PSYCHOL 1004 - Research Methods in Psychology

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2014

This course introduces students to the basic principles of research methods in Psychology. The focus of the course is on students learning how to do research in Psychology, with an emphasis on student-centred activities and problem solving. Students will learn about such key concepts as the scientific method; operationalizing constructs; independent and dependent variables; data types and ways of measurement; confounding variables; experimental and non-experimental design; questionnaire construction; developing and testing hypotheses; descriptive statistics and describing data graphically; and the ethics of research.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PSYCHOL 1004
    Course Research Methods in Psychology
    Coordinating Unit Psychology
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Assessment Online quiz, practical report, group paper and written examination
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Peter Strelan

    School of Psychology Office: Ph +61 8313 5693; Email
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    Upon completion of the course students will be able to:

    1.  Understand and apply the fundamental principles of the research process as they relate to answering research questions in psychology
    2.    Analyse critically information particularly in relation to identifying causal and spurious relations in research claims
    3.    make decisions about the appropriate use of basic research techniques and research design as they apply to answering different psychological questions
    4.    Utilize specific research skills as they relate to the development and implementation of research designs in psychology, including experimental manipulation, operationalizing variables, measurement, and making decisions about validity and reliability
    5.    Effectively interpret and communicate research findings
    6.    Identify appropriate techniques underlying different research approaches
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1-6
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 5
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 1-6
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 1-6
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1-6
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 1-6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    For additional information regarding required resources please refer to the relevant Undergraduate Program Handbook at the following link:
    Recommended Resources
    Recommended Text
    Pelham & Blanton, Conducting research in psychology: Measuring the weight of smoke,  Wadsorth. Any edition.
    Note that we do not slavishly follow this text. But, it presents ideas in a way that is similar to how we do it and therefore we think it will be most useful for filling in any conceptual gaps. As such, we certainly recommend you purchase it.

    Barr Smith Library – Psychology on the Web
    The Library is a major resource centre for students. The Research Librarian for Psychology, Maureen Bell, provides some useful information through the Internet at The website contains a list of databases, links to tutorials and help with searching methods.

    For additional information regarding recommended resources please refer to the relevant Undergraduate Program Handbook at the following link:
    Online Learning
    In this course you will participate in online learning environments via MyUni ( In your online learning you will read, listen to a number of presentations, be expected to participate in online discussions via discussion boards, and complete and submit assessments online.

    This course may also use MyUni for one or more of the following:
    •    Communication with students via Announcements and Discussion Board
    •    Submission of summative assessment- Access to lecture recordings
    •    Access to tutorial materials
    •    Additional readings
    •    Self-directed learning activities
    •    Exam preparation materials

    Link to MyUni:
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course is about doing psychology. The focus is less on lecturing, and emphatically on students engaging with research principles and techniques in psychology. Thus, the bulk of the course is concerned with students doing – that is, engaging in small group activities to solve problems and undertake tasks that are closely related to lecture content. To facilitate this, contact will be structured such that there will be an initial pre-recorded lecture made available at the start of the week, during which time basic principles will be introduced and tasks/activities/problems will be set. Students may listen to and engage with these lectures at a time of their choosing.

    During the session together in the lecture theatre, key points from the lecture will be reiterated and questions arising will be addressed. Students will then organise themselves into informal groups and engage with set problems. Teaching staff will walk around the theatre to trouble-shoot problems and discuss solutions with students. Then, at the end of the sesson, teaching staff will address solutions and discuss with the student group as a whole.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements:

    a)  Multiple choice quizzes. There will be 4 of these, all conducted online. They will assess students’ understanding of key principles introduced and practiced during the previous weeks. = 4 hours

    b)  Group project research proposal. Students will develop a proposal for an experimental design, on a set research question. The proposal will enable students to demonstrate their grasp of principles concerning operationalization, independent variables (IVs) and dependent variables (DVs), avoiding confounding variables, and the application of good experimental design principles. = 12 hours

    c)  Research report. Students will collect data to test specific research hypotheses on a set topic. This report will enable us to assess all aspects of the course. = 36 hours

    d)  short answer exam. Will assess student’s ability to apply key principles. = 2 hours

    e)  Lectures = 12 hours

    f)  In-theatre small group problem-solving sessions = 24 hours  hours

    g)  Weekly reading, quiz prep = 30 hours

    h)  Exam preparation = 22.5 hours

    i) End of semester examination = 1.5 hours

    TOTAL = 144 HOURS
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week Topic Lecture
    Week 1 Housekeeping; the scientific method and the research process Research methods
    Week 2 Operationalizing constructs; behavioural observation Research methods
    Week 3 Types of data; IVs and DVs; Ways of measuring Research methods
    Week 4 Reliability and validity Research methods
    Week 5 Threats to validity; 3rd variable [spurious and mediating] explanations Research methods
    Week 6 Experimental Design Research methods
    Week 7 Quasi-experimental and non-experimental design Research methods
    Week 8 Turning research questions in testable hypotheses Research methods
    Week 9 Making sense of data Research methods
    Week 10 Questionnaire design Research methods
    Week 11 Ethical issues in doing research Research methods
    Week 12 Longitudinal and pre-post intervention designs Research methods
    Disclaimer: This program is provisional and subject to change
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Each student will have the opportunity to engage in two SGDEs during the course (Weeks of August 13 and September 10).

    The first SGDE is concerned with a fundamental research paradigm used in psychology, experimental design. In this SGDE, students will form small groups in which their task is to design an experiment to address a real world problem with serious consequences: The effect of listening to music on headphones while driving. Students will apply principles of experimental design that they have learnt in a corresponding lecture. Up to 10 different academic members of staff will attend the SGDE in the lecture theatre, walking around the small groups and offering guidance and advice and trouble-shooting. They will also offer their own insights into the experimental work that they do in their own area of research, including insights into the logistical and practical pitfalls and advantages associated with such research. The design that students develop will ultimately be submitted as part of assessment.

    The second SGDE is concerned with a fundamental aspect of research in psychology, ethics. In the first part of the SGDE, students will form small groups in which their task is to act as an ethics committee and debate the merits and otherwise of a contentious research proposal, taking into account ethical considerations mandated by the Australian Psychological Society, to which they will have been introduced in a corresponding lecture. In the second part of the SGDE, students in each group will be allocated different roles and asked to argue particular points for and against a second contentious proposal. In each group an academic member of staff will facilitate the discussion.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Assessment Type Weighting Learning Outcome(s) being assessed
    Multiple Choice Quizzes Summative 20% All
    Small group experimental design proposal Summative 10% 2-6
    Research Report Summative 30% All
    2-hour short answer exam Summative 40% All
    Assessment Detail
    •    Multiple choice quizzes: There will be 4 sets of online multiple choice quizzes over the semester comprising 10 questions each and testing ability to apply principles learned in the preceding weeks. Feedback will be provided.
    •    Small group experimental design proposal: Students will submit a proposal for an experimental design to solve a set problem. This piece of assessment will provide students with direct experience in grappling with the challenges of the most prevalent research design in mainstream psychological research.
    •    Research report: The research report closely resembles the primary way in which scientific researchers communicate with each other: through published peer-reviewed journal articles. Students will write up a report on self-reported data that will provide them with experience in most of the concepts, principles, and techniques introduced in this course: specifically those relating to issues of operationalization of constructs; validity and reliability; types of data, IVs and DVs; ways of measurement; questionnaire development; interpreting data; turning research questions into hypotheses; spurious relationships; issues of causation; and non-experimental and experimental design.
    •    End of semester short answer exam: This will consist of several short answer/essay-type questions requiring students to solve problems—in other words, consistent with the philosophy of the course, which is that students learn best by doing.
    Please refer to the General Handbook for Undergraduate Psychology students (available at the link below) for details on submission process/requirements, penalties for late submission, the process of applying for extensions, and the staff “turn-around” timeline on assessments and the provision of feedback and policy relating to re-submission/redemptive work.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.