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Research Methods in Psychology - 4th American Edition

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what are research methods in psychology definition

Carrie Cuttler, Washington State University

Rajiv S. Jhangiani, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Dana C. Leighton, Texas A&M University, Texarkana

Copyright Year: 2019

ISBN 13: 9781999198107

Publisher: Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Language: English

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Reviewed by Beth Mechlin, Associate Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Earlham College on 3/19/24

This is an extremely comprehensive text for an undergraduate psychology course about research methods. It does an excellent job covering the basics of a variety of types of research design. It also includes important topics related to research... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

This is an extremely comprehensive text for an undergraduate psychology course about research methods. It does an excellent job covering the basics of a variety of types of research design. It also includes important topics related to research such as ethics, finding journal articles, and writing reports in APA format.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

I did not notice any errors in this text.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

The content is very relevant. It will likely need to be updated over time in order to keep research examples relevant. Additionally, APA formatting guidelines may need to be updated when a new publication manual is released. However, these should be easy updates for the authors to make when the time comes.

Clarity rating: 5

This text is very clear and easy to follow. The explanations are easy for college students to understand. The authors use a lot of examples to help illustrate specific concepts. They also incorporate a variety of relevant outside sources (such as videos) to provide additional examples.

Consistency rating: 5

The text is consistent and flows well from one section to the next. At the end of each large section (similar to a chapter) the authors provide key takeaways and exercises.

Modularity rating: 5

This text is very modular. It is easy to pick and choose which sections you want to use in your course when. Each section can stand alone fairly easily.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The text is very well organized. Information flows smoothly from one topic to the next.

Interface rating: 5

The interface is great. The text is easy to navigate and the images display well (I only noticed 1 image in which the formatting was a tad off).

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I did not notice any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The text is culturally relevant.

This is an excellent text for an undergraduate research methods course in the field of Psychology. I have been using the text for my Research Methods and Statistics course for a few years now. This text focuses on research methods, so I do use another text to cover statistical information. I do highly recommend this text for research methods. It is comprehensive, clear, and easy for students to use.

Reviewed by William Johnson, Lecturer, Old Dominion University on 1/12/24

This textbook covers every topic that I teach in my Research Methods course aside from psychology careers (which I would not really expect it to cover). read more

This textbook covers every topic that I teach in my Research Methods course aside from psychology careers (which I would not really expect it to cover).

I have not noticed any inaccurate information (other than directed students to read Malcolm Gladwell). I appreciate that the textbook includes information on research errors that have not been supported by replication efforts, such as embodied cognition.

Many of the basic concepts of research methods are rather timeless, but I appreciate that the text includes newer research as examples while also including "classic" studies that exemplify different methods.

The writing is clear and simple. The keywords are bolded and reveal a definition when clicked, which students often find very helpful. Many of the figures are very helpful in helping students understand various methods (I really like the ones in the single-subject design subchapter).

The book is very consistent in its terminology and writing style, which I see as a positive compared to other open psychology textbooks where each chapter is written by subject matter experts (such as the NOBA intro textbook).

Modularity rating: 4

I teach this textbook almost entirely in order (except for moving chapters 12 & 13 earlier in the semester to aid students in writing Results sections in their final papers). I think that the organization and consistency of the book reduces its modularity, in that earlier chapters are genuinely helpful for later chapters.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

I preferred the organization of previous editions, which had "Theory in Research" as its own chapter. If I were organizing the textbook, I am not sure that I would have out descriptive or inferential statistics as the final two chapters (I would have likely put Chapter 11: Presenting Your Research as the final chapter). I also would not have put information about replicability and open science in the inferential statistics section.

The text is easy to read and the formatting is attractive. My only minor complaint is that some of the longer subchapters can be a pretty long scroll, but I understand the desire for their only to be one page per subchapter/topic.

I have not noticed any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

I do not think the textbook is insensitive, but there is not much thought given to adapting research instruments across cultures. For instance, talking about how different constructs might have different underlying distributions in different cultures would be useful for students. In the survey methods section, a discussion of back translation or emic personality trait measurement/development for example might be a nice addition.

I choose to use this textbook in my methods classes, but I do miss the organization of the previous American editions. Overall, I recommend this textbook to my colleagues.

Reviewed by Brianna Ewert, Psychology Instructor, Salish Kootenai College on 12/30/22

This text includes the majority of content included in our undergraduate Research Methods in Psychology course. The glossary provides concise definitions of key terms. This text includes most of the background knowledge we expect our students to... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

This text includes the majority of content included in our undergraduate Research Methods in Psychology course. The glossary provides concise definitions of key terms. This text includes most of the background knowledge we expect our students to have as well as skill-based sections that will support them in developing their own research projects.

The content I have read is accurate and error-free.

The content is relevant and up-to-date.

The text is clear and concise. I find it pleasantly readable and anticipate undergraduate students will find it readable and understandable as well.

The terminology appears to be consistent throughout the text.

The modular sections stand alone and lend themselves to alignment with the syllabus of a particular course. I anticipate readily selecting relevant modules to assign in my course.

The book is logically organized with clear and section headings and subheadings. Content on a particular topic is easy to locate.

The text is easy to navigate and the format/design are clean and clear. There are not interface issues, distortions or distracting format in the pdf or online versions.

The text is grammatically correct.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

I have not found culturally insensitive and offensive language or content in the text. For my courses, I would add examples and supplemental materials that are relevant for students at a Tribal College.

This textbook includes supplemental instructor materials, included slides and worksheets. I plan to adopt this text this year in our Research Methods in Psychology course. I expect it to be a benefit to the course and students.

Reviewed by Sara Peters, Associate Professor of Psychology, Newberry College on 11/3/22

This text serves as an excellent resource for introducing survey research methods topics to undergraduate students. It begins with a background of the science of psychology, the scientific method, and research ethics, before moving into the main... read more

This text serves as an excellent resource for introducing survey research methods topics to undergraduate students. It begins with a background of the science of psychology, the scientific method, and research ethics, before moving into the main types of research. This text covers experimental, non-experimental, survey, and quasi-experimental approaches, among others. It extends to factorial and single subject research, and within each topic is a subset (such as observational research, field studies, etc.) depending on the section.

I could find no accuracy issues with the text, and appreciated the discussions of research and cited studies.

There are revised editions of this textbook (this being the 4th), and the examples are up to date and clear. The inclusion of exercises at the end of each chapter offer potential for students to continue working with material in meaningful ways as they move through the book and (and course).

The prose for this text is well aimed at the undergraduate population. This book can easily be utilized for freshman/sophomore level students. It introduces the scientific terminology surrounding research methods and experimental design in a clear way, and the authors provide extensive examples of different studies and applications.

Terminology is consistent throughout the text. Aligns well with other research methods and statistics sources, so the vocabulary is transferrable beyond the text itself.

Navigating this book is a breeze. There are 13 chapters, and each have subsections that can be assigned. Within each chapter subsection, there is a set of learning objectives, and paragraphs are mixed in with tables and figures for students to have different visuals. Different application assignments within each chapter are highlighted with boxes, so students can think more deeply given a set of constructs as they consider different information. The last subsection in each chapter has key summaries and exercises.

The sections and topics in this text are very straightforward. The authors begin with an introduction of psychology as a science, and move into the scientific method, research ethics, and psychological measurement. They then present multiple different research methodologies that are well known and heavily utilized within the social sciences, before concluding with information on how to present your research, and also analyze your data. The text even provides links throughout to other free resources for a reader.

This book can be navigated either online (using a drop-down menu), or as a pdf download, so students can have an electronic copy if needed. All pictures and text display properly on screen, with no distortions. Very easy to use.

There were no grammatical errors, and nothing distracting within the text.

This book includes inclusive material in the discussion of research ethics, as well as when giving examples of the different types of research approaches. While there is always room for improvement in terms of examples, I was satisfied with the breadth of research the authors presented.

This text provides an overview of both research methods, and a nice introduction to statistics for a social science student. It would be a good choice for a survey research methods class, and if looking to change a statistics class into an open resource class, could also serve as a great resource.

Reviewed by Sharlene Fedorowicz, Adjunct Professor, Bridgewater State University on 6/23/21

The comprehensiveness of this book was appropriate for an introductory undergraduate psychology course. Critical topics are covered that are necessary for psychology students to obtain foundational learning concepts for research. Sections within... read more

The comprehensiveness of this book was appropriate for an introductory undergraduate psychology course. Critical topics are covered that are necessary for psychology students to obtain foundational learning concepts for research. Sections within the text and each chapter provide areas for class discussion with students to dive deeper into key concepts for better learning comprehension. The text covered APA format along with examples of research studies to supplement the learning. The text segues appropriately by introducing the science of psychology, followed by scientific method and ethics before getting into the core of scientific research in the field of psychology. Details are provided in quantitative and qualitative research, correlations, surveys, and research design. Overall, the text is fully comprehensive and necessary introductory research concepts.

The text appears to be accurate with no issues related to content.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

The text provided relevant research information to support the learning. The content was up-to-date with a variety of different examples related to the different fields of psychology. However, some topics such as in the pseudoscience section were not very relevant and bordered the line of beliefs. Here, more current or relevant solid examples would provide more relevancy in this part of the text. Bringing in more solid or concrete examples that are more current for students may have been more appropriate such as lack of connection between information found on social media versus real science.

The language and flow of the chapters accompanied by the terms, concepts, and examples of applied research allows for clarity of learning content. Terms were introduced at the appropriate time with the support of concepts and current or classic research. The writing style flows nicely and segues easily from concept to concept. The text is easy for students to understand and grasp the details related to psychological research and science.

The text provides consistency in the outline of each chapter. The beginning section chapter starts objectives as an overview to help students unpack the learning content. Key terms are consistently bolded followed by concept or definition and relevant examples. Research examples are pertinent and provide students with an opportunity to understand application of the contents. Practice exercises are provided with in the chapter and at the and in order for students to integrate learning concepts from within the text.

Sections and subsections are clearly organized and divided appropriately for ease-of-use. The topics are easily discernible and follow the flow of ideal learning routines for students. The sections and subsections are consistently outlined for each concept module. The modularity provides consistency allowing for students to focus on content rather than trying to discern how to pull out the information differently from each chapter or section. In addition, each section and subsection allow for flexibility in learning or expanding concepts within the content area.

The organization of the textbook was easy to follow and each major topic was outlined clearly. However, the chapter on presenting research may be more appropriately placed toward the end of the book rather than in the middle of the chapters related to research and research design. In addition, more information could have been provided upfront around APA format so that students could identify the format of citations within the text as practice for students throughout the book.

The interface of the book lends itself to a nice layout with appropriate examples and links to break up the different sections in the chapters. Examples where appropriate and provided engagement opportunities for the students for each learning module. Images and QR codes or easily viewed and used. Key terms are highlighted in relevant figures, graphs, and tables were appropriately placed. Overall, the interface of the text assisted with the organization and flow of learning material.

No grammatical errors were detected in this book.

The text appears to be culturally sensitive and not offensive. A variety of current and classic research examples are relevant. However, more examples of research from women, minorities, and ethnicities would strengthen the culture of this textbook. Instructors may need to supplement some research in this area to provide additional inclusivity.

Overall, I was impressed by the layout of the textbook and the ease of use. The layout provides a set of expectations for students related to the routine of how the book is laid out and how students will be able to unpack the information. Research examples were relevant, although I see areas where I will supplement information. The book provides opportunities for students to dive deeper into the learning and have rich conversations in the classroom. I plan to start using the psychology textbook for my students starting next year.

Reviewed by Anna Behler, Assistant Professo, North Carolina State University on 6/1/21

The text is very thorough and covers all of the necessary topics for an undergraduate psychology research methods course. There is even coverage of qualitative research, case studies, and the replication crisis which I have not seen in some other... read more

The text is very thorough and covers all of the necessary topics for an undergraduate psychology research methods course. There is even coverage of qualitative research, case studies, and the replication crisis which I have not seen in some other texts.

There were no issues with the accuracy of the text.

The content is very up to date and relevant for a research methods course. The only updates that will likely be necessary in the coming years are updates to examples and modifications to the section on APA formatting.

The clarity of the writing was good, and the chapters were written in a way that was accessible and easy to follow.

I did not note any issues with consistency.

Each chapter is divided into multiple subsections. This makes the chapters even easier to read, as they are broken down into short and easy to navigate sections. These sections make it easy to assign readings as needed depending on which topics are being covered in class.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

The organization was one of the few areas of weakness, and I felt that the chapters were ordered somewhat oddly. However, this is something that is easily fixed, as chapters (and even subsections) can be assigned in whatever order is needed.

There were no issues of note with the interface, and the PDF of the text was easy to navigate.

The text was well written and there were no grammatical/writing errors of note.

Overall, the book did not contain any notable instances of bias. However, it would probably be appropriate to offer a more thorough discussion of the WEIRD problem in psychology research.

Reviewed by Seth Surgan, Professor, Worcester State University on 5/24/21

Pitched very well for a 200-level Research Methods course. This text provided students with solid basis for class discussion and the further development of their understanding of fundamental concepts. read more

Pitched very well for a 200-level Research Methods course. This text provided students with solid basis for class discussion and the further development of their understanding of fundamental concepts.

No issues with accuracy.

Coverage was on target, relevant, and applicable, with good examples from a variety of subfields within Psychology.

Clearly written -- students often struggle with the dry, technical nature of concepts in Research Methods. Part of the reason I chose this text in the first place was how favorably it compared to other options in terms of clarity.

No problems with inconsistent of shifting language. This is extremely important in Research Methods, where there are many closely related terms. Language was consistent and compatible with other textbook options that were available to my students.

Chapters are broken down into sections that are reasonably sized and conceptually appropriate.

The organization of this textbook fit perfectly with the syllabus I've been using (in one form or another) for 15+ years.

This textbook was easy to navigate and available in a variety of formats.

No problems at all.

Examples show an eye toward inclusivity. I did not detect any insensitive or offensive examples or undertones.

I have used this textbook for a 200-level Research Methods course run over a single summer session. This was my first experience using an OER textbook and I don't plan on going back.

Reviewed by Laura Getz, Assistant Professor, University of San Diego on 4/29/21

The topics covered seemed to be at an appropriate level for beginner undergraduate psychology students; the learning objectives for each subsection and the key takeaways and exercises for each chapter are also very helpful in guiding students’... read more

The topics covered seemed to be at an appropriate level for beginner undergraduate psychology students; the learning objectives for each subsection and the key takeaways and exercises for each chapter are also very helpful in guiding students’ attention to what is most relevant. The glossary is also thorough and a good resource for clear definitions. I would like to see a final chapter on a “big picture” or integrating key ideas of replication, meta-analysis, and open science.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

For the most part, I like the way information is presented. I had a few specific issues with definitions for ordinal variables being quantitative (1st, 2nd, 3rd aren’t really numbers as much as ranked categories), the lack of specificity about different forms of validity (face, content, criterion, and discriminant all just labeled “validity” whereas internal and external validity appear in different sections), and the lack of clear distinction between correlational and quasi-experimental variables (e.g., in some places, country of origin is listed as making a design quasi-experimental, but in other chapters it is defined as correlational).

Some of the specific studies/experiments mentioned do not seem like the best or most relevant for students to learn about the topics, but for the most part, content is up-to-date and can definitely be updated with new studies to illustrate concepts with relative ease.

Besides the few concepts I listed above in “accuracy”, I feel the text was very accessible, provides clear definitions, and many examples to illustrate any potential technical/jargon terms.

I did not notice any issues with inconsistent terms except for terms that do have more than one way of describing the same concept (e.g., 2-sample vs. independent samples t-test)

I assigned the chapters out of order with relative ease, and students did not comment about it being burdensome to navigate.

The order of chapters sometimes did not make sense to me (e.g., Experimental before Non-experimental designs, Quasi-experimental designs separate from other non-experimental designs, waiting until Chapter 11 to talk about writing), but for the most part, the chapter subsections were logical and clear.

Interface rating: 4

I had no issues navigating the online version of the textbook other than taking a while to figure out how to move forward and back within the text itself rather than going back to the table of contents (this might just be a browser issue, but is still worth considering).

No grammatical errors of note.

There was nothing explicitly insensitive or offensive about the text, but there were many places where I felt like more focus on diversity and individual differences could be helpful. For example, ethics and history of psychological testing would definitely be a place to bring in issues of systemic racism and/or sexism and a focus on WEIRD samples (which is mentioned briefly at another point).

I was very satisfied with this free resource overall, and I recommend it for beginning level undergraduate psychology research methods courses.

Reviewed by Laura Stull, Associate Professor, Anderson University on 4/23/21

This book covers essential topics and areas related to conducting introductory psychological research. It covers all critical topics, including the scientific method, research ethics, research designs, and basic descriptive and inferential... read more

This book covers essential topics and areas related to conducting introductory psychological research. It covers all critical topics, including the scientific method, research ethics, research designs, and basic descriptive and inferential statistics. It even goes beyond other texts in terms of offering specific guidance in areas like how to conduct research literature searches and psychological measurement development. The only area that appears slightly lacking is detailed guidance in the mechanics of writing in APA style (though excellent basic information is provided in chapter 11).

All content appears accurate. For example, experimental designs discussed, descriptive and inferential statistical guidance, and critical ethical issues are all accurately addressed, See comment on relevance below regarding some outdated information.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

Chapter 11 on APA style does not appear to cover the most current version of the APA style guide (7th edition). While much of the information in Chapter 11 is still current, there are specifics that did change from 6th to 7th edition of the APA manual and so, in order to be current, this information would have to be supplemented with external sources.

The book is extremely well organized, written in language and terms that should be easily understood by undergraduate freshmen, and explains all necessary technical jargon.

The text is consistent throughout in terms of terminology and the organizational framework (which aids in the readability of the text).

The text is divided into intuitive and common units based on basic psychological research methodology. It is clear and easy to follow and is divided in a way that would allow omission of some information if necessary (such as "single subject research") or reorganization of information (such as presenting survey research before experimental research) without disruption to the course as a whole.

As stated previously, the book is organized in a clear and logical fashion. Not only are the chapters presented in a logical order (starting with basic and critical information like overviews of the scientific method and research ethics and progressing to more complex topics like statistical analyses).

No issues with interface were noted. Helpful images/charts/web resources (e.g., Youtube videos) are embedded throughout and are even easy to follow in a print version of the text.

No grammatical issues were noted.

No issues with cultural bias are noted. Examples are included that address topics that are culturally sensitive in nature.

I ordered a print version of the text so that I could also view it as students would who prefer a print version. I am extremely impressed with what is offered. It covers all of the key content that I am currently covering with a (non-open source) textbook in an introduction to research methods course. The only concern I have is that APA style is not completely current and would need to be supplemented with a style guide. However, I consider this a minimal issue given all of the many strengths of the book.

Reviewed by Anika Gearhart, Instructor (TT), Leeward Community College on 4/22/21

Includes the majority of elements you expect from a textbook covering research methods. Some topics that could have been covered in a bit more depth were factorial research designs (no coverage of 3 or more independent variables) and external... read more

Includes the majority of elements you expect from a textbook covering research methods. Some topics that could have been covered in a bit more depth were factorial research designs (no coverage of 3 or more independent variables) and external validity (or the validities in general).

Nothing found that was inaccurate.

Looks like a few updates could be made to chapter 11 to bring it up to date with APA 7. Otherwise, most examples are current.

Very clear, a great fit for those very new to the topic.

The framework is clear and logical, and the learning objectives are very helpful for orienting the reader immediately to the main goals of each section.

Subsections are well-organized and clear. Titles for sections and subsections are clear.

Though I think the flow of this textbook for the most part is excellent, I would make two changes: move chapter 5 down with the other chapters on experimental research and move chapter 11 to the very end. I feel that this would allow for a more logical presentation of content.

The webpage navigation is easy to use and intuitive, the ebook download works as designed, and the page can be embedded directly into a variety of LMS sites or used with a variety of devices.

I found no grammatical errors in this book.

While there were some examples of studies that included participants from several cultures, the book does not touch on ecological validity, an important external validity issue tied to cultural psychology, and there is no mention of the WEIRD culture issue in psychology, which seems somewhat necessary when orienting new psychology students to research methods today.

I currently use and enjoy this textbook in my research methods class. Overall, it has been a great addition to the course, and I am easily able to supplement any areas that I feel aren't covered with enough breadth.

Reviewed by Amy Foley, Instructor/Field & Clinical Placement Coordinator, University of Indianapolis on 3/11/21

This text provides a comprehensive overview of the research process from ideation to proposal. It covers research designs common to psychology and related fields. read more

This text provides a comprehensive overview of the research process from ideation to proposal. It covers research designs common to psychology and related fields.

Accurate information!

This book is current and lines up well with the music therapy research course I teach as a supplemental text for students to understand research designs.

Clear language for psychology and related fields.

The format of the text is consistent. I appreciate the examples, different colored boxes, questions, and links to external sources such as video clips.

It is easy to navigate this text by chapters and smaller units within each chapter. The only confusion that has come from using this text includes the fact that the larger units have roman numerals and the individual chapters have numbers. I have told students to "read unit six" and they only read the small chapter 6, not the entire unit for example.

Flows well!

I have not experienced any interface issues.

I have not found any grammar errors.

Book appears culturally relevant.

This is a great resource for research methods courses in psychology or related fields. I am glad to have used several chapters of this text within the music therapy research course I teach where students learn about research design and then create their own research proposal.

Reviewed by Veronica Howard, Associate Professor, University of Alaska Anchorage on 1/11/21, updated 1/11/21

VERY impressed by the coverage of single subject designs. I would recommend this content to colleagues. read more

VERY impressed by the coverage of single subject designs. I would recommend this content to colleagues.

Content appears accurate.

By expanding to include more contemporary research perspectives, the authors have created a wonderful dynamic that permits the text to be the foundation for many courses as well as revision and remixing for other authors.

Book easy to read, follow.

Consistency rating: 4

Content overall consistent. Only mild inconsistency in writing style between chapters.

Exceptionally modular. All content neatly divided into units with smaller portions. This would be a great book to use in a course that meets bi-weekly, or adapted into other formats.

Content organized in a clear and logical fashion, and would guide students through a semester-long course on research methods, starting with review content, broad overview of procedures (including limitations), then highlighting less common (though relevant) procedures.

Rich variety of formats for use.

No errors found.

I would appreciate more cultural examples.

Reviewed by Greg Mullin, Associate Professor, Bunker Hill Community College on 12/30/20, updated 1/6/21

I was VERY pleased with the comprehensiveness of the text. I believe it actually has an edge over the publisher-based text that I've been using for years. Each major topic was thoroughly covered with more than enough detail on individual concepts. read more

I was VERY pleased with the comprehensiveness of the text. I believe it actually has an edge over the publisher-based text that I've been using for years. Each major topic was thoroughly covered with more than enough detail on individual concepts.

I did not find any errors within the text. The authors provided an unbiased representation of research methods in psychology.

The content connects to classic, timeless examples in the field, but also mixes in a fair amount of more current, relatable examples. I feel like I'll be able to use this version of the text for many years without its age showing.

The authors present a clear and efficient writing style throughout that is rich with relatable examples. The only area that may be a bit much for undergraduate-level student understanding is the topic of statistics. I personally scale back my discussion of statistics in my Intro to Research Methods course, but for those that prefer a deeper dive, the higher-level elements are there.

I did not notice any shifts with the use of terminology or with the structural framework of the text. The text is very consistent and organized in an easily digestible way.

The authors do a fantastic job breaking complex topics down into manageable chunks both as a whole and within chapters. As I was reading, I could easily see how I could align my current approach of teaching Intro to Research Methods with their modulated presentation of the material.

I effortlessly moved through the text given the structural organization. All topics are presented in a logical fashion that allowed each message to be delivered to the reader with ease.

I read the text through the PDF version and found no issue with the interface. All image and text-based material was presented clearly.

I cannot recall coming across any grammatical errors. The text is very well written.

I did not find the text to be culturally insensitive in any way. The authors use inclusive language and even encourage that style of writing in the chapter on Presenting Your Research. I would have liked to see more cross-cultural research examples and more of an extended effort to include the theme of diversity throughout, but at no point did I find the text to be offensive.

This is a fantastic text and I look forward to adopting it for my Intro to Research Methods course in the Spring. :)

Reviewed by Maureen O'Connell, Adjunct Professor, Bunker Hill Community College on 12/15/20, updated 12/18/20

This text edition has covered all ideas and areas of research methods in psychology. It has provided a glossary of terms, sample APA format, and sample research papers.  read more

This text edition has covered all ideas and areas of research methods in psychology. It has provided a glossary of terms, sample APA format, and sample research papers. 

The content is unbiased, accurate, and I did not find any errors in the text. 

The content is current and up-to-date. I found that the text can be added to should material change, the arrangement of the text/content makes it easily accessible to add material, if necessary. 

The text is clear, easy to understand, simplistic writing at times, but I find this text easy for students to comprehend. All text is relevant to the content of behavioral research. 

The text and terminology is consistent. 

The text is organized well and sectioned appropriately. The information is presented in an easy-to-read format, with sections that can be assigned at various points during the semester and the reader can easily locate this. 

The topics in the text are organized in a logical and clear manner. It flows really well. 

The text is presented well, including charts, diagrams, and images. There did not appear to be any confusion with this text. 

The text contains no grammatical errors.

The text was culturally appropriate and not offensive. Clear examples of potential biases were outlined in this text which I found quite helpful for the reader. 

Overall, I found this to be a great edition. Much of the time I spend researching outside material for students has been included in this text. I enjoyed the format, easier to navigate, helpful to students by providing an updated version of discussions and practice assignments, and visually more appealing. 

Reviewed by Brittany Jeye, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Worcester State University on 6/26/20

All of the main topics in a Research Methods course are covered in this textbook (e.g., scientific method, ethics, measurement, experimental design, hypothesis testing, APA style, etc.). Some of these topics are not covered as in-depth as in other... read more

All of the main topics in a Research Methods course are covered in this textbook (e.g., scientific method, ethics, measurement, experimental design, hypothesis testing, APA style, etc.). Some of these topics are not covered as in-depth as in other Research Method textbooks I have used previously, but this actually may be a positive depending on the students and course level (that is, students may only need a solid overview of certain topics without getting overwhelmed with too many details). It also gives the instructor the ability to add content as needed, which helps with flexibility in course design.

I did not note any errors or inaccurate/biasing statements in the text.

For the most part, everything was up to date. There was a good mix of classic research and newer studies presented and/or used as examples, which kept the chapters interesting, topical and relevant. I only noted the section on APA Style in the chapter “Presenting Your Research” which may need some updating to be in line with the new APA 7th edition. However, there should be only minor edits needed (the chapter itself was great overview and introduction to the main points of APA style) and it looks like they should be relatively easy to implement.

The text was very well-written and was presented at an accessible level for undergraduates new to Research Methods. Terms were well-defined with a helpful glossary at the end of the textbook.

The consistent structure of the textbook is huge positive. Each chapter begins with learning objectives and ends with bulleted key takeaways. There are also good exercises and learning activities for students at the end of each chapter. Instructors may need to add their own activities for chapters that do not go into a lot of depth (there are also instructor resources online, which may have more options available).

This is one of the biggest strengths of this textbook, in my opinion. I appreciate how each chapter is broken down into clearly defined subsections. The chapters and the subsections, in particular, are not lengthy, which is great for students’ learning. These subsections could be reorganized and used in a variety of ways to suit the needs of a particular course (or even as standalone subsections).

The topics were presented in a logical manner. As mentioned above, since the textbook is very modular, I feel that you could easily rearrange the chapters to fit your needs (for example, presenting survey design before experimental research or making the presenting your research section a standalone unit).

I downloaded the textbook as an ebook, which was very easy to use/navigate. There were no problems reading any of the text or figures/tables. I also appreciated that you could open the ebook using a variety of apps (Kindle, iBook, etc.) depending on your preference (and this is good for students who have a variety of technical needs).

There were no grammatical errors noted.

The examples were inclusive of races, ethnicity and background and there were not any examples that were culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. In future iterations of the replicability section, it may be beneficial to touch upon the “weird” phenomena in psychology research (that many studies use participants who are western, educated and from industrialized, rich and democratic countries) as a point to engage students in improving psychological practices.

I will definitely consider switching to this textbook in the future for Research Methods.

Reviewed by Alice Frye, Associate Teaching Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell on 6/22/20

Hits all the necessary marks from ways of knowing to measurement, research designs, and presentation. Comparable in detail and content to other Research Methods texts I have used for teaching. read more

Hits all the necessary marks from ways of knowing to measurement, research designs, and presentation. Comparable in detail and content to other Research Methods texts I have used for teaching.

Correct and to the point. Complex ideas such as internal consistency reliability and discriminant validity are well handled--correct descriptions that are also succinct and articulated simply and with clear examples that are easy for a student reader to grasp.

Seems likely to have good staying power. One area that has changed quickly in the past is the usefulness of various research data bases. So it is possible that portion could become more quickly outdated, but there is no predicting that. The current descriptions are useful.

Very clearly written without being condescending, overly casual or clunky.

Excellent consistency throughout in terms of organization, language usage, level of detail and tone.

Imho this is one of the particular strengths of the text. Chapters are well divided into discrete parts, which seems likely to be a benefit in cohorts of students who are increasingly accustomed to digesting small amounts of information.

Well organized, straightforward structure that is maintained throughout.

No problems with the interface.

The grammar level is another notable strength. Ideas are articulated clearly, and with sophistication, but in a syntactically very straightforward manner.

The text isn't biased or offensive. I wish that to illustrate various points and research designs it had drawn more frequently on research studies that incorporate a specific focus on race and ethnicity.

This is a very good text. As good as any for profit text I have used to teach a research methods course, if not better.

Reviewed by Lauren Mathieu-Frasier, Adjunct Instructor, University of Indianapolis on 1/13/20

As other reviews have mentioned, this textbook provides a comprehensive look at multiple concepts for an introductory course in research methods in psychology. Some of the concepts (i.e., variables, external validity) are briefly described and... read more

As other reviews have mentioned, this textbook provides a comprehensive look at multiple concepts for an introductory course in research methods in psychology. Some of the concepts (i.e., variables, external validity) are briefly described and glossed over that it will take additional information, examples, and reinforcement from instructors in the classroom. Other sections and concepts, like ethics or reporting of research were well-described and thorough.

It appeared that the information was accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

The information is up-to-date. In the section on APA presentation, it looks like the minor adjustments to the APA Publication Manual 7th Edition would need to be included. However, this section gives a good foundation and the instructor can easily implement the changes.

Clarity rating: 4

The text is clearly written written and provides an appropriate context when terminology is used.

There aren't any issues with consistency in the textbook.

The division of smaller sections can be beneficial when reading it and assigning it to classes. The sections are clearly organized based on learning objectives.

The textbook is organized in a logical, clear manner. There may be topics that instructors choose to present in a different manner (non-experimental and survey research prior to experimental). However, this doesn't generally impact the organization and flow of the book.

While reading and utilizing the book, there weren't any navigation issues that could impact the readability of the book. Students could find this textbook easy to use.

Grammatical errors were not noted.

There weren't any issues with cultural sensitivity in the examples of studies used in the textbook.

Reviewed by Tiffany Kindratt, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington on 1/1/20

The text is comprehensive with an effective glossary of terms at the end. It would be beneficial to include additional examples and exercises for students to better understand concepts covered in Chapter II, Overview of the Scientific Method,... read more

The text is comprehensive with an effective glossary of terms at the end. It would be beneficial to include additional examples and exercises for students to better understand concepts covered in Chapter II, Overview of the Scientific Method, Chapter IV, Psychological Measurement, and Chapter XII Descriptive Statistics.

The text is accurate and there are minimal type/grammatical errors throughout. The verbiage is written in an unbiased manner consistently throughout the textbook.

The content is up-to-date, and examples can be easily updated for future versions. As a public health instructor, I would be interested in seeing examples of community-based examples in future versions. The current examples provided are relevant for undergraduate public health students as well as psychology students.

The text is written in a clear manner. The studies used can be easily understood by undergraduate students in other social science fields, such as public health. More examples and exercises using inferential statistics would be helpful for students to better grasp the concepts.

The framework for each chapter and terminology used are consistent. It is helpful that each section within each chapter begins with learning objectives and the chapter ends with key takeaways and exercises.

The text is clearly divided into sections within each chapter. When I first started reviewing this textbook, I thought each section was actually a very short chapter. I would recommend including a listing of all of the objectives covered in each chapter at the beginning to improve the modularity of the text.

Some of the topics do not follow a logical order. For example, it would be more appropriate to discuss ethics before providing the overview of the scientific method. It would be better to discuss statistics used to determine results before describing how to write manuscripts. However, the text is written in a way that that the chapters could be assigned to students in a different order without impacting the students’ comprehension of the concepts.

I did not encounter any interface issues when reviewing this text. All links worked and there were no distortions of the images or charts that may confuse the reader. There are several data tables throughout the text which are left-aligned and there is a large amount of empty white space next it. I would rearrange the text in future versions to make better use of this space.

The text contains minimal grammatical errors.

The examples are culturally relevant. I did not see any examples that may be considered culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

As an instructor for an undergraduate public health sciences and methods course, I will consider using some of the content in this text to supplement the current textbook in the future.

Reviewed by Mickey White, Assistant Professor, East Tennessee State University on 10/23/19

The table of contents is well-formatted and comprehensive. Easy to navigate and find exactly what is needed, students would be able to quickly find needed subjects. read more

The table of contents is well-formatted and comprehensive. Easy to navigate and find exactly what is needed, students would be able to quickly find needed subjects.

Content appears to be accurate and up-to-date.

This text is useful and relevant, particularly with regard to expressing and reporting descriptive statistics and results. As APA updates, the text will be easy to edit, as the sections are separated.

Easy to read and engaging.

Chapters were laid out in a consistent manner, which allows readers to know what is coming. The subsections contained a brief overview and terminology was consistent throughout. The glossary added additional information.

Sections and subsections are delineated in a usable format.

The key takeaways were useful, including the exercises at the end of each chapter.

Reading the book online is a little difficult to navigate page-by-page, but e-pub and PDF formats are easy to navigate.

No errors noted.

Would be helpful to have a clearer exploration of cultural factors impacting research, including historical bias in assessment and research outside of research ethics.

Reviewed by Robert Michael, Assistant Professor, University of Louisiana at Lafayette on 10/14/19

Successfully spans the gamut of topics expected in a Research Methods textbook. Some topics are covered in-depth, while others are addressed only at a surface level. Instructors may therefore need to carefully arrange class material for topics in... read more

Successfully spans the gamut of topics expected in a Research Methods textbook. Some topics are covered in-depth, while others are addressed only at a surface level. Instructors may therefore need to carefully arrange class material for topics in which depth of knowledge is an important learning outcome.

The factual content was error-free, according to my reading. I did spot a few grammatical and typographical errors, but they were infrequent and minor.

Great to see nuanced—although limited—discussion of issues with Null Hypothesis Significance Testing, Reproducibility in Psychological Science, and so forth. I expect that these areas are likely to grow in future editions, perhaps supplementing or even replacing more traditional material.

Extremely easy to read with multiple examples throughout to illustrate the principles being covered. Many of these examples are "classics" that students can easily relate to. Plus, who doesn't like XKCD comics?

The textbook is structured sensibly. At times, certain authors' "voices" seemed apparent in the writing, but I suspect this variability is unlikely to be noticed by or even bothersome to the vast majority of readers.

The topics are easily divisible and seem to follow routine expectations. Instructors might find it beneficial and/or necessary to incorporate some of the statistical thinking and learning into various earlier chapters to facilitate student understanding in-the-moment, rather than trying to leave all the statistics to the end.

Sensible and easy-to-follow structure. As per "Modularity", the Statistical sections may benefit from instructors folding in such learning throughout, rather than only at the end.

Beautifully presented, crisp, easy-to-read and navigate. Caveat: I read this online, in a web-browser, on only one device. I haven't tested across multiple platforms.

High quality writing throughout. Only a few minor slip-ups that could be easily fixed.

Includes limited culturally relevant material where appropriate.

Reviewed by Matthew DeCarlo, Assistant Professor, Radford University on 6/26/19

The authors do a great job of simplifying the concepts of research methods and presenting them in a way that is understandable. There is a tradeoff between brevity and depth here. Faculty who adopt this textbook may need to spend more time in... read more

The authors do a great job of simplifying the concepts of research methods and presenting them in a way that is understandable. There is a tradeoff between brevity and depth here. Faculty who adopt this textbook may need to spend more time in class going in depth into concepts, rather than relying on the textbook for all of the information related to key concepts. The text does not cover qualitative methods in detail.

The textbook provides an accurate picture of research methods. The tone is objective and without bias.

The textbook is highly relevant and up to date. Examples are drawn from modern theories and articles.

The writing is a fantastic mix of objective and authoritative while also being approachable.

The book coheres well together. Each chapter and section are uniform.

This book fits very well within a traditional 16 week semester, covering roughly a chapter per week. One could take out specific chapters and assign them individually if research methods is taught in a different way from a standard research textbook.

Content is very well organized. The table of contents is easy to navigate and each chapter is presented in a clear and consistent manner. The use of a two-tier table of contents is particularly helpful.

Standard pressbooks interface, which is great. Uses all of the standard components of Pressbooks well, though the lack of H5P and interactive content is a drawback.

I did not notice any grammar errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 2

The book does not deal with cultural competence and humility in the research process. Integration of action research and decolonization perspectives would be helpful.

Reviewed by Christopher Garris, Associate Professor, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 5/24/19

Most content areas in this textbook were covered appropriately extensively. Notably, this textbook included some content that is commonly missing in other textbooks (e.g. presenting your research). There were some areas where more elaboration... read more

Most content areas in this textbook were covered appropriately extensively. Notably, this textbook included some content that is commonly missing in other textbooks (e.g. presenting your research). There were some areas where more elaboration and more examples were needed. For example, the section covering measurement validities included all the important concepts, but needed more guidance for student comprehension. Also, the beginning chapters on 'common sense' reasoning and pseudoscience seemed a little too brief.

Overall, this textbook appeared to be free from glaring errors. There were a couple of instances of concern, but were not errors, per se. For example, the cut-off for Cronbach's alpha was stated definitively at .80, while this value likely would be debated among researchers.

This textbook was presented in such a way that seemed protect it from becoming obsolete within the next few years. This is important for continued, consistent use of the book. The authors have revised this book, and those revisions are clearly summarized in the text. Importantly, the APA section of the textbook appears to be up-to-date. Also, the use of QR codes throughout the text is a nice touch that students may appreciate.

Connected to comprehensiveness, there are some important content areas that I felt were lacking in elaboration and examples (e.g. testing the validity of measurement; introduction of experimental design), which inhibits clarity. Overall, however, the topics seemed to be presented in a straightforward, accessible manner. The textbook includes links to informative videos and walk-throughs where appropriate, which seem to be potentially beneficial for student comprehension. The textbook includes tools designed to aid learning, namely "Key Takeaways" and "Exercises" sections at the end of most modules, but not all. "Key Takeaways" seemed valuable, as they were a nice bookend to the learning objectives stated at the beginning of each module. "Exercises" did not appear to be as valuable, especially for the less-motivated student. On their face, these seemed to be more designed for instructors to use as class activities/active learning. Lastly, many modules of the textbook were text-heavy and visually unappealing. While this is superficial, the inclusion of additional graphics, example boxes, or figures in these text-heavy modules might be beneficial.

The textbook appeared to be internally consistent with its approach and use of terminology.

The textbook had a tendency to 'throw out' big concepts very briefly in earlier modules (e.g. sampling, experimental/non-experimental design), and then cover them in more detail in later modules. This would have been less problematic if the text would explicitly inform the student that these concepts would be elaborated upon later. Beyond this issue, the textbook seems to lend itself to being divided up and used on module-by-module basis.

The organization of the chapters did not make intuitive sense to me. The fact that correlation followed experimental research, and that descriptive research was the second-to-last module in the sequence was confusing. That said, textbook is written in such a way that an instructor easily assign the modules in the order that works best for their class.

Overall, the interface worked smoothly and there were few technical issues. Where there were issues (e.g. inconsistent spacing between lines and words), they were negligible.

The text seemed to be free from glaring grammatical problems.

Because this is a methodology textbook, it does not lend itself to too much cultural criticism. That said, the book did not rely on overly controversial examples, but also didn't shy away from important cultural topics (e.g. gender stereotypes, vaccines).

Reviewed by Michel Heijnen, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington on 3/27/18

The book covers all areas related to research methods, not only for the field of psychology, but also to other related fields like exercise science. Topics include ethics, developing a research questions, experimental designs, non-experimental... read more

The book covers all areas related to research methods, not only for the field of psychology, but also to other related fields like exercise science. Topics include ethics, developing a research questions, experimental designs, non-experimental designs, and basic statistics, making this book a great resource for undergraduate research methods classes.

Reviewed content is accurate and seems free of any personal bias.

The topic of research methods in general is not expected to change quickly. It is not expected that this text will become obsolete in the near future. Furthermore, for both the field of psychology as well as other related fields, the examples will continue to have an application to explain certain concepts and will not be outdated soon, even with new research emerging every day.

The text is written so an undergraduate student should be able to understand the concepts. The examples provided in the text greatly contribute to the understanding of the topics and the proposed exercises at the end of each chapter will further apply the knowledge.

The layout and writing style are consistent throughout the text.

Layout of the text is clear, with multiple subsection within each chapter. Each chapter can easily be split into multiple subsection to assign to students. No evidence of self-refers was observed, and individual chapters could be assigned to students without needed to read all preceding chapters. For example, Chapter 4 may not be particularly useful to students outside of psychology, but an instructor can easily reorganize the text and skip this chapter while students can still understand following chapters.

Topics are addressed in a logical manner. Overall, an introduction to research is provided first (including ethics to research), which is followed by different types of research, and concludes with types of analysis.

No images or tables are distorted, making the text easy to read.

No grammatical errors observed in text.

Text is not offensive and does not appear to be culturally insensitive.

I believe that this book is a great resource and, as mentioned previously, can be used for a wider audience than just psychology as the basics of research methods can be applied to various fields, including exercise science.

Reviewed by Chris Koch, Professor of Psychology, George Fox University on 3/27/18

All appropriate areas and topics are covered in the text. In that sense, this book is equivalent to other top texts dealing with research methods in psychology. The appeal of this book is the brevity and clarity. Therefore, some may find that,... read more

All appropriate areas and topics are covered in the text. In that sense, this book is equivalent to other top texts dealing with research methods in psychology. The appeal of this book is the brevity and clarity. Therefore, some may find that, although the topics are covered, topics may not be covered as thoroughly they might like. Overall, the coverage is solid for an introductory course in research methods.

In terms of presentation, this book could be more comprehensive. Each chapter does start with a set of learning objectives and ends with "takeaways" and a short set of exercises. However, it lacks detailed chapter outlines, summaries, and glossaries. Furthermore, an index does not accompany the text.

I found the book to be accurate with content being fairly presented. There was no underlying bias throughout the book.

This is an introductory text for research methods. The basics of research methods have been consistent for some time. The examples used in the text fit the concepts well. Therefore, it should not be quickly dated. It is organized in such a way that sections could be easily modified with more current examples as needed.

The text is easy to read. It is succinct yet engaging. Examples are clear and terminology is adequately defined.

New terms and concepts are dealt with chapter by chapter. However, those things which go across chapters are consistently presented.

The material for each chapter is presented in subsections with each subsection being tied to a particular learning objective. It is possible to use the book by subsection instead of by chapter. In fact, I did that during class by discussing the majority of one chapter, discussing another chapter, and then covering what I previously skipped,

In general, the book follows a "traditional" organization, matching the organization of many competing books. As mentioned in regard to modularity, I did not follow the organization of the book exactly as it was laid out. This may not necessarily reflect poorly on the book, however, since I have never followed the order of any research methods book. My three exams covered chapter 1 through 4, chapters 5, 6, part of 8, and chapters 7, the remainder of 8, 9, and 10. Once we collected data I covered chapters 11 through 13.

Interface rating: 3

The text and images are clear and distortion free. The text is available in several formats including epub, pdf, mobi, odt, and wxr. Unfortunately, the electronic format is not taken full advantage of. The text could be more interactive. As it is, it is just text and images. Therefore, the interface could be improved.

The book appeared to be well written and edited.

I did not find anything in the book that was culturally insensitive or offensive. However, more examples of cross-cultural research could be included.

I was, honestly, surprised by how much I liked the text. The material was presented in easy to follow format that is consistent with how I think about research methods. That made the text extremely easy to use. Students also thought the book was highly accessible Each chapter was relatively short but informative and easy to read.

Reviewed by Kevin White, Assistant Professor, East Carolina University on 2/1/18

This book covers all relevant topics for an introduction to research methods course in the social sciences, including measurement, sampling, basic research design, and ethics. The chapters were long enough to be somewhat comprehensive, but short... read more

This book covers all relevant topics for an introduction to research methods course in the social sciences, including measurement, sampling, basic research design, and ethics. The chapters were long enough to be somewhat comprehensive, but short enough to be digestible for students in an introductory-level class. Student reviews of the book have so far been very positive. The only section of the text for which more detail may be helpful is 2.3 (Reviewing the Research Literature), in which more specific instructions related to literature searches may be helpful to students.

I did not notice any issues related to accuracy. Content appeared to be accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

One advantage of this book is that it is relevant to other applied fields outside of psychology (e.g., social work, counseling, etc.). Also, the exercises at the end of chapter sections are helpful.

The clarity of the text provides students with succinct definitions for research-related concepts, without unnecessary discipline-specific jargon. One suggestion for future editions would be to make the distinctions between different types of non-experimental research a bit more clear for students in introductory classes (e.g., "Correlational Research" in Section 7.2).

Formatting and terminology was consistent throughout this text.

A nice feature of this book is that instructors can select individual sections within chapters, or even jump between sections within chapters. For example, Section 1.4 may not fit for a class that is less clinically-oriented in nature.

The flow of the text was appropriate, with ethics close to the beginning of the book (and an entire chapter devoted to it), and descriptive/inferential statistics at the end.

I did not notice any problems related to interface. I had no trouble accessing or reading the text, and the images were clear.

The text contained no discernible grammatical errors.

The book does not appear to be culturally insensitive in any discernible way, and explicitly addresses prejudice in research (e.g., Section 5.2). However, I think that continuing to add more examples that relate to specific marginalized groups would help improve the text (and especially exercises).

Overall, this book is very useful for an introductory research methods course in psychology or social work, and I highly recommend.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Do, Instructor, Virginia Commonwealth University on 2/1/18

Although this textbook does provide good information regarding introductory concepts necessary for the understanding of correlational designs, and is presented in a logical order. It does not, however, cover qualitative methodologies, or research... read more

Although this textbook does provide good information regarding introductory concepts necessary for the understanding of correlational designs, and is presented in a logical order. It does not, however, cover qualitative methodologies, or research ethics as it relates to other countries outside of the US.

There does not seem to be any errors within the text.

Since this textbook covers a topic that is unlikely to change over the years and it's content is up-to-date, it remains relevant to the field.

The textbook is written at an appropriate level for undergraduate students and is useful in that it does explain important terminology.

There does not seem to be any major inconsistencies within the text.

Overall, the text is very well organized - it is separated into chapters that are divided up into modules and within each module, there are clear learning objectives. It is also helpful that the textbook includes useful exercises for students to practice what they've read about from the text.

The topics covered by this textbook are presented in an order that is logical. The writing is clear and the examples are very useful. However, more information could be provided in some of the chapters and it would be useful to include a table of contents that links to the different chapters within the PDF copy, for reader's ease in navigation when looking for specific terms and/or topics.

Overall, the PDF copy of the textbook made it easy to read; however, there did seem to be a few links that were missing. Additionally, it would be helpful to have some of the graphs printed in color to help with ease of following explanations provided by the text. The inclusion of a table of contents would also be useful for greater ease with navigation.

There does not seem to be any grammatical errors in the textbook. Also, the textbook is written in a clear way, and the information flows nicely.

This textbook focuses primarily on examples from the United States. It does not seem to be culturally insensitive or offensive in anyway and I liked that it included content regarding the avoidance of biased language (chapter 11).

This textbook makes the material very accessible, and it is easy to read/follow examples.

what are research methods in psychology definition

Reviewed by Eric Lindsey, Professor, Penn State University Berks Campus on 2/1/18

The content of the Research Methods in Psychology textbook was very thorough and covered what I would consider to be the important concepts and issues pertaining to research methods. I would judge that the textbook has a comparable coverage of... read more

The content of the Research Methods in Psychology textbook was very thorough and covered what I would consider to be the important concepts and issues pertaining to research methods. I would judge that the textbook has a comparable coverage of information to other textbooks I have reviewed, including the current textbook I am using. The range of scholarly sources included in the textbook was good, with an appropriate balance between older and classic research examples and newer more cutting edge research information. Overall, the textbook provides substantive coverage of the science of conducting research in the field of psychology, supported by good examples, and thoughtful questions.

The textbook adopts a coherent and student-friendly format, and offers a precise introduction to psychological research methodology that includes consideration of a broad range of qualitative and quantitative methods to help students identify and evaluate the best approach for their research needs. The textbook offers a detailed review of the way that psychological researchers approach their craft. The author guides the reader through all aspects of the research process including formulating objectives, choosing research methods, securing research participants, as well as advice on how to effectively collect, analyze and interpret data and disseminate those findings to others through a variety of presentation and publication venues. The textbook offers relevant supplemental information in textboxes that is highly relevant to the material in the accompanying text and should prove helpful to learners. Likewise the graphics and figures that are included are highly relevant and clearly linked to the material presented in the text. The information covered by the textbook reflects an accurate summary of current techniques and methods used in research in the field of psychology. The presentation of information addresses the pros and cons of different research strategies in an objective and evenhanded way.

The range of scholarly sources included in the textbook was good, with an appropriate balance between older, classic research evidence and newer, cutting edge research. Overall, the textbook provides substantive coverage of the science on most topics in research methods of psychology, supported by good case studies, and thoughtful questions. The book is generally up to date, with adequate coverage of basic data collection methods and statistical techniques. Likewise the review of APA style guidelines is reflects the current manual and I like the way the author summarizes changes from the older version of the APA manual. The organization of the textbook does appear to lend itself to editing and adding new information with updates in the future.

I found the textbook chapters to be well written, in a straightforward yet conversational manner. It gives the reader an impression of being taught by a knowledgeable yet approachable expert. The writing style gives the learner a feeling of being guided through the lessons and supported in a very conversational approach. The experience of reading the textbook is less like being taught and more like a colleague sharing information. Furthermore, the style keeps the reader engaged but doesn't detract from its educational purpose. I also appreciate that the writing is appropriately concise. No explanations are so wordy as to overwhelm or lull the reader to sleep, but at the same time the information is not so vague that the reader can't understand the point at all.

The book’s main aim is to enable students to develop their own skills as researchers, so they can generate and advance common knowledge on a variety of psychological topics. The book achieves this objective by introducing its readers, step-by-step, to psychological research design, while maintaining an excellent balance between substance and attention grabbing examples that is uncommon in other research methods textbooks. Its accessible language and easy-to-follow structure and examples lend themselves to encouraging readers to move away from the mere memorization of facts, formulas and techniques towards a more critical evaluation of their own ideas and work – both inside and outside the classroom. The content of the chapters have a very good flow that help the reader to connect information in a progressive manner as they proceed through the textbook.

Each chapter goes into adequate depth in reviewing both past and current research related to the topic that it covers for an undergraduate textbook on research methods in psychology. The information within each chapter flows well from point-to-point, so that the reader comes away feeling like there is a progression in the information presented. The only limitation that I see is that I felt the author could do a little more to let the reader know how information is connected from chapter to chapter. Rather than just drawing the reader’s attention to things that were mentioned in previous chapters, it would be nice to have brief comments about how issues in one chapter relate to topics covered in previous chapters.

In my opinion the chapters are arranged in easily digestible units that are manageable in 30-40 minute reading sessions. In fact, the author designed the chapters of the textbook in a way to make it easy to chunk information, and start and stop to easily pick up where one leaves off from one reading session to another. I also found the flow of information to be appropriate, with chapters containing just the right amount of detail for use in my introductory course in research methods in psychology.

The book is organized into thirteen chapters. The order of the chapters offers a logical progression from a broad overview of information about the principles and theory behind research in psychology, to more specific issues concerning the techniques and mechanics of conducting research. Each chapter ends with a summary of key takeaways from the chapter and exercises that do more than ask for content regurgitation. I find the organization of the textbook to be effective, and matches my approach to the course very well. I would not make any changes to the overall format with the exception of moving chapter 11 on presenting research to the end of the textbook, after the chapters on statistical analysis and interpretation.

I found the quality of the appearance of the textbook to be very good. The textbook features appropriate text and section/header font sizes that allow for an adequate zooming level to read large or smalls sections of text, that will give readers flexibility to match their personal preference. There are learning objectives at the start of each chapter to help students know what to expect. Key terms are highlighted in a separate color that are easily distinguishable in the body of the page. There are very useful visuals in every chapter, including tables, figures, and graphs. Relevant supplemental information is also highlighted in well formatted text boxes that are color coded to indicate what type of information is included. My only criticism is that the photographs included in the text are of low quality, and there are so few in the textbook that I feel it would have been better to just leave them out.

I found no grammatical errors in my review of the textbook. The textbook is generally well written, and the style of writing is at a level that is appropriate for an undergraduate class.

Although the textbook contains no instances of presenting information that is cultural insensitive or offensive, it does not offer an culturally inclusive review of information pertaining to research methods in psychology. I found no inclusion of examples of research conducting with non European American samples included in the summary of studies. Likewise the authors do place much attention on the issue of cultural sensitivity when conducing research. If there is one major weakness of the textbook I would say it is in this area, but based on my experience it is not an uncommon characteristic of textbooks on research methods in psychology.

Reviewed by zehra peynircioglu, Professor, American University on 2/1/18

Short and sweet in most areas. Covers the basic concepts, not very comprehensively but definitely adequately so for a general beginning-level research methods course. For instance, I would liked to have seen a "separate" chapter on correlational... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

Short and sweet in most areas. Covers the basic concepts, not very comprehensively but definitely adequately so for a general beginning-level research methods course. For instance, I would liked to have seen a "separate" chapter on correlational research (there is one on single subject research and one on survey research), a discussion of the importance of providing a theoretical rationale for "getting an idea" (most students are fine with finding interesting and feasible project ideas but cannot give a theoretical rationale) before or after Chapter 4 on Theory, or a chapter on neuroscientific methods, which are becoming more and more popular. Nevertheless, it touches on most traditional areas that are in other books.

I did not find any errors or biases

This is one area where there is not much danger of going obsolete any time soon. The examples might need to be updated periodically (my students tend to not like dated materials, however relevant), but that should be easy.

Very clear and accessible prose. Despite the brevity, the concepts are put forth quite clearly. I like the "not much fluff" mentality. There is also adequate explanations of jargon and technical terminology.

I could not find any inconsistencies. The style and exposition frameworks are also quite consistent.

Yes, the modularity is fine. The chapters follow a logical pattern, so there should not be too much of a need for jumping around. And even if jumping around is needed depending on teaching style, the sections are solid in terms of being able to stand alone (or as an accompaniment to lectures).

Yes, the contents is ordered logically and the high modularity helps with any reorganization that an instructor may favor. In my case, for instance, Ch. 1 is fine, but I would skip it because it's mostly a repetition of what most introductory psychology books also say. I would also discuss non-experimental methods before going into experimental design. But such changes are easy to do, and if someone followed the book's own organization, there would also be a logical flow.

As far as I could see, the text is free of significant interface issues, at least in the pdf version

I could not find any errors.

As far as I could see, the book was culturally relevant.

I loved the short and sweet learning objectives, key takeaway sections, and the exercises. They are not overwhelming and can be used in class discussions, too.

Reviewed by George Woodbury, Graduate Student, Miami University, Ohio on 6/20/17

This text covers the typical areas for an undergraduate psychology course in research design. There is no table of contents included with the downloadable version, although there is a table of contents on the website (which excludes sub-sections... read more

This text covers the typical areas for an undergraduate psychology course in research design. There is no table of contents included with the downloadable version, although there is a table of contents on the website (which excludes sub-sections of chapters). The sections on statistics are not extensive enough to be useful in and of themselves, but they are useful for transitions to a follow-up statistics course. There does not seem to be a glossary of terms, which made it difficult at times for my read through and I assume later for students who decide to print the text. The text is comprehensive without being wordy or tedious.

Relatively minor errors; There does not seem to be explicit cultural or methodological bias in the text.

The content is up-to-date, and examples from the psychology literature are generally within the last 25 years. Barring extensive restructuring in the fundamentals of methodology and design in psychology, any updates will be very easy to implement.

Text will be very clear and easy to read for students fluent in English. There is little jargon/technical terminology used, and the vocabulary that is provided in the text is contemporary

There do not seem to be obvious shifts in the terminology or the framework. The text is internally consistent in that regard.

The text is well divided into chapter and subsections. Each chapter is relatively self-contained, so there are little issues with referring to past material that may have been skipped. The learning objectives at the beginning of the chapter are very useful. Blocks of text are well divided with headings.

As mentioned above, the topics of the text follow the well-established trajectory of undergraduate psychology courses. This makes it very logical and clear.

The lack of a good table of contents made it difficult to navigate the text for my read through. There were links to an outside photo-hosting website (flickr) for some of the stock photos, which contained the photos of the original creators of the photos. This may be distracting or confusing to readers. However, the hyperlinks in general helped with navigation with the PDF.

No more grammatical errors than a standard, edited textbook.

Very few examples explicitly include other races, ethnicities, or backgrounds, however the examples seem to intentionally avoid cultural bias. Overall, the writing seems to be appropriately focused on avoiding culturally insensitive or offensive content.

After having examined several textbooks on research design and methodology related to psychology, this book stands out as superior.

Reviewed by Angela Curl, Assistant Professor, Miami University (Ohio) on 6/20/17

"Research Methods in Psychology" covers most research method topics comprehensively. The author does an excellent job explaining main concepts. The chapter on causation is very detailed and well-written as well as the chapter on research ethics.... read more

"Research Methods in Psychology" covers most research method topics comprehensively. The author does an excellent job explaining main concepts. The chapter on causation is very detailed and well-written as well as the chapter on research ethics. However, the explanations of data analysis seem to address upper level students rather than beginners. For example, in the “Describing Statistical Relationships” chapter, the author does not give detailed enough explanations for key terms. A reader who is not versed in research terminology, in my opinion, would struggle to understand the process. While most topics are covered, there are some large gaps. For example, this textbook has very little content related to qualitative research methods (five pages).

The content appears to be accurate and unbias.

The majority of the content will not become obsolete within a short time period-- many of the information can be used for the coming years, as the information provided is, overall, general in nature. The notably exceptions are the content on APA Code of Ethics and the APA Publication Manual, which both rely heavily on outdated versions, which limits the usefulness of these sections. In addition, it would be helpful to incorporate research studies that have been published after 2011.

The majority of the text is clear, with content that is easy for undergraduate students to read and understand. The key points included in the chapters are helpful, but some chapters seem to be missing key points (i.e., the key points do not accurately represent the overall chapter).

The text seems to be internally consistent in its terminology and organization.

Each chapter is broken into subsections that can be used alone. For example, section 5.2 covers reliability and validity of measurement. This could be extremely helpful for educators to select specific content for assigned readings.

The topics are presented in a logical matter for the most part. However, the PDF version of the book does not include a table of contents, and none of the formats has a glossary or index. This can make it difficult to quickly navigate to specific topics or terms, especially when explanations do not appear where expected. For example, the definitions of independent and dependent variables is provided under the heading “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation” (p. 22).

The text is consistent but needs more visual representations throughout the book, rather than heavily in some chapters and none at all in other chapters. Similarly, the text within the chapters is not easily readable due to the large sections of text with little to no graphics or breaks.

The interface of the text is adequate. However, the formatting of the PDF is sometimes weak. For example, the textbook has a number of pages with large blank spaces and other pages are taken up with large photos or graphics. The number of pages (and cost of printing) could have been reduced, or more graphics added to maximize utility.

I found no grammatical errors.

Text appears to be culturally sensitive. I appreciated the inclusion of the content about avoiding biased language (chapter 11).

Instructors who adopt this book would likely benefit from either selecting certain chapters/modules and/or integrating multiple texts together to address the shortcomings of this text. Further, the sole focus on psychology limits the use of this textbook for introductory research methods for other disciplines (e.g., social work, sociology).

Reviewed by Pramit Nadpara, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University on 4/11/17

The text book provides good information in certain areas, while not comprehensive information in other areas. The text provides practical information, especially the section on survey development was good. Additional information on sampling... read more

The text book provides good information in certain areas, while not comprehensive information in other areas. The text provides practical information, especially the section on survey development was good. Additional information on sampling strategies would have been beneficial for the readers.

There are no errors.

Research method is a common topic and the fundamentals of it will not change over the years. Therefore, the book is relevant and will not become obsolete.

Clarity rating: 3

The text in the book is clear. Certain aspects of the text could have been presented more clearly. For example, the section on main effects and interactions are some concepts that students may have difficulty understanding. Those areas could be explained more clearly with an example.

Consistency rating: 3

Graphs in the book lacks titles and variable names. Also, the format of chapter title page needs to be consistent.

At times there were related topics spread across several chapters. This could be corrected for a better read by the audience..

The book text is very clear, and the flow from one topic to the next was adequate. However, having a outline would help the reader.

The PDF copy of the book was a easy read. There were few links that were missing though.

There were no grammatical errors.

The text is not offensive and examples in it are mostly based on historical US based experiments.

I would start of by saying that I am a supporter of the Open Textbook concept. In this day and age, there are a variety of Research Methods book/text available on the market. While this book covers research methods basics, it cannot be recommended in its current form as an acceptable alternative to the standard text. Modifications to the text as recommended by myself and other reviewers might improve the quality of this book in the future.

Reviewed by Meghan Babcock, Instructor, University of Texas at Arlington on 4/11/17

This text includes all important areas that are featured in other Research Methods textbooks and are presented in a logical order. The text includes great examples and provides the references which can be assigned as supplemental readings. In... read more

This text includes all important areas that are featured in other Research Methods textbooks and are presented in a logical order. The text includes great examples and provides the references which can be assigned as supplemental readings. In addition, the chapters end with exercises that can be completed in class or as part of a laboratory assignment. This text would be a great addition to a Research Methods course or an Introductory Statistics course for Psychology majors.

The content is accurate. I did not find any errors and the material is unbiased.

Yes - the content is up to date and would be easy to update if/when necessary.

The text is written at an appropriate level for undergraduate students and explains important terminology. The research studies that the author references are ones that undergraduate psychology majors should be familiar with. The only section that was questionable to me was that on multiple regression in section 8.3 (Complex Correlational Designs). I am unaware of other introductory Research Methods textbooks that cover this analysis, especially without describing simple regression first.

The text is consistent in terms of terminology. The framework is also consistent - the chapters begin with Learning Objectives and ends with Key Takeaways and Exercises.

The text is divisible into smaller reading sections - possibly too many. The sections are brief, and in some instances too brief (e.g., the section on qualitative research). I think that the section headers are helpful for instructors who plan on using this text in conjunction with another text in their course.

The topics were presented in a logical fashion and are similar to other published Research Methods texts. The writing is very clear and great examples are provided. I think that some of the sections are rather brief and more information and examples could be provided.

I did not see any interface issues. All of the links worked properly and the tables and figures were accurate and free of errors. I particularly liked the figures in section 5.2 on reliability of measurement.

There are three comments that I have about the interface, however. First, I was expecting the keywords in blue font to be linked to a glossary, but they were not. I would have appreciated this feature. Second, I read this text as a PDF on an iPad and this version lacking was the Table of Contents (TOC) feature. Although I was able to view the TOC in different versions, I would have appreciated it in the PDF version. Also, it would be nice if the TOC was clickable (i.e., you could click on a section and it automatically directed you to that section). Third, I think the reader of this text would benefit from a glossary at the end of each chapter and/or an index at the end of the text. The "Key Takeaways" sections at the end of each chapter were helpful, but I think that a glossary would be a nice addition as well.

I did not notice any grammatical errors of any kind. The text was easy to read and I think that undergraduate students would agree.

The text was not insensitive or offensive to any races, ethnicities, or backgrounds. I appreciated the section on avoiding biased language when writing manuscripts (e.g., using 'children with learning disabilities' instead of 'special children' or using 'African American' instead of 'minority').

I think that this text would be a nice addition to a Research Methods & Statistics course in psychology. There are some sections that I found particularly helpful: (1) 2.2 and 2.3 - the author gives detailed information about generating research questions and reviewing the literature; (2) 9.2 - this section focuses on constructing survey questionnaires; (3) 11.2 and 11.3 - the author talks about writing a research report and about presenting at conferences. These sections will be great additions to an undergraduate Research Methods course. The brief introduction to APA style was also helpful, but should be supplemented with the most recent APA style manual.

Reviewed by Shannon Layman, Lecturer, University of Texas at Arlington on 4/11/17

The sections in this textbook are overall more brief than in previous Methods texts that I have used. Sometimes this brevity is helpful in terms of getting to the point of the text and moving on. In other cases, some topics could use a bit more... read more

The sections in this textbook are overall more brief than in previous Methods texts that I have used. Sometimes this brevity is helpful in terms of getting to the point of the text and moving on. In other cases, some topics could use a bit more detail to establish a better foundation of the content before moving on to examples and/or the next topic.

I did not find any incorrect information or gross language issues.

Basic statistical and/or methodological texts tend to stay current and up-to-date because the topics in this field have not changed over the decades. Any updated methodologies would be found in a more advanced methods text.

The text is very clear and the ideas are easy to follow/ presented in a logical manner. The most helpful thing about this textbook is that the author arrives at the point of the topic very quickly. Another helpful point about this textbook is the relevancy of the examples used. The examples appear to be accessible to a wide audience and do not require specialization or previous knowledge of other fields of psychology.

I feel this text is very consistent throughout. The ideas build on each other and no terms are discussed in later chapters without being established in previous chapters.

Each chapter had multiple subsections which would allow for smaller reading sections throughout the course. The amount of content in each section and chapter appeared to be less than what I have encountered in other Methods texts.

The organization of the topics in this textbook follows the same or similar organization that I see in other textbooks. As I mentioned previously, the ideas build very well throughout the text.

I did not find any issues with navigation or distortion of the figures in the text.

There were not any obvious and/or egregious grammatical errors that I encountered in this text.

This topic is not really an issue with a Methods textbook as the topics are more so conceptual as opposed to topical. That being said, I did not see an issue with any examples used.

I have no other comments than what I addressed previously.

Reviewed by Sarah Allred, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, Camden on 2/8/17

Mixed. For some topics, there is more (and more practical) information than in most textbooks. I appreciated the very practical advice to students about how to plot data (in statistics chapters). Similarly, there is practical advice about how... read more

Mixed. For some topics, there is more (and more practical) information than in most textbooks. I appreciated the very practical advice to students about how to plot data (in statistics chapters). Similarly, there is practical advice about how to comply with ethical guidelines. The section on item development in surveys was very good.

On the other hand, there is far too little information about some subjects. For example, independent and dependent variables are introduced in passing in an early chapter and then referred to only much later in the text. In my experience, students have a surprisingly difficult time grasping this concept. Another important example is sampling; I would have preferred much more information on types of samples and sampling techniques, and the problems that arise from poor sampling. A third example is the introduction to basic experimental design. Variables, measurement, validity, and reliability are all introduced in one chapter.

I did not see an index or glossary.

I found no errors.

The fundamentals of research methods do not change much. Given the current replication crisis in psychology, it might be helpful to have something about replicability.

Mixed. The text itself is spare and clear. The style of the book is to explain a concept in very few words. There are some excellent aspects of this, but on the other hand, there are some concepts that students have a very difficult time undersatnding if they are not embedded in concrete examples. For example, the section on main effects and interactions shows bar graphs of interactions, but this is presented without variable names or axis titles, and separate from any specific experiment.

Sometimes the chapter stucture is laid out on the title page, and other times it is not. Some graphs lack titles and variable names.

The chapters can be stand alone, but sometimes I found conceptually similar pieces spread across several chapters, and conceptually different pieces in the same chapters.

The individual sentences and paragraphs are always very clear. However, I felt that more tables/outlines of major concepts would have been helpful. For example, perhaps a flow chart of different kinds of experimental designs would be useful. (See section on comprehensiveness for more about organization).

The flow from one topic to the next was adequate.

I read the pdf. Perhaps the interface is more pleasant on other devices, but I found the different formats and fonts in image/captions/main text/figure labels distracting. Many if the instances of apparently hyperlinked (blue) text to do not link to anything.

I found no grammatical errors, and prose is standard academic English.

Like most psychology textbooks available in the US, examples are focused on important experiments in US history.

I really wanted to be happy with this text. I am a supporter of the Open Textbook concept, and I wanted to find this book an acceptable alternative to the variety of Research Methods texts I’ve used. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book as superior in quality.

Reviewed by Joel Malin, Assistant Professor, Miami University on 8/21/16

This textbook covers all or nearly all of what I believe are important topics to provide an introduction to research methods in psychology. One minor issue is that the pdf version, which I reviewed, does not include an index or a glossary. As... read more

This textbook covers all or nearly all of what I believe are important topics to provide an introduction to research methods in psychology. One minor issue is that the pdf version, which I reviewed, does not include an index or a glossary. As such, it may be difficult for readers to zero in on material that they need, and/or to get a full sense of what will be covered and in what order.

I did not notice errors.

The book provides a solid overview of key issues related to introductory research methods, many of which are nearly timeless.

The writing is clear and accessible. It was easy and pleasing to read.

Terms are clearly defined and build upon each other as the book progresses.

I believe the text is organized in such a way that it could be easily divided into smaller sections.

The order in which material is presented seems to be well thought out and sensible.

I did not notice any issues with the interface. I reviewed the pdf version and thought the images were very helpful.

The book is written in a culturally relevant manner.

Reviewed by Abbey Dvorak, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas on 8/21/16

The text includes basic, essential information needed for students in an introductory research methods course. In addition, the text includes three chapters (i.e., research ethics, theory, and APA style) that are typically absent from or... read more

The text includes basic, essential information needed for students in an introductory research methods course. In addition, the text includes three chapters (i.e., research ethics, theory, and APA style) that are typically absent from or inadequately covered in similar texts. However, I did have some areas of concern regarding the coverage of qualitative and mixed methods approaches, and nonparametric tests. Although the author advocates for the research question to guide the choice of approach and design, minimal attention is given to the various qualitative designs (e.g., phenomenology, narrative, participatory action, etc.) beyond grounded theory and case studies, with no mention of the different types of mixed methods designs (e.g., concurrent, explanatory, exploratory) that are prevalent today. In addition, common nonparametric tests (e.g., Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney, etc.) and parametric tests for categorical data (e.g., chi-square, Fisher’s exact, etc.) are not mentioned.

The text overall is accurate and free of errors. I noticed in the qualitative research sub-section, the author describes qualitative research in general, but does not mention common practices associated with qualitative research, such as transcribing interviews, coding data (e.g., different approaches to coding, different types of codes), and data analysis procedures. The information that is included appears accurate.

The text appears up-to-date and includes basic research information and classic examples that rarely change, which may allow the text to be used for many years. However, the author may want to add information about mixed methods research, a growing research approach, in order for the text to stay relevant across time.

The text includes clear, accessible, straightforward language with minimal jargon. When the author introduces a new term, the term is immediately defined and described. The author also provides interesting examples to clarify and expand understanding of terms and concepts throughout the text.

The text is internally consistent and uses similar language and vocabulary throughout. The author uses real-life examples across chapters in order to provide depth and insight into the information. In addition, the vocabulary, concepts, and organization are consistent with other research methods textbooks.

The modules are short, concise, and manageable for students; the material within each module is logically focused and related to each other. I may move the modules and the sub-topics within them into a slightly different order for my class, and add the information mentioned above, but overall, this is very good.

The author presents topics and structures chapters in a logical and organized manner. The epub and online version do not include page numbers in the text, but the pdf does; this may be confusing when referencing the text or answering student questions. The book ends somewhat abruptly after the chapter on inferential statistics; the text may benefit from a concluding chapter to bring everything together, perhaps with a culminating example that walks the reader through creating the research question, choosing a research approach/design, etc., all the way to writing the research report.

I used and compared the pdf, epub, and online versions of the text. The epub and online versions include a clickable table of contents, but the pdf does not. The table format is inconsistent across the three versions; in the epub version (viewed through ibooks), the table data does not always line up correctly, making it difficult to interpret quickly. In the pdf and online versions, the table format looks different, but the data are lined up. No index made it difficult to quickly find areas of interest in the text; however, I could use the Find/Search functions in all three versions to search and find needed items.

As I read through this text, I did not detect any glaring grammatical errors. Overall, I think the text is written quite well in a style that is accessible to students.

The author uses inclusive, person-first language, and the text does not seem to be offensive or insensitive. As I read, I did notice that topics such as diversity and cultural competency are absent.

I enjoyed reading this text and am very excited to have a free research methods text for my students that I may supplement as needed. I wish there was a test question bank and/or flashcards for my students to help them study, but perhaps that could be added in the future. Overall, this is a great resource!

Reviewed by Karen Pikula, Psychology Instructor PhD, Central Lakes College on 1/7/16

The text covers all the areas and ideas of the subject of research methods in psychology for the learner that is just entering the field. The authors cover all of the content of an introductory research methods textbook and use exemplary examples... read more

The text covers all the areas and ideas of the subject of research methods in psychology for the learner that is just entering the field. The authors cover all of the content of an introductory research methods textbook and use exemplary examples that make those concepts relevent to a beginning researcher. As the authors state, the material is presented in such a manner as to encourage learners to not only be effective consumers of current research but also engage as critical thinkers in the many diverse situations one encounters in everyday life.

The content is accurate, error free, and unbiased. It explains both quantiative and qualitative methods in an unbiased manner. It is a bit slim on qualitative. It would be nice to have a bit more information on, for example, creating interview questions, coding, and qualitative data anaylisis.

The text is up to date, having just been revised. This revision was authored by Rajiv Jhangiani (Capilano University, North Vancouver) and includes the addition of a table of contents and cover page that the original text did not have, changes to Chapter 3 (Research Ethics) to include a contemporary example of an ethical breach and to reflect Canadian ethical guidelines and privacy laws, additional information regarding online data collection in Chapter 9 (Survey Research). Jhangiani has correcte of errors in the text and formulae, as well as changing spelling from US to Canadian conventions. The text is also now available in a inexpensive hard copy which students can purchase online or college bookstores can stock. This makes the text current and updates should be minimal.

The text is very easy to read and also very interesting as the authors supplement content with amazing real life examples.

The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

This text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within a course. I am going to use this text in conjunction with the OER OpenStax Psychology text for my Honors Psychology course. I currently use the OER Openstax Psychology textbook for my Positive Psychology course as well as my General Psychology course,

The topics in the text are presented in logical and clear fashion. The way they are presented allows the text to be used in conjuction with other textbooks as a secondary resource.

The text is free of significant interface issues. It is written in a manner that follows the natural process of doing research.

The text contained no noted grammatical errors.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive and actually has been revised to accomodate Canadian ethical guidelines as well as those of the APA.

I have to say that I am excited to have found this revised edition. My students will be so happy that there is also a reasonable priced hard coopy for them to purchase. They love the OpenStax Psychology text with the hard copy available from our bookstore. I do wish there were PowerPoints available for the text as well as a test bank. That is always a bonus!

Reviewed by Alyssa Gibbons, Instructor, Colorado State University on 1/7/16

This text covers everything I would consider essential for a first course in research methods, including some areas that are not consistently found in introductory texts (e.g., qualitative research, criticisms of null hypothesis significance... read more

This text covers everything I would consider essential for a first course in research methods, including some areas that are not consistently found in introductory texts (e.g., qualitative research, criticisms of null hypothesis significance testing). The chapters on ethics (Ch. 3) and theory (Ch. 4) are more comprehensive than most I have seen at this level, but not to the extent of information overload; rather, they anticipate and address many questions that undergraduates often have about these issues.

There is no index or table of contents provided in the PDF, and the table of contents on the website is very broad, but the material is well organized and it would not be hard for an instructor to create such a table. Chapter 2.1 is intended to be an introduction to several key terms and ideas (e.g., variable, correlation) that could serve as a sort of glossary.

I found the text to be highly accurate throughout; terms are defined precisely and correctly.

Where there are controversies or differences of opinion in the field, the author presents both sides of the argument in a respectful and unbiased manner. He explicitly discourages students from dismissing any one approach as inherently flawed, discussing not only the advantages and disadvantages of all methods (including nonexperimental ones) but also ways researchers address the disadvantages.

In several places, the textbook explicitly addresses the history and development of various methods (e.g., qualitative research, null hypothesis significance testing) and the ways in which researchers' views have changed. This allows the author to present current thinking and debate in these areas yet still expose students to older ideas they are likely to encounter as they read the research literature. I think this approach sets students up well to encounter future methodological advances; as a field, we refine our methods over time. I think the author could easily integrate new developments in future editions, or instructors could introduce such developments as supplementary material without creating confusion by contradicting the test.

The examples are generally drawn from classic psychological studies that have held up well over time; I think they will appeal to students for some time to come and not appear dated.

The only area in which I did not feel the content was entirely up to date was in the area of psychological measurement; Chapter 5.2 is based on the traditional view and not the more comprehensive modern or holistic view as presented in the 1999 AERA/APA Standards for Educational and Psychological Measurement. However, a comprehensive treatment of measurement validity is probably not necessary for most undergraduates at this stage, and they will certainly encounter the older framework in the research literature.

The textbook does an excellent job of presenting concepts in simple, accessible language without introducing error by oversimplification. The author consistently anticipates common points of confusion, clarifies terms, and even suggests ways for students to remember key distinctions. Terms are clearly and concretely defined when they are introduced. In contrast to many texts I have used, the terms that are highlighted in the text are actually the terms I would want my students to remember and study; the author refrains from using psychological jargon that is not central to the concepts he is discussing.

I noticed no major inconsistencies or gaps.

The division of sections within each chapter is useful; although I liked the overall organization of the text, there were points at which I would likely assign sections in a slightly different order and I felt I could do this easily without loss of continuity. The one place I would have liked more modularity was in the discussion of inferential statistics: t-tests, ANOVA, and Pearson's r are all covered within Chapter 13.2. On the one hand, this enables students to see the relationships and similarities among these tests, but on the other, this is a lot for students to take in at once.

I found the overall organization of the book to be quite logical, mirroring the sequence of steps a researcher would use to develop a research question, design a study, etc. As discussed above, the modularity of the book makes it easy to reorder sections to suit the structure of a particular class (for example, I might have students read the section on APA writing earlier in the semester as they begin drafting their own research proposals). I like the inclusion of ethics very early on in the text, establishing the importance of this topic for all research design choices.

One organizational feature I particularly appreciated was the consistent integration of conceptual and practical ideas; for example, in the discussion of psychological measurement, reliability and validity are discussed alongside the importance of giving clear instructions and making sure participants cannot be identified by their writing implements. This gives students an accurate and honest picture of the research process - some of the choices we make are driven by scientific ideals and some are driven by practical lessons learned. Students often have questions related to these mundane aspects of conducting research and it is helpful to have them so clearly addressed.

Although I didn't encounter any problems per se with the interface, I do think it could be made more user-friendly. For example, references to figures and tables are highlighted in blue, appearing to be hyperlinks, but they were not. Having such links, as well as a linked, easily-navigable and detailed table of contents, would also be helpful (and useful to students who use assistive technology).

I noticed no grammatical errors.

Where necessary, the author uses inclusive language and there is nothing that seems clearly offensive. The examples generally reflect American psychology research, but the focus is on the methods used and not the participants or cultural context. The text could be more intentionally or proactively inclusive, but it is not insensitive or exclusive.

I am generally hard to please when it comes to textbooks, but I found very little to quibble with in this one. It is a very well-written and accessible introduction to research methods that meets students where they are, addressing their common questions, misconceptions, and concerns. Although it's not flashy, the figures, graphics, and extra resources provided are clear, helpful, and relevant.

Reviewed by Moin Syed, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota on 6/10/15

The text is thorough in terms of covering introductory concepts that are central to experimental and correlational/association designs. I find the general exclusion of qualitative and mixed methods designs hard to defend (despite some researchers’... read more

The text is thorough in terms of covering introductory concepts that are central to experimental and correlational/association designs. I find the general exclusion of qualitative and mixed methods designs hard to defend (despite some researchers’ distaste for the methods). While these approaches were less commonly used in the recent past, they are prevalent in the early years of psychology and are ascending once again. It strikes me as odd to just ignore two whole families of methods that are used within the practice of psychology—definitely not a sustainable approach.

I do very much appreciate the emphasis on those who will both practice and consume psychology, given the wide variety of undergraduate career paths.

One glaring omission is a Table of Contents within the PDF. It would be nice to make this a linked PDF, so that clicking on the entry in a TOC (or cross-references) would jump the reader to the relevant section.

I did not see an errors. The chapter on theory is not as clear as it could be. The section “what is theory” is not very clear, and these are difficulte concepts (difference between theory, hypothesis, etc.). A bit more time spent here could have been good. Also, the discussion of functional, mechanistic, and typological theories leaves out the fourth of Pepper’s metaphors: contextualism. I’m not sure that was intentional and accidental, but it is noticeable!

This is a research methods text focused on experimental and association designs. The basics of these designs do not change a whole lot over time, so there is little likelihood that the main content will become obsolete anytime soon. Some of the examples used are a bit dated, but then again most of them are considered “classics” in the field, which I think are important to retain (and there is at least one “new classic” included in the ethics section, namely the fraudulent research linking autism to the MMR vaccine).

The text is extremely clear and accessible. In fact, it may even be *too* simple for undergraduate use. Then again, students often struggle with methods, so simplicity is good, and the simplicity can also make the book marketable to high school courses (although I doubt many high schools have methods courses).

Yes, quite consistent throughout. Carrying through the same examples into different chapters is a major strength of the text.

I don’ anticipate any problems here.

The book flows well, with brief sections. I do wonder if maybe the sections are too brief? Perhaps too many check-ins? The “key take-aways” usually come after only a few pages. As mentioned above, the book is written at a very basic level, so this brevity is consistent with that approach. It is not a problem, per se, but those considering adopting the text should be aware of this aspect.

No problems here.

I did not detect any grammatical errors. The text flows very well.

The book is fairly typical of American research methods books in that it only focuses on the U.S. context and draws its examples from “mainstream” psychology (e.g., little inclusion of ethnic minority or cross-cultural psychology). However, the text is certainly not insensitive or offensive in any way.

Nice book, thanks for writing it!

Reviewed by Rajiv Jhangiani, Instructor, Capilano University on 10/9/13

The text is well organized and written, integrates excellent pedagogical features, and covers all of the traditional areas of the topic admirably. The final two chapters provide a good bridge between the research methods course and the follow-up... read more

The text is well organized and written, integrates excellent pedagogical features, and covers all of the traditional areas of the topic admirably. The final two chapters provide a good bridge between the research methods course and the follow-up course on behavioural statistics. The text integrates real psychological measures, harnesses students' existing knowledge from introductory psychology, includes well-chosen examples from real life and research, and even includes a very practical chapter on the use of APA style for writing and referencing. On the other hand, it does not include a table of contents or an index, both of which are highly desirable. The one chapter that requires significant revision is Chapter 3 (Research Ethics), which is based on the US codes of ethics (e.g., Federal policy & APA code) and does not include any mention of the Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement.

The very few errors I found include the following: 1. The text should read "The fact that his F score…" instead of "The fact that his t score…" on page 364 2. Some formulae are missing the line that separates the numerator from the denominator. See pages 306, 311, 315, and 361 3. Table 12.3 on page 310 lists the variance as 288 when it is 28.8

The text is up-to-date and will not soon lose relevance. The only things I would add are a brief discussion of the contemporary case of Diederik Stapel's research fraud in the chapter on Research Ethics, as well as some research concerning the external validity of web-based studies (e.g., Gosling et al.'s 2004 article in American Psychologist).

Overall, the style of writing makes this text highly accessible. The writing flows well, is well organized, and includes excellent, detailed, and clear examples and explanations for concepts. The examples often build on concepts or theories students would have covered in their introductory psychology course. Some constructive criticism: 1. When discussing z scores on page 311 it might have been helpful to point out that the mean and SD for a set of calculated z scores are 0 and 1 respectively. Good students will come to this realization themselves, but it is not a bad thing to point it out nonetheless. 2. The introduction of the concept of multiple regression might be difficult for some students to grasp. 3. The only place where I felt short of an explanation was in the use of a research example to demonstrate the use of a line graph on page 318. In this case the explanation in question does not pertain to the line graph itself but the result of the study used, which is so fascinating that students will wish for the researchers' explanation for it.

The text is internally consistent.

The text is organized very well into chapters, modules within each chapter, and learning objectives within each module. Each module also includes useful exercises that help consolidate learning.

As mentioned earlier, the style of writing makes this text highly accessible. The writing flows well, is well organized, and includes excellent, detailed, and clear examples and explanations for concepts. The examples often build on concepts or theories students would have covered in their introductory psychology course. Only rarely did I feel that the author could have assisted the student by demonstrating the set-by-step calculation of a statistic (e.g., on page 322 for the calculation of Pearson's r)

The images, graphs, and charts are clear. The only serious issues that hamper navigation are the lack of a table of contents and an index. Many of the graphs will need to be printed in colour (or otherwise modified) for the students to follow the explanations provided in the text.

The text is written rather well and is free from grammatical errors. Of course, spellings are in the US convention.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. Of course, it is not a Canadian edition and so many of the examples (all of which are easy to comprehend) come from a US context.

I have covered most of these issues in my earlier comments. The only things left to mention are that the author should have clearly distinguished between mundane and psychological realism, and that, in my opinion, the threats to internal validity could have been grouped together and might have been closer to an exhaustive list. This review originated in the BC Open Textbook Collection and is licensed under CC BY-ND.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: The Science of Psychology
  • Chapter 2: Overview of the Scientific Method
  • Chapter 3: Research Ethics
  • Chapter 4: Psychological Measurement
  • Chapter 5: Experimental Research
  • Chapter 6: Non-experimental Research
  • Chapter 7: Survey Research
  • Chapter 8: Quasi-Experimental Research
  • Chapter 9: Factorial Designs
  • Chapter 10: Single-Subject Research
  • Chapter 11: Presenting Your Research
  • Chapter 12: Descriptive Statistics
  • Chapter 13: Inferential Statistics

Ancillary Material

  • Kwantlen Polytechnic University

About the Book

This fourth edition (published in 2019) was co-authored by Rajiv S. Jhangiani (Kwantlen Polytechnic University), Carrie Cuttler (Washington State University), and Dana C. Leighton (Texas A&M University—Texarkana) and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Revisions throughout the current edition include changing the chapter and section numbering system to better accommodate adaptions that remove or reorder chapters; continued reversion from the Canadian edition; general grammatical edits; replacement of “he/she” to “they” and “his/her” to “their”; removal or update of dead links; embedded videos that were not embedded; moved key takeaways and exercises from the end of each chapter section to the end of each chapter; a new cover design.

About the Contributors

Dr. Carrie Cuttler received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of British Columbia. She has been teaching research methods and statistics for over a decade. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Washington State University, where she primarily studies the acute and chronic effects of cannabis on cognition, mental health, and physical health. Dr. Cuttler was also an OER Research Fellow with the Center for Open Education and she conducts research on open educational resources. She has over 50 publications including the following two published books:  A Student Guide for SPSS (1st and 2nd edition)  and  Research Methods in Psychology: Student Lab Guide.  Finally, she edited another OER entitled  Essentials of Abnormal Psychology. In her spare time, she likes to travel, hike, bike, run, and watch movies with her husband and son. You can find her online at @carriecuttler or carriecuttler.com.

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani is the Associate Vice Provost, Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. He is an internationally known advocate for open education whose research and practice focuses on open educational resources, student-centered pedagogies, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Rajiv is a co-founder of the Open Pedagogy Notebook, an Ambassador for the Center for Open Science, and serves on the BC Open Education Advisory Committee. He formerly served as an Open Education Advisor and Senior Open Education Research & Advocacy Fellow with BCcampus, an OER Research Fellow with the Open Education Group, a Faculty Workshop Facilitator with the Open Textbook Network, and a Faculty Fellow with the BC Open Textbook Project. A co-author of three open textbooks in Psychology, his most recent book is  Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science (2017). You can find him online at @thatpsychprof or thatpsychprof.com.

Dr. Dana C. Leighton is Assistant Professor of Psychology in the College of Arts, Science, and Education at Texas A&M University—Texarkana. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas, and has 15 years experience teaching across the psychology curriculum at community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and research universities. Dr. Leighton’s social psychology research lab studies intergroup relations, and routinely includes undergraduate students as researchers. He is also Chair of the university’s Institutional Review Board. Recently he has been researching and writing about the use of open science research practices by undergraduate researchers to increase diversity, justice, and sustainability in psychological science. He has published on his teaching methods in eBooks from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, presented his methods at regional and national conferences, and received grants to develop new teaching methods. His teaching interests are in undergraduate research, writing skills, and online student engagement. For more about Dr. Leighton see http://www.danaleighton.net and http://danaleighton.edublogs.org

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Research Methods by Dana S. Dunn LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2017 LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0049

Psychology is an empirical science, one dealing with the prediction of behavior in humans and animals. Conducting empirical research focused on predicting behavior requires the use of research methods. Research methods are the practical tools and techniques psychologists employ to scientifically investigate research questions. Once a hypothesis is formulated, research methodology allows a researcher to execute a study designed to answer such testable questions through manipulating and measuring relevant variables. Research methods in psychology are broad and varied, and their use allows psychologists to appropriately test theories in search of demonstrable cause and effect relationships. These methods lie along a continuum from more passive approaches (e.g., observation) to active interventions (e.g., experimentation) designed to explain why organisms behave as they do. In general, research methods help investigators act ethically, reduce sources of bias that can affect interpretation, rule out alternative explanations for results, demonstrate that findings are valid and reliable, and advance theory development. Research methods are distinguishable by approach (qualitative or quantitative), how the data are sampled, and the type of equipment, if any, relied on for data collection. Although all psychologists are likely to possess a shared understanding of basic research methodology (particularly, for example, the need for randomization), different subfields within psychology are apt to rely on distinct methods designed to examine different levels of behavior. Traditionally, research methods in psychology have relied as much as possible on objective or quantitative approaches, where a favored hypothesis is pitted against some alternative account. Relevant designs incorporate control groups in order to verify predicted relationships by comparing them against competing possible outcomes. Increasingly, however, psychologists are becoming open to exploring more subjective or qualitative approaches where participants’ own perspectives, beliefs, and reports constitute acceptable data. Many psychologists now employ a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods in their research efforts. The first section of this bibliography introduces general overviews, textbooks, and reference works detailing research methods used in experimental, developmental, social, and personality psychology. Attention is also paid to works examining teaching research methods, selective journals that publish articles presenting novel methods, as well as methodological controversies. The bibliography’s remaining sections examine particular methodological approaches, many of which include studies illustrating innovative or modified methods. This selective review highlights issues pertaining to data (collection methods, interpretation, and research design). The bibliography concludes with coverage of ethical debates and issues linked to human as well as animal behavior.

At one level, research methods in psychology all seem to share similar features. At another level, where subareas of the field emerge, these methods take on particular features, theoretical perspectives, and additional terminology. Before exploring the breadth of the methods psychologist use—including considering newer techniques advanced by neuroscience, for example—a reader should gain some perspective on how approaches to asking, testing, and evaluating research questions have evolved. McGuire 2000 offers a cogent account of how research methods in psychology have developed across the discipline’s relatively short history. Recognition that choice of method is also driven by the topic of inquiry is discussed by Fiske 2000 . A broad and accessible overview of research methods is provided by the Research Methods Knowledge Base website.

Fiske, D. W. 2000. Research methods: Concepts and practices. In Encyclopedia of psychology . Vol. 7. Edited by A. J. Kazdin, 84–87. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

This article focuses on how research in psychology is conducted, highlighting the idea that the nature of particular psychological phenomena necessarily drive the choice of method for their exploration and explication.

McGuire, W. J. 2000. Research methods: History of the field. In Encyclopedia of psychology . Vol. 7. Edited by A. J. Kazdin, 80–84. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

An overview of how methodological developments in psychology have influenced the nature of empirical discovery and the research process as well as the critical evaluation of these two products.

Research Methods Knowledge Base .

A website that provides a general overview of issues in research methodology for both undergraduate and graduate students. Contains a variety of hyperlinks allowing novice and expert researchers to easily browse.

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The Use of Research Methods in Psychological Research: A Systematised Review

Salomé elizabeth scholtz.

1 Community Psychosocial Research (COMPRES), School of Psychosocial Health, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Werner de Klerk

Leon t. de beer.

2 WorkWell Research Institute, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Research methods play an imperative role in research quality as well as educating young researchers, however, the application thereof is unclear which can be detrimental to the field of psychology. Therefore, this systematised review aimed to determine what research methods are being used, how these methods are being used and for what topics in the field. Our review of 999 articles from five journals over a period of 5 years indicated that psychology research is conducted in 10 topics via predominantly quantitative research methods. Of these 10 topics, social psychology was the most popular. The remainder of the conducted methodology is described. It was also found that articles lacked rigour and transparency in the used methodology which has implications for replicability. In conclusion this article, provides an overview of all reported methodologies used in a sample of psychology journals. It highlights the popularity and application of methods and designs throughout the article sample as well as an unexpected lack of rigour with regard to most aspects of methodology. Possible sample bias should be considered when interpreting the results of this study. It is recommended that future research should utilise the results of this study to determine the possible impact on the field of psychology as a science and to further investigation into the use of research methods. Results should prompt the following future research into: a lack or rigour and its implication on replication, the use of certain methods above others, publication bias and choice of sampling method.

Introduction

Psychology is an ever-growing and popular field (Gough and Lyons, 2016 ; Clay, 2017 ). Due to this growth and the need for science-based research to base health decisions on (Perestelo-Pérez, 2013 ), the use of research methods in the broad field of psychology is an essential point of investigation (Stangor, 2011 ; Aanstoos, 2014 ). Research methods are therefore viewed as important tools used by researchers to collect data (Nieuwenhuis, 2016 ) and include the following: quantitative, qualitative, mixed method and multi method (Maree, 2016 ). Additionally, researchers also employ various types of literature reviews to address research questions (Grant and Booth, 2009 ). According to literature, what research method is used and why a certain research method is used is complex as it depends on various factors that may include paradigm (O'Neil and Koekemoer, 2016 ), research question (Grix, 2002 ), or the skill and exposure of the researcher (Nind et al., 2015 ). How these research methods are employed is also difficult to discern as research methods are often depicted as having fixed boundaries that are continuously crossed in research (Johnson et al., 2001 ; Sandelowski, 2011 ). Examples of this crossing include adding quantitative aspects to qualitative studies (Sandelowski et al., 2009 ), or stating that a study used a mixed-method design without the study having any characteristics of this design (Truscott et al., 2010 ).

The inappropriate use of research methods affects how students and researchers improve and utilise their research skills (Scott Jones and Goldring, 2015 ), how theories are developed (Ngulube, 2013 ), and the credibility of research results (Levitt et al., 2017 ). This, in turn, can be detrimental to the field (Nind et al., 2015 ), journal publication (Ketchen et al., 2008 ; Ezeh et al., 2010 ), and attempts to address public social issues through psychological research (Dweck, 2017 ). This is especially important given the now well-known replication crisis the field is facing (Earp and Trafimow, 2015 ; Hengartner, 2018 ).

Due to this lack of clarity on method use and the potential impact of inept use of research methods, the aim of this study was to explore the use of research methods in the field of psychology through a review of journal publications. Chaichanasakul et al. ( 2011 ) identify reviewing articles as the opportunity to examine the development, growth and progress of a research area and overall quality of a journal. Studies such as Lee et al. ( 1999 ) as well as Bluhm et al. ( 2011 ) review of qualitative methods has attempted to synthesis the use of research methods and indicated the growth of qualitative research in American and European journals. Research has also focused on the use of research methods in specific sub-disciplines of psychology, for example, in the field of Industrial and Organisational psychology Coetzee and Van Zyl ( 2014 ) found that South African publications tend to consist of cross-sectional quantitative research methods with underrepresented longitudinal studies. Qualitative studies were found to make up 21% of the articles published from 1995 to 2015 in a similar study by O'Neil and Koekemoer ( 2016 ). Other methods in health psychology, such as Mixed methods research have also been reportedly growing in popularity (O'Cathain, 2009 ).

A broad overview of the use of research methods in the field of psychology as a whole is however, not available in the literature. Therefore, our research focused on answering what research methods are being used, how these methods are being used and for what topics in practice (i.e., journal publications) in order to provide a general perspective of method used in psychology publication. We synthesised the collected data into the following format: research topic [areas of scientific discourse in a field or the current needs of a population (Bittermann and Fischer, 2018 )], method [data-gathering tools (Nieuwenhuis, 2016 )], sampling [elements chosen from a population to partake in research (Ritchie et al., 2009 )], data collection [techniques and research strategy (Maree, 2016 )], and data analysis [discovering information by examining bodies of data (Ktepi, 2016 )]. A systematised review of recent articles (2013 to 2017) collected from five different journals in the field of psychological research was conducted.

Grant and Booth ( 2009 ) describe systematised reviews as the review of choice for post-graduate studies, which is employed using some elements of a systematic review and seldom more than one or two databases to catalogue studies after a comprehensive literature search. The aspects used in this systematised review that are similar to that of a systematic review were a full search within the chosen database and data produced in tabular form (Grant and Booth, 2009 ).

Sample sizes and timelines vary in systematised reviews (see Lowe and Moore, 2014 ; Pericall and Taylor, 2014 ; Barr-Walker, 2017 ). With no clear parameters identified in the literature (see Grant and Booth, 2009 ), the sample size of this study was determined by the purpose of the sample (Strydom, 2011 ), and time and cost constraints (Maree and Pietersen, 2016 ). Thus, a non-probability purposive sample (Ritchie et al., 2009 ) of the top five psychology journals from 2013 to 2017 was included in this research study. Per Lee ( 2015 ) American Psychological Association (APA) recommends the use of the most up-to-date sources for data collection with consideration of the context of the research study. As this research study focused on the most recent trends in research methods used in the broad field of psychology, the identified time frame was deemed appropriate.

Psychology journals were only included if they formed part of the top five English journals in the miscellaneous psychology domain of the Scimago Journal and Country Rank (Scimago Journal & Country Rank, 2017 ). The Scimago Journal and Country Rank provides a yearly updated list of publicly accessible journal and country-specific indicators derived from the Scopus® database (Scopus, 2017b ) by means of the Scimago Journal Rank (SJR) indicator developed by Scimago from the algorithm Google PageRank™ (Scimago Journal & Country Rank, 2017 ). Scopus is the largest global database of abstracts and citations from peer-reviewed journals (Scopus, 2017a ). Reasons for the development of the Scimago Journal and Country Rank list was to allow researchers to assess scientific domains, compare country rankings, and compare and analyse journals (Scimago Journal & Country Rank, 2017 ), which supported the aim of this research study. Additionally, the goals of the journals had to focus on topics in psychology in general with no preference to specific research methods and have full-text access to articles.

The following list of top five journals in 2018 fell within the abovementioned inclusion criteria (1) Australian Journal of Psychology, (2) British Journal of Psychology, (3) Europe's Journal of Psychology, (4) International Journal of Psychology and lastly the (5) Journal of Psychology Applied and Interdisciplinary.

Journals were excluded from this systematised review if no full-text versions of their articles were available, if journals explicitly stated a publication preference for certain research methods, or if the journal only published articles in a specific discipline of psychological research (for example, industrial psychology, clinical psychology etc.).

The researchers followed a procedure (see Figure 1 ) adapted from that of Ferreira et al. ( 2016 ) for systematised reviews. Data collection and categorisation commenced on 4 December 2017 and continued until 30 June 2019. All the data was systematically collected and coded manually (Grant and Booth, 2009 ) with an independent person acting as co-coder. Codes of interest included the research topic, method used, the design used, sampling method, and methodology (the method used for data collection and data analysis). These codes were derived from the wording in each article. Themes were created based on the derived codes and checked by the co-coder. Lastly, these themes were catalogued into a table as per the systematised review design.

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Systematised review procedure.

According to Johnston et al. ( 2019 ), “literature screening, selection, and data extraction/analyses” (p. 7) are specifically tailored to the aim of a review. Therefore, the steps followed in a systematic review must be reported in a comprehensive and transparent manner. The chosen systematised design adhered to the rigour expected from systematic reviews with regard to full search and data produced in tabular form (Grant and Booth, 2009 ). The rigorous application of the systematic review is, therefore discussed in relation to these two elements.

Firstly, to ensure a comprehensive search, this research study promoted review transparency by following a clear protocol outlined according to each review stage before collecting data (Johnston et al., 2019 ). This protocol was similar to that of Ferreira et al. ( 2016 ) and approved by three research committees/stakeholders and the researchers (Johnston et al., 2019 ). The eligibility criteria for article inclusion was based on the research question and clearly stated, and the process of inclusion was recorded on an electronic spreadsheet to create an evidence trail (Bandara et al., 2015 ; Johnston et al., 2019 ). Microsoft Excel spreadsheets are a popular tool for review studies and can increase the rigour of the review process (Bandara et al., 2015 ). Screening for appropriate articles for inclusion forms an integral part of a systematic review process (Johnston et al., 2019 ). This step was applied to two aspects of this research study: the choice of eligible journals and articles to be included. Suitable journals were selected by the first author and reviewed by the second and third authors. Initially, all articles from the chosen journals were included. Then, by process of elimination, those irrelevant to the research aim, i.e., interview articles or discussions etc., were excluded.

To ensure rigourous data extraction, data was first extracted by one reviewer, and an independent person verified the results for completeness and accuracy (Johnston et al., 2019 ). The research question served as a guide for efficient, organised data extraction (Johnston et al., 2019 ). Data was categorised according to the codes of interest, along with article identifiers for audit trails such as authors, title and aims of articles. The categorised data was based on the aim of the review (Johnston et al., 2019 ) and synthesised in tabular form under methods used, how these methods were used, and for what topics in the field of psychology.

The initial search produced a total of 1,145 articles from the 5 journals identified. Inclusion and exclusion criteria resulted in a final sample of 999 articles ( Figure 2 ). Articles were co-coded into 84 codes, from which 10 themes were derived ( Table 1 ).

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Journal article frequency.

Codes used to form themes (research topics).

These 10 themes represent the topic section of our research question ( Figure 3 ). All these topics except, for the final one, psychological practice , were found to concur with the research areas in psychology as identified by Weiten ( 2010 ). These research areas were chosen to represent the derived codes as they provided broad definitions that allowed for clear, concise categorisation of the vast amount of data. Article codes were categorised under particular themes/topics if they adhered to the research area definitions created by Weiten ( 2010 ). It is important to note that these areas of research do not refer to specific disciplines in psychology, such as industrial psychology; but to broader fields that may encompass sub-interests of these disciplines.

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Topic frequency (international sample).

In the case of developmental psychology , researchers conduct research into human development from childhood to old age. Social psychology includes research on behaviour governed by social drivers. Researchers in the field of educational psychology study how people learn and the best way to teach them. Health psychology aims to determine the effect of psychological factors on physiological health. Physiological psychology , on the other hand, looks at the influence of physiological aspects on behaviour. Experimental psychology is not the only theme that uses experimental research and focuses on the traditional core topics of psychology (for example, sensation). Cognitive psychology studies the higher mental processes. Psychometrics is concerned with measuring capacity or behaviour. Personality research aims to assess and describe consistency in human behaviour (Weiten, 2010 ). The final theme of psychological practice refers to the experiences, techniques, and interventions employed by practitioners, researchers, and academia in the field of psychology.

Articles under these themes were further subdivided into methodologies: method, sampling, design, data collection, and data analysis. The categorisation was based on information stated in the articles and not inferred by the researchers. Data were compiled into two sets of results presented in this article. The first set addresses the aim of this study from the perspective of the topics identified. The second set of results represents a broad overview of the results from the perspective of the methodology employed. The second set of results are discussed in this article, while the first set is presented in table format. The discussion thus provides a broad overview of methods use in psychology (across all themes), while the table format provides readers with in-depth insight into methods used in the individual themes identified. We believe that presenting the data from both perspectives allow readers a broad understanding of the results. Due a large amount of information that made up our results, we followed Cichocka and Jost ( 2014 ) in simplifying our results. Please note that the numbers indicated in the table in terms of methodology differ from the total number of articles. Some articles employed more than one method/sampling technique/design/data collection method/data analysis in their studies.

What follows is the results for what methods are used, how these methods are used, and which topics in psychology they are applied to . Percentages are reported to the second decimal in order to highlight small differences in the occurrence of methodology.

Firstly, with regard to the research methods used, our results show that researchers are more likely to use quantitative research methods (90.22%) compared to all other research methods. Qualitative research was the second most common research method but only made up about 4.79% of the general method usage. Reviews occurred almost as much as qualitative studies (3.91%), as the third most popular method. Mixed-methods research studies (0.98%) occurred across most themes, whereas multi-method research was indicated in only one study and amounted to 0.10% of the methods identified. The specific use of each method in the topics identified is shown in Table 2 and Figure 4 .

Research methods in psychology.

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Research method frequency in topics.

Secondly, in the case of how these research methods are employed , our study indicated the following.

Sampling −78.34% of the studies in the collected articles did not specify a sampling method. From the remainder of the studies, 13 types of sampling methods were identified. These sampling methods included broad categorisation of a sample as, for example, a probability or non-probability sample. General samples of convenience were the methods most likely to be applied (10.34%), followed by random sampling (3.51%), snowball sampling (2.73%), and purposive (1.37%) and cluster sampling (1.27%). The remainder of the sampling methods occurred to a more limited extent (0–1.0%). See Table 3 and Figure 5 for sampling methods employed in each topic.

Sampling use in the field of psychology.

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Sampling method frequency in topics.

Designs were categorised based on the articles' statement thereof. Therefore, it is important to note that, in the case of quantitative studies, non-experimental designs (25.55%) were often indicated due to a lack of experiments and any other indication of design, which, according to Laher ( 2016 ), is a reasonable categorisation. Non-experimental designs should thus be compared with experimental designs only in the description of data, as it could include the use of correlational/cross-sectional designs, which were not overtly stated by the authors. For the remainder of the research methods, “not stated” (7.12%) was assigned to articles without design types indicated.

From the 36 identified designs the most popular designs were cross-sectional (23.17%) and experimental (25.64%), which concurred with the high number of quantitative studies. Longitudinal studies (3.80%), the third most popular design, was used in both quantitative and qualitative studies. Qualitative designs consisted of ethnography (0.38%), interpretative phenomenological designs/phenomenology (0.28%), as well as narrative designs (0.28%). Studies that employed the review method were mostly categorised as “not stated,” with the most often stated review designs being systematic reviews (0.57%). The few mixed method studies employed exploratory, explanatory (0.09%), and concurrent designs (0.19%), with some studies referring to separate designs for the qualitative and quantitative methods. The one study that identified itself as a multi-method study used a longitudinal design. Please see how these designs were employed in each specific topic in Table 4 , Figure 6 .

Design use in the field of psychology.

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Design frequency in topics.

Data collection and analysis —data collection included 30 methods, with the data collection method most often employed being questionnaires (57.84%). The experimental task (16.56%) was the second most preferred collection method, which included established or unique tasks designed by the researchers. Cognitive ability tests (6.84%) were also regularly used along with various forms of interviewing (7.66%). Table 5 and Figure 7 represent data collection use in the various topics. Data analysis consisted of 3,857 occurrences of data analysis categorised into ±188 various data analysis techniques shown in Table 6 and Figures 1 – 7 . Descriptive statistics were the most commonly used (23.49%) along with correlational analysis (17.19%). When using a qualitative method, researchers generally employed thematic analysis (0.52%) or different forms of analysis that led to coding and the creation of themes. Review studies presented few data analysis methods, with most studies categorising their results. Mixed method and multi-method studies followed the analysis methods identified for the qualitative and quantitative studies included.

Data collection in the field of psychology.

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Data collection frequency in topics.

Data analysis in the field of psychology.

Results of the topics researched in psychology can be seen in the tables, as previously stated in this article. It is noteworthy that, of the 10 topics, social psychology accounted for 43.54% of the studies, with cognitive psychology the second most popular research topic at 16.92%. The remainder of the topics only occurred in 4.0–7.0% of the articles considered. A list of the included 999 articles is available under the section “View Articles” on the following website: https://methodgarden.xtrapolate.io/ . This website was created by Scholtz et al. ( 2019 ) to visually present a research framework based on this Article's results.

This systematised review categorised full-length articles from five international journals across the span of 5 years to provide insight into the use of research methods in the field of psychology. Results indicated what methods are used how these methods are being used and for what topics (why) in the included sample of articles. The results should be seen as providing insight into method use and by no means a comprehensive representation of the aforementioned aim due to the limited sample. To our knowledge, this is the first research study to address this topic in this manner. Our discussion attempts to promote a productive way forward in terms of the key results for method use in psychology, especially in the field of academia (Holloway, 2008 ).

With regard to the methods used, our data stayed true to literature, finding only common research methods (Grant and Booth, 2009 ; Maree, 2016 ) that varied in the degree to which they were employed. Quantitative research was found to be the most popular method, as indicated by literature (Breen and Darlaston-Jones, 2010 ; Counsell and Harlow, 2017 ) and previous studies in specific areas of psychology (see Coetzee and Van Zyl, 2014 ). Its long history as the first research method (Leech et al., 2007 ) in the field of psychology as well as researchers' current application of mathematical approaches in their studies (Toomela, 2010 ) might contribute to its popularity today. Whatever the case may be, our results show that, despite the growth in qualitative research (Demuth, 2015 ; Smith and McGannon, 2018 ), quantitative research remains the first choice for article publication in these journals. Despite the included journals indicating openness to articles that apply any research methods. This finding may be due to qualitative research still being seen as a new method (Burman and Whelan, 2011 ) or reviewers' standards being higher for qualitative studies (Bluhm et al., 2011 ). Future research is encouraged into the possible biasness in publication of research methods, additionally further investigation with a different sample into the proclaimed growth of qualitative research may also provide different results.

Review studies were found to surpass that of multi-method and mixed method studies. To this effect Grant and Booth ( 2009 ), state that the increased awareness, journal contribution calls as well as its efficiency in procuring research funds all promote the popularity of reviews. The low frequency of mixed method studies contradicts the view in literature that it's the third most utilised research method (Tashakkori and Teddlie's, 2003 ). Its' low occurrence in this sample could be due to opposing views on mixing methods (Gunasekare, 2015 ) or that authors prefer publishing in mixed method journals, when using this method, or its relative novelty (Ivankova et al., 2016 ). Despite its low occurrence, the application of the mixed methods design in articles was methodologically clear in all cases which were not the case for the remainder of research methods.

Additionally, a substantial number of studies used a combination of methodologies that are not mixed or multi-method studies. Perceived fixed boundaries are according to literature often set aside, as confirmed by this result, in order to investigate the aim of a study, which could create a new and helpful way of understanding the world (Gunasekare, 2015 ). According to Toomela ( 2010 ), this is not unheard of and could be considered a form of “structural systemic science,” as in the case of qualitative methodology (observation) applied in quantitative studies (experimental design) for example. Based on this result, further research into this phenomenon as well as its implications for research methods such as multi and mixed methods is recommended.

Discerning how these research methods were applied, presented some difficulty. In the case of sampling, most studies—regardless of method—did mention some form of inclusion and exclusion criteria, but no definite sampling method. This result, along with the fact that samples often consisted of students from the researchers' own academic institutions, can contribute to literature and debates among academics (Peterson and Merunka, 2014 ; Laher, 2016 ). Samples of convenience and students as participants especially raise questions about the generalisability and applicability of results (Peterson and Merunka, 2014 ). This is because attention to sampling is important as inappropriate sampling can debilitate the legitimacy of interpretations (Onwuegbuzie and Collins, 2017 ). Future investigation into the possible implications of this reported popular use of convenience samples for the field of psychology as well as the reason for this use could provide interesting insight, and is encouraged by this study.

Additionally, and this is indicated in Table 6 , articles seldom report the research designs used, which highlights the pressing aspect of the lack of rigour in the included sample. Rigour with regards to the applied empirical method is imperative in promoting psychology as a science (American Psychological Association, 2020 ). Omitting parts of the research process in publication when it could have been used to inform others' research skills should be questioned, and the influence on the process of replicating results should be considered. Publications are often rejected due to a lack of rigour in the applied method and designs (Fonseca, 2013 ; Laher, 2016 ), calling for increased clarity and knowledge of method application. Replication is a critical part of any field of scientific research and requires the “complete articulation” of the study methods used (Drotar, 2010 , p. 804). The lack of thorough description could be explained by the requirements of certain journals to only report on certain aspects of a research process, especially with regard to the applied design (Laher, 20). However, naming aspects such as sampling and designs, is a requirement according to the APA's Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS-Quant) (Appelbaum et al., 2018 ). With very little information on how a study was conducted, authors lose a valuable opportunity to enhance research validity, enrich the knowledge of others, and contribute to the growth of psychology and methodology as a whole. In the case of this research study, it also restricted our results to only reported samples and designs, which indicated a preference for certain designs, such as cross-sectional designs for quantitative studies.

Data collection and analysis were for the most part clearly stated. A key result was the versatile use of questionnaires. Researchers would apply a questionnaire in various ways, for example in questionnaire interviews, online surveys, and written questionnaires across most research methods. This may highlight a trend for future research.

With regard to the topics these methods were employed for, our research study found a new field named “psychological practice.” This result may show the growing consciousness of researchers as part of the research process (Denzin and Lincoln, 2003 ), psychological practice, and knowledge generation. The most popular of these topics was social psychology, which is generously covered in journals and by learning societies, as testaments of the institutional support and richness social psychology has in the field of psychology (Chryssochoou, 2015 ). The APA's perspective on 2018 trends in psychology also identifies an increased amount of psychology focus on how social determinants are influencing people's health (Deangelis, 2017 ).

This study was not without limitations and the following should be taken into account. Firstly, this study used a sample of five specific journals to address the aim of the research study, despite general journal aims (as stated on journal websites), this inclusion signified a bias towards the research methods published in these specific journals only and limited generalisability. A broader sample of journals over a different period of time, or a single journal over a longer period of time might provide different results. A second limitation is the use of Excel spreadsheets and an electronic system to log articles, which was a manual process and therefore left room for error (Bandara et al., 2015 ). To address this potential issue, co-coding was performed to reduce error. Lastly, this article categorised data based on the information presented in the article sample; there was no interpretation of what methodology could have been applied or whether the methods stated adhered to the criteria for the methods used. Thus, a large number of articles that did not clearly indicate a research method or design could influence the results of this review. However, this in itself was also a noteworthy result. Future research could review research methods of a broader sample of journals with an interpretive review tool that increases rigour. Additionally, the authors also encourage the future use of systematised review designs as a way to promote a concise procedure in applying this design.

Our research study presented the use of research methods for published articles in the field of psychology as well as recommendations for future research based on these results. Insight into the complex questions identified in literature, regarding what methods are used how these methods are being used and for what topics (why) was gained. This sample preferred quantitative methods, used convenience sampling and presented a lack of rigorous accounts for the remaining methodologies. All methodologies that were clearly indicated in the sample were tabulated to allow researchers insight into the general use of methods and not only the most frequently used methods. The lack of rigorous account of research methods in articles was represented in-depth for each step in the research process and can be of vital importance to address the current replication crisis within the field of psychology. Recommendations for future research aimed to motivate research into the practical implications of the results for psychology, for example, publication bias and the use of convenience samples.

Ethics Statement

This study was cleared by the North-West University Health Research Ethics Committee: NWU-00115-17-S1.

Author Contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Home » Research Methods – Types, Examples and Guide

Research Methods – Types, Examples and Guide

Table of Contents

Research Methods

Research Methods

Definition:

Research Methods refer to the techniques, procedures, and processes used by researchers to collect , analyze, and interpret data in order to answer research questions or test hypotheses. The methods used in research can vary depending on the research questions, the type of data that is being collected, and the research design.

Types of Research Methods

Types of Research Methods are as follows:

Qualitative research Method

Qualitative research methods are used to collect and analyze non-numerical data. This type of research is useful when the objective is to explore the meaning of phenomena, understand the experiences of individuals, or gain insights into complex social processes. Qualitative research methods include interviews, focus groups, ethnography, and content analysis.

Quantitative Research Method

Quantitative research methods are used to collect and analyze numerical data. This type of research is useful when the objective is to test a hypothesis, determine cause-and-effect relationships, and measure the prevalence of certain phenomena. Quantitative research methods include surveys, experiments, and secondary data analysis.

Mixed Method Research

Mixed Method Research refers to the combination of both qualitative and quantitative research methods in a single study. This approach aims to overcome the limitations of each individual method and to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the research topic. This approach allows researchers to gather both quantitative data, which is often used to test hypotheses and make generalizations about a population, and qualitative data, which provides a more in-depth understanding of the experiences and perspectives of individuals.

Key Differences Between Research Methods

The following Table shows the key differences between Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Research Methods

Examples of Research Methods

Examples of Research Methods are as follows:

Qualitative Research Example:

A researcher wants to study the experience of cancer patients during their treatment. They conduct in-depth interviews with patients to gather data on their emotional state, coping mechanisms, and support systems.

Quantitative Research Example:

A company wants to determine the effectiveness of a new advertisement campaign. They survey a large group of people, asking them to rate their awareness of the product and their likelihood of purchasing it.

Mixed Research Example:

A university wants to evaluate the effectiveness of a new teaching method in improving student performance. They collect both quantitative data (such as test scores) and qualitative data (such as feedback from students and teachers) to get a complete picture of the impact of the new method.

Applications of Research Methods

Research methods are used in various fields to investigate, analyze, and answer research questions. Here are some examples of how research methods are applied in different fields:

  • Psychology : Research methods are widely used in psychology to study human behavior, emotions, and mental processes. For example, researchers may use experiments, surveys, and observational studies to understand how people behave in different situations, how they respond to different stimuli, and how their brains process information.
  • Sociology : Sociologists use research methods to study social phenomena, such as social inequality, social change, and social relationships. Researchers may use surveys, interviews, and observational studies to collect data on social attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • Medicine : Research methods are essential in medical research to study diseases, test new treatments, and evaluate their effectiveness. Researchers may use clinical trials, case studies, and laboratory experiments to collect data on the efficacy and safety of different medical treatments.
  • Education : Research methods are used in education to understand how students learn, how teachers teach, and how educational policies affect student outcomes. Researchers may use surveys, experiments, and observational studies to collect data on student performance, teacher effectiveness, and educational programs.
  • Business : Research methods are used in business to understand consumer behavior, market trends, and business strategies. Researchers may use surveys, focus groups, and observational studies to collect data on consumer preferences, market trends, and industry competition.
  • Environmental science : Research methods are used in environmental science to study the natural world and its ecosystems. Researchers may use field studies, laboratory experiments, and observational studies to collect data on environmental factors, such as air and water quality, and the impact of human activities on the environment.
  • Political science : Research methods are used in political science to study political systems, institutions, and behavior. Researchers may use surveys, experiments, and observational studies to collect data on political attitudes, voting behavior, and the impact of policies on society.

Purpose of Research Methods

Research methods serve several purposes, including:

  • Identify research problems: Research methods are used to identify research problems or questions that need to be addressed through empirical investigation.
  • Develop hypotheses: Research methods help researchers develop hypotheses, which are tentative explanations for the observed phenomenon or relationship.
  • Collect data: Research methods enable researchers to collect data in a systematic and objective way, which is necessary to test hypotheses and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Analyze data: Research methods provide tools and techniques for analyzing data, such as statistical analysis, content analysis, and discourse analysis.
  • Test hypotheses: Research methods allow researchers to test hypotheses by examining the relationships between variables in a systematic and controlled manner.
  • Draw conclusions : Research methods facilitate the drawing of conclusions based on empirical evidence and help researchers make generalizations about a population based on their sample data.
  • Enhance understanding: Research methods contribute to the development of knowledge and enhance our understanding of various phenomena and relationships, which can inform policy, practice, and theory.

When to Use Research Methods

Research methods are used when you need to gather information or data to answer a question or to gain insights into a particular phenomenon.

Here are some situations when research methods may be appropriate:

  • To investigate a problem : Research methods can be used to investigate a problem or a research question in a particular field. This can help in identifying the root cause of the problem and developing solutions.
  • To gather data: Research methods can be used to collect data on a particular subject. This can be done through surveys, interviews, observations, experiments, and more.
  • To evaluate programs : Research methods can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a program, intervention, or policy. This can help in determining whether the program is meeting its goals and objectives.
  • To explore new areas : Research methods can be used to explore new areas of inquiry or to test new hypotheses. This can help in advancing knowledge in a particular field.
  • To make informed decisions : Research methods can be used to gather information and data to support informed decision-making. This can be useful in various fields such as healthcare, business, and education.

Advantages of Research Methods

Research methods provide several advantages, including:

  • Objectivity : Research methods enable researchers to gather data in a systematic and objective manner, minimizing personal biases and subjectivity. This leads to more reliable and valid results.
  • Replicability : A key advantage of research methods is that they allow for replication of studies by other researchers. This helps to confirm the validity of the findings and ensures that the results are not specific to the particular research team.
  • Generalizability : Research methods enable researchers to gather data from a representative sample of the population, allowing for generalizability of the findings to a larger population. This increases the external validity of the research.
  • Precision : Research methods enable researchers to gather data using standardized procedures, ensuring that the data is accurate and precise. This allows researchers to make accurate predictions and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Efficiency : Research methods enable researchers to gather data efficiently, saving time and resources. This is especially important when studying large populations or complex phenomena.
  • Innovation : Research methods enable researchers to develop new techniques and tools for data collection and analysis, leading to innovation and advancement in the field.

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Chapter 1: The Science of Psychology

Scientific Research in Psychology

Learning Objectives

  • Describe a general model of scientific research in psychology and give specific examples that fit the model.
  • Explain who conducts scientific research in psychology and why they do it.
  • Distinguish between basic research and applied research.

A Model of Scientific Research in Psychology

Figure 1.1 presents a more specific model of scientific research in psychology. The researcher (who more often than not is really a small group of researchers) formulates a research question, conducts a study designed to answer the question, analyzes the resulting data, draws conclusions about the answer to the question, and publishes the results so that they become part of the research literature. Because the research literature is one of the primary sources of new research questions, this process can be thought of as a cycle. New research leads to new questions, which lead to new research, and so on. Figure 1.1 also indicates that research questions can originate outside of this cycle either with informal observations or with practical problems that need to be solved. But even in these cases, the researcher would start by checking the research literature to see if the question had already been answered and to refine it based on what previous research had already found.

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The research by Mehl and his colleagues is described nicely by this model. Their question—whether women are more talkative than men—was suggested to them both by people’s stereotypes and by published claims about the relative talkativeness of women and men. When they checked the research literature, however, they found that this question had not been adequately addressed in scientific studies. They then conducted a careful empirical study, analyzed the results (finding very little difference between women and men), and published their work so that it became part of the research literature. The publication of their article is not the end of the story, however, because their work suggests many new questions (about the reliability of the result, about potential cultural differences, etc.) that will likely be taken up by them and by other researchers inspired by their work.

QR code that links to distracted driving video

As another example, consider that as cell phones became more widespread during the 1990s, people began to wonder whether, and to what extent, cell phone use had a negative effect on driving. Many psychologists decided to tackle this question scientifically (Collet, Guillot, & Petit, 2010) [1] . It was clear from previously published research that engaging in a simple verbal task impairs performance on a perceptual or motor task carried out at the same time, but no one had studied the effect specifically of cell phone use on driving. Under carefully controlled conditions, these researchers compared people’s driving performance while using a cell phone with their performance while not using a cell phone, both in the lab and on the road. They found that people’s ability to detect road hazards, reaction time, and control of the vehicle were all impaired by cell phone use. Each new study was published and became part of the growing research literature on this topic.

Who Conducts Scientific Research in Psychology?

Scientific research in psychology is generally conducted by people with doctoral degrees (usually the  doctor of philosophy [PhD] ) and master’s degrees in psychology and related fields, often supported by research assistants with bachelor’s degrees or other relevant training. Some of them work for government agencies (e.g., the Mental Health Commission of Canada), national associations (e.g., the Canadian Psychological Association), nonprofit organizations (e.g., the Canadian Mental Health Association), or in the private sector (e.g., in product development). However, the majority of them are college and university faculty, who often collaborate with their graduate and undergraduate students. Although some researchers are trained and licensed as clinicians—especially those who conduct research in clinical psychology—the majority are not. Instead, they have expertise in one or more of the many other subfields of psychology: behavioural neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, personality psychology, social psychology, and so on. Doctoral-level researchers might be employed to conduct research full-time or, like many college and university faculty members, to conduct research in addition to teaching classes and serving their institution and community in other ways.

Of course, people also conduct research in psychology because they enjoy the intellectual and technical challenges involved and the satisfaction of contributing to scientific knowledge of human behaviour. You might find that you enjoy the process too. If so, your college or university might offer opportunities to get involved in ongoing research as either a research assistant or a participant. Of course, you might find that you do not enjoy the process of conducting scientific research in psychology. But at least you will have a better understanding of where scientific knowledge in psychology comes from, an appreciation of its strengths and limitations, and an awareness of how it can be applied to solve practical problems in psychology and everyday life.

Scientific Psychology Blogs

A fun and easy way to follow current scientific research in psychology is to read any of the many excellent blogs devoted to summarizing and commenting on new findings.

Among them are the following:

  • Brain Blogger
  • Research Digest
  • Social Psychology Eye
  • We’re Only Human

You can also browse through Research Blogging , select psychology as your topic, and read entries from a wide variety of blogs.

The Broader Purposes of Scientific Research in Psychology

People have always been curious about the natural world, including themselves and their behaviour (in fact, this is probably why you are studying psychology in the first place). Science grew out of this natural curiosity and has become the best way to achieve detailed and accurate knowledge. Keep in mind that most of the phenomena and theories that fill psychology textbooks are the products of scientific research. In a typical introductory psychology textbook, for example, one can learn about specific cortical areas for language and perception, principles of classical and operant conditioning, biases in reasoning and judgment, and people’s surprising tendency to obey those in positions of authority. And scientific research continues because what we know right now only scratches the surface of what we  can  know.

Scientific research is often classified as being either basic or applied. Basic research  in psychology is conducted primarily for the sake of achieving a more detailed and accurate understanding of human behaviour, without necessarily trying to address any particular practical problem. The research of Mehl and his colleagues falls into this category.  Applied research  is conducted primarily to address some practical problem. Research on the effects of cell phone use on driving, for example, was prompted by safety concerns and has led to the enactment of laws to limit this practice. Although the distinction between basic and applied research is convenient, it is not always clear-cut. For example, basic research on sex differences in talkativeness could eventually have an effect on how marriage therapy is practiced, and applied research on the effect of cell phone use on driving could produce new insights into basic processes of perception, attention, and action.

Key Takeaways

  • Research in psychology can be described by a simple cyclical model. A research question based on the research literature leads to an empirical study, the results of which are published and become part of the research literature.
  • Scientific research in psychology is conducted mainly by people with doctoral degrees in psychology and related fields, most of whom are college and university faculty members. They do so for professional and for personal reasons, as well as to contribute to scientific knowledge about human behaviour.
  • Basic research is conducted to learn about human behaviour for its own sake, and applied research is conducted to solve some practical problem. Both are valuable, and the distinction between the two is not always clear-cut.
  • Practice: Find a description of an empirical study in a professional journal or in one of the scientific psychology blogs. Then write a brief description of the research in terms of the cyclical model presented here. One or two sentences for each part of the cycle should suffice.
  • Practice: Based on your own experience or on things you have already learned about psychology, list three basic research questions and three applied research questions of interest to you.
  • Watch the following TED Ed video, in which David H. Schwartz provides an introduction to two types of empirical studies along with some methods that scientists use to increase the reliability of their results:

QR code that links to

Video Attributions

  • “ Understanding driver distraction ” by American Psychological Association . Standard YouTube Licence.
  • “ Not all scientific studies are created equal – David H. Schwartz ” by TED-Ed . Standard YouTube Licence.
  • Collet, C., Guillot, A., & Petit, C. (2010). Phoning while driving I: A review of epidemiological, psychological, behavioural and physiological studies. Ergonomics, 53 , 589–601. ↵

A doctoral degree generally held by people who conduct scientific research in psychology.

In psychology, research conducted for the sake of achieving a more detailed and accurate understanding of human behaviour, without necessarily trying to address any particular problem.

Research conducted primarily to address some practical problem.

Research Methods in Psychology - 2nd Canadian Edition Copyright © 2015 by Paul C. Price, Rajiv Jhangiani, & I-Chant A. Chiang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Research Methods Key Term Glossary

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

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This key term glossary provides brief definitions for the core terms and concepts covered in Research Methods for A Level Psychology.

Don't forget to also make full use of our research methods study notes and revision quizzes to support your studies and exam revision.

The researcher’s area of interest – what they are looking at (e.g. to investigate helping behaviour).

A graph that shows the data in the form of categories (e.g. behaviours observed) that the researcher wishes to compare.

Behavioural categories

Key behaviours or, collections of behaviour, that the researcher conducting the observation will pay attention to and record

In-depth investigation of a single person, group or event, where data are gathered from a variety of sources and by using several different methods (e.g. observations & interviews).

Closed questions

Questions where there are fixed choices of responses e.g. yes/no. They generate quantitative data

Co-variables

The variables investigated in a correlation

Concurrent validity

Comparing a new test with another test of the same thing to see if they produce similar results. If they do then the new test has concurrent validity

Confidentiality

Unless agreed beforehand, participants have the right to expect that all data collected during a research study will remain confidential and anonymous.

Confounding variable

An extraneous variable that varies systematically with the IV so we cannot be sure of the true source of the change to the DV

Content analysis

Technique used to analyse qualitative data which involves coding the written data into categories – converting qualitative data into quantitative data.

Control group

A group that is treated normally and gives us a measure of how people behave when they are not exposed to the experimental treatment (e.g. allowed to sleep normally).

Controlled observation

An observation study where the researchers control some variables - often takes place in laboratory setting

Correlational analysis

A mathematical technique where the researcher looks to see whether scores for two covariables are related

Counterbalancing

A way of trying to control for order effects in a repeated measures design, e.g. half the participants do condition A followed by B and the other half do B followed by A

Covert observation

Also known as an undisclosed observation as the participants do not know their behaviour is being observed

Critical value

The value that a test statistic must reach in order for the hypothesis to be accepted.

After completing the research, the true aim is revealed to the participant. Aim of debriefing = to return the person to the state s/he was in before they took part.

Involves misleading participants about the purpose of s study.

Demand characteristics

Occur when participants try to make sense of the research situation they are in and try to guess the purpose of the research or try to present themselves in a good way.

Dependent variable

The variable that is measured to tell you the outcome.

Descriptive statistics

Analysis of data that helps describe, show or summarize data in a meaningful way

Directional hypothesis

A one-tailed hypothesis that states the direction of the difference or relationship (e.g. boys are more helpful than girls).

Dispersion measure

A dispersion measure shows how a set of data is spread out, examples are the range and the standard deviation

Double blind control

Participants are not told the true purpose of the research and the experimenter is also blind to at least some aspects of the research design.

Ecological validity

The extent to which the findings of a research study are able to be generalized to real-life settings

Ethical guidelines

These are provided by the BPS - they are the ‘rules’ by which all psychologists should operate, including those carrying out research.

Ethical issues

There are 3 main ethical issues that occur in psychological research – deception, lack of informed consent and lack of protection of participants.

Evaluation apprehension

Participants’ behaviour is distorted as they fear being judged by observers

Event sampling

A target behaviour is identified and the observer records it every time it occurs

Experimental group

The group that received the experimental treatment (e.g. sleep deprivation)

External validity

Whether it is possible to generalise the results beyond the experimental setting.

Extraneous variable

Variables that if not controlled may affect the DV and provide a false impression than an IV has produced changes when it hasn’t.

Face validity

Simple way of assessing whether a test measures what it claims to measure which is concerned with face value – e.g. does an IQ test look like it tests intelligence.

Field experiment

An experiment that takes place in a natural setting where the experimenter manipulates the IV and measures the DV

A graph that is used for continuous data (e.g. test scores). There should be no space between the bars, because the data is continuous.

This is a formal statement or prediction of what the researcher expects to find. It needs to be testable.

Independent groups design

An experimental design where each participants only takes part in one condition of the IV

Independent variable

The variable that the experimenter manipulates (changes).

Inferential statistics

Inferential statistics are ways of analyzing data using statistical tests that allow the researcher to make conclusions about whether a hypothesis was supported by the results.

Informed consent

Psychologists should ensure that all participants are helped to understand fully all aspects of the research before they agree (give consent) to take part

Inter-observer reliability

The extent to which two or more observers are observing and recording behaviour in the same way

Internal validity

In relation to experiments, whether the results were due to the manipulation of the IV rather than other factors such as extraneous variables or demand characteristics.

Interval level data

Data measured in fixed units with equal distance between points on the scale

Investigator effects

These result from the effects of a researcher’s behaviour and characteristics on an investigation.

Laboratory experiment

An experiment that takes place in a controlled environment where the experimenter manipulates the IV and measures the DV

Matched pairs design

An experimental design where pairs of participants are matched on important characteristics and one member allocated to each condition of the IV

Measure of central tendency calculated by adding all the scores in a set of data together and dividing by the total number of scores

Measures of central tendency

A measurement of data that indicates where the middle of the information lies e.g. mean, median or mode

Measure of central tendency calculated by arranging scores in a set of data from lowest to highest and finding the middle score

Meta-analysis

A technique where rather than conducting new research with participants, the researchers examine the results of several studies that have already been conducted

Measure of central tendency which is the most frequently occurring score in a set of data

Natural experiment

An experiment where the change in the IV already exists rather than being manipulated by the experimenter

Naturalistic observation

An observation study conducted in the environment where the behaviour would normally occur

Negative correlation

A relationship exists between two covariables where as one increases, the other decreases

Nominal level data

Frequency count data that consists of the number of participants falling into categories. (e.g. 7 people passed their driving test first time, 6 didn’t).

Non-directional hypothesis

A two-tailed hypothesis that does not predict the direction of the difference or relationship (e.g. girls and boys are different in terms of helpfulness).

Normal distribution

An arrangement of a data that is symmetrical and forms a bell shaped pattern where the mean, median and mode all fall in the centre at the highest peak

Observed value

The value that you have obtained from conducting your statistical test

Observer bias

Occurs when the observers know the aims of the study study or the hypotheses and allow this knowledge to influence their observations

Open questions

Questions where there is no fixed response and participants can give any answer they like. They generate qualitative data.

Operationalising variables

This means clearly describing the variables (IV and DV) in terms of how they will be manipulated (IV) or measured (DV).

Opportunity sample

A sampling technique where participants are chosen because they are easily available

Order effects

Order effects can occur in a repeated measures design and refers to how the positioning of tasks influences the outcome e.g. practice effect or boredom effect on second task

Ordinal level data

Data that is capable of being out into rank order (e.g. places in a beauty contest, or ratings for attractiveness).

Overt observation

Also known as a disclosed observation as the participants given their permission for their behaviour to be observed

Participant observation

Observation study where the researcher actually joins the group or takes part in the situation they are observing.

Peer review

Before going to publication, a research report is sent other psychologists who are knowledgeable in the research topic for them to review the study, and check for any problems

Pilot study

A small scale study conducted to ensure the method will work according to plan. If it doesn’t then amendments can be made.

Positive correlation

A relationship exists between two covariables where as one increases, so does the other

Presumptive consent

Asking a group of people from the same target population as the sample whether they would agree to take part in such a study, if yes then presume the sample would

Primary data

Information that the researcher has collected him/herself for a specific purpose e.g. data from an experiment or observation

Prior general consent

Before participants are recruited they are asked whether they are prepared to take part in research where they might be deceived about the true purpose

Probability

How likely something is to happen – can be expressed as a number (0.5) or a percentage (50% change of tossing coin and getting a head)

Protection of participants

Participants should be protected from physical or mental health, including stress - risk of harm must be no greater than that to which they are exposed in everyday life

Qualitative data

Descriptive information that is expressed in words

Quantitative data

Information that can be measured and written down with numbers.

Quasi experiment

An experiment often conducted in controlled conditions where the IV simply exists so there can be no random allocation to the conditions

Questionnaire

A set of written questions that participants fill in themselves

Random sampling

A sampling technique where everyone in the target population has an equal chance of being selected

Randomisation

Refers to the practice of using chance methods (e.g. flipping a coin' to allocate participants to the conditions of an investigation

The distance between the lowest and the highest value in a set of scores.

A measure of dispersion which involves subtracting the lowest score from the highest score in a set of data

Reliability

Whether something is consistent. In the case of a study, whether it is replicable.

Repeated measures design

An experimental design where each participants takes part in both/all conditions of the IV

Representative sample

A sample that that closely matched the target population as a whole in terms of key variables and characteristics

Retrospective consent

Once the true nature of the research has been revealed, participants should be given the right to withdraw their data if they are not happy.

Right to withdraw

Participants should be aware that they can leave the study at any time, even if they have been paid to take part.

A group of people that are drawn from the target population to take part in a research investigation

Scattergram

Used to plot correlations where each pair of values is plotted against each other to see if there is a relationship between them.

Secondary data

Information that someone else has collected e.g. the work of other psychologists or government statistics

Semi-structured interview

Interview that has some pre-determined questions, but the interviewer can develop others in response to answers given by the participant

A statistical test used to analyse the direction of differences of scores between the same or matched pairs of subjects under two experimental conditions

Significance

If the result of a statistical test is significant it is highly unlikely to have occurred by chance

Single-blind control

Participants are not told the true purpose of the research

Skewed distribution

An arrangement of data that is not symmetrical as data is clustered ro one end of the distribution

Social desirability bias

Participants’ behaviour is distorted as they modify this in order to be seen in a positive light.

Standard deviation

A measure of the average spread of scores around the mean. The greater the standard deviation the more spread out the scores are. .

Standardised instructions

The instructions given to each participant are kept identical – to help prevent experimenter bias.

Standardised procedures

In every step of the research all the participants are treated in exactly the same way and so all have the same experience.

Stratified sample

A sampling technique where groups of participants are selected in proportion to their frequency in the target population

Structured interview

Interview where the questions are fixed and the interviewer reads them out and records the responses

Structured observation

An observation study using predetermined coding scheme to record the participants' behaviour

Systematic sample

A sampling technique where every nth person in a list of the target population is selected

Target population

The group that the researchers draws the sample from and wants to be able to generalise the findings to

Temporal validity

Refers to how likely it is that the time period when a study was conducted has influenced the findings and whether they can be generalised to other periods in time

Test-retest reliability

Involves presenting the same participants with the same test or questionnaire on two separate occasions and seeing whether there is a positive correlation between the two

Thematic analysis

A method for analysing qualitative data which involves identifying, analysing and reporting patterns within the data

Time sampling

A way of sampling the behaviour that is being observed by recording what happens in a series of fixed time intervals.

Type 1 error

Is a false positive. It is where you accept the alternative/experimental hypothesis when it is false

Type 2 error

Is a false negative. It is where you accept the null hypothesis when it is false

Unstructured interview

Also know as a clinical interview, there are no fixed questions just general aims and it is more like a conversation

Unstructured observation

Observation where there is no checklist so every behaviour seen is written down in an much detail as possible

Whether something is true – measures what it sets out to measure.

Volunteer sample

A sampling technique where participants put themselves forward to take part in research, often by answering an advertisement

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Basic Research in Psychology

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

what are research methods in psychology definition

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

what are research methods in psychology definition

Basic research—also known as fundamental or pure research—refers to study and research meant to increase our scientific knowledge base. This type of research is often purely theoretical, with the intent of increasing our understanding of certain phenomena or behavior. In contrast with applied research, basic research doesn't seek to solve or treat these problems.

Basic Research Examples

Basic research in psychology might explore:

  • Whether stress levels influence how often students engage in academic cheating
  • How caffeine consumption affects the brain
  • Whether men or women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression
  • How attachment styles among children of divorced parents compare to those raised by married parents

In all of these examples, the goal is merely to increase knowledge on a topic, not to come up with a practical solution to a problem.

The Link Between Basic and Applied Research

As Stanovich (2007) noted, many practical solutions to real-world problems have emerged directly from basic research. For this reason, the distinction between basic research and applied research is often simply a matter of time. As social psychologist Kurt Lewin once observed, "There is nothing so practical as a good theory."

For example, researchers might conduct basic research on how stress levels impact students academically, emotionally, and socially. The results of these theoretical explorations might lead to further studies designed to solve specific problems. Researchers might initially observe that students with high stress levels are more prone to dropping out of college before graduating. These first studies are examples of basic research designed to learn more about the topic.

As a result, scientists might then design research to determine what interventions might best lower these stress levels. Such studies would be examples of applied research. The purpose of applied research is specifically focused on solving a real problem that exists in the world. Thanks to the foundations established by basic research, psychologists can then design interventions that will help students effectively manage their stress levels , with the hopes of improving college retention rates.

Why Basic Research Is Important

The possible applications of basic research might not be obvious right away. During the earliest phases of basic research, scientists might not even be able to see how the information gleaned from theoretical research might ever apply to real-world problems. However, this foundational knowledge is essential. By learning as much as possible about a topic, researchers are able to gather what they need to know about an issue to fully understand the impact it may have.

"For example, early neuroscientists conducted basic research studies to understand how neurons function. The applications of this knowledge were not clear until much later when neuroscientists better understood how this neural functioning affected behavior," explained author Dawn M. McBride in her text The Process of Research in Psychology . "The understanding of the basic knowledge of neural functioning became useful in helping individuals with disorders long after this research had been completed."

Basic Research Methods

Basic research relies on many types of investigatory tools. These include observation, case studies, experiments, focus groups, surveys, interviews—anything that increases the scope of knowledge on the topic at hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Psychologists interested in social behavior often undertake basic research. Social/community psychologists engaging in basic research are not trying to solve particular problems; rather, they want to learn more about why humans act the way they do.

Basic research is an effort to expand the scope of knowledge on a topic. Applied research uses such knowledge to solve specific problems.

An effective basic research problem statement outlines the importance of the topic; the study's significance and methods; what the research is investigating; how the results will be reported; and what the research will probably require.

Basic research might investigate, for example, the relationship between academic stress levels and cheating; how caffeine affects the brain; depression incidence in men vs. women; or attachment styles among children of divorced and married parents.

By learning as much as possible about a topic, researchers can come to fully understand the impact it may have. This knowledge can then become the basis of applied research to solve a particular problem within the topic area.

Stanovich KE.  How to Think Straight About Psychology . 8th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Allyn and Bacon; 2007.

McCain KW. “Nothing as practical as a good theory” Does Lewin's Maxim still have salience in the applied social sciences? Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology . 2015;52(1):1-4. doi:10.1002/pra2.2015.145052010077

McBride DM. The Process of Research in Psychology . 3rd edition . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 2015.

Committee on Department of Defense Basic Research. APPENDIX D: Definitions of basic, applied, and fundamental research . In: Assessment of Department of Defense Basic Research. Washington, D.C.: The National Academic Press; 2005.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Find what you need to study

1.2 Research Methods in Psychology

4 min read • january 5, 2023

Sadiyya Holsey

Sadiyya Holsey

Jillian Holbrook

Jillian Holbrook

Dalia Savy

Overview of Research Methods

There are various types of research methods in psychology with different purposes, strengths, and weaknesses.

Whenever researchers want to prove or find causation, they would run an experiment.

An experiment you'll learn about in Unit 9 that was run by Solomon Asch investigated the extent to which one would conform to a group's ideas.

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Image Courtesy of Wikipedia .

Each person in the room would have to look at these lines above and state which one they thought was of similar length to the original line. The answer was, of course, obvious, but Asch wanted to see if the "real participant" would conform to the views of the rest of the group.

Asch gathered together what we could call "fake participants" and told them not to say line C. The "real participant" would then hear wrong answers, but they did not want to be the odd one out, so they conformed with the rest of the group and represented the majority view.

In this experiment, the "real participant" was the control group , and about 75% of them, over 12 trials, conformed at least once.

Correlational Study

There could be a correlational study between anything. Say you wanted to see if there was an association between the number of hours a teenager sleeps and their grades in high school. If there was a correlation, we cannot say that sleeping a greater number of hours causes higher grades. However, we can determine that they are related to each other. 💤

Remember in psychology that a correlation does not prove causation!

Survey Research

Surveys are used all the time, especially in advertising and marketing. They are often distributed to a large number of people, and the results are returned back to researchers.

Naturalistic Observation

If a student wanted to observe how many people fully stop at a stop sign, they could watch the cars from a distance and record their data. This is a naturalistic observation since the student is in no way influencing the results.

A notable psychological case study is the study of Phineas Gage :

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Image Courtesy of Vermont Journal

Phineas Gage was a railroad construction foreman who survived a severe brain injury in 1848. The accident occurred when an iron rod was accidentally driven through Gage's skull, damaging his frontal lobes . Despite the severity of the injury, Gage was able to walk and talk immediately after the accident and appeared to be relatively uninjured.

However, Gage's personality underwent a dramatic change following the injury. He became impulsive, irresponsible, and prone to outbursts of anger, which were completely out of character for him before the accident. Gage's case is famous in the history of psychology because it was one of the first to suggest that damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can have significant effects on personality and behavior.

Key Terms to Review ( 27 )

Association

Case Studies

Cause and Effect

Control Group

Correlational Studies

Cross-Sectional Studies

Cross-Sectional Study

Ethical Issues

Experiments

Frontal Lobes

Generalize Results

Hawthorne Effect

Human Development Stages

Independent Variables

Longitudinal Studies

Naturalistic Observations

Personality Change

Phineas Gage

Research Methods

Response Rates

School Grades

Solomon Asch

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Psychological Measurement

19 Understanding Psychological Measurement

Learning objectives.

  • Define measurement and give several examples of measurement in psychology.
  • Explain what a psychological construct is and give several examples.
  • Distinguish conceptual from operational definitions, give examples of each, and create simple operational definitions.
  • Distinguish the four levels of measurement, give examples of each, and explain why this distinction is important.

What Is Measurement?

Measurement  is the assignment of scores to individuals so that the scores represent some characteristic of the individuals. This very general definition is consistent with the kinds of measurement that everyone is familiar with—for example, weighing oneself by stepping onto a bathroom scale, or checking the internal temperature of a roasting turkey using a meat thermometer. It is also consistent with measurement in the other sciences. In physics, for example, one might measure the potential energy of an object in Earth’s gravitational field by finding its mass and height (which of course requires measuring  those  variables) and then multiplying them together along with the gravitational acceleration of Earth (9.8 m/s2). The result of this procedure is a score that represents the object’s potential energy.

This general definition of measurement is consistent with measurement in psychology too. (Psychological measurement is often referred to as psychometrics .) Imagine, for example, that a cognitive psychologist wants to measure a person’s working memory capacity—their ability to hold in mind and think about several pieces of information all at the same time. To do this, she might use a backward digit span task, in which she reads a list of two digits to the person and asks them to repeat them in reverse order. She then repeats this several times, increasing the length of the list by one digit each time, until the person makes an error. The length of the longest list for which the person responds correctly is the score and represents their working memory capacity. Or imagine a clinical psychologist who is interested in how depressed a person is. He administers the Beck Depression Inventory, which is a 21-item self-report questionnaire in which the person rates the extent to which they have felt sad, lost energy, and experienced other symptoms of depression over the past 2 weeks. The sum of these 21 ratings is the score and represents the person’s current level of depression.

The important point here is that measurement does not require any particular instruments or procedures. What it  does  require is  some  systematic procedure for assigning scores to individuals or objects so that those scores represent the characteristic of interest.

Psychological Constructs

Many variables studied by psychologists are straightforward and simple to measure. These include age, height, weight, and birth order. You can ask people how old they are and be reasonably sure that they know and will tell you. Although people might not know or want to tell you how much they weigh, you can have them step onto a bathroom scale. Other variables studied by psychologists—perhaps the majority—are not so straightforward or simple to measure. We cannot accurately assess people’s level of intelligence by looking at them, and we certainly cannot put their self-esteem on a bathroom scale. These kinds of variables are called  constructs  (pronounced  CON-structs ) and include personality traits (e.g., extraversion), emotional states (e.g., fear), attitudes (e.g., toward taxes), and abilities (e.g., athleticism).

Psychological constructs cannot be observed directly. One reason is that they often represent  tendencies  to think, feel, or act in certain ways. For example, to say that a particular university student is highly extraverted does not necessarily mean that she is behaving in an extraverted way right now. In fact, she might be sitting quietly by herself, reading a book. Instead, it means that she has a general tendency to behave in extraverted ways (e.g., being outgoing, enjoying social interactions) across a variety of situations. Another reason psychological constructs cannot be observed directly is that they often involve internal processes. Fear, for example, involves the activation of certain central and peripheral nervous system structures, along with certain kinds of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—none of which is necessarily obvious to an outside observer. Notice also that neither extraversion nor fear “reduces to” any particular thought, feeling, act, or physiological structure or process. Instead, each is a kind of summary of a complex set of behaviors and internal processes.

The Big Five

The Big Five is a set of five broad dimensions that capture much of the variation in human personality. Each of the Big Five can even be defined in terms of six more specific constructs called “facets” (Costa & McCrae, 1992) [1] .

Table 4.1 The Big Five Personality Dimensions

The  conceptual definition  of a psychological construct describes the behaviors and internal processes that make up that construct, along with how it relates to other variables. For example, a conceptual definition of neuroticism (another one of the Big Five) would be that it is people’s tendency to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, and sadness across a variety of situations. This definition might also include that it has a strong genetic component, remains fairly stable over time, and is positively correlated with the tendency to experience pain and other physical symptoms.

Students sometimes wonder why, when researchers want to understand a construct like self-esteem or neuroticism, they do not simply look it up in the dictionary. One reason is that many scientific constructs do not have counterparts in everyday language (e.g., working memory capacity). More important, researchers are in the business of developing definitions that are more detailed and precise—and that more accurately describe the way the world is—than the informal definitions in the dictionary. As we will see, they do this by proposing conceptual definitions, testing them empirically, and revising them as necessary. Sometimes they throw them out altogether. This is why the research literature often includes different conceptual definitions of the same construct. In some cases, an older conceptual definition has been replaced by a newer one that fits and works better. In others, researchers are still in the process of deciding which of various conceptual definitions is the best.

Operational Definitions

An  operational definition  is a definition of a variable in terms of precisely how it is to be measured. These measures generally fall into one of three broad categories.  Self-report measures  are those in which participants report on their own thoughts, feelings, and actions, as with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) [2] . Behavioral measures  are those in which some other aspect of participants’ behavior is observed and recorded. This is an extremely broad category that includes the observation of people’s behavior both in highly structured laboratory tasks and in more natural settings. A good example of the former would be measuring working memory capacity using the backward digit span task. A good example of the latter is a famous operational definition of physical aggression from researcher Albert Bandura and his colleagues (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961) [3] . They let each of several children play for 20 minutes in a room that contained a clown-shaped punching bag called a Bobo doll. They filmed each child and counted the number of acts of physical aggression the child committed. These included hitting the doll with a mallet, punching it, and kicking it. Their operational definition, then, was the number of these specifically defined acts that the child committed during the 20-minute period. Finally,  physiological measures  are those that involve recording any of a wide variety of physiological processes, including heart rate and blood pressure, galvanic skin response, hormone levels, and electrical activity and blood flow in the brain.

For any given variable or construct, there will be multiple operational definitions. Stress is a good example. A rough conceptual definition is that stress is an adaptive response to a perceived danger or threat that involves physiological, cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. But researchers have operationally defined it in several ways. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (Holmes & Rahe, 1967) [4] is a self-report questionnaire on which people identify stressful events that they have experienced in the past year and assigns points for each one depending on its severity. For example, a man who has been divorced (73 points), changed jobs (36 points), and had a change in sleeping habits (16 points) in the past year would have a total score of 125. The Hassles and Uplifts Scale (Delongis, Coyne, Dakof, Folkman & Lazarus, 1982) [5]  is similar but focuses on everyday stressors like misplacing things and being concerned about one’s weight. The Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983) [6] is another self-report measure that focuses on people’s feelings of stress (e.g., “How often have you felt nervous and stressed?”). Researchers have also operationally defined stress in terms of several physiological variables including blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

When psychologists use multiple operational definitions of the same construct—either within a study or across studies—they are using converging operations . The idea is that the various operational definitions are “converging” or coming together on the same construct. When scores based on several different operational definitions are closely related to each other and produce similar patterns of results, this constitutes good evidence that the construct is being measured effectively and that it is useful. The various measures of stress, for example, are all correlated with each other and have all been shown to be correlated with other variables such as immune system functioning (also measured in a variety of ways) (Segerstrom & Miller, 2004) [7] . This is what allows researchers eventually to draw useful general conclusions, such as “stress is negatively correlated with immune system functioning,” as opposed to more specific and less useful ones, such as “people’s scores on the Perceived Stress Scale are negatively correlated with their white blood counts.”

Levels of Measurement

The psychologist S. S. Stevens suggested that scores can be assigned to individuals in a way that communicates more or less quantitative information about the variable of interest (Stevens, 1946) [8] . For example, the officials at a 100-m race could simply rank order the runners as they crossed the finish line (first, second, etc.), or they could time each runner to the nearest tenth of a second using a stopwatch (11.5 s, 12.1 s, etc.). In either case, they would be measuring the runners’ times by systematically assigning scores to represent those times. But while the rank ordering procedure communicates the fact that the second-place runner took longer to finish than the first-place finisher, the stopwatch procedure also communicates  how much  longer the second-place finisher took. Stevens actually suggested four different levels of measurement (which he called “scales of measurement”) that correspond to four types of information that can be communicated by a set of scores, and the statistical procedures that can be used with the information.

The  nominal level  of measurement is used for categorical variables and involves assigning scores that are category labels. Category labels communicate whether any two individuals are the same or different in terms of the variable being measured. For example, if you ask your participants about their marital status, you are engaged in nominal-level measurement. Or if you ask your participants to indicate which of several ethnicities they identify themselves with, you are again engaged in nominal-level measurement. The essential point about nominal scales is that they do not imply any ordering among the responses. For example, when classifying people according to their favorite color, there is no sense in which green is placed “ahead of” blue. Responses are merely categorized. Nominal scales thus embody the lowest level of measurement [9] .

The remaining three levels of measurement are used for quantitative variables. The  ordinal level  of measurement involves assigning scores so that they represent the rank order of the individuals. Ranks communicate not only whether any two individuals are the same or different in terms of the variable being measured but also whether one individual is higher or lower on that variable. For example, a researcher wishing to measure consumers’ satisfaction with their microwave ovens might ask them to specify their feelings as either “very dissatisfied,” “somewhat dissatisfied,” “somewhat satisfied,” or “very satisfied.” The items in this scale are ordered, ranging from least to most satisfied. This is what distinguishes ordinal from nominal scales. Unlike nominal scales, ordinal scales allow comparisons of the degree to which two individuals rate the variable. For example, our satisfaction ordering makes it meaningful to assert that one person is more satisfied than another with their microwave ovens. Such an assertion reflects the first person’s use of a verbal label that comes later in the list than the label chosen by the second person.

On the other hand, ordinal scales fail to capture important information that will be present in the other levels of measurement we examine. In particular, the difference between two levels of an ordinal scale cannot be assumed to be the same as the difference between two other levels (just like you cannot assume that the gap between the runners in first and second place is equal to the gap between the runners in second and third place). In our satisfaction scale, for example, the difference between the responses “very dissatisfied” and “somewhat dissatisfied” is probably not equivalent to the difference between “somewhat dissatisfied” and “somewhat satisfied.” Nothing in our measurement procedure allows us to determine whether the two differences reflect the same difference in psychological satisfaction. Statisticians express this point by saying that the differences between adjacent scale values do not necessarily represent equal intervals on the underlying scale giving rise to the measurements. (In our case, the underlying scale is the true feeling of satisfaction, which we are trying to measure.)

The  interval level  of measurement involves assigning scores using numerical scales in which intervals have the same interpretation throughout. As an example, consider either the Fahrenheit or Celsius temperature scales. The difference between 30 degrees and 40 degrees represents the same temperature difference as the difference between 80 degrees and 90 degrees. This is because each 10-degree interval has the same physical meaning (in terms of the kinetic energy of molecules).

Interval scales are not perfect, however. In particular, they do not have a true zero point even if one of the scaled values happens to carry the name “zero.” The Fahrenheit scale illustrates the issue. Zero degrees Fahrenheit does not represent the complete absence of temperature (the absence of any molecular kinetic energy). In reality, the label “zero” is applied to its temperature for quite accidental reasons connected to the history of temperature measurement. Since an interval scale has no true zero point, it does not make sense to compute ratios of temperatures. For example, there is no sense in which the ratio of 40 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit is the same as the ratio of 100 to 50 degrees; no interesting physical property is preserved across the two ratios. After all, if the “zero” label were applied at the temperature that Fahrenheit happens to label as 10 degrees, the two ratios would instead be 30 to 10 and 90 to 40, no longer the same! For this reason, it does not make sense to say that 80 degrees is “twice as hot” as 40 degrees. Such a claim would depend on an arbitrary decision about where to “start” the temperature scale, namely, what temperature to call zero (whereas the claim is intended to make a more fundamental assertion about the underlying physical reality).

In psychology, the intelligence quotient (IQ) is often considered to be measured at the interval level. While it is technically possible to receive a score of 0 on an IQ test, such a score would not indicate the complete absence of IQ. Moreover, a person with an IQ score of 140 does not have twice the IQ of a person with a score of 70. However, the difference between IQ scores of 80 and 100 is the same as the difference between IQ scores of 120 and 140.

Finally, the  ratio level  of measurement involves assigning scores in such a way that there is a true zero point that represents the complete absence of the quantity. Height measured in meters and weight measured in kilograms are good examples. So are counts of discrete objects or events such as the number of siblings one has or the number of questions a student answers correctly on an exam. You can think of a ratio scale as the three earlier scales rolled up in one. Like a nominal scale, it provides a name or category for each object (the numbers serve as labels). Like an ordinal scale, the objects are ordered (in terms of the ordering of the numbers). Like an interval scale, the same difference at two places on the scale has the same meaning. However, in addition, the same ratio at two places on the scale also carries the same meaning (see Table 4.1).

The Fahrenheit scale for temperature has an arbitrary zero point and is therefore not a ratio scale. However, zero on the Kelvin scale is absolute zero. This makes the Kelvin scale a ratio scale. For example, if one temperature is twice as high as another as measured on the Kelvin scale, then it has twice the kinetic energy of the other temperature.

Another example of a ratio scale is the amount of money you have in your pocket right now (25 cents, 50 cents, etc.). Money is measured on a ratio scale because, in addition to having the properties of an interval scale, it has a true zero point: if you have zero money, this actually implies the absence of money. Since money has a true zero point, it makes sense to say that someone with 50 cents has twice as much money as someone with 25 cents.

Stevens’s levels of measurement are important for at least two reasons. First, they emphasize the generality of the concept of measurement. Although people do not normally think of categorizing or ranking individuals as measurement, in fact, they are as long as they are done so that they represent some characteristic of the individuals. Second, the levels of measurement can serve as a rough guide to the statistical procedures that can be used with the data and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. With nominal-level measurement, for example, the only available measure of central tendency is the mode. With ordinal-level measurement, the median or mode can be used as indicators of central tendency. Interval and ratio-level measurement are typically considered the most desirable because they permit for any indicators of central tendency to be computed (i.e., mean, median, or mode). Also, ratio-level measurement is the only level that allows meaningful statements about ratios of scores. Once again, one cannot say that someone with an IQ of 140 is twice as intelligent as someone with an IQ of 70 because IQ is measured at the interval level, but one can say that someone with six siblings has twice as many as someone with three because number of siblings is measured at the ratio level.

  • Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: The NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4 , 5–13. ↵
  • Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press ↵
  • Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63 , 575–582. ↵
  • Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11 (2), 213-218. ↵
  • Delongis, A., Coyne, J. C., Dakof, G., Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1982). Relationships of daily hassles, uplifts, and major life events to health status. Health Psychology, 1 (2), 119-136. ↵
  • Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 386-396. ↵
  • Segerstrom, S. E., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: A meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, 130 , 601–630. ↵
  • Stevens, S. S. (1946). On the theory of scales of measurement. Science, 103 , 677–680. ↵
  • Levels of Measurement. Retrieved from http://wikieducator.org/Introduction_to_Research_Methods_In_Psychology/Theories_and_Measurement/Levels_of_Measurement ↵

Is the assignment of scores to individuals so that the scores represent some characteristic of the individuals.

A subfield of psychology concerned with the theories and techniques of psychological measurement.

Psychological variables that represent an individual's mental state or experience, often not directly observable, such as personality traits, emotional states, attitudes, and abilities.

Describes the behaviors and internal processes that make up a psychological construct, along with how it relates to other variables.

A definition of the variable in terms of precisely how it is to be measured.

Measures in which participants report on their own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Measures in which some other aspect of participants’ behavior is observed and recorded.

Measures that involve recording any of a wide variety of physiological processes, including heart rate and blood pressure, galvanic skin response, hormone levels, and electrical activity and blood flow in the brain.

When psychologists use multiple operational definitions of the same construct—either within a study or across studies.

Four categories, or scales, of measurement (i.e., nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio) that specify the types of information that a set of scores can have, and the types of statistical procedures that can be used with the scores.

A measurement used for categorical variables and involves assigning scores that are category labels.

A measurement that involves assigning scores so that they represent the rank order of the individuals.

A measurement that involves assigning scores using numerical scales in which intervals have the same interpretation throughout.

A measurement that involves assigning scores in such a way that there is a true zero point that represents the complete absence of the quantity.

Research Methods in Psychology Copyright © 2019 by Rajiv S. Jhangiani, I-Chant A. Chiang, Carrie Cuttler, & Dana C. Leighton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Psychological Measurement

Learning Objectives

  • Define reliability, including the different types and how they are assessed.
  • Define validity, including the different types and how they are assessed.
  • Describe the kinds of evidence that would be relevant to assessing the reliability and validity of a particular measure.

Again, measurement involves assigning scores to individuals so that they represent some characteristic of the individuals. But how do researchers know that the scores actually represent the characteristic, especially when it is a construct like intelligence, self-esteem, depression, or working memory capacity? The answer is that they conduct research using the measure to confirm that the scores make sense based on their understanding of the construct being measured. This is an extremely important point. Psychologists do not simply  assume  that their measures work. Instead, they collect data to demonstrate  that they work. If their research does not demonstrate that a measure works, they stop using it.

As an informal example, imagine that you have been dieting for a month. Your clothes seem to be fitting more loosely, and several friends have asked if you have lost weight. If at this point your bathroom scale indicated that you had lost 10 pounds, this would make sense and you would continue to use the scale. But if it indicated that you had gained 10 pounds, you would rightly conclude that it was broken and either fix it or get rid of it. In evaluating a measurement method, psychologists consider two general dimensions: reliability and validity.

Reliability

Reliability  refers to the consistency of a measure. Psychologists consider three types of consistency: over time (test-retest reliability), across items (internal consistency), and across different researchers (inter-rater reliability).

Test-Retest Reliability

When researchers measure a construct that they assume to be consistent across time, then the scores they obtain should also be consistent across time.  Test-retest reliability  is the extent to which this is actually the case. For example, intelligence is generally thought to be consistent across time. A person who is highly intelligent today will be highly intelligent next week. This means that any good measure of intelligence should produce roughly the same scores for this individual next week as it does today. Clearly, a measure that produces highly inconsistent scores over time cannot be a very good measure of a construct that is supposed to be consistent.

Assessing test-retest reliability requires using the measure on a group of people at one time, using it again on the  same group of people at a later time, and then looking at the test-retest correlation between the two sets of scores. This is typically done by graphing the data in a scatterplot and computing the correlation coefficient. Figure 4.2 shows the correlation between two sets of scores of several university students on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, administered two times, a week apart. The correlation coefficient for these data is +.95. In general, a test-retest correlation of +.80 or greater is considered to indicate good reliability.

Figure 4.2 Test-Retest Correlation Between Two Sets of Scores of Several College Students on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Given Two Times a Week Apart

Again, high test-retest correlations make sense when the construct being measured is assumed to be consistent over time, which is the case for intelligence, self-esteem, and the Big Five personality dimensions. But other constructs are not assumed to be stable over time. The very nature of mood, for example, is that it changes. So a measure of mood that produced a low test-retest correlation over a period of a month would not be a cause for concern.

Internal Consistency

Another kind of reliability is  internal consistency , which is the consistency of people’s responses across the items on a multiple-item measure. In general, all the items on such measures are supposed to reflect the same underlying construct, so people’s scores on those items should be correlated with each other. On the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, people who agree that they are a person of worth should tend to agree that they have a number of good qualities. If people’s responses to the different items are not correlated with each other, then it would no longer make sense to claim that they are all measuring the same underlying construct. This is as true for behavioral and physiological measures as for self-report measures. For example, people might make a series of bets in a simulated game of roulette as a measure of their level of risk seeking. This measure would be internally consistent to the extent that individual participants’ bets were consistently high or low across trials.

Like test-retest reliability, internal consistency can only be assessed by collecting and analyzing data. One approach is to look at a  split-half correlation . This involves splitting the items into two sets, such as the first and second halves of the items or the even- and odd-numbered items. Then a score is computed for each set of items, and the relationship between the two sets of scores is examined. For example, Figure 4.3 shows the split-half correlation between several university students’ scores on the even-numbered items and their scores on the odd-numbered items of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The correlation coefficient for these data is +.88. A split-half correlation of +.80 or greater is generally considered good internal consistency.

Figure 4.3 Split-Half Correlation Between Several College Students’ Scores on the Even-Numbered Items and Their Scores on the Odd-Numbered Items of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale

Perhaps the most common measure of internal consistency used by researchers in psychology is a statistic called  Cronbach’s α  (the Greek letter alpha). Conceptually, α is the mean of all possible split-half correlations for a set of items. For example, there are 252 ways to split a set of 10 items into two sets of five. Cronbach’s α would be the mean of the 252 split-half correlations. Note that this is not how α is actually computed, but it is a correct way of interpreting the meaning of this statistic. Again, a value of +.80 or greater is generally taken to indicate good internal consistency.

Interrater Reliability

Many behavioral measures involve significant judgment on the part of an observer or a rater.  Inter-rater reliability  is the extent to which different observers are consistent in their judgments. For example, if you were interested in measuring university students’ social skills, you could make video recordings of them as they interacted with another student whom they are meeting for the first time. Then you could have two or more observers watch the videos and rate each student’s level of social skills. To the extent that each participant does, in fact, have some level of social skills that can be detected by an attentive observer, different observers’ ratings should be highly correlated with each other. Inter-rater reliability would also have been measured in Bandura’s Bobo doll study. In this case, the observers’ ratings of how many acts of aggression a particular child committed while playing with the Bobo doll should have been highly positively correlated. Interrater reliability is often assessed using Cronbach’s α when the judgments are quantitative or an analogous statistic called Cohen’s κ (the Greek letter kappa) when they are categorical.

Validity  is the extent to which the scores from a measure represent the variable they are intended to. But how do researchers make this judgment? We have already considered one factor that they take into account—reliability. When a measure has good test-retest reliability and internal consistency, researchers should be more confident that the scores represent what they are supposed to. There has to be more to it, however, because a measure can be extremely reliable but have no validity whatsoever. As an absurd example, imagine someone who believes that people’s index finger length reflects their self-esteem and therefore tries to measure self-esteem by holding a ruler up to people’s index fingers. Although this measure would have extremely good test-retest reliability, it would have absolutely no validity. The fact that one person’s index finger is a centimeter longer than another’s would indicate nothing about which one had higher self-esteem.

Discussions of validity usually divide it into several distinct “types.” But a good way to interpret these types is that they are other kinds of evidence—in addition to reliability—that should be taken into account when judging the validity of a measure. Here we consider three basic kinds: face validity, content validity, and criterion validity.

Face Validity

Face validity  is the extent to which a measurement method appears “on its face” to measure the construct of interest. Most people would expect a self-esteem questionnaire to include items about whether they see themselves as a person of worth and whether they think they have good qualities. So a questionnaire that included these kinds of items would have good face validity. The finger-length method of measuring self-esteem, on the other hand, seems to have nothing to do with self-esteem and therefore has poor face validity. Although face validity can be assessed quantitatively—for example, by having a large sample of people rate a measure in terms of whether it appears to measure what it is intended to—it is usually assessed informally.

Face validity is at best a very weak kind of evidence that a measurement method is measuring what it is supposed to. One reason is that it is based on people’s intuitions about human behavior, which are frequently wrong. It is also the case that many established measures in psychology work quite well despite lacking face validity. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) measures many personality characteristics and disorders by having people decide whether each of over 567 different statements applies to them—where many of the statements do not have any obvious relationship to the construct that they measure. For example, the items “I enjoy detective or mystery stories” and “The sight of blood doesn’t frighten me or make me sick” both measure the suppression of aggression. In this case, it is not the participants’ literal answers to these questions that are of interest, but rather whether the pattern of the participants’ responses to a series of questions matches those of individuals who tend to suppress their aggression.

Content Validity

Content validity  is the extent to which a measure “covers” the construct of interest. For example, if a researcher conceptually defines test anxiety as involving both sympathetic nervous system activation (leading to nervous feelings) and negative thoughts, then his measure of test anxiety should include items about both nervous feelings and negative thoughts. Or consider that attitudes are usually defined as involving thoughts, feelings, and actions toward something. By this conceptual definition, a person has a positive attitude toward exercise to the extent that they think positive thoughts about exercising, feels good about exercising, and actually exercises. So to have good content validity, a measure of people’s attitudes toward exercise would have to reflect all three of these aspects. Like face validity, content validity is not usually assessed quantitatively. Instead, it is assessed by carefully checking the measurement method against the conceptual definition of the construct.

Criterion Validity

Criterion validity   is the extent to which people’s scores on a measure are correlated with other variables (known as criteria) that one would expect them to be correlated with. For example, people’s scores on a new measure of test anxiety should be negatively correlated with their performance on an important school exam. If it were found that people’s scores were in fact negatively correlated with their exam performance, then this would be a piece of evidence that these scores really represent people’s test anxiety. But if it were found that people scored equally well on the exam regardless of their test anxiety scores, then this would cast doubt on the validity of the measure.

A criterion can be any variable that one has reason to think should be correlated with the construct being measured, and there will usually be many of them. For example, one would expect test anxiety scores to be negatively correlated with exam performance and course grades and positively correlated with general anxiety and with blood pressure during an exam. Or imagine that a researcher develops a new measure of physical risk taking. People’s scores on this measure should be correlated with their participation in “extreme” activities such as snowboarding and rock climbing, the number of speeding tickets they have received, and even the number of broken bones they have had over the years. When the criterion is measured at the same time as the construct, criterion validity is referred to as concurrent validity ; however, when the criterion is measured at some point in the future (after the construct has been measured), it is referred to as predictive validity (because scores on the measure have “predicted” a future outcome).

Criteria can also include other measures of the same construct. For example, one would expect new measures of test anxiety or physical risk taking to be positively correlated with existing established measures of the same constructs. This is known as convergent validity .

Assessing convergent validity requires collecting data using the measure. Researchers John Cacioppo and Richard Petty did this when they created their self-report Need for Cognition Scale to measure how much people value and engage in thinking (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982) [1] . In a series of studies, they showed that people’s scores were positively correlated with their scores on a standardized academic achievement test, and that their scores were negatively correlated with their scores on a measure of dogmatism (which represents a tendency toward obedience). In the years since it was created, the Need for Cognition Scale has been used in literally hundreds of studies and has been shown to be correlated with a wide variety of other variables, including the effectiveness of an advertisement, interest in politics, and juror decisions (Petty, Briñol, Loersch, & McCaslin, 2009) [2] .

Discriminant Validity

Discriminant validity , on the other hand, is the extent to which scores on a measure are not correlated with measures of variables that are conceptually distinct. For example, self-esteem is a general attitude toward the self that is fairly stable over time. It is not the same as mood, which is how good or bad one happens to be feeling right now. So people’s scores on a new measure of self-esteem should not be very highly correlated with their moods. If the new measure of self-esteem were highly correlated with a measure of mood, it could be argued that the new measure is not really measuring self-esteem; it is measuring mood instead.

When they created the Need for Cognition Scale, Cacioppo and Petty also provided evidence of discriminant validity by showing that people’s scores were not correlated with certain other variables. For example, they found only a weak correlation between people’s need for cognition and a measure of their cognitive style—the extent to which they tend to think analytically by breaking ideas into smaller parts or holistically in terms of “the big picture.” They also found no correlation between people’s need for cognition and measures of their test anxiety and their tendency to respond in socially desirable ways. All these low correlations provide evidence that the measure is reflecting a conceptually distinct construct.

  • Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1982). The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42 , 116–131. ↵
  • Petty, R. E, Briñol, P., Loersch, C., & McCaslin, M. J. (2009). The need for cognition. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 318–329). New York, NY: Guilford Press. ↵

Refers to the consistency of a measure.

When researchers measure a construct that they assume to be consistent across time, then the scores they obtain should also be consistent across time.

The consistency of people’s responses across the items on a multiple-item measure.

A score that is derived by splitting the items into two sets and examining the relationship between the two sets of scores in order to assess the internal consistency of a measure.

A statistic that measures internal consistency among items in a measure.

The extent to which different observers are consistent in their judgments.

The extent to which the scores from a measure represent the variable they are intended to.

The extent to which a measurement method appears, on superficial examination, to measure the construct of interest.

The extent to which a measure reflects all aspects of the construct of interest.

The extent to which people’s scores on a measure are correlated with other variables (known as criteria) that one would expect them to be correlated with.

A variable that theoretically should be correlated with the construct being measured (plural: criteria).

A form of criterion validity, where the criterion is measured at the same time (concurrently) as the construct.

A form of validity whereby the criterion is measured at some point in the future (after the construct has been measured), to determine that the construct "predicts" the criterion.

A form of criterion validity whereby new measures are correlated with existing established measures of the same construct.

The extent to which scores on a measure of a construct are not correlated with measures of other, conceptually distinct, constructs and thus discriminate between them.

Research Methods in Psychology Copyright © 2019 by Rajiv S. Jhangiani, I-Chant A. Chiang, Carrie Cuttler, & Dana C. Leighton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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