Research and Stats Social Psychology

Episode 45: Basic Research Design – Part 1

Independent variables, dependent variables, t-tests, anovas, the experimental method, between subjects, within subjects, confounds…confused? You won’t be after you watch this week’s video episode. Learn research methods in psychology the fun way – by choosing an interesting topic. In this video I explain the basic concepts of research while examining the effect of gray hair on credibility. More fun than…let me think…well, trust me, it’ll be interesting.


    • Independent Variable: the variable you manipulate (“type of hair” in this example).
    • Dependent Variable: the variable you measure (“credibility” in this example).
    • Operational Definition: the exact data that you will collect. In this example, a subject’s rating on a 1 to 10 credibility scale is my operational definition of credibility.
    • Informed Consent: the explanation you give to participants before the study begins. This statement may to tell them exactly what the study is about, but it should provide enough information regarding what the study is about so that they can decide not to participate if they wish (and they still get full credit or payment for coming to the study.
    • Debriefing: when the experiment is over, participants are given more detailed information about the study and what the experimenters are studying. Typically, participants are also give an email address or phone number they can call if they have questions or concerns.

Related Episodes and Research

    • A somewhat more complex research design is covered in this video episode on factorial designs
    • Check out episode 3 in which I discuss hypotheses and Popper’s important concept of falsifiability.
    • Looking for more fun with research? Check out my episode on how consumer researcher‘s carefully watch your behavior in the grocery store.


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  1. Avatar

    Tina Bale

    February 6, 2008

    oops forgot to include website to projects~

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    Tina Bale

    February 6, 2008

    Thanks Michael!

    I’m a student at the University Reno, Nevada and our instructor (Dr. Dianne Townsend) has included this website as one of our video viewings for the week. This was an useful, clear, fun and concise way to present these research topics.

    RESPONSE SAEY ~ Ideas for cognitive or memory experiment

    I came across a website with ideas on memory and cognition experiments from elementary and middle school students and they actually have some really creative ideas.

    Excerpts from this website (middle school project ideas)

    Electronic Media vs. Paper: Effect on Teenagers’ Reading Comprehension [E]

    Identify how students perceive their grades relative to class averages and how knowing or not knowing the class average affects students’ performance, emotions and goals. [P] [P]

    After reading the second question I thought about analyzing factors such as stereotype threat (e.g., how knowledge of their class ranking impacts confidence).

    Good luck!

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    Valerie D

    February 6, 2008

    I love your site. Stumbling on it by accident, I'm so happy I found it. I have to make a psych game for class and am trying to avoid overused things like jeopardy. Any ideas?

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    February 6, 2008

    Sure. Feel free to email me:

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    February 6, 2008

    Thanks, Mochael. I love your podcast on research basics. You made the boring, complex concepts interesting and easy to understand. I’m an ESL teacher in a Chinese university. I’m interested in studying the relationship among listening self-efficacy, anxiety and listening achievement. I conducted two questionaire surveys to get the data about students'(87) self-efficacy and anxiety for understanding spoken English. I used the listening score from a national test to measure students’ listening achievement. I got stuck when analyzing my data. Can I discuss them in detail with you via email?

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    February 6, 2008


    Here’s one idea – how about something from the research on persuasion? People can be influenced to pay more for a product if they think that there aren’t many of the product available.

    This comes from research done by Robert Cialdini. He called this “scarcity” and he stated that people will be willing to but a product if they think that the product is scarce (hard to find or might not be available for purchase after a short period of time).

    You could do a study on this by first separating subjects randomly into two groups

    Show both groups a picture of a product (say, a computer perhaps – but anything you think subjects would be interested in buying)

    In the text of one ad, write something like “One a few left at this price!”

    In the text of the other ad, simply leave out this text, or write something innocuous

    The IV is the presence or absence of this scarcity information

    The DV could be two things: a) how likely subjects would be to buy the product and b) how much they would be willing to pay for the product

    To get this info, just give the subjects two Likert scales:
    How likely would you be to buy this product? 1 – not at al likely to
    buy ……………..10 – very likely to buy


    How much would you be willing to pay for this product if you were willing to buy it: $50 $60 $70…..etc.

    Do some searching on Cialdini and you’ll find that he identified a few other persuasion techniques. I’ll bet you could do some interesting research on any one of them.

    Hope this helps!

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    February 6, 2008

    hello there,
    I am student from Malaysia, currently doing my second year in psychology degree. I need help on my advanced research methodology. we are required to conduct an experiment and writing out a lab report. I need some ideas formthe experiment, could u help? i am cracking my head for creative ideas now. any ideas greatly appreciated!

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    February 6, 2008

    Could you explain possible mediating/moderating variables in this study, and how to reduce bias/error?

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    February 6, 2008

    I’ve never studied research design from a sociological perspective so unfortunately I don’t think I can help. Interesting question. You’re taking a sociology course I take it. Maybe if you explain the basic idea to your teacher (or a classmate), he or she will have a suggestion. I’ll give it some more thought, but if anyone else has an idea please chime in. @UmuKhalid

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    February 6, 2008

    how can i turn/change this experiment into more sociology experiment. Thank you!

  11. Avatar


    February 6, 2008

    Hello… your video helps alot. I just finished my second year and was thinking about what to do for my third year project. After watching this video i now know what to do. Thanks. Do you have any lecture on psychobiology? I will be having a retake in August but i can’t seems to get a clear understanding. Thanks in advance..

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    February 6, 2008

    Thanks for the 5 stars Khairin – and for subscribing as well. Appreciate it. I might have a few ideas for a study you can do. Email me if you still need help. As for doing a study that no one has ever done before – that’s a tall order. Even grad students getting their doctoral degree in psychology have trouble coming up with a study that has never been done before.

  13. Avatar


    February 6, 2008

    hi Michael,
    i have a problem for my final year project. my instructor asked me to do any creative experiment that people never done it before..i’m thinking about experiment in memory or cognitive. really hope that you will give me some ideas..thank you in advanced!!

  14. Avatar


    February 6, 2008

    Hi. I need to conduct a psychology experiment and write an APA research report for a pych undergrad class. I need some ideas. Can you help me?

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    February 6, 2008

    Fantastic, superb, amazing,…….5 STARS!. instantly gave me an idea for my research!..not to mention with the added info’s(confound variable) etc…Thumps up!..
    All i can say is thank you very much…SUBSCRIBED!

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    February 6, 2008

    Ktistina, no problem. Glad you found the video useful. That’s what it’s all about for me. Thanks for your note.

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    February 6, 2008

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. i asked a question on yahoo answers, and you answered it with this video.. i accidentally made one of my other answers the “best answer”…. i really wanted this one to be the best answer. THANKS AGAIN SO MUCH. i’m definitely going to use this method. thank you thank you thank you.

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    February 6, 2008

    Kate: you could do a study on mnemonics in quite a number of different ways. The IV might be the type of mnemonic that a group of Ss is given (say, keyword vs. no mnemonic) and the DV might be the average number of words recalled from a list. You findings would probably be displayed in a bar graph. Feel free to email me if you need any other info/suggestions.

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    February 6, 2008

    Help! I am doing a project on short-term memory(chunking) and am a bit confused as to the IV and DV and how to display my findings, any ideas greatly appreciated!

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    February 6, 2008

    Yes thanks for the help Michael,
    that sounds like a good idea and would be easy to do. Easier than the idea that my friend an i came up with, we were thinking about schemas. We thought about what would happen if you took the male sign on the bathroom door and made it pink and female sign and made it blue, because of schema of blue is boy and pink is girl. We thought that the sign would be ignored and the color would make people choose the wrong bathroom. Its not that hard to do, but the trouble was the signs themselves, you would probably need real signs for this to work out well.

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    February 6, 2008

    Sergio: I’ll have to give that some thought. I know students are typically stuck when it comes to ideas for observational studies. Hmm…one idea that comes to mind is to observe drivers to see if when there are two people in the car – male and female – does the male typically always drive? You have to make sure that you only count the cars in which there is only a male and female driving – if there are lots of people in the car then you have other social-psychological variables at play that could affect your results. Assuming you find that the male is typically the one driving, you can hypothesize that this could be explained by social roles (men typically assume roles of power while women are encouraged to assume roles of support). There’s one idea anyway. Hope it helps.

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    February 6, 2008

    This was a pretty cool design, i was wondering if you have anything like this about Observational Studies? I am in a research methods class and have to do a study that is only observational, cant manipulate any variables, but i am having a hard time thinking of anything. Does anyone have any ideas or maybe taken a similar class and have any input?

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    February 6, 2008

    Jill, I’m checking the video now and it’s working for me. Can you tell me what’s happening on your end? – Michael

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    Jill Liebnau

    February 6, 2008

    Hello, I stumbled upon your web site and would love to be able to watch Episode 45 Basic research design. For some reason the video isnt available. Thank you so much for your time. Jill

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    February 6, 2008

    Debbie – thanks so much. The two videos on research design were fun to do. I taught the course for many years and I tried to make it fun – god knows the topic can get deadly boring. Please let other students know about the podcast. It’s hard to get the word out. Again thx for your very kind comments. Michael

  26. Avatar

    Debbie Hanna

    February 6, 2008

    Dear Dr. Britt,

    Thank you for this site. I actually just stumbled across it one day. You were able to simply, efficiently, etc., etc., etc., get the point across in just a few minutes on the basics of research terminology.
    I only wish I came across this site years ago when taking my first course in Research Methods. I left the class with an “A”. Although, I was still unsure of the topic. You were able to get the point across within a few short minutes.
    I’m a Senior at UNF and use this site to help with my current studies!!!

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