Section B - Research Methods
11 A researcher wanted to compare the effectiveness of two therapies for young offenders who had been identified as having anger management issues. Offenders, who were all sentences to two years in a Young Offenders’ Institution, were asked to volunteer to take part in an anger management programme. Fifty volunteers were randomly allocated to Group 1 (Therapy A) or Group 2 (Therapy B).
Each participant’s anger was assessed before and after therapy. For the pre-therapy anger score they completed an Anger Scale questionnaire and their responses were scores. A high score indicated extreme anger and a low score indicated mild anger.
For the next eight weeks, participants attended weekly sessions for Therapy A or Therapy B.
For the post-therapy anger score, at the end of the treatment period, participants completed the same Anger Scale questionnaire.
The data obtained are shown in Figure 1 below.
11.1 The researcher used volunteers for this study. Outline one disadvantage of using volunteers to take part in this study. [2 marks]
Suggested Answer: One problem with volunteer sampling is that the sample might be biased. In this study, it could be that only the eager Young Offenders would be willing to volunteer. This matters because it means that the sample is not representative of all offenders and reduces the generalisability of the findings.
Exam Hint: While this is only a two-mark question, many students failed to apply their knowledge to the scenario. Students need to ensure that for RM question that say ‘in this study’ that they are applying their knowledge to this specific scenario (e.g. young offenders).
11.2 Explain how the researcher could allocate the volunteers randomly to the conditions of the experiment. [3 marks]
Suggested Answer: All of the participants could be assigned a number, and the numbers could then be placed in a hat/envelope. The researcher would then pull each number out of the hat, assigning the first number to Group 1 (Therapy A), the second to Group 2 (Therapy B) and so on. Therefore, each of the participants has the same chance of being allocated to either Therapy A or B.
Exam Hint: Students need to pay careful attention to the number of marks available. Many answers did not go beyond statements like ‘place the names in a hat’ which is not going to secure full marks. Students need to be able to accurately describe what they would do from start to finish when randomly allocating volunteers to different conditions within an experiment (as detailed above).
11.3 Write a suitable hypothesis for this study. [3 marks]
Suggested Answer: Either Non-directional: There will be a difference in the reduction of post-therapy anger scores between participants who received Therapy A and those who received Therapy B.
OR Directional: People who received Therapy A will have a significantly larger reduction in anger level scores in comparison to people who received Therapy B.
Exam Hint: Many students failed to achieve full marks because they failed to determined what the DV was (the reduction in anger scores). It is important for any hypothesis question that student includes both conditions of the IV and a fully operationalised DV.
11.4 What do the data in Figure 1 seem to suggest. [3 marks]
Suggested Answer: The results suggest that both Therapy A and Therapy B reduce anger and are therefore effective treatments overall.
However, Therapy B is slightly more effective as the reduction in anger score was larger (a decrease of 25 in comparison to 20).
Finally, the results also reveal that the offenders in Group 1 were more angry at the start of the study in comparison to Group 2.
Exam Hint: A common issue with data interpretation question is that students do not write enough. The graph provided at least five different points that students could use and one mark was awarded for each point stated.
11.5 Explain how the study might be improved by using a matched pairs design. [4 marks]
Suggested Answer: Using a matched-pairs design would improve this study as it would reduce individual/participant differences. In an independent groups design, it could be participant variables that reduce the post-therapy scores in Group 2 and not the therapy itself. If the participants were matched on their anger scores pre-therapy, this would reduce this possibility. In the original experiment, there was a ten-point difference between Group 1 and 2 in their pre-anger scores and a matched pairs design would reduce/eliminate this difference.
Exam Hint: Many students explained what is meant by a matched pairs design and how you could use one. However, many students failed to acknowledge the most important aspect of the question: how it would ‘improve’ this experiment. The most important matching criteria for this experiment was the pre-therapy anger scores, as the original graph clearly showed a ten-point difference in these scores. Sadly, many students missed this point which meant their attempts to describe matched pairs were generic and not contextualised.
11.6 Outline one ethical issue that might have occurred in this study and explain how the researcher could have dealt with this issue. [4 marks]
Suggested Answer: One ethical issue that might have occurred in this study is protection from (psychological) harm, as the Young Offenders might feel anxious, especially if they find out they have a high anger score. Furthermore, the participants might feel pressure to improve, as there is an expectation associated with receiving therapy.
This could be dealt with by giving the participants the right to withdraw from the therapy and debriefing the participants, offering them follow-up care, if required. They could also be provided with a chance to ask any questions about the study.
Exam Hint: This question has two parts: 1) identifying an ethical issue; 2) dealing with the issue; however, the number of students who failed to acknowledge of complete the second part demonstrates the importance of keeping the whole question in mind.
11.7 Give one disadvantage of using median values as seen in Figure 1 to represent the anger scores of participants. [1 mark]
Suggested Answer: One disadvantage of the median is that is does not consider the entire data set, and therefore it does not represent the whole data.
Exam Hint: Students need to be careful of their expression. For example: ‘saying that the median doesn’t use all the data’ is vague, and students need to explain why this is an issue.
11.8 Explain how demand characteristics might have occurred in this study. [2 marks]
Suggested Answer: Participants may have figured out that the aim and adjusted their behaviour and given answers on the questionnaire that increased or decreased their score, depending on whether they wanted to please the researcher. Demand characteristics are likely to occur in this experiment as the researchers gave the participants the question before and after the treatment and therefore participants might realise that they should be giving different answers on the second occasion.
Exam Hint: Students need to ensure that they contextualise their answers. This question says ‘in this study’ and therefore the answer needs to be written within the context of offender behaviour.
11.9 The researchers used a questionnaire to assess the anger scores of the offenders. Briefly discuss one strength of using questionnaires in research. [2 marks]
Suggested Answer: One strength of using a questionnaire is that a large quantity of data can be collected relatively quickly in comparison to other methods (e.g. interviews). For example, questionnaires often used closed questions which produced quantitative data. This is a strength because it makes data analyse and replication easier in comparison to other methods.
Exam Hint: Student often struggle to develop RM evaluation points and they need to ensure that they state a point, provide an example and then explain why this matters.
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