Scientific Method in Psychology Part 2: Experimental and Applied Research, Focus Groups, and Content Analysis for Competitive Exams

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Content Analysis

  • Part of archival research: An approach for systematically categorizing and analyzing the content of the behavior or its related aspects/variables being studied.
  • The analysis may cover contents of live human behavior, books, journals, magazines, poetry, drama, movies, folktales, TV programs, school textbooks and curricula, advertisements etc.
  • Inferences are made and conclusions are drawn after objective identification of specific characteristics of contents.
  • Content analysis is done keeping specific goals, objectives, themes and constructs in mind.
  • Example: Content analysis of textbooks with reference to gender equity and equality; analysis of TV programs with reference to portrayal of women.

Focus Groups

  • A variety of interviews conducted in a group setting.
  • The researcher talks to the participants in order to learn about their opinions, attitudes, preferences and likes/dislikes and tries to find out their reasons/cause.
  • Used as a source of data collection in surveys but also used otherwise as well.


  • A statistics based method
  • A way of reviewing existing research literature in the same field, about the same phenomena
  • The analysis covers the results of several independent experiments within the same field
  • Computer aided statistical analysis yields overall conclusions

Experimental Research

  • Experimental method: the use of experimentation for studying a phenomenon.
  • Experimental design: the plan/structure/lay out of an experiment.
  • Experiment: the variable of interest (independent variable) is manipulated/altered and the effect of this manipulation is studied.

Why Experiments Are Conducted?

  • For testing hypotheses
  • To test the impact of a treatment or a program on behavior
  • The main feature of experimentation is CONTROL; keeping all those variables and conditions under control, that can have an impact on the findings of the study i.e.. , variables that can interfere with the impact of the independent variable.


  • Independent Variable

Independent Variable (IV) : The variable whose impact is being studied; that is manipulated … in terms of kind or level.

  • Dependent Variable (DV) : The measure of behavior on which the impact of independent variable is being studied.
  • Control variable (CV) : A potential independent variable that can have an impact upon dependent variable; it has to be controlled.

Groups in a Typical Experiment

i. Experimental Group: This is treated with the independent variable.

iii. Control Group; the no-treatment group that is kept under controlled conditions.

Experimental Designs

i. Within- Subjects Design

  • The experimental design in which the subjects՚ performance is compared with their own performance i.e.. , only one group of subjects is used.
  • Before-After No Control Group Design:
  • Varieties of Before-after no control group designs: ABABA and ABABABBA designs

ii. Between- Subjects Design

  • The experimental design in which two or more groups of subjects are used and their performance is compared with each other:
    • Classical Experimental Design
    • After- Only Experimental Design

Problems associated with experimental research:

  • Artificiality of behavior is a possibility
  • Subjects may be under stress or pressure
  • Time consuming and expensive
  • Ethical issues: can we tell all about the nature of experiment to the subjects? ? ?

Applied Research: Quasi Experimentation

  • Kind of research that fits into the experimental framework, although it is not planned, initiated or controlled by the experimenter: it is “sort of experimentation” .
  • It is the experimentation in which the independent variable occurs, or has occurred, naturally and the researcher studies its impact the way it is done in a laboratory experiment

Groups in a Quasi- Experiment

  • Exposure Group
  • Comparison Group

Quasi- Experimental Design

i. Retrospective/Ex Post Facto Design: Ex post facto means “after the fact” . There are two groups, the exposure group and the comparison group. The process of “constructing” comparable exposure and comparison groups is called “matching” .

The subjects are already naturally divided like that. However, the experimenter selects the relevant subjects according to the nature of the research.

ii. Prospective Design: This design is similar to the retrospective design, except that in a prospective design, variations in the independent variable are measured as they occur, rather than retrospectively. Researchers are equally careful in interpreting the prospective and retrospective quasi- experiments. In neither case, the subjects are randomly assigned to the exposure and the control groups. Generally, prospective designs are more persuasive than retrospective designs, especially when the independent variable occurred long ago

iii. Time series Design: This design is mainly concerned with observing whether the values of the dependent variable change in apparent response to changes in an independent variable.

Examples of Quasi Experimentation

i. Twin Studies

  • Twin studies investigate different aspects of behavior and mental processes of twins, whether identical or fraternal.
  • The studies on identical twins reared apart have generated very significant results. They have shown amazing similarities as well as differences among such twins.

ii. Adoption Studies

  • Most people have one set of parents. However 1 % of the infants born in western countries every year are adopted at or near by persons unrelated to them. Such children have two sets of parents: parents who rear them and those who give them their genes.
  • Social scientists have used this to help determine, with fascinating results, how much influence genetic factors and family environment have over behavior. Like twin studies, adoption studies suggested that many human behaviors are genetically influenced. That is why the nature- nurture issue is always remaining controversial.

Applied Research: Single- Case Research Designs

  • A type of research in which a single case is focused upon and studied.
  • This approach is employed in rarely occurring cases.