The Importance of Research

I. The need for good knowledge

II. What is good knowledge?

A. Objective: not due to idiosyncrasies of the individual observer

B. Replicable (repeatable)

C. Communicable so that:

1. Results can be replicated

2. Knowledge can be applied

3. Scientists can build on each others work: The value of teamwork in science

III. How can research produce good knowledge?

A. Addressing the problem of measuring variables

1. Can study behavior for its own sake or can study it as indicator (hitting doll because interested in hitting dolls or as indicator of hostility or insecurity).

2. If can't directly observe a psychological characteristic, must find some indicator of that characteristic (IQ test). Of course, research will only be as good as the indicator.

B. Internal validity: Deal with human variability by either:

1. Reducing the number and range of variables that impinge upon participants; or

2. Randomizing variables to prevent them from having systematic effects and then using statistics to estimate the extent of their unsystematic effects.

C. External validity: Deal with generalizability by replicating studies.

IV. How you will benefit from knowing how to do good research.

A. As a psychologist: Research is the source of psychological knowledge and although the content of psychology changes, the methods stay the same. Therefore, knowing about research:

  1. Liberates you from the false claims of others.
  2. Allows you to learn more about your particular area of interest within the infinitely broad field of psychology.
  3. Allows you to become directly and personally involved in psychology.

B. As an educated person, knowing about research will give you the ability to:

  1. Accurately and systematically collect data that will answer questions
  2. Analyze and attack problems; and
  3. Communicate and justify both your approach to a problem and your conclusions.

C. As someone who may be entering the workforce, the ability to collect, analyze, think about, and communicate about data will probe very marketable and useful in today's information age.

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