This paper seeks to discuss the role of research and statistics in psychology. It first dwells on important definitions regarding research and provides a detailed explanation of the scientific method. It then seeks to compare and contrast the characteristics of primary and secondary data. The last section brings out the relevance of research and statistics in psychology.
Research may be defined as a scientific and systematic search for information on a specific subject area of interest. Research is therefore scientific investigation of phenomena (Kothari, 2004). This means that research involves the process of defining problems, developing relevant hypothesis, collecting and analyzing data, making conclusions and deductions which are tested to determine whether they tie into the earlier defined hypothesis. Statistics refers to the study of methods of collecting, organization and analysis of numerical data to provide basis for making logical conclusions. The common aspect of most researches is they meet a common ground by use of the scientific method.
The scientific method
To attain the scientific method, the purpose of research should be clearly defined. The research procedure should be properly defined by the researcher to facilitate possibility of another researcher to repeat the research to improve the knowledge base in that subject area. Research findings should be presented with complete frankness and any flaws and limitations reported. Furthermore, data analysis should be sufficient to reveal its significance and add credibility to the research. Validity and reliability of the data should equally be considered. To satisfy scientific research, conclusions should be justified based on the analysis of the data collected. The scientific method is based on certain aspects ranging from the idea that it relies on empirical evidence and makes use of specific or defined concepts. The scientific method leads the researcher to making predictions based on chance and probability. A key significance is that the scientific method seeks to make objective considerations in presentation of its findings (Prunckun, 2010).
Primary and secondary data
Primary data are those that are collected by the researcher for the first time hence in original forms and have not been tampered with. Secondary data means data that is already available (Kothari, 2004). It may either be published or unpublished data. Published data is available in publications of local and foreign governments, journals, books, magazines, newspapers, reports, newspapers and others. Primary data is obtained through observation or direct communication with respondents. The methods employed in collecting primary data include observation, interviews, questionnaires and audits. Primary data is more specific as it answers defined questions. It is also more confidential. The challenges that arise with collecting primary data are with time spent in collection and therefore making it more expensive. Secondary data covers broader areas and is relatively inexpensive. It is usually available immediately and eliminates the ‘re-invention of the wheel’. Secondary data is not specific. Data collected must satisfy adequacy, reliability and suitability.
Relevance of research and statistics in psychology
Research and statistics are vital for almost all disciplines because of various reasons. In psychology, research is important as it inculcates scientific and inductive thinking. Psychology is usually considered as a social science. Research is important for psychologists in studying human behavior and relationships. It also assists in identifying issues regarding how human beings behave. Statistics in research is important for researchers to describe data (Rajamanickam, 2001). Usually they may have to collect in depth information about an element from the population or the sample being studied. Using statistics, they may define the elements with more accuracy and in a manner that is easy to understand. Statistics allows psychologists to organize large amounts of data into a meaningful manner to facilitate understanding and easier comprehension. Statistics has options for representation of large amounts of data in the form of graphs, pie charts, scatter plots, frequency distributions and a variety of other options available in the field of statistics.
The relevance or importance of statistics in psychology is presented in a number of ways which are discussed as follows. Statistics facilitates inference based on data collection. The researcher can develop inferences and arrive at conclusions based on findings obtained from a certain sample. Statistics adds credibility to research through statistical analysis and tools to support the findings that are made. This implies that the research process is made more objective as it is based on real facts that have been summarized through the use of statistics (Haslam & McGarty, 2003). Research tools like experiments also present good avenues for psychologists to perform tests in the field where researcher has no effect on variables or in lab settings where external variables are manipulated.
In conclusion, it is evident that research adds volumes of knowledge to the field of psychology. The findings of research are equally solidified by the choice of the researcher to employ statistics in collecting, analyzing and presenting data. Statistics provides many tools and techniques that can be employed by researchers to add credibility and reliability in research.
Haslam, A.S & McGarty, C. (2003).Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Kothari, C.R. (2004). Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques. India: New Age Publishers.
Prunckun, H. (2010). Handbook of Scientific Methods of Inquiry for Intelligence Analysis. United Kingdom: Scarecrow Press, Inc.
Rajamanickam, M. (2001). Statistical Methods in Psychological and Educational Research. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.