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Fundamentals of Research Methodology

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Fundamentals of Research Methodology

The fundamentals of research involves the scientist asking a question, designing an experiment that will collect the data, analyzing results, reaching conclusions, and sharing the findings with fellow researchers, clinicians, and society. This process helps us understand why people think, how they feel, and act in the ways that we do as well as what causes these reactions. Psychologists seek to understand behavior and mental processes by developing these theories and conducting their research.

This paper will cover briefly the science of psychology, discuss scientific method, define qualitative, and quantitative data, and cover scientific theory construction, and testing.

Science of Psychology

When one thinks of science the first images that come to mind are a textbook filled with scientific formulas, a scientist in lab jackets, microscopes, beakers, and mice. "Science is a process of discovery that allows us to link isolated facts into coherent and comprehensive understandings of the natural world" (University of California Museum of Paleontology, 2012, p.1). This process of discovery is applied by psychologists, "when they develop theories and conduct research to answer questions about behavior and mental processes" (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2006, p.3).

The research that psychologist do is important on many levels, "Individual, family, and society to be effective psychologists must build upon a foundation of carefully designed and executed research" (Shaughnessy et al., 2006, p.6).

Scientific Method

Psychologists accepted the empirical approach as the way to advance the understanding of human behavior, through observation, and experimenting. The empirical approach, according to Shaughnessy et al. (2006) is perhaps the most important characteristic of scientific method. To understand how researchers reach their conclusions, it is important for one to know more about the research processes and the steps used when conducting research. Knowing the steps of scientific method, one can understand the process researchers go through to arrive at conclusions, for example about human behavior.

The scientific method has four major steps, conceptualizing the problem, collection of data, analyzing the data and drawing conclusions.

Scientific method begins with the conceptualization of a problem that a researcher is curious about or identifying a problem and formulate hypothesis. Collecting data is next, the researcher selects a method to do their research that will enable them to collect data and test the hypothesis. Psychologist use three basic types of research methods, according to Shaughnessy et al. (2006) "They are descriptive (observational), correlational, and experimental" (p.22). During the data collection process, it is important to select the appropriate sample that represents the population interest. For example a researcher who wants to know if successful distant learners share similar characteristics, would not sample a population of students not enrolled in an online schooling environment. Based on the data that is collected the researcher then analyzes the data and develops conclusions from the findings that will confirm the hypothesis or not.

Qualitative and Quantitative Data

For the researcher data comes in many forms, from observations, computer program results, measurements, or experiences from prior studies. All of which are used to confirm a theory, test a hypothesis. This data may be numerical, descriptive, or visual. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "quantitative as relating to or expressible in terms of quantity or involving the measurement of quantity or amount" ("Quantitative," 2012) and "Qualitative as relating to, or involving quality or kind" ("Qualitative," 2012).

Based on the Merriam-Webster definitions, quantitative data is anything that can be expressed



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