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Research Methods for Psychology (Introduction)


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Michael Mallaghan
  • Assessment: a 1500-word laboratory report (50%), two one-hour timed assessments (30% and 10%) and a worksheet portfolio (10%)

    Module description

    In this module we provide you with an overview and introduction to research methods in psychology, and to evaluation of theory and research in psychology.

      Indicative syllabus

      Quantitative methods

      • Overview of quantitative methods (e.g. laboratory, field and natural experiments)
      • Overview of analysis of quantitative numeric material (e.g. descriptive and inferential statistics)
      • Nature of scientific research and the scientific method
      • Cause and effect: examining effects of the independent variable(s) on the dependent variable(s) or score(s)
      • Hypothesis testing (experimental and null hypotheses)
      • Control groups and baseline measures
      • Random selection and random allocation
      • ABBA designs and counterbalancing
      • Levels of measurement (nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio)
      • Experimental design (between participants, within participants, matched pairs)
      • Comparing tests of difference and tests of association (correlation)
      • Overview of non-parametric tests to be covered eg Sign, Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney, Chi Squared and Spearman correlation
      • Selecting statistical tests based on experimental design and level of measurement, and using a decision tree
      • Defining basic experimental terms (e.g. variables)

      Qualitative methods

      • Overview of qualitative methods (e.g. naturalistic observation, interviews and questionnaire studies)
      • Compiling interview, questionnaire and survey questions (e.g. open and closed questions)
      • Observational methods with and without intervention (e.g. participant and non-participant observation
      • Sources of bias (e.g. response bias, reactivity in participants)

      Data collection and analysis

      • Summarising data using descriptive statistics
      • Understanding the difference between descriptive and inferential statistics
      • Measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode)
      • Measures of dispersion (range, interquartile range, variance and standard deviation)
      • Plotting frequency distributions (histograms and polygons)
      • Distinguishing between tests of difference and tests of association
      • Worked examples of non-parametric tests of difference (Sign, Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney)
      • Worked examples of Chi Squared test for nominal data (goodness of fit, 2 by 2 and larger contingency tables, observed and expected values, small sample sizes)
      • Drawing bar charts and line graphs
      • Worked example of non-parametric test of association (Spearman correlation)
      • Drawing and interpreting scattergrams/scatterplots
      • Levels of significance
      • Comparing calculated values with table values, interpreting and expressing findings
      • Defining basic statistical terms (e.g. standard deviation)

      Introduction to ethical practices

      • BPS and APA ethical guidelines work working with humans and animals (briefing and debriefing, use of deception, informed consent and right to withdraw, confidentiality, etc)
      • Examples from the literature of desirable and non-desirable ethical practices

      Introduction to SPSS

      • Defining variables and entering data
      • Selecting descriptive statistics (measures of central tendency and dispersion)
      • Producing tables, graphs and charts
      • Cutting and pasting tables, graphs and charts into laboratory reports
      • Carrying out non-parametric tests of difference (Mann-Whitney and Wilcoxon
      • Producing scatterplots and requesting ‘best fit’ line
      • Carrying out Chi Squared tests
      • Carrying out non-parametric test of association (Spearman)
      • Examining and interpreting output tables

      Maths and study skills for research methods

      • Feeling confident with numeric data
      • Using a basic calculator for simple statistical calculations
      • Obtaining information from tables, graphs and charts
      • Understanding decimal places and rounding up scores
      • Working out fractions, percentages and ratios
      • Consulting statistical tables
      • Converting proportions to percentages
      • Ranking data
      • Writing laboratory reports (different sections, word count for each section, etc)
      • Practical marking exercise with examples of previous class reports
      • Referencing
      • Ownership and plagiarism
      • Using Turnitin to check for originality and submit assignments

      Learning objectives

      By the end of this module, you should be able to:

      • conduct basic calculations using a calculator and a computer
      • obtain information from tables, graphs and charts
      • carry out psychological experiments in class with the other students
      • show awareness of ethical issues concerning experiments
      • write laboratory reports following the conventional format
      • access Moodle to obtain course material and submit assignments via Turnitin
      • review and critically comment on background literature
      • select appropriate statistical tests to analyse psychological data
      • carry out statistical analysis by hand and in SPSS
      • interpret findings from statistical analysis
      • discuss and implement a range of strategies to support your learning.