Research Methods

Purpose of Course  showclose

This Research Methods course is part one of the two-part Research Methods series, which also includes the Research Methods Lab course. Research is the foundation on which any solid science is built. This course will introduce you to research methodologies frequently used in the social sciences and especially those used in the field of psychology. It is important that you are able to not only identify the techniques used by others but also employ them yourself. The course is designed to provide you with the foundation you will need to apply certain techniques in the search for your own answers. The course will begin with an overview of how research, and its appropriate methodology, came about in science and, more specifically, psychology. We will then go over the ABCs of conducting research, learning how to define “variables” and why they are important. While this course will also touch upon statistics and their importance, it will not require a comprehensive knowledge of the subject. The course will conclude with a section on experiment results and the ways in which experimental design and statistics can be used to ensure certain results. By the end of this course, you should understand why research methodology is important in scientific research, be comfortable reading method and results sections of journal articles, and understand a range of different research methods (as well as when to employ each).

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to PSYCH202A. General information on the course and its requirements can be found below.

Peer Review Implementer: Will Langston

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following: Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials. Units 1 to 4 lay the foundation for the design and analysis units (5–6) that are the heart of research methods. You will also need to complete the following:
  • Unit 1 assessment
  • Unit 2 application
  • Unit 3 assessment
  • Unit 4 assessment
  • Unit 5 assessment
  • Unit 6 assessment
Some subunits also have quizzes built into the materials. Completing these quizzes will improve your understanding and long-term retention of the material in the course. Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the assessments and applications listed above.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 67 hours to complete. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 10 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 (2 hours) on Monday night, half of subunit 1.2 (a total of 2 hours) on Tuesday night, and so forth.

Tips/Suggestions: As noted in the “Course Requirements” section, PSYCH201/MA121: Introduction to Statisticsis a prerequisite for this course. It might be wise to revisit this course as you work through Units 4 and 6.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Define science and list the key features of science.
  • Apply the key features of science to the discipline of psychology.
  • Describe the parts of a psychology research report.
  • Explain how psychology research ethics guidelines developed.
  • List the key ethical guidelines governing psychology research.
  • Define reliability and validity for research measures.
  • List and define the three primary research designs used for psychology research.
  • Identify the appropriate statistical analysis for each of the three primary research designs.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed PSYCH201/MA121: Introduction to Statistics.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: An Introduction to Research  

    Research is the foundation on which any solid science must be built. It creates an organized and structured way to gain knowledge about a certain “system” (in research, we refer to the system as “the variable”). In this unit, we will explore the scientific method and discuss how it relates to current psychological research. Keep in mind that this unit will serve as a broad introduction that is relevant to all areas of science, including social science and psychology.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 The Scientific Method  
  • 1.1.1 Inductive versus Deductive Reasoning  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Deduction and Induction”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Deduction and Induction” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read this webpage in order to understand the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning. Our goal in psychology research is to understand and predict behavior. These two forms of logic (a) make general statements about behavior from the data that we collect (induction) and (b) use those general statements to predict future behavior (deduction). At the end of this reading, you should be able to define induction and deduction and to describe the differences between them.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.  The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 1.1.2 Hypothesis Testing  
    • Reading: Cengage Learning’s Statistics Workshop: “Hypothesis Testing”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s Statistics Workshop: “Hypothesis Testing” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read pages 1 through 5 of this workshop for an overview of the concept of statistical hypothesis testing. Research will start with a hypothesis. This is basically your guess about the relationship between two things (e.g., if people study more, then they will get better grades). The steps in a research project are to develop a hypothesis, collect data, and use statistics to evaluate those data. This subunit will introduce you to the two statistical hypotheses: (1) nothing happened or (2) something happened. At the end of this reading, you should be able to define the null and alternative hypotheses.

      Completing this workshop should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.1.3 The Scientific Research Process  
  • 1.2 Using the Scientific Method in Research  
    • Assessment: Empire State College’s “Developing a Research Question: Exercises 1–3”

      Link: Empire State College’s “Developing a Research Question: Exercises 1–3” (HTML)

      Instructions: Any research project will begin with a question. However, not all questions are ready to be addressed with research. Please complete exercises 1–3 of Empire State College’s “Developing a Research Question” to get a sense of what to think about when developing a research question. Please ignore the Course Tutor portion of this material. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to describe the differences among research questions that are too broad, too narrow, and “just right,” and you should be able to formulate your own research questions.

      Completing his exercise should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.1 How to Define a Problem  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Types of Questions”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Types of Questions” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read this webpage to develop an understanding of how your research question will influence the type of research design you create. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define the three types of research questions.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 1.2.2 The Purpose and Definition of Variables  
  • 1.2.3 Developing Hypotheses  
  • 1.2.4 Analyzing Results and Significance  
  • 1.2.5 Applying Conclusions  
    • Reading: Explorable.com: Martyn Shuttleworth’s “Drawing Conclusions”

      Link: Explorable.com: Martyn Shuttleworth’s “Drawing Conclusions” (HTML)

      Instructions: Understanding the meaning of research results goes beyond determining statistical significance. It is also necessary to think about the “meaningful importance” of the results and to evaluate the study that was conducted to put the results in context. Please read this webpage to learn about drawing conclusions from research. Note that you do not need to click the links embedded in this source unless you are in need of review or clarification of that specific material.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.6 The Importance of Replication  
    • Reading: Explorable.com: Dr. Hani’s “Replication Study”

      Link: Explorable.com: Dr. Hani’s “Replication Study” (HTML)

      Instructions: Replication is an important part of research. In addition to verifying the conclusions from prior studies, replication can help to extend the research to larger populations. Please read this webpage to learn the purpose of replication.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3 The Goals of Science  
  • 1.3.1 The Search for Answers  
    • Assessment: Cengage Learning’s workshop: “What is Science?”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s workshop: “What is Science?” (HTML)

      Instructions: What is science? What are the assumptions that make science possible? Please complete all portions of this workshop, including the quiz at the end, to learn the answers to these questions. Note that you will not need to e-mail your quiz results to anyone. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define science and to list the key features of science.

      Completing this workshop should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3.2 Basic versus Applied Research: Why Conduct Applied Research?  
    • Reading: Explorable.com: Martyn Shuttleworth’s “Purpose of Research”

      Link: Explorable.com: Martyn Shuttleworth’s “Purpose of Research” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read this webpage to understand the underlying purposes of basic and applied research. Please note that basic research is referred to here as “pure research.” Note that you do not need to click the links embedded in this source unless you are in need of review or clarification of that specific material. After this subunit, you should be able to define pure (basic) and applied research.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3.3 The Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches to Observational Design  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “The Qualitative Debate”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “The Qualitative Debate” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read this webpage in order to understand the differences between qualitative and quantitative designs and also to understand that any data can be treated quantitatively or qualitatively. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to describe the different goals of qualitative and quantitative research. What motivates researchers choosing qualitative designs? How would the information from the two types of design be different even if a researcher had the same research question going in?

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 1.4 Assessment: The Scientific Method  
  • Unit 2: The Research Report  

    The research report is the primary method by which scientists let others know of their research and findings. Psychologists frequently find the report a source of debate—they may disagree with theories and findings it contains and/or their applicability. This unit will familiarize you with different aspects of the research report and enable you to read articles in psychology. Learning the different facets of the research report will prove invaluable when reading other people’s reports and when conducting your own experiments.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 What Has Previous Research Found? Searching Databases and Locating Research Findings  
  • 2.2 The Structure of the Research Report  
  • 2.2.1 The Introduction: Stating the Problem  
  • 2.2.2 The Method Section: How Would Someone Else Replicate Your Experiment?  
    • Reading: Hanover College Dr. William Altermatt’s “Method Section”

      Link: Hanover College Dr. William Altermatt’s “Method Section” (PDF)

      Instructions: Method sections are the “who, what, how” of a research report. In addition to the technical details of how to present the material in a method section (details that make it easier for the reader to find the information that is desired), you should also understand what goes into the three parts of a method section. After you click on this link, you will see a number of readings. Please click on “Method Section” in order to download the PDF. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to list the three subparts of a method section and identify the information that goes into each part.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.2.3 The Results and Discussion: What Did You Find and What Does It Mean?  
    • Reading: Hanover College: Dr. William Altermatt’s “Results and Discussion”

      Link: Hanover College: Dr. William Altermatt’s “Results and Discussion” (PDF)

      Instructions: The results section is where you report statistical analyses. The discussion section is where you talk about what the findings mean (note the relationship between the content of the discussion section and the material covered in subunit 1.2.5). After you click on this link, you will see a number of readings. Please click on “Results & Discussion Sections” in order to download the PDF. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to generalize from specific results to interpret the “meaningful significance” of the results.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3 How to Effectively Read Research Articles  
  • 2.3.1 What to Focus On When Reading the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion Sections  
  • 2.3.2 The Terminology Used  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Language of Research”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Language of Research” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read all sections contained in “Language of Research” for a review of the terminology used in research articles. At the end of this subunit, you should be familiar with some of the terminology that you will encounter later in the course. Memorizing some of these terms will serve you well in the future, but it is also a good idea to bookmark this page so that you can refer to it later when you encounter these terms again.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 2.4 Activity: Reading Research  
    • Activity: Reading Research

      Instructions: Search online for a psychological research report (preferably one that is a “brief report pdf”) in a content area that interests you. Read this research report. This will go a long way in helping you apply what you have learned so far and understand concepts you will need to know in later units.

      Completing his exercise should take approximately 4 hours.

  • Unit 3: Ethical Research  

    Research in psychology is integral to helping other human beings; it enables us to better understand others and their behaviors. However, researchers must be careful to avoid endangering humans in their experiments. The methods used in all experiments must be appropriate and ethically sound. This unit will investigate the importance of the ethics of the experimenter and the experiment itself and identify certain safeguards that should be in place to protect the rights of the experiment’s participants.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 The Reason for Ethics  
  • 3.1.1 Before Ethical Codes: Miligram’s Obedience Study  
    • Reading: Wikipedia’s “Milgram Experiment” and Association for Psychological Science: Jerry Burger’s “Replicating Milgram”

      Link: Wikipedia’s “Milgram Experiment” (PDF) and Association for Psychological Science: Jerry Burger’s “Replicating Milgram” (HTML)

      Instructions: Before we go into the details of the ethical rules governing psychology research, there is some value in looking at research conducted before the ethical guidelines were in place. This will be your chance to think about the challenges we face in conducting research in psychology. How can we answer important questions while simultaneously respecting the rights of participants? Please read through the first sections on Wikipedia’s “Milgram Experiment” (pages 1–5, through “Ethics”), and Jerry Burger’s “Replicating Milgram.” Consider the changes Burger made to Milgram’s original experiment and what your opinions are on the ethics of the experiments.

      Reading these webpages should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes (about 1 hour and 45 minutes for the first one and 45 minutes for the second one).

      Terms of Use: The Wikipedia article above is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0 (HTML). You can find the original version of this article here (HTML). Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on Burger’s “Replicating Milgram.”

  • 3.1.2 Before Ethical Codes: Zimbardo’s Prison Study  
    • Reading: Dr. Phil Zimbardo’s “Stanford Prison Experiment”

      Link: Dr. Phil Zimbardo’s “Stanford Prison Experiment” (HTML)

      Instructions: Again, trying to answer some psychology research questions has the potential to expose participants to risk. This is another example of a study conducted around the time ethical guidelines were being developed. Please view the entire slideshow on this website (42 slides), with special focus on the ethical lapses involved in the experiment. After working through these two subunits, you should be able to explain the importance of ethical guidelines for protecting participants in psychology research.

      Reviewing this slideshow should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.1.3 Minimizing Harm to Participants  
  • 3.2 Protection for Experimental Participants  
  • 3.2.1 The Belmont Report: Official Guidelines for Ethical Treatment of Experimental Subjects  
  • 3.2.2 Informed Consent  
  • 3.2.3 Deception: When Is It Acceptable to Deceive a Participant?/Alternatives to Deception  
    • Reading: The American Psychological Association: Dr. Stephen Behnke’s “Reading the Ethics Code More Deeply”

      Link: The American Psychological Association: Dr. Stephen Behnke’s “Reading the Ethics Code More Deeply” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read Dr. Behnke’s article for an in-depth explanation of the most recent updates to the Ethics Code’s stance on deception in research. Note that Dr. Burger’s research, discussed in subunit 3.1.1, used deception; you might review that now. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to list and describe the three rules governing the use of deception in research. Why are these rules important? How do they apply to Dr. Burger’s research?

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.2.4 The Importance of Debriefing  
    • Reading: Cengage Learning’s Research Workshop: “Effective Debriefing”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s Research Workshop: “Effective Debriefing” (HTML)

      Instructions: At the end of a research study, participants are debriefed. At a minimum, the purpose should be explained and any confusion should be cleared up. Please complete all slides of this workshop and take the quiz at the end in order to understand the purpose and process of debriefing. Note that you will not need to e-mail the results of your quiz to anyone. When you complete this subunit, you should be able to develop a debriefing script for a study. For example, what would be included in a debriefing script from Dr. Burger’s study (sub-subunit 3.1.1)?

      Completing this workshop should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.3 Ethics and Animal Research  
  • 3.3.1 The Case for Care in Animal Research  
  • 3.3.2 APA Guidelines for Animal Research  
  • 3.4 Assessment: Ethical Research  
  • Unit 4: Measurement Concepts  

    All research measures something and that “something” is a variable. This unit will provide an in-depth introduction to variables and approaches to measuring them. Variables are not always as tangible in psychology as they are in other disciplines (i.e., in psychology, you may be attempting to measure someone’s happiness, whereas in medicine, you might be measuring someone’s weight). As such, psychologists have had to develop certain tools and methodologies in order to accurately and reliably gather data. In this unit, we will learn the ways in which psychologists measure their findings and the terms they commonly use to evaluate the quality of such measurement.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 Variables  
  • 4.1.1 What is a Variable and Why is it Important?  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Variables”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Variables” (HTML)

      Instructions: Measurement involves variables. Please read this webpage to review the types of variables. This will serve as a refresher before we begin.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 4.1.2 The Independent Variable versus the Dependent Variable  
  • 4.1.3 Levels of Measurement and Measurement Scales  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Levels of Measurement”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Levels of Measurement” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read this webpage to learn about levels of measurement and measurement scales. Because the different measurement scale types will affect the kind of analysis that you can do with the data, it is important to be able to identify the measurement scale used by a particular study’s dependent variable. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to list and define the four levels of measurement.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 4.1.4 Operational Definition of a Variable  
  • 4.2 Reliability  
  • 4.2.1 What is Reliability and Why is It Important?  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Theory of Reliability”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Theory of Reliability” (HTML)

      Instructions: It is important for measures to be reliable (consistent over time). Even though the source for this subunit is somewhat technical, please read this webpage for an introduction to the concept of reliability. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define the term reliability and describe what it means for a variable to have low or high reliability.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 4.2.2 Types of Reliability  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Types of Reliability”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Types of Reliability” (HTML)

      Instructions: Even though reliability refers to consistency, there are a number of ways for this to be realized. Please read this webpage for an overview of the different types of reliability. This reading will cover interrater (interobserver) reliability, test-retest reliability, parallel-forms reliability, and internal consistency reliability (including split-half reliability and Cronbach’s alpha). At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define the four main types of reliability.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 4.2.3 The Difference between Reliability and Validity  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Reliability & Validity”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Reliability & Validity” (HTML)

      Instructions: This subunit serves as a bridge between the concepts of reliability and validity. Reliability refers to how consistent a measurement is. Validity refers to whether the measurement is measuring the thing you think it is measuring. Please read this webpage for a review of reliability and validity and the differences between them and a discussion of how they are interrelated. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define validity and compare and contrast reliability and validity.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 4.3 Validity  
  • 4.3.1 What is Validity and Why is it Important? Internal and External Validity  
  • 4.3.2 Types of Construct Validity: Content Validity, Face Validity, Predictive Validity, Concurrent Validity, Convergent Validity, and Discriminant Validity  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Construct Validity”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Construct Validity” (HTML)

      Instructions: Construct validity assesses whether your measuring instrument is measuring the thing it is intended to measure. Please read the above webpage in order to understand the concept of construct validity. Please also click the link for “measurement validity types” and read that page to learn about the different ways to assess construct validity. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define construct validity and identify the main issue in assessing construct validity. You should also be able to define face validity, predictive validity, concurrent validity, convergent validity, and discriminant validity.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 4.3.3 Threats to Validity of Research Designs  
    • Reading: Chong-ho Yu and Barbara Ohlund’s “Threats to Validity of Research Design”

      Link: Chong-ho Yu and Barbara Ohlund’s “Threats to Validity of Research Design” (HTML)

      Instructions: It is important to evaluate the validity of research designs carefully. This is true of research that you are conducting, but it is also important to be an educated consumer of research produced by others. Please read through the first two sections of this webpage (“Problem and Background” and “Factors Jeopardizing Internal and External Validity”) for an overview of threats to validity. You may stop at “Three Experimental Designs.” At the end of this subunit, you should be able to list and define the nine threats to internal validity and the four threats to external validity. These lists will be helpful as you read research reports.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.4 Assessment: Measurement Concepts  
  • Unit 5: Observation, Survey, and Experimental Research Designs  

    Almost all psychological research conducted today falls into one of three categories: observation, survey, or experimental design. While these designs do differ in their methods of gaining evidence and results, all three are used in psychology research. Frequently, psychologists will use multiple designs to study the same subject in order to confirm or further the theoretical implications found after using one of the designs. In this unit, you will learn to identify the similarities and differences between the designs as well as the different types of methods at your disposal. We will also identify the strengths and weaknesses of each design type in order to learn when to employ which design.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Observation Design  
  • 5.1.1 What is an Observation Design? Types of Observation Designs  
    • Reading: California State University, Fresno: Dr. Karl Oswald and Dr. Paul Price’s “Observational Research” and Dr. Russell A. Dewey’s “Observational Research”

      Link: California State University, Fresno: Dr. Karl Oswald and Dr. Paul Price’s “Observational Research” (HTML) and Dr. Russell A. Dewey’s “Observational Research” (HTML)

      Instructions: Perhaps the simplest research design is the observation design. In essence the design is this: just watch people and record what they do. However, even this simplicity has an underlying complexity. Please read these pages for an introduction to observation designs and the types of observation designs. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define the three main types of observation research: naturalistic observation, participant observation, and controlled (structured) observation. You should also be able to identify the advantages and disadvantages of each. Note that these readings cover the material you need to know for subunits 5.1.1–5.1.4.

      Reading these webpages should take approximately 1 hour (about 30 minutes each).

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 5.1.2 Naturalistic Observation  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath subunit 5.1.1. For this subunit, you should be learning the properties of naturalistic observation, the strengths and weaknesses of this design, and how it relates to other observation designs. You should also think about situations in which naturalistic observation would be the appropriate design.

  • 5.1.3 Participant Observation  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath subunit 5.1.1. For this subunit, you should be learning the properties of participant observation, the strengths and weaknesses of this design, and how it relates to other observation designs. You should also think about situations in which participant observation would be the appropriate design.

  • 5.1.4 Controlled (Structured) Observation  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath subunit 5.1.1. For this subunit, you should be learning the properties of controlled observation, the strengths and weaknesses of this design, and how it relates to other observation designs. You should also think about situations in which controlled observation would be the appropriate design.

  • 5.1.5 Methodological Pitfalls: Reactivity, Reliability, and Sampling Error  
    • Reading: Valparaiso University: Dr. Daniel Arkkelin’s “Sources of Error in Observation”

      Link: Valparaiso University: Dr. Daniel Arkkelin’s “Sources of Error in Observation” (HTML)

      Instructions: There are a number of ways that observation data can be contaminated. After clicking on this link, please scroll down to the heading “Sources of Error in Observation” and read that section for a summary of what types of error can arise in observational research. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to list and define five of the sources of error in observation research.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.2 Sampling Techniques  
    • Assessment: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Sampling Methods”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Sampling Methods” (HTML)

      Instructions: The people you select to participate in your research will make up your sample. Please complete the entire workshop and take the quiz at the end of it to gain an understanding of different sampling methods. Note that you do not need to e-mail the quiz to anyone; it is for your benefit. You will learn about probability sampling procedures (simple random sampling, stratified random sampling, and cluster sampling) and nonprobability sampling procedures (haphazard sampling, convenience sampling, and purposive sampling). At the end of this subunit, you should be able to compare and contrast probability and nonprobability sampling procedures.

      Completing this workshop should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.3 Survey Research  
  • 5.3.1 Reasons for Conducting Survey Research  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Survey Research”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Survey Research” (HTML)

      Instructions: Sometimes, just watching people will not provide the information that we need to address the research question. The basic idea behind survey research is this: Just ask people why they do what they do. Please read this page for an introduction to survey research. You might also click the links for “select the survey method,” “construct the survey itself,” “types of questions,” “decisions about question content,” “decisions about question wording,” “decisions about response format,” and “question placement and sequence.” At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define survey research.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 5.3.2 The Oral Interview vs. Written Question Methods  
  • 5.4 Experimental Design  
  • 5.4.1 The Difference between Quasi-Experimental and True Experimental Design  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Types of Designs”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Types of Designs” (HTML)

      Instructions: The strongest design type for determining causal relationships is the experiment. In this design, you manipulate a variable and see what effect it has on another variable. Please read this webpage for an overview of different types of designs. This reading will help you choose between experimental and quasi-experimental designs. Quasi-experimental designs are beyond the scope of this course. We will focus on two-group experimental designs in the sections that follow. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define what an experiment is.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 5.4.2 The True Experimental Design  
  • 5.4.3 Posttest-Only Design  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath subunit 5.4.2. For this subunit, you will learn the properties of the most basic experimental research design. You will learn how this design addresses threats to internal validity and allows a causal conclusion to be drawn.

  • 5.4.4 Pretest-Posttest Design  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath subunit 5.4.2. For this subunit, you will learn how adding a pretest to the posttest-only design increases the strength of the design.

  • 5.4.5 Confounding Variables and Internal Validity Revisited  
  • 5.4.6 Complex Experimental Designs: Increasing the Number of the Independent Variables and/or Increasing the Number of Levels of the Independent Variable  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Factorial Designs”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Factorial Designs” (HTML)

      Instructions: Even though it’s a bit beyond the level of an introductory course, the factorial design is an important tool for psychologists. This design allows a researcher to manipulate more than one variable simultaneously. This acknowledges the fact that behavior in the “real world” usually has multiple influences (e.g., think about your reasons for taking this course). Please read this webpage for an introduction to factorial designs. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define factorial design.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 5.5 Assessment: Observation, Survey, and Experimental Research Designs  
  • Unit 6: Understanding Research Results  

    One of the most important aspects of the research process is understanding the results that your experiment yields. While this may seem like an easy (or obvious) task, there are a number of steps you should follow if you wish to accurately understand and use your results. This unit we will review the ways in which experimental results should be tested, interpreted, and understood.

    Most of your results will likely be in the form of statistics. We will touch upon statistics in this unit, but you needn’t know how to calculate them. You need only understand what each statistic means and the concept (or concepts) to which it refers.

    Unit 6 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 6 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 6.1 Descriptive Statistics and Correlation  
  • 6.1.1 Descriptive Statistics  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Descriptive Statistics”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Descriptive Statistics” (HTML)

      Instructions: Descriptive statistics are used to describe a set of numbers, the first step in analyzing data. Please read this webpage for a definition of descriptive statistics. At the end of this reading, you should be able to identify the purpose of descriptive statistics and to define the three main types of descriptive statistics: frequency distribution, measures of central tendency, and measures of dispersion.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 6.1.2 Describing Relationships: Pearson Correlation Coefficient (r) and Regression Equations  
    • Reading: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Correlation” and AllPsych Online: Dr. Christopher L. Heffner’s “Chapter 8.6: The Correlation”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Correlation” (HTML) and AllPsych Online: Dr. Christopher L. Heffner’s “Chapter 8.6: The Correlation” (HTML)

      Instructions: Correlations are used to describe the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables. Please complete all portions of the workshop, including the quiz at the end, for a review of correlation and regression. Also, please read webpage from AllPsych Online for an understanding of correlational relationships and the correlation coefficient. After completing this subunit, you should be able to define correlation and identify the strength and direction of a correlation when presented with a scatterplot of the data or when presented with a correlation coefficient.

      Completing this workshop and reading these webpages should take approximately 2 hours (about 1 hour and 30 minutes for the workshop and 30 minutes for the reading).

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 6.2 Statistical Inference  
  • 6.2.1 Selecting the Appropriate Statistical Test  
    • Assessment: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Choosing the Correct Statistical Test”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Choosing the Correct Statistical Test” (HTML)

      Instructions: Inferential statistics are used to make comparisons between groups. Please complete all portions of this workshop, including the quiz at the end, to understand the process of choosing the appropriate inferential statistical test for a given research situation. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to identify the statistical procedures used for scale data with multiple samples and you should be able to describe the research design for which each would be appropriate.

      Completing this workshop should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.2.2 Statistical Significance  
  • 6.2.3 Sampling Distributions  
    • Assessment: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Sampling Distributions”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Sampling Distributions” (HTML)

      Instructions: Sampling distributions are an important component in making statistical decisions (especially in determining statistical significance). Please complete all portions of this workshop, including the quiz at the end, to gain an understanding of sampling distributions.

      Completing this workshop should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.2.4 The Null Hypothesis versus the Research Hypothesis  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Hypotheses”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “Hypotheses” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read this webpage for a review of null and alternative hypotheses. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define the null and alternative hypothesis and identify their role in statistical hypothesis testing.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 6.2.5 Errors: Type I Error and Type II Error; Statistical Power  
    • Assessment: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Statistical Power”

      Link: Cengage Learning’s Workshop: “Statistical Power” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please complete all sections of this workshop, including the quiz at the end, to learn about the types of error and their relationship to statistical power. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to define Type I error, Type II error, and statistical power.

      Completing this workshop should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.2.6 The t-Test and What It Tells Us About Our Results  
    • Reading: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “The T-Test”

      Link: Research Methods Knowledge Base: William Trochim’s “The T-Test” (HTML)

      Instructions: The t-test is used to compare the means of two groups. Please read this webpage for an introduction to the interpretation of t-tests. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to identify the research situation for which a t-test would be appropriate and outline the procedure for carrying out a t-test.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. The Saylor Foundation is grateful to Professor William Trochim for his kind permission to reference students to this site.

  • 6.2.7 The F-Test and What It Tells Us About Our Results  
    • Reading: Psychology World: Richard Hall’s “Between Subjects One-Way ANOVA Description”

      Link: Psychology World: Richard Hall’s “Between Subjects One-Way ANOVA Description” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please read this webpage to identify the research situation for which an F-test would be appropriate and outline the procedure for carrying out a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). You should also be able to describe the relationship between the t-test and F-test, including a description of the research situations for which each would be most appropriate.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.3 Generalization of Results  
    • Reading: Hanover College: Dr. William Altermatt’s “External Validity”

      Link: Hanover College: Dr. William Altermatt’s “External Validity” (PDF)

      Instructions: After you click on this link, you will see a number of readings. Please click on “External Validity” in order to download the PDF for an explanation of external validity and how to generalize results. At the end of this subunit, you should be able to identify the issues affecting the generalizability of the results of a study.

      Reading this webpage should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.4 Assessment: Statistical Inference  
  • Final Exam