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Research Methods in Psychology

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2512 words Published: 10th Apr 2018

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Research in psychology is conducted in broad accord with the standards of the scientific method, including both qualitative and quantitative statistical modalities to generate and evaluate explanatory hypotheses with regard to psychological phenomena. These methods vary by the sources of information that are drawn on, how that information is sampled, and the types of instruments that are used in data collection. Methods also vary by whether they collect qualitative data, quantitative data or both.

American Psychological Association has laid down the following rules and regulations for researches:

  • Informed consent (tell them what this research is about).
  • There should be no harm to the subject.
  • After the research, you must tell the subject about the deception.

Types Of Research Methods:

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is generally associated with the positivist / post positivist epitome. Usually it is to gather and transform the data into digital form so that statistical calculations can be made and conclusions can be drawn.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is the method usually associated with the social constructivist epitome that emphasizes the socially constructed nature of reality. This is about recording, analyzing and trying to discover the meaning and importance of human behavior and experience, including conflicting beliefs, behaviors and deepest emotions. Researchers are interested in obtaining a rich and complex understanding of the experience of people and not in gaining information that can be generalized to larger groups.

Requirement of Methodology:

All methods used for researches should have the basic three qualities, which are:

  • They have to be standardize (it must have a certain norm).
  • They have to be valid (a test should measure what it’s supposed to measure).
  • They have to be reliable.

The following are the different types of research methodologies:

  • Case History Method
  • Experimental Research
  • Correlational Research
  • Survey Method
  • Naturalistic Observation


A case study (or case report) is a descriptive, exploratory or explanatory analysis of a person, group or event. An explanatory case study is used to explore causation in order to find underlying principles.Case study is also called life history/Clinical method. Case study is a detailed investigation of a person’s certain or particular behavior. Case study research excels at bringing us to an understanding of a complex issue or object and can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through previous research. Case study is a descriptive method and it consumes a lot of time. In this method, we are going to question subject, family, relatives, teachers and friends.

Typically data is gathered from a variety of sources and by using several different methods (e.g. observations & interviews). The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e. the patient’s personal history).

The case study method often involves simply observing what happens to, or reconstructing ‘the case history’ of a single participant or group of individuals (such as a school class or a specific social group), i.e. the idiographic approach. Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were trying to deal with a large number of research participants.

In Case history, we use the following techniques:

  • Day-Book method (day to day development of a child). In this we will question to child’s pediatrician.
  • Biographical Method.
  • Clinical Method (preventing, diagnosing and treating an individual)

Social therapy worker, psychologist and physician are collectively going to make a detailed report about the subject. After that they will conclude if the subject needs psycho-therapy or not.

Case studies are widely used in psychology and amongst the best known were the ones carried out by Sigmund Freud. He conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses.

Freud’s most famous case studies include Little Hans (1909a) and The Rat Man (1909b). Even today case histories are one of the main methods of investigation in abnormal psychology and psychiatry. For students of these disciplines they can give a vivid insight into what those who suffer from mental illness often have to endure.


The survey is a non-experimental, descriptive research method. Surveys can be useful when a researcher wants to collect data on phenomena that cannot be directly observed. A survey is a data collection tool used to gather information about individuals. Surveys are commonly used in psychology research to collect self-report data from study participants. A survey may focus on factual information about individuals, or it might aim to collect the opinions of the survey takers.

Survey method is a general evaluation and inspection carried out with specific aim in mind to search for particular kind of information. When you have shortage of time, then you go with survey methodology.

First we identify the problem on which we want to carry out a research. Then we make a hypothesis on which our whole research would depend on.

Then the questionnaire is made. The questions should be simple and clear, so that the subjects would not have any difficulty to understand the questions. Researchers have to ensure that all the questions are valid and relate to the research topic.

After that, you sample the population and analyze the results and then conclusions are made according to the results.

So following are the steps in survey method:

  • Identify the problem. Determine what you want to study.
  • Sampling the population. Define the population to be studied.
  • Design the questionnaire.
  • Select a representative sample.
  • Administer the survey.
  • Analyze, conclude and discuss the results.


Psychology is a discipline that asks and answers the fundamental question, why do we behave the way we do and think the way we think? The best way to characterize the different approaches that are taken to answer the question of psychology is to identify them as major perspectives. The major perspectives represent fundamental assumptions that underlie the research questions and methods that are used in order to answer the questions of psychology. Most all perspectives define psychology as the discipline interested in studying human behavior and mental processes, but that covers a lot of ground and the causes of behavior and mental processes are not always clear.So there are six major perspectives to explain a human behavior.

1. Biological perspective:

2. Psychoanalytic perspective:

3. Behavioral Perspective:

4. Humanistic Perspective:

This perspective emphasizes on the role of motivation on thought and behavior. Two of the most influential and enduring theories in humanistic psychology that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s are those of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

The humanistic perspective suggests that we are each responsible for our own happiness and well-being as humans. We have the innate (i.e. inborn) capacity for self-actualization which is our unique desire to achieve our highest potential as people.

Because of this focus on the person and his or her personal experiences and subjective perception of the world the humanists regarded scientific methods as inappropriate for studying behavior. Humanistic perspective believes that if are determined to change anything you can. Decision making is in your own hand. So this perspective believes in human capacity and positive side of his behavior.

5. Cognitive Perspective:

6. Social cultural Perspective:


When psychology was first established as a science separate from biology and philosophy, the debate over how to describe and explain the human mind and behavior began. The different schools of psychology represent the major theories within psychology. The modern history of psychology starts from the school of thoughts. The following are the six major schools of thoughts.

1. Structuralism:

2. Functionalism:

3. Gestalt Psychology:

It’s a German school of thought developed by Max Wertheimer, Kohler and Koffka. The word ‘Gestalt’ meaning is ‘form, shape or unified whole’. Gestalt psychology is a school of psychology based upon the idea that we experience things as unified wholes. This approach to psychology began in Germany and Austria during the late 19th century in response to the molecular approach of structuralism. Instead of breaking down thoughts and behavior to their smallest elements, the gestalt psychologists believed that you must look at the whole of experience. According to the gestalt thinkers, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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According to Gestalt psychologists, the human mind works by interpreting data through various laws, rules or organizing principles, turning partial information into a whole. For example, your mind might interpret a series of lines as a square, even though it has no complete lines; your mind fills in the gaps. Gestalt psychotherapists apply this logic to problem-solving to help patients.

This school leads to the development of theory of perception. For instance when you perceive something, you perceive as a whole rather than parts of something.

4. Psychodynamic Model:

5. Humanistic Model:

Humanistic psychology developed as a response to psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Humanistic psychology instead focused on individual free will, personal growth and the concept of self-actualization. While early schools of thought were largely centered on abnormal human behavior, humanistic psychology differed considerably in its emphasis on helping people achieve and fulfill their potential. This school of thought was developed by Abraham Maslow & Carl Rogers. Humanistic psychology is basically a positive psychology, which emphasizes on the positive side of your behavior. This particular branch of psychology is centered on helping people living happier, more fulfilling lives.

Humanist psychologists teach that to understand psychology, we must look at individuals and their motivations. Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” exemplifies this approach: a system of needs, such as food, love and self-esteem, determines a person’s behavior to various extents. Meeting these needs leads to a sense of self-satisfaction and solves psychological problems.

6. Behaviorism:

7. Cognitive Model:


Fill in the blanks:

  1. Meaning of word ‘Gestalt’ is: __________(form, shape or unified whole)
  2. ____________ is a German school of thought.(Gestalt psychology)
  3. ____________ School of thought refers to positive psychology. (Humanistic)
  4. _______________ Perspective believes that ‘Decision Making’ is in your own hands. (Humanistic)
  5. ______________ School was developed as a response to psychoanalysis and behaviorism.(Humanistic)


  1. Which of the following methods will we choose, if we have shortage of time: (Survey Method)
  • Case History
  • Survey Method
  • Experimental Research
  1. Which school of thought leads to the development of theory of perception: (Gestalt psychology)
  • Gestalt psychology
  • Functionalism
  • Structuralism
  1. Which of the following is a descriptive, non-experimental and less-time consuming method:(Survey Method)
  • Naturalistic Observation
  • Correlation
  • Survey method
  1. In which research method, we question from the subject’s pediatrician, therapist, friends and family: (Case Study)
  • Correlation Method
  • Experimental method
  • Case Study Method
  1. Who gave the pyramid of ‘hierarchy of need’?(Abraham Maslow)
  • Max Wertheimer
  • Kohler
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Abraham Maslow

Match the columns:

  1. Unified whole (c)a. Theory of perception
  2. Decision Making (e)b. less time consuming
  3. Hierarchy of needs is given by (d)c. Gestalt
  4. Gestalt Psychology leads to (a)d. Abraham Maslow
  5. Survey Methodis (b)e. Humanistic perspective


  1. Gestalt psychology leads to theory of evolution.(False)
  2. Case study is a less time consuming research method.(False)
  3. Humanistic school was developed by Abraham Maslow.(True)
  4. Survey is an experimental method.(False)
  5. Humanistic perspective believes in positive psychology.(True)


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