Archive for February, 2012

Comments for week 4+5    (says awaiting moderation)


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Should psychology be written for the layman or should science be exclusively for scientists?

February 19, 2012 6 comments

Hello all, welcome to another week and another blog.  Hope you’re all keeping well.

Today, I’ll be discussing whether psychology should be written in simple terms so that everyone can understand, or whether it should be kept scientific and just for scientists.

I believe that the first thing to consider here is what kind of research is actually being done.  For example, social psychology is something which the majority of people can relate to, and so, can understand.  In this case, if research were being done into the area, should it not be written so that everyone can understand it?

For example, Milgram’s study on obedience is something which the majority of people can relate to and understand. So, should this kind of research not be written so that they can read it and understand it?  (

On the other hand, an area such as psychobiology, although applicable to all society, is something which is not as easy to understand and can be a lot more scientific.  Is this the kind of research which should be written in scientific terms?

It may be important to note that without scientists/psychologists to first conduct research and to further evaluate it, we would not have anything to discuss in this topic.  There would be no research to read and to understand.

Turney stated that people have an appetite for scientific information, but there is a duty for scientists to explain the scientific research in ways that a range of people can use.  (

This means that while we do need scientists to understand research, it then should be explained to general public in ways that they can understand and use.  But does this mean that the research should be written in a way that only scientists understand, and then they should simplify it for the people who need it to be?

I think that it is important to note that, while Psychology is a science, it is also something which studies human behaviour and can be used to aid society’s knowledge of why people may act as they do.  Why should this only be something that scientists can learn?  Do people who may not be able to understand scientific terms not deserve to learn and to understand, considering Psychology is the study of EVERYONE’S behaviour, and not just the behaviour of people who study it?

If we think about previous research, and what important conclusions were drawn from it, it becomes clear that the general public should be able to learn from research findings.  An example can come from Asch’s study on conformity.  Asch drew important conclusions about how likely people are to conform to a group idea, even if they knew that the group opinion was the wrong one.  If scientists alone knew how to understand the research findings, would there really be any point in conducting the research when people as a whole can not learn from it?  Surely, this would mean that scientists would understand why people behaved as they did, but nothing would be learnt from it and nothing would change.  Using the example from Asch’s study, if nobody but scientists could understand what the findings showed about conformity, this would result in scientists knowing why people may conform, but general people not knowing and therefore not being able to change their behaviour.


In conclusions, while Psychology is a science, it is also the study of behaviour exhibited by all people, and therefore, I believe that it should be written so that non-scientists can read, understand and perhaps learn from research.

However, this can only take us so far and there may of course may cases (such as in Psychobiology) where things may not be as easily simplified. In which case, it should not be that the ‘laymen’ should not know about and learn about research, but research should be understood by scientists and put in terms that everyone can understand.



Thanks for reading, see you next time 🙂







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Qualitative Vs Quantitative research

February 5, 2012 16 comments

Hello! Back again!  Hope everyone had a good Christmas and your exams all went well!

So, this time I’m going to be talking about the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, and which one might be better to use when collecting data.

First off, I’m going to briefly discuss the difference between the two.

Quantitative research

Quantitiative research is probably what most of us are used to: collecting numbers and figures and using SPSS to see what those numbers and figures mean.  Examples of this type of data are clinical trials or maybe a National Census.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is used to explore more deeply, to help understand people’s beliefs, attitudes, experiences and behaviours.  In contrast to Quantitative research, it creates non-numerical data.  For example, description rather than a measure.  Qualitative research uses methods such as in-depth interviews and focus groups.


So, we have two contrasting ways of collecting data.  What are their strengths and weaknesses?

We have quantitative which can produce large amounts of data, the researcher knows clearly in advance what they are looking for, all aspects of the study are carefully designed before the experiment starts, the researcher can remain objective.

However, quantitative research does have it’s limitations.  It is not very flexible; there is no way to delve deeper into single participants as all participants answer the same set questions.  It can be very vulnerable to statistical error.

In the book Qualitative Data Analysis, quantitative researcher Fred Kerlinger is quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0”


On the other hand, qualitative research gives researchers a chance to change their questions as research is being conducted to find out more in-depth information and get richer data.  Qualitative research is flexible and highly focused.   Because the results are seen or heard first-hand, the researcher can relate to the findings easily.

Qualitative research, however, is not without it’s limitations.  The researcher may only know roughly in advance what they are looking for, it is very subjective and relies on the researcher’s own ideas and way of interpreting the data they collect, it often uses a small sample size which means that results are not easily generalized.



So, with both having such strengths and weaknesses, how can it be possible to say which is the better one to use?

Some researchers believe that qualitative and quantitative methods can’t be combined because the assumptions underlying each are too different.

Other researchers think that they can be used together if the methods are alternated.  Qualitative and quantitative methods are right for certain conditions in their own rights.

Some researchers think that both methods can be used together to answer the same research question.

With so much disagreement, even between researchers, I don’t think it is actually possible to say which is the better one to use.

I personally think that it would be best to use a qualitative method to find out more about a research question, and then use a quantitative method to get more data.


So, that’s it from me. See you all next time 🙂






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