The Role of Research and Statics in Psychology

Abstract

Psychology would not exist as a science without the disciplines of research and statistics. Research plays a very crucial role in the field of psychology because it is the medium through which various psychological theories are either proved or disproved Whatever knowledge about the brain and human behavior that is available today is primarily a result of extensive research and experiments. Statistics on the other hand helps to determine the validity and significance of psychological research based on the aspect of probability. Research and statistics therefore enhance a psychologist’s ability to evaluate and understand various forms of human behavior as well as to critically evaluate the findings brought forth by others towards the research process.

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Introduction

Many students of psychology fail to understand why they have to first take a course in research methodologies or statistical methods; a course that is reputed for creating boredom and fear within a classroom. But these students must be taken through psychological study in such a way that they are not only consumers of this psychological knowledge, but also become reliable producers of the same. Because psychology is about everyone’s life, a psychologist must learn how to actively participate in research by not only challenging and supporting different psychological truths, but also by doing so using scientifically deduced evidence, and which has also been very carefully gathered and has undergone critical testing (Haslam and McGarty, 2003, p.1).

The role of research and statistics in the field of psychology

Research is a term that has been coined to describe the systematic process through which problems are resolved, answers to certain questions arrived at, or even certain phenomenon understood at greater length through the support of certain data.. The main purpose of conducting a research is not to reaffirm available knowledge but rather it is a means of adding to such knowledge by making enquiry into the things that we do not know; a process that is guided by a specific research question, a problem or hypothesis. Information about any particular issue does not guarantee absolute knowledge of the same and research is therefore carried out using certain methodologies in order to come up with substantial information or results. The scientific method is the principle method used by researchers (Haslam and McGarty, 2003, p.168).

The scientific method refers to those principles that provide guidance to a researcher starting from development of research questions to collection of empirical evidence and finally getting answers to the research question(s). This method has been referred to as the empirical method because of its nature of collecting data and using this data to come up with various theories of scientific conclusions. A scientific method is therefore the systematic, self-repeating and continuous approach that is used in the collection, analysis and understanding of empirical data (Nicholas, 2008, p.10).

Psychological study progresses through collection of evidence that either supports or contradicts certain theories or hypotheses. Through refutation or falsification, a theory is then either rejected or moderately refined to achieve the desired results. It is impossible for research psychologists to completely avoid statistical problems because statistical skills are an essential component of psychological training for the purpose of appropriate interpretation of research findings. Statistics refers to the numerical statements used to present data that has been taken from a sample while at the same time referring to the discipline that aids in making as well as understanding these statements. There are two main types of statistics namely descriptive statistics and inferential statistics; the former dealing with description of particular data sets and the later helping the researcher to infer to such descriptions, and to decide on their appropriateness (Haslam and McGarty, 2003, pp.130-131, 166-167).

Data refers to that information collected during a research process that is then analyzed and transformed to produce useful information and lead to certain conclusions (Nicholas, 2008, p.34, 37). Research data can be classified as either primary data or secondary data. In primary research, a researcher gets into direct contact with persons, tries to seek answers to some specific research questions, gets their opinion or engages in actual observation of their behavior. Secondary data on the other hand refers to any information that a researcher chooses to use but which has been gathered or developed by other persons apart from the researcher (Kagan, 2007, p.35, 176).

Methods used to obtain primary data are such as surveys, questioners, personal and telephone interviews. Computer based interviews and direct mail are also used. This makes primary data collection a very tedious and expensive process, and one that is also time consuming. Because secondary data has already been gathered by others, it becomes easily obtainable therefore making the research process a bit faster. It is also less costly as compared to the structuring and fielding processes that are part of a primary research. Primary data collection methods such as interviews, observation surveys and questioners ensure a higher response because the researcher is directly involved in the research process. Interviews are however expensive and results can be influenced by the interviewer. The researcher however has no control on how secondary data was initially collected; how the research was designed and manipulated; or how research findings were interpreted and documented (Kagan, 2007, p.25, 29).

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Primary data collection methods such as direct mail surveys and computer surveys are accurate, convenient, have no interview bias and preserve anonymity. But they require some technical knowledge in the respondents and do not allow open-ended probes. Secondary data on the other hand gives room for improvement because it is based on previously assessed data. Technology and the internet have however led to overflow of information and researchers must now exhibit an ability to sort through several potential sources of data and ability to pick the best out of such sources (Kagan, 2007, 25, 29).

Conclusion

The research process is very challenging as it involves various steps that have to be taken in systematic order. Work carried out through these steps must be of high quality as this will determine the quality of outcome in data analysis and report. Efficiency in these phases almost guarantees accurate analysis of data collected. (Nicholas, 2008, p.34).

References

Haslam, A., and McGarty, C. (2003). Research methods and statistics in psychology: Understanding methods and statistics. Seminole, FL: SAGE.

Kagan, R. (2007). Real life heroes: Practitioner’s manual. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Nicholas, L. (2008). Introduction to psychology: 2nd edition. Kenwyn, South Africa: Juta and Company Limited.

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