understanding research methodologyIn order to fully appreciate and apply the knowledge that has been acquired through the scientific process, it is imperative to have a basic understanding of scientific research methodology.

Methodology: scientific techniques used to collect and evaluate data.

This is the first in a series of articles that will shed light on scientific research methods.  It is important to understand that all research methods play an important role in leading us to tentative conclusions concerning how things work in the observable universe.  But, it also important to realize different types of research should be interpreted and applied in a different manner.

As an example, the primary goal of correlation research is prediction, while the primary goal of experimental research is explanation/understanding.

My intent here is not to discuss the philosophy of science, as I have already done in other articles such as Scientific Approaches to Knowledge Authorities are Fallible The Limitations of Science, but to discuss the different methods utilized by science.

Scientific Approaches to Knowledge

  • General approach:  Empirical
  • Observation: Controlled
  • Reporting: Unbiased
  • Concepts: Clear definitions
  • Instruments: Accurate/precise
  • Measurement: Reliable/repeatable
  • Hypotheses: Testable
  • Attitude: Critical

The Need for Scientific Methodology

In our everyday lives we are exposed to a plethora of events and information.  Often, we form opinions and beliefs based on how we interpret these events.  We also have a tendency to form beliefs based on what others believe.  Sometimes these beliefs are corroborated by converging evidence (evidence from other methods of inquiry), but often these beliefs are unsubstantiated.

A basic understanding that everyday judgments, causal determinations, and observations are often flawed, should lead to an appreciation of more rigorous methods — scientific research methods — of knowledge acquisition.

According to Myers & Hansen (2002) there are two key factors the thwart our ability to gather and evaluate data in a systematic and impartial manner: exposure to small samples, and the fact that “the conclusions we draw from them are subject to a number of inherent tendencies, or biases, that limit their accuracy and usefulness” (Myers & Hansen, 2002, p. 4)

Stay tuned for part two.


Myers, A. & Hansen, C. (2002).  Experimental Psychology. Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth.

Photo by Carl W. Wycoff, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.