Psychology Research Methods

Complete the following chart. The first column shows the name of a research method used in psychology. In the second column, write a brief description of that research method. In the third column, provide a situation when this method could be applied.

Scientific Method

Description: A method of testing observations through scientific experimentation. There are five main steps in the scientific method. The first step entails observations of commonly held beliefs or untested questions. Once an observation is made a concise research question or sometimes a hypothesis is formulated. Then the question or hypothesis is tested through a controlled experiment. Next, draw conclusions as to the applicability of the test results to the hypothesis. If the test results affirm the hypothesis, then the current theory will need to be modified to account for the scientific data. If the conclusion does not affirm the hypothesis then a new hypothesis will need to be formulated and further testing performed.

Application: A specific example of the scientific method would be to start with the observation that women who have had abortions sometimes suffer from psychological stress due to the procedure. You would then take that observation and formulate a hypothesis something like: Abortion patients who have had third-trimester abortions performed between the age of 18 and 25 in the state of Texas regularly have feelings of regret and remorse for the loss of life. Testing would most likely entail several random sample interviews performed throughout Texas in order to ascertain proper consensus. The conclusion could then be used to modify current theory about pre-birth motherhood and the psychological underpinning of abortion.

Case Study Method

Description: The case study method is basically biographical data acquired through the use of interviews, questionnaires, and psychological tests. As I read this method it seemed like the least reliable of all because the data still passes through the lens of personal experience. From what I read this method would most likely be used to narrow a hypothesis or maybe obtain general personal data on a subject rather than to come to a scientific conclusion.

Application: To continue the above application of the scientific method, the case study method could be used to gather information about which age group, geographical location, and what trimester abortion should be targeted for testing. This method could also be used to gather subjective insights into the personal experiences women go through before, during, and after the abortion procedure in order to better understand the root cause of the psychological stress.

Survey Method

Description: The survey method is a way of gathering information about populations that could not be obtained through interviews or experimentation. One type of surveying is random sampling, which looks like the most accurate and entails surveying at random in a specific population. Also stratifying the sample would ensure that the survey is proportionate to the group being polled.

Application: The survey method could be used to ascertain the occupation, marital status, economic status, etc… of abortion patients in order to separate alternate stresses from the stress of the abortion procedure. That way the stress related to the abortion procedure can be extrapolated from the daily stresses of abortion patients.

Naturalistic Observation Method

Description: The naturalistic observation method is used to observe organisms in their day-to-day lives in order to obtain descriptive information about behavior. However, this method does not resolve the underlying causes of behavior.

Application: This method could be used to better understand bullies on an elementary school playground. The observation could be used to ascertain whether bullies wait until their victim is alone or whether they want to harass the other child in front of the other children. Once a better understanding of how bullies attack their victims has been established one of the other methods could be used to isolate the causes.

Correlation Method

Description: The correlation method is used to relate two different traits to one another. The results of this method are expressed in a correlation coefficient between +1.00 and -1.00. The closer the coefficients to +100 the higher the correlation. Likewise, the closer the coefficients to -1.00 the lower the correlation. If both coefficients increase there is a positive correlation. If both coefficients decrease there is a negative correlation.

Application: The correlation method could be used to establish a positive correlation between abortion patients and anti-depression medication used after the abortion procedure. Even though this method can not establish a cause and effect relationship between abortions and medication it could be used as a basis for further testing.

Experimental Method

Description: The experimental method is used to specifically establish cause and effect relationships. Independent variables are conditions that are manipulated during an experiment in order that effects can be observed. A dependent variable is an effect that the manipulated independent variable has on the experimental group. The most effective experiments include blind or double-blind studies. In blind studies, the participants are not informed as to whether they are part of the control group or the experimental group. In double-blind studies, the experimenters and the participants are not informed of who is in the control group and who is in the experimental group.

Application: This method could be used to establish a cause and effect relationship between abortions and psychological. The control group would be women who had a miscarriage during their third trimester. The experimental group would be the women who had an abortion procedure done in their third trimester. This experiment could be used to isolate the remorse that the mother feels for the lost child from the remorse the mother feels for the abortion itself. In this manner, a cause and effect could be established between psychological stress and abortion patients. The independent variable would be the loss of the child. The dependent variable would be the reactions of both the abortion patient and the woman who had a miscarriage.


Nevid, J.S., Rathus, S.A. (2005). Psychology and the challenges of life: Adjustment in the new millennium. Danvers, M.A.: Wiley.


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