Topics and Learning Objectives
II. Research Methods
Psychology is an empirical discipline. Psychologists develop knowledge by doing research. Research provides guidance for psychologists who develop theories to explain behavior and who apply theories to solve problems in behavior.
AP students in psychology should be able to do the following:
Differentiate types of research (e.g., experiments, correlational studies, survey research, naturalistic observation, and case studies) with regard to purpose, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Describe how research design drives the reasonable conclusions that can be drawn (e.g., experiments are useful for determining cause and effect; the use of experimental controls reduces alternative explanations.
- Identify independent, dependent, confounding, and control variables in experimental designs.
- Discus the value of operational definitions and measurement in behavioral research.
- Distinguish between random assignment of participants to conditions in an experiment and random selection of participants, primarily in correlational studies and surveys.
- Predict the validity of behavioral explanations based on the quality of the research design (e.g., confounding variables limit confidence in research conclusions).
- Distinguish the purposes of descriptive and inferential statistics.
- Apply basic statistical concepts, including interpreting and constructing graphs and calculating simple descriptive statistics (e.g., measures of central tendency---mean, median, and mode, and measures of variation----range, variance, and standard deviation).
- Identify how ethical issues inform and constrain research practices.
- Describe how ethical and legal guidelines (e.g., those provided by the American Psychological Association, federal regulations, local institutional review boards) protect research participants and promote sound ethical practice.