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Types of research strategies in psychology

Updated on December 16, 2011
types of research strategies
types of research strategies


In order to overcome various difficulties while challenging the mysteries about human mind and behavior, psychologists should use data, which would be a product of reliable and trustworthy research; in their task to understand these mysteries, they use various research strategies. My goal here is to categorize the research strategies used by scientists and group them along three dimensions. These dimensions are:

  1. The research design.
  2. The setting.
  3. The data-collection method.

Three dimensions of research strategies
Three dimensions of research strategies
The research design
The research design

The research design – experiments, correlational studies, and descriptive studies.


Experiment– is the process of testing an idea about cause-effect relation between two variables (a variable – anything that can vary; e.g.: it might be condition of body, such as temperature). The first variable that is assumed to cause effect on other variable is called the independent variable and the second that is assumed to be affected is called the dependent variable. While conducting an experiment, researcher aims to learn how the dependent variable is affected by the independent variable. In other words, researcher manipulates one or more independent variables and looks for changes in one or more dependent variables, while keeping all other variables constant.

Correlational studies – There are interesting questions in psychology, and for most of them it’s not possible to assign subjects to particular experimental conditions. In that case, a way out is a correlational study – a process in which the researcher does not varies any variable but measures two or more variables to find relationships between them. That kind of research helps us to identify relationships between variables, but correlational studies do not tell us about cause and effect relations between variables. A correlational study helps us make a prediction about one variable based on knowledge of another.

Descriptive studies – is a research design, in which a researcher is not interested in investigating relationships between variables, and aims to describe the behavior of an individual (or set of individuals).

The research settings
The research settings

The research settings – a laboratory study, a field study.


A laboratory study – is a research setting in which the subjects are brought to a special area that has been set up to control over environmental conditions or to ease the researcher’s collection of data.

A field study – is a research setting conducted anywhere, other than specially designated area.

The data-collection method
The data-collection method

The data-collection method – self reports methods, observational methods.


Self report method – a procedure in which subject of study rates of describes the variables that interests researchers (interview, questionnaire etc.).

Observational method – a procedure by which the researcher observes and records a data, rather than rely on subject’s self-report (observation, tests etc.).

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