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Define research and the scientific method. Psychologists choose to do research on particular fields of study for a number of reasons. These can be personal interests or financial objectives for the study and research of a given topic. Another possibility of leaning upon a given field for study and research is the motivation to carry out research on a theoretical model which has not been previously verified through empirical research (Leong & Austin, 2006). A psychologist with the will to improve the standards of living for a particular group in a particular society can engage in research. And through a statistical approach devise means to combat certain social ills. These are some of the reasons that compel psychologists to engage in research and apply methods of statistics to classify data and make recommendations on their findings (Leong & Austin, 2006).
Psychologists use research as a means to study human behavior. Everyday people make opinions on aims, inspirations and achievements of other people on a daily basis. In psychology researchers employ scientific techniques to comprehensively understand psychology in a way that is both objective and logical (Leong & Austin, 2006).
Scientific methods or techniques are use in the research for psychology to comprehend, depict explain predict and better influence psychological processes and or behavior. Scientific methods are a set of doctrines and measures used by researchers to develop questions, gather data to achieve conclusions.
The main objective of scientific research to a psychologist is to seek to use the information gathered, disseminated and understood so as to be able to predict and explain human behavior and or change it (Leong & Austin, 2006).
Psychologists perform their research by first forming a hypothesis on a particular field of study. A hypothesis is an informed presumption on possible interactions between two or more factors, make observations and collect data. Refine existing theories through the use of statistics and finally develop further on the theory in question based on statistically justified results (Leong & Austin, 2006).
Scientific researchers use two modes of data, primary and secondary data when undertaking a study on a particular field of psychology. Data is an integral part of all scientific research and is more importantly the foundation for statistical studies (Walliman, 2005). There are factors that a scientific researcher will consider before deciding whether to use primary or secondary data sources.
Primary data information is basically the original or first hand tabulation or text of psychological research that has not been gathered, processed and reported by any other researcher other than the owner. Primary data sources are found in research journals. Primary data has its distinguishing characteristics (Walliman, 2005). Works considered as primary data are created at the time of a psychological occurrence and is usually recorded by an individual directly involved in the event. Other sources of primary data are interviews, original research information, hand written manuscripts, government records and documentation, art, newspapers, artifacts among others many forms. Primary data sources improve the validity; make research information more reliable and authentic (Walliman, 2005).
Secondary data sources are sources of data which have been published. They may be published in many forms; recently the growth of the electronic media and the internet has improved the availability of secondary sources of data. As much as the validity of secondary data is compromised by being time barred, it is never the less important where primary data is not available. Findings of research studies found in published books journals magazines, electronic media are examples of sources of secondary media. Secondary data aids scientific researchers in providing a basis for criticism or interpretation of a particular primary source (Walliman, 2005).
To improve on the reliability validity and authenticity of secondary data, statistical measurement of errors, source bias, and time scale of secondary sources should be thoroughly checked (Walliman, 2005). Research scientists are required to make comparisons of available sources to ascertain these possibilities.
Statistics is a respected subdivision of applied mathematics. It employs both univariate and multivariate measures. Univariate measures are used by psychologist embarking on scientific research of a single variable. Multivariate measures or processes are use when researching on more than one variable (Chow, 2002).
Research scientists understand that it is important to use statistics in their work for a number of reasons. Statistics aids researchers to illustrate data concisely as graphs, shapes, central tendencies and the dispersion of simple frequency distribution of processed data. This in turn helps the researcher to make correct and informed decisions on the characteristics of a particular statistical population through statistical reports made from a sample population (Chow, 2002).
In scientific research, statistics helps to shed light on, defining statistical populations in accepted methods, conclusions on statistical populations are never substantive, and are always empirical (Chow, 2002).
Leong, F.T. L. & Austin, J. T. (2006). The psychology research handbook: a guide for graduate students and research assistants. 2nd illustrated edition, SAGE, Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=j0LNtzRESoEC&dq=the+role+of+research+and+statistics+in+the+field+of+psychology&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Walliman, N., S., R. (2005).Your research project: a step-by-step guide for the first-time researcher. Sage Study Skills Series. Edition 2, illustrated, SAGE, Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=XAHLaZDUnugC&dq=primary+and+secondary+data+sources+in+scientific+research&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Chow, S. L. (2002). Statistics and its role in psychological research. In Methods in Psychological Research, In Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS., Oxford, UK: Eolss Publishers. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://cogprints.org/2782/1/EOLSSsta.pdf