Chapter 3 Summary

Quick overview

On one level, this chapter answers a question that many students ask: "How do I get a research idea?" At this level, there are two parts to Chapter 3:
  1. getting an idea and
  2. refining that idea into a pet (practical, ethical, and testable) hypothesis.

At another level, Chapter 3

  1. reviews the concepts of internal, external, and construct validity,
  2. re-emphasizes that the scientific community succeeds because scientists criticize and build on each other's work,
  3. stresses how ethical issues should affect research,
  4. explains the value of theory,
  5. helps students develop a sound rationale for their hypotheses so that students can write an effective introduction section of their research proposal,
  6. helps students understand the difference between experimental and non-experimental research,
  7. sets the stage for students to understand the concept of interactions,
  8. sets the stage for the next chapter (reading and critiquing research), and
  9. sets the stage for Chapter 5 (developing operational definitions of variables).

Pictorial summary

Contrary to what some students think, scientists do not do research for research's sake. Furthermore, research is not about equipment and rats.


Instead, the goal of research (the end of the rainbow, as it were) is to find answers to questions. As those of us who have done research know, we never reach the end of the rainbow: Although a research study may answer some questions, it will also raise other questions.

Some students think that one has to be a wizard to generate research questions- and they do not see themselves as wizards.

For a variety of reasons, many students seem to initially draw a blank.

To help students generate ideas you can

  1. use our hypothesis generation handouts(available from the handouts section of the Chapter 3 Menu page
  2. ask them to view common sense statements like common sense medical advice: advice that should be subjected to clinical trials
  3. remind them that scientists, rather than dismissing evidence against their views as "bad facts," actually go looking for facts that go against their beliefs and theories
  4. have them think of the laboratory as a greenhouse,       
    where they can create their own miniature model world and see if the participants thrive in their mini-version of a better world.
  5. Remind them that any research study can be improved.
  6. Remind them that there are three basic ways of getting ideas:

To help them refine their hypothesis, you might
  1. Remind them to use the advice in Table 3-2.

  2. remind them that even though their initial research idea may not have come from theory or previous research, they can still use theory and previous research to create a rationale for their hypothesis

  3. To inject some humor into the value of having"two-tailed" hypotheses, you might mention the apocryphal story one small business's sign:

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