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Fundamentals Of Reseach

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Autor:   •  August 9, 2011  •  1,388 Words (6 Pages)  •  4,661 Views

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A variety of research methods exist today that a researcher applies in psychology. The methods differ, depending on the sources of information. In addition, depending on how the information is sampled and the types of instruments used during the data collection process, variance changes are likely. Fortunately, today, information and tools to gain research data are more available to students and researchers because of his or her ability to use electronic devices and Internet access to gather additional information. In comparison, the scientific method can be a little more complex because researchers seek not only to describe behaviors and explain why these behaviors occur, they also strive to create research that can be used to predict and even change human behavior (Cherry, n.d.). In this paper, the subject to discuss is the science of psychology, an explanation of the scientific method and its goals, distinguish between qualitative and quantitative data, and describe the process of scientific theory construction and testing.

Psychologists develop theories and conduct psychological research to answer questions about behavior and mental processes; these answers can impact individuals and society (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). The scientific method is a way to gather more information and a means to gain more knowledge and refers to the way a question is asked, which allows psychologists to determine what method should be used to achieve the answer. Two essential characteristics of the scientific method exist, which are known as an empirical approach and a skeptic attitude. An empirical approach is an approach to acquire knowledge that emphasizes a direct observation and experimentation as a way of answering questions. A skeptical approach is an honest search for knowledge, which is an approach that claims to be parallel to the scientific method. Although the concept of the scientific method may be abstract, the practice psychological science is very much concrete in human activity (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009).

Because certain human behaviors had been formally described as unnatural, researchers desired to study human behaviors by using the scientific method that recorded and observed certain behaviors. Additionally, the researchers believed if an individual could be observed more scientifically than there could be a better accuracy in understanding an individual's current behavior, which could dead to the prediction and treatment of future behaviors. Consequently, it was believed this understanding could lead to the alterations of behaviors by the use of scientific contributions. Scientific method is an approach to knowledge however; it is characterized by the reliability of empirical procedures rather than relying only on intuition.

Scientists gain the greatest control when they conduct an experiment. In an experiment, those factors that are systematically manipulated in an attempt determine their effects on behavior are known as independent variables (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). Furthermore, the scientific method is a process in which over time, scientists attempt to construct accurate representations of the world by four research steps. These four steps include observation and description of a phenomenon, formulation of a hypothesis, use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomenon, and the performance of experimental tests based on the predictions of several independent experiments. When an experiment confirms a hypothesis than it may be considered a theory or law of nature however, if the experiments are not valid it will be rejected or modifications will be made. Because it has often been noted that theories can be disproved and not proved, there is always the possibility that a new observation will conflict with a long-standing theory (Wilson, 1952).

The two methodological approaches in social science include the quantitative and qualitative methods. Both approaches adopt different positions in the fundamentals of the relationships between ideas and evidence. Quantitative research is an integral part of doing research. Whereas qualitative research is more of an exploration of the processes that underlie human behavior by the use of interviews, surveys, case studies, and other personal techniques (Salkind, 2008). However, the general purpose is to observe human behaviors in both social and cultural contexts. Qualitative research is a powerful and oftentimes appropriate method used to explore a research question rigorously, especially when additional perspectives are needed to clarify a phenomenon overlooked by quantitative research methods. When properly performed, qualitative research projects add to the body of knowledge on their subjects and make the researcher well informed (Salkind, 2008).

In addition, qualitative research only works with data or descriptions that can clearly be observed but not measured. The goal of the qualitative research is to describe the meaning and not draw any statistical inferences while exploring various items such as smells, tastes, textures, appearances, or colors. A more in-depth and rich description is available when the experiments lose reliability and gain validity. In contrast, quantitative research is associated with numbers and data, which can be measured. Items included in quantitative research involve height, time, speed, cost, age, weight, and area and volume. The focus of quantitative research is the quality of the times thus; the methods are focused on frequencies and numbers than on meaning and experience. Last, qualitative methods can provide much richer data but can be difficult to analyze. Subsequently, quantitative methods can possess limitations to the choices that have been provided for the respondent, which can hinder reliability.

At the core of the scientific approach to psychology is scientific theory construction and testing. A theory


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