PSYCHOL 1004 - Research Methods in Psychology

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2016

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
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    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.

    Please note that this course is set up for those students who intend to go on with psychology in second year.
    If you are looking for an elective in psychology, we recommend that instead you choose Psych 1A and/or Psych 1B.

  • 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)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    1, 6
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 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 activities during contact times 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 associated lecture materials will be reiterated and expanded upon. The weekly sessions in the lecture theatre will be highly interactive. A member of the teaching staff will lead and guide students through key conceptual points, illustrating them with reference to actual research, and engaging students with research-related problems that need to be solved. 


    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] There are two assessment products. The first is an assignment that will cover concepts and principles addressed in the first eight weeks of the course. This assignment will be worth 50% of asssessment. Preparing for and completing this assignment = 60 hours

    [b] The second assessment product is an end of semester exam worth 50%. This exam is multiple-choice and open book and will be submitted online in week 13 (swot vac). The exam items will be provided to students approximately 5 weeks ahead of the submission date. Preparing for the exam = 60 hours

    [c] Workshops = 10 hours

    [d] SGDEs = 2 hours

    [d] Pre-recorded online lecture material = 24 hours

    TOTAL = 156 HOURS

    Disclaimer: Assessment details are provisional and subject to change. 
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week Topic Lecture
    Week 1 Housekeeping; the scientific method and the research process Research methods
    Week 2 Operationalizing constructs; IVs and DVs; Ways of measuring; Types of data; Questionnaire design; Validity Research methods
    Week 3 Reliability Research methods
    Week 4 Experimental design; Repeated measured design; Random selection vs random assignment; pre-post intervention design Research methods
    Week 5 Non-experimental design; quasi-experimental design; longitudinal design; 3rd variable problems; threats to validity Research methods
    Week 6 Turning research questions into hypotheses; statistical decision-making; interpreting data Research methods
    Week 7 Probability theory Research methods
    Week 8 Pros and cons of experimental design Research methods
    Week 9 Pros and cons of non-experimental design Research methods
    Week 10 Applying research in the real world 1 Research methods
    Week 11 Applying research in the real world 2 Research methods
    Week 12 Ethical issues in doing research Research methods
    Disclaimer: This program is provisional and subject to change
    Specific Course Requirements
    Please note that if you are unable to attend the weekly sessions in the lecture theatre, then we do not recommend that you take this course.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Each student will have the opportunity to engage in two SGDEs during the course (Weeks 4 and 11; weeks of August 17 and october 19).

    The first SGDE is concerned with issues of academic integrity, including plagiarism. 

    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.

    Disclaimer: The content described here is provisional and subject to change.
  • 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
    Doing and evaluating research paper Summative 50% All

    Open book MCQ online exam
    administered internally in week 13
    Summative 50% All
    Assessment Detail
    • Doing and evaluating research assignment: This assignment will require students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts as covered in the first 8 weeks of the course, and demonstrate how to apply these concepts and principles. 

    * End of semester open book multiple choice exam: The items in this exam test ability to apply learning. Thus, the vast majority of items in the exam are problem-based [as opposed to testing knowledge of facts]. 

    Disclaimer: These assessment details are provisional and subject to change
    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.