What are the characteristics of good psychological research?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good psychological research must possess a good theoretical framework, standardized procedures, generalization, and an objective measurement.

A good theoretical framework illustrates a resercher's ideas about interrelated concepts. This framework organizes and directs the study, identifies what needs measurement, and identifies the relationships examined. This will include an identification of the cases (objects/people being studied) and the variables (the characteristics of the cases).

Standardized procedures insure that each time the experiment is conducted it is done so in the exact same way every time. For example, if a female conducts the experiment, a female must always conduct each of the individual procedures of the experiment.

Generalization refers to the idea that the outcome of the experiment must apply to the population as a whole (or a large percentage of the population). This insure that sweeping assumptions are not made based upon small samplings of a population.

Objective measurement refers to measurements which are both reliable and valid. If the research experiment cannot be replicated, the results are not reliable or valid. Therefore, experiments must be able to be consistent across time and cases, and experiments must be valid regarding its construction, criterion, and content.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are as many different forms of psychological research as there are subfields of psychology, with each particular type having its own questions, methods, and modes of inquiry.

For all fields, your starting point as a researcher is completing a full literature review, i.e. reading all of the work that other researchers have published previously on the specific problem you are addressing. Basically, a piece of research is only useful if it contributes something to the field, either confirming existing studies, disproving existing theories or exploring new territory. Papers that do not show clear awareness of previous research and situate themselves with respect to it are unlikely to be accepted at conferences or published by reputable journals.

Research in psychoanalysis usually focuses on the theories of important thinkers such as Lacan, Freud, or Jung and often synthesizes library research with case studies of patients or even literary figures. It is quite different from experimental psychology, which conducts controlled experiments on groups of people or animals and then analyzes the results. What makes a type of research considered good is how it fits within existing disciplinary norms.