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Chapter 7 - Analysing the Data Part IV - Analysis of Variance Chapter 1 - Behavioural Science and research Chapter 2 - Research Design Chapter 3 - Collecting the Data Chapter 4 - Analysing the Data Part I - Descriptive Statistics Chapter 5 - Analysing the Data Part II - Inferential Statistics Chapter 6 - Analysing the Data Part III - Common Statistical Tests Sources of data Samples and populations Sampling methods Quantitative and qualitative approaches Questionnaire design Coding of data Readings and links


Chapter 3: Collecting the Data


Sources of Data

Having settled on a design and an operationalisation of your construct or constructs, the next step is actual data collection. But where do you get the data? And from whom should the data be collected?

Clearly, your data should come from the participants that are both available to you and relevant to the question you are studying. Ideally, if we were interested in understanding human behaviour generally, weÕd randomly pick people from the population of people of interest to be in the study. By randomly picking people, you know that there is no way any of the results could be attributed to the biases in your selection of research participants. Of course, this is next to impossible, even if your population was quite small. Fortunately, it isnÕt typically necessary. With all its problems, most psychological scientists use participants that are conveniently available, and that often means university students because a substantial proportion of research psychologists are employed at universities. The discipline of psychology has been criticised for this reason as not the study of human behaviour but the study of the psychology of the university student. In some cases, this would present a big problem. If university students differ from other people in important and fundamental ways related to the phenomenon under study, then any results found may apply only to university students, or students who attend the particular university where the research is being conducted, or even students who attend the particular class taught by the investigator. For example, university students tend to younger and smarter, from wealthier backgrounds, and from the one predominant culture, than the "average" member of the population. But fortunately, much of the research conducted by psychological science is more general, in the sense that we have no reason to believe that, for example, very basic cognitive processes differ as a function of age, or IQ, or background. Similarly, when a social situation is constructed and students are placed in that situation, it is reasonable in many circumstances to expect that their behaviour would be representative of how other people might tend to behave in that situation. But this isnÕt always true. It depends on the area of investigation. Ray discusses several approaches to sampling (Chapter 13) which you should be familiar with.

Having established who will provide the data, the next question is how to get the data. You could have people fill out questionnaires or surveys, place people in situations and see how they behave, or place them in front of a computer and see how long it takes them to respond. You could make requests of them, probe them about their past, or manipulate things in their environment and see how they react. It all depends on what you are studying. And so this is another area in which creativity enters into psychological science. How you conduct your study is entirely up to you, so long as you do it convincingly, and within ethical considerations.

Not all psychological science directly uses people as the source of the data. Often, we use other sources of information about behaviour. For example, one published study used information that people gave in advertisements for a sexual or romantic partner. This is called archival research, where you use published information and use it as the source of data in your study. Other forms of archival research include the use of published data sets, such as those that you can obtain from various research organisations or statistics bureaus. While you have no control over HOW the data were collected, often it is easy to get massive amounts of data through such sources. Another form of data collection is computer simulation. Computer simulation is often used when it is impossible to construct complex situations but it is possible to mathematically model those situations. By manipulating various unknowns, you can see how it affects other parts of the system of relationships being modelled. One other approach is to study existing published research. That is, extract information from other peopleÕs research. This is called "meta-analysis". So not all psychological research requires human or other animal participants.




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