Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology, 4th edition
Book PrefaceIntroduction to Research Methods in Psychology, 4th edition
Modern psychological research is a complex activity. The fourth edition of Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology is one of a set of three books covering the major approaches to psychological research and analysis as currently practised. A single volume combining statistics and research methods to meet the needs of students and researchers is impractical, given the scope of modern psychology. Nowadays the discipline is extremely varied in the styles of research it employs, and the methodological and statistical sophistication that it currently enjoys would have been undreamt of even just a few years ago. Good research requires thought, understanding and experience – it is not a simple rule-following exercise and to pretend that it is does students a disservice. To our minds, the incredible progress of modern psychology means that teaching resources must struggle to keep up-to-date and to cope with the variety of different educational experiences provided by different universities. At heart, each volume in our trilogy is modularly constructed. That is, we do not expect that all their contents will be covered by lecturers and other instructors. Instead, there is a menu of largely self-contained chapters from which appropriate selections can be made.
This is illustrated by the coverage of Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology. This is unusual in that both quantitative and qualitative research are covered in depth. These are commonly but, in our opinion, wrongly seen as alternative and incompatible approaches to psychological research. For some researchers, there may be an intellectual incompatibility between the two. From our perspective, it is vitally important that students understand the intellectual roots of the two traditions, how research is carried out in these traditions, and what each tradition is capable of achieving. We believe that the student who is so informed will be better placed to make intelligent and appropriate choices about the style of research appropriate for the research questions they wish to address. On its own, the qualitative material in this fourth edition effectively supports much of the qualitative research likely to be carried out today. There is as much detailed practical advice and theory as is available in most books on qualitative research methods. (If more is required, the book by Dennis Howitt (2013), Introduction to Qualitative Methods in Psychology, Harlow: Pearson Education will probably meet your requirements.)
But this is in addition to the quantitative coverage, which easily outstrips any competition in terms of variety, depth and authority. We have tried to provide students with resources to help them in ways largely ignored by most other texts. For example, the chapter on literature searches is extremely comprehensive and practical. Similarly, the chapter on ethics meets the most recent standards and deals with them in depth. The chapter on writing research reports places report writing at the centre of the research process rather than as an add-on at the end. We would argue that a student requires an understanding of the nature of research in psychology to be able to write a satisfactory research report. However, we have included a chapter which illustrates many of the problems that are found in research reports in response to requests for such material. You will also find some discussion of statistics in this book. For the most part, this is when dealing with topics which are missing from the popular SPSS-based statistics textbooks, simply because SPSS does not cover everything useful in psychological research.
As far as is possible, we have tried to provide students with practical skills as well as the necessary conceptual overview of research methods in modern psychology. Nevertheless, there is a limit to this. The bottom line is that anyone wishing to understand research needs to read research, not merely plan, execute, analyse and write-up research. Hence, almost from the start we emphasise that reading is not merely unavoidable but crucial. Without such additional reading, the point of this book is missed. It is not intended as a jumble of technical stuff too boring to be part of any module other than one on research methods. The material in the book is intended to expand students’ understanding of psychology by explaining just how researchers go about creating psychology. At times this can be quite exciting as well as frustrating and demanding.
This is the fifth book the authors have written together. It is also the one that came close to spoiling a long friendship. What became very clear while writing this book is how emotive the topic of research methods can be. We found out, perhaps for the first time, how different two people’s thinking can be, even when dealing with seemingly dry topics. As a consequence, rather than smooth over the cracks, making joins when this was not possible, you will find that we have incorporated the differences of opinion. This is no different from the disparity of positions to be found within the discipline itself – probably less so.
The main features of this book are:
● In-depth coverage of both quantitative and qualitative methods
● A range of pedagogic features including summaries, exercises, boxes and step-by-step instructions where appropriate
● Analysis strategies provided for the research designs discussed
● Detailed information about the structure, purpose and contents of research reports
● The use of databases and other resources
● Suggestions about how to develop research ideas for projects and similar studies
● Ethics as an integral feature of the work of all psychologists.
Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology is part of the trilogy of books which includes Introduction to Statistics in Psychology and Introduction to SPSS Statistics in Psychology. In Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology we have tried to make the presentation both clear in terms of the text but with additional visual learning aids throughout the book. We have added SPSS and other computer program instructions to the statistics book, though we have kept these instructions as short and to the point as possible. Students are well used to computers and so we have provided the major steps together with some screenshots just as a means of checking progress in the analysis. Anyone needing a quick and foolproof introduction to the use of SPSS will find this in the Introduction to SPSS Statistics in Psychology. We are determined to provide resources for students which are both user-friendly and professionally orientated. Increasingly, research is part of many of the different sorts of careers that psychology students enter – we simply hope that our books speed the user towards a considered, mature approach to research.
Education is a cooperative effort. So should you find errors then please let us know. These can be difficult to spot but easy to correct – some corrections can be made when a book is reprinted. Ideas and comments of any sort would be most welcome.
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