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Fundamentals of Research Methodology Paper Psychology is a discipline which seeks to study the thoughts and actions of men in a scientific way. Science is a marvelous development in the history of human thought. The American Heritage Dictionary defines psychology as the science dealing with the mind, mental and emotional processes, and the science of human behavior.
It defines science as systemized knowledge derived from observations and study.
Scientific study is a way of understanding life and developing theories based on what is observed (Simonton, 2009). Psychologists develop theories and conduct psychological research to answer questions about behavior and mental processes that impact individuals and society. The scientific method, a means to gain knowledge, refers to ways in which questions are asked and the logic and methods used to gain answers.
Two important characteristics of the scientific method are an empirical and a skeptical attitude (Simonton, 2009).
An empirical approach, which relies on direct observation and experimentation for answering questions, was critical for developing the science of psychology (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009). Scholars wanted to study human nature with the goal of using the scientific method to observe, record, and treat human behavior that had formerly been described as unnatural. They believed that if people could be studied in a scientific manner, there would be a greater accuracy in understanding a present behavior, predicting future behavior, and altering behavior through scientific intervention.
The scientific method is characterized by a reliance on empirical procedures, rather than relying on intuition and by an attempt to control the investigation of these factors believed responsible for a phenomenon (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister & Zechmeister, 2009). The scientific method works well in observing and recording physical data and in researching conclusions which either confirm or nullify a theory (Wilson, 1952). The scientific method is the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate representation of the world.
There are 4 steps: *observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomenon *formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomenon *use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomenon, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations *the performance of experimental tests based on the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments If the experiments bear out the hypothesis it may come to be regarded as a theory or law of nature.
If the experiments do not bear out the hypothesis, it must be rejected or modified. The description of the scientific method just given is the predictive power of the hypothesis or theory, as tested by the experimenter. It is often said in science that theories can never be proved; only disproved. There is always the possibility that a new observation or a new experiment will conflict with a long-standing theory (Wilson, 1952). The scientific method associated with science, the process of human inquiry that pervades the modern era on many levels.
While the method appears simple and logical in description, there is perhaps no more complex question than that of knowing how we come to know things. It distinguishes science from other forms of explanation because of its requirement of systematic experimentation (Simonton, 2009). There are two methodological approaches in the social sciences: they are the quantitative and qualitative methods. These two approaches adopt a very different position on the fundamentals of the relationship between ideas and evidence.
Although quantitative research is an integral part of doing research; qualitative research explores the processes that underlie human behavior using interviews, surveys, case studies, and other personal techniques (Salkind, 2009). Its general purpose is to examine human behavior in the social, cultural, and political contexts in which they occur. Qualitative research can be powerful and appropriate non-experimental way to explore an academic question rigorously, as when additional context is needed to explain phenomenon missed by quantitative research methods.
When properly performed, qualitative research projects add to the body of knowledge on their subjects and make the researcher well informed (Salkind, 2009). Qualitative research deals with descriptions and data that can be observed, but not measured. It explores items such as textures, colors, smells, tastes, and appearances and is obsessed with the quality of the item. Its goal is to describe the meaning, rather than drawing statistical inferences. What these experiments lose in reliability, they gain in terms of validity; providing a more in-depth and rich description.
Quantitative research deals with numbers and data that can be measured. The length, height, speed, time, humidity, cost, age, weight, area and volume are the items quantitative research methods deal with. The quantity of the item is the main focus here. Quantitative research methods are those which focus on numbers and frequencies rather than on meaning and experience. [They] provide information which is easy to analyze statistically and fairly reliable. [They] are associated with the scientific and experimental approach and are criticized for not providing an in-depth decision (Simonton, 2009).
Both methods have strengths and weaknesses. Qualitative methods give much richer data, but can be harder to analyze. Quantitative methods are generally limited to the choices that have been provided for the respondent. Scientific theory construction and testing are at the core of the scientific approach to psychology. A theory is defined as a logically organized set of propositions that serve to define events, describe relationships among these events, and explain the occurrence of the events (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2009).
Theory construction and testing is conceptualized to encompass all scientific work in route to developing knowledge. Theoretical reviews should advance theory development and inform research and practice. The process of science is one of moving continuously from one level to another. Scientists borrow abstract statements from theories to derive hypotheses suitable to their specific study and test these hypotheses through observation. They return the results of their studies to the theory by reporting to the community of scholars the efficacy of the theory explaining their observations.
Supported hypotheses prompt consideration of revising the theory or noting that it is less applicable than originally believed. Theories are crafted by twin processes called induction and intuition. Induction refers to designing theories by combining and raising them to an abstract level of empirical generalization. Intuition refers to the thought about how something works. A scientific body of knowledge is accumulated by this ongoing process of borrowing, testing, revising, and building new theories (Simonton, 2009).
This paper successfully exposes the fundamental concepts of research methodology. The science of psychology is explored and discussed and all four steps are given and expanded upon. Both the advantages and disadvantages of using either qualitative or quantitative data are also offered. The process of scientific theory construction and testing is also described within the paper. The psychology of science merely involves the psychological study of science using theoretical frameworks and methodological techniques comparable with those used in other psychological specialties (Simonton, 2009).
References: Wilson, E. B. (1952). An introduction to scientific research. McGraw-Hill: New York, Salkind, Neil. (2009). Exploring research. 7th edition. Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Simonton, D. K. (2009). Applying the psychology of science to the science of psychology. Journal of Applied Psychology, 4(1), 2-4. Shaughnessy, J. J. , Zechmeister, E. B. & Zechmeister, J. S. (2009). Research methods in psychology. (8th edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.