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Course & Subject Guides

Research Methods in Psychology - Oakland Campus

A guide to using PsycINFO, Google Scholar, and other psychology resources for PSY 0037.

Conducting Original Research

First Step - Choose a topic from an assigned list or on your own

Select a topic which interests and engages you so that you will be compelled to conduct the research and find meaningful outcomes.

Second Step - Do some background research

Conduct some general searches for information on your topic to narrow your topic and find subjects that may warrant further study.

Third Step - Formulate a research statement or question

Formulate a hypothesis in one of three ways

  • As  a single sentence hypothesis statement ( It is hypothesized that the...)
  • As a research question
  • As a title to a research proposal

Fourth Step - Develop a research proposal for presentation 

Include the following items

  • Title
  • Introduction/Background
  • Purpose/Hypothesis
  • Methods/Study Design
  • Analysis
  • Funding (if necessary)
  • References
  • Opportunity for Questions

Choosing the Research Topic

In this example we are interested in social psychology and motivation behind social behaviors of college students.


"Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, beliefs, intentions and goals are constructed within a social context by the actual or imagined interactions with others"

McCloud, S. (2007). What Is Social Psychology? Definition, Theories & Examples.


We want to investigate how an individuals response in a certain situation is influenced or dependent on social constructs.

Specifically we want to investigate the reasons why some college students consciously decide not take umbrellas with them on days that it rains. 

Conducting Background Research

In this step we want to conduct some background research on social psychology and the social influences of decision making.


Using PscyInfo (and other databases) we can conduct the search using appropriate keywords and the Boolean operators (AND OR & NOT)

By utilizing the definition and contexts mentioned in the above section we will conduct searches using the following terms:




response or decision


After reviewing some articles from the result list we can further narrow our topic by identifying social factors that may contribute to the decision by some college students to not take an umbrella on days that it rains. 

Some factors include

sense of belongingness

perceived norms 

peer influences


group decision making

bandwagon effect

Formulate Research Statement or Question

The research question should include at least one independent variable (cause) and one depend variable (effect).

It may help to use an existing framework such as SPIDER:

S - Sample = College students

P I - Phenomenon of Interest or dependent variable= Not taking umbrella

D - Design  = Questionnaire, survey or interview

E -Exposure or independent variables = Sense of belonging, number of peers taking umbrellas

R - Research type = Mixed Method


For our example, an appropriate question would be: 

To what extent does a college student’s adversity to using umbrellas depend on a student’s need to belong and the number of friends they have  that also don't carry umbrellas?


Design a Research Proposal for Presentation

Title Slide - The first slide should be the title slide.  The title should reflect the all the aspects of the reference question.

For example:

Umbrella use among college students and how the need to belong and the number of friends using umbrellas, influence a students decision to carry one.


Background Slides - These should highlight some background data on the topic in general and within the population more specifically.

For this example you would want to include information on trends, groupthink, bandwagon effect, and collective behavior in general. And also include how these things manifest in a college setting as well as,  the importance of peer influences.


Purpose or Hypothesis Slide(s) - This slide should state why you are choosing to do research on this topic and what you believe the outcome of the research will prove.

You will state why you feel this is an important issue, why you think it deserves further study and what you think the outcome will be based on your current knowledge of the existing literature.


Method/Design Slide - This slide will detail what study methods you will use and how you will gather your data.

You will include the type up study you want to conduct.  In this example we could conduct a mixed method study that would rely on a questionnaire.  We would ask participants questions about their number of friends that carry umbrellas (quantitative).  We will also ask questions regarding a students need to belong or fear of being seen as "uncool" (qualitative).


Analysis - This slide will explain how you plan to analyze the data.

This slide should include the analytical methods you will employ to code, assign value or determine statistical significance of the data. 


Funding - This slide will highlight any funding sources that will be contributing to the research project.

For this example there will not be any funding, so this slid will not need to be included.


Reference - Include references that were used to prepare the slides.

In this example we would include any references we used to compile the background information as well as any other references used on subsequent slides.


Question Slide - This slide is simply in place to provide an opportunity for your audience to ask further questions.

You may also want to include contact information for questions that come up after presentation.