PSYC 2211-21– Research Methods
Student Learning Objectives:
1. Identify a research question important to the study of psychological science
2. Critically evaluate the merits of psychological research and theory
3. Learn how to conduct a literature review on scholarly work
4. Apply knowledge of research design and analysis to actual research questions
5. Connect theoretical concepts to real-world implications
6. Develop advanced academic writing skills
7. Engage critical thinking and analytical skills
This assignment requires that you propose an empirical test of a research question in psychological science. First, you will identify a research question relevant to psychology. A strong research question will seek to address a void in the current scientific understanding of your topic area. Thus, your question should be novel (something that has yet to be clearly answered), important (have meaningful theoretical and real-world implications), specific (has clear, definable variables that can be studied), and falsifiable (can generate predictions which can be refuted by evidence).
Specifically, regarding novelty, you should NOT select a research question that can be readily answered by existing research studies. This means that students must undergo an intensive process of thinking about and generating a strong research question. Begin by first thinking about a broad topic in psychology. What disciplines/topics generally interest you? Within your topic of interest, consider the relationship between two or more variables – that is, think about what about the topic specifically that interests you. Below is a stepwise example to help guide you through the process of generating a research question:
General Topic – Personality
More Specific Topic – Personality Disorders
More Specific Topic – Psychopathy
More Specific Topic – The role of psychopathy in helping behavior
Variables Compared – (1) psychopathy and (2) helping behavior
Initial Research Question – What is the relationship between psychopathy and helping?
Evaluate Research Question – Importance? High. Novelty? Low. Specificity? Medium. Falsifiability? High.
Revised Research Question – What is the relationship between psychopathy and the likelihood of helping friends vs. strangers in emergency situations?
Next, you will conduct a literature review (Introduction). You will define and discuss, individually, each construct that is contributing to your research question. Use the lectures and/or other scholarly sources (e.g., textbooks, scholarly articles found in Google Scholar, published periodicals, etc.) to help. Additionally, you will very briefly review and summarize some of the current literature that is relevant to your research question. For information that you use from lectures, you can cite it as “Research Methods Lecture – [Lecture Title].” For all other information you find, you MUST cite the information using APA format to identify that it is not your intellectual property. Below is an example of how you might outline your literature review:
Body Paragraph 1 – What is psychopathy? Conceptually define and discuss. Include any relevant theory.
Body Paragraph 2 – What is the relationship between psychopathy and helping? Conceptually define and discuss helping. Include theory on helping which might be relevant to understanding the relationship.
Body Paragraphs 3, 4… – What are factors that might influence this relationship? Introduce target type and helping context as potentially important factors. Discuss why they are relevant to psychopathy.
Next, you will propose your empirical study (Method Section). An empirical study is a systematic investigation into a research question based on observable or experiential data using the scientific method. You should devise a study that you could realistically run in real life (if you were to have the resources, equipment, and funds). In brief, who will be the participants in your study, and about how many do you plan to recruit? What is your research design (correlational, experimental, longitudinal, descriptive)? Identify the independent and/or dependent variables in your study. What data collection method would you use to assess each variable in your study? Explain your rationale, and identify the strengths and limitations of this data method. If more than one data method is being used, explain how and why. Finally, you will describe, in precise detail, what participants will do in your study. You can discuss this almost in the form of a story: From the moment the participant begins your study to the moment the participant ends your study, what is the participant’s experience? It might even help to imagine yourself as the participant and think about everything that you would be required to do. Using the future tense is most appropriate (“Participants will…”). Below is an example of how you might outline your “Study Proposal”:
Participants – 200 college participants from FDU.
Research Design and Data Methods (with rationale) – A survey design. Participants will be asked to report how frequently they help different types of targets, including friends and strangers, in emergency situations. This data method uses self-report data. What are the advantages of this method? What are the disadvantages of this method? Psychopathy will be measured using self-report data. What are the advantages of this method? What are the disadvantages of this method? Both psychopathy and helping behavior are dependent (measured) variables.
Procedure – Describe the study from the participant’s perspective. Questionnaires will be administered to assess psychopathy and helping behavior. Describe details of each questionnaire. Participants will be able to complete the survey online.
Next, you will propose a data analytic plan based on your study design (Data Analytic Plan). You will briefly discuss what statistical test you will run to analyze your data and discuss why it is appropriate for your study design.
Data Analytic Plan – Correlational analysis. Explain why you will use this analytic approach. Explain what this analysis tests and how results will be interpreted.
Finally, you will discuss what you expect to find if you were to run your study and analyze your data (Discussion of Expected Findings). Based on these expected findings, you are required to articulate their implications, both theoretical and real-world. You will also discussion the strengths and limitations of your proposed study. Below is an example of how you might outline your “Discussion”:
Expected Findings – In the proposed study, what should be the relationship between psychopathy and helping? In simple terms, what does this mean?
Theoretical Implications – Based on these expected findings, how might this change our conceptual and theoretical understanding of psychopathy? What can we learn about psychopathy as a personality construct that we did not know before?
Real-World Implications – Based on these expected findings, what does this suggest for people in everyday life? Maybe this has implications for vocations that involve helping others in emergency situations.
Strengths – What does the proposed study do well at addressing the research question?
Limitations – In what ways might the data be limited? Why might the data not generalize to other studies, samples, etc.? What do we still not know about psychopathy and helping that the proposed study did not address?