Research Methods - Introduction
The Purpose of Research in Psychology
Research offers a formal way of finding answers to questions. What distinguishes psychology from other disciplines such as philosophy is its adherence to the scientific method - a series of steps for performing an experiment. Ever since Sir Francis Bacon began using it, the scientific method has been the dominating force in scientific experimentation. Generally, the scientific method has a hypothesis, experimentation and a conclusion that seeks to answer the questions or theory posed by the hypothesis by examining the data from experimentation.
So why the scientific method in psychology? The scientific method is generally thought to yield the most reliable results - the method choice for most scientific researchers. So when early psychologists were presented with the challenge on how to best substantiate their research findings, they chose the scientific method.
Hopefully, the material in this section will help you, the student, to setup a research project of your own. Really, all you need for a project is an idea and a will to pursue it. If you're looking for some incentives and awards for your research project, try refering to some of the learning links on the right.
Do violent video games, such as the popular "Quake
3" above really cause violent behavior in youth? (Screenshot from
"Quake 3" from id software.)
The first step when setting up an experiment is one needs to identify the problem,
question or idea that one would like to address. Let's make up an example. The media blamed part of the recent school shootings across the United States on violent video games like the popular
"Quake" and "Doom" games. This made me wonder if violent behavior in children and young adults was really related to their violent video games that they played. We could test this relationship in an experiment, but first we need to identify a clear cut questions, meaning we need to localize our experiment to something very specific. For example, instead of saying "violent images" we'd say "violent video games" with violent defined as having characters killed in a bloody fashion in the game. With specificity and our term "violent" defined, we might ask is, "Is violent behavior in youth directly related to the amount of violent games they play?"