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Conducting Research in Psychology: Measuring the Weight of Smoke, 5th Edition
Conducting Research in Psychology: Measuring the Weight of Smoke provides students an engaging introduction to psychological research by employing humor, stories, and hands-on activities. Through its methodology exercises, learners are encouraged to use their intuition to understand research methods and apply basic research principles to novel problems. Authors Brett W. Pelham and Hart Blanton integrate cutting-edge topics, including implicit biases, measurement controversies, online data collection, and new tools for determining the replicability of a set of research findings. The Fifth Edition broadens its coverage of methodologies to reflect the types of research now conducted by psychologists. Two new chapters accommodate the needs of instructors who incorporate student research projects into their courses.
Before you begin this book, we would like to make a simple observation: Most undergraduate students dread courses in research methods. This fact was brought home by one of our own students, who (as part of a class exercise) wrote that he anticipated that “few things could be more boring, useless, intimidating, or impenetrable than research methods.” We find opinions such as this disturbing, not only because we each teach courses in research methods but also because we firmly believe that few things could be more interesting, useful, inviting, or intuitive than research methods. If this belief strikes you as strange, that is fine with us.
However, we take it upon ourselves to convince you in this book that most students’ dread of research methods has much more to do with how the topic is presented than with the nature of research methods.
To make this point in a different way, we suspect that, with a little effort, we could write a boring, useless, intimidating, and impenetrable book about such topics as skydiving, juggling, or romantic trysts. The key to doing so would be to focus heavily on the rules and technical details of skydiving, juggling, or trysting without much attention to the actual experience of these inherently interesting activities. Unfortunately,
common approaches to research methods frequently focus too much on the rules and technical details. In our opinion, this is a major reason why research methods courses have such a bad reputation. In contrast, the approach we adopt in this book takes you behind the scenes of psychological research. In this text, of course, we do describe and explain the technical skills you need to conduct solid research. However, we also try to communicate some of the excitement and pleasure that comes from actually conducting research. Along the way, we point out many interesting and surprising things scientific research methods reveal about human nature. To these ends, we generally pursue a hands-on, common-sense approach to research, supplementing lively examples and stories with hands-on exercises that will give you a sense of what it is like to conduct your own research. In summary, our approach to this book is based on two important premises. First, research methods become easy to understand when you can relate them to things that you already know. Second, research methods become interesting when you can use them to discover things you never would have known otherwise.
Although the study of survey wording, experimental design, and inferential statistics can be made difficult and boring, they can also be made both interesting and informative.
Because we both happen to be social psychologists, another important aspect of this text is that we emphasize what is social about psychological research methods. Being a good experimental psychologist
requires the use of the same methodological rules that apply to all other scientific disciplines. However, the fact that people are social beings generates some practical dilemmas that are not likely to plague.
researchers in astrophysics, metaphysics, or psychophysics (a branch of perceptual psychology). The most ubiquitous of these problems is that when people know that their behavior is being studied, they often behave unnaturally. The challenge of experimental psychology is to study “natural” behavior in unnatural (laboratory) situations. The clever solutions psychologists have developed to deal with this problem make experimental research methods in psychology a little different and arguably much more interesting than experimental research methods in general. Because of the human element in psychological research, good experimental psychology is not just good science; it is also good art. It takes a good scientist to generate precise tests of psychological theories, but it takes a good artist (and occasionally a good con artist) to translate these tests into laboratory experiences that are psychologically real to research participants.
New in the Fifth Edition
Now that this book is in its fifth edition, we’ll avoid the temptation to review all of the many ways in which it has evolved over time. Instead, we’ll focus mainly on the two most important revisions that we made to
the fifth edition. In this fifth edition, we added two new chapters (and deleted one old one to make some room for the new ones). We added each of these new chapters (Chapters 3 and 4) to accommodate the needs of instructors who incorporate student research projects into their courses. When we’ve done that ourselves, we’ve always faced a dilemma. When we waited until students knew enough about research
methods to have them start a research project, there was always very little left time for them to finish it (and then write a paper about it). When we required students to start planning and conducting a project
18 very early in the term, they usually made many methodological mistakes they never would have made five or six weeks later.
The two new chapters are designed to avoid this dilemma by doing two things. The new Chapter 3 offers a conceptual overview of psychological research methods by spelling out the essential ingredients of good research—and by providing two simple rubrics (the OOPS! heuristic and the GAGES heuristic) for evaluating research. As far as we know, no other research methods text in psychology does anything like this. The new Chapter 4 provides a careful summary of the process of designing and carrying out research. For example, it includes the IDEA method for generating a good research idea, and it provides concrete tips for converting your idea into a testable hypothesis, for getting IRB approval and for data collection and analysis. Because these two new chapters provide students with easy-to-learn frameworks for critically analyzing research, they also promote critical thinking and methodological analysis in ways that can transform student learning.
Of course, we have also updated the other chapters and activities in this text to reflect the new framework we present in this fifth edition. Finally, because it has been seven years since we last updated the book, we have edited the entire book in ways that reflect recent developments in psychological science. For example, we have provided updated examples of contemporary research in nearly all of the previously existing chapters of the book. Finally, if you are an instructor who previously assigned the chapter we deleted, you will be happy to know that it is not gone forever. We have posted an updated version of the chapter on SAGE’s web page.