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.