Research methods in psychology

Research methods in psychology

 There are a number of methods that can be used to conduct researches in psychology. These methods have been discussed in detail hereafter. The method adopted in research depend the field of psychology and the problem in question.

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We will assume a case of depression and show how research methods can be used to come up with conclusions.

a)      Naturalistic Observation – This method involves observation of the behavior in its natural settings. Operational definition of depression in this state will be a state a state of low mood and aversion to activity.

Naturalistic observation will in this case involve observing individuals who are suspected of being depressed and evaluate how their behavior is different from a conventionally agreed normal state.

b)         Co-relational – This study finds involves comparing two traits and in this case one trait would be the temperament of the individual suspected of being depressed before and after the diagnosis. It can also be a comparison between an individual thought to be depressed and one who is ‘normal’.

A positive correlation would indicate similarity and logic in the temperaments of the two individuals while a negative correlation would indicate disparity in the temperaments of the two individuals.

c)         Experimental – involves having an independent variable and treating two or more groups of subjects differently with respect to the independent variable.

The independent variables (IV) are the individuals thought to be normal, while the dependent variable (DV) is the individual suspected of depression.

is the duration taken to identify colours. The operational definition of “breastfed “– babies aged one who have been breast fed for one year. Operational definition of “formula fed” – babies aged one who have been formula fed for one year. The operational definition of “identifying colours’- would be to pick the correct coloured toy when shown the colour wanted. The experiment can be conducted in a laboratory. We have to seek permission of parents in a hospital and select newborn babies who can be breastfed and those who can be formula fed and from this the babies required for the experiment will be chosen. There will be two different groups, one with twenty mothers who will be only breastfeeding their babies for one year and another group with twenty mothers who will be only formula feeding their babies for one year. The mothers who are breastfeeding will be having a same diet plan and the mothers who are formula feeding will use the same formula powder. After one year, the breastfed babies and formula fed babies will be placed in two different rooms and will be shown a colour on a screen, for example blue, then the baby will be urged to pick up a toy that is blue in colour. The duration taken for each baby to identify the correct coloured toy will be recorded. The possible results of the experiment may show that babies who have been breastfed may have taken a shorter time to identify the wanted colour when compared to babies who have been formula fed. The results could also be vice versa or having not much difference in the comparison.

d)        Case Study – This involves a thorough and in depth study of the level of intelligence of a particular subject , as in this case the subjects would be a sibling  who has been breastfed for one year and a sibling who has been formula fed year. Thus, the mother should have at least two children, one being breastfed and another being formula fed. One important thing to keep in mind is the siblings should have a similar diet plan as they are growing. The study may involve observing the siblings’ intelligence level at each stage of their lives. For example at age two, how many alphabets can the siblings identify? The intelligences tested can also be based on multiple intelligences and each task assigned to the siblings must be the same. The study may be conducted till they reach the age of seven and a final written test comprising of mathematical and language based questions  can be done to complete the study and compare the results. Possible results the sibling who was breastfed might be stronger in terms of kinestatic intelligence as compared to the sibling who was formula fed.

e)         Survey method – A method used to pose questions to a large population in order to get results based on the hypothesis. For this case, it may be possible to conduct a survey of mothers who have breastfed and mothers who have formula fed and seek their responses to questions in relation to the duration they have breastfed/formula fed and their child’s intelligence level. The questions could be based on multiple intelligences, for example “At which age did your child manage to say all the alphabets in the alphabet?”  “When did your child first tried to read?”  “When did you child first cycled?” The survey could also be done in an interview format with parents to know in depth about the differences between a breastfed child and a formula fed child. The survey may take into consideration of the age of the mothers, the children and the mother’s health habits and other factors that may affect breastfeeding and formula feeding.

My Stand

It was interesting to come up with different research strategies based on the five methods asked in this TMA. Lets look at the five different methods in depth, the first being naturalistic observation, for the hypothesis mentioned, this method has a strong point of being able to observe the children/babies in their natural setting let it be home or school, somewhere the children/babies are familiar of but it would not be an ideal one simply because no interference is allowed thus little or no control is allowed. All we have to do is to just observe the behaviour of the children and there may be no chance of altering their diet plan. The children may also behave more appropriately assuming that someone is observing them. The results may also be based on personal judgement and biasness hence the results that come out of this method may not be accurate. The correlational method has its advantage of being able to control the duration of the babies being breastfed but the biggest disadvantage would be the other variable where only one test/activity can be done to see the relationship between the two variables. This is where defining intelligence would be hard as we can categorize intelligence into multiple intelligences. And it is difficult to distinguish the cause and effect of a correlational study. It may not be necessarily true that a child who may be breastfed may achieve more correct answers as the element of multiple intelligence is missing and the test maybe only using one/two of the multiple intelligences.

The survey method is a good method to get a mass response from many mothers and a lot of data can be collected to compare the results but the results may not be very accurate as parents may not choose to answer the questions truthfully as they may not want to condemn their own children. Lacking truth itself may cause the results to be inaccurate. The case study method has the strength of allowing the subject to be studied in depth, in this way the subject may be clearly studied for all the different type of intelligences as they grow up and then be compared. Since the subjects are siblings, it makes it more accurate as intelligence can also be inherited. The weakness would be to find the appropriate subject and the duration taken to complete the study. The final method which is the experimental method allows us to take control of the whole study, the strength is that we can have two controlled groups, one breast fed and one formula fed and the duration can be fixed. The diet, health habits and other factors can be totally controlled which may give a more accurate result. One weakness would be the setting of the experiment, it is no longer natural and this may hinder the behaviour or thinking skills of the subject involved. But the cause and effect of the experiment can be clearly seen as the variables are controlled. In my opinion, the experiment method would be most appropriate; as the weaknesses can be corrected such as creating a more natural environment is possible. The strength of being able to clearly focus on two groups of equal sample and control the mothers’ and children’s intake of food and their health habits allows for powerful observations to be done when the experiment is being conducted. The duration taken for the baby to identify the colour is crucial as well as the baby’s behaviour can also be observed. The results on whether breastfed babies are more intelligent than formula fed babies can be closely derived from an experimental method.


Coon, D.C (2006) Psychology: A Modular Approach to Mind and Bahavior(10th editon). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning Inc

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