Getting Started
When starting out on a research project, what do you do?

Setting the Stage

Remove all of your personal qualities and humanness?

Spend hours reflecting and trying to figure out who you are?

Understand your context and biases?

Express your standpoint or orientation towards the world,  your 'subjects' and your methods?

Once you get beyond the trauma of these existential and methodological concerns and
start thinking that you can conduct research you will begin with asking a question.


Defining the Question

    Where does your question arise from?

            A theoretical idea through a Literature Review? (PsychInfo)(Google Scholar)
             Personal Life Experiences?
            Community needs or crises?
            Global Events?

Class activity - Discuss with your neighbour and prepare to talk to the class about what your question might be.
What psychological question, do you want to answer or understand?

    Selecting a Population to Sample
        Contingent upon the Question
                        and limited by
        Sampling Techniques
                How and Why?
        (implications and consequences)

    Design the model or the logic of tests
        What is the worldview or general research model that you are going work with?
            i.e. are you seeking to find a mechanical or psychological cause behind some phenomenon?
             are you trying to understand the characteristics of some phenomenon?

               Qualitative, Quantitative, Descriptive, Correlational, Analytical, Inferential
                E.g., Narratives, Focus Groups, Surveys, Controls, Between-Within blocked, Latin Squared, ....

 Selecting measures and types of analyses
        Variable Types (limitations and liberties)
    nominal, ordinal, interval, contextual, categorical, ....  Operational

Getting Ethical Approval and conducting the study

    Analyzing the measurement tools and making sense of the data

    Technical / Logical issues (Reliability, Construct Validity)

     Semiotic (Semantic and Pragmatic) concerns ( Meaning and Ecological Validity)

    Cultural issues,....(Values, Understanding, Politics)

  Applying the Results

        Next Question (which variables or revisions are needing further work)
            Where are the holes in the present study that can be filled?
            What unexpected results arose and beg new questions?

        Making a Difference (Application to the world)
            Controlling circumstance and behaviour
            Social Action and Social Change

Future Considerations

    Theories & Knowledge
        What is the impact on the theory or theories at hand?
        Is there a need to generate a new theory or revise or resurrect and old one?

    Techniques and Standards (possible comparisons & evaluations)
        Meta-Analysis is often conducted here to compare methods use to study a common issue or phenomenon (i.e., acculturation)

   Contributions to Substantive issues (ontologies & worldviews)
    Theory & Psychology    Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
    Psychological Bulletin      Psychological Review      Culture & Psychology

Cozby (2009) Understanding Research and Research Articles


Psychology is a theory-driven discipline whereby the ideal is to establish and then test theories.

This is done in various ways sometimes with pre-existing theories from psychology or other neighbouring disciplines (e.g. biology and Darwin's theory of evolution).

Other times, exploratory studies reveal some interesting results or unexpected phenomena that one then attempts to integrate with an existing theory. Sometimes there is no adequate theory that explains the phenomena, hence the need to generate a new theory.

Too often in psychology our theories are incomplete and partial or limited in their scope. E.g. cognitive dissonance, obedience to authority, neural encoding theories.


Hypotheses are the cornerstone of research in psychology whereby they are the elements of theories that we test and evaluate as a reflection of the larger theory.

An hypothesis hence is a specific statement about research data, usually indicating the direction of a relationship (e.g., women are higher in verbal abilities than men). 

Operational Definitions are an integral part of the research process. As indicated in historical accounts, the operational definition comes from operational analysis which was an attempt to clarify concepts used in science by articulating the behavioural and psychological operations used to measure a given phenomenon.

As indicated in lecture one, when psychologists caught wind of this procedure from physics, they (Boring and Stevens) readily made use of it as a way to make psychology "scientific."

Today we treat operational definitions like a touch-stone, whereby when used our concepts (theoretical constructs) become reified and made into real entities that can be manipulated and measured.

Sigmund Koch and Percy Bridgeman (the originator of operational analysis) later came to harshly criticize the ways in which psychologists had taken his methods and turned it into a "Frankenstein", leading to a situation where psychology was seen to be in a state of "total disorientation".

APA Style

Nature of Psychological Journals
    Cozby provide a nice overview of the major APA style journals [Table 2.1 ]

Nature of Research Article







Lab 3 Understanding Research