Research Methods

Let's take a look at real science!!!!

There are two reasons why it is vital that you have a solid understanding of research methods.  First, you are more likely to see a free response question on the AP exam from this topic than anywhere else.  Second, above all, it is important to remember that psychology is a science.  So whenever a psychologist has an idea that he or she wants to show the world, there are a certain set of rules they must follow called the scientific method.  The Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena and acquiring new knowledge, as well as for correcting and integrating previous knowledge.

Hopefully, every theory and idea that you have learned about so far in this course (in all of your science classes for that matter) has been tested through the scientific method.  There are basically two types of research that can take place; applied and basic.  Applied research is when the scientist has clear and practical reasons and applications for her study.  If a psychologist was trying to come up with a new behavior therapy to stop heroin use, it would be applied research. 

Basic research explores questions that are really interesting to psychologists but have no immediate, real-world application.  Studying the differences between cultures and physical beauty is an example of basic research.

Now before we go on to the various ways to conduct research it is important to know that all research should be both valid and reliable (hope you remember these terms).  Research is valid when it measures what the researcher sets out to measure; is it accurate.  Research is reliable when it can be replicated.  This is an important idea.  If I conduct a research study and discover that AP Psychology teachers are consistently the best looking teachers in high schools, would everyone automatically believe me?  I hope not.  After I publish my results and how I conducted the research, I hope that other scientists try to copy my experiment.  If all the scientists around the world replicate my study and come up with similar results, then the research is reliable and we can start putting it in our text books.  ALL TOO OFTEN we hear about some research (either a new drug or fact about food etc...) and we take the information as fact.  It usually has only been done once!!!!  You should not rely on any research until it has been replicated over and over again.

Now most research has an hypothesis.  I know that in middle school you learned that a hypothesis was "an educated guess", and that is kinda right.  A hypothesis really is a way to express a relationship between two variables.   Let's say I notice that AP Psychology teachers are incredible good looking, so I set out to explore the relationship between attractiveness (one variable) and AP Psychology teachers (another variable).  There are many ways to delve into the relationship using the scientific method (and some ways are alot better than others).  For the rest of this unit we will explore different ways we can talk about conducting research and finish up with some ways we can describe the results of the research we do to others.

Descriptive Research
Correlational Research
Causational Research 
Describing our results (statistics)