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Department
Psychology
Course
PS295
Professor
Roger Buehler
Semester
Fall

Description
Behavioural Research Methods Laura Briggs Basic research: conducted to understand the psychological processes without regard for whether or not the knowledge is immediately applicable Applied research: conducted to find solutions for certain problems rather than to enhance general knowledge Evaluation research: assess the effects of social or institutional programs on behaviour (also known as program evaluation) (type of applied research)  Applied research rests on basic research  Behavioural research is often approached with one of these goals in mind: description, prediction, or explanation (of behaviour) Benefits of a background in research 1. Knowledge about research methods allows people to understand research relevant to their field 2. A knowledge of research methodology makes one a more intelligent and effective “research consumer” 3. Helps develop critical thinking 4. Helps one become an authority on topics thanks to knowledge The Scientific Approach  Empiricism refers to the practice of relying on observation to draw conclusions about the world  Observations must be systematic in order to be able to draw conclusions about human nature  Systematic empiricism allows researchers to draw more confident conclusions  Scientific investigation results must be available for public verification (able to be replicated with the same results by others)  Scientific investigation must only deal with solvable problems The Scientist’s Two Jobs: Detecting and Explaining Phenomena  A theory is a set of propositions that attempts to explain the relationships among a set of concepts. It attempts to explain how and why the relationship exists.  A good theory in psychology : o Proposes causal relationships o Is coherent by being clear, straight-forward, logical and consistent o Uses as few concepts and processes as possible to explain the target phenomenon o Generates testable hypotheses that are able to be disconfirmed through research o Stimulates other researchers to conduct research to test the theory o Solves an existing theoretical question  A model only describes how concepts are related. Research Hypotheses  Post hoc explanations: theories made in a “hindsight” manner; not preferred among scientists because everything makes sense in hindsight  Researchers can often explain results post hoc which they were not able to predict before collecting data  To provide a convincing test of the theory, scientists make specific research hypotheses a priori  Scientists must deduce a hypothesis from a theory  Going from a general proposition (theory) to the implications of that proposition (hypothesis)  Ask yourself: IF the theory is true what do we expect to observe  Scientists can also arrive at a hypothesis through induction, that is, to abstract a hypothesis from a collection of facts  Empirical generalizations are hypotheses based on previously observed patterns of results  Hypotheses must be: o formulated in a manner that leaves them open to be falsified by the data that will be collected o open to methodological pluralism, that is, to be tested using many different designs and methods o able to be pitted against another opposing theory. The data will support and at the same time disprove a theory. This is called the strategy of strong inference Conceptual and Operational Definitions  In order for a theory to be able to be falsified, the terns used in the hypothesis must be clearly defined  Conceptual definition: more or less a dictionary definition of a term, not specific enough for research purposes  Operational definition: definition of a concept by specifying precisely how it is measured or induced in a particular study Proof, Disproof and Scientific Progress  It is logically impossible to prove something  It is invalid to prove the antecedent of an argument (the theory) by affirming the consequent (the hypothesis)  Disproving a theory poses practical impossibilities  You can logically disprove a theory but the method in doing so poses practical issues  Improper measuring, biased samples, not controlling extraneous variables…  Null findings: results showing that certain variables are not related to behaviour  Failure to publish null findings is often called the file-drawer problem The Scientific Filter ALL IDEAS Filter 1: Scientific training, concern for professional reputation, availability of funding. Filters out: Nonsense. Initial Research Projects Filter 2: Self-judgement of viability Filters out: Dead ends, fringe topics Research Programs Filter 3: Peer review Filters out: Methodological biases and errors, unimportant contributions Published Research Filter 4: Use, replication and extension by others Filters out: nonreplication, uninteresting and useless stuff Secondary Research Literature – Established Knowledge Strategies of Behavioural Research - Descriptive Research  describes the behaviour, thoughts or feelings of a particular group of individuals  provides the foundation on which all other research rests - Correlational Research  investigates relationships among psychological variables  does not determine causation - Experimental Research  determining whether certain variables cause changes in behaviour, thought or emotion  the researcher manipulates the independent variable to see whether is it causes any change in the dependant variable  the word experiment refers to experimental research; do not use interchangeably with research or study - Quasi-Experimental Research  the researcher can study the effect of some variable or an event that occurs naturally, or control the independent variable without controlling extraneous variables Chapter 2 - Variability  behaviour varies across: o situations o time o individuals  the five ways in which variability is central to the research process 1. psychology and other behaviour sciences involve the study of behavioural variability 2. research questions in all behavioural sciences are questions about behavioural variability 3. research should be designed in a manner that best allows the researcher to answer questions about behavioural variability 4. the measurement of behaviour involves the assessment of behavioural variability 5. statistical analyses are used to describe and account for the observed variability in the behavioural data  descriptive statistics are used to summarize and describe the behaviour of participants in a study  inferential statistics are used to draw conclusions about the reliability and generalizability of one’s findings - Variance: an index of variability  variance is the numerical index indicating statistical variability  the difference between the largest and the smallest score is called the range  the average of the scores in a data set is called the mean - A statistical explanation of variance  the total sum of squares in the sum of the squared deviations of the scores from the mean  to calculate total variance: 1. calculate the mean of the data 2. subtract the mean from each score 3. square the difference of deviation scores 4. sum the squared deviation scores 5. divide the number of scores minus 1 - Systematic and error variance  the total variance in a set of data can be split in two parts: o total variance = systematic variance + error variance  systematic variance is that part of the total variability in participants’ behaviour that is related in an orderly, predictable fashion to the variables the researcher is investigating  error variance is variance which remains unaccounted for in the participants’ behaviour; that which is variable due to extraneous variables - Effect size: assessing the strength of relationships  effect size is a measure used to show how strongly variables are related to one another  by averaging effect size across many studies, a more accurate estimate of the relationship between variables can be obtained Chapter 3 - Types of measures  observational measures of behaviour involve the direct observation of behaviour  physiological measures evaluate some sort of bodily function  self-report measures involve the replies people give to questionnaires and interviews o cognitive self-reports measure what people think about a particular thing o affective self-reports involve participants’ responses regarding how they feel o behavioural self-reports involve participants’ reports of how they act  psychometrics is devoted to the study of psychological measurement - Scales of measurement  there are four different scales of measurement  the simplest type is a nominal scale o with this scale all numbers that are assigned to participants’ behaviours or characteristics are essentially representative labels o the numbers used for this scale do not have the properties of real numbers, therefore it would be meaningless to do mathematical equations with them  the ordinal scale o the rank ordering of a set of behaviours or characteristics o tells us the relative order of our participants on a particular dimension o does not indicate the distance between participants on the dimension being measured  the interval scale o with this scale, equal differences between the numbers reflect equal differences between participants in the assessed characteristic o there is no true zero point indicating the absence of the characteristic  the highest level of measurement is the ratio scale o has a true zero point o involves real numbers that can be “mathematized” o ex. Weight, height - The reliability of Measurement  reliability refers o the consistency or dependability of a measuring technique  Measurement error: o The true score is the score that the participant would have obtained if our measures were perfect (without error)  Observed score = true score + measurement error o Virtually all measures contain measurement error o 5 major categories of measurement error: 1. transient states (participant’s current state does not represent his average state) 2. stable attributes (participant’s stable disposition contributes to biased or untruthful answer) 3. situational factors (friendliness of experimenter, room temp, lighting, etc.) 4. characteristics of the measure (ambiguous questions, lengthy boring testing 5. actual mistakes (miscounting because of a snee
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