AP Psychology: Research Methods Notes

Key Takeaways: Research Methods

  1. The study of psychology relies on a diverse array of qualitative and quantitative research methods, including observations, case studies, surveys, and controlled experiments.
  2. Psychological research is carefully designed so that researchers can be confident about using results to draw conclusions about real-life phenomena. This is done by controlling variables, creating representative samples, controlling for internal and external validity, and operationalizing definitions and measurements.
  3. Researchers use statistics to analyze and make sense of the data gathered in a research study. This involves the use of descriptive statistics like measures of central tendency and dispersion, as well as inferential statistics for making generalizations based on the data.
  4. Because psychological study often involves the participation of human subjects, researchers must abide by established ethical principles and practices as well as legal guidelines while conducting research.

Research Methods Key Terms

Types of Psychological Research

  • Quantitative research: Research that uses operational measurements and statistical techniques to reach conclusions on the basis of numerical data, such as correlational studies and experiments.
  • Qualitative research: Research that does not rely on numerical representations of data, such as naturalistic observations, unstructured interviews, and case studies.
  • Correlation coefficient: A number (symbolized by r) between −1 and +1, which represents the strength and direction of the correlation between two variables. The closer the coefficient is to −1 or +1, the stronger the correlation between the variables.
  • Positive correlation: An r value above 0, which indicates that two variables have a direct relationship: when one variable increases, the other also increases.
  • Negative correlation: An r value below 0, which indicates that two variables have an inverse relationship: when one variable increases, the other decreases.
  • Naturalistic observation: A research method, typically qualitative in nature and usually covert and undisclosed, that attempts to document behavior as it spontaneously occurs in a real world setting.
  • Structured observation: A type of observational research typically conducted in a laboratory setting, where the researcher can control some aspects of the environment.
  • Coding: The classification of behaviors into discrete categories, used especially in structured observations to achieve a level of consistency in recording and describing observations.
  • Inter-rater reliability: A statistical measure of the degree of agreement between different codings of the same phenomena.
  • Participant observation: A mostly qualitative research method in which the researcher becomes a member of a studied group, either overtly or covertly.
  • Hawthorne effect: A phenomenon in which research subjects tend to alter their behavior in response to knowledge of being observed.
  • Longitudinal study: A research design that examines how individuals develop by studying the same sample over a long period of time.
  • Cross-sectional study: A research design conducted at a single point in time, comparing groups of differing ages to arrive at conclusions about development.
  • Case study: A research design involving an in-depth and detailed examination of a single subject, or case, usually an individual or a small group.
  • Survey: A mostly quantitative research method involving a list of questions filled out by a group of people to assess attitudes or opinions.
  • Nonresponse bias: A distortion of data that can occur in surveys with a low response rate.
  • Surveyor bias: A distortion of data that can occur when survey questions are written in a way that prompts respondents to answer a certain way.
  • Experiments: Deliberately designed procedures used to test research hypotheses.
  • Hypothesis: A proposed, testable explanation for a phenomenon, often constructed in the form of a statement about the relationship between two or more variables.
  • Controlled experiment: A research design for testing a causal hypothesis, in which all aspects of the study are deliberately controlled and only independent variables are manipulated to isolate their effects on dependent variables.
  • Field experiment: Experiments conducted out in the real world, with fewer controls than would be found in a lab.

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