Research Methods in Psychological Science

Psychology 242

94691 LECT 0100-0150 M W 00C3 LC
link to: schedule | updates | top


R. Chris Fraley, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology | Behavioral Sciences Building room 1050 A
Office hours: Mon and Wed 3 - 4 p.m.

Teaching Assistants

Greg Colflesh |
Dan Evatt |
Chris Bauman |
Melissa Ponce |

Discussion/Lab Sections:

94663 DISC 0800-0850 F 00A4 LC
94672 DISC 0900-0950 F 00A5 LC
94751 DISC 1200-1250 F 00A4 LC
94765 DISC 0200-0250 F 00A4 LC
94778 DISC 0100-0150 F 00A3 LC
94654 DISC 0400-0450 W 00A4 LC


Ruscio, J. (2002). Clear thinking with psychology: Separting sense from nonsence. Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth.

I will post the chapters that you should read for each exam in the schedule below. I encourage you to read at least one chapter a week so you don't get behind. Occasionally I will ask you to read a specific chapter for discussion in your sections. In those situations, I will make a special announcement for the reading assignments.

link to: schedule | updates | top

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, explain why they are valuable, and illustrate how they can be used to 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 after each lecture, usually by 3:00. I plan to post the notes on-line because I want you to spend your class time listening and thinking carefully about the issues we're discussing rather than worrying about copying everything correctly. 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 listed below 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). If you would like to document an absence due to a medical emergency, it is necessary that you bring me a medical billing statement; a simple note from a doctor will not suffice.

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 might 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.

At least once a week in lecture (either on Mondays or Wednesdays), I will give you a five-minute pop quiz at the beginning of class. These quizzes will be administered at exactly 1:00 p.m. and will be collected at 1:05 p.m. I strongly encourage you to come to class on time; there will be no make-up pop quiz opportunities. These quizzes will not be difficult. My objective in administering these quizzes to encourage you to keep up with the readings and the lecture material so you don't have to cram at the last minute for the exams.

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 (20%) and weekly quizzes (20%). Attendance is required for the labs.

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 10, 2004
Several people have asked me if I will add them to the class. Unfortunately, the class is currently full, and we do not have the resources to add new students. Approximately 20 people have asked me if they can add, and there is simply no fair way to go about trying to accommodate some people and not others. What should you do about this? I don't have a good solution to your problem, but you're welcome to "sit in" on the class while space permits and hope that someone drops so you can add the class in their place. This strategy has worked in the past, but, unless 20 people drop, it can't work for everyone. Please keep in mind that there is another section of Psych 242 available, and there may (or may not) be resources available in that section for adding. There will also be a summer section of Psych 242 offered this summer.

Lab sections begin on the third week of the semester: Jan 26th.

Jan 21, 2004
There will be no class on Wed, Jan 28th. Ill be away at a conference. Lab sections will still be held.

Jan 25, 2004
- There will be no class on Wed. Jan 28th.
- There will be no sections this week. We will begin sections next week--the week of Feb 2.
- The exam, originally scheduled for Feb 2, will be a take-home exam that I will give out in class on Feb 4th. It will be due the next Monday in class, Feb 9th.

Feb 11, 2004
I'm going to cancel class today. My cold has moved into my throat and I can barely speak. Sections/labs will still be held this week. See you on Monday.

Feb 17, 2004
The grades for the first exam are posted here. (updated 7:47 p.m.) There were some people who did not give us an alias for the exam. If you are one of those people, please see me after class.

Feb 17, 2004
Question # 3 on the exam was incorrectly worded. Specifically, the instructions for Questions 1 and 2 should have only applied to questions 1-2, not questions 1-3. If you missed any points for Question 3 and would like to earn those points back, please bring your exam to class next Monday (Feb 23). (Don't bring it any sooner or any later or I may misplace your exam.) I will update the grade file later that afternoon.

Feb 23, 2004
Some new class exercises have been created and places on-line. I'll explain how these work in class on Monday. In short, you will need to register your alias on the web site for the Psych 242 Lab Page: You'll also need to create a password so that other people cannot log-on as you. Once you are registered, you will have the option to complete some on-line exercises. The information collected as part of the exercises will be used throughout the course to illustrate the ideas and concepts discussed in class. As such, the contents of the exercises will be changing from time to time; I'll make announcements as new assignments are posted. At the moment, three exercises have been posted. The first is just some simple questions about your gender, etc., that will make future exercises easier so you don't have to retype the same information again and again. The second exercise concerns the Love Machine ( that we discussed in class and in sections last week. In short, you will need to get a friend, parent, or girlfriend/boyfriend to fill out the Psych 242 Love Machine Web Survey. Once you have found someone to complete the survey, make sure he or she knows your alias (but not your password) and have them complete the survey. You will automatically get credit when they complete the survey. The third exercise is a "longitudinal survey"--a concept we'll discuss later in the semester. In short, you will need to answer some simple personality questions once a week for the next 8 weeks. We'll be analyzing these data in sections later in the semester.

Feb 23, 2004
I have updated the grade file for exam 1 for people who lost points on question number 3. The old grades (exam1) and the corrected grades (exam1c) are listed here. If you did not bring me your exam today but want your grade updated (see Feb 17th update), please bring it soon. I can't promise that I'll update the file right away, however.

March 3, 2004
There will be no discussion/lab sections on the week of the exam. I will post the exam scores on-line once I the TAs have had a chance to grade all the exams (probably around mid-week of next week). You should be able to pick up your exam next week in section.

March 11, 2004
As mentioned in class on Wed, I have created a homework exercise that will be due in your sections next week. The homework involves calculating Love Scores, based on the operational definitions you developed in sections a couple of weeks ago. This assignment is designed to give you some practice computing means and standard deviations. The exercise is available here. (Note: The web page has a large width, so you might not be able to print the data table easily. If that is the case, please be sure to write down the numbers you need by hand.)

March 15, 2004
The grades for the second exam are posted here. I have, unfortunately, only received grades from Chris Bauman and Greg Colflesh's sections. If you are in Dan Evatt's or Melissa Ponce's sections, you will need to contact them for your grades. Update: All of the grades are now available here.

March 17, 2004
There will be no discussion sections this week since many people will be out of town on Friday. Please be sure to bring a calculator for your discussion section the next week.

March 19, 2004
A new homework assignment on correlations has been posted here. This assignment will be due in your next discussion section.

April 2, 2004
The next exam (Exam 3) will cover everything we have discussed in class since the last exam. It will also cover Chapter 7 from the Ruscio text. There will be 20 questions total. Approximately 16 of these will be multiple-choice and the remaining will be short answer. Although you shouldn't need to memorize formulas, you should memorize and understand the formula for computing a correlation.

Be sure to focus on the following material (but keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive):

April 13th, 2004
I've received exam 3 grades from Greg and Chris. I've posted the grades for students in their sections here. I'll post the remaining grades when I receive them from the TAs. Update (10:43): Melissa's grades have been posted too. (Dan's grades posted on April 18, 2004.)

April 13th, 2004
I've posted a new homework assignment based on the longitudinal exercise: This assignment is due in section at the end of next week (April 19-23).

April 26th, 2004
Exam 4 will be on Wed, April 28th. The exam will be 12 multiple choice questions; there will be no short answer questions. We are having a relatively short exam so that we can grade the exams as soon as possible so you can decide whether or not you'll need to take the final. Here are some topics that I would strongly encourage you to study as you prepare for the exam:

As soon as the grades are ready (hopefully by Thursday afternoon), I will post them on-line along with your final grade in the class--the grade you have if you do not take the final. I will also explain how I dealt with quizes at that time. Good luck with your studies.

April 29th, 2004
Exam 4 grades and grades to date are posted here. The page this link goes to will be updated as needed; I won't post updates here.

May 4th, 2004
The final grades are posted here. The page this link goes to will be updated as needed; I won't post updates here. Have a nice summer everyone. (Hopefully we'll get some summer-like weather soon. Be sure to check NBC for your weather updates.)

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 12, 2004)
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 14, 2004)
Five Limitations of Personal Experience
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 3 (Jan 21, 2004)
The Scientific Process: The Importance of Systematic Observation and the Testing and Revision of Ideas
PowerPoint Download

January 19 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; no classes

Lecture 4 (Jan 26, 2004)
Science and Pseudo-science: The Case of Subliminal Recordings
PowerPoint Download

January 28 - no class; I'll be away at a conference

Lecture 5 (Feb 2)
Credibility, Accountability, and the Way Inconsistent Information is Handled: The Case of the Rev. Benny Hinn
[Film: No PowerPoint Slides | Benny Hinn web site]

Discussion Sections (Week of Feb 2)
Hinn Ministries
[discussion topics]

Exam 1: Feb 4, 2004 (take home exam; due Feb 9th)
Note: There is a link to Exam 1 below. You will need to read a special article for this exam, so be sure to print (or read on your computer) that article too.
click here for the exam | click here for the reading assignment that goes along with the exam

Reading Assignments
for Exam 1: Chapter 1

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 6 (Feb 5, 2004): Psychological Measurement and Scales of Measurement: What does it mean to measure a psychological variable?
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 7 (Feb 9, 2004): Psychological Measurement: Operational Definitions & Equivalence Relationships
PowerPoint Download

Lab/Discussion section handout for the week of Feb 9th

Feb 11, 2004 -- Class is canceled today (see updates)

Lecture 8 (Feb 16, 2004): Psychological Measurement: Operational Definitions & Multiple Indicators
PowerPoint Download

Lab/Discussion section handout for the week of Feb 16th

Lecture 9 (Feb 18, 2004): Psychological Measurement: Reliability and the Properties of Random Errors
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 10 (Feb 23, 2004): Psychological Measurement: Validity and the Properties of Systematic Errors
PowerPoint Download

Lab/Discussion section handout for the week of Feb 23th

Lecture 11 (Feb 25, 2004): Psychological Measurement: Construct Validity
PowerPoint Download

Exam 2: March 3, 2004
Reading Assignments for Exam 2: Ruscio Chapters 5 and 6

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 11 (March 8, 2004): Answering descriptive questions about single variables
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 15 (March 10, 2004): Multivariate Descriptive Research: Standardized Scores
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 16 (March 15, 2004): Multivariate Descriptive Research: Correlations
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 17 (March 17, 2004): Multivariate Descriptive Research: Relationships Involving Categorical Variables
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 18 (March 29, 2004): Making Inferences about Causality: Confounds, Experiments, and Random Assignment
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 19 (March 31, 2004): Making Inferences about Causality: Factorial Designs, Main Effects, Interactions
PowerPoint Download

Exam 3: April 7, 2004
Reading Assignments
for Exam 3:Ruscio chapter 7

Lecture 20 (April 12, 2004): Making Inferences about Causality: Sample Selection and Partial Correlations PowerPoint Download

Lecture 22 (April 14, 2004): Testing Theories: The Problem of Sampling Error
PowerPoint Download


Part 4

Thinking Critically about Psychology (Redux)

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?

Lecture 23 (April 19, 2004): Psychic Readings and the Scientific Method
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 24 (April 21, 2004): Astrology and the Scientific Method
PowerPoint Download

Lecture 25 (April 26, 2004): Weather Forecasting: Using the Scientific Method to Evaluate Predictions PowerPoint Download

Exam 4: April 28, 2004
Reading Assignments for Exam 4: Chapters 10 and 16 from Ruscio

Final Exam (Exam 5): Monday, May 3rd 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
See for information on final exam conflicts.

link to: schedule | updates | top