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2: Overview of the Scientific Method

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    In this chapter, we give you a broad overview of the various stages of the research process. These include finding a topic of investigation, reviewing the literature, refining your research question and generating a hypothesis, designing and conducting a study, analyzing the data, coming to conclusions, and reporting the results.

    • 2.1: Prelude to the Scientific Method
      Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing.
    • 2.2: A Model of Scientific Research in Psychology
      The researcher formulates a research question, conducts a study designed to answer the question, analyzes the resulting data, draws conclusions about the answer to the question, and publishes the results so that they become part of the research literature. Because the research literature is one of the primary sources of new research questions, this process can be thought of as a cycle. New research leads to new questions, which lead to new research, and so on.
    • 2.3: Finding a Research Topic
      Good research must begin with a good research question. Yet coming up with good research questions is something that novice researchers often find difficult and stressful. One reason is that this is a creative process that can appear mysterious—even magical—with experienced researchers seeming to pull interesting research questions out of thin air. However, psychological research on creativity has shown that it is neither as mysterious nor as magical as it appears.
    • 2.4: Generating Good Research Questions
      Once you have a research idea, you need to use it to generate one or more empirically testable research questions, that is, questions expressed in terms of a single variable or relationship between variables. One way to do this is to look closely at the discussion section in a recent research article on the topic. This is the last major section of the article, in which the researchers summarize their results, interpret them in the context of past research, and suggest directions for research.
    • 2.5: Developing a Hypothesis
      A theory is a coherent explanation or interpretation of one or more phenomena. Although theories can take a variety of forms, one thing they have in common is that they go beyond the phenomena they explain by including variables, structures, processes, functions, or organizing principles that have not been observed directly. A hypothesis, on the other hand, is a specific prediction about a new phenomenon that should be observed if a particular theory is accurate.
    • 2.6: Designing a Research Study
      Part of generating a hypothesis involves identifying the variables that you want to study and operationally defining those variables so that they can be measured. Research questions in psychology are about variables. A variable is a quantity or quality that varies across people or situations. For example, the height of the students enrolled in a university course is a variable because it varies from student to student.
    • 2.7: Analyzing the Data
      Once the study is complete and the observations have been made and recorded the researchers need to analyze the data and draw their conclusions. Typically, data are analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics are used to summarize the data and inferential statistics are used to generalize the results from the sample to the population.
    • 2.8: Drawing Conclusions and Reporting the Results
      Since statistics are probabilistic in nature and findings can reflect type I or type II errors, we cannot use the results of a single study to conclude with certainty that a theory is true. Rather theories are supported, refuted, or modified based on the results of research. If the results are statistically significant and consistent with the hypothesis and the theory that was used to generate the hypothesis, then researchers can conclude that the theory is supported.
    • 2.9: Overview of the Scientific Method (Summary)
      Key Takeaways and Exercises for the chapter on Overview of the Scientific Method.

    This page titled 2: Overview of the Scientific Method is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Rajiv S. Jhangiani, I-Chant A. Chiang, Carrie Cuttler, & Dana C. Leighton.