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Psychology Research Methods - Surveys, Case Studies & Experiments for Research in Psychology

Updated on July 16, 2009

When psychologists are presented with questions which have unknown answers, they have many options as to what method of research they will use to collect the data needed to contribute to or reach an answer. The three main psychology research methods are surveys, case studies and experiments. (Introduction to Psychology) While just one method can be use to collect data, a common practice is to use more than just one method to learn more developed results. There are subcategories of research methods that can be used to conduct additional data within the three major research methods. This essay will provide an overview of some popular psychology research methods.


Pyschology Surveys

The first commonly used research method in psychology is called a survey. A survey gathers data by asking a group of people their thoughts, reactions or opinions to fixed questions. This data is then collected and analyzed by a psychologist to provide insight on human behavior as related to a particular subject.

The benefits of using surveys makes this method a very viable option. Standardized surveys provide data with little to no errors. They are cost effective and efficient as a large group of people can be surveyed in a short period of time. The disadvantages of using surveys to conduct research include the validity based upon honest answers, answer choices could not reflect true opinions and one particular response may be understood differently by the subjects of the study, thus providing less than accurate results. (Statistical Survey)

Psychology Case Studies

The next form of research that psychologists frequently use in their work is called a case study. Unlike a survey, a case study closely studies one individual as opposed to a group of people. Case studies can be compared and contrasted to help further analyze data, however the focus of the actual experiment always analyzes the behaviors, feelings, thoughts, etc. of one person. (Introduction to Psychology). Case studies were developed from the idea of single cases being tried in a court of law. Sigmund Freud was the first in his field to use case studies to learn more about his patients. (Zach, Lisl)

The benefits of performing a case study include getting an in-depth view into a subjects behavior and can also help a psychologist determine research questions to study for a larger group. A disadvantage to doing a case study is that a psychologist may start off only looking for certain data and accidentally overlook important behaviors while only focusing on desired data, or data may be purposely overlooked if it does not coincide with an original hypothesis. (Introduction to Psychology) Lastly, finding willing participants can sometimes prove difficult, dependant upon the type of research being done.

Psychology Experiments

The third category of psychology research methods is conducting experiments. They are crucial in finding the answers to questions such as “does chemical x cause this reaction within males, females or both?” The cause and effect of a particular problem can be studied through an experiment, providing it has “a set of rules and guidelines that minimize the possibility of error, bias and chance occurrences.” (Introduction to Psychology) Surveys and case studies require observation and asking questions, whereas experiments require controls and the creation of situations to record beneficial data.

The benefits of controlled experiments include a more scientific and thus more accepted approach of collecting data, as well as limiting potential bias that could occur in a survey or case study. One disadvantage to many experiments is the cost factor involved; often laboratory procedures can be expensive. Another potential disadvantage is questionable ethics when it comes to using humans and placing them in potential unpleasant or even unsafe situations to observe cause-and-effect.

Psychologists sometimes only require the use of one method to successfully find the answer to a question, however it is not uncommon for all three research methods (and their techniques within each category) to be utilized for very extensive and thorough psychology research methods. (Introduction to Psychology)

Works Cited 
Introduction to Psychology. 8th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. 
Statistical Survey. Wikipedia. 01 July 2009 
Zach, Lisl. "Using a Multiple Case Studies Design." 
Library Trends 55 (2006): 4-21. EBSCO. EBSCO. 01 July 2009 


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    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 7 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      I was a psychology major and enjoyed your hub. It is great that you posted an assignment as a hub.

    • Caleb Anderson profile image

      Caleb Anderson 8 years ago

      It really is testament to your work ethic, nice job!

    • R Burow profile image

      R Burow 8 years ago from Florida, United States

      This hub illustrates how hard you work. Obviously you conducted a lot of research. Always an inspiration.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Ha ha ha! I know what you mean. I posted my Korean Literature Essay as a hub and I still to this day have zero comments!

    • girly_girl09 profile image

      girly_girl09 8 years ago from United States

      You're very welcome, guys. Glad you enjoyed it! :)

      It's nice to be able to publish papers online that in the past, only one other person (my professor) would read.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I never understood why there was a need for statistics in psychology under I actually took a course in Psychology Statistics, a.k.a. Psych. Stats. However, once I began learning about it especially about trends, scattergrams, and sample sizes, I realized just how important it was in determining percentiles of various case and prognoses. This article brings it all back. Thanks for sharing.

    • anjalichugh profile image

      anjalichugh 8 years ago from New York

      I guess 'case study' and 'experimentation' are the most commonly used methods for studying behavioral patterns and collection of data in psychology. No matter what the disadvantages are, we still have to rely on these two valuable sources. This was a very interesting article for me as any hub which is even remotely connected with psychology is like food for my soul. :) Thx

    • girly_girl09 profile image

      girly_girl09 8 years ago from United States

      I love statistics and playing with numbers, too. I had to write a few mini-essays for a Psych 101 class and this is the first of 10 that I figured I'd publish on here! :)

    • advisor4qb profile image

      advisor4qb 8 years ago from On New Footing

      I remember taking Advanced Research Methods and we had to learn how to use SPSS software to analyze the data. It was very interesting, as I love statistics and generating reports and playing with numbers. Interesting hub!