In this chapter, you will learn about some of the basic characteristics of research in psychology. Some psychological research is basic research. Basic research is research that answers fundamental questions about behaviour. For instance, biopsychologists study how nerves conduct impulses from the receptors in the skin to the brain, and cognitive psychologists investigate how different types of studying influence memory for pictures and words. There is no particular reason to examine such things except to acquire a better knowledge of how these processes occur. Applied research is research that investigates issues that have implications for everyday life and provides solutions to everyday problems. Applied research has been conducted to study, among many other things, the most effective methods for reducing depression, the types of advertising campaigns that serve to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, the key predictors of managerial success in business, and the indicators of effective government programs.
Basic research and applied research inform each other, and advances in science occur more rapidly when each type of research is conducted, according to the work of Kurt Lewin (Gold, 1999). For instance, although research concerning the role of practise on memory for lists of words is basic in orientation, the results could potentially be applied to help children learn to read. Correspondingly, psychologist-practitioners who wish to reduce the spread of AIDS or to promote volunteering frequently base their programs on the results of basic research. This basic AIDS or volunteering research is then applied to help change people’s attitudes and behaviours.
The results of psychological research are reported primarily in research articles published in scientific journals, and your instructor may require you to read some of these. The research reported in scientific journals has been evaluated, critiqued, and improved by scientists in the field through the process of peer review. In this book, there are many citations of original research articles, and you are encouraged to read those reports when you find a topic interesting. Most of these papers are readily available online through your college or university library. It is only by reading the original reports that you will really see how the research process works. Your college or university library is likely to subscribe to PsycINFO, which is a database that indexes all scholarly work in psychology. You are encouraged to browse PsycINFO to see what information it has on topics of interest to you and to follow up in reading some scholarly research.
Gold, M. (Ed.). (1999). The complete social scientist: A Kurt Lewin reader. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.