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Psychology 242
Research in Psychology
Dr. David J. McKirnan

Week 7
Quasi-Experimental & Field Research

Lecture notes

Baboon culture
  1. Studying naturally occurring events
    • Measurement studies of behavior “in the field”
      • Interviews or surveys
      • Direct observation of behavior
    • Retrospective designs
      • Using existing (“archival”) data
  2. Evaluate existing groups or program
    • Single shot survey or measure
    • Non-equivalent groups; comparing groups that are:
      • Not randomly assigned
      • Self-selected
      • No blind
      • Pre-existing groups

Lecture notes are here.


Suggested background reading: "Quasi-Experimental, Correlational and Naturalistic Research ".


Focus Module:
Quasi-experimental and Field Research.

For lecture & Discussion Group:
Read about a Consumer Reports survey used to evaluate psychotherapy, and a very interesting field study of naturally occurring changes in baboon culture. 

Finally, click the image for a short piece from Slate Magazine on using patterns of correlations to determine if having children directly causes mothers to earn less over their life times. I discuss this in lecture also.

Discussion group Assignment

Rewrite your paper topic and have your journal article abstracts.
Take your discussion from week 5 plus any direct feedback you have gotten to clarify and expand your paper topic.  Try to make your current topic more clear or specific rather than starting from scratch. Change your topic only if you really need to. Remember: experiments only! No measurement or correlational studies.

Again, look at the paper assignment to see what your term paper will consist of.  To get comfortable reading journal articles go to Guide to Psychology Articles.

You must have two references to published, peer-reviewed journal articles in your paper. Bring copies of the abstracts only, not the complete paper, to discussion group this week.

You will complete the Research Flow Worksheet for your study, using what you learned from the last two weeks. In groups you will pair up off and interview each other to expand and clarify your worksheets. Each of you will make notes on the other's worksheet. (.5 extra credit for good notes).

Next week you will turn in your introduction; you will flesh out your Worksheet from this week into actual text. You can get valuable feedback from your TA this week: do a good job and fleshing out your notes into an actual narrative for your introduction will be a snap.

Phenomenon: What is the larger question? What are you interested in explaining? 

Theory:  How does it work? What causes what? Why or how does it happen?

Your theory cannot be just a restatement of what you expect to cause what. You cannot just say "My theory is that stress disrupts learning.." or the like. You must tell us why or how these are related. You can get insights into theory by looking in the index of your Intro. Psychology book, or by the articles you find for this assignment.

If your theory would logically contain a Mediating Variable, describe that. You will not be measuring it for this paper; I want you to stick to a simple independent -- dependent variable structure. However, given that mediator variables often explain how the theory works, cite one if you can.

Be clearer about your Hypothetical Constructs and how they relate to one another.  Now that you got some basic thoughts down from last week, try to hone these into more specific concepts.  Frame these in “cause and effect” -type language to address how or why your phenomenon works. 

Remember - your Introductory text book is a great place to find overviews of (and references to) general psychological theories.

Hypothesis:  What is your specific prediction?

Make a prediction about specific variables that can be operationally defined, and that reflect the hypothetical constructs underlying your theory.  The most common problem students have at this point is not being specific or concrete enough in their hypothesis.

You can be proposing either a true experiment – where you control the Independent Variable and you randomly assign people to experimental v. control groups – or a quasi-experiment where you do not control the IV or you use existing groups. Talk to me or your TA before you propose a quasi-experiment.
We will return to these questions for your assignment in Week 8, where you will begin a first draft of your term paper.

Theories and hypotheses