The scientific approach to acquiring knowledge recognizes that both intuition and authority are sources of
ideas about behavior.
o Scientist are very skeptical about what they see and hear.
o Scientific skepticism means that ideas must be evaluated on the basis of careful logic and result from
o Empiricism – knowledge is based on observations.
o Goodstein describes an “evolved theory of science” that defines the characteristics of scientific inquiry.
o The first is that scientists make observations that are accurately reported to other scientists and the public;
others can replicate the methods used and obtain the same results.
o Second, scientists enthusiastically search for observations that will verify their ideas about the world. Develop theories, argue that existing data support their theories, and conduct research that can
increase our confidence that the theories are correct.
o Third, science flourishes when there is an open system for the exchange of ideas.
Research can be conducted to test any idea that is advanced; supporters of the idea and those who
disagree with the idea can report their research findings and these can be evaluated by others.
o Some ideas may prove to be false; research fails to provide support for them.
o Good scientific ideas are testable. They can support or they can be falsified by data – the latter result is
o If an idea is falsified when it is tested, science is also advanced because this result will spur the
development of new and better ideas.
o Peer review of research is very important in making sure that only the best research is published.
Before a study is published in a scientific publication, it must be reviewed by peers, other
scientists who have the expertise to carefully evaluate the research and recommend whether the
research should be published.
o Science exists in a free market of ideas in which the best are supported by research and scientists can
build upon the research of others to make further advances.
• Observations accurately reported to others.
• Search for discovery and verification of ideas.
• Open exchange and competition among ideas.
• Peer review of research.
• Integrating Intuition, Skepticism, andAuthority
o Scientist often rely on intuition and assertions of authorities for ideas for research.
o Nothing wrong with accepting the assertions of authority as long as we do not accept them as scientific
o Some beliefs cannot be tested and thus are beyond the realm of science. For example, when religion ask
us to accept certain beliefs on faith.
o Should always ask whether the opinion can be tested scientifically or whether scientific evidence exists
that relates to the opinion.
Goals of Science
Fours general goals.
• Description of Behavior
o The first goal is to describe events.
o Cunningham and his colleagues examined judgments of physical attractiveness over time.
o Researchers are often interested in describing the ways in which events are systematically related to one
Are people more likely to be persuaded by a speaker who has high credibility?
• Prediction of Behavior
o Once it has been observed with some regularity that two events are systematically related to one another,
it becomes possible to make predictions.
o Allows us to anticipate events.
o If we know that one candidate in an election is considered more credible than the other, we may be able to
predict the outcome of the election.
o The ability to predict often helps us make better decisions.
• Determining the Causes of Behavior
o We might accurately predict the occurrence of a behavior, but we might not have correctly identifies its
o Research shows that a child’s aggressive behavior may be predicted by knowing how much violence the
child views on television.
o Unfortunately, we cannot assert that aggressive behavior can be reduced by limiting scenes of violence on
o To change behavior, we need to know the causes of behavior. There is a temporal order of events in which the cause of precedes the effect. This is called
temporal precedence. Thus, we need to know that television viewing occurred first and
aggression then followed.
When the cause is present, the effect occurs; when the cause is not present, the effect does not
occur. This is called covariation of the cause and effect. We need to know that children who
watch television violence behave aggressively and that children who do not watch television
violence do not behave aggressively.
Nothing other than a causal variable could be responsible for the observed effect. This is called
elimination of alternative explanations. Suppose that the children who watch a lot of television
violence are left alone more than are children who don’t view television violence. The increased
aggression could have an alternative explanation: lack of parental supervision.
• Explanation of Behavior
o Seeks to understand why the behavior occurs.
o Does watching TV violence lead to a belief that aggression is a normal response to frustration and
o Further research is necessary to shed light on possible explanations of what has been observed.
o Usually, additional research like this is carried out by testing theories that are developed to explain
• Determining cause and explaining behavior are particularly closely related because it is difficult ever to know the
true cause or all the causes of any behavior.
• Speaker credibility is related to attitude change, the researchers explained the finding by stating that people are
more willing to believe what a person says with high credibility than by one with low credibility.
Basic andApplied Research
• Basic Research
o Tries to answer fundamental questions about the nature of behavior.
o Studies are often designed to address theoretical issues concerning phenomena such as cognition,
emotion, motivation, learning, psychobiology, personality development, and social behavior.
• Applied Research
o Is conducted to address issues in which there are practical problems and potential solutions.
o The study on child custody could be used as part of an argument in actual court cases.
o Program evaluation – evaluates the social reforms and innovations that occur in government, education,
the criminal justice system, industry, health care, and mental health institutions.
o Social programs are really experiments designed to achieve certain outcomes. New programs should be
• Comparing Basis and Applied Research
o Much applied research is guided by the theories and findings of basic research.
o Much applied research is guided by the theories and findings of basic research investigations.
Chapter 2: Where to Start
Hypotheses and Predictions
• Most research studies are attempts to test a hypothesis formulated by the researcher.
o Type of question or idea; it makes a statement about something that may be true.
o Waiting for evidence to support or refute it.
o Once the hypothesis is proposed, data must be gathered and evaluated in terms of whether the evidence is
consistent or inconsistent with the hypothesis.
o After formulating a hypothesis, the researcher will design a study to test the hypothesis.
• The researcher will make a specific prediction concerning the outcome of this experiment.
o If the prediction is confirmed by the results of the study, the hypothesis is supported.
o If the prediction is not confirmed, the researcher will either reject the hypothesis or conduct further
research using different methods to study the hypothesis.
• When the results of a study confirm a prediction, the hypothesis is only supported, not proven.
Who We Study • Participants, subjects, respondents, informants.
o The individuals who take part in survey research are usually called respondents.
o Informants are the people who help researchers understand the dynamics of particular cultural and
• Common Sense
o The things we believe to be true. “Do opposites attract” or do “birds of a feather flock together”.
o Lead to research programs studying attraction, the effects of punishment, and the role of visual images in
learning and memory.
o Conducting research to test commonsense ideas often forces us to go beyond a commonsense theory of
• Observations of the WorldAround Us
o Taking a scientific approach to a problem can lead to new discoveries and important applications.
o Serendipity – sometimes the most interesting discoveries are the result of accident or sheer luck.
o Consists of a systematic body of ideas about a particular topic or phenomenon.
o Psychologists have theories relating to human behavior including learning, memory, and personality.
o Theories organize and explain a variety of specific facts or descriptions of behavior.
o Theories are needed to impose a framework on them.
o This framework makes the world more comprehensible by providing a few abstract concepts around
which we can organize and explain a variety of behaviors.
o Theories generate new knowledge by focusing our thinking so that we notice new aspects of behavior –
theories guide our observations of the world.
o The theory generates hypotheses about behavior, and the researcher conducts studies to test the
o If the studies confirm the hypotheses, the theory is supported.
o As more and more evidence accumulates that is consistent with the theory, we become more confident
that the theory is correct.
o Ascientific theory is grounded in actual data from prior research as well as numerous hypotheses that are
consistent with the theory.
o These hypotheses can be tested through further research.
o Such testable hypotheses are falsifiable – the data can either support or refute the hypotheses.
• Past Research
o Becoming familiar with a body of research on a topic is perhaps the best way to generate ides for new
o Because the results of research are published, researchers can use the body of past literature on a topic to
continually refine and expand our knowledge.
o The research may lead to an attempt to apply the findings in a different setting, to study the topic with a
different age group, or to use a different methodology to replicate the results.
• Library Research
o An investigator must have a thorough knowledge of previous research findings.
o It is important to know how to search the literature on a topic and how to read research reports in
o The Nature of Journals
After a research project has been completed, the study is written as a report, which then may be
submitted to the editor of an appropriate journal.
Conduct searches using computer databases that contain the abstracts.
Via www, updated weekly.
PsycFIRST; contains abstracts from the past three years.
Will obtain a list of abstracts that are related to your particular topic of interest.
o Conducting a PsychINFO Search Depends on your computer system.
Will have its own appearance.
Need to specify the term or phrase for the search – what you want the computer to find for you.
(Test anxiety in TITLE) AND (college students). The AND forces both conditions to be true for an
article to be included.
The OR operation is used to expand a search that is too narrow.
• Internet AND romance
• Internet AND (romance OR dating OR love)
The NOT operation will exclude abstracts based on a criterion you specify.
• (Romance OR dating OR love) NOT child.
(*) Stands for any set of letters in a word and so it can expand your search.
• Romance – Roman* will expand to include both romance and romantic.
TI andAU requires that a term appear in the title.
o Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index
SCI includes biology, chemistry, biomedicine, and pharmacology.
SSCI includes social and behavioral sciences such as sociology and criminal justice.
Need to identify a “key article” on your topic, usually one published sometime in the past that is
particularly relevant to your interests.
You can then search for subsequent articles that cited the key article.
o Literature Reviews
Articles that summarize the research.
Psychological Bulletin publishes reviews of the literature in various topic areas in psychology.
o Internet Searches
Can improve the quality of your searches by learning.
• The differences in the way each service finds and stores information.
• Advanced search rules including how to make searches narrower and how to find exact
• Ways to critically evaluate the quality of information that you find.
• Anatomy of a ResearchArticle
Summary of the research report and typically runs no more than 120 words in length.
The researcher outlines the problem that has been investigated.
Past research and theories relevant to the problem are described in detail.
Shows how past research and theory are connected to the current research problem and the
Divided into subsections, depends on the complexity.
The first subsection presents an overview of the design to prepare the reader for the material that
The next subsection describes the characteristics of the participants.
The next one details the procedure used in the study.
Researcher presents the findings, usually in three ways.
First is a description in narrative form.
Second, the results are described in statistical language.
Third, the material is often depicted in tables and graphs.
The researcher reviews the research from various perspectives.
Do the results support the hypothesis? Chapter 3: Ethical Research
Milgram’s Obedience Experiment
• Stanley Milgram studied the phenomenon of obedience to an authority figure.
• Would examine the effects of punishment on learning.
• One person would be a “teacher” who would administer the punishment, and the other would be the “learner”.
• Mr. Wallace and the volunteer participant then drew slips of paper to determine who would be the teacher and
who would be the learner.
• Scientist attached electrodes to Mr. Wallace and placed the teacher in front of an impressive-looking shock
• Mr. Wallace was instructed to learn a series of word pairs.
• Then he was given a test to see if he could identify which words went together.
• The first mistake was supposed to be answered by a 15-volt shock, the second by a 30-volt shock, and so on.
• Each time a mistake was made, the learner received a greater shock.
• Mr. Wallace never actually received any shocks.
• The study purportedly was to be an experiment on memory and learning but Milgram really was interested in
learning whether participants would continue to obey the experimenter by administering even higher levels of
shock to the learner.
• Study challenged our beliefs about our ability to resist authority.
The Belmont Report
• The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research.
• This report defined the principles and applications that have guided more detailed regulations.
• The three basic ethical principles are beneficence, respect for persons (autonomy), and justice.
Assessment of Risks and Benefits
• Benefience in the Belmont Report refers to the need for research to maximize benefits and minimize any possible
harmful effects of participation.
• In most decisions we make in life, we consier the relative risks (or costs) and benefits to the decision.
• Called a risk-benefit analysis.
• Ethical principles require asking whether the research procedures have minimized risk to participants.
• The benefits include direct benefits to the participants, such as an educational benefit, acquisition of a new skill,
or treatment for a psychological or medical problem.
• There may be also material benefits such as a gift or payment.
• Other less tangible benefits include the satisfaction gained through being part of a scientific investigation and the
potential beneficial applications of the research findings.
• Risks in Psycological Research
o In Milgram’s research, the risk of experiencing stress and psychological harm is obvious.
• Physical Harm
o Is rare but possible.
o Administering a drug such as alcohol or caffeine, or depriving people of sleep for an extended period of
o Participants might be told that they will receive some extremely intense electric shocks.
o They never actually receive the shocks; it is the fear or anxiety during the waiting period that is the
variable of interest.
o The anxiety produced a desire to affiliate with others during the waiting period.
o In another procedure, participants are given unfavorable feedback about their personalities or abilities.
o The test is followed by an evaluation that lowers self-esteem by indicating that the participant has an
unfavourable personality trait or a low ability score.
o Asking people about traumatic or unpleasant events in their lives might also cause stress for some
o There is usually a debriefing session following the study that is designed in part to address any potential
problems that may arise during the research. • Loss of Privacy and Confidentiality
o The responses are completely anonymous.
o Occurs when individuals are studied on multiple occasions over time.
o Researcher develops a way to identify the individuals but to separate the information about their identity
from the actual data.
o In some studies, researchers make observations of behaviour in public places.
• Autonomy states that participants are treated as autonomous.
• Informed consent – potential participants in a research project should be provided with all information that
might influence their decision of whether to participate.
o Purpose of research.
o Procedures that will be used including time involved.
o Risks and benefits.
o Any compensation.
o Assurance of voluntary participation and permission to withdraw.
o Contact information for questions.
• Very unlikely that the participants fully realized what they were signing.
• However, it should be provided as it would if the researcher were simply having a conversation with the
• Autonomy Issues
o When minors are asked to participate, for example, a written consent form signed by a parent or guardian
is generally required in addition to agreement by the minor; this agreement by a minor is formally called
o Coercion is another threat to autonomy.
o A prisoner may believe that increased privileges or even a favorable parole decision may result from
o Results must consider these issues and make sure that autonomy is preserved.
• Information Issues: Withholding Information and Deception
o It is generally acceptable to withhold information when the information would not affect the decision to
participate and when the information will later be provided, usually in a debriefing session when the study
o Deception occurs when there is active misrepresentation of information.
o Research indicates that providing informed consent may in fact bias participants’ responses, at least in
some research areas.
o Studies by Gardner (1978) have demonstrated that informed consent procedures do increase perceptions
of control in stress experiments and therefore can affect the conclusions drawn for the research.
o Procedures in which observers conceal their purposes, presence, or identity are also deceptive.
• Is Deception a Major Ethical Problem in Psychological Research?
o Evidence that college students who participate in research do not mind deception and may in fact enjoy
experiments with deception.
o However, concluded that use of deception is decreasing in social psychology.
o Three primary reasons for this:
More researchers have become interested in cognitive variables rather than emotions, and so use
methods that are similar to those used by researchers in memory and cognitive psychology.
The general level of awareness of ethical issues as described in this chapter has led researchers to
conduct studies in other ways.
Ethics committees at universities and colleges now review proposed research more carefully, so
elaborate deception is likely to be approved only when the research is important and there are no
alternative procedures available.
The Importance of Debriefing
• Debriefing occurs after the completion of the study. • It is an opportunity for the researcher to deal with issues of withholding information, deception, and potential
harmful effects of participation.
• If participants were deceived in any way, the researcher needs to explain why the deception was necessary.
Alternatives to Deception
o The experimenter describes a situation to participants and then asks them how they would respond to the
o Sometimes, participants are asked to say how they themselves would behave in the situation; other times,
they are asked to predict how real participants in such a situation would behave.
o Not generally considered to be a satisfactory alternative to deception.
o People aren’t always able to accurately predict their own behaviour or the behaviour of others.
o Particularly true when undesirable behaviour – such as conformity, obedience, or aggression – is
• Simulation Studies
o Can be used to examine conflict between competing individuals, driving behaviour using driving
simulators, or jury deliberations, for examples.
o Such simulations can create high degrees of involvement among participants.
o Become so involved in their roles that the experiment produced levels of stress that were higher than in
almost any other experiment one can imagine.
• Honest Experiments
o Encouraged researchers to take advantage of situations in which behaviour could b studied without
Justice and the Selection of Participants
• Justice – addresses issues of fairness in receiving the benefits of the research as well as bearing the burdens of
• Requires researchers to address issues of equity.
• Any decisions to include or exclude certain people from a research study must be justifies on scientific grounds.
• Thus, if age, ethnicity, gender, or other criteria are used to select participants, there must be a scientific rationale.
• Researchers make several implicit “contracts” with participants during the course of a study.
• For example, if participants agree to be present for a study at a specific time, the researcher should be there.
• “Little details” are very important in maintaining trust between participants and researchers.
Federal Regulations and the Institutional Review Board
• Every institution that receives federal funds must have an Institutional Review Board (IRB) that is responsible
for the review of research conducted within the institution.
• The IRB is a local review agency composed of at least five individuals; at least one member of the IRB must be
from outside the institution.
• Every college and university in the United States that receives federal funding has an IRB.
• Exempt Research: No Risk
o Research in which there is no risk is exempt from review.
o Research that involves only anonymous questionnaires, surveys, and educational tests is exempt, as is
naturalistic observation in public places when there is no threat to anonymity.
o Requires no informed consent.
o The IRB at the institution formulates a procedure to allow a researcher to apply for exempt status.
Examples: Studying normal educational practices, cognitive aptitude/ achievement measures, anonymous
surveys, observation of non-sensitive public behaviours where participants cannot be identified. No informed
consent needed, but protocol must be judged as no risk by IRB.
• Minimal Risk of Research
o Means that the risks of harm to participants are no greater than risks encountered in daily life or in routine
physical or psychological tests. Examples: Standard psychological measures, voice recordings not involving danger to participants, studies of
cognition/ perception not involving stress. Fully informed consent generally not required, but debriefing/ ethical
concerns are important.
• Greater Than Minimal Risk Research
o Subject to thorough review by the IRB.
o Researchers planning to conduct an investigation are required to submit an application to the IRB.
o Requires description of risks and benefits, procedures for minimizing risk, the exact wording of the
informed consent form, how participants will be debriefed, and procedures for maintaining
Examples: Research involving physical stress, psychological stress, invasion of privacy, measures of sensitive
information where participants may be identifies. Full IRB review required, and special ethical procedures may
• IRB Impact on Research
o Unfortunately, little can be done to change the basic IRB structure.
o Researchers must plan carefully, allow time for the approval process, and submit all materials requested
in the application.
• Five general principles relate to beneficence, responsibility, integrity, justice, and respect for the rights and
dignity of others.
Ethics and Animal Research
• Psychologists sometimes conduct research with animals.
• The researcher can carefully control the environmental conditions of the animals, study the same animals over a
long period, and monitor their behaviour 24 hours a day if necessary.
• Animals are also used to test the effects of drugs and to study physiological and genetic mechanisms underlying
• Psychologists work with rats, mice, and birds.
• Scientists argue that animal research benefits humans and point to many discoveries that would not have been
possible without animal research.
• Females have less positive views toward animal research than males.
• Institutions in which animal research is carries out must have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
(IACUC) composed of at least one scientist, one veterinarian, and a community member.
Risks and Benefits Revisited
• Assess potential BENEFITS
o To participants.
o To science.
o To society.
• Asses potential RISKS to participants.
• Do the potential benefits of the study outweigh the risks involved with the procedure?
o NO, study cannot be conducted in its current form; alternative procedures must be found.
o YES, research may be carries out.
• If you ultimately decide that the costs outweigh the benefits, you must conclude that the study cannot be
conducted in its current form.
• If the benefits outweigh the costs, you will likely that the research should be carried out.
o The fabrication of data is fraud.
o Is detected when other scientists cannot replicate the results of a study.
o The most common reason for suspecting fraud is when an important or unusual finding cannot be
o Refers to misrepresenting another’s work as your own. o Occurs when you present another person’s ideas as your own rather than properly acknowledging the
source of the ideas.
o Includes academic sanctions as a failing grade or expulsion from the school.
o It is interesting to note that some students believe that citing sources weakens their paper, but is usually
strengthened when sources are used and properly cited.
AppendixA: Writing Research Reports
• Apoorly written report that is difficult to understand is of no value.
o Be precise and clear in presenting ideas, and think about your intended audience.
o Direct your paper to an audience that is unfamiliar with your general topic and the methods you used to
study the topic.
o Ideas should be presented in an orderly, logical progression to facilitate understanding.
o Use an outline, which serves as a writing guide.
o Other writers prefer to use a less structured approach for the first draft.
o They then try to outline what has been written.
o It is a good idea for a paragraph to contain a topic sentence.
• Acknowledging the Work of Others
o It is extremely important to clearly separate your own words and ideas from those obtained from other
o There is nothing wrong with quoting another author as long as you acknowledge your source.
o Be direct, and use your own descriptions and interpretations while acknowledging your sources.
• Active Versus Passive Voice
o Many writers rely too much on the passive voice in their reports, perhaps because they believe that the
passive voice makes their writing seem more “scientific”.
o Sometimes authors refer to themselves in the third person.
o More active voice but it introduces an ambiguity.
• Avoiding Biased Language
o The principle of specificity leads to the recommendation of using the term participants to specifically
distinguish between human and animal subjects.
o It is appropriate to describe participants as respondents in survey research, children, patients, clients, and
so on if these terms more accurately describe the people who participated in the study.
o Be sensitive to the possibility that your writing might convey a bias, however unintentional, regarding
gender, sexual orientation, and ethnic or racial groups.
• Word Processing
o You will eventually have to prepare a typed copy of your paper entirely double-spaced.
• APAStyle and Student Paper Formats
o APAstyle is intended to provide a manuscript to a typesetter who then prepares the paper for publication
in a journal; severalAPAstyle requirements are for the convenience of the typesetter.
Organization of the Report
• Aresearch report is organized into five major parts:Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion.
• References must be listed using a particular format.
o It is a separate page and is numbered page 1.
o The page header includes a short title, generally consisting of the first two or three words of the title of
your paper and a page number.
o The first line of the title page will be the running head.
o It is an abbreviated title and should be no more than 50 characters.
o All letters in the running head are capitalized.
o Consists of the title, author byline, and institutional affiliation. o All are centered on the page.
o Is a brief summary of the research report and typically runs 100 to no more than 120 words in length.
o Introduces the article.
o Easiest to write the abstract last.
o Is typed on a separate page and is numbered page 2.
o Section begins on a new page (page 3), with the title of your report typed at the top of the page.
o Presents the specific problem under study, describes the research strategy, and presents the predicted
outcomes of the research.
o Have three components.
The problem under study.
The literature review.
The rational and hypotheses of the study.
o Begins immediately after you have completed the intro