Research is something which is extremely popular now and has been for some time. Without research, the human race would not have progressed at such a rapid pace, and we might still be busy relishing the miracle of fire. But thanks to research and its growing demand in today’s world, people are able to discover new information on a daily basis.
Now it is fairly obvious that the definition of research is finding answers to questions in a systematic and scientific way. For a curious cat like me who has a hundred different questions in her head, every second of every day, doing research is fun and powerful, simply because it helps me learn and become more aware of the world around me.
However, it is when the time comes to decide what design I want to use in order to get the answer to my question, that is when I have to sit down and think, because there is not just one research design out there but many, which I am sure you guys have heard about. As for me, I have to study these methods in every course I take…it’s boring but interesting at the same time.
Reality of Research Designs
The research design depends greatly on the type of research question one has. If the question seeks to find the effect of one thing on another, then one goes for the experimental design. If one is curious about whether two things have a relationship with each other (unlike my boyfriend and I) then the correlational design would be most suitable. And if one wants to look into a specific group of people to see how they respond to something, then quazi experimental design would be best.
Moreover, research designs may be dependent on the type of research question that one has, but it is also dependent on the kind of variables an individual wish to look at, and then how does that individual chooses to see those variable can help the person figure out the best research design. And of course, the sampling techniques would come later, which the researcher can decide on, however, one generally chooses to go for random sampling, especially when it comes to the Experimental Design.
Experimental Design (No explosions needed)
In Psychology—or in any other field—one is curious to see whether one thing would have an effect on another. Taking this into real life perspective, if I want to see the effect of fire on my hand or what would happen if I drop an egg, then experimental design is the way to go.
The experimental design looks into cause and effect; how one variable would either lead to or effect another variable. Now here comes the interesting bit (well I found it boring but it might be interesting for you); the two kinds of variables present in this research design, the dependent and independent variables.
Independent variables are the ones which can be manipulated, which are the cause for a particular thing. As the name suggests, the independent variable is in control, as it is the reason for the variable to react a certain way. Taking the example of my hand and the fire; the fire is obviously the independent variable, as it would be having an effect on my hand (Ouch!).
Whereas the dependent variables are the ones which have no control and are the result of the manipulation of the independent variable. For this example, I will leave my poor hand alone and talk about how during an exam, a lot of different things such as temperature and noise level can impact the exam performance of students. Now the exam performance of student is the dependent variable as it is the one being affected.
Experimental design not only takes into account the variables but it is a design which needs to be highly controlled as there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Extraneous variables are notorious when it comes to this design as it is difficult to control them.
Furthermore, in the experimental design, one often decides to go for the pre-test and post-test; which is not that difficult to understand. For example, if the researcher aims to check the effect of deep breathing exercises on an individual’s stress levels, then the pre-test would include the researcher checking the stress levels of the individuals, and then administering the deep breathing exercises (Independent variable) and then checking the stress levels again to see if there is a difference. And though the extraneous variables exist, researchers try their best to reduce the effect, by using something known as randomization.
Randomization as the name suggests is using random sampling and random assignment while distributing participants in two groups. It can happen in between subject group as well as within subject group, depending on what you are looking at.
Though experimental design focuses a lot on randomization in order to reduce the effect of randomization, at times randomization is something which is not required and that is when we want to study a group of people or particular traits (in my case, aliens).
Quazi Experimental Design (No random assignment)
This experimental design took me a few seconds to understand when I first heard about it, but after that it became pretty simple. It is similar to the experimental design with the only difference being that there is no random assignment.
An example for this type of research design can be when one wants to look at whether a certain stimulus has an effect on smokers. So even though the researcher will take both smokers and non-smokers for the study, all the smokers would be assigned in one group and all the non-smokers will be assigned in the other, and then the independent variable can be administered and results can be found. So quazi-experimental (semi-experimental) research design is pretty much like the one mentioned above, with a slight difference. However, the next research design will be pretty different from these two, as I would talk about the relationship between two variables.
Correlational Design (Direct or Indirect)
The correlational design looks into the relationship two variables have with one another. Unlike the experimental design, correlational design does not have an independent or dependent variables of the nature described above. The independent and dependent variables in correlational designs are slightly different, but I will not get into them right now.
Furthermore, this research design looks into the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables. The strength of the of the relationship ranges from +1- 0 – -1, and the closer the result is to one, the stronger the relationship. However, the positive and negative signs depict the direction of the relationship; positive sign meaning that there is a direct relationship, for example, studying for a long time can lead to a rise in grades, which means that if one variable goes in one direction, the other goes in the same direction as well. However, the negative sign means that there is an inverse relationship, for example, playing videogames for hours can lead to a decrease in grades; which means that one variable went in one direction (video games being played for a long time) while the other variable went in the opposite direction (grades going down).
So these are some of the main research designs which can be used to find out the answers to the questions you all seek in this world. Out of all these, I think each design has its beauty, and I would like to practice each one in the future.
Food for Thought
Since the previous blog post was about the branches of biopsychology, taking the information from this post and connecting it to the previous one, there is one question for you all to mull over:
- Which Research Design goes with which branch of Biopsychology?
Lecture 3: Research Designs in Psychology [Class Notes]