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What are the Most Common Research Methods in Psychology?

Over time, professors and devoted professionals have developed quite a few psychology research methods that make it easier to research disorders, determine potential treatments, and learn about the implications of these disorders and treatments on the broader population. While controversial experiments might grab the headlines in the psychology field, both currently and during past eras of research, these methods represent only a fraction of the studies done in order to advance the profession and come to a greater understanding of modern psychological challenges. It is important for students to understand these and the many other  research options available as they work to fulfill research requirements for their degree.

Archival Research and the Case Study

Psychological research almost always begins with a case study or a look through the archives of past experiments and scholarly findings. Because the profession is more than a century old, it’s likely that at least some experimentation was done during a previous era regarding most of today’s disorders and methods of treatment. This allows professionals to determine a course of action as they begin renewed research in their field, and it helps them to gather context as they seek to determine the nature of a disorder, how it responds to both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatment, and the lasting nature of any attempted treatment or perceived cure.

Computer-Based Simulations and Psychological Modeling

In an era before powerful computers became the normal method of research, experimentation was done on real patients in real psychology labs. That’s certainly still the case in some experiments, which depend on testing real subjects. Increasingly, however, psychologists are depending on computer models and simulated experiments to test their hypothesis about diseases, disorders, treatment procedures, and even drug interactions. These models take a great deal of time to construct and monitor, typically running at least as long as an experiment involving actual patients. Even so, they greatly reduce the capacity for bodily or psychological harm. This makes them a boon to research, an excellent way to protect against litigation, and a great way to reduce liability and insurance expenses for academic research departments and private firms.

Survey, Observation, and Interview

In many cases, it may be possible to conduct a significant amount of research without performing an experiment at all. Many psychologists have found that they can gather a significant among of data through paid, voluntary surveys of willing patients. Others have found that mere observation can actually teach them a great deal about disorders and treatments that an experiment might not be able to showcase. Interviewing may also help, especially with patients who have the vocabulary and experience necessary to talk about how their disorder has affected them and how they’ve worked to manage it over the course of several years.

Psychophysiological Research Methods

Sometimes, the intersection of patient care and modern technology can be a real asset when performing psychological research. Psychophysiological research methods, like neurological imaging, can reveal a great deal about patients that an interview, case study, or computer simulation might not be able to do. Working alongside qualified medical professionals, this method is generally ethical and free of significant liability risks as well.

Research Has Never Been Easier or More Diverse

Psychological research is never easy, but access to models, images, observations and surveys has made it at least a bit easier than it was in the past. With these new tools, psychologists will be able to learn more about patients, disorders, diseases, treatments and experimental procedures than they ever have in the past. These psychology research methods represent a major victory not only for psychology itself, but also for any patient who needs cutting-edge treatment to live their daily lives.

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