GOALS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ENQUIRY
- In a psychological study, we attempt to describe a behaviour or a phenomenon as accurately as possible.
- This helps in distinguishing a particular behaviour from other behaviours.
- Within a particular category there may be further minute descriptions.
- The description requires recording of a particular behaviour which helps in its proper understanding.
- The second goal of scientific enquiry is prediction of behaviour.
- If you are able to understand and describe the behaviour accurately, you come to know the relationship of a particular behaviour with other types of behaviours, events, or phenomena.
- You can then forecast that under certain conditions this particular behaviour may occur within a certain margin of error.
- Prediction becomes more accurate with the increase in the number of persons observed.
- The third goal of psychological enquiry is to know the causal factors or determinants of behaviour.
- Psychologists are primarily interested in knowing the factors that make behaviour occur.
- Also, what are the conditions under which a particular behaviour does not occur.
- If you are able to explain why a particular behaviour occurs, you can control that behaviour by making changes in its antecedent conditions.
- Control refers to three things: making a particular behaviour happen, reducing it, or enhancing it.
- The final goal of the scientific enquiry is to bring out positive changes in the lives of people.
- Psychological research is conducted to solve problems in various settings.
- Because of these efforts the quality of life of people is a major concern of psychologists.
- Scientific enquiry is also conducted to develop new theories or constructs, which leads to further research.
Steps in Conducting Scientific Research
- Science is not so defined by what it investigates as by how it investigates.
- The scientific method attempts to study a particular event or phenomenon in an objective, systematic, and testable manner.
- The objectivity refers to the fact that if two or more persons independently study a particular event, both of them, to a great extent, should arrive at the same conclusion.
- The second characteristic of scientific research is that it follows systematic procedure or steps of investigation.
Conceptualising a Problem
- The process of scientific research begins when a researcher selects a theme or topic for study.
- Then s/he narrows down the focus and develops specific research questions or problems for the study.
- This is done on the basis of review of past research, observations, and personal experiences.
- After identification of the problem, the researcher proceeds by developing a tentative answer of the problem, which is called hypothesis.
- The second step in scientific research is to collect data.
- Data collection requires developing a research design or a blueprint of the entire study.
- Depending upon the nature of the study, the researcher has to decide who would be the participants in the
- The second decision is related to the use of methods of data collection, such as observation method, experimental method, correlational method, case study, etc.
- The next step is to analyse data so collected through the use of statistical procedures to understand what the
- This can be achieved through graphical representations and by the use of different statistical methods.
- The purpose of analysis is to verify a hypothesis and draw conclusions accordingly.
Revising Research Conclusions
- S/he has to see whether the conclusions support this hypothesis.
- If they do, the existing hypothesis/ theory is confirmed.
- If not, s/he will revise or state an alternative hypothesis/theory and again test it based on new data and draw conclusions which may be verified by future researchers.
- Thus, research is a continuous process.
Alternative Paradigms of Research
- human behaviour is predictable, caused by internal and external forces, and can be observed, measured, and
- It takes the stand that, in view of complex and variable nature of human behaviour and experience, its method of investigation should be different from the method of investigation of the physical world.
- This viewpoint emphasises the importance of how human beings give meaning to events and actions and interpret them as they occur in a particular context.
- we need to understand the subjective interpretation of the reality.
- The goal here is to explore the different aspects of human experiences and behaviour without attempting to disturb its natural flow.
- Both scientific and interpretive traditions are concerned with studying behaviour and experiences of others.
NATURE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DATA
- Psychologists collect a variety of information from different sources employing diverse methods.
- The information, also called data (singular = datum), relate to the individuals’ covert or overt behaviour, their
subjective experiences, and mental processes.
- Data form an important input in psychological enquiry.
- They in fact approximate the reality to some extent and provide an opportunity to verify or falsify our ideas, hunches, notions, etc.
- It should be understood that data are not independent entities.
- data are not independent of the physical or social context, the persons involved, and the time when the behaviour occurs.
- data does not in itself speak about reality.
- Inferences have to be made from data.
- A researcher attaches meaning to the data by placing it in its proper context.
- This information generally includes personal information
- This category includes information about ecological conditions
- In some studies physical, physiological and psychological .
- Psychological information collected, may relate to such areas as intelligence, personality, interest, consciousness, subjective experiences, etc.
SOME IMPORTANT METHODS IN PSYCHOLOGY
- Observation is a very powerful tool of psychological enquiry.
- It is an effective method of describing behaviour.
- A scientific observation differs from day-to-day observation
- Psychologists do not observe all the behaviour that they encounter.
- Rather, they select a particular behaviour for observation.
- While observing, a researcher records the selected behaviour using different means, such as marking tallies for the already identified behaviour whenever they occur, taking notes describing each activity in greater detail using short hand or symbols, photographs, video recording, etc
Analysis of Data
- After the observations have been made, psychologists analyse whatever they have recorded with a view to
derive some meaning out of it.
- It is important to know that making good observations is a skill.
- A good observer knows what s/he is looking for, whom s/he wants to observe, when and where the observation
needs to be made, in what form the observation will be recorded, and what methods will be used to analyse the observed behaviour.
Types of Observation
Naturalistic vs Controlled Observation
- When observations are done in a natural or real-life settings it is called naturalistic observation.
- In this case the observer makes no effort to control or manipulate the situation for making an observation.
- This type of observation is conducted in hospitals, homes, schools, day care centers, etc.
- controlled laboratory situation. This type of observation, called Controlled Laboratory Observation, actually,
is obtained in laboratory experiments.
Non-Participant vs Participant Observation
- the type of observation in which researcher is in involved is called non-participant observation.
- The danger in this type of setup is that the very fact that someone is sitting and observing may bring a change in the behaviour of students and the teacher.
- In participant observation, the observer becomes a part of the school or the group of people being observed.
- In participant observation, the observer takes some time to establish a rapport with the group so that they start accepting her/him as one of the group members.
- the degree of involvement of the observer with the group being observed would vary depending upon the focus of the study.
- The observation method is that it enables the researcher to study people and their behaviour in a naturalistic
situation, as it occurs.
- the observation method is labour intensive, time consuming, and is susceptible to the observer’s bias.
- Our observation is influenced by our values and beliefs about the person or the event
- the observer should record the behaviour as it happens and should not interpret the behaviour at the time of
- Experiments are generally conducted to establish cause-effect relationship between two sets of events or variables in a controlled setting.
- In the experiment, cause is the event being changed or manipulated. Effect is the behaviour that changes because of the manipulation.
The Concept of Variable
- in the experimental method, a researcher attempts to establish causal relationship between two variables.
- Any stimulus or event which varies, that is, it takes on different values and can be measured is a variable.
- An object by itself is not a variable.
- Independent variable is that variable which is manipulated or altered or its strength varied by the researcher in the experiment.
- It is the effect of this change in the variable which the researcher wants to observe or note in the study.
- The independent variable was presence or absence of other persons in the room.
- The variables on which the effect of independent variable is observed is called dependent variable.
- Dependent variable represents the phenomenon the researcher desires to explain.
- It is expected that change in the dependent variable will ensue from changes in the independent variable.
- independent and dependent variables are interdependent.
- Neither of them can be defined without the other.
- independent variable chosen by the researcher is not the only variable that influences the dependent variable.
- Independent and dependent variables are chosen because of the researcher’s theoretical interest.
- extraneous variables need to be controlled in an experiment so that a researcher is able to pin-point the cause and effect relationship between independent and dependent variables.
Experimental and Control Groups
- Experiments generally involve one or more experimental groups and one or more control groups.
- An experimental group is a group in which members of the group are exposed to independent variable manipulation.
- The control group is a comparison group that is treated in every way like the experimental group except that the manipulated variable is absent in it.
- in an experiment, except for the experimental manipulation, other conditions are kept constant for both experimental and control groups.
- One attempts to control all those relevant variables which can influence the dependent variable.
- All relevant variables in experimental studies that might influence the dependent variable need to be controlled.
- Exposure to many conditions may result in experimental fatigue, or practice effects, which may influence the
results of the study and make the interpretation of the findings difficult.
- Since the goal of an experiment is to minimise extraneous variables, the best way to handle this problem is to eliminate them from the experimental setting.
- Elimination is not always possible. In such cases, effort should be made to hold them constant so that their effect remains the same throughout the experiment.
- For controlling organismic and background variables matching is also used. In this procedure the relevant variables in the two groups are equated or are held constant by taking matched pairs across conditions of the experiment.
- Counter-balancing technique is used to minimize the sequence effect
Strength and limitation
- The strength of a well-designed experiment is that it can provide, relatively speaking, a convincing evidence of a cause-effect relationship between two or more variables.
- experiments are often conducted in a highly controlled laboratory situation.
- In this sense, they only simulate situations that exist in the outside world.
- They are frequently criticised for this reason.
- The experiments may produce results that do not generalise well, or apply to real situations.
- they have low external validity.
- limitation of the laboratory experiment is that it is not always feasible to study a particular problem experimentally.
- it is difficult to know and control all the relevant variables.
Field Experiments and Quasi Experiments
- If a researcher wants to have high generalisability or to conduct studies which are not possible in laboratory settings, s/he may go to the field or the natural setting where the particular phenomenon actually exists.
- it is more timeconsuming and expensive.
- Many variables cannot be manipulated in the laboratory settings.
- In quasi experimentation the independent variable is selected rather than varied or manipulated by the experimenter.
- a quasi experiment attempts to manipulate an independent variable in a natural setting using naturally occurring groups to form experimental and control groups.
- The strength and direction of the relationship between the two variables is represented by a number, known as
- Its value can range from +1.0 through 0.0 to –1.0.
- A positive correlation indicates that as the value of one variable (X) increases, the value of the other variable (Y) will also increase.
- Similarly when variable X decreases, a decrease in Y too takes place.
- negative correlation tells us that as the value of one variable (X) increases, the value of the other (Y) decreases.
- It is also possible that sometimes no correlation may exist between the two variables. This is called zero correlation.
- This indicates that no significant relationship exists between two variables or the two variables are unrelated.
- Survey research came into existence to study opinions, attitudes and social facts.
- Their main concern initially was to find out the existing reality or baseline.
- The survey research uses different techniques for collecting information.
- The interview method is one of the most frequently used methods for obtaining information from people.
- It is used in diverse kinds of situations.
- An interview is a purposeful activity conducted to derive factual information, opinions and attitudes, and reasons for particular behaviour, etc. from the respondents.
- It is generally conducted face-to-face but sometimes it can also take place over the phone.
structured or standardised, and unstructured or non-standardised.
- This distinction is based upon the type of preparation we make before conducting the interview.
- As we have to ask questions during the interview, it is required that we prepare a list of questions before-hand. The list is called an interview schedule.
- A structured interview is one where the questions in the schedule are written clearly in a particular sequence.
- The interviewer has little or no liberty to make changes in the wordings of the questions or the order in which they are to be asked.
- The responses to these questions are also, in some cases, specified in advance. These are called close-ended questions.
- in unstructured interview the interviewer has the flexibility to take decisions about the questions to be asked, the wording of the questions, and the sequence in which questions are to be asked.
- responses are not specified in such type of interviews, the respondent can answer the questions in the way s/he chooses to. Such questions are called open-ended questions.
Individual to Individual : It is a situation where one interviewer interviews another person.
Individual to Group : In this situation, one interviewer interviews a group of persons. One variant of it is called a Focus Group Discussion (FGD).
Group to Individuals : It is a situation where one group of interviewers interview one person. .
Group to Group : It is a situation where one group of interviewers interview another group of interviewees.
- Interviewing is a skill which requires proper training.
- A good interviewer knows how to make the respondent at ease and get the optimal answer.
- S/he remains sensitive to the way a person responds and, if needed, probes for more information.
- If the respondent gives vague answers, the interviewer may try to get specific and concrete answers.
- The interview method helps in obtaining in-depth information.
- It is flexible and adaptable to individual situations, and can often be used when no other method is
possible or adequate.
- It can be used even with children, and non-literate persons.
- An interviewer can know whether the respondent understands the questions, and can repeat or
- The questionnaire is the most common, simple, versatile, and low-cost self-report method of collecting information.
- It consists of a predetermined set of questions.
- The respondent has to read the questions and mark the answers on paper rather than respond verbally to the interviewer.
- They are in some ways like highly structured interviews.
- Questionnaires can be distributed to a group of persons at a time who write down their answers to the questions and return to the researcher or can be sent through mail.
- With open-ended questions, the respondent is free to write whatever answers/he considers appropriate.
- In the closedended type, the questions and their probable answers are given and the respondent is required to select the correct answer.
- The main problem of a mailed questionnaire is poor response from the respondents.
- Surveys are also conducted through telephone, and now-a-days you must have seen programmes asking you to send your views through mobile phones’ SMS.
- The telephone survey helps in reducing time.
- the respondents do not know the interviewer, the technique is fraught with uncooperativeness, reluctance, and superficial answers by the respondents.
- This will lead to very biased kinds of results.
Advantage and Disadvantage
- The researcher needs to exercise caution in selecting a particular method.
- information can be gathered quickly and efficiently from thousands of persons.
- surveys can be conducted quickly, public opinions on new issues can be obtained almost as soon as the
- people may give inaccurate information because of memory lapses or they may not want to let the researcher know what they really believe about a particular issue.
- People sometimes offer responses they think the researcher wants to hear.
- Assessment of individual differences has remained one of the important concerns of psychology from the very beginning.
- Psychologists have constructed different types of tests for assessment of various human characteristics
- a test contains a number of questions, called items, with their probable responses, which are related to a particular human characteristic or attribute.
- It is important here that the characteristic for which a test has been developed, should be defined clearly and
unambiguously, and all items should be related to that characteristic only.
- a psychological test is a standardised and objective instrument which is used to assess an individual’s standing in relation to others on some mental or behavioural characteristics.
- Objectivity refers to the fact that if two or more researchers administer a psychological test on the same group of people, both of them would come up with more or less the same values for each person in the group.
- In order for a psychological test to become an objective measure, it is essential that items should be worded in such a manner that they communicate the same meaning to different readers.
- the instructions to the test takers about how to answer the test items should be specified in advance.
- The construction of a test is a systematic process and involves certain steps.
- Reliability of the test refers to the consistency of scores obtained by an individual on the same test on two different occasions.
- It is computed by finding out co-efficient of correlation between the two sets of scores on the same set of persons.
- split-half reliability gives an indication about the degree of internal consistency of the test.
- This is based on the assumption that items of a test if they are from the same domain should correlate with each other.
- For a test to be usable, it should also be valid.
- a test becomes a standardised test when norms are developed for the test.
- norm is the normal or average performance of the group.
Types of Tests
- Psychological tests are classified on the basis of their language, mode of administration, and difficulty level.
- Depending upon the language, we have verbal, non-verbal, and performance tests.
- Literacy is required for taking verbal tests as the items have to be written in some language.
- In non-verbal tests, items are made of symbols or pictures.
- Performance tests require movement of objects from their respective places in a particular order.
- Depending upon the mode of administration, psychological tests are divided into individual or group tests.
- An individual test is administered by the researcher to one person at a time, while group tests can be administered to large number of persons at the same time.
- In individual tests, the researcher administers the test face to face and remains seated before the test taker and
notes down the responses.
- Individual tests are time consuming, but are important ways of getting responses from children, and from those who do not know the language.
- Group tests are easy to administer and are also less time consuming.
- In a speed test, there is a time limit within which the test taker is required to answer all the items.
- power test assesses the underlying ability of the individuals by allowing them sufficient time, i.e. these tests do not have any time limit.
- In a power test, the items are generally arranged in an increasing order of difficulty.
- The test user or the decision maker should not rely on any single test.
- In this method, the emphasis is given on indepth study of a particular case.
- Researchers focus on cases which can provide critical information or new learning on less understood phenomena.
- The cases that we select for study are unique and, therefore, are rich in information.
- Case studies provide a narrative or detailed descriptions of the events that take place in a person’s life.
- A case study is a valuable research tool in the field of clinical psychology and human development.
- Freud’s insights that led to the development of psychoanalytic theory emerged from his observations and showed that meticulous records must be maintained on individual cases.
- Piaget developed his theory of cognitive development on the basis of observations of his three children.
- Case studies provide detailed in-depth depictions of people’s lives.
- The problem of validity in a single case study is quite challenging. It is recommended that the information should be collected using multiple strategies from different sources of information by a number of investigators.
- Careful planning of data collection is also very necessary.
- the process of data collection the researcher is required to maintain a chain of evidence for linking various data sources having bearing on the research questions.
- the researcher should not depend upon only one method.
- A combination of two or more methods should be used to get the real picture.
- If the methods converge, i.e. they give the same results, one can certainly be more confident.
LIMITATIONS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ENQUIRY
Lack of True Zero Point
- Psychological measurements do not have a true zero point.
- The problem in such type of assessment is that the difference between first and second rank holders may not be the same as is the difference between the second and third rank holders.
- This also illustrates the relative nature of the psychological measurement.
Relative Nature of Psychological Tools
- Psychological tests are developed keeping in view the salient features of a particular context.
- tests need to be properly modified and adapted keeping in view the characteristics of the context in which they
are to be used.
Subjective Interpretation of Qualitative Data
- Data from qualitative studies are largely subjective since they involve interpretation on the part of the researcher as well as the person providing data.
- The interpretations may vary from one individual to the other.
- It is, therefore, often suggested that in case of qualitative studies, the field work should be done by more than one investigator, who at the end of the day should discuss their observations and arrive at an agreement before finally giving it a meaning.
- one is better off, if the respondents too are involved in such meaning-making process.
- This principle states that the persons on whom you want to conduct the study should have the choice to decide whether to participate or not to participate in the study.
- The participants should have the freedom to decide about their participation without any coercion or excessive inducement, and the freedom to withdraw from the research without penalty, once it has begun.
- It is essential that the participants in a study should understand what will happen to them during the
- The principle of informed consent states that potential participants must receive this information before data from them are collected, so that they make an informed decision about participation in the study.
- They may at times be required to give some private information, which is generally not shared with others.
- It is important that the participants are explained the nature of the study before its actual commencement.
- Once the study is over, the participants are provided with necessary information to complete their understanding of research. T
- his is particularly important if deception has been used in the study.
- Debriefing ensures that participants leave the study in the same physical and mental state as when they entered. It should offer reassurance to the participants.
- The researcher should make efforts to remove any anxiety or other adverse effects that participants may have
felt as a result of being deceived in the course of the study.
Sharing the Results of the Study
- In psychological research, after collecting information from the participants, we come back to our places of work, analyse the data and draw conclusions.
- It is obligatory for the researcher to go back to the participants and share the results of the study with them.
- When you go for data collection, the participants develop certain expectations from you.
- you fulfil the expectations of the participants.
- The participants may tell you their opinion about the results, which sometimes may help you develop new insights.
Confidentiality of Data Source
- The participants in a study have the right to privacy.
- The researcher must safeguard their privacy by keeping the information provided by them in strict confidence.
- The information should only be used for research purposes and, in no circumstances, it should be passed on to other interested parties.
- The most effective way of protecting the confidentiality of participants is not to record their identities.
- This is, however, not possible in certain kinds of research.
- In such cases, code numbers are given on the data sheet, and the names with the codes are kept separately. The identification list should be destroyed as soon as the research is over.