Research methods in Psychology. What are the research methods used by psychologists?
Research is a systematic process of obtaining information about a particular subject. Scientists often conduct research so they can uncover reasons a particular event occurs. Manufacturers use research to obtain information about the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and consumer opinions about product quality.
Research can be as informal as planning the details of a vacation, or as complicated as attempting to understand a particular function of the human brain. Numerous methods are available for conducting research, and one effective approach is the scientific method.
The Scientific Method
In an article by John Cowens (2006), he describes the scientific method as a simple five-step procedure (p. 1). The researcher identifies a problem, and develops his hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess about the answer to a problem. The hypothesis is tested, and the results recorded for future reference. Recording the results correctly allows other scientists to reference the discoveries when they conduct their own research. The fifth and final step in the scientific method is to interpret the information collected.
“If your experiments match your original prediction, then they support your hypothesis. If not, you will need to explain why you think your prediction differed from your results” (Cowens, 2006, p. 1). Some sources of information used for research may be from studies previously conducted by other researchers. This secondary data can be reliable but it is not as useful as primary data; primary data is firsthand information collected by a researcher during the course of his own investigation.
Primary and Secondary Data
Primary data is more accurate and credible than secondary data because it directly relates to the topic currently under investigation (Rabianski, 2003, p.44). Primary data comes from observation, experience, or by asking questions of subjects during the course of an investigation. For example, when determining which area of town has the best prices for a particular model of small car, some information comes from newspaper advertisements or the researcher might prefer to visit the car sales clerk to learn about prices of small, economical cars firsthand.
It is often the case that newspaper advertisements leave out minor details that could affect the end price of the vehicle, or, the cars may not be brand new. In either case, the price can fluctuate considerably. If a car lot on the other side of town had exactly the same model of car for sale, the end price may be higher. Even though they are marketing to a lower income group of purchasers, the cost of financing varies greatly according to the purchaser’s credit rating and sources of income. Although the methods used to gather primary and secondary data may be the same, the primary data is firsthand information will paint a clearer picture because it is directly relevant to the researcher’s current project.
Statistics in Research
Interpreting data collected in research can be confusing. Charts, tables, graphs, and histograms are useful tools for displaying information clearly. Statistics can provide information about current market prices for items and services. Information about the comparison of prices between one manufacturer and another is available at a glance, and this can help one competitor to analyze his production methods, or the way he markets or delivers a service or product. Using statistics, he will be able to make changes to his product or service so that he can compete for a more favorable share of sales. Similarly, statistics can show how targeting a particular age group, gender, or income bracket will boost sales and allow a company to provide a more appropriate product for the people to whom the company wishes to cater.
People who plan a supermarket outing, or those who are researching to find which college will cater to the needs of their children are all conducting research in one form or another. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to seek out the information people need to make choices best suited to them. By planning and formulating questions about a particular event, service, or product, they will have valuable knowledge to make suitable choices. The five-step scientific method of research is a good starting point for anyone who wishes to conduct research on almost any topic.
Cowens, J. (2006). The Scientific Method. Teaching Pre K-8, 37(1), 42. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Rabianski, J. S. (2003). Primary and Secondary Data: Concepts, Concerns, Errors, and Issues Appraisal Journal, 71(1), 43. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.