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Category: Psychology

Autor: ckgreen72 09 August 2011

Words: 1389 | Pages: 6

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 is defined as a logically organized set of propositions that serve to define events, describe relationships among these events, and explain the occurrence of the events (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). The explanation of why independent and dependent variables are related is found in the intervening variable concepts. Successful scientific theories organize empirical knowledge, guide research by offering testable hypothesis, and survive rigorous testing (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). By judging the theories internal consistency and observations based on the hypothesis, researchers evaluate the theories. Psychologists derive proposed theories about the nature of the behavior and mental processes. A psychological theory can be developed many levels, which includes both a physiological or conceptual level.

A theory developed in a conceptual level would more likely propose psychological causes such as patterns of emotional conflicts or stress (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). Therefore, scientists seek to explain the range of phenomena because theories differ in their scope. Scientists develop theories by using personal observations, concrete facts, ideas, and intuitions. Even though theories are different in their levels of scope, among these differences are commonalities that define all theories. A formal definition of scientific theory is stated as a logically organized set of propositions that serves to define events, describe relationships among these events, and explain the occurrence of these events (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). Although theories have crucial functions for the organization of the empirical knowledge and guiding research, intervening variables are critical to theory development. This is because the constructs will allow researchers to explain relationships between independent and dependent variables.

In summary, the science of psychology is most known as the scientific study of scientific thoughts or behaviors (Salkind, 2008). The science of psychology applies methods and theories, which are derived from psychological analysis of scientific thoughts or behaviors. In turn, the scientific method is in reference to a body of procedures used to investigate phenomena, acquire new information, or correct previous studies. Procedures vary from each field to another but all scientific researchers must propose a hypothesis to explain a phenomenon and create experimental research areas to test his or her hypothesis.

Although most research areas in psychology comply with the standards of the scientific method, researchers also seek confirmation of theories and hypothesis from data by using qualitative or quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are firsthand or participant observations whereas quantitative methods are more of statistical testing of the hypothesis. Last, scientific theory construction and testing are at the center of the scientific approach to psychology. These theories are important because they guide the research by giving testable hypotheses.

References

Cherry, Kendra. (n.d.). Introduction to Research Methods. Retrieved June 2, 2011

from: http://psychology.about.com/od/researchmethods/ss/expdesintro.htm

Shaughnessy, J. J., Zechmeister, E. B., & Zechmeister, J. S. (2009). Research methods in

psychology (8th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Salkind, Neil. (2008). Exploring Research. 7th edition. Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New

Jersey.

Wilson, E.B. (1952). An Introduction to Scientific Research. McGraw-Hill: New York, New

York.

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