5.7: Non-Experimental Research (Summary)
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- Non-experimental research is research that lacks the manipulation of an independent variable.
- There are two broad types of non-experimental research. Correlational research that focuses on statistical relationships between variables that are measured but not manipulated; and observational research in which participants are observed and their behavior is recorded without the researcher interfering or manipulating any variables.
- In general, experimental research is high in internal validity, correlational research is low in internal validity, and quasi-experimental research is in between.
- Correlational research involves measuring two variables and assessing the relationship between them, with no manipulation of an independent variable.
- Correlation does not imply causation. A statistical relationship between two variables, X and Y, does not necessarily mean that X causes Y. It is also possible that Y causes X, or that a third variable, Z, causes both X and Y.
- While correlational research cannot be used to establish causal relationships between variables, correlational research does allow researchers to achieve many other important objectives (establishing reliability and validity, providing converging evidence, describing relationships, and making predictions)
- Correlation coefficients can range from -1 to +1. The sign indicates the direction of the relationship between the variables and the numerical value indicates the strength of the relationship.
- Researchers often use complex correlational research to explore relationships among several variables in the same study.
- Complex correlational research can be used to explore possible causal relationships among variables using techniques such as partial correlation and multiple regression. Such designs can show patterns of relationships that are consistent with some causal interpretations and inconsistent with others, but they cannot unambiguously establish that one variable causes another.
- Qualitative research is an important alternative to quantitative research in psychology. It generally involves asking broader research questions, collecting more detailed data (e.g., interviews), and using non-statistical analyses.
- Many researchers conceptualize quantitative and qualitative research as complementary and advocate combining them. For example, qualitative research can be used to generate hypotheses and quantitative research to test them.
- There are several different approaches to observational research including naturalistic observation, participant observation, structured observation, case studies, and archival research.
- Naturalistic observation is used to observe people in their natural setting; participant observation involves becoming an active member of the group being observed; structured observation involves coding a small number of behaviors in a quantitative manner; case studies are typically used to collect in-depth information on a single individual; and archival research involves analyzing existing data.
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