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Research Methods. APA Ethical Guidelines. Human Drug Trials. The APA – American Psychological Association Responsible for setting the ethical guidelines for human and animal research. The IRB – Institutional Review Board

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research methods

Research Methods

APA Ethical Guidelines

The APA – American Psychological Association
  • Responsible for setting the ethical guidelines for human and animal research.
  • The IRB – Institutional Review Board
  • Part of the APA responsible for reviewing research proposals for ethical violations and/or procedural errors.
human research
Human Research
  • Research involving human subjects must meet the following standards:
1. Informed Consent
    • Participants must know that they are involved in research and give their consent.
2. Coercion
    • Participation in a research study must be voluntary.
3. Anonymity/Confidentiality
    • The participant’s privacy must be protected. No identities and actions may be revealed. A researched must not share any results that could match a participant and their specific responses. A researcher will not identify the source of any data as well.
4. Risk
    • Participants cannot be placed at any significant mental or physical risk.
5. Debriefing Procedures
    • Participants must be told the purpose of the study and provided with ways to contact the researcher about the study results.
animal research
Animal Research
  • Ethical studies using laboratory animals must meet the following requirements:
1. The must have a clear scientific purpose.
    • The research must answer a specific, important scientific question. Animals are chosen based on their ability to help answer the question proposed.
3. The animal subjects must be acquired in a legal manner.
    • The animals used in the experiment must be purchased from accredited companies, and if trapped in the wild, they must be trapped in a humane manner.
4. The experiment must be designed with procedures in place that employ the least amount of suffering on the part of the animals.
Regardless of the method used, all research is based on the Scientific Method of Psychology
  • Scientific means systematic, testable, and objective.
Step 1 – Review the existing Literature
  • Step 2 – Develop a testable Hypotheses
  • Step 3 – Research and Observation
  • Step 4 – Analyze the data
  • Step 5 – Publish, Replicate, Seek Review
  • Step 6 – Build a Theory
step 1
Step 1
  • Review the existing literature. What studies have already been completed? What are the current theories and data indicating about behavior?
step 2
Step 2
  • A hypothesis is then created as a testable prediction based on what is currently known and what we want to find out. What do we want to know more about?
step 3
Step 3
  • Experiments, surveys, observations, case-studies, etc. are generated to collect data.
step 4
Step 4
  • The raw data is organized and needs to be evaluated. Statistics may be used to organize, summarize, and interpret the numerical data. Does the data support, or not support, the hypothesis?
step 5
Step 5
  • The results should be shared with other researchers in a peer-reviewed journal. Other researchers may choose to replicate (repeat) the study to check for validity, or to further explain or explore some aspects of the study.
step 6
Step 6
  • After one or more studies on a given topic, researchers may advance a theory (current knowledge/concepts that explain a body of data), or challenge a theory.
research designs
Research Designs
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Quantitative Research usually involves experimentation or correlation studies, and the dataproduces numbers, measurements, deductive logic, statistics, etc.


Qualitative Research emphasizes natural settings and observation, and generates data in the form of written themes, verbal narratives, personalized comments, pictures, etc.
i naturalistic observation
I. Naturalistic Observation
  • Researchers study spontaneous and natural behaviors in a subjects most familiar environment. There is no interaction with the subject during these observations.
researcher bias
Researcher Bias
  • Situation in which a personal factor unfairly increases the likelihood of a researcher reaching a particular conclusion
example of bias
Example of Bias

I was recently mugged by a group of teenagers, or I just had a fight with my teenage son over driving privileges. My assignment is to observe teenage behaviors at the mall. Will I be more inclined to seek out bad behaviors or infer bad intentions and motivations?

participant bias
Participant Bias
  • The tendency of research subjects to respond in certain ways because they know they are being observed. The subjects might try to behave in ways they believe the researcher wants them to behave.
The Hawthorne Effect refers to the fact that some subjects will alter their behaviors simply because they know that they are part of an experiment, regardless of what is being done to them.
ii case study
II. Case Study
  • A case study is a situation in which a single individual is studied in-depth by a researcher, often times due to their unique behaviors or situation. Case studies are very interactive and often include face-to-face interviews, paper and pencil tests, the study of medical records, etc.
Police have arrested Bart for the serial killing of fifteen young women over the past ten years. A psychiatrist will examine the police files, medical files, observe and interview Bart, talk to his and the victims families, friends, etc. in order to understand Bart’s behaviors and motivations.
What is the best example of a research method that produces both quantitative and qualitative data?
iii survey
III. Survey
  • Questionnaires/ interviews. Using a combination of forced and open response questions, it can be helpful in analyzing and predicting behaviors.
  • Advantageous because you gather a large amount of information from a large group of people.
false consensus effect
False Consensus Effect
  • Tendency to overestimate the extent to which others share our beliefs and behaviors. Skews the reports by jumping to large conclusions that fit into our pre-conceived ideas.
iv experiment
IV. Experiment
  • An investigation seeking to understand relations of cause and effect. The experimenter changes a variable (cause), and in turn changes another variable (effect). At the same time the experimenter hopes to hold all of the other variables constant so that they can attribute any changes to only the manipulation.
IE. I want to know if new Drug A will help to alleviate the symptoms of insomnia. I can manipulate the dosage and the times, but I need to control other factors like mattress softness, diet and room temperature to eliminate them as variables that affect sleep. At the end of the experiment I want to know that it was only Drug A that affected the patient’s sleep.
step 1 choose a hypothesis
Step 1: Choose a Hypothesis
  • A hypothesis expresses a relationship between two variables.
  • IE. My hypothesis is that watching violent television programs makes people more aggressive.
step two choose variables
Step Two: Choose Variables
  • Variables are things that are measured, controlled, or manipulated in research.
The independent variable is the manipulated variable.
  • IE. The violent programming is the independent variable because I can adjust what shows are viewed, for how long, by whom, etc.
The dependent variable is measured for change.
  • IE. Measuring the change in aggression levels is the dependent variable in our experiment because it changes based on what is viewed, for how long, etc.
step three operationalize
Step Three: Operationalize
  • When you operationalize your variables, you are explaining how you will measure them.
IE. The operational definition of the independent variable (what defines a violent show?) would be shows that have scenes of fighting, bloodshed, use of weapons, injury, kicks, punches, etc.
  • IE. The operational definition of the dependent variable (what constitutes an increase in aggressive behavior?) would be an increase in agitation or tenseness, increased vocal volume, threats of bodily harm, kicks, punches, throwing objects, etc.
step four identify potential extraneous variables confounding variables
Step Four: Identify Potential Extraneous Variables/Confounding Variables
  • It is important to make sure that during the experiment as many other factors that are NOT part of the therapy are NOT included. Any factor or variable that causes an effect (or potential affects) other than the variable being studied is considered an extraneous variable.
IE. An extraneous variable in our experiment would be a phone call from a solicitor during a program, the viewer receiving mail including a poor report card, a viewer stubbing their toe during a show, alcohol abuse, etc. All of these could increase aggressiveness, but are not related to viewing violent television.
step five identify who you will be testing
Step Five: Identify Who You Will Be Testing
  • The people on which the research will be conducted are called participants. If you are using animals, they are referred to as subjects.
    • I want to test the effects of television violence on teenage behaviors.
step six how do we decide who will be subjects and who won t
Step Six: How Do We Decide Who Will Be Subjects, and Who Won’t?
  • Since we can’t realistically test all teenagers in the world (the test population), we must reduce the overall population down to a more manageable number (the test sample). How?
method 1 rigorous control design
Method 1: Rigorous Control Design
  • Designing an experiment with specific, hand-picked participants in mind.
    • IE. Only testing males, 18 years old, enrolled in AP Psychology at Middletown High School.
method 2 random sample
Method 2: Random Sample
  • A random sample allows that every member of an overall population has an equal chance to be in the sample.
  • IE. Put all teenager’s names into a hat and pull out fifty names.
method 3 systematic sample
Method 3: Systematic Sample
  • Select a starting point from your population and then select every ?th participant.
    • Alphabetically list all teenagers from one to one million, and then choose every 10th name on the list to be a participant in the experiment.
step seven assignment
Step Seven: Assignment
  • Once you have chosen your subjects to study, you must assign them to one of two groups; those that will be manipulated, and those that won’t.
group 1 experimental group
Group 1: Experimental Group
  • The experimental group receives the independent variable and is manipulated throughout the experiment.
IE. In our television violence experiment, those in the experiment group will watch varying degrees of violent program, for varying lengths of time, etc., and their changes in levels of aggression measured.
group 2 control group
Group 2: Control Group
  • The control group does not receive the independent variable. They are the used for comparative purposes.
IE. In our television violence experiment, the control group will be shown a variety of non-violent programming in order to create a baseline to compare the experiment group against.
  • How do the behaviors of teens exposed to non-violent programming compare with those of teens who watch violent programming?
random assignment
Random Assignment
  • Random assignment means that the subjects have an equal chance of being placed into each group. If we allow subjects to choose their own group, we may have a subject-relevant confounding variable.
subject relevant confounding variables
Subject-Relevant Confounding Variables
  • A subject-relevant confounding variable would allow those people that liked violent movies or were prone to violence already to choose to be in the experimental group. We therefore could not accurately find that viewing violence directly led to their aggression.
To help avoid this confounding variable, we prescribe a single-blind design. The subjects do not know whether they have been randomly placed in the control or experiment group.
group matching
Group Matching
  • When assigning members to the experiment or control group, it is important that the characteristics of both groups need to be as similar as possible.
IE. After rigorously or randomly determining our subjects, as many white, black, tall, short, overweight, slim members should be in the control group as there are in the experiment group.
experimenter bias
Experimenter Bias
  • Experimenter Bias occurs when the experimenter unconsciously treats members of the control and experiment groups differently, which increases the chances of confirming their hypothesis.
  • IE. The experimenter gives soda to the control group, and beer to the violent viewers. The experimenter speaks more abruptly with the violence crowd (inciting them?).
To help avoid this type of confounding variable, we employ a double-blind design, where neither the subjects nor the researcher may know which is the control or the experiment group. A third-party has the appropriate records so that the date can be analyzed later.
other things to consider
Other Things to Consider…
  • The Placebo Effect refers to the phenomenon that a patient\'s symptoms can be alleviated by an otherwise ineffective treatment, apparently because the individual expects or believes that it will work.
Hindsight Bias is the tendency to believe, once the outcome is already known of course, that you would have foreseen it…that even though it\'s over and you know the outcome, you knew it all along.

Only experimental data can conclusively demonstrate causal relations between variables (A causes B to happen).

correlation study
Correlation Study
  • Research study designed to determine the degree to which two variables are related to one another. This does not prove a cause and effect relationship; only that some relationship exists.
How are exercise and weight related? Are smoking and rates of cancer related? Is there a relationship between brain size and intelligence? Does your level of education have any implications on your potential future earnings?
Scatter plots consist of a large body of data plotted on a graph to show their relationship to one another. The closer the data points are to making a straight line, the higher the correlation between the two variables, or the stronger the relationship.
positive correlation
Positive Correlation
  • As the value of one variable increases so does the value of the other variable.
Studying and Grades
    • As students study more, their grades increase.
  • Practice and Athletics
    • As athletes practice more, their batting averages increase
  • Driving Speed and Distance
    • As drivers drive faster, they travel further.
A perfect positive correlation results in a numerical value of 1.00
  • Positive correlations range from 0.00 to 1.00. The closer to 1.00 you get, the stronger the positive correlation is.
negative correlation
Negative Correlation
  • As the value of one variable increases, the value of the other variable decreases.
The more you exercise, the less you weigh
  • The more you study, the less your teachers yell at you
  • As the price of movie tickets increases, the number of patrons decreases.
A perfect negative correlation results in a numerical value of -1.00
  • Negative correlations range from 0.00 to -1.00. The closer to -1.00 you get, the stronger the negative correlation is.
zero correlation
Zero Correlation
  • There is no relationship whatsoever between the two variables.
    • The length of your hair has no influence on your level of intelligence.
correlation study1
Correlation Study
  • Important NOT to imply a cause and effect relationship between the variables
  • Correlational study does not determine why the two variables are related--just that they are related.
  • Correlational studies are helpful in making predictions.
illusory correlation
Illusory Correlation
i measures of central tendency
I. Measures of Central Tendency
  • Measures of central tendency provide statistics that indicate the average or typical score in the distribution. There are three measures of central tendency:
  • Mean
  • Median
  • Mode
  • The mean is the arithmetic average of all the scores in the distribution.
regression to the mean
Regression to the Mean
  • In statistics, it is the phenomenon whereby members of a population with extreme values on a given measure for one observation will probably give less extreme measurements on other occasions when they are observed.
IE. A running back rushed for 276 yards in his first football game of the season. More than likely he will not rush for 4416 yards that season (considering only five players have ever rushed from more than 2,000 yards in a single NFL season). It’s more likely that his game totals will decrease and his overall average will eventually reflect an NFL average of about 67 yards per game.
  • The median is the middle score of the distribution, the point that divides a rank-ordered distribution into halves containing an equal number of scores. Thus 50% of the scores lie below the median and 50% lie above the median.
  • The mode is simply the score in the distribution that occurs most frequently.
positively skewed
Positively Skewed
  • This distribution has a positive skew. Note that the mean is larger than the median.
IE. In a neighborhood of relatively low incomes, a few millionaires move in. Those few high salaries will inflate the mean (average), but the median will remain relatively low.
negatively skewed
Negatively Skewed
  • This distribution has a negative skew. The median is larger than the mean.
IE. In a particular well-to-do neighborhood, a few low-income residents move in. The overall average income will drop a bit, but the median will remain relatively high.
When graphing the mean, median and mode of a distribution, roughly speaking, a distribution has positive skewif the right tail is longer and negative skew if the left tail is longer.
ii measures of variability
II. Measures of Variability
  • Measures of variability show how spread out the distribution of scores is from the mean.
measures of variability
Measures of Variability
  • Range
  • Standard Deviation
  • The range is simply the numerical difference between the highest and lowest scores in the distribution.
standard deviation
Standard Deviation
  • The measure of variability used most often in research is the standard deviation, a statistic that indicates the average distance of the scores from the mean of the distribution.
IE. Our class took Unit Exam 2. I scored a 76%. I want to know how well I did in relation to the rest of the class to see whether or not that score was good or bad. I need to figure out what the class average was, figure out the standard deviation from the mean, and I’ll know how well I did.
graphing standard deviation
Graphing Standard Deviation
  • Find the mean of your distribution set.
  • Calculate the SD on your calculator.
  • The mean is set at “0”.
  • +1 and -1 are your SD above and below the mean.
    • IE. Your mean is 56 with a SD of 6. +1 would be 62, and -1 would be 50.
    • Calculate +- 2 and +- 3 in the same manner.
graphing standard deviation1
Graphing Standard Deviation
  • What does this tell us?
    • If the mean of a set of class scores on a unit exam was 72, with a SD of 8, 68% of students scored between a 64 and an 80. Your score of a 76 would be close to being better than 68% of the rest of the class.
    • Approximately 95% of the class scored between a 56 and an 88. Your score of a 50 would indicated that roughly 96% of the class did better than you on the test.