Research-based Recovery Information*
for Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse and Adversity



Basic Introduction to Psychological Research Methodology

Psychologists and other social scientists regularly propose explanations for human behavior. And there are a huge amount of resources available using the internet to discuss these topics.. My purpose here is not to repeat a few basics, with of course Google and Wikipedia beeing useful starttng points for anyone wishing to look into these matters in more depth. I'll primarily be just mentioning some of the basics, providing links to some material I've found useful, and then go off on "tangents" -- identifying some material people may not be aware of, but which is important to understanding, and evaluating the published research that exists. Naturally, this aspect is an ongoing "work in progress".

One of the things you can look into using Wikipedia is the expression: "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" referring to types of "falsehoods". The phrase alluds to the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent's point.. This is one issue I hope to discusse briefly on this site, as it is an issue of crucial importance.

On an informal level, people make judgments about the intentions, motivations and actions of others on a daily basis. While the everyday judgments we make about human behavior are subjective and anecdotal, researchers use the scientific method to study psychology in an "objective", but primarily systematic way. Of course, empirical research often involves the use of statistics, and there's the "quote" (of unknown origin): The results of these studies are often reported in popular media, which leads many to wonder just how or why researchers arrived at the conclusions they did.

In order to truly understand how psychologists and other researchers reach these conclusions, you need to know more about the research process that is used to study psychology and the basic steps that are utilized when conducting any type of psychological research. By knowing the steps of the scientific method, you can better understand the process researchers go through to arrive at conclusions about human behavior.

What Is the Scientific Method?
The goals of psychological studies are to describe, explain, predict and perhaps influence mental processes or behaviors. In order to do this, psychologists utilize the scientific method to conduct psychological research. The scientific method is a set of principles and procedures that are used by researchers to develop questions, collect data and reach conclusions.

What are the goals of scientific research in psychology? Researchers seek not only to describe behaviors and explain why these behaviors occur; they also strive to create research that can be used to predict and even change human behavior.

Key Terms to Know

Before a researcher can begin, they must choose a topic to study. Once an area of interest has been chosen, the researchers must then conduct a thorough review of the existing literature on the subject. This review will provide valuable information about what has already been learned about the topic and what questions remain to be answered. A literature review might involve looking at a considerable amount of written material from both books and academic journals dating back decades. The relevant information collected by the researcher will be presented in the introduction section of the final published study results. This background material will also help the researcher with the first major step in conducting a psychology study — formulating a hypothesis.

  • For a basic introduction to these topics see [LINK]

  • For a selection of books relevant to psychological research methodology in a local academic library -- the University of Cantebury, Christchurch [LINK]

  • For practising psychologists and other professionals I cannot recommend too strongly the excellent materials available on Ken Pope's site, such as:


    I most certainly welcome contributions from those aware of relevant research I seem unaware of, especially your own published or unpublished research. No one area or type of abuse will be highlighted, for research has shown that different forms of abuse and neglect often occur together (Pears, Kim, & Fisher, 2008). Research studies will be cited in the style of the Sixth Edition of the American Psychological Association (reflecting my experience as a psych).