2.2—scientific research designs Flashcards Preview

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2.2 Learning Objectives

  • know the key terminology related to research designs.
  • understand what it means when variables are positively or negatively correlated.
    • positively correlated variables have a direct relationship, i.e. increase/decrease with one another.
    • negatively correlated variables have an inverse relationship, i.e. as one increases, the other decreases, or vice versa.
  • understand how experiments help demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships.
    • at the beginning of an experiment, two or more groups are randomly assigned.
    • then, researchers manipulate an independent variable.
    • at the end, if one group turns out to the different, that difference is most likely due to the effects of the independent variable.
  • apply the terms and concepts of experimental methods to research samples.
  • analyze the pros and cons of descriptive, correlational, and experimental research designs.
    • descriptive pro: observing naturally occurring behaviour and providing detailed observations of individuals.
    • correlational pro: we can see how key variables are related.
    • experimental pro: can be used to test for cause-and-effect relationships.
    • experimental con: limited in how far their results may generalize to real-world situations.


2.2 Focus

  • what are some of the ways researchers make observations?
  • do some research techniques provide stronger evidence than others?


Research Design

  • research design: a set of methods that allows a hypothesis to be tested. research designs influence how investigators:
    • organize the stimuli used to test the hypothesis,
    • make observations,
    • and evaluate the results.
  • all research designs have three things in common:
    • variables: a property of an object, organism, event, or something else that you can take on different values.
      • how frequently you laugh is a variable that could be measured and analyzed.
    • operational definitions: the details that define the variables for the purposes of a specific study.
    • data: the collected observations about the variables of interest.


Descriptive Research

  • descriptive research answers the question of “what a phenomenon is;"it describes its characteristics.
  • once these observations have been performed and the data examined, they can be used to inform more sophisticated future studies that ask “why” and “how” that phenomenon occurs.
  • researchers gather data using one or more of the following designs: case studies, naturalistic observation, and surveys and questionnaires.


Case Study | Descriptive Research

  • case study: an in-depth report about the details of a specific case.
  • they are generally reserved for individuals who have a very uncommon characteristic or have lived through a very unusual experience.
  • e.g. Phineas Gage (1823-1860)
    • had a metal pole launched through his face (into his left eye and tearing through his brain).
    • Gage lived but became more impulsive, inconsiderate, indecisive, and impatient.
  • although case studies can be used in the future to gain understanding, are they really science?
    • the results from case studies may not be generalizable, but case study patients can be used to test existing hypotheses.
      • e.g. a girl with no amygdala (fear control of the brain) still responded to fear stimuli.
    • case studies can also be used to find similarities between different concepts.
      • e.g. making people associate feelings of fear and anxiety with previously neutral objects helped to make connections in PTSD research.
    • researchers who read case studies can be inspired to make other projects examining different aspects of the issue that was brought to light.


Naturalistic Observations | Descriptive Research

  • naturalistic observations: unobtrusively observing and recording behaviours as they occur in the subject’s natural environment.
  • when making naturalistic observations, researchers must pay attention to specific variables and use operational definitions.
  • this method may not always provide researchers with the specific types of information they’re after.


Self-Reporting | Descriptive Research

  • self-reporting: a method in which responses are provided directly by the people who are being studied, typically through face-to-face interviews, phone surveys, paper and pencil tests, and web-based questionnaires.
  • the creation of objective survey and questionnaire items is extremely challenging.
  • if you’re studying a subject that some people may not want to openly discuss, questions have to touch the issue without being off-putting.


Norms | Descriptive Research

  • norms: average patterns of data.
  • how do researchers figure out if their questions are valid?
  • for clinical questionnaires, the researchers can compare results to a participant’s clinical diagnosis.
  • for questionnaires on other phenomena, researchers do pretesting to calculate norms.


Correlational Research

  • correlational research: involves measuring the degree of association between two or more variables.
  • correlations can be visualized when presented in a scatterplot.
    • direction—if correlations are positive, it means that the two variables change values in the same direction.
    • magnitude or strength—this refers to how closely the changes in one variable are linked to changes in another variable.
      • this magnitude is described in terms of a mathematical measurement called the correlation coefficient.
      • a correlation coefficient of 0 means that there’s no relationship; +1.0 means a very strong positive relationship, -1.0 means a very strong negative relationship.
  • correlation is not a measure of causation.


Third Variable Problem | Correlational Research

the possibility that a third, unmeasured variable is actually responsible for a well-established correlation between two variables.


Illusory Correlations

relationships that really exist only in the mind, rather than in reality.


Random Assignment | Experimental Research

a technique for dividing samples into two or more groups in which participants are equally likely to be placed in any condition of the experiment. 


Confounding Variable | Experimental Research

a variable outside of the researcher’s control that might affect or provide an alternative explanation for the results.


Independent Variable | Experimental Research

the variable that the experimenter manipulates to distinguish between two or more groups.


Dependent Variable | Experimental Research

the observation or measurement that is recorded during the experiment and subsequently compared across all groups.


Between-Subjects Design | Experimental Research

an experimental design in which we compare the performance of participants who are in different groups.


Experimental Group | Experimental Research

the group in the experiment that receives a treatment or the stimuli targeting a specific behaviour.


Control Group | Experimental Research

the group that does not receive the treatment or stimuli targeting a specific behaviour; this group therefore serves as a baseline to which the experimental group is compared.


Within-Subjects Designs | Experimental Research

an experiment design in which the same participants respond to all types of stimuli or experience all experimental conditions.


Quasi-Experimental Research

  • quasi-experimental research: a research technique in which the two or more groups that are compared are selected based on predetermined characteristics, rather than random assignment.
  • these can point out relationships among preexisting groups, but cannot determine what it is about these groups that lead to the differences.

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