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Understanding Psychological Research: An Academic Report

Section One: The Scientific Method and Its Benefits in Psychological Research

You are required to write an academic report that demonstrates your understanding of psychological research.

Your report must include the sections that are outlined in the assessor guidance document. This can be found in the “Download Assessor Guidance” below. 

Explain what is meant by “the scientific method”.


You should identify what is meant by the scientific method, the methodology that makes psychology scientific, and explain the benefit of this in terms of the validity of psychological research, for example, research designs (repeated measures, independent measures design) and research methods (sampling strategies, variables – IV, DV and the control of extraneous variables).

Outline two research methods, one experimental and one non-experimental, used in psychology study and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

Describe the key points of one of the experimental methods (laboratory, field or natural) and evaluate this method.

Describe the key points of one of the non-experimental methods (naturalistic observation, questionnaire, interview, case study) and evaluate this method.

Luke is 13 years old. He is behaving in a very aggressive manner at home. This is becoming an increasing concern for his mum and she confides in her friend that her daughter, Kate, was never as aggressive as her brother. What is going on? Apply psychological understanding to explain Luke’s behaviour.

You need to explain why Luke might be behaving in this way using two of the following psychological approaches:- Biological, Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Cognitive and Behavioural (this includes classical and operant conditioning and social learning theory).

You need to outline the main elements of the two chosen approaches and provide an evaluation of both approaches by considering their strengths and weaknesses.

Read the following details about The Pygmalion Effect by Rosenthal and Jacobson 1968, a significant psychological study.

Professor Rosenthal, of Harvard University, and Jacobson, a principal of an elementary school in San Francisco, carried out an interesting field experiment to determine whether teachers’ expectations of students’ performance actually had any effect on how well the students learned throughout the year. Did what the teachers expect of their students come to fruition?To start their study, Rosenthal and Jacobson gave 18 classes of students, aged 4 to 16, an intelligence test so that the researchers could see if there was a development through the year in which they carried out the study. Then they chose 20 per cent of the students at random and told the teachers that these children showed ‘unusual potential for intellectual growth’, and that they could be expected to ‘bloom’ during the year. However, because they were randomly selected, there was no relationship between the score they achieved on the test and this claim made by the psychologists. At the end of the school year the students were retested. Those labelled as intelligent showed a significantly greater increase in test scores than the other children who were not singled out for the teacher’s attention. The researchers explained this by using the ‘selffulfilling prophecy’ that the teachers’ expectations influenced the performance of the students.

Is this study ethical? Refer to the ethical guidelines for psychological research and state your reasons. Discuss some other research in your course materials that have led you to consider the importance of ethical guidelines for psychological research.

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