Monday, 6 February 2017

COLLEGE ESSAYS Research Methods - Case Studies and Experiments

This essay will look at 2 research methods used in psychological research, case studies and experiments. It will analyse the advantages and disadvantages of each method and a conclusion will be drawn.

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour.

Case Study: A research method involving a detailed investigation of a single individual or a single organised group. (Oxford Dictionary of Psychology)

Case studies are a more personal approach to research. It usually focuses on an individual person and with this in mind it can be said that the nature of this method is idiographic. They allow the researcher to analyse unusual cases in great detail. Case studies may also be used to study an individual group of people.

Some case studies are longitudinal in that they are conducted repeatedly over a period of time to gather. Another type of study is retrospective. In this type of study the participant's history is examined. These two types of studies can produce very different results. By using a longitudinal study, the researcher can gather up a lot of information over a long period of time. It can give clear results and are generally objective. If a retrospective study is used, there is the risk of the participant misinforming the researcher either by omission or by an outright lie.

Case studies are individualistic and produce qualitative data. They offer high levels of ecological validity and the reality his high. However, they are difficult to replicate and therefore the reliability of the data may not be accurate. Furthermore, the individual or group being studied may not act in a natural manner either due to nerves or being unwilling giving inaccurate results. There is also the possibility of the researcher being biased further causing inaccurate results.

Due to the idiographic nature of case studies, the results may not be applicable beyond the specific individual or group.

Experiments: A research method whose defining features are manipulation of an independent variable or variables and control of extraneous variables that might influence the dependent variable. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology.

Experiments are the most rigorous means of testing. They consist of 3 important features: manipulation of an independent variable, randomisation and control. These 3 features make experiments more accurate and applicable to everyday life.

The main types of experiments are; laboratory experiments whereby the independent variable is directly manipulated. This produces high levels of control thus giving high replicability. Unfortunately, they lack ecological validity and there can be participant or researcher effects. Field experiments whereby the researcher controls the independent variable but not the extraneous variable, this may then impact upon the independent variable. Field experiments have high levels of ecological validity. Less participant effects can produce more sound results. Unfortunately this type of experiment is more time consuming and there is less control over the extraneous variables. The final type of experiment is the natural experiment. This is where the researcher cannot manipulate the independent variable. This may not produce particularly accurate results and can be considered to be an untrue experiment. This method is more ethical however and has high ecological validity. Unfortunately the uncontrollable independent variables means that the experiment cannit conclude cause and effect.

In conclusion, it is clear that there is no perfect method in which to gather information. If a
combination of these methods can be used then more accurate results may be produced.


Gross, R. Sixth Edition (2010) Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour, Hodder Education, London.

Colman, A. Third edition (2001) Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford University Press Inc. New York

Bailey, J. et al. (2008) AQA Psychology A Exclusively endorsed by AQA, Nelson Thornes Ltd, Cheltenham

Unknown, (2008) AS Level Psychology The Revision Guide Coordination Group Publications Limited Cumbria

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