Research Methodology | Research Qualitative Methods | Research Quantitative Methods | Research Methodology Conclusion
Before we begin on our quest to become psychologists learning about hugs and kisses in the quad, we need to understand the scientist’s task and her thought processes.

There is no doubt that there is some sort of appeal in understanding the mysterious human brain. After all, why would scientists,
Source: Jean-no at Wikimedia Commons
or maybe even York psychology students like you, spend months, even years, exploring in depth a single facet of the murky depths of our minds? There are myriad attitudes towards research that scientists may espouse, but to put it simply, scientists are not all mad scientists. Rather, they observe, they question, and they search for solid answers to those questions. Their curiosity, an intense thirst for knowledge, is ultimately the crux of the scientific attitude: through an objective (bias-free) lens that applies reason, logic, and facts whenever possible, the scientist aims to illuminate the answer to a question that may not be easily quantifiable.

Of course, it’s usually a good idea to use common sense when designing experiments or collecting data – while sometimes it may be fun to find knowledge for the sake of knowledge (basic research), investing extensive amounts of time, money, and effort to find information may influence the scientist to come up with a practical application for her studies (applied research). In the same way, it’s important to use critical thinking when looking at data, whether of your own finding or presented by other scientists, so that you don't simply accept misinformed conclusions.

At the same time, preconceived ideas may cloud a scientist’s ability to view things from a fresh viewpoint. It is important for a scientist to actively try to embrace new concepts and be able to accept when something previously accepted as true is proved as false. Overconfidence [1], hindsight bias [2], and experimenter bias [3] are all phenomena to be avoided. At this point, you may be wondering: if we can’t trust ourselves, what can we trust to reveal the nature of things with accuracy? This is where the scientific method comes into play.
Source: CK-12 Foundation via Wikimedia Commons

The scientific method is, as you may remember from freshman Bio, a 5-step process of observation, making an educated guess (a theory) about what the data collected will prove, designing and carrying out an experiment, displaying data, and analyzing that data in order to come to a conclusion. But beyond that, the scientific method is a sort of safeguard: it helps to make sure that the scientist’s experiment, data collected, and conclusions gleaned from that data are all as valid as possible. The phrase “the wisdom of the crowd” can certainly be applied in a scientific context, in that when more scientists can verify a specific result, the more likely that the lessons learned from the experiment are reliable.

So now that you know about the scientific method and the scientific attitude, it’s time to learn about research methods themselves.

But before we move on, here are some links you may find useful:

“Structure of Research” (general overview of the steps that research in the social sciences involves):
“Types of Questions” (describes what type of information a study may be designed to find):
“Positivism and Post-Positivism” (two types of scientific “attitudes” are discussed in depth here):
“Myths and Facts about Science” section of this webpage


[1] You know when you come out of a Psych test feeling like you got 110% but then get it back a week later and find... you got a C on it? That's the overconfidence effect - when a subject's belief in the accuracy of their judgements is far greater than their accuracy objectively/in real life.
[2] Also called the "knew-it-all-along effect," hindsight bias may be defined as the tendency to, when looking at it after the fact, believe an event is more predictable than it was before. For example, after the Psych final you might walk in having studied lightly a large variety of topics (feeling that that potential topics were vague, up in the air), but walk out saying "ah, of course she was going to put something on the anterior cingulate gyrus on it, I should've studied it more!"
[3] Imagine you've spent years studying a rare disorder called Monkeybanana syndrome, and you think you've finally found someone who exactly fits the symptoms. However, you've only been looking for those specific symptoms and don't realize that the person exhibits otherwise normal behavior and maybe the person is just very hirsute and likes the pleasant taste of banana. You've influenced the results of the case study to fit the outcome you've been trying to find - an example of experimenter bias.