PY4 - Research Methods

Procedures

Bullets

  • Laboratory experiment - sees a cause and effect relationship by controlling the independent variable in order to see the effect on the dependent variable.
  • Field experiment - independent variables are controlled, in a natural environment, with little or no control over external variables.
  • Case study - in-depth studies on a person or group, which produces in-depth qualitative data.
  • Correlation - a way of measuring to what degree two variables are related.
  • Interview - interviewer asks questions to a participant face-to-face. Can produce qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Questionnaire - questions in written form to be completed by the participants themselves.
  • Qualitative and quantitative data can be produced through this data collection method.
  • Observation method - when a researcher observes the behaviour of an individual or individuals, either overtly or covertly.
  • Content analysis - when researchers quantify and analyse the meanings and relationships of words and concepts, then reach a conclusion about the messages.
  • Natural experiment - an experiment where there is no strict control over variables in a natural environment.
  • Quasi-experiment - an experiment that takes place in a "field" location where the independent variable already exists, and where the dependent variable is measured.

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Experimental method.

Laboratory experiment
This type of experiment is conducted in a tightly controlled environment. Such an experiment does not necessarily have to be conducted in a laboratory, but laboratory experiments often have accurate measurements. External variables can be kept constant, whilst the independent variable can be manipulated and changed.

Example - Asch's study (1955) on conformity

Field experiment
Here, the independent variable is controlled and the dependent variable is measured, but is applied to the natural environment of the participants which means that there is little control over external variables.

Example - Piliavin et al (1969) - bystander effect.


Non-experimental

Case study
Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event or community. Case studies give rich qualitative data with high ecological validity.

Example - Case studies by Freud e.g. the dreams of his clients

Correlation

Correlation of relationship - more specifically, a measure of the degree to which two variables are related.

Positive correlation - increase in one variable is linked to an increase in the other variable.

Negative correlation - increase in one variable tends to be linked with a reduction in the other.

Zero correlation - no relationship between variables.

Example - "A study into life changes as a source of stress" (Rahe et al., 1970)

Interview
Unstructured interviews (informal) are similar to having a chat. There isn't a fixed set of questions, so the participant has the opportunity to raise any topic he/she feels is relevant and asks them in his/her own way. Qualitative data is gathered in such an interview.

Structured interviews (formal) are similar to a job interview. There is a fixed set of pre-set questions which are asked in the same order and same way to every participant.

Questionnaire
Face-to-face, over-the-phone or post questionnaires can be used. The questions can be open-ended where participants have the opportunity to have their say, or closed ended with short answers or multiple choice.
The choice of questions is important in order to avoid bias or ambiguity in questions, and "leading" the respondent or causing offence.

Example - Buss (1989) - "Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures"

Observation method
Covert observation - when the researcher claims to be a common member of the group and observes undercover. Ethical, deception and consent issues are associated with this specific type of observation.

Overt observation - when the participants knows that they are being observed. The Psychologist may be a part of the group under observation.

Natural observation - spontaneous behaviour is recorded in a natural environment.

Controlled observation - behaviour observed and controlled under laboratory conditions.

Participant observation - the observer has direct contact with the group of people being studied.

Non-participant observation - The researcher does not have direct contact with the group of people being observed.

Example of observation - Bandura (1965) - Bobo doll.

Content analysis
Is used indirectly to observe the presence of words, concepts or specific images within the media (e.g. adverts, films, books etc) e.g. gender stereotyping.

Researchers quantify and analyse the meanings and relationships of words and concepts, then reach a conclusion about the messages.

Natural experiment

A variable changes and the impact on another variable can be measured, but:
  • There is no control over the classification of the participants into the different conditions.
  • The variables aren't manipulated by the researcher.

Quasi-experiment

Takes place in a "field" location where the independent variable already exists. The researcher does not manipulate anything, but they do measure the dependent variable. The classification of participants to different conditions cannot be manipulated by the researcher. Experimental methods are used but a random allocation of participants is not possible.

Questions

  • 1. You are asked to research whether keeping a dog as a pet has a beneficial effect on the psychological and physical health of the individual.
  • Choose a method to undertake the investigation and describe how you would conduct the study in terms of conditions and variables; justify your choice. (4)
  • 2. You are asked to investigate whether there are differences between the games boys and girls participate in them on the school playground.
  • Choose a method to undertake the investigation and describe how you would conduct the study in terms of conditions and variables; justify your choice. (4)

Keywords

  1. Experimental method.
  2. Non-experimental method.
  3. Laboratory experiment.
  4. Field experiment.
  5. Case study.
  6. Correlation.
  7. Interview.
  8. Questionnaire.
  9. Observation.
  10. Content analysis.
  11. Quasi-experiments.
  12. Independent variable.
  13. Dependent variable.
  14. External variable(s).
Last modified: Saturday, 6 October 2012, 5:56 PM