Beginning Behavioral Research: A Conceptual Primer

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9780024037817: Beginning Behavioral Research: A Conceptual Primer

This successful introduction to behavioral research methods—written by two leaders in the field—provides step by step guidance through the processes of planning an empirical study, analyzing and interpreting data, and reporting findings and conclusions. It encourages learners to be analytical and critical, not only in interpreting research findings, but also in investigating what is behind the claims and conclusions in news reports of scientific results. While the primary emphasis is on behavioral and social research, a strong effort is made to connect these disciplines with the empirical reasoning used in other fields in order to underscore the unity of science. Chapter topics cover concepts in five key areas: getting started, observation and measurement, design and implementation, describing and hypothesis testing, and statistical tests. For individuals of diverse interests and backgrounds with a common goal of learning the ins and outs of behavioral research methods.

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Focused on students as potential educated consumers of scientific research (rather than as professional producers of research), this text walks them step-by-step through the process of designing and conducting an empirical study, analyzing and interpreting the data, and reporting the findings and conclusions -- and in the process, encourages and prepares them to be analytical and critical in interpreting research findings -- whatever their source.

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Welcome to the fourth edition of Beginning Behavioral Research. This book was originally conceived of as an undergraduate text for students who, as part of an introductory course in research methods, are required to plan an empirical study, to analyze and interpret the data, and to present their findings and conclusions in a written report. It is also intended to encourage students to be analytical and critical not only in interpreting their own research findings, but also in seeing what is behind the claims and conclusions in newspaper, TV, and Internet reports of scientific and pseudoscientific results and claims. Boyce Rensberger (2000), a prominent science journalist and author of several popular science books, commented recently on how relatively undiscriminating the general public is about science and pseudoscience:

Without a grasp of scientific ways of thinking, the average person cannot tell the
difference between science based on real data and something that resembles science
—at least in their eyes—but is based on uncontrolled experiments, anecdotal
evidence, and passionate assertions. They like it all. (p. 61)

Our hope is that this book will teach students to see that what defines science is, as Rensberger went on to say, that "evidence has to meet certain standards" (p. 61).

Thus, although the primary emphasis here is on behavioral research, we have tried to connect this approach with the empirical reasoning used in other fields in order to underscore the unity of scientific thinking. The examples we have chosen give a sense not only of traditional ways of doing, analyzing, and thinking about research, but also of some recent developments that may not be as well known. For example, we introduce students to statistical methods that, although enormously useful, do not yet generally appear in undergraduate methods texts: meta-analysis, contrast analysis, interval estimates of effect sizes and their practical interpretation, and so on. The emphasis of these discussions is intended to resonate with the spirit and substance of the guidelines recommended by the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Statistical Inference (Wilkinson et al., 1999).

Although this book was conceived of as an undergraduate text for students assigned to do a research project, we have been pleasantly surprised to learn that it has also been successfully used in ways that go far beyond its original purpose. For example, it has been used in undergraduate courses in which the production of a research project was not a major goal, as well as by master's and doctoral students to slip into our advanced text, Essentials of Behavioral Research (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1991). Beginning Behavioral Research has also been used to teach research methods and data analysis to several thousand students in distance learning programs. We are gratified that the book has been found useful by so many.

Organization

As in earlier editions, the chapters in this edition are presented in a linear sequence corresponding to the steps involved in conducting an empirical research study and analyzing and reporting the results. The beginning researcher is led step by step through the following process:

  • Crafting a testable idea for research
    Understanding empirical reasoning, the scientific method, levels of empirical investigation, and the scientific outlook (Chapter 1); creating, shaping, and polishing a research idea, and conducting a search of the relevant literature for the research proposal and the project itself (Chapter 2); weighing and balancing ethical considerations, and preparing for an ethics review (Chapter 3)
  • Choosing methods of data collection and measurement
    Knowing what methods are available for watching and recording behavior in laboratory and field research, using archival data and outside observers, and preparing a research proposal (Chapter 4); collecting data in which the participants describe their own behavior or state of mind (Chapter 5); assessing the reliability and validity of measuring instruments and research de signs (Chapter 6)
  • Designing and implementing the research study
    Designing a randomized experiment while controlling for artifacts arid other threats to validity (Chapter 7); using time-series, single-case, longitudinal, and correlational designs (Chapter 8); surveying opinions and behavior, controlling for self-selection bias, and testing the methods and instruments (Chapter 9)
  • Approaching the research data
    Using graphics and statistical summary procedures to develop an overall picture of the results (Chapter 10); identifying relationships (Chapter 11);testing hypotheses, estimating effect size, creating a confidence interval around the obtained effect, using the BESD to interpret practical importance, and doing a power analysis (Chapter 12)
  • Testing hypotheses and exploring the results
    Using t to compare two independent or two correlated conditions (Chapter 13); computing F in one-way and two-way designs. examining the simple effects, and interpreting an obtained interaction (Chapter 14); analyzing smaller and larger tables of counts by the chi-square and other procedures (Chapter 15)
  • Reporting the research project in a paper or in a poster
    Writing up the findings and conclusions in the style recommended in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th edition) and developing a poster (Appendix A)
  • Our Approach

    In our long experience of teaching research methods and statistical data analysis, we have noted the questions and uncertainties of undergraduate students engaged in empirical research for the first time. The vast majority of students have not planned to pursue a career in research, but most of them have recognized the vitality and ubiquitousness of scientific research in their daily lives. So we have tried to anticipate and confront questions and uncertainties from their perspective not as potential professional producers of research, but as intelligent consumers of scientific results. For example, we describe procedures that can also be used to analyze the results reported in published articles (including, in some cases, the meager ingredients in news stories), and thus possibly to reach beyond the original researcher's (or the journalist's) published conclusion or interpretation. It is also essential for educated consumers to understand the limitations of particular research methods, and therefore, at the same time that we explain the utility of various methods, we also mention some of their boundaries. We are not wedded to any single scientific method, theory, or unit of analysis, and indeed, the mantra of our approach in this book is methodological pluralism and theoretical ecumenism.

    Instructors who know our earlier work will recognize that this book—as well as our more advanced text (Essentials of Behavioral Research)—grew out of a 117-page paperback book that we wrote many years ago: Primer of Methods for the Behavioral Sciences (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1975a). Over the intervening period, we have developed and refined that material. Most of our undergraduate students have been psychology majors required to take a research methods course as part of their concentration, but a substantial number have majored in fields as diverse as communications, computer science, physical education, mathematics, statistics, accounting, nursing, biology, education, sociology, marketing, and even English, art, and theology. Whether they took this course as part of their major or as an elective, many dreaded the thought of having to wrestle again with statistics. On the assumption that few readers have total recall of statistics or will have come away from a statistics course with an intuitive understanding of what was taught, we review basic aspects of data analysis procedures, purposely avoiding the use of any mathematics beyond the high school level. We focus primarily on the most popular procedures (t, F, and chi-square), but in a way that can also be used outside a research methods course to examine the practical importance of a set of results.

    Most students with no college training in statistics should find that they can master basic data-analytic skills by reading the chapters and repeating the exercises in the order in which they are presented. In this age of the computer, the speediest method of doing complex calculations is with the aid of a computer; yet, as statistician John W Tukey (1977) noted, much can be learned by simply changing our point of view and examining the data in different ways (e.g., exploring for moderator variables by using the stem-and-leaf procedure). Our philosophy of data analysis is to treat statistics (in Chapters 10-15 and Appendix C) by showing, through intuitive reasoning and simple examples, what the results tell us. Instructors who plan to teach students to perform their main calculations on a computer will find that our emphasis on the concrete and arithmetical aspects of data analysis will complement any statistics package they choose. As we implied, we also describe useful data-analytic procedures that may not yet be available in basic computer packages (e.g., the effect size correlation and the confidence interval around the effect, the method of standardizing the margins in chi-square tables, the isolation of interaction residuals, the detective-like probing of reported data for an unreported effect size, new measures of effect sizes using the correlation coefficient, and the file-drawer method of figuring out the robustness of an overall p value in meta-analysis), but that can be easily computed on a calculator or looked up in one of the tables in this text.

    Instructors familiar with Essentials of Behavioral Research will recognize that Beginning Behavioral Research can be used for students up to, but just below, the level of Essentials, and that the conceptual and philosophical treatment of methods and data analysis is similar in both texts. We again emphasize the utility of the Pearson r as a general effect size measure that can be conveniently interpreted as one indicator of practical importance. We also introduce students to statistical power analysis in a way that many should be able to apply in their individual projects, and that will also give them a sense of why it is important not to confuse statistical significance with practical importance. In Appendix C, we give students a flavor of the use of contrasts to address focused questions in between-group designs with more than two groups or conditions, and we also introduce them to a family of new correlational effect-size indices for use with such procedures (Rosenthal, Rosnow, & Rubin, 2000; Rosnow, Rosenthal, & Rubin, 2000). Chapter 3, on ethics, draws on recently published guidelines (Sales & Folkman, 2000) and also raises a number of questions that are intended to get the student thinking about ethical issues that project well beyond this book. Students who are interested in pursuing any of these topics will find more detailed discussions in books and articles that are also mentioned. Throughout this book, we have also sought to communicate the richness, diversity, and excitement of research that we ourselves find so challenging and stimulating.

    Other Features and Additions

    In an effort to make this book more useful and user-friendly to a wide variety of students, we have incorporated various pedagogical devices. Each chapter begins with a set of preview questions, which students can refer to as they progress. Box discussions highlight and enliven concepts with practical examples and illustrations. Each chapter ends with a summary of the main ideas, followed by a list of key terms pegged to particular pages, and finally a number of review questions to stimulate thought and discussion, with the answers located at the end of the chapter. A glossary at the end of the book lists and defines all the key terms in boldface in the chapters and appendixes and notes the primary location where each term is discussed. There is also an Instructor's Manual, prepared by David B. Strohmetz of Monmouth University, and a set of diskettes, which are available to instructors from your Prentice Hall representative. New to this edition is a Web site connected to Prentice Hall's Web site (www.prenhall.com/rosnow), which provides students with study aids for each chapter and convenient links to other useful Internet resources.

    There are also a number of other features that are new to this edition. For example, the sample report in Appendix A has been rewritten to reflect the most recent APA guidelines for the reporting of research, and the data have been reanalyzed to introduce students to the assumptions of statistical tests (corresponding to the brief discussion in the chapter on t tests). Some material has been shifted; for example, the (rewritten) sample proposal has been moved to Chapter 2, in order to give a preview of what is expected. Appendix A now also contains a sample poster that is based on the research project. The chapters intentionally refer back and forth to ideas, so that connections are emphasized and built upon. In Chapter 2, the discussion of how to do a literature review has been rewritten to reflect the evolution of PsycINFO, PsycLIT, and other recent developments (Rosnow & Rosnow, 2001).

    The APA's publication manual (American Psychological Association, 1994) encourages authors of research reports to provide effect size information, a recommendation underscored in the report of the APA's Task Force on Statistical Inference (Wilkinson et a1.,1999).We describe how to compute and interpret the effect size correlation between an independent and a dependent variable, symbolized as reffect size (introduced in Chapter 12). In reporting reffect size, the convention is to represent it as positive when the observed effect is in the predicted or hypothesized direction and as negative when it is in the opposite direction. The effect size is reported only in the case of focused tests of significance (i.e., any t test, F tests with numerator df= 1, and X2 with 1 df), since meaningful effect sizes cannot be computed for omnibus tests of significance (e.g., F tests with numerator df > 1 or X2 with df > 1). Focused statistical tests can, however, be performed on more than two groups, and in Appendix C, we illustrate how to compute the tcontrast and Fcontrast and their associated effect size correlations.

    Acknowledgments

    We have benefited once again from working with David Strohmetz, who prepared the Instructor's Manual; Margaret Ritchie, who did the copy editing; and Mary Lu Rosenthal, who prepared the indexes. We are grateful for their creative, elegant, and helpful assistance. We thank Bruce Rind for again allowing us to include an edited version of his work in Appendix A. We thank Robert E. Lana for permission to borrow or adapt ideas from Introduction to Contemporary Psychology (Lava & Rosnow, 1972). We thank a long line of excellent teaching assistants and students at Temple University, the University of California-Riverside, and Harvard University for their valuable comments on and criticisms of the lectures, handouts, drafts, and earlier editions on which this fourth edition was based. We thank the following reviewers of one or more editions of this book for their constructive feedback: Bernard C

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