Course Exam – Research Methods in Psychology (PSYC 304)

Course Exam – Research Methods in Psychology (PSYC 304)

Another AU course is hot off the press, this time from the Centre for Psychology! Dr. Cheuk Ng, associate professor with the Centre for Psychology and the course author, has just finished revising PSYC 404, renumbered as PSYC 304 (Research Methods in Psychology). According to Dr. Ng, the new course “retains about 80 percent of PSYC 404’s content” which focused on experimental research. He also “added 20 percent new content” that expands on non-experimental research in psychology. The course revision was sparked by the “recommendations in the external B.A. [Bachelor of Arts] (Psychology) Program Review Report (2000),” says Dr Ng, adding that AU’s “Centre for Psychology decided to revise our research methodology course to be more in-line with similar courses offered at other psychology departments.” Furthermore, he states this will also help “ensure transferability of credits.”

Research Methods in Psychology is a three-credit course in the social sciences. It is now a prerequisite for the upcoming PSYC 4XX, Advanced Statistics and Data Analysis, and precluded by PSYC 404 and SOSC 366. In 12 units the course introduces students to the world of research in psychology while the assignments help students practice some of the discussed research methods in an exciting applied manner.

Unit 1 introduces students to the concept of research, and the empirical and non-empirical “ways of knowing.” Students will also become acquainted with the characteristics of science. In Unit 2, students explore variables, focusing on the differences and uses of independent and dependent variables, as well as confounded and qualitative variables. Students will also become familiar with the types of errors and types of measurement (and when they apply), including construct, criterion and content validities. Unit 3 enables students to focus on the topic of validity, addressing both internal and external validities. Additionally, students will become familiar with threats to validity and control in experiments.

In Unit 4, students will have the opportunity to focus on the ethical side of research, studying the American Psychological Association (APA)’s ethical principles and Code of Conduct. Students will discuss many ethical issues, including informed consent, deception, debriefing, privacy, and animal experiments. Units 5 and 6 introduce students to different types of non-experimental results, as well as archival and case studies. In Unit 6, students will focus on survey methods in detail, looking at the types of questions asked, data analysis methods, and sampling types (i.e., systematic and random types). In Unit 7, students become familiar with single participant experimental research in psychology, complete with real-life examples. Unit 8 focuses on other research designs, such as single factor designs, and the differences between true and quasi experiments. Students also look at the various types of pre-test and post-test designs used in psychology research.

Unit 9 introduces students to factorial designs and the concept of main effect. Students also will become familiar with different subject designs, including within subject, between subject, and mixed subject designs. Unit 10 delves in more detail into the differences between true experiments and non-experiments, and illustrates situations in which quasi experiments are used effectively in psychology. As well, students will be introduced to research designs that do not involve control groups. Students will study the situations when these designs are effective. Unit 11 explores the APA’s research guidelines in an applied manner through the careful observation of a sample research report. Finally, Unit 12 enables students to become aware of potential biases and limitations seen in psychology research and their possible effects on society.

Student evaluation in PSYC 304 is through several methods including three quizzes (worth 5 percent each), and five assignments (worth 8, 7, 10, 10, and 15 percent respectively). Two of these assignments involve a special online component that is new to the course, and is destined to help enhance the student’s learning process. The first applied assignment, explains Dr. Ng, involves an online search of a “comprehensive database of academic research in psychology, Psych Info”. The other assignment includes “participation in a web-based demonstration of an experiment developed by the Centre.” This assignment gives students an opportunity for a more applied realization of some aspects of the course content. Students also have the option of completing four online tutorials to sharpen their research methods skills. Lastly, PSYC 304 has a final exam, worth 35 percent.

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