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Research Design
Translations are available in Estonian (C. Desroches), Russian and Ukrainian (by V. Parnak), Czech (A. Savicević), Norwegian (L. Olden) and Slovak (B. Lebedová).

  1. Rules of the Scientific Method
  2. General Procedures of the Scientific Method
  3. Research Methods
    1. Naturalistic Observation
    2. Survey Methods
    3. Case History Method
    4. Test Methods
    5. Experimental Method
  4. The Role of Statistics
    1. Significance of Differences
    2. Noncausal Relationships
    3. Statistics as a Tool


I. Rules of the Scientific Method
  1. Universe is assumed to be orderly. So, events have specific causes.
  2. It is publicly verifiable. Ex. You can go to the library.
  3. It is repeatable for a given lab, as well as across different labs.

II. General Procedures of the Scientific Method
  1. Ask a question about the world.
  2. Operationally define the relevant terms.
    Operational definition - a concept defined by how it is measured (thus, it typically includes numbers). Ex. "Hunger" - 24 hours of food deprivation.
  3. Choose a research method. We will talk about several.
  4. Collect & statistically analyze the data.
    The latter is what this course is all about.
  5. Report the results publicly (i.e., publish or present it).

III. Research Methods

These differ in the kinds of information about behavior they yield, as well as in the types of behavior to which they are best suited for studying. We will look at five different methods. Note that they are not mutually exclusive.

  1. Naturalistic Observation
    Also called systematic observation or the observational method. It is a systematic method for observing behavior as it naturally occurs. Some important issues include:
    1. Unobtrusiveness - subject is unaware they're being observed.
    2. Naturalness - subject is "at home."
    3. Systematic Recording - behavior is measured (or counted) somehow. For example, frequencies (how many), durations (how long), and/or latencies (how long until) might be recorded for operationally defined behaviors. Procedures such as time sampling (where behavior is sampled at regular intervals) might be used. We might want to compute reliabilities to see if the different observers are in agreement about what is being measured.

  2. Surveys
    Are a way to gather a large amount of information relatively easily and quickly.

  3. Case Studies
    Are used a lot by clinicians. An individual or small group of individuals is studied in detail. For example, we might want to study the mental disorder schizophrenia. It is a form of psychosis that that occurs with an incidence in the population of about 1%. It typically becomes apparent between the ages of 15 and 35. The individual or small group of individuals we work with is called a cohort.

  4. Test Methods

  5. Experimental Method

IV. The Role of Statistics
  1. Significance of Differences
    In an experiment with two groups, there are two reasons why differences may occur.
    1. IV or treatment effect (what we manipulated).
    2. Chance or sampling error (the error we can expect from using sample values to estimate population values).

      Statistics helps us decide whether the difference is due to the IV (significant).

    Important concepts:

  2. Noncausal Relationships
    Variables are not always related in a causal manner. Statistical techniques are available to assess various aspects of relations between variables even when no causal relation exists.

  3. Statistics as a Tool
    It should be clear from our discussion of research design that statistics is a tool of the scientific method. First, a research project is carried out. The data are then analyzed. If the research project was poorly designed, even the most brilliant statistical analysis will not provide a meaningful answer to the original research question.

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