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Scientific Research

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Scientific Research

Scientific research follows a systematic approach. It aims to acquire new information that adds to the existing knowledge in the research field. The consensus of scientific research is that researchers should plan their investigation before executing it. This is important as it can help identify if research is observable, empirical, objective, valid, and reliable. These are key requirements for research to be regarded as scientific.

What are the purpose and aims of scientific research?

Scientific research aims to identify and build scientific knowledge that discovers and explains laws or principles of natural or social phenomena. There tend to be multiple explanations when building theories to explain a phenomenon. With scientific research, we can identify studies that provide better explanations and disregard disproved explanations.

The reasons why it is important for research to be scientific are:

  • This leads to the progression of our understanding of a phenomenon. Based on these findings, researchers can outline the motivations/drives concerning individuals’ thoughts, and behaviours. They can also discover how illnesses occur and progress, or how to treat them.
  • Since research is used, for example, to test the effectiveness of a treatment, it is important to ensure that it is based on scientific and empirical data. This ensures that people get the correct treatment to improve their condition.
  • Scientific research ensures that the findings collected are reliable and valid. Reliability and validity are important because they guarantee that the results are applicable to the target population and that the investigation is measuring what it intends to.

This process is what causes the progression of knowledge in the scientific fields.

The scientific research process

For research to be scientific, it should follow a specific process. Following this process ensures that the research is empirical and observable. It also increases the likelihood of the researcher measuring variables in a reliable, valid, and objective manner. This process consists of seven steps or stages.

Steps of scientific research

The seven stages that research should follow to be scientific are:

  1. Make an observation: observe an interesting phenomenon.
  2. Ask a question: based on the observation, form a research question.
  3. Form a hypothesis: after formulating the research question, the researcher should identify and operationalise the tested variables. These variables form a hypothesis: a testable statement concerning how the research will investigate the research question.
  4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis: researchers should carry out background research before conducting research, and make a guess/prediction of what they expect to happen when testing the hypothesis.
  5. Test the hypothesis: carry out empirical research to test the hypothesis.
  6. Analyse the data: the researcher should analyse the gathered data to identify if it supports or rejects the hypothesis proposed.
  7. Draw a conclusion: the researcher should state whether the hypothesis was accepted or rejected, provide general feedback of their research (strengths/weaknesses), and acknowledge how the results will be used to make new hypotheses. This will indicate the next direction that research should take to add to the psychology research field.

Scientific Research Tools for research StudySmarterScientific research

What are the different types of scientific research?

Scientific research can be classified based on different categorising systems. For example, whether the research uses primary or secondary data, what type of causality relationship the data provides, or the research setting. This next section will explain the different types of scientific research used in psychology.

Exploratory, descriptive, and analytical research

The three main ways of categorising research are to identify the purpose of the research:

  • Exploratory research: this research aims to investigate new phenomena that have not been previously investigated or have limited research on them. This tends to be used as an initial stage to identify potential variables to understand a phenomenon.
  • Descriptive research: descriptive research tends to examine questions regarding the whats, whens, and wheres of phenomena. For example, to describe how variables are related to phenomena.
  • Analytical research: it provides explanatory findings of phenomena. It finds and explains causal relationships between variables.

Causality relationship and research

A few other types of scientific research can be categorised based on if the research provides descriptive or analytical inferences regarding the hypothesis. For instance, research that collects data that describes identified patterns or trends or whether data provides further depth to understand the hypothesis.

Descriptive research

Descriptive research allows for researchers to identify similarities or differences and describe the data found. This type of research can give descriptions of the research findings but it cannot be used to explain why the results occurred.

Examples of descriptive research include:

  • Descriptive statistics: mean, median, mode, range, and standard deviation.
  • Case report: research investigating phenomena of a unique characteristic observed in an individual.
  • Epidemiological research: research that investigates the prevalence of epidemiology (diseases in the population.)

Analytical research

Researchers use analytical research to describe why phenomena occur. They usually use a comparison group to identify differences between the experimental groups. Examples of analytical research include:

  • Observational research: a researcher watches participants and records their behaviour.
  • Experimental research: this method involves manipulating the independent variable and measuring the outcome (dependent variable.)

Cohort research is a form of a longitudinal study (follows participants over a long period). This research usually recruits participants who have a common characteristic that the researcher is interested in investigating.

Primary and secondary data

Research can be identified as primary or secondary research. This can be determined by whether the data used for analysis is collected by the researcher themself or if they use previously published findings.

Primary research

This is data collected by the researcher carrying out an experiment. These are some examples:

  • Laboratory experiments.
  • Research carried out in a laboratory.
  • Field experiments.
  • Research carried out in a ‘real-life’ setting. Here the researcher manipulates the independent variable.
  • Natural experiments.
  • Research carried out in a ‘real-life’ setting with no intervention from the researcher.

Secondary research

This is research carried out using previously published research. These are some examples:

  • Meta-analysis.
  • It uses statistical means to combine and analyse data from multiple studies that are similar.
  • Systematic review.
  • It uses a systematic approach (clearly defining variables and creating extensive inclusion and exclusion criteria to find research in databases) to gather empirical data and answer a research question.
  • Review.
  • This is when the researcher critiques another researcher’s published work.

Scientific Research - Key takeaways

  • Scientific research follows a systematic approach in order to acquire new information that adds to the existing knowledge in the research field.
  • The purpose of carrying out scientific research is to identify and build scientific knowledge that discovers and explains laws or principles of natural or social phenomena.
  • It is important for research to be scientific to ensure that research findings are reliable and valid due to their important applications (e.g. measuring the effectiveness of treatment plans). Also, to help us learn more about social and natural phenomena.
  • There are seven steps that research should follow to be scientific: observing a phenomenon, formulating a research question, forming a hypothesis, making a prediction, testing the hypothesis, analysing the data, and drawing conclusions.
  • There are several types of scientific research. They can be classified based on different categorising systems such as if the research used primary or secondary data or the type of information that the research provides.

Frequently Asked Questions about Scientific Research

In order for research to be identified as scientific, there is a specific process that it should follow. Following the process ensures that the research is empirical and observable. In addition, it increases the likelihood of the researcher measuring variables in a reliable, valid, and objective manner.

Scientific research follows a systematic approach in order to acquire new information that adds to the existing knowledge in the research field. This research is required to be observable, objective, and empirical. Research that does not follow this approach cannot be regarded as scientific.

Examples of scientific research are: 

  • Exploratory.
  • Descriptive.
  • Analytical.
  • Primary research- i.e. observations.
  • Secondary research- i.e. meta-analysis.

  1. Make an observation.
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Form a hypothesis.
  4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
  5. Test the hypothesis.
  6. Analyse the data.
  7. Draw a conclusion.

Scientific research is defined as research that follows a systematic approach in order to acquire new information that adds to the existing knowledge in the research field. 

The reasons why it is important for research to be scientific are: 

  • This leads to the progression of our understanding of phenomena. Based on the findings, researchers can outline the motivations/drives concerning individuals’ thoughts and behaviours. They can also find how illnesses occur, progress, or how they can be treated. 
  • Due to the important utility of research such as testing the effectiveness of treatment, it is important to ensure that the research is based on scientific and empirical data. This ensures that people get the correct treatment to improve their conditions. 
  • It ensures that the findings collected are reliable and valid. This is important because it guarantees that the findings are applicable to the target population and that the investigation is measuring what it intends to.


Final Scientific Research Quiz

Question

What theory did Kuhn propose?

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Answer

Theory of paradigms

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Question

What are paradigms?


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Answer

Paradigms are a group of theories or perspectives used to explain a specific subject. Essentially, paradigms are a way of looking at something.

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Question

What are the four predominant paradigms of psychology used in the current zeitgeist? 


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Cognitive psychology, biological approach to psychology, behavioural approach to psychology, and the psychodynamic approach to psychology.

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What constitutes the cognitive psychology paradigm?

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Answer

Cognitive psychologists believe that behaviour and psychological illnesses are a consequence of internal cognitive processes.

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What constitutes the behavioural psychology paradigm? 

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Behavioural psychologists agree that the environment and experience are what shapes human behaviour and what causes psychological illnesses.

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What constitutes the biological psychology paradigm? 

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The consensus of this paradigm is to measure biological, physiological and genetic factors/variables and establish a cause and effect relationship between these and behaviour.

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What constitutes the psychodynamic paradigm?

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Psychodynamic psychologists argue that the role of the inner battle between aspects of the human personality is what causes human behaviour.

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Question

What theory did Karl Popper propose?

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Answer

Theory of falsifiability

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What is the theory of falsifiability? 

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The theory of falsifiability is a theory that proposes theories/hypotheses should be testable and able to be proven wrong. For instance, they should be observable and able to be tested via observational methods.

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What are the principles of falsifiability? 


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  • For research to be regarded a scientific it needs to be observable and hypothesesmust be able to be proven wrong. 
  • The world is ‘theory-laden’ and we use these theories to understand and explain our observations.
  • Research should take a deductive approach: using deductive logic researchers’ role is to provide support or reject theories. 
  • If a falsifiable theory is tested and it yields significant results, then it is accepted as scientific evidence. The current paradigm can largely impact if a theory is accepted as scientific evidence. 

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Question

Of the following example statements, which would be regarded as non-falsifiable?  

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Answer

Unicorns are magical creatures

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Question

Of the following example statements, which would be regarded as falsifiable?  

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Answer

The relationship between caffeine intake prior to a test and memory recall

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Question

State the example Popper gave of why scientific research should take a deductive approach to research. 

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Answer

Based on their observations and using inductive reasoning, Europeans thought that there were only white swans. However, after exploring Australia, Europeans observed black swans and so deduced that not all swans are white.

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What is a strength of the theory of falsifiability?


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The theory is realistic as it proposes that hypotheses cannot be 100% proven.

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What is a weakness of the theory of falsifiability? 

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Answer

It is difficult to know when to draw the line. For instance, how many observations are required to disprove a theory?  

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Question

What is a scientific report?

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A scientific report consists of details regarding scientists reporting what their research entailed and reporting the results and conclusions drawn from the study.

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Why is scientific research reported per APA in psychology?

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Answer

  • It ensures the scientists report enough information.
  • It makes the report easier to read and find the relevant information.
  • It ensures the original research authors are acknowledged and credited.

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Question

How should the following book be reported per APA guidelines? The book is called Abnormal psychology, Worth Publishers published it in New York in 2007. Ronald J Comer wrote the book. 

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Answer

Comer, R. J. (2007). Abnormal psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

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What structure should a scientific report follow?

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Answer

The structure of a scientific report should use the following subheadings: 

  • Abstract.
  • Introduction.
  • Method.
  • Results.
  • Discussion.
  • References.
  • Occasionally appendix.

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What are potential subheadings we can find in the methods section of a scientific report? 


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  • Design.
  • Participants.
  • Materials.
  • Procedure.
  • Ethics.


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Where can readers find the hypothesis of research? 

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In the astract and introduction.

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What is the purpose of the abstract?

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The purpose of the abstract is to provide an overview of the research so that the reader can quickly identify if the research is relevant or of interest to them.

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How long should an abstract be?

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250-300 words.

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Question

Is the following reference reported in accordance with APA guidelines ‘Fjell, A. M., Walhovd, K. B., Fischl, B., & Reinvang, I. Cognitive function, P3a/P3b brain potentials, and cortical thickness in ageing. Human Brain Mapping, 28 (11), 1098-1116. doi:10.1002/hbm.20335’?

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Answer

No, the publication year is missing.

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Do researchers have to report insignificant data?

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Yes, they need to report all data, whether significant or not.

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What is the difference between the information that should be put in the results and discussion section?

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In the results section, the researcher should insert the inferential data analysed, which could take the form of numerical numbers, graphs and figures. In this section, they should not discuss or explain the results. Instead, they should write it under the discussion heading. However, the data reported in the results section should not be repeated here.

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What is a primary scientific report?

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A primary scientific report is produced when the researchers conduct the research themselves.

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What is a secondary scientific report?

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Secondary scientific reports such as peer-reviews, meta-analysis and systematic reviews are a type of scientific report that scientists produce when the researcher answers their proposed research question using previously published findings.

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What kind of details should be added in the discussion section?

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Answer

  • The first thing that researchers should write about in the discussion is whether the findings support the hypothesis proposed or not.
  • They should then discuss and explain the results the research found.
  • They should then compare the findings to previously published findings that investigated the phenomena.
  • It is essential to critique this research, such as the strengths and weaknesses, how it contributed to the psychology field and its next direction.

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Question

What information should be provided in the procedure section of a scientific report?

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Answer

  • This section should describe what researchers did in the research in the order they conducted it.
  • They should include the details about standardised instruction, informed consent, and debriefing.

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Question

What is scientific research?

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Answer

Scientific research follows a systematic approach in order to acquire new information that adds to the existing knowledge in the research field.

Show question

Question

What is the purpose of scientific research? 


Show answer

Answer

To identify and build scientific knowledge that discovers and explains laws/principles of natural or social phenomena.

Show question

Question

What causes the progression of our knowledge in the scientific field? 


Show answer

Answer

There tend to be multiple explanations when building theories to explain a phenomenon. With scientific research, we can identify studies that provide better explanations and disregard disproved explanations. This process is what causes the progression of knowledge in the scientific fields.

Show question

Question

How does research lead to the progression of our understanding of phenomena?


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Answer

It establishes what motivates/drives individuals’ thoughts and behaviours. It also oultines how illnesses occur, and progress, or how to treat them. It describes and explains how social/natural phenomena occur. The accumulative research and the constant testing are what progress our understanding.

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How do we establish if research is scientific?


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Answer

Findings collected need to be reliable and valid. This is important because it makes sure that the findings are applicable to the target population and that the investigation is measuring what it intends to.

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Question

Why does research need to be based on scientific and empirical data? 


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Answer

Due to its utility. Since it can test the effectiveness of treatment, it is important to ensure that the research is based on scientific and empirical data. That way, it ensures that people get the correct treatment to improve their condition.

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Question

What are the seven stages of the scientific research process? 


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Answer

  1. Make an observation
  2. Ask a question
  3. Form a hypothesis
  4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis
  5. Test the hypothesis
  6. Analyse the data
  7. Draw a conclusion


Show question

Question

What are the three main ways that scientific research is categorised?


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Answer

  • Explorative 
  • Descriptive 
  • Analytical


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Question

What is primary research? 



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Answer

Primary research is research that the investigator conducts themself.


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Question

What is secondary research? 

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Answer

Secondary research is research carried out using and analysing previously published research to understand phenomena.


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Question

What is the difference between scientific research and research? 


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Answer

Scientific research follows a systematic approach in order to acquire new information that adds to the existing knowledge in the research field. This research has to be observable, objective, and empirical. Research that does not follow this approach cannot be regarded as scientific. 


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Question

How is analytical research usually carried out? 

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Answer

Analytical research tends to use a comparison group to identify differences between experimental groups and control groups. 

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What information can descriptive research not provide? 


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Answer

Descriptive research cannot explain why a phenomenon occurs. i.e., provide causality explanations.

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Why is a systematic review classified as secondary research? 


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Answer

Because it uses a systematic approach by clearly defining variables and creating extensive inclusion and exclusion criteria to find previously published research in databases. This research method is used to gather empirical data to answer a research question.

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Question

What is the definition of research quality criteria?

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Answer

Research quality criteria are requirements of research psychologists recommended and agreed upon.

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Why does research in the psychology field need to meet the requirements of the research quality criteria?

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Answer

Data and reports need to meet the requirements to be considered as quality, credible, trustworthy, empirical, valid and reliable research.

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Question

What are the research quality criteria for quantitative data?

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Answer

  • Validity.
  • Reliability. 
  • Objectivity. 
  • Empirical research.

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Question

What is the definition of standardising variables and how is it used to measure internal validity?

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Answer

Standardised variables refer to providing a definition of the variable and providing details of how the research is measuring the variable. This allows the researcher and the readers to identify and provide instructions on what the variables are, how they are measured and analysed. They can use statistical analyses to identify if variables are assessing what they are intended to measure (internal validity).

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Question

How could researchers standardise depression (variable), in accordance with the following research scenario: ‘Research investigating changes in depression before and after cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)’?

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Answer

Depression scores before and after CBT treatment were measured using Beck’s Depression Inventory. This inventory uses a likert scale to measure depression scores and the tests were scored using the instructions provided by Beck’s Depression Inventory. 

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Question

How can researchers check the reliability of quantitative data? 


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Answer

Checking the internal reliability/ consistency of scales - for instance all of the questions in a scale that is measuring depression should be measuring depression levels

Assessing the generalisability theory - identifying the consistency of instruments used in research or if results obtained from participants are due to specific conditions   


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