Fundamentals of Research Methodology
Dr. Stacey Soeldner
Fundamentals of Research Methodology According to the American Heritage Dictionary, psychology is defined as the science dealing with the mind, mental and emotional processes, and the science of human behavior. Science is defined as systematic knowledge formulated through observations and study. Psychologists use the concepts of research analysis to gain insight of questions regarding behavioral and cognitive processes, define, construct, and analyze human behaviors and cognitions. This paper will explain the scientific method, distinguish between qualitative and quantitative data, provide an overview of the science of psychology, and describe the process of scientific theory, construction, and testing.
Science of Psychology
During the mid-1800’s, Wilhelm Wundt, a German physiologist investigated reaction times using research methods. He outlined many correlations between the study of human thought and behavior and the science of physiology in his book Principles of Physiological Psychology. In 1879, Wilhelm Wundt, one of the founding fathers of psychology set up his own laboratory in an effort to study psychology in a scientific manner (Herrmann, 2009). As a result of his labors, psychology officially became recognized as a science.
According to Cherry, he perceived the subject as the study of human consciousness and sought to apply experimental methods to study internal mental processes. While his use of a process known as introspection is seen as unreliable and unscientific today, his early work in psychology helped set the stage for future experimental methods (2013). Today psychologists seek to define cognitions and behaviors through comparable methods of other scientists. The techniques and approaches are often similar to other disciplines to include: physics, biology, and mathematics. Research has revealed that human behavior is influenced by many factors including genetics, environment, and socio-cultural influences.
The Scientific Method
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” The scientific method is known as a technique to acquire knowledge through questioning and logic. According to Simonton, two important characteristics of the scientific method are an empirical and a skeptical attitude (2009). The scientific method depends heavily on empirical procedures and requires concrete evidence, rather than relying upon intuition or beliefs of the research or a manipulation of the research itself to explain certain phenomenon (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). The scientific method is comprised of several components. The steps of the scientific method are to: formulate a question, develop a hypothesis, make a prediction, analyze the data and draw a conclusion, and communicate results. Using this method, the researcher is encouraged to develop a question which derives from a specific observation. In most instances, the question is open-ended. The hypothesis is usually based on knowledge the researcher gained while formulating the question. The hypothesis can be specific or broad. During the third step, the researcher makes a prediction. This step involves identifying reasonable consequences of the hypothesis. One or more predictions are selected for further evaluation. Next, a test is conducted to determine if the hypothesis is accurate. Experiments should be designed to minimize error through the use of suitable scientific controls. Lastly, the analysis involves evaluating what the experiment revealed and determining how the data can be used. During this