Research Methods and Statistics: Explaining the links..


Doing experiments is one major part of psychology, and as a result, we learn research methods and statistics.  However, because of statistics, a lot of people are turned off from this experimental side of psychology.  Different people may have different motivations and levels of understanding for statistics, hence I should not delve too much into the reasons into why people do not like statistics.  One common reason is "I am not good in maths".  My reply to that?  "Statistics is not math..."

To make things easier, I'll try to explain the relationships and links between doing research, research methods, and statistics.  Doing research is an essential part of psychology, where we can confirm our assumptions and understand more of what we may not totally understand.  How quantitative research is done is through the use of research methods and statistics, with both undertaking different aspects of research.

"Research methods" are two simple words which can be explained by "things you do in research", but they encompass a lot of meaning and work behind them.  These things include the knowledge of and abilities to do conceptualisation of the problem (i.e. hypothesis building, variable quantification, etc.), sampling, measurement (including validity and reliability), and experimental design (types of design and experimental biases).  These mentioned are only the main branches of research methods with some examples, without really going in depth for each of the branches.  Think about the things you need to know and work you have to do for research methods...There are a lot!!!

So where does the statistics come in??  If research methods are the "things you do in research", then statistics would be the "instrument that you use to analyse the data".  However, it is not that simple; this "instrument" require you to know the foundations of probability and statistics well, before being able to understand and use the simplest of the advanced part of statistics - Inferential statistics, such as ANOVA and regression.  So where does maths come in?  Mostly in the foundations of probability and statistics, where you are exposed to the formulas, and not much in everywhere else in research methods or statistics.

To conclude, research methods and statistics should work hand in hand for you as a quantitative researcher - first with research methods for everything till collection of data, followed by statistics to analyse the data.  In upcoming posts about statistics, I will talk about how to make statistics easier for you as students to learn and use.

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