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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Notes Notes on chapter 2 in point form

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Eileen Wood

Chapter 2: The Research Enterprise in Psychology Goals of the Scientific Enterprise: Psychologists and other scientists share three sets of interrelated goals: o Measurement and description: Sciences commitment to observation requires that an investigator figure out a way to measure the phenomenon under study The first goal of psychology is to develop measurement techniques that make it possible to describe behaviour clearly and precisely o Understanding and prediction: Scientists believe that they understand events when they can explain the reasons for the occurrence of the events To evaluate their understanding, scientists make and test predictions called hypotheses A hypothesis is a tentative statement about the relationship between two or more variables Variables are any measurable conditions, events, characteristics or behaviours that are controlled or observed in a study o ie if we hypothesized that physiological arousal would affect emotions then the variables in the study would be physiological arousal and emotional state o Application and control: Ultimately, many scientists hope that the information they gather will be of some practical value in helping to solve everyday problems Once people understand a phenomenon, they often exert more control over it To build a better understanding of behaviour, psychologists must construct theories A theory is a system of interrelated ideas used to explain a set of observations o Therefore by integrating apparently unrelated facts and principles into a coherent whole, theories permit psychologists to make the leap from the description of behaviour to the understanding of behaviour o Moreover, the enhanced understanding afforded by theories guides future research by generating new predictions and suggesting new lines of inquiry o A scientific theory must be testable however most theories are too complex to be tested all at once In a typical study, investigators test one or two specific hypotheses derived from a theory If the findings support the hypotheses, confidence in the theory that the hypotheses derived from grows If the findings fail to support the hypotheses, confidence in the theory diminishes and the theory may be revised or discarded o Therefore theory construction is a gradual, iterative process that is always subject to revision Steps in a Scientific Investigation: o Scientific investigations are systematic, they follow an orderly fashion o Step 1: Formulate a Testable Hypothesis First step in a scientific investigation is to translate a theory or an intuitive idea into a testable hypothesis Normally hypotheses are expressed as predictions To be testable, scientific hypotheses must be formulated precisely and the variables under study must be clearly defined Researchers achieve these clear formulations by providing operational definitions of the relevant variables An operational definition describes the actions are operations that will be used to measure or control a variable o They establish precisely whats meant by each variable in the context of a study o Step 2: Select the Research Method and Design the Study Second step is to figure out how to put the hypothesis to an empirical test The research method chosen depends to a large degree on the nature of the question under study The various methods (experiments, case studies, surveys, naturalistic observation etc) each have advantages and disadvantages The researcher has to ponder the pros and cons and then select the strategy that appears to be the most appropriate and practical Once researchers have chosen a general method, they must make detailed plans for executing their study Participants or subjects are the persons or animals whose behaviour is systematically observed in a study o Step 3: Collect the Data Researchers use a variety of data collection techniques which are procedures for making empirical observations and measurements Key data collection techniques in psychology: o Direct observation: Observers are trained to watch and record behaviour as objectively and precisely as possible They may use some instrumentation, such as a stopwatch or video recorder o Questionnaire: Subjects are administered a series of written questions designed to obtain information about attitudes, opinions and specific aspects of their behaviour o Interview: A face to face dialogue is conducted to obtain information about specific aspects of a subjects behaviour o Psychological test: Subjects are administered a standardized measure to obtain a sample of their behaviour Tests are usually used to access mental abilities or personality traits o Physiological recording: An instrument is used to monitor and record a specific physiological process in a subject Ie measures of blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and brain activity o Examination of archival records: The researcher analyzes existing institutional records (the archives) such as census, economic, medical, legal, educational and business records o Step 4: Analyze the Date and Draw Conclusions The observations made in a study are usually converted into numbers which constitutes the raw data of the study Researchers use statistics to analyze their data and to decide whether their hypotheses have been supported Therefore statistics plays an important role in the scientific enterprise o Step 5: Report the Findings Scientific progress can be achieved only if researchers share their findings with one another and with the general public Therefore the last step in a scientific investigation is to write up a concise summary of the study and its findings Typically, researchers prepare a report that is delivered at a scientific meeting and submitted to a journal for publication A journal is a periodical that publishes technical and scholarly material, usually in a narrowly defined area of inquiry The process of publishing scientific studies allows other experts to evaluate and critique new research findings Sometimes this process of critical evaluation discloses flaws in a study o If the flaws are serious enough, the results may be discounted or discarded This evaluation process is a major strength of the scientific approach because it gradually weeds out erroneous findings Advantages of the Scientific Approach: o Science is not the only method that can be used to
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