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Scientific Research- Critical Thinking and Methods

Scientific Research- Critical Thinking and Methods

Author: Erick Taggart

This lesson will describe the role and four basic principles of critical thinking in psychology. The application and use of the experimental method and the six elements that make up the scientific method in psychology will be examined.

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Source: test tubes: public domain;

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Hello, class. So in today's lesson, we're going to be answering the question, what guides scientific research? What determines how we actually do it? So let's first start by talking about critical thinking, which is important as it goes along with science.

So critical thinking is a way of guiding how people think within the scientific process. And there are five principles that we're going to take a look at. And some of them might seem familiar to you from previous lessons.

So first, scientists need to examine things empirically and logically. Empirically means that they're taken from observation and experimentation. They're not things that they just accept to be true or that they hear about being true. It's things that they see and therefore know to be true.

And they should be logical in that they should be rational or reasonable. They should just makes sense. They shouldn't be something that they have to assume a lot or accept a lot before they understand.

Secondly, scientific research should be falsifiable, which is to say the scientist should be open to and able to be proven wrong. A scientist shouldn't just assume that they're right and then not accept facts that might contradict them. Or alternatively, they shouldn't be trying to do something or research something that can't be proven true or false.

Third, authority or expertise within science isn't enough. You need to actually back up the things you know by proving them and understanding them well through actual research and understanding, not just assuming that because you're a scientist, that that's enough to accept you at your word.

Fourth, the quality of the research and of the evidence matters just as much. So it's not just what you do, but it's how you do it within science. And we'll talk about that with the scientific method.

Finally, scientists should be open-minded, which is to say that they should be able to accept new or different explanations and results. And they shouldn't stick to the things that they understand only on their own.

So how do we actually determine what goes into a scientific research? Well, scientific research follows a series of steps, which we call the scientific method. And I'll use an example of this as I go through each one of these steps. But you should know this is actually an example or similar to experiments in social psychology.

They're call the Asch Conformity Experiments. You'll see. And if you want to research them more on your own, they're an interesting area to talk about.

So first under scientific method, you want to make observations about the natural world. And you want to identify some question or area of research for your study. This is kind of the inspiration area of your research, where you determine, what are you going to actually talk about?

For example, if you notice that people tend to do the same thing as a group, even if the group might be incorrect, you might come up with a question-- so you observed and you identified an area-- which says, does group size affect whether somebody feels pressure to conform or to do the same thing as everybody else? So does that group size affect whether they will conform?

So the second step is going to be formulate a hypothesis. And a hypothesis, if you remember, is a prediction about the effect of or the relationship between different things being measured within research, or what we call variables. In other words, this is an educated guess about what's going to happen.

So in this case, our hypothesis would be, the larger the group of people, the more likely a person will be to conform or to do what everybody else does. So that's the hypothesis, very simply. Your two variables are group size and whether people conform or not.

Third, we have to create some kind of method of research and actually test out our hypothesis. For example, in the experimental method, we might create some kind of formal trial or experiment that is done specifically to prove or disapprove our hypothesis. So in this case, we might take people and put them in different-sized groups, small groups, large groups, even bigger groups, and give them different tasks that the groups will perform incorrectly. And we want to see if the person also performs them incorrectly.

Or we could also, outside of experimentation, observe groups of people and see how often they change their behavior to match the group in certain settings. So that might be an alternative to experimental method. That's an observational method.

Fourth, we want to examine the data. We want to look at the information. And we want to reach conclusions about it. So what does it say about our area of research? And specifically, what does it say about our hypothesis?

And this is the time when we want to either keep the hypothesis and say that it was true, or we want to reject the hypothesis. For example, if the data shows that people don't change their behavior, then we would reject the hypothesis. If they do change their behavior, we keep it. Or if they only change their behave in certain sized groups, we might tweak or revise the hypothesis.

Fifth, with all scientific research, once we're finished with the study we want to publish the results so that other scientists can see it. Usually this is in some kind of professional psychological journal, like the Psychology Review or the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. And this is so others can review our methods of research and try to retest them, because remember, science should be repeatable. People should be able to do the same thing and come up with the same results.

Finally, after many different experiments and hypotheses on this subject, we would want to propose a theory, which is a summary of multiple hypotheses that's supported by the existing data and can accurately predict future outcomes.

Notes for "Scientific Research- Critical Thinking and Methods"

Terms to Know

Critical Thinking
Thinking that is rational, open-minded, analytical, and supported by evidence.

Scientific Method
Systematic way of approaching scientific questions by constructing theories that organize, test, and summarize empirical evidence.
Six Basic Elements of the Scientific Method
1. Observing
2. Defining a problem
3. Proposing a hypothesis (an educated guess that can be tested)
4. Gathering evidence/testing the hypothesis
5. Publishing results
6. Building a theory

Empirical Evidence
Evidence taken from observation or experimentation, not subjective reports.

Experimental Method
A formal trial, or experiment, done specifically to prove or disprove a hypothesis.