Research Methods in Psychology


Regardless of how the word research is used, it essentially means the same thing: an attempt to discover something. We all do this every day. Research can be very informal, with few, if any; specific plans or steps, or it can be formal, with the researcher following highly defined and exacting procedures.

Psychology is a very vast and complex subject. Research in psychology, therefore, requires a multidimensional approach. There are different research methods to investigate psychological issues and problems. It is the nature of a specific question that defines the research approach that would be adopted to address it.

Main body

Survey research is a popular research methodology in Psychology. It requires careful planning and execution and the research must take into account a wide variety of decisions and problems. Surveys can be used to investigate problems in realistic settings, which implies where they happen rather than in a laboratory or screening room under artificial conditions. Even the cost of surveys is reasonable when one considers the amount of information gathered. Expenses could further be controlled by conducting surveys via mail, telephone, personal interview, and group administration.

The cherry on the cake is that surveys are not constrained by geographic boundaries. A large amount of data can be collected with relative ease from a variety of people. Surveys allow rese4archers to examine many variables (demographic and lifestyle information, attitudes, motives, intentions, and soon) and to use a variety of statistics to analyze the data.

Surveys can consist of two basic types of questions: open-ended and closed-ended. Open-ended questions provide more freedom to respondents in answering as well as an opportunity to provide in-depth responses. Close-ended questions provide greater uniformity of response and the answers can be easily quantified. Sometimes answers to open-ended questions are bizarre and analysis of such responses might become a bit too complicated. Another pitfall is the probability of wrong responses. The respondents might give some responses just to sound politically correct. This could adversely affect results and their interpretation.

Naturalistic Observation is another popular method of research in Psychology. It involves observing and recording the variables of interest in the natural environment without interference or manipulation by the experimenter. Here the researcher observes people as they behave in their real world. It helps the researcher to define basic background information necessary to frame a hypothesis and to isolate independent and dependent variables. It is very handy in specific cases, like with children who cannot read and comprehend the survey questionnaire. The required data, in this case, can be collected by the observational technique. The most noteworthy advantage of this method is that the study takes place in a natural setting and thus can provide data-rich in detail and subtlety.

In this method, the researcher is just an observer and not a participant. It is very effective to analyze behavioral patterns. Psychologists use naturalistic observation to study the interactions between parents and children, doctors and patients, police and citizens, and managers and workers.


However certain lacunae in the Naturalistic Observation research approach include lack of scientific control of variables. It can get time-consuming and expensive and not allow the researcher any control over extraneous variables. There are chances that the subject becomes aware of the observer and manipulate their behavior. This could subsequently affect results and their interpretation.


Research in Psychology, Web.

Kumar,Ranjit, Research Methodology, Pearson Education.

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