West Bend East High School, West Bend, WI
Research Methods and Statistics
Author: Ian Walker
APA Style Citation
Walker, I. (2010). Research Methods and Statistics. Palgrave Macmillan.
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Do you struggle to teach research and statistics? Are you fearful of too much technical jargon and lack of student interest? For many high school teachers, the research chapter proves difficult. Decisions must be made on what to cover, what to leave out, how much depth to provide, etc. Author Ian Walker provides a summary of important material pertaining to research methods and statistics to support your research chapter. His language makes an introduction to research accessible, and the organization and examples make for easy reference. To understand the significance of the topic at hand, Walker uses an analogy with research and building a house. A builder is interested in the final product of the house, but he will not complete the house if he does not know how to use the hammer. Research and statistics are psychology’s necessary tools. Knowledge of research techniques provides students with a good set of tools to help promote the understanding of human behavior- the goal of all psychology students.
The first section of the text focuses on research methods. The author points out the importance of the choices made when conducting research. Walker reviews major research methods and concepts such as population vs. sample, validity vs. reliability, observation studies, correlations, and the experimental method to name a few. He notes how the experimental method has a large amount of specialized vocabulary and goes further to provide simple definitions and examples to support one’s understanding of these methods. There is also a focus on clearly differentiating quantitative and qualitative methods. Finally, he addresses research ethics, which is an important topic for introductory students to understand before embarking on any data collection of their own.
The second section focuses on statistics. Descriptive statistics are stripped down and explained for the layperson. The author acknowledges the confusion surrounding statistics and tries to build understanding through clear definitions and examples of basic terminology. Tables and graphs used to display data are differentiated based on the type of research they display, such as bar graphs, histograms, and line graphs. Walker pays particular attention to clarifying the null hypothesis and reinforces this with examples throughout the text. After descriptive statistics, inferential statistics are examined. Walker describes p-value in a way that statisticians may take issue with but that allows for clear understanding for readers or those new to statistics? Less commonly discussed topics in class are also addressed, such as type 1 and 2 errors, chi-square tests, levels of measurement (nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio), one vs. two-tailed hypotheses, parametric vs. non-parametric tests, and the powerful Student’s t-test vs. the less powerful Mann-Whitney U test. While this may sound like a lot of new vocabulary beyond your students’ understanding, the book helps provide a big picture when explaining more simplistic terms or answering student questions. In addition, Walker takes special care when explaining correlations. He uses the analogy that correlations are like being handed a chainsaw. They are useful tools when used properly, but users must be careful. First, correlation must not imply causation! Next, he addresses how only straight lines are visible when conducting correlations. Also, if a correlation is interesting a larger sample should be tested, the p-value should be looked at, and the finding should be sensible. Not every set of numbers should be studied just because they have been collected. The final topic addressed is qualitative data, which is used to explore new ideas but which may eventually be developed into correlational or experimental research. The author discusses how to code data when reading transcripts of interviews to find themes.
The final section focuses on reports that comprise the final write up for a research study and the author’s concluding thoughts. The main sections of the research report are summarized, and an example is provided in each section. The author also offers a few short warnings about statistics, such as floor and ceiling effects, regression to the mean, and the use of outright lies. He points out that research and statistics are everywhere in our lives. The understanding of these tools is essential to practice in the field of psychology. I encourage you rather than fearing the chapter, become familiarized with the terminology and start looking at all of the potential studies that can answer questions in the world around you.
Other Related Resources
Insight Book Series
Research Methods and Statistics is part of a large series of specialty books related to psychology published by Palgrave and available through Macmillan publishing. There are specific books related to a variety of topics in psychology including developmental psychology, social psychology, forensic psychology, psychology and the media, issues and debates in psychology, gender, adolescence and adulthood, biological rhythms and sleep, intelligence and learning, health, sport, schizophrenia, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more.
Author Ian Walker’s Websites
The author of Research Methods and Statistics, Ian Walker, is a professor of psychology at the University of Bath in Great Britain who studies the roles of identity, social norms, and habit in environmental behaviors - particularly travel behaviors - and in road safety settings. The websites provide information about the author's background, research, and teaching.
Guess the Correlation
Guess the Correlation is a website that provides a series of scatterplots about which you can estimate the strength of the correlation. Students can play individually or against an opponent.
Psychological Figures and Concepts
Coefficient of determination
Degrees of freedom
Independent samples design
Levels of measurement
Mann-Whitney U test
Measures of dispersion
Pearson’s product-moment correlation coefficient
Regression to the mean
Repeated measures design
Sampling error or bias
Standard error of the mean
Third variable problem or lurking variable
Type 1 Error
Type 2 Error
Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-ranks test