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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Research Methodology: Neo-Positivism

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

As Jurgenson (2014) notes, positivism reflects the idea that, “if enough data can be collected with the “right” methodology it will provide an objective and disinterested picture of reality” and it is, in this respect, based upon two fundamental beliefs about the social world:

1. It involves patterns of behaviour that are capable of being discovered through systematic  observation / research.

2. It has an objective existence, governed by causal relationships, over and above the control of individual social actors.

Big Data…

This idea of objectivity is both a key strength – it suggests a social world that exists in a state that can be both described and explained separately from the hopes and desires of individual social actors – and weakness here: in order to systematically research an objective social world the researcher must be objective too. They must, for example, avoid participating in or influencing the behaviour being studied. This, however, has always been easier said than done, given the existence of the observer effect: the claim that any attempt to measure human behaviour changes that behaviour it in some unknown – and unknowable – way.

In other words, although there are a variety of research methods available to positivist researchers – from questionnaires through lab experiments to naturalistic observation – most involve an artificial situation in which the research is conducted, an awareness on the part of those being studied researched they are being researched or some sort of interaction, however minimal, between researcher and researched.

Or in some cases, all three.

Neo-Positivism…

Revision Mapping Research Methods

Sunday, October 31st, 2021

While I’ve previously posted a Revision Map on Sociological Perspectives I never, for some reason, got around to posting further Maps (at least, not in pdf format – there have been Flipbook versions).

Until now.

In order to remedy the omission, therefore, I thought I’d start with a range of Maps dedicated to Research Methods. Although they were originally constructed around an old(ish) A-level Specification it probably doesn’t matter overmuch because when it comes to Methods there’s only so much you can ask and most Specifications – A-level and High School, English or American – cover much the same sort of stuff. This means the content’s still generally relevant to contemporary Specifications.

Revision Mapping, in case you’re not familiar with the concept, is based on identifying keywords in a particular context and linking them to further keywords to build a highly-structured map of a specific concept, theory or method.

(more…)

Of Mice and Monkeys: Ethical Issues in Animal Research

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Over the course of the last century, psychological research has become increasingly governed by a strict code of ethics that cover things like obtaining participants’ consent, protecting them from possible harm and allowing them to withdraw from the research at any time and for whatever reason.

But there’s also a class of “research participant” who can’t give their consent, may be harmed and are categorically unable to withdraw from the research.

Psychology has a long and well-established history of using non-human animals for a variety of research purposes – from conditioning to attachment theory – and this short film has been designed to introduce some of the key ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in both historical and contemporary contexts through the use of four key questions:

  • Why are animals used in psychological research?
  • What are the (human) benefits that flow from such research?
  • What is being done to protect animals from potential harm in psychological research?
  • To what extent is any form of non-human animal research a breach of their rights?
  • Of Mice and Monkeys: Ethical Issues in Animal Research is now available to:

    Rent (around 75p for 7 days) or

    Buy (£4.25 to keep forever…).

    Psychological Research Methods: A Practical Approach

    Thursday, December 17th, 2020

    I know I said the Teacher Guides were the “third and final” post in this series of Psychology Lesson Elements and Delivery Guides but I may have been caught up in the moment and hence guilty of slightly over-exaggerating things, vis-à-vis the finality angle.

    In other words, I’ve found another OCR Resource that both complements the preceding stuff and which, if you teach Research Methods, either as part of OCR or some other Specification – that will be everyone, then – you will probably find useful.

    A Handbook of Practical Investigations provides 14 ready-made Research Examples students can carry-out – online or within the classroom – broken down into the following areas:

  • Laboratory experiments x 2
  • Repeated measures design experiment
  • Laboratory experiment using independent design
  • Self-report methods (questionnaires) x 3
  • Self-report methods (interviews)
  • Observational methods x 3
  • Correlational methods x 3
  • Each section provides a research scenario such as the following for a laboratory experiment:

    “You are asked to design a practical project to investigate whether chewing gum improves concentration. Your project must use an experimental method, must have an independent measures design and must collect quantitative data.”

    Hint: your project could measure concentration by giving participants a page of text to read, and asking them to cross out every letter ‘e’ they read in a fixed time of 30 seconds.

    You will need: Several packs of chewing gum, photocopied page of any text/book.

    The scenario is followed by a series of questions students are required to answer about the research they’ve done. This covers things like the method and procedure of the research, advantages and disadvantages of their design, ethical problems and how they can be resolved and the like.

    If there’s nothing in the provided examples that particularly tickles your fancy you can, of course, provide your own for your students to carry-out, based on the principles outlined in the Handbook.

    And if your students need a little extra preparation before embarking on any, or indeed all, of the research examples, you might want to check-out the following short films, created specifically for A-level / High School Psychologists, that are available to rent (one week) or buy “at very reasonable prices”:

    Experimental Methods

    Experimental Design

    Ethics and Ethical Issues

    Correlations

    Laboratory Experiments

    Non-Experimental Research Methods

    Naturalistic Observation

    Sampling

    Self Report Research Methods

    Psychology: Lesson Elements

    Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

    As with its sociological counterpart – except more-so, this set of resources from the OCR Exam Board is designed to support teaching and learning for their A-Level Specification and while some of the resources may fall outside the scope of other Specifications there will probably be plenty here that doesn’t.

    Ethics

    In other words, you can easily fill-your-boots with these Lesson Elements, whether or not you happen to teach OCR Psychology.

    And by “lesson elements” we basically mean small(ish) group and individual tasks, relatively simple classroom activities and worksheets.

    Lots of worksheets (although if you want to lighten the load a little I’ve added links to our Psychology films that I think might fit well with the worksheet. These are available to either rent or buy).

    A little oddly some of these are provided as “blank” activity sheets (i.e. questions are asked and the space for student answers is left empty) while others consist of instructions for teachers with sample answers (i.e. they contain suggested student answers). There’s probably a way around this problem, but’s its probably one that should have been easily avoided.

    But what the heck, this stuff’s free and we maybe shouldn’t quibble too much about what’s on offer, particularly when there’s so much of it (around 3 times more than what’s been provided for sociologists, by my calculations) distributed across three broad categories:

    Click for Lesson Elements,,,

    Of Methods and Methodology 6 | 2: Ethical Research Considerations

    Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

    Ethics refers to the morality of doing something and ethical questions relating to sociological research involve beliefs about what a researcher should – or should not do – before, during and after the research in which they’re involved. This will, as a matter of course, include a consideration of both legal and safety issues:

  • for the researcher.
  • those being researched.
  • any subsequent researchers.
  • In this respect, therefore, ethical questions cover a range of possible issues, questions and problems relating to the conduct of sociological research that include:

    (more…)

    On Being Sane in Insane Places

    Friday, January 24th, 2020
    Rosenhan's Experiment: A new film
    David Rosenhan

    David Rosenhan’s “pseudopatient experiment” is a classic study for both sociologists and psychologists, that raises a range of interesting questions relating to areas like mental illness, labelling theory and ethics.

    Rosenhan’s research was designed to discover if doctors could correctly diagnose mental illness. If they couldn’t, this would tell us something very important about the relationship between mental illness and labelling – that mental illness is not an objective category but a subjective condition; it is, in other words, whatever medical professionals claim it to be – a situation that has hugely-important ramifications for contemporary ideas about crime and deviance, for example.

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    Interactive Ethics

    Friday, October 12th, 2018

    Following-on from the previous post where I suggested how it might be possible to spin-off a discussion of research ethics from a naturalistic observation simulation, my attention was drawn towards this interesting offering from the Open University – an online “interactive challenge” designed to help students understand “why research ethics is really a researcher’s best friend”.

    As you may have noticed, the OU Marketing Department seems pretty gung-ho in they’re advocacy of ethical considerations in social research.

    And rightly so.

    Probably.

    Anyway. In this simple interactive challenge you’re “taken through a case to look at where and when you think the ethics committee might step in and why this would be necessary. Meet a fictional committee and become a member!”.

    In other words, you’re introduced to a range of characters who might conceivably be part of a University Committee and then asked to give your opinion, based on the evidence presented, as to whether the research submission under consideration (“the role of the police and their attitudes towards sex worker ‘zones of tolerance’ i.e. the way sex workers may be allowed to operate in certain controlled areas in some UK cities) is ethical across four main criteria:

    • Valid Consent
    • Do no harm
    • Data Protection
    • Researcher safety

    In basic terms you’re presented with some text about the proposed conduct of the research and then asked to give an opinion about its ethicality (a word I may just have invented) in relation to any of these categories.

    The challenge only takes a few minutes (probably 15 at the most) and it’s a really neat way to introduce students to ethics, ethical issues and the role of an ethics committee.

    It’s also Quite Good Fun.

    Not words usually associated with a lesson on Ethics.

    (more…)

    Naturalistic Observation Lesson Plan

    Thursday, October 11th, 2018

    I’m a firm believer that when it comes to teaching research methods you can never have too many examples of lesson plans that either simulate the process of “doing research” or, as in the case of Bernard C. Beins (Counting Fidgets: Teaching the Complexity of Naturalistic Observation), turn it into a simple, but effective, lesson activity that:

    • is easy to set-up and run
    • requires very few resources
    • involves very little pre-preparation
    • is unobtrusive and relatively short
    • produces a large amount of data for discussion, analysis and evaluation.

    While the lesson plan is explicitly aimed at psychology students it’s equally useful for sociologists, because the overall objective is simply to provide a context – the classroom activity – that can be used to analyse and evaluate naturalistic observation in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.

    And if you want to introduce your students to these ideas you could always throw a short video into the pre-discussion mix: Naturalistic Observation is available On-Demand to buy or rent as well as being available on our Non-Experimental Research Methods DVD that also includes Self-Report Methods, Correlations and Case Studies.

    (more…)

    The Sociological Detectives: Hiding in Plain Sight

    Friday, April 6th, 2018

    In this third outing in the Research Methods series, the Sociological Detectives investigate Overt Participant Observation through a simple piece of hands-on research.

    This PowerPoint Presentation – the 3rd in the Research Methods series (the others being The Research Process and Non-Participant Observation) – combines a hands-on approach to doing Overt Participant Observation with a classroom-based evaluation of the method.

    Students take-on the role of Sociological Detectives which, in this instance, means they are set “a Task” to complete (it’s probably no great secret that this involves doing a simple bit of Overt Participant Observation) outside of class time.

    Students can then use their (brief) experience of using the method to inform the evaluation work they then do inside the classroom.

    While actually doing the Observation is not essential (the Task Options document that outlines some suggestions for how the Observation might be carried-out includes a simple Thought Experiment option for classrooms where, for whatever reason, students can’t physically carry-out this type of observational research) it does, I think, represent a useful teaching and learning device.

    It is, in this respect, a relatively simple – and hopefully interesting – way for students to bring their personal experiences to bear on the more-theoretical aspects of sociological research. (more…)

    Psychology Learning Tables | 2

    Thursday, January 18th, 2018

    Convention dictates this second set of Learning Tables, primarily the work of Miss G. Banton (with one notable exception that I’ll explain in a moment) follows the first set of Tables and since this is not a rule I’m overly-inclined to break it’s only seems right-and-proper this should be the case.

    These Tables are broadly-designed to cover Knowledge (Assessment Objective 1) and Evaluation (Assessment Objective 3) and while the latter uses relatively simple “for” and “against” arguments, an added dimension is created using a “PEEL” design. This, in case you’re not familiar with the mnemonic has the further advantage of encouraging students to structure exam answers in a specific way.

    Without further ado, therefore, the following Tables are available for your downloading pleasure:

    Endogenous Pacemakers and Exogenous Zeitgebers AO1 and AO3
    Ethical implications of research studies and theory AO1 AND AO3

    Free Will vs Determinism AO1 and AO3

    Gender Bias AO1 and AO3

    Holism and reductionism AO1 and AO3
    Humanistic psychology LT

    Idiographic and nomothetic approaches AO1 and AO3

    Localisation and Function of the brain AO1 and AO3

    The final set of Tables, created by Melissa Yeadon, are slightly different in that they’re designed to take the student through the research process – from initial hypothesis to understanding ethical considerations – and involve some student input (mainly in the shape of having to answer questions at various points). In all there are 10 Tables in this set.

    Learning Tables Planning Research 

    The Sociological Detectives: Trial: And Error

    Monday, October 23rd, 2017

    The latest addition to the burgeoning Sociological Detectives™ Universe is a role-playing simulation of the Research Process – and Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive Model of Scientific Research in particular – that uses the analogy of a criminal investigation to help students understand and experience how and why the research process is structured.

    The simulation takes the students through a number of stages in the investigation – from identifying a problem to prosecuting the guilty party – that mirror the different stages in Popper’s Model.

    The basic idea here is that the role-playing element, whereby students are faced with a range of suspects and evidence from which they have to choose one individual they believe the evidence shows is guilty, adds an interesting dimension to what can be a fairly dry and difficult-to-teach area – particularly if you don’t have the time or resources to engage in some hands-on application. (more…)

    Chinese Parents’ Involvement in Children’s Education

    Monday, October 9th, 2017

    Regular readers of this blog will be aware that from time-to-time we’ve been able to feature research done by Richard Driscoll’s Sociology A-level students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and the latest study to come our way, by Ma Jia Ying, looks at the involvement of Chinese parents in decisions made by their sons and daughters about what to study in higher education.

    The research should be interesting to UK teachers and students for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, it gives a comparative cultural insight into family relationships and educational processes in an area that will be familiar to many UK students – the extent to which family pressures impact on the choices made by individual students in terms of their future educational careers.

    Secondly, another interesting dimension is the construction and implementation of the research itself: this is made manifest in areas like the choices made by the researcher in terms of sampling, research methods, reliability, validity and so forth, their awareness of methodological uses and limitations and their evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of their research.

    If you want to get in touch with Richard about this research, his students or maybe to make a fruitful contact between your school / college students and his – you can contact him via his Twitter account

    Conducting Psychological Research

    Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

    This is a free chapter, from an unpublished textbook by Shelia Kennison of Oklahoma State University, that you can either read online or download as a pdf document.

    The chapter covers a range of ideas and issues focused on the research process:

    • different research methodologies
    • causality
    • experimentation
    • representative sampling
    • reliability and validity
    • Type I and Type II errors
    • ethics

    The text also includes a couple of pages of “key terms” plus a set of questions based on the text designed to assess student understanding.

    While it’s not exactly ground-breaking in terms of content and design it seems solid enough for A-level / AP Psychology.

    11 | The Research Process: Part 4

    Monday, September 25th, 2017

    The final part of the Research Methods chapter covers the use of mixed methods in the context of sociological research and is split into three theoretically-discrete, but related, areas:

    1. Methodological pluralism involves the idea of combining methodologies, methods and data types to arrive at a more-rounded, reliable and valid insight into social behaviour.

    2. Types of Triangulation outlines how researchers can use different types of triangulation – specifically, methodological, researcher and data – as a practical way of improving research reliability and validity.

    3. The final section look at a range of Practical. Ethical and Theoretical research considerations and how these relate to both choice of topic and method.

    Although the chapter relates directly to the OCR Specification there should still be plenty here for teachers and students following other Specifications.

    8 | The Research Process: Part 1

    Thursday, September 14th, 2017

    While Research Methods at a-level aren’t everyone’s cup of tea they can be interesting if students are given the time and space to bring together the theory with the practice. Unfortunately I can’t help you here with the practice (although I can give you a few pointers about how to carry-out a range of cheap ’n’ cheerful activities), but I can help with the theory.

    This chapter kicks things off by looking at the idea of research design – from choosing a problem to research, through developing a testable hypothesis or research question, to data collection and analysis. Along the way the chapter takes in a range of research-centred ideas students will have to understand if they are to make the most of methods:

    • Research respondents
    • Types of representative sampling
    • Types of non-representative sampling
    • Pilot studies
    • Concept operationalisation
    • Reliability and validity
    • Primary and secondary data
    • Quantitative and qualitative data and methods
    • Ethics

    NotAFactsheet: Research Ethics

    Thursday, April 13th, 2017

    This NotAFactsheet on Research Ethics is a slight departure from previous NotAFactsheets in that it comes in two flavours:

    1. The normal “text with box-outs and pictures-if-you’re-lucky” version.

    2.  An experimental version with an added bit of embedded video (click-the-pic-to-play).

    Although not ideal, the video is in Flash (.flv) format for reasons that are much too boring to go into. Plus, the .flv format can be quite heavily compressed and means the video doesn’t add too many megabytes to the pdf file. I’ve deliberately kept the clip short – it just illustrates a simple mnemonic that I cut out of one of our films on Ethics – because it’s essentially just a test to see which people prefer.

    If you choose this option you’ll need to download the pdf file because atm it won’t play online (probably).

    Ethics: Adding Research Funding into the Mix

    Friday, April 10th, 2015

    Ethics refer to the morality of doing something and ethical questions relating to research involve beliefs about what a researcher should or should not do before, during and after their research. As a matter of course, this normally includes considering both legal and safety issues

    1. Legal considerations include things like:
    • Legality: e.g. Breaching Data Protection laws, participating in or encouraging criminal behaviour.
    • Power: e.g. bullying or blackmailing (emotionally or physically).
    • Mistreating (physically or verbally) or misleading participants.
    • Getting the informed consent of those being researched.
    1. Safety considerations include things like:
    • Ensuring the physical and psychological safety of researcher and respondent
    • Not causing distress to potentially vulnerable people.

    There is another ethical dimension we can add that relates to neither of these areas, but which is nevertheless an important ethical consideration and concern, namely the sources of any research funding. “Who pays?” (and more pertinently perhaps, “What do they want in return for their money?”) is an ethical dimension to socio-psychology research that’s worth remembering