For a long period of time now, human beings have always yearned to know more by exploration and conducting research. Over the past centuries, many new phenomena have been discovered by man and these have helped broaden the knowledge base in many disciplines. Many investigators have conducted systematic processes of searching knowledge which can be differentiated from other forms of research (McBride, 2009).
Research refers to the systematic quest to establish the underlying facts in every phenomenon which may result in the acquisition of knowledge in the specified field (McBride, 2009). Virtually all disciplines like natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and profession and applied sciences conduct research in order to advance the existing knowledge or discover new ways of solving problems in the respective fields.
There are two common types of research, applied and basic research. Psychological research seeks to provide an understanding of human thought, emotions, as well as behavior (Dyer, 2005). This paper seeks to discuss the science of psychology which is one of the social sciences, explain the scientific method of research, differentiate between qualitative and quantitative data, and to describe the process of constructing a theory and how it can be tested.
For any meaningful conclusion to be made, valid research approaches must be used. The science of psychology refers to the process of using scientific methods to investigate psychological phenomenon with an aim of drawing objective conclusions (Dyer, 2005). Applied research refers to the systematic process of investigation with an aim of discovering new facts, interpreting them, and the development of approaches and ways for the enhancement of human knowledge, especially on scientific concepts of the universe which we live in.
This research aims at solving practical problems that man experiences. The use of scientific approaches by researchers can be regarded optional. In the field of psychology, applied research seeks to solve psychological problems facing human beings. They can be cognitive or overt behavior.
Basic research, on the other hand, can be defined as the investigation conducted in pure science with an aim of increasing the existing scientific knowledge (McBride, 2009). It is different from applied research since it does not seek to solve the problems or phenomenon being explored. Basic research is theoretical in nature.
In psychological research, for instance, basic research is conducted to enhance our understanding of how the human mind works as well as explain human behavior without the need to solve the practical problems that may be experienced in the same cognitive or behavioral aspects (Dyer, 2005).
It is therefore important to note that psychologists must use systematic methods of research, otherwise known as scientific research in order to provide meaningful explanation and prediction of human behavior as well as to solve related psychological problems. Modern methods of scientific research include; experiments, Correlational studies, longitudinal studies.
The use of scientific methods of research is very instrumental for all psychological investigators. Scientific research refers to the use of scientific methods of conducting any investigation (Loker, 2007). Generally, the objectives of any psychological research are to provide explanations, descriptions, prediction of behavior, and also to influence cognitive processes as well as behavior.
This will require the use of a set of scientific principles and steps that are employed by researchers in the formulation of questionnaires, collection of data, and in drawing conclusions. This involves the implementation of a rigorous procedure of scientific research methods.
A psychological researcher must first choose a topic to be investigated and review what has already been done in the same subject. This review will provide a good base for starting off the research, especially on the unanswered questions in the selected field. Then the investigator can move to the first step of the research, which is the formulation of hypothesis.
This refers to the formulation of a well informed presupposition about the existing relationship between two or more variables that are to be investigated (Dyer, 2005).
For instance, in an attempt to find out the relationship between study habits and test anxiety, one would formulate a hypothesis, such as “effective study methods leads to decreased test anxiety”. The variables in this hypothesis statement are test anxiety and study methods which must be given a clear definition before the research commences.
The next step is to develop a study method and to collect the necessary data. The two major methods of research are experimental and descriptive (McBride, 2009). In the case of experimental method of research, an investigator alters the independent variable and notes the effect of the changes on the dependent variable.
Thus, this method establishes the causal relationship. Descriptive method of research involves the need to provide a description of a given psychological orientation or behavior. The relationship between variables can be investigated using the data that would have been collected. Correlation study is the best to use in this case. In the study, the findings can either be positive, negative or not correlated at all.
The third step involves the examination of the data by summarizing, analyzing the data, and drawing meaningful, evidence-based conclusions through statistical interpretation. Once the conclusions have been made, the psychologists can then move to the last step which is reporting the study findings (Dyer, 2005).
The findings can then be peer-reviewed for validation and eventual publication in academic and professional journals. The detailed documentation of what the entire research involved including the procedures helps in the replication of the research by another researcher for verification purposes.
In any psychological study, there are two types of data that can be collected; qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data can be defined as the information that is countable and can be numerically expressed (Dyer, 2005). Such data in psychology can be collected from experiments where variables are altered and data analyzed using statistical values like, mean, mode, average, and so on.
This implies that a psychologist needs to conduct a quantitative research in the fields of psychometrics as well as mathematical psychological research (Loker, 2007). Psychological measurement and testing, for example, are developed from psychometric psychology while mathematical models that aid in describing given psychological processes are developed from mathematical psychology.
Qualitative data, on the other hand, refers to the information gathered through either direct or indirect encounter with the participants. This could be through the use of questionnaires, interviews, literature review, and natural observations (McBride, 2009).
The difference between quantitative and qualitative methods is that in qualitative approach; data cannot be measured numerically but can be very reliable in investigating processes and meanings of given phenomenon. Some aspects that can demand the use of qualitative approach include emotions, feelings, opinions, and other approximations. These methods of collecting data are usually used by researchers, especially when constructing theories.
The process of constructing a theory varies from one discipline to the other. In physics, for instance, the method of constructing a theory can be learned empirically from existing theories, yet the new knowledge can transcend empirical knowledge.
However, psychological theories cannot be established using this method since psychological “theories” are not without exceptions or flaws hence not generally accepted. A theory may be defined as a set(s) of general principles that can be developed using scientific methods in order to explain a given phenomenon (Loker, 2007).
Some of the processes in theory construction include; analogy, induction, generalization, and deduction. These can be performed using the research methods described earlier. Moreover, qualitative concepts in psychological research can be analyzed using the same processes.
The challenge facing theory construction in psychology is because it involves cognitive phenomenon unlike in the physical world where everything can be observed and most can also be altered (Loker, 2007). Any theory must first meet the basic requirement of proposed theory. Then using systematic methods, the proposed theory can be validated empirically and hence become a proved theory (McBride, 2009).
Once the same theory has been tested repeatedly and giving similar outcomes, then it becomes a scientific theory. This implies that for psychological theories, the above methods of research must yield at least corresponding feedback beyond the test of time and context.
The research paper has explored the fundamentals of research methodology, particular in psychological research. It has discussed the science of psychology and how scientific research methods can be used to gain new knowledge and solve problems. Moreover, the differences between qualitative and quantitative data have been pointed out.
The complex process of theory construction and testing in psychology has been discussed briefly. We can conclude that psychology, as a developing discipline needs intensive research so as to formulate enough theories that explains mental phenomenon and behavior as well as solve related problems.
Dyer, C. (2005). Beginning research in psychology: a practical guide to research methods and statistics (3rd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell
Loker, A. (2007). Theory construction and testing in physics and psychology. Trafford Plc.
McBride, D. M. (2009). ‘Psychological research: the whys and hows of the scientific methodology’ [Peer Reviewed Article]. Journal of American Psychological Association. SAGE. 12 (7): 23-72