Formulating research questions
Lecture notesThis week we go to the basic features of a scientific question. We will spend most of the time discussing where research questions come from, and some key terms:
- The Phenomenon -- the larger topic of study, the empirical question that underlies the research.
- Theory: a proposition about what causes the phenomenon.
- A theory links two hypothetical constructs or abstract psychological processes.
- The Hypothesis: a
testable prediction that describes of relation between two variables derived
from the theory,
each of which can be operationally
- Hypothetical construct
- Operational definition
- Internal & external validity
- Independent v. Dependent variables
- Measurement v. experimental studies
- Read about how our biases and social values can affect our approach to scientific questions, and how that can be a good thing.
- Even relatively skimpy data can lead to a revolution in how we think about the world. Read two fascinating articles from Planetology that illustrate this:
- A skull found in the Southern Sahara in 2002 changed our theories of human evolution.
- Click the image to read about how paleontologists and molecular biologists use DNA sequencing to understand bone fragments, and how substantially those skimpy data can change our theories.
Analyze a journal article
For this week you will describe the core parts of a journal article using the “research flow” from lecture. I have provided two for you to choose from, but you can use any article that reports an experiment. Both are from the same French research group, investigating alcohol use and aggression.
- The first examines whether drinking leads to assumptions that themselves may lead to aggression.
- The second investigates whether subliminal alcohol cues can induce aggression, even in people who are not drinking.
Read the guide to research articles first – it will show you how to efficiently find the key parts of an article, and will help a lot with this assignment and your paper.
You may also find any other published article in a psychology journal. Find instructions on how to use the web to find your own article (which you will have to to for your paper eventually) below and in the guide to research articles.
You will find that these and other journal articles test several hypotheses, and may analyze multiple variables. For this assignment pick one hypothesis from one article to analyze: keep it simple!!
Read the paper, and answer the following, using no more than one typed page:
- What is the Phenomenon being addressed?
- Very briefly, what is the Theory?
- What was the hypothesis tested by the study?
- Was the hypothesis supported by the data?
- What conclusions can we reach about larger phenomenon from this study?
- What other research might be useful to clarify the phenomenon?
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