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Study Experimental Research Methods With Online BA in Psychology

Experimental research is an integral part of modern psychology and its many subfields. Whether controlling all variables in the "laboratory" setting or conducting field research in a less controlled setting, psychological scientists employ methods of scientific inquiry to conduct their research. These methods help researchers achieve accurate results that can be replicated and applied to benefit modern psychological practices.

If you are looking to pursue a career in psychological science, you will need to become well-versed in these various methods of experimental research. Northern Kentucky University's (NKU) fully online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology includes extensive coursework in experimental research based in scientific and quantitative inquiry. The courses in this bachelor's program focus on tailoring study to the unique setting of research in psychological science, preparing degree candidates to be competent researchers and practitioners in the field.

What Is the Basis of Psychological Research?

Fundamentally, psychological science research is based on the scientific method of inquiry, just like any other science. Researchers consider a question or problem to be solved, form a hypothesis to test, design an experiment with measurable variables, conduct the experiment, evaluate data and results, revise the hypothesis and experiment (and re-conduct it) where applicable, and form theories based on the data gathered. Ideally, the empirical and quantitative results and the theories posited are in line with other current theories and research, and are replicable in further research.

The measurable variables in scientific research consist of an independent variable (IV) and a dependent variable (DV). The IV is what the researcher changes or manipulates to cause an effect on the DV, which is what the researcher measures to test that effect. The researcher must also consider (and try to control) extraneous variables that may affect how the participant engages in the test, and therefore affect the measured DV. These can be variables such as participant differences, environmental conditions, and perceived, if unintentional, experimenter bias.

What Makes Research in Psychology Difficult or Unique?

Variables in most "hard" science research are relatively simple to control and measure, making experiments and results easier to analyze and replicate. Variables in psychological science research can be much harder to define and measure, often being somewhat subjective and dependent on individual environments. Defining how psychological emotions and concepts are to be measured is not a simple thing. And controlling extraneous variables is difficult when trying to conduct experiments in the most natural environment possible.

This makes it difficult to design experiments that can accurately test a hypothesis and achieve replicable results. Psychological scientists use unique experimental research methods to address these difficulties and gather accurate data from their research.

What Unique Experimental Research Methods are Common to Psychological Science?

Psychological science researchers often use the process of operationalization to define what exactly is being tested in the experiment and how it will be measured. This process involves narrowing and defining variables in a way that makes them easy to measure empirically and quantitatively. Clearly spelling out every aspect of an experiment is essential to effective operationalization — defining the experimental environment, IV, DV, participant demographics, etc. When researchers carefully operationalize the variables they are testing, the experiment can result in data that can be analyzed accurately as well as research that can be replicated.

In addition, as psychological research focuses on human behavior and the mind, nuances of interaction between the participant, experimenter and environment (extraneous variables) have to be scrutinized, both in the experimental design and in analyzation of results.

Clearly, conducting experimental research in psychological science is challenging. But the findings of this research and the evidence-based strategies built upon it move the field forward. Through earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychological Science online from NKU, you can develop an in-depth understanding of modern experimental research methods and their application to psychological study, as well as how to effectively apply them to your work in the field.

Learn more about the NKU online BA in Psychology program.


Explorable: Operationalization

Psychology: Science in Action

Simply Psychology: Research Variables - Independent, Dependent and Extraneous

Simply Psychology: Experimental Method

Simply Psychology: Psychology as a Science

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