Research Methods in Psychology For Dummies Cheat Sheet - dummies
Cheat Sheet

Research Methods in Psychology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Research Methods in Psychology For Dummies

By Martin Dempster, Donncha Hanna

As a researcher in the field of psychology, you have many things to think about when planning, conducting and reporting a research study. This Cheat Sheet provides a handy guide to remind you about the important things to bear in mind to ensure you are conducting research ethically, thinking about the right type of validity in quantitative research, designing good quality qualitative research, and writing up your research appropriately.

Adhering to Research Ethics in Psychology

Like many other fields, psychology is dependent on research as a discipline. It is important to maintain ethical principles during research. Five key ethical principles underpin psychological research:

  • Beneficence and non-maleficence (always try to help and never do harm)

  • Fidelity and responsibility (aim to establish trust, behave with professional responsibility and contribute to the discipline)

  • Integrity (behave in an accurate, honest and truthful manner)

  • Justice (promote fairness and equality)

  • Respect for people’s right and dignity

These principles align with the five key components of the research process:

  • Ensure that people provide valid consent to participate in the research.

  • Ensure that participants know about their rights to withdraw from the research.

  • Ensure confidentiality of data.

  • Ensure that research participants are not deceived (unless there is a strong justification).

  • Ensure that participants are fully debriefed at the end of the study.

Looking at Various Types of Validity in Psychological Quantitative Research

As you would do with any discipline, you want to make sure you’re your research results are valid in psychology. Quantitative research in psychology uses different types of test or questionnaire validity:

  • Face validity: test looks as if it measures what it claims to measure

  • Convergent validity: test correlates highly with other assessments of the same or similar constructs

  • Divergent validity: test has low correlations with measures not theoretically related to the construct

  • Content validity: test assesses every aspect of the psychological construct it claims to measure

  • Concurrent validity: test is related to a criterion or outcome as predicted, and both measures are administered concurrently

  • Predictive validity: test is related to a criterion or outcome as predicted; the test is administered now but the outcome is assessed at some point in the future

Study designs can also have different types of validity:

  • Internal validity: the extent to which the study design allows you to make cause-and-effect conclusions

  • External validity: the extent to which the study can be generalised to a larger group or to different settings

    • Population validity (a type of external validity): the likelihood that the study findings can be generalised to the wider population of interest

    • Ecological validity (a type of external validity): the likelihood that results can be generalised from the setting of the study to everyday life

Ensuring Quality in Psychological Qualitative Research

You want to make sure you are taking efforts to ensure quality in your psychological research. When conducting qualitative research for a psychology study, consider the following areas to ensure that your research is of good quality:

  • Consider an appropriate sampling method (for example, purposive sampling, theoretical sampling).

  • Stop sampling participants for your study when you have collected enough data to ensure you have meaningful findings.

  • Consider factors that may affect the data obtained (for example, your assumptions and biases, the context of the data collection).

  • Allow time for transcribing the data.

  • Analyse your data using a transparent process.

  • Reflect on the analysis process and how it has been influenced by you or other external factors.

  • Verify your analysis using a credibility check.

  • Familiarise yourself with the data – good qualitative analysis begins with immersion in the data.

  • Relate your themes/categories to and support them by the data.

  • Justify your interpretation, but remember that it’s your interpretation – it doesn’t need to be the same as other people’s interpretation of your data.

Identifying the Contents of a Psychological Research Report

If you are preparing a psychology research report, you want to make sure you include all of the essential items. A research report usually contains the following elements:

  • Title: keep this concise (15 words or less)

  • Abstract: a short summary of the research report (usually 100–250 words)

  • Introduction: comprised of a number of elements:

    • Overview of the problem: the opening paragraph of the ‘Introduction’ section

    • Review of the literature: provides the reader with an indication of current knowledge in your chosen research area

    • Rationale: provides the reason for doing the study

  • Research questions or hypotheses: tells the reader exactly what your research study is investigating

  • Method: includes information about the study design, research participants, any materials used in the study, what exactly happened to the research participants and (usually) what type of analyses you did

  • Results: focuses on answering the research questions/hypotheses using appropriate analyses

  • Discussion: summarises your findings and considers the implications of your findings for previous and future research; also acknowledges the limitations of your findings

  • References: ensure that these are in a consistent format (usually American Psychological Association style) and that the in-text citations align with the your references