AQA A-Level Psychology Topics - Research Methods

AQA A-Level Psychology Topics - Research Methods

AQA A-Level Psychology Topics: Research Methods

What are some research methods used in Psychology?

Another post in our series of blogs on Psychology A-level topics, today we consider research methods utilised in psychology research.

Psychologists use many different methods for conducting research. Each method has advantages and disadvantages that make it suitable for certain situations and unsuitable for others.

Descriptive or Correlational Research Methods

Case studies, surveys, naturalistic observation, and laboratory observation are examples of descriptive or correlational research methods. Using these methods, researchers can describe different events, experiences, or behaviors and look for links between them. However, these methods do not enable researchers to determine causes of behavior.

Psychological Tests

Researchers use psychological tests to collect information about personality traits, emotional states, aptitudes, interests, abilities, values, or behaviors. Researchers usuallystandardize these tests, which means they create uniform procedures for giving and scoring them. When scoring a test, researchers often compare subjects’ scores to norms, which are established standards of performance on a test. A well-constructedstandardized test can evaluate subjects better than self-report data.


Unlike correlational research methods or psychological tests, experiments can provide information about cause-and-effect relationships between variables. In an experiment, a researcher manipulates or changes a particular variable under controlled conditions while observing resulting changes in another variable or variables. The researcher manipulates the independent variable and observes the dependent variable. The dependent variable may be affected by changes in the independent variable. In other words, the dependent variable depends (or is thought to depend) on the independent variable.

In any consideration of research methods, we must also discuss Ethics.

Ethics refers to a system of moral values or the way people distinguish right from wrong.

When working with human subjects, researchers must get informed consent from their subjects before beginning research. Informed consent means that subjects must know enough about the research to decide whether to participate, and they must agree to participate voluntarily.

Furthermore, researchers have an ethical obligation to prevent physical and mental harm to their subjects. If there is any risk of harm, they must warn subjects in advance. Researchers also must allow subjects to withdraw from a study at any time if they wish to stop participating. Finally, researchers have an obligation to protect the anonymity of their subjects.

Although most psychological research involves human subjects, some psychologists study animal subjects instead of or in addition to humans.

Many people question the ethics of animal research because it can involve procedures such as deprivation, pain, surgery, and euthanasia. Psychologists have ethical obligations to treat animal subjects humanely and to do research on animals only when the benefits of the research are clear.

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