Introduction to Psychology/Child and Adolescent Psychology/Research Methods

  • Psychologists have four main goals when doing research:
    1. Find ways to measure and describe behavior
    2. Predict what behaviors will happen in the future
    3. Understand why, when, and how events occur
    4. Apply this knowledge to solving real-world problems
  • Scientific method: orderly systematic procedures used as we:
    • Figure out what we will research.
    • Collect and analyze data.
    • Draw conclusions on data.
    • Communicate our findings. If we do not communicate the findings, we are not following the scientific method.
      • It isn’t enough to know things even when they are obvious, you must do the research.
    • This is done to see if we can support a hypothesis.
  • Predictive hypothesis: Prediction about a relationship between two variables. Relationship between two things. Relationship between income level and amount of education.
    • Hypothesis: An explicit, testable, logical prediction of the outcome of the study. A hypothesis must be based on theory or formal logic, and is often in terms of the operationally defined independent and dependent variables. (e.g. "If problems with reading comprehension are due to poor attentional strategies, then an intervention which teaches children attentional strategies will improve reading comprehension.")
      • Variables: Subjects with the capability to change. Events, characteristics, behaviors or conditions that researches measure and studied.
  • Descriptive studies: Often used in predicting hypothesis. Describes behaviors and relationships, without cause and effect.
    1. Naturalistic observation: Observing in natural environment, trying not to be noticed. Jane Goodall observing primates.
      • Strengths: Nothing artificial about behaviors, realistic view.
      • Weaknesses: Variables change behavior when observed. Possible interaction between observer and observee. Takes a while to obtain information. No assumptions can be made about causality between variables, even if it "makes sense," only descriptive statistics and correlational relationships can be reported.
    2. Case Study: Done because something is new or unusual about subject. Done to find out as much information as possible. We don’t know as much about the subject. Often for rare disorders. This is an in depth study of one individual or a small group.
      • Strengths: A lot of data is produced, can find out new information.
      • Weaknesses: Even slower than naturalistic observations. Very small sample size and people, results are often limited to one person or group.
    3. Survey Method: People answer questions. Questionnaires, verbal, telemarketing.)
      • Strengths: A lot of data obtained, fairly cheap. People are more likely to discuss personal information. You can collect data on subjects that are often not easily observed, such as sex.
      • Weaknesses: People lie, don’t take surveys seriously. Can’t verify honesty. Margin of error. People can be mislead by phrasing of questions: “You don’t like Obama, do you?” Also severely limited by demographics, who is taking the survey? Surveys are not always representative of all people.
  • Nondescriptive studies (correlational research methods): (Predictions based on) correlations- Measure of relationship between two variables. Variables must be quantifiable, put into a measurable number. Height, weight, anything that is measureable, age, hair, IQ. “Is there a relationship between height and IQ?” The relationships of correlations can be:
    • Positive correlations: When the amount of one variable increases, the other variable also increases. Positive correlations move in the same direction, both variables increase or both variables decrease. The taller a person, the heavier. The relationship is that when a variable goes up the other does also.
    • Negative correlations: When the amount of one variable increases, the amount of the other variable in the relationship decreases. The more alcohol consumed, the amount of coordination decreases. The amount of hours without sleep, the lower the grades received.
    • Coefficient of correlation: degree of relation. How much do they relate? -1 –– 0 –– +1 The closer to zero, the weaker the relationship. 0=no relationship. +1= a perfect positive correlation between two variables, the strongest you can get, this happens almost never. An example of a perfect positive correlation is the faster you travel, the farther away you go.
      • Strongest relationships lie farthest from zero. Negative or positive is the direction of the relationship.
      • Strength of relationship relies on the distance of a number from zero, not on positive or negative traits.