Psychology 242

Research Methods in Psychological Science

95278 LECT 0900-0950 M W 00E1 LC

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R. Chris Fraley, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology | Behavioral Sciences Building room 1050 A
Office hours: Mon and Wed 10 - 11 a.m.

Teaching Assistants

Claudia Brumbaugh |
Thomas Griffin |
Eric Houston |

Discussion sections:
95280 DISC 1000-1050 M 0211 BSB
95243 DISC 1100-1150 M 0211 BSB
95311 DISC 1200-1250 M 0211 BSB
95300 DISC 1000-1050 W 0211 BSB
95299 DISC 1100-1150 W 0211 BSB
95357 DISC 1200-1250 W 0211 BSB


Leavitt, F. (2001). Evaluating scientific research: Separating fact from fiction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stanovich, K. E. (2001). How to think straight about psychology (6th Edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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Structure and Overview of the Course

The discipline of psychology occupies a peculiar niche in modern universities. Modern psychologists are concerned with basic humanistic issues (e.g., the nature of emotions, the mind, relationships, free will, and consciousness) that have traditionally been studied by philosophers, poets, and historians. However, unlike scholars in these other disciplines, modern psychologists employ the methods of the natural sciences (e.g., measurement, experimentation) in order to understand these phenomena.
The objective of this course is to introduce you to scientific methods, and how they can be used to better understand psychological phenomena.

I will deliver lectures on Mondays and Wednesdays. I expect you to be in class on time, and, if you cannot make it to class for some reason, I strongly encourage you to obtain the lecture notes from one of your classmates as soon as possible. (Do not come to me or one of the TAs for lecture notes.) There will also be weekly discussion sections, led by the TAs, in which you will design studies, collect and analyze psychological data, and expand your critical thinking skills.

The Class Webpage

I will post lecture notes on the class web page the evening (around 9 or 10 PM) before each lecture. I plan to do this because I want you to spend your class time listening and thinking carefully about the issues we're discussing; I do not want you to be too busy copying notes from the board or overhead. If, however, class attendance begins to decline, I will discontinue web notes because I do not want people skipping lectures simply because they can download the notes at their leisure.

You should treat the class web page as your primary syllabus. I will be updating it on a regular basis and it will be your responsibility to keep up-to-date on any changes that are made. For example, the lecture-topical schedule is preliminary and will change as a function of how quickly or slowly we are progressing though the course. Also, practice test questions, answers to exams you've taken, exam grades to date, etc. will be updated as necessary. If you do not have Internet access at home, please visit one of the many student computer facilities on campus on a regular basis.

link to: schedule | updates | top


There will be four exams over the course of the semester, plus the final exam. Thus, there will be five exams total. The first four exams will not be cumulative in the strict sense of the term, but the subject matter will build on itself, so mastering material for the second exam, for example, may require that you keep yourself refreshed on earlier material. The final exam, however, will be cumulative in the strict sense of the term; I will ask you about anything that has been covered in the course.

Of the five exams, only your four best grades will count. In other words, you can drop your worst exam score. Why do I allow this? I allow this because emergencies (e.g., death in the family, oversleeping on exam day, traffic problems) may occur at some point during the semester, and you might have to miss an exam. I do not give make-up exams under any circumstances; the fact that you can drop your lowest score (which could be a 0) covers all make-up exam situations. Please do not ask me about make up exams because I will simply refer you to the class webpage which explains my policy on this issue (see previous sentence).

In light of this policy, your best strategy is to study hard for each exam, hope nothing bad happens, and then skip the final if you're happy with the grade you would receive based on the first 4 exams. Then, if something bad happens along the way and you have to miss an exam, you'll know that you cannot miss the others. Or, if you bomb exam 1, you'll know you can drop it, but you'll have to do well on the remaining 4 exams. If you oversleep for exam 1 and then a relative dies for exam 2, you will receive a sympathy card, but not a make-up test.

The exam schedule for the semester is posted on the class webpage. It will not be changed, so please determine as soon as possible whether your schedule will prohibit you from making it to certain exams. It might be wise for you to drop the class (or change to another section) if you can foresee possible problems in scheduling from day 1.

Of your four highest exam scores, they will be averaged, and that average will account for 60% of your grade. The remaining 40% of your grade will come from lab activities. Attendance is required for the labs.

Grade Example: Assume Genesis P-Orridge has the following set of exam scores: 80 (exam 1), 90 (exam 2), 70 (exam 3), 90 (exam 4), and 90 (exam 5/final). Genesis's lowest exam score is for exam 3, so we will drop that score and average his highest four grades: (80 + 90 + 90 + 90)/4 = 87.5%. Let's also assume that Genesis aced his lab section: 100%. Because the exams count 60% toward the course grade and the labs count 40%, we weight his exams by 60% and his lab grade by 40%: (.60 * 87.5) + (.40 * 100) = (52.5) + (40) = 92.5%. Thus, his course grade is 92.5%. Please do not contact me about calculating your grade unless you have read this example, worked though it, and still have questions.

Note: If you need to know your discussion section grade at any point in the semester, please contact your TA.

Students with disabilities who require accommodations for access and participation in this course must be registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Please contact ODS at 312/413-2103 or 312/413-0123.


Jan 28, 2002
Exam 1 has been graded, and the scores are posted on line. Overall, the scores were good: the average score was 79%, and five people aced the exam. I added one point to each exam due to an ambiguous question. Please see your TA in order to get your exam back. If you do not see your grade listed online, either we had a problem (please see us) or you didn't give an alias (and you'll have to wait till section to see your grade).

Jan 29, 2002
I made an error in grading the exams. The one extra point I added (see above) was one percentage point. My intention was to add one point to the raw number of questions you answered correctly. The new corrected grades are now listed on this site on line. This change essentially adds 3 percentage points to each person's grade. (But you can't go over 100%.)

Feb 13, 2002

The first major [graded] class exercise was described in class today. Here is the link for people who didn't get a chance to copy it down:

Feb 25, 2002
Exam 2 has been graded, and the scores are posted on line. Overall, the scores were not as high as they were for the first exam. The average was 67% correct. One person, however, did ace the exam. Some of the TA's have indicated to me that many of the students who did poorly do not attend lecture on a regular basis. I strongly encourage you to attend lecture if you want to do well on the exams. If you do not see your exam score posted online, but you know you took the exam, please contact us as soon as possible.

March 1, 2002
Some data for your data analysis exercise, collected from class members, is presented here. You will be working with these data in the lab exercises for the week of March 4 - March 8. Please print these data out if you want a paper copy.

March 1, 2002
I've created some on-line programs for data analysis that may be useful for some of your assignments. They can be found here.

April 2, 2002
Here is an update on the on-line class exercise, first announced in class on Feb 13, 2002.

Although I originally stated that we would work on this exercise until the last week of the semester, we should bring it to a close soon so we can begin to play with the data in class. Thus, what you should do is continue working on the exercise until you have completed your questionnaire on 12 different occasions. If you've been doing this twice a week since it was first announced, then you will have already finished 14 sessions, and you should consider yourself done. If you are a bit behind on this exercise, you still have until the end of the semester to catch up and complete 12 sessions. (However, please keep in mind that you should be doing no more than 2-3 sessions a week, and the computer will flag your file if you submit more than one submission a day.)

If you would like to check on the status of your submissions, please click here.

Once you have finished your 12 submissions, there will be a final, wrap-up part of the assignment in which you'll need to analyze your data. When you are ready, click here if you have been working on the exercise about how you feel in your relationships. If you've been working on an exercise about mood and emotions, click here to get the final assignment.

April 22, 2002

Extra credit link (as announced in class on April 22; please see lecture overheads):

April 27, 2002
Here is an update on your grades-to-date. Please check this as soon as possible and let your TA know if something seems problematic.

May 1, 2002
Here is an update on your final grades in the class. Please check this as soon as possible and let your TA know if something seems problematic. Some things have been updated since the last posting on April 27 (see link above).

link to: schedule | updates | top

Schedule and Web Notes

Note: You can access web versions of the class overheads by clicking on the links below. This schedule is tentative, and will be revised online as we progress through the semester.

Part I Introduction to Psychological Science

How do we commonly draw inferences about the world? What are the limitations of these methods? What is the scientific method? Can the scientific method be applied to understand psychological processes?

Lecture 1 (Jan 7, 2002): Introduction to Psychological Science
PowerPoint Download (right-click link and select "save target" in order to save PowerPoint files to your computer)

Lecture 2 (Jan 9, 2002): Five Limitations of Personal Experience

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Lecture 3 (Jan 14, 2002): The Scientific Process

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Lecture 4 (Jan 16, 2002): Science and Pseudo-science: The Case of Subliminal Recordings

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Exam 1: Jan 23, 2002 | grades
Exam 1 will cover lecture and lab material, as well as Chapters 1, 2, & 3 from the Leavitt text and Chapter 1 from the Stanovich text.
Part 2 Measuring Psychological Variables

Can we measure psychological variables? How can we help ensure that we're measuring what we think we're measuring?

Lecture 5 (Jan 28, 2002): Psychological Measurement: Scales of Measurement

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Lecture 6 (Jan 30, 2002): Operational Definitions
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Lecture 7 (Feb 4, 2002): Operational Definitions of Latent Variables

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Lecture 8 (Feb 6, 2002): Reliability and the Properties of Random Error

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Lecture 9 (Feb 11, 2002): Validity and the Properties of Systematic Error
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Lecture 10 (Feb 13, 2002): Appraising Validity

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Exam 2: Feb 18, 2002 | answer to last question on exam | grades
Exam 2 will cover lecture and lab material, as well as Chapters 5, 12, & 13 from the Leavitt text.

Lecture 11 (Feb 20, 2002): Sampling-Obtaining Research Participants
PowerPoint Download

Part 3 Designing Psychological Research

Psychological research is typically concerned with describing the way psychological processes work and testing hypotheses about those processes. How can we best design research studies to accomplish these goals?

Lecture 12 (Feb 25, 2002): Forumlating Research Questions
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Lecture 13 (Feb 27, 2002): Answering Univariate Descriptive Research Questions
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Lecture 14 (Mar 4, 2002): Standardized Scores
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Lecture 15 (Mar 6, 2002): Multivariate Descriptive Research and Correlations
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Lecture 16 (Mar 11, 2002): Multivariate Descriptive Research with Categorical Variables
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Lecture 17 (Mar 13, 2002): Making Inferences about Causality: Confounds, Experiments, and Random Assignment
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Lecture 18 (Mar 25, 2002): Making Inferences about Causality: Factorial Designs, Main Effects, and Interactions
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Lecture 19 (Mar 27, 2002): Making Inferences about Causality: Non-experimental Approaches
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Lecture 20 (April 1, 2002): Testing Theories: Directional and Point Predictions
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Lecture 21 (April 3, 2002): Testing Theories: The Problem of Sampling Error
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April 8, 2002: In-class review for exam 3
Come prepared to ask questions; no lecture notes to be posted

Exam 3: April 10, 2002 | grades
Exam 3 will cover lecture and lab material, as well as Chapters 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 from the Leavitt text.
Part 4

Thinking Critically about Psychology

You can easily find "experts" discussing psychological issues in the media. How do the methods of accumulating knowledge used by these experts differ from those discussed in this course? In what ways do scientific findings corroborate or undermine popular ideas about psychological processes?

April 15, 2002: Guest presentation by Professor James A. Danowski

Lecture 22 (April 17, 2002): Psychic Readings, Astrology, and the Scientific Method
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Lecture 23 (April 22, 2002): Weather Forecasting: Evaluating the Accuracy of Predictions
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Extra credit link (as announced in class on April 22):

Exam 4: April 24, 2002 | grades
Exam 4 will cover lecture and lab material, as well as Chapters 2, 5, 6, and 9 from the Stanovich text.

Final Exam (Exam 5): 10:30 - 12:30 Tues, April 30th, room: LC E1 | grades

link to: schedule | updates | top