Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology
Research Methods and Statistics in
Hodder & Stoughton
A MEMBER OF THE HODDER HEADLINE GROUP Preface to the first edition xi
Preface to the second edition xii
PART I Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Psychology and research 3
Scientific research; empirical method; hypothetico-deductive method;
falsifiability; descriptive research; hypothesis testing; the null-hypothesis;
one- and two-tailed hypotheses; planning research.
Chanter 2 Variables and definitions 22
Psychological variables and constructs; operational definitions;
independent and dependent variables; extraneous variables; random and
constant error; confounding.
Chapter 3 Samples and groups 34
Populations and samples; sampling bias; representative samples; random
samples; stratified, quota, cluster, snowball, self-selecting and
opportunity samples; sample size. Experimental, control and placebo
PART ll Methods 47
Chapter ,4 Some general themes 49
Reliability. Validity; internal and external validity; threats to validity;
ecological validity; construct validity. Standardised procedure; participant
variance; confounding; replication; meta-analysis. The quantitative-
Chapter 5 The experimental method I: nature of the method 66
Expeiiments; non-experimental work; the laboratory; field experiments;
quasi-experiments; narural experiments; ex post facto research; criticisms
of the experiment.
Chapter 6 The experimental method U: experimental designs 81
Repeated measures; related designs; order effects. Independent samples
design; participant (subject) variables. Matched pairs. Single participant. Chavter 7 Observational methods Chapter 14 Probability and significance
Observation as technique and design; participant and non-participant Logical, empirical and subjective probability; probability distributions.
observation; structured observation; controlled observation; naturalistic Significance; levels of significance; the 5% level; critical values; tails of
observation-; obj.ecti ons to structured observation; aualitative non- distributions; the normal probability distribution; significance of z-scores;
participant observation; role-play and simulation; the e diary method; importance of 1% and 10% levels; type I and type I1 errors.
participant observation; indirect observation; content analysis; verbal
protocols. Section 2 Simple tests of difference - non-parametric
Using tests of significance - general procedure
Chapter 8 Asking questions I: interviews and surveys
Structure and disguise; types of interview method; the clinical method; Chapter 15 Tests at nominal level
the individual case-study; interview techniques; surveys. Binomial sign test. Chi-square test of association; goodness of fit; one
variable test; limitations of chi-square.
Chapter 9 Asking questions 11: questionnaires, scales and tests
Questionnaires; attitude scales; questionnaire and scale items; projective Chapter 16 Tests at ordinal level
tests; sociomeny; psychometric rests. Reliability, validity and Wilcoxon signed ranks. Mann-Whitney U. Wilcoxon rank sum. Testing
standardisation of tests. when N is large.
Chapter 10 Comparison studies Section 3 Simple tests of dzfference -parametric
Cross-sectional studies; longitudinal studies; short-term longitudinal
studies. Cross-cultural studies; research examples; indigenous Chapter 17 Tests at internayratio level
psychologies; ethnicity and culture within one society. Power; assumptions underlying parametric tests; robustness. t test for
related data; t test for unrelated data.
Chapter 11 New paradigms
Positivism; doubts about positiyism; the establishment paradigm; Section 4 Correlation
objections to the traditional paradigm; new paradigm proposals;
qualitative approaches; feminist perspective; discourse analysis; Chapter 18 Correlation and its significance
reflexivity. The nature of correlation; measurement of correlation; scattergrams.
Calculating correlation; Pearson's product-moment coefficient;
Spearman's Rho. Significance and correlation coefficients; strength and
significance; guessing error; variance estimate; coefficient of
PART Ill Dealing with data
determination. What you can't assume with a correlation; cause and
effect assumptions; missing middle; range restriction; correlation when
Chapter 12 Measurement
one variable is nominal; general restriction; dichotomous variables and
Nominal level; ordinal level; interval level; plastic interval scales; ratio
the point biserial correlation; the Phi coefficient. Common uses of
level; reducing from interval to ordinal and nominal level; categorical and
correlation in psychology.
measured variables; continuous and discrete scales of measurement.
Section 5 Tests for more than two conditions
Chapter 13 Descriptive statistics
Introduction to more complex tests
Central tendency; mean; median; mode. Dispersion; range; serni-
interquartile range; mean deviation; standard deviation and variance.
Chapter 19 Non-parametric tests -more than two conditions
Population parameters and sample statistics. Distributions; percentiles;
Kruskal-Wallis (unrelated differences). Jonckheere (unrelated trend).
deciles and quades. Graphical representation; histogram; bar chart;
Friedman (related differences). Page (related trend).
frequency polygon; ogive. Exploratory data analysis; stem-and-leaf
display; box plots. The normal distribution; standard (z-) scores; skewed
distributions; standardisation of psychological measurements.
Chapter 20 One way ANOVA
Comparing variances; the F test; variance components; sums of squares;
calculations for one-way; the significance and interpretation of F. A priori
PART IV Using data to test predictions and'post hoc comparisons; error rates; Bonferroni t tests; linear contrasts
and coefficients; Newman-Keuls; Tukey's HSD; unequal sample
Section 1 An introduction to sipificance testing numbers. Chapter 2 1 Multi-factor ANOVA
Factors and levels; unrelated and related designs; interaction effects;
main effects; simple effects; partitioning the sums of squares; calculation
for two-way unrelated ANOVA; three-way ANOVA components. After the domination of behaviourism in Anglo-American psychology during the
middle of the century, the impression has been left, reflected in the many texts on
Chapter 22 Repeated measures ANOVA research design, that the experimental method is the central tool of psychological
Rationale; between subjects variation; division of variation for one-way research. In fact, a glance through journals will illuminate a wide array of data-
repeated measures design; calculation for one-way design; two-way gathering instruments in use outside the experimental laboratory and beyond the
related design; mixed model - one repeat and one unrelated factor; field experiment. This book takes the reader through details of the experimental
division of variation in mixed model. method, but also examines the many criticisms of it, in particular the argument that
its use, as a paradigm, has led to some fairly arid and unrealistic psychological
Chapter 23 Other useful complex multi-variate tests - a brief summary models, as has the empirical insistence on quantification. The reader is also
MANOVA, ANCOVA; multiple regression and multiple predictions. introduced to non-experimental method in some depth, where current A-level texts
tend to be rather superficial. But, further, it takes the reader somewhat beyond
Section 6 What analysis to use? current A-level minimum requirements and into the world of qualitative
Chapter 24 Choosing an appropriate test Having said that, it is written at a level which should feel 'friendly' and comfortable
Tests for two samples; steps in making a choice; decision chart; examples to the person just starting their study of psychology. The beginner will find it useful to
of choosing a test; hints. Tests for more than two samples. Some read part one first, since this section introduces fundamental issues of scientific
information on computer programmes. method and techniques of measuring or gathering data about people. Thereafter, any
reader can and should use it as a manual to be dipped into at the appropriate place for
Chapter 25 Analysing qualitative data the current research project or problem, though the early chapters of the statistics
Qualitative data and hypothesis testing; qualitative analysis of qualitative section will need to be consulted in order to understand the rationale and procedure
content; methods of analysis; transcribing speech; grounded theory; the of the tests of significance.
final report. Validity. On doing a qualitative project. Analysing discourse. I have med to write the statistical sections as I teach them, with the mathematically
Specialist texts. nervous student very much in mind. Very often, though, people who think they are
poor at mathematical thinking find statistics far less diicult than they had feared,
PART V Ethics and practice and the tests in this book which match current A-level requirements involve the use of
very few mathematical operations. Except for a few illuminative examples, the
Chapter 26 Ethical issues and humanism in psychological research statistical concepts are all introduced via realistic psychological data, some emanating
Publication and access to data; confidentiality and privacy; the Milgram fkom actual studies performed by students.
experiment; deception; debriefing; stress and discomfort; right to non- This book will provide the A-level, A/S-level or International Baccalaureate
participation; special power of the investigator; involuntary participation; student with all that is necessary, not only for selecting methods and statistical
intervention; research with animals. treatments for practical work and for structured questions on research examples, but
also for dealing with general issues of scientific and research methods. Higher
Chapter 27 Planning practicals education students, too, wary of statistics as vast numbcrs of psychology beginners
often are, should also find this book an accessible route into the area. Questions
Chapter 28 Writing your practical report , throughout are intended to engage the reader in active thinking about the current
topic, often by stimulating the prediction of problems before they are presented. The
Appendix 1 Structured questions final structured questions imitate those found in the papers of several Examination
Appendix 2 Statistical tables Boards.
Appendix 3 Answers to exercises and structured questions I hope, through using this book, the reader will be encouraged to enjoy research;
not to see it as an inrirnidating add-on, but, in fact, as the engine of theory without
References which we would be left with a broad array of truly fascinating ideas about human
experience and behaviour with no means of telling which are sheer fantasy and which
Index might lead us to models of the human condition grounded in reality.
If there are points in this book which you wish to question, please get in touch via
f the publisher.
i P A R T O N E
When I wrote the first edition of this book I was writing as an A-level teacher knowing
that we all needed a comprehensive book of methods and statistics which didn't then
exist at the appropriate level. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find an
increasing number of Higher Education institutions using the book as an intro-
ductory text. In response to the interests of higher education students, I have
included chapters on significance tests for three or more conditions, both non-
parametric and using ANOVA. The latter takes the student into the world of the
interactions which are possible with the use of more than one independent variable.
The point about the 'maths' involved in psychological statistics still holds true,
however. The calculations involve no more than those on the most basic calculator -
addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, squares, square roots and deci-
mals. The chapter on other useful complex tests is meant only as a signpost to readers
venturing further into more complex designs and statistical investigation.
Although this introduction of more complex test procedures tends to weight the Introduction
book further towards statistics, a central theme remains the importance of the whole
spectrum of possible research methods in psychology. Hence, I have included a brief
introduction to the currently influential, if controversial, qualitative approaches of
discourse analysis and reflexivity, along with several other minor additions to the
variety of methods. The reader will find a general updating of research used to
In the interest of studeit learning through engagement with the text, I have
included a glossary at the end of each chapter which doubles as a self-test exercise,
though A-level tutors, and those at similar levels, will need to point out that students
are not expected to be familiar with every single key term. The glossary definition for
each term is easily found by consulting the main index and turning to the page
referred to in heavy type. To stem the tide of requests for sample student reports,
which the first edition encouraged, I have written a bogus report, set at an 'average'
level (I believe), and included possible marker's comments, both serious and hair-
Finally, I anticipate, as with the fist edition, many enquiries and arguments
critical of some of my points, and these I welcome. Such enquiries have caused me to
alter, or somewhat complicate, several points made in the first edition. For instance,
we lose Yates' correction, find limitations on the classic Spearman's rho formula,
learn that correlation with dichotomous (and therefore nominal) variables is possible,
and so on. These points do not affect anything the student needs to know for their
A-level exam but may affect procedures used in practical reports. Nevertheless, I
have withstood the temptation to enter into many other subtle debates or niceties
simply because the main aim of the book is still, of course, to clarify and not to
confuse through density. I do hope that this aim has been aided by the inclusion of yet
more teaching 'tricks' developed since the last edition, and, at last, a few of my
favourite illustrations. If only some of these could move!
Hugh Coolican This introduction sets the scene for research in psychology. The key ideas are
Psychological researchen generally follow a scientific approach.
This involves the logic oftesting hypotheses produced from falsifiable theories.
Hypotheses need to be precisely stated before testing.
Scientific research is a continuous and social activity, involving promotion and
checking of ideas amongst colleagues.
Researchers use probability statistics to decide whether effects are 'significant'
Research has to be carefully planned with attention to design, variables,
samples and subsequent data analysis. If all these areas are not fully planned,
results may be ambiguous or useless.
Some researchen have strong objections to the use of traditional scientific
methods in the study of persons. They support qualitative and 'new paradigm'
methods which may not involve rigid pre-planned testing of hypotheses.
Student: I'd like to enrol for psychology please.
Lecturer: You do realise that it includes quite a bit of statistics, and you'll
have to do some experimental work and write up practical
Student: Oh. . .
When enrolling for a course in psychology, the prospective student is very often taken
aback by the discovery that the syllabus includes a fair-sized dollop of statistics and
that practical research, experiments and report-writing are all involved. My experi-
ence as a tutor has commonly been that many 'A' level psychology students are either
'escaping' from school into fixther education or tentatively returning after years away
from academic study. Both sorts of student are frequently dismayed to find that this
new and exciting subject is going to thrust them back into two of the areas they most
disliked in school. One is maths - but rest assured! Statistics, in fact, will involve you
in little of h em aths on a traditional syllabus and will be performed on real data most
of which you have gathered yourself. Calculators and computers do the 'number
crunching' these days. The other area is science.
It is strange that of all the sciences - natural and social - the one which directly
concerns ourselves as individuals in society is the least likely to be found in schools,
where teachers are preparing young people for social life, amongst other thiigs! It is
also strange that a student can study all the 'hard' natural sciences - physics,
chemistry, biology - yet never be asked to consider what a science is until they study
psychology or sociology. These are generalisations of course. Some schools teach psychology. Others
nowadays teach the underlying principles of scientific research. Some of us actually
enjoyed science and maths at school. If you did, you'll find some parts of this book
fairly easy going. But can I state one of my most cherished beliefs right now, for the
sake of those who hate numbers and think this is all going to be a struggle, or, worse
still, boring? Many of the ideas and concepts introduced in this book will already be I have used these statements, including the controversial ones, because they are just
in your head in an informal way, even 'hard' topics like probability. My job is to the sort of things people claim confidently, yet with no hard evidence. They are
give names to some concepts you will easily think of for yourself. At other times it will
'hunches' masquerading as fact. I call them 'armchair certainties (or theories)'
be to formalise and tighten up ideas that you have gathered through experience. For
because this is where they are often claimed from.
instance, you already have a fairly good idea of how many cats out of ten ought to
choose 'Poshpaws' cat food in preference to another brand, in order for us to be
Box I. I 'Common-sense' claims
convinced that this is a real Merence and not a fluke. You can probably start
discussing quite competently what would count as a representative sample of people
for a particular survey. 1 Women obviously have a maternal Have we checked how men would feel
instinct - look how strongly they want to after several months alone with a baby?
Returning to the prospective student then, he or she usually has little clue about
stay with their child and protect it Does the tern 'instinct' odd to our
what sort of research psychologists do. The notion of 'experiments' sometimes
understanding, or does it simply describe
produces anxiety. 'Will we be conditioned or brainwashed?'
If we ignore images from the black-and-white film industry, and think carefully what mothers do and, perhaps, feel? Do all
mothers feel this way?
about what psychological researchers might do, we might conjure up an image of the
street survey. Think again, and we might suggest that psychologists watch people's 2 Michelle is so good at predicting people's Have we checked that Michelle gets a lot
behaviour. I agree with Gross (1992) who says that, at a party, if one admits to star sign -there must be something in more signs correct than anyone would by
teaching, or even studying, psychology, a common reaction is 'Oh, I'd better be astrology just guessing? Have we counted the times
careful what I say from now on'. Another strong contender is 'I suppose you'll be when she's wrong?
analysing my behaviour' (said as the speaker takes one hesitant step backwards) in the 3 So many batsmen get out on 98 or 99 - Have we compared with the numbers of
mistaken assumption that psychologists go around making deep, mysterious inter- it must be the psychological pressure batsmen who get out on other high totals?
pretations of human actions as they occur. (If you meet someone who does do this, 4 Women are less logical, more suggestible Women score the same as men on logical -
ask them something about the evidence they use, after you've finished with this
and make worse drivers than men tests in general. They are equally
book!) The notion of such analysis is loosely connected to Freud who, though
'suggestible', though boys are more likely to
popularly portrayed as a psychiatric Sherlock Holmes, used very few of the sorts of
agree with views they don't hold but which
research outlined in this book - though he did use unstructured clinical interviews
are held by their peer group. Statistically,
and the case-study method (Chapter 8).
women are more -likely to obey traffic rules
and have less expensive accidents. Why else
SO would 'one lady owner' be a selling point?
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL
5 1 wouldn't obey someone who told me About 62% of people who could have
to seriously hurt another person if I could walked free from an experiment, continued
possibly avoid it to obey an experimenter who asked them
to give electric shocks to a 'learner' who
Although there are endless and furious debates about what a science is and what son
had fallen silent after screaming horribly
of science, if any, psychology should be, a majority of psychologists would agree that
research should be scientific, and at the very least that it should be objective, 6 The trouble with having so many black In 199 I, the total black population of the
controlled and checkable. There is no final agreement, however, about precisely how immigrants is that the country is too UK (African Caribbean and Indian sub-
scientific method should operate within the very broad range of psychological small' (Quote from Call Nick Ross phone- continental Asian) was a little under 5%.
research topics. There are many definitions of science but, for present purposes, in, BBC Radio 4,3.1 1.92) Almost every year since the second world
Allport's (1 947) is useful. Science, he claims, has the aims of: war, more people haye left than have
entered Britain to live. Anyway, whose
'. . . understanding, prediction and control above the levels achieved by
unaided common sense.'
What does Allport, or anyone, mean by 'common sense'? Aren't some things blindly
obvious? Isn't it indisputable that babies are born with different personalities, for I hope you see why we need evidence from research. One role for a scientific study is
instance? Let's have a look at some other popular 'common-sense' claims. to challenge 'common-sense' notions by checking the facts. Another is to produce 'counter-intuitive' results like those in item five. Let me say a little more about what
fa 30-metre-tall Maman made empirical observations on Earth, it (Martians have
scientific research is by dispelling a few myths about it.
one sex) might focus its attention on the various metal tubes which hurtle around,
some in the air, some on the ground, some under it, and stop every so often to take on
MYTH NO. I: 'SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IS THE COLLECTION OF FACTS'
little bugs and to shed others.
All research is about the collection of data but this is not the sole aim. First of all, facts The Martian might then conclude that the tubes were important life-forms and
are not data. Facts do not speak for themselves. When people say they do they are that the little bugs taken on were food . . . and the ones discharged . . . ?
omitting to mention essential background theory or assumptions they are making. Now we have gone beyond the original empirical method. The Martian is
the0 y. This is an attempt to explain why the patterns are produced, what
A sudden crash brings us running to the kitchen. The accused is crouched
forces or processes underly them.
in front of us, eyes wide and fearful. Her hands are red and sticky. A knife
It is inevitable that human thinking will go beyond the patterns and combinations
lies on the floor. So does a jam jar and its spilled contents. The accused
discovered in data analysis to ask, 'But why?'. It is also naive to assume we could ever
was about to lick her tiny fingers.
gather data without some background theory in our heads, as I tried to demonstrate
I hope you made some false assumptions b'efore the jam was mentioned. But, as it is, above. Medawar (1963) has argued this point forcefully, as has Bruner who points
do the facts alone tell us that Jenny was stealing jam? Perhaps the cat knocked the jam out that, when we perceive the world, we always and inevitably 'go beyond the
over and Jenny was trying to pick it up. We constantly assume a lot beyond the information given'.
present data in order to explain it (see Box 1.2). Facts are DATA interpreted through -
THEORY. Data are what we get through EMP~CALo bservation, where 'empirical' Testing theories the hypothetico-deductive method
refers to information obtained through our senses. It is difficult to get raw data. We This Martian's theory, that the bugs are food for the tubes, can be tested. If the tubes
almost always interpret it immediately. The time you took to run 100 metres (or, at get no bugs for a long time, they should die. This prediction is a HYPOTHESIS. A
least, the position of the watch hands) is raw data. My saying you're 'quickJ is hypothesis is a statement of exactly what should be the case $a certain theory is true.
interpretation. If we lie on the beach looking at the night sky and see a 'star' moving Testing the hypothesis shows that the tubes can last indefinitely without bugs. Hence
steadily we 'know' it's a satellite, but only because we have a lot of received the hypothesis is not supported and the theory requires alteration or dismissal. This
astronomical knowledge, from our culture, in our heads. manner of thinking is common in our everyday lives. Here's another example:
Box 1.2 Fearing or clearing the bomb? Suppose you and a friend find that every Monday morning the wing mirror
of your car gets knocked out of position. You suspect the dustcart which
' empties the bin that day. Your fiend says, 'Well, OK. If you're so sure
In psychology we conbntly challenge the simplistic acceptance of fa& 'in front of our
, let's check next Tuesday. They're coming a day later next week because
eyes'. A famous bomb disposal officer, talking to Sue Lawley on Desert lslond Discs, told of
there's a Bank Holiday.'
i the time he was trying urgently to clearthe public from the area of a live bomb. A
I newspaper published hk picture, advancing with outstretched arms, with the caption, The logic here is essential to critical thinking in psychological research.
'terrified member of public flees bomb', whereas another paper correctly identified him as The theory investigated is that the dustcart knocks the mirror.
the calm, but concerned expert he really was.
The hypothesis to be tested is that the mirror will be knocked next Tuesday.
Our test of the hypothesis is to check whether the mirror is knocked next Tuesday.
Data are interpreted through what psychologists often call a 'schema' - our learned
* If the mirror is knocked the theory is supported.
prejudices, stereotypes and general ideas about the world and even according to our
If the mirror is not knocked the theory appears wrong.
current purposes and motivations. It is difficult to see, as developed adults, how we
could ever avoid this process. However, rather than despair of ever getting at any Notice, we say only 'supported' here, not 'proven true' or anything definite like that.
psychological truth, most researchers share common ground in following some basic This is because there could be an alternative reason why it got knocked. Perhaps the
principles of contemporary science which date back to the revolutionary use of boy who follows the cart each week on his bike does the knocking. This is an example
EMPIRICAL METHOD to start questioning the workings of the world in a consistent of 'confounding' which we'll meet formally in the next chapter. If you and your friend
manner. were seriously scientific you could rule this out (you could get up early). This
demonstrates the need for complete control over the testing situation where
The empirical method
The original empirical method had two stages: We say 'supported' then, rather than 'proved', because D (the dustcart) might not
1 Gathering of data, directly, through our external senses, with no preconceptions have caused M (mirror getting knocked) - our theory. Some other event may have
as to how it is ordered or what explains it. been the cause, for instance B (boy cycling with dustcart). Very often we think we
have evidence that X causes Y when, in fact, it may well be that Y causes X. You
2 IN~ucnoNof patterns and relationships within the data.
might think that a blown fuse caused damage to your washing machine, which now
'Induction' means to move &om individual observations to statements of general won't run, when actually the machine broke, overflowed and caused the fuse to blow.
patterns (sometimes called 'laws'). In psychological research, the theory that mothers talk more to young daughters (than to young sons) because girls are naturally more talkative, and the opposite evidence. There is often a balance in favour with several anomalies yet
theory, that girls are more talkative because their mothers talk more to them are both to explain. Theories tend to 'survive' or not against others depending on the quality,
supported by the evidence that mothers do talk more to their daughters. Evidence is not just the quantity, of their supporting evidence. But for every single supportive
more useful when it supports one theory and not its rival. piece of evidence in social science there is very often an alternative explanation. It
Ben Elton (1989) is onto this when he says: might be claimed that similarity between parent and child in intelligence is evidence
for the view that intelligence is genetically transmitted. However, this evidence
Lots of Aboriginals end up as piss-heads, causing people to say 'no wonder
they're so poor, half of them are piss-heads'. It would, of course, make supports equally the view that children learn their skills from their parents, and
much more sense to say 'no wonder half of them are piss-heads, they're so - similarity between adoptive parent and child is a challenge to the theory.
poor'. Fakz3a bility
Deductive logic popper (1959) has argued that for any theory to count as a theory we must at least be
Theory-testing relies on the logical arguments we were using above. These are able to see how it could be falsified -we don't have to be able to falsify it; after all, it
examples of DEDUCTION. Stripped to their bare skeleton they are: might be true! As an example, consider the once popular notion that Paul McCartney
died some years ago (I don't know whether there is still a group who believe this).
Suppose we produce Paul in the flesh. This won't do - he is, of course, a cunning
Applied to the0y -testing Applied to the dustcart and
replacement. Suppose we show that no death certificate was issued anywhere around
1 If X is true then Y must 1 If theory A is true, then 1 If the dustcart knocks the time of his purported demise. Well, of course, there was a cover up; it was made
be true hypothesis H will be the mirror then the mir- out in a different name. Suppose we supply DNA evidence from the current Paul and
it exactly matches the original Paul's DNA. Another plot; the current sample was
coniirmed ror will get knocked
switched behind the scenes . . . and so on. This theory is useless because there is only
2 Y isn't true 2 H is disconfinned 2 The mirror didn't get (rather stretched) supporting evidence and no accepted means of falsification.
Freudian theory often comes under attack for this weakness. Reaction formation can
3 Therefore X is not true 3 Theory A is wrong* 3 Therefore it isn't the excuse many otherwise damaging pieces of contradictory evidence. A writer once
explained the sexual symbolism of chess and claimed that the very hostility of chess
players to these explanations was evidence of their validity! They were defending
against the powefi threat of the nth. Women who claim publicly that they do not
2 Yistrue 2 H is coniirmed 2 The mirror did get
desire their babies to be male, contrary to 'penis-envy' theory, are reacting internally
3 X could still be true 3 Theory A could be true 3 Perhaps it is the dust- against the very real threat that the desire they harbour, originally for their father,
might be exposed, so the argument goes. With this sort of explanation any evidence,
desiring males or not desiring them, is taken as support for the theory. Hence, it is
unfalsifiable and therefore untestable in Popper's view.
*At this point, according to the 'official line', scientists should drop the theory with
Conventional scientijZc method
the false prediction. In fact, many famous scientists, including Newton and Einstein,
and most not-so-famous-ones, have clung to theories despite contradictory results Putting together the empirical method of induction, and the hypothetico-deductive
because of a 'hunch' that the data were wrong. This hunch was sometime shown to method, we get what is traditionally taken to be the 'scientific method', accepted by
be correct. The beauty of a theory can outweigh pure logic in real science practice. many psychological researchers as the way to follow in the footsteps of the successful
natural sciences. The steps in the method are shown in Box 1.3.
It is often not a lot of use getting more and more of the same sort of support for your
theory. If I claim that all swans are white because the sun bleaches their feathers, it
Box 1.3 Traditional scientific method
gets a bit tedious if I keep pointing to each new white one saying 'I told you so'. AU we
need is one sun-loving black swan to blow my theory wide apart.
I Observation, gathering and ordering of data
If your hypothesis is disconiirmed, it is not always necessary to abandon the theory
which predicted it, in the way that my simple swan theory must go. Very often you 2 Induction of generalisations, laws
would have to adjust your theory to take account of new data. For instance, your 3 Development of explanatory theories
friend might have a smug look on her face. 'Did you know it was the Council's "be-
4 Deduction of hypotheses to test theories
ever-so-nice-to-our-customers" promotion week and the collectors get bonuses if
5 Testing of the hypotheses
there are no complaints?' 'Pah!' you say 'That's no good as a test then!' Here, again,
we see the need to have complete control over the testing situation in order to keep 6 Support or adjustment of theory
external events as constant as possible. 'Never mind,' your fiend soothes, 'we can
always write this up in our psychology essay on scientific method'. Scientific research projects, then, may be concentrating on the early or later stages of
Theories in science don't just get 'proven true' and they rarely rest on totally this process. They may be exploratory studies, looking for data from which to create theories, or they may be hypothesis-testing studies, aiming to support or challenge a might wish to extend it to other areas, or to modify it because it has weaknesses.
theory. Every now and again an investigation breaks completely new ground but the vast
There are many doubts about, and criticisms of, this model of scientific research, majority develop out of the current state of play.
too detailed to go into here though several aspects of the arguments will be returned Politics and economics enter at the stage of funding. Research staff, in universities,
to throughout the book, pamcularly in Chapter 11. The reader might like to consult colleges or hospitals, have to justify their salaries and the expense of the project.
Gross (1992) or Valentine (1 992). ~undws ill come from one of the following: university, college or hospital research
funds; central or local government; private companies; charitable institutions; and
MYTH NO. 2: 'SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH INVOLVES DRAMATIC the odd private benefactor. These, and the investigator's direct employers, will need
DISCOVERIES AND BREAKTHROUGHS' to be satisfied that the research is worthwhile to them, to society or to the general pool
of scientific knowledge, and that it is ethically sound.
If theory testing was as simple as the dustcart test was, life would produce dramatic
The actual testing or 'running' of the project may take very little time compared
breakthroughs every day. Unfortunately, the classic discoveries are all the lay person
with all the planning and preparation along with the analysis of results and report-
hears about. In fact, research plods along all the time, largely according to Figure 1.1.
writing. Some procedures, such as an experiment or questionnaire, may be tried out
Although, from reading about research, it is easy to think about a single project
on a small sample of people in order to highlight snags or ambiguities for which
beginning and ending at specific points of time, there is, in the research world, a
adjustments can be made before the actual data gathering process is begun. This is
constant cycle occurring.
known as PILOTING. The researcher would run PILOT TRIALS of an experiment or
A project is developed from a combination of the current trends in research
would PILOT a questionnaire, for instance.
thinking (theory) and methods, other challenging past theories and, within psychol-
The report will be published in a research journal if successful. This term
ogy at least, from important events in the everyday social world. Tne investigator
'successful' is difficult to define here. It doesn't always mean that original aims have
might wish to replicate (repeat) a study by someone else in order to venfy it. Or they
been entirely met. Surprises occurring during the research may well make it
important, though usually such surprises would lead the investigator to rethink,
The research .w roiect 1- replan and run again on the basis of the new insights. As we saw above, failure to
Were the aims confirm one's hypothesis can be an important source of information. What matters
plan *Implement+- res,,10 + repon ++ oftheresearch overall, is that the research results are an important or useful contribution to current
- satisfactorilv met? knowledge and theory development. This importance will be decided by the editorial
board of an academic journal (such as the British Journal of Psychology) who will have
the report reviewed, usually by experts 'blind' as to the identity of the investigator.
Theory will then be adjusted in the light of this research result. Some academics
may argue that the design was so different from previous research that its challenge to
findings their theory can be ignored. Others will wish-to query the results and may ask the
important ? investigator to provide 'raw data' - the whole of the originally recorded data,
unprocessed. Some will want to replicate the study, some to modify . . . and here we
are, back where we started on the research cycle.
MYTH NO. 3: 'SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IS ALL ABOUT EXPERIMENTS'
I Check design
An experiment involves the researcher's control and manipulation of conditions or
I necessary 'variables, as we shall see in Chapter 5.
I Re-run Astronomy, one of the oldest sciences, could not use very many experiments until
relatively recently when technological advances have permitted direct tests of
conditions in space. It has mainly relied upon obselvation to test its theories of
planetery motion and stellar organisation.
I It is perfectly possible to test hypotheses without an experiment. Much psycho-
logical testing is conducted by observing what children do, asking what people think
and so on. The evidence about male and female drivers, for instance, was obtained by
Refutation - observation of actual behaviour and insurance company statistics. . '
Events in Extension theory I MYTH NO. 4:-'SCIENTISTS HAVE TO BE UNBIASED'
social world New ground
I I It is true that investigators try to remove bias from the way a project is run and from
Figure I. l The research cycle the way data is gathered and analysed. But they are biased about theory. They
Please note: To fully download this free PDF,EBook files you need know All free.Found by internet command,site not saved pdf file
You May Also Like
Related PPT Template in the same category.