Research Ideas
Chapter 2
Dusana Rybarova
Psyc 290B
May 16 2006
Outline:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Getting started
Sources of ideas
Finding and using background literature
Conducting a literature search
Steps 1 through 3 of your research
outline
1. Getting started
• Pick a topic in which you are interested
– ways to define an interest area
• a particular population or group of individuals (e.g.
pre-school children, cats, police-officers)
• a particular behavior (e.g. anxiety, dating,
overeating)
• a general topic (e.g. job stress, child abuse)
– the key is really wanting to learn more about
the topic you selected
1. Getting started
• Do your homework
– long before actual data collection begins, most of
your research time will be devoted to preparation
– the amount of printed material on the topic may
appear overwhelming, therefore, keep these two
points in mind:
• you do not need to know everything about the topic
• you need to focus on a single, sharply defined research idea
1. Getting started
• Keep an open mind
– begin with a general topic area and then let your
background reading lead you to a specific idea
• Focus, focus, focus
– develop one research question and find the
background information that is directly relevant to
that question
• Take one step at a time
– Stay focused on the part of the research proposal that
you are working on now instead of jumping to the
end
2. Sources of ideas
• finding a general topic area
– ask yourself why things happen the way they do or
what if things were different
• common sources of ideas
– personal interests and curiosities
– casual observation
– practical problems or questions (e.g. study habits or
reducing pilot error in airplanes)
– vague and fleeting thoughts (e.g. dreams)
– reading reports of others’ observations
– behavioral theories (good theory provides
explanations and makes testable predictions)
2. Sources of ideas
• Common mistakes in choosing a research topic
– topic doesn’t interest the student
– topic is too safe or too easy (using paper for another
class)
– topic is too difficult
– topic is too broad (you can’t answer every question
about a topic with one research project)
– sticking with the first idea that comes to mind
– inadequate literature on the topic
• developing a project in new area of research might be very
difficult
• the topic may not lend itself to scientific investigation
• it may only appear that there is no material on your topic
(use better key words)
3. Finding and using background
literature
– go to the library to gather background information on
the topic you have identified
– the goal is to determine the current state of
knowledge and to become familiar with current
research in the area of your interest
– possible source of ideas – researchers often conclude
a discussion of their results with suggestions for
further research
– scientific literature
• books
• science journals
3. Finding and using background
literature
• Primary and secondary sources
– Primary sources
• firsthand report of observations or research results that is written
by the individuals who actually conducted the research
– Secondary sources
• secondhand reports in which the authors discuss someone else’s
observations
– books and textbooks summarizing previous research
– introductory section of research reports
– newspaper and magazine articles that report on previous research
• plan to use secondary sources to gain an overview and identify
specific primary sources for more detailed reading
• secondary sources provide a good starting point for a literature
search
3. Finding and using background
literature
• The purpose of a literature search
– your goal in conducting a literature search is to find a
set of published reports that define the current state
of knowledge in an area and to identify a gap in that
knowledge base that your study will attempt to fill
– you need to find a set of research articles that can be
organized into a logical argument supporting and
justifying the research you propose to do
4. Conducting a literature search
• Using online databases
– there are many different computer databases,
with each one focusing on an individual topic
area (like psychology or education)
– one of the major databases used in social
sciences and specifically in psychology is the
PsycINFO database
4. Conducting a literature search
• PsycINFO database
– subjects covered
• psychology and psychological aspects of related disciplines
such as anthropology, business, education, law, linguistics,
medicine, nursing, pharmacology, physiology, psychiatry,
sociology
– sources
• Nearly two million citations and summaries of journal articles
• current chapter and book coverage
• adds more than 60,000 references annually
• goes back to 1887
4. Conducting a literature search
• Standard sections of a research article
– Introduction
• statement of the problem under investigation in
the study, where the idea for the research came
from (literature review)
– Method
• details about how the study was done, who
participated in the study, what materials were used
and the procedures that were followed
4. Conducting a literature search
• Standard sections of a research article
(cont.)
– results
• what was found in the study; includes statistical
analyses, figures and tables
– discussion
• what the author thinks the results mean
– references
• complete list of all the publications cited in the
article
4. Conducting a literature search
• The process of conducting a literature
search
1.start with a general idea of a topic area or a
behavior (such as developmental psychology
or anorexia)
2.use recently published secondary sources
such as textbooks or review articles to narrow
your focus an obtain a list of key words and
author names
4. Conducting a literature search
• The process of conducting a literature search
(cont.)
3. use key words and author names in an online
database (such as PsycINFO) to locate primary-source
journal articles
4. weed out items that are not directly relevant; most
can be eliminated based on the title; of those
remaining, many can be eliminated based on the
abstract. Skim the introduction and discussion
sections of the remaining articles to determine their
relevance
4. Conducting a literature search
• The process of conducting a literature
search (cont.)
5.once you have a handful of recent, relevant
articles, use the references from the articles
to look for new key words and author names
6.use the new key words and author names in
an online database search
5. Steps 1 through 3 of your
research outline
– Step 1 of the research process (Observe behavior or
other phenomena):
• This study is an investigation of the role of mental imagery in
memory improvement. There is a substantial evidence that
different mnemonic techniques can improve memory (Casey,
1983; Bored, 1995). According to Casey (1983) most of these
techniques are based on creating an image that helps to store
and recall the item to be remembered. Researchers have not
systematically investigated the impact of a concrete instruction to
imagine objects corresponding to words to the subsequent
memory of these words. Understanding the relationship between
the instruction to create an image for a word and the subsequent
memory for this item can give us an interesting insight into the
relationship between imagery and language memory systems.
Moreover, if the instruction to create an image for a word can
indeed improve memory for that word, this finding can be utilized
in the educational procedures for second language vocabulary
learning.
5. Steps 1 through 3 of your
research outline
– Step 2 of the research process (Form a tentative
answer or explanation):
• Since the previous research showed that mental
imagery techniques are in general efficient in
improving memory, we predict that an explicit
instruction to create a mental image corresponding to
a particular word will improve subject’s memory for
the word.
5. Steps 1 through 3 of your
research outline
– Step 3 of the research process (Use the
hypothesis to generate a testable prediction):
• We predict that college students who are instructed to
form mental images while studying a list of 40 words
for 2 minutes will recall more words (on average) than
college students who study the same words for 2
minutes but are not given instructions to form mental
images.
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