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PSYCH 122 - Research Methods

Use this guide to complete your Psychology 122 research assignment

Start With Background Reading

It's important to begin your research by learning something about your subject; in fact, you won't be able to create a focused, manageable thesis unless you already know something about your topic.

This step is important so that you will:

  • Begin building your core knowledge about your topic
  • Be able to put your topic in context
  • Create research questions that drive your search for information
  • Create a list of search terms that will help you find relevant information
  • Know if the information you’re finding is relevant and useful

Reference sources, like subject-specific encyclopedias are great for background reading because they are authoritative and are filled with thorough yet concise discussions that let you know the “who, what, when, why, and where” information on your topic right at the start of your research. You'll find reference sources in the library and online.

Top Picks for Background Reading

Create Research Questions

Research as InquiryWhen you research, you're trying to understand a topic that interests you and explore answers to questions that help you understand that topic. 

A researcher investigates a topic much like a detective investigates a crime. You may start off with an overriding question -- What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and how does it affect early childhood education programs?  -- but you'll soon find yourself asking many more questions on your journey.

New knowledge inevitably leads to new questions. Think of a television program involving a criminal investigation. Experts arrive on the scene to answer a fundamental question: "What happened here?" But their investigation merely begins with that basic question. Soon they are finding themselves answering more specific questions in order to figure out what happened. Who all was involved with the crime? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen? Were there any witnesses? It is only by answering a series of smaller questions that they are ultimately able to see the big picture.

Watch the video below to learn why you should always begin your search for relevant, credible information by creating a list of research questions that will drive your research.

Types of Research Questions

Good academic communication should include an introduction in which your topic and thesis is clearly defined, an analysis of your topic, and a clear conclusion.

Introduction. Start out by introducing your topic, communicating to your audience why the topic is important, and providing enough background information to allow your audience to understand the analysis that is about to take place. Your introduction is also the logical place to embed your thesis.

Examples of defining/introductory questions:

  • What is __________________________? 
  • Why is ____________________ an important issue?
  • What background information is necessary for me to understand ____________________? 
  • What are the different types of ________________________?

Analysis. All academic research demands analysis. Some projects lend themselves well to a cause/effect structure ("What caused hip-hop to emerge and what are some of the effects its had on American culture?), while other assignments require a pro/con format ("What are the positive aspects of stem cell research? What are some of the negative implications?). Some projects can easily conform to both modes.

Examples of analytical/body questions:

  • What are the causes of ____________________________? 
  • What are the effects of ________________________? 
  • What are the "pro: arguments about __________________________?
  • What are the "con" arguments about  _______________________? 
  • How can I refute arguments about _______________________? 
  • What is being done about _________________________?

Conclusion. Your conclusion allows you to demonstrate to your instructor that you have synthesized the information you found and clearly answered your thesis question (informative projects) or effectively proven your thesis statement (persuasive/argumentative assignments).

Examples of concluding questions:

  •  What conclusions can I draw about ______________________ based on what I read?
  • What do I think should be done about ________________________?