Psychology is a human science that has been studied for over three centuries. Psychology as a discipline is majorly concerned with exploration of psychological processes. Essentially it identifies how the psychological processes operate and how external factors influence changes in these processes. Relationship between these changes attributed to the external factors is then related to bring out a conclusion of such a change. This explains the happening of psychology oriented behavioral changes in the human race which are put forward in form of psychology theories.
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As psychology is a discipline that relies on theories to deduce conclusions, numerous researches must be applied to approve the credibility of such theories. Hence theorists in psychology analyze cognitive, physiological, genetical and interpersonal aspects that bring about psychological changes through research. In the field of psychology, research can be defined as the process which psychologists use to test a theory and its predictions. In this case, a theory is a prediction of ideas that try to explain why things happen the way they do. Many research methods have been used by this theorists and also students to solidify their claims. However research in psychology is not necessarily tied to theories, it can be used only for an immediate reason that needs to be analyzed. In this case, the word theory is not used to describe the research, but informal theory is used to show that there was no explicit theory that was used in the course of such a research. Research in psychology is used in collecting evidence and hence derives predictions of such evidence.
The need to have empiricism in research i.e. testability of a theory is key to a successful research. Empirical data is the basis on which scientific knowledge lies. In this context, scientific knowledge is derived or built from two things i.e. theory on one side and evidence on the other. This helps us to accept a natural phenomenon that has the same meaning worldwide. Psychology like all other sciences is always based on evidence. Hence through scientific research, rational statements can be made which are in line with logic and hence termed as cross-cultural.
In simple definition, science as in psychology can termed as the process of trying to enquire and develop an understanding pertaining the natural world and why it is the way it is. The process includes description, explanation, prediction and control of new knowledge. Description helps one to acquire a clear and elaborate picture of a phenomenon and it’s the first step in acquiring scientific knowledge. Then an explanation of the description as to know why the phenomenon happens is vital to satisfy the researcher. This explanation helps to put forward why the phenomenon happen or fails to happen. The explanation is what is termed as theory. The theory offers the chance to predict other occurrences that can happen in the context of the theory. Testing of new predictions gives a practical approach of explanatory command of the theory. A theory that can have many predictions and automatically makes it simple to manipulate into what a researcher needs. Hence the ability to control prediction leads the researcher to getting only the information that he/she need (Howitt & Cramer, 2000).
Scientific inquiry that always tends to follow a given pattern of characteristic is called a hypothetico-deductive method or what is normally called the scientific method. This represents what researchers in psychology go about their work and show a narrow and general view of science. It can also be described the whole episode of going about research from a scratch point. In this case a hypothetico-deductive method helps a researcher move in a sequence of steps that starts from ignorance towards attaining knowledge. The scientific method is composed of five steps i.e. observation, hypothesis, prediction, testing the prediction and the conclusion. On observation, a casual observation can be used. This involves the keenness in noting some new phenomenon of human behavior. An observation comes out of puzzlement of a researcher that motivates the search of an answer to the puzzle (Dyer, 2006).
After an observation has been made, a hypothesis is developed as an explanation of the phenomenon. A psychologist may use other previous situations to formulate the hypothesis of a current observation. The hypothesis is the solid base from research is carried out upon. This is because research is used to test in order to prove or nullify the hypothesis formulated from the observation. A third step of making predictions from the hypothesis is made. This involves formation of a clear, concise and testable statement. This is aimed at giving suggestion of what the results would be if the hypothesis put forward is true. Since many predictions can be made from a single hypothesis, at this point a null and an alternative hypothesis can be decided upon. To prove of nullify the hypothesis bring the forth step of a scientific method; testing the prediction. At this point, field activity is done to collect data and later analyze it. Appropriate research methods are used to collect the raw data from the field from which analysis of the hypothesis will be based upon. Empirical data is best to give sound results. Both quantitative and qualitative data can be collected (Jackson, 2009). The former is subject to statistical analysis while the latter is subject to reduction into a succinct form. The last step which gives a conclusion of the results states whether the hypothesis is true or not. This conclusion is based upon the data collected from and it proves or nullifies the hypothesis.
If a researcher goes to the field and collects their own data for their own use, this is called primary data. However, a researcher may use previously collected data by other different researchers and make conclusions from it. In this case the data is called secondary data as it was not in the first place intended to be used by the second user. A good example would be a ministry of planning taking a head count which later, other ministries in the same government use the same census data to make important deductions. In this example, the planning ministry uses the data as primary while the other ministries utilize it as secondary data. While primary data is time consuming and expensive to obtain, secondary data is readily available and inexpensive to get (Jackson, 2009).
If a research contains quantitative data, statistics is a vital tool in analyzing the data. Statistical knowledge helps mingle diverse data and come up with meaningful or aggregate information that is useful in making decisions. Statistics is inevitable if a psychologist is to make significant conclusions form a research. Statistics of a research helps one to employ the probability theory to predict the trend of a phenomenon and hence provide a suggestion that should be followed.
It is therefore clear that research in psychology is important in trying to explain the nature of human behavioral patterns and why they occur.
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