Research Methods Key Term Glossary
- AS, A-Level
- AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB
Last updated 22 Mar 2021
This key term glossary provides brief definitions for the core terms and concepts covered in Research Methods for A Level Psychology.
The researcher’s area of interest – what they are looking at (e.g. to investigate helping behaviour).
A graph that shows the data in the form of categories (e.g. behaviours observed) that the researcher wishes to compare.
Key behaviours or, collections of behaviour, that the researcher conducting the observation will pay attention to and record
In-depth investigation of a single person, group or event, where data are gathered from a variety of sources and by using several different methods (e.g. observations & interviews).
Questions where there are fixed choices of responses e.g. yes/no. They generate quantitative data
The variables investigated in a correlation
Comparing a new test with another test of the same thing to see if they produce similar results. If they do then the new test has concurrent validity
Unless agreed beforehand, participants have the right to expect that all data collected during a research study will remain confidential and anonymous.
An extraneous variable that varies systematically with the IV so we cannot be sure of the true source of the change to the DV
Technique used to analyse qualitative data which involves coding the written data into categories – converting qualitative data into quantitative data.
A group that is treated normally and gives us a measure of how people behave when they are not exposed to the experimental treatment (e.g. allowed to sleep normally).
An observation study where the researchers control some variables - often takes place in laboratory setting
A mathematical technique where the researcher looks to see whether scores for two covariables are related
A way of trying to control for order effects in a repeated measures design, e.g. half the participants do condition A followed by B and the other half do B followed by A
Also known as an undisclosed observation as the participants do not know their behaviour is being observed
The value that a test statistic must reach in order for the hypothesis to be accepted.
After completing the research, the true aim is revealed to the participant. Aim of debriefing = to return the person to the state s/he was in before they took part.
Involves misleading participants about the purpose of s study.
Occur when participants try to make sense of the research situation they are in and try to guess the purpose of the research or try to present themselves in a good way.
The variable that is measured to tell you the outcome.
Analysis of data that helps describe, show or summarize data in a meaningful way
A one-tailed hypothesis that states the direction of the difference or relationship (e.g. boys are more helpful than girls).
A dispersion measure shows how a set of data is spread out, examples are the range and the standard deviation
Double blind control
Participants are not told the true purpose of the research and the experimenter is also blind to at least some aspects of the research design.
The extent to which the findings of a research study are able to be generalized to real-life settings
These are provided by the BPS - they are the ‘rules’ by which all psychologists should operate, including those carrying out research.
There are 3 main ethical issues that occur in psychological research – deception, lack of informed consent and lack of protection of participants.
Participants’ behaviour is distorted as they fear being judged by observers
A target behaviour is identified and the observer records it every time it occurs
The group that received the experimental treatment (e.g. sleep deprivation)
Whether it is possible to generalise the results beyond the experimental setting.
Variables that if not controlled may affect the DV and provide a false impression than an IV has produced changes when it hasn’t.
Simple way of assessing whether a test measures what it claims to measure which is concerned with face value – e.g. does an IQ test look like it tests intelligence.
An experiment that takes place in a natural setting where the experimenter manipulates the IV and measures the DV
A graph that is used for continuous data (e.g. test scores). There should be no space between the bars, because the data is continuous.
This is a formal statement or prediction of what the researcher expects to find. It needs to be testable.
Independent groups design
An experimental design where each participants only takes part in one condition of the IV
The variable that the experimenter manipulates (changes).
Inferential statistics are ways of analyzing data using statistical tests that allow the researcher to make conclusions about whether a hypothesis was supported by the results.
Psychologists should ensure that all participants are helped to understand fully all aspects of the research before they agree (give consent) to take part
The extent to which two or more observers are observing and recording behaviour in the same way
In relation to experiments, whether the results were due to the manipulation of the IV rather than other factors such as extraneous variables or demand characteristics.
Interval level data
Data measured in fixed units with equal distance between points on the scale
These result from the effects of a researcher’s behaviour and characteristics on an investigation.
An experiment that takes place in a controlled environment where the experimenter manipulates the IV and measures the DV
Matched pairs design
An experimental design where pairs of participants are matched on important characteristics and one member allocated to each condition of the IV
Measure of central tendency calculated by adding all the scores in a set of data together and dividing by the total number of scores
Measures of central tendency
A measurement of data that indicates where the middle of the information lies e.g. mean, median or mode
Measure of central tendency calculated by arranging scores in a set of data from lowest to highest and finding the middle score
A technique where rather than conducting new research with participants, the researchers examine the results of several studies that have already been conducted
Measure of central tendency which is the most frequently occurring score in a set of data
An experiment where the change in the IV already exists rather than being manipulated by the experimenter
An observation study conducted in the environment where the behaviour would normally occur
A relationship exists between two covariables where as one increases, the other decreases
Nominal level data
Frequency count data that consists of the number of participants falling into categories. (e.g. 7 people passed their driving test first time, 6 didn’t).
A two-tailed hypothesis that does not predict the direction of the difference or relationship (e.g. girls and boys are different in terms of helpfulness).
An arrangement of a data that is symmetrical and forms a bell shaped pattern where the mean, median and mode all fall in the centre at the highest peak
The value that you have obtained from conducting your statistical test
Occurs when the observers know the aims of the study study or the hypotheses and allow this knowledge to influence their observations
Questions where there is no fixed response and participants can give any answer they like. They generate qualitative data.
This means clearly describing the variables (IV and DV) in terms of how they will be manipulated (IV) or measured (DV).
A sampling technique where participants are chosen because they are easily available
Order effects can occur in a repeated measures design and refers to how the positioning of tasks influences the outcome e.g. practice effect or boredom effect on second task
Ordinal level data
Data that is capable of being out into rank order (e.g. places in a beauty contest, or ratings for attractiveness).
Also known as a disclosed observation as the participants given their permission for their behaviour to be observed
Observation study where the researcher actually joins the group or takes part in the situation they are observing.
Before going to publication, a research report is sent other psychologists who are knowledgeable in the research topic for them to review the study, and check for any problems
A small scale study conducted to ensure the method will work according to plan. If it doesn’t then amendments can be made.
A relationship exists between two covariables where as one increases, so does the other
Asking a group of people from the same target population as the sample whether they would agree to take part in such a study, if yes then presume the sample would
Information that the researcher has collected him/herself for a specific purpose e.g. data from an experiment or observation
Prior general consent
Before participants are recruited they are asked whether they are prepared to take part in research where they might be deceived about the true purpose
How likely something is to happen – can be expressed as a number (0.5) or a percentage (50% change of tossing coin and getting a head)
Protection of participants
Participants should be protected from physical or mental health, including stress - risk of harm must be no greater than that to which they are exposed in everyday life
Descriptive information that is expressed in words
Information that can be measured and written down with numbers.
An experiment often conducted in controlled conditions where the IV simply exists so there can be no random allocation to the conditions
A set of written questions that participants fill in themselves
A sampling technique where everyone in the target population has an equal chance of being selected
Refers to the practice of using chance methods (e.g. flipping a coin' to allocate participants to the conditions of an investigation
The distance between the lowest and the highest value in a set of scores.
A measure of dispersion which involves subtracting the lowest score from the highest score in a set of data
Whether something is consistent. In the case of a study, whether it is replicable.
Repeated measures design
An experimental design where each participants takes part in both/all conditions of the IV
A sample that that closely matched the target population as a whole in terms of key variables and characteristics
Once the true nature of the research has been revealed, participants should be given the right to withdraw their data if they are not happy.
Right to withdraw
Participants should be aware that they can leave the study at any time, even if they have been paid to take part.
A group of people that are drawn from the target population to take part in a research investigation
Used to plot correlations where each pair of values is plotted against each other to see if there is a relationship between them.
Information that someone else has collected e.g. the work of other psychologists or government statistics
Interview that has some pre-determined questions, but the interviewer can develop others in response to answers given by the participant
A statistical test used to analyse the direction of differences of scores between the same or matched pairs of subjects under two experimental conditions
If the result of a statistical test is significant it is highly unlikely to have occurred by chance
Participants are not told the true purpose of the research
An arrangement of data that is not symmetrical as data is clustered ro one end of the distribution
Social desirability bias
Participants’ behaviour is distorted as they modify this in order to be seen in a positive light.
A measure of the average spread of scores around the mean. The greater the standard deviation the more spread out the scores are. .
The instructions given to each participant are kept identical – to help prevent experimenter bias.
In every step of the research all the participants are treated in exactly the same way and so all have the same experience.
A sampling technique where groups of participants are selected in proportion to their frequency in the target population
Interview where the questions are fixed and the interviewer reads them out and records the responses
An observation study using predetermined coding scheme to record the participants' behaviour
A sampling technique where every nth person in a list of the target population is selected
The group that the researchers draws the sample from and wants to be able to generalise the findings to
Refers to how likely it is that the time period when a study was conducted has influenced the findings and whether they can be generalised to other periods in time
Involves presenting the same participants with the same test or questionnaire on two separate occasions and seeing whether there is a positive correlation between the two
A method for analysing qualitative data which involves identifying, analysing and reporting patterns within the data
A way of sampling the behaviour that is being observed by recording what happens in a series of fixed time intervals.
Type 1 error
Is a false positive. It is where you accept the alternative/experimental hypothesis when it is false
Type 2 error
Is a false negative. It is where you accept the null hypothesis when it is false
Also know as a clinical interview, there are no fixed questions just general aims and it is more like a conversation
Observation where there is no checklist so every behaviour seen is written down in an much detail as possible
Whether something is true – measures what it sets out to measure.
A sampling technique where participants put themselves forward to take part in research, often by answering an advertisement