Research Methods (PSYC 30800)
Spring 2019

Barney Beins

Contacting me

Schedule for the Course

Office Hours

Teaching Assistant

Purpose of the Course

Goals of the Course

Nature of the Course


Tests and Evaluation Policies

Extra Credit

Important Dates


Homework: Homework assignments are due on the dates listed in the Assignments-At-A-Glance document. If there are changes to the schedule, I will announce them in class the week before the change is relevant.

When you complete assignments, make sure that you save them when I return them to you. If it should happen that there is a discrepancy in your records and mine, it is easier to resolve if you can show me the homework I've returned to you.

Extra Credit: If you want to earn extra credit for participating in research, make sure you read the guidelines.

I have posted learning aids on Sakai for your benefit:

  • POWERPOINT FILES: You have access to PowerPoint files for each chapter via Sakai. They provide chapter outlines of the major points.
  • PRACTICE TESTS: There are practice tests available on Sakai for the three tests and for the final exam.
  • STUDY GUIDES: There are study guides on Sakai for each of the chapters we will be covering in class for the semester.

This is what your research experience can lead to.







"Understanding physics is child's play compared to understanding child's play."--Attributed to Albert Einstein

Contact Information

Barney Beins
Office: 115-E Williams
Phone: 607-274-3512 or 607-274-3304 (Psych Dept.)


Exception: During the registration period, you will need to sign up for an appointment time because I will need to meet with advisees who sign up for meetings to discuss their schedules. Because the final exam schedule differs from the regular schedule, I will be available by appointment or if you come by my office and I am available.

Teaching Assistant:

Christie Flock

Contact Christie if you would like additional help with course material.


January/February   March   April/May
January 21-25   March 4-8   April 8-12
January 28-February 1   March 11-15   April 15-19
February 4-8   March 18-22   April 22-26
February 11-15   March 25-29   April 29-May 3
February 18-22   April 1-5   May 6-10
February 25-March 1        

Purpose of this course

(Go to the top of the syllabus)

In this course, you will learn how to understand, evaluate, and carry out research. This means being able to determine the adequacy of research you encounter as a consumer, setting up the rationale for a research project, creating a competent methodology, collecting data, analyzing the data, interpreting the results, and then communicating the results.

There are many ways to do good research. Some of them are experimental, like much of the work done on our research teams, but there are other ways of collecting data that are useful or even preferred in some situations. Any methodology has its strong and weak points; you are going to learn about them in this class.

Whether or not you continue in psychology after you graduate, you will probably need to organize and explain data that either you or someone else gathered. Consequently, you are going to need the ability to take a set of raw data and to make some sense of it. You will learn about this skill, including computerized data analysis. (For this component of the course, you may want to refer back to your statistics text or to borrow one.)

Goals of this course

Characterize the nature of psychology as a discipline.

Demonstrate knowledge and understanding representing appropriate breadth and depth in selected content areas of psycholog

Use the concepts, language, and major theories of the discipline to account for psychological phenomena.

Describe the basic characteristics of the science of psychology.

Explain different research methods used by psychologists.

Evaluate the appropriateness of conclusions derived from psychological research.

Demonstrate reasonable skepticism and intellectual curiosity by asking questions about causes of behavior.

Evaluate scientific evidence for psychological claims.

Tolerate ambiguity and realize that psychological explanations are often complex and tentative.

Exhibit quantitative literacy.


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After you complete this course

When you finish this methods course, you should have several valuable skills that you have not yet attained. You should remember to include them on your resume when you apply for jobs or for graduate school. These skills include

Remember: These are all marketable skills that will separate you from the rest of the crowd applying for that job or that graduate school spot that you really want.

(Go to the top of the syllabus)

The nature of this course

This course requires consistent work throughout the semester. This is a skills course, which means that you will be exposed to topics that you will need to employ in other courses. The focus is on applying research techniques, so the stress will be twofold: learning about the techniques that psychologists use and actually applying them. You will learn about a wide variety of topics. As such, if you fall behind in the work, you will experience difficulty catching up. The material is not difficult per se, but it is extensive; if you have problems, make sure you see me about them.

You will be developing research and problem-solving skills in this class. As such, it is important for you to abide by the ethical guidelines that researchers have adopted. In particular, all the work you do for this class must be your own. I encourage you to collaborate with others in developing your ideas, but the work you complete for the course must be your own. Passing somebody else's work off as your own is in violation with Ithaca College policies and any infractions will be subject to College regulations.

If you require some type of assistance because of a disability, please contact the Office of Academi Support Services (607-274-l005; TDD: 607-274-1767. You should let me know in advance if you need special accommodations.

In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case by case basis. Students must register with the Office of Academic Support Services and provide appropriate documentation to the college before any academic adjustment will be provided.

Take Care of Yourself

Diminished mental health, including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, or problems with eating and/or sleeping can interfere with optimal academic performance. The source of symptoms might be related to your course work; if so, please speak with me. However, problems with relationships, family worries, loss, or a personal struggle or crisis can also contribute to decreased academic performance.

Ithaca College provides cost-free mental health services through the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to help you manage personal challenges that threaten your personal or academic well-being.

In the event I suspect you need additional support, expect that I will express to you my concerns and the reasons for them. It is not my intent to know the details of what might be troubling you, but simply to let you know I am concerned and that help (e.g., CAPS, Health Center, Chaplains, etc.), if needed, is available.

Remember, getting help is a smart and healthy thing to do -- for yourself and for your loved ones.


Beins, B. C. (2017). Research Methods: A Tool for Life, 4th ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

(Go to the top of the syllabus)

January 22-26
Reading and Topics:Chapter 1: Psychology, Science, and Life

We will begin to deal with the ways that psychologists ask questions and decide what to believe about human behavior. The answers are not always easy or straightforward, so we have to be careful in the way we approach our decision-making.

Discussion: Ways of knowing: how do you know what you know?

What do you actually know about subliminal perception? Have you listened to Stairway to Heaven?

DISCUSSION QUESTION: How could you test to see if subliminal perception has an effect on behavior?

Can I get you to drink a cup? Some researchers think they can. (At least some of the time.)

Karremans, J. C., Stroebe, W., & Claus, J. (2006). Beyond Vicary's fantasies: The impact of subliminal priming and brand choice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 792-798. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2005.12.002


Activity: Predicting research results

School violence

What is your Body Mass Index?

Provide data for Health Survey

Assignment: Reaction Paper: Who is happier?


January 29-February 2
Reading and Topics: We will continue to talk about asking and answering psychological questions (Chapter 1).

Discussion: Critical thinking: "The worst social statistic ever"

Activity: Using SPSS


Homework: Selecting Statistical Tests

Reaction Paper: Brain Training


February 4-8

Reading: Chapter 2: Ethics in Research

In the past, researchers have engaged in egregious conduct, sometimes harming the people they are studying. In response, guidelines have been developed to protect the people and animals we study and to insure the integrity of the research process. The American Psychological Association was in the forefront of developing ethical guidelines; state and federal laws often rely on proposals first made by APA. The ethical principles espoused by the APA appear in your text in Chapter 2 on pages 34-36 (Tables 2.1 and 2.2)

There are federal and state laws regarding ethics in research; in addition, the American Psychological Association has developed ethical guidelines. We also have the Nuremburg Code, which is an international standard for ethics in research.

Activity: Please complete this survey. You can choose to include the data in the data set or decide not to. If you decide not to, simply exit the survey before submitting the data.

Information on the research review guidelines from the federal government.

A picture of me and the Milgram Shock Generator


Homework: Efficacy of Prayer

Reaction Paper: Binge Drinking

Discussion: Francis Galton studied the efficacy of prayer in 1872. Does anybody study the efficacy of prayer now?


February 11-15

Reading: Chapter 3--Planning Research: Generating a Question

Researchers ask questions that come from a diversity of sources. Sometimes an investigator will observe some behavior and wonder why it happens. Sometimes an investigator has a specific problem to solve and wants to figure out the best solution. sometimes, researchers have theories they want to test. Regardless of the origin of the question, it is important for researchers to know what others have done before them so they don't simply do studies that others have already carried out. In this chapter, you will see how ideas develop.


Data Collection: Word Recall


Homework: Stanford Prison Study

Reaction Paper: Research errors/fraud

Statistics Work: To be given in class


February 18-22


Reading and Topics: Chapter 4--Practical Issues in Planning your Research

Research involves making a lot of practical decisions in creating a sound study. You have to make decisions about your participants and subjects, how you will sample, making measurements that are meaningful, and deciding on an overall approach.


Homework: Depression Research

Reaction Paper: Prison Research Participants

Data Collection

February 25-March 1

Reading and Topics: Chapter 5--Measurement and Sampling

TEST #1 (Chapters 1-3) is on Tuesday, February 26.

When you conduct any research, you have to figure out what you are going to measure and how you will be measuring it. In psychology, we regularly make use of operational definitions, which stand in for variables that we aren't able to measure directly. The issues that we have to deal with include exactly what we intend to measure (and how), along with the question of validity of our measurements.


Homework: 10,000 Steps a Day

Reaction Paper: Mate Selection


March 4-8

Reading and Topics: Chapter 6--Conducting an Experiment: General Principles

Experimental approaches in research dominate psychology. We use experiments because they let us investigate and understand the causes of behavior. in order to have confidence in our assessment of causation, we have to consider a lot of detail in setting up our research so that we can draw unambiguous conclusions.


Homework: Sexual Violence

Reaction Paper: Student Mental Health

Activity: Deciding about external validity


March 11-15--Spring Break (No Classes)


March 18-22


Reading and Topics: Chapter 7--Experiments with One Independent Variable

Behavior is complex. As a result, the studies we plan need to be complex. However, it sometimes makes sense to start with simple designs. In this chapter, you will learn about experimental designs that involve one independent variable. The simplest experiment involves two groups, but we seldom use such a simple design. More often, we investigate multiple groups and/or multiple independent and dependent variables.

Activity: Identifying IVs and DVs

Data Collection: Research with one IV



Homework: Internal Validity

Reaction Paper: Cell Phones and Driving

Statistics Activity: To be given in class



March 25-29

Reading and Topics: Chapter 8--Experiments with Multiple Independent Variables

TEST #2 (Chapters 4-6) is on Tuesday, April 2.

Because behavior is complex, our research designs end up being complex, too. There are many different ways to design studies so that we can assess the effects of more than one variable on behavior. This approach is important because, in life, more than one variable is going to influence what we do and how we think.

Activity: Identifying research designs

Data collection: Male-Female

Assignments: None

Age Data Collection



April 1-5

Reading and Topics: Chapter 8--Continued


Homework: Identifying Variables

Reaction Paper: Texting Mom

Activity: Repeated measures designs: The Stroop Effect

Who's to Blame?


April 8-12

Reading and Topics: Chapter 10--Principles of Survey Research

One of the most ubiquitous forms of research is the survey. Although it is common and we tend to take them for granted, survey research is very difficult to carry out well. Identifying your population, then your sample, can be hard. Developing well worded questions is always problematic. In addition, respondents bring their own idiosyncrasies to the situation. Surveys can be very useful, but they must be done well if they are to provide good information.

The wording of the questions is important and poses the greatest challenge in creating a survey. How you word your questions shapes the answers you get. If you want to get the most useful information, you need to pay attention to how your construct your questions. Researchers have identified important issues in creating survey questions. Another critical aspect of conducting survey research involves the question of how you will administer the survey. There are advantages and disadvantages to any approach you take.


Homework: Hot Sauce

Reaction Paper: Epidemic of Narcissism?

Activity: Assessing the goals of education

Trigger warnings


April 15-19


Reading and Topics: Survey Research (continued)


Homework: Survey Questions

Reaction Paper: Teens and Junk Food

Activity: Personality Data

Activity: Your style


April 22-26

Reading and Topics: Chapter 11--Correlational Research

TEST #3 (Chapters 7, 8, and 10) is on Tuesday, April 23.

Sometimes research questions are too complex to be handled easily by experimental research. At other times, it may not be feasible or ethical to do experimental research to address a question. In these instances, correlational research can be very useful. Correlations don't let us assess causation, but they let us see patterns of behavior and predict them, even if we don't know the causes of the behavior.


Reaction Paper: Smoking cessation

Activity: Predicting attendance


April 29-May 3

Reading and Topics: Chapter 11--Correlational Research

Test 3

Sometimes research questions are too complex to be handled easily by experimental research. At other times, it may not be feasible or ethical to do experimental research to address a question. In these instances, correlational research can be very useful. Correlations don't let us assess causation, but they let us see patterns of behavior and predict them, even if we don't know the causes of the behavior.

Assignments: None
Food issues in schools



8:00 Section: Tuesday, May 7, 7:30 to 10:00 a.m.

9:25 Section: Friday, May 10, 7:30 to 10:00 a.m.


(Go to the top of the syllabus)

Tests and Evaluation of Your Performance

There will be different components to my evaluation of your performance. First, we will have quizzes every three chapters; they will not be surprise tests--I will give you at least one class notice. They will be short answer and multiple choice in format. (40% of your grade)

Note: There will be no makeup tests. On the final exam, you will be able to substitute your score on final exam questions relating to any tests you missed. If you have missed a test, you will have to substitute the score on those final exam questions for that test. If you have taken all of the tests, you have the option of replacing any test scores you want to. It is optional; you do not need to make such a substitution.

The final exam will be cumulative. You will integrate the information you learned during the semester by using the concepts that you learned. Any extra credit you have earned will be added to your final exam. (25% of your grade)

You will also have writing assignments and some statistics homework. Some of it will involve taking data sets and writing verbal interpretations of them. Some of this work will be computerized. (35% of your grade)

Note: Late homework is subject to a penalty of 10% deduction per day. (This means that if you hand in your paper one day late, your grade will be your earned score x .90; two days later means your grade will be your earned score x .80, etc.) If an assignment is due on Tuesday but you do not have it to hand in, you need to give it to me by Tuesday morning of the next week. If the assignment is due on Thursday, you have until the following Tuesday morning. After those times, you will receive a grade of zero for that homework assignment unless you have made other arrangements with me.

Late reaction papers will receive half credit. Any late reaction papers need to be handed in by the day of the next class meeting.

In addition, if you turn in handwritten homework assignments, there will be a 20% penalty in your maximum grade.


(Go to the top of the syllabus)


You can get extra credit for this class in four different ways.

1. You can participate in an approved experiment within the Psychology Department. After participating, you need to write a summary of what you did in the study, what methodology they used, and what statistical analysis they will perform after collecting the data. You also need to indicate what, if anything, you got out of this research participation. (Please note: You do not have to say that you learned a lot, or even a little, from participating in a study. I seriously want to know what you got out of the experience.) If you do not hand in your responses to the points below, you will get one point for participation in the study and will not earn the maximum of two points.

These are the elements you must include in your summary of the study.

(a) You need to describe the research question for the study in which you participated

(b) You must outline of the methodology; that is, what you did during the study

(c) Why did you think about the way the study was conducted? Did you learn anything? What was it like to participate?

2. You can read and summarizing an approved journal article from a psychological journal. There are a few elements you must present. (a) You need to explain why the researchers did their work, (b) how they did it, (b) what statistical analysis they performed, and (d) what they concluded. You also need to indicate (e) how easy or difficult it was to understand the article and explain yourself.

3. You can bring a summary of a report in the popular media (e.g., magazine or newspaper article) that relates to the kind of research we deal with in class. Your written report should include what the research was about, what methodology they seem to have used, what the researchers concluded, and what additional information you would like to have seen in their news report that wasn't there.

When you are ready to submit your information, put your summary in the dropbox in Sakai.

4. If you write an exceptionally astute answer to a quiz question, I may award an extra point. This is a rare event, but each semester a few students write answers that are so remarkable and go so far beyond a minimal answer that I feel it deserves extra credit. In those cases, I will award such credit. The extra point(s) will be added to the test, not to the final exam like the first three extra credit options.

Each activity (#1-3) will be worth a maximum of two percent on your final exam grade, with a maximum of ten points allowed. This means that you can participate in five studies for extra credit. Before doing any extra credit work for the second or third options above, you must check with me in advance so that I can assess its suitability. The credit you earn for each one will depend on the quality of your write-up. Please note that you are not guaranteed two points per attempt; part of your score depends on the quality of your answers. If you do not write up a description of your participation, you will receive one point for participating.

All extra credit submissions must be in the Sakai dropbox by the end of the day on Monday, May 6.

Academic Calendar


January 21

MLK, Jr Day (No Classes)


January 22

Classes Begin 8:00 a.m.


January 28

Last Day to Audit Semester & Block I Courses


January 28

Last Day to ADD/DROP Block I Courses


January 28

Last Day to ADD/DROP Semester Courses


January 30

Last Day to Request S/D/F Option in Block I Courses


February 11

Last Day to Request S/D/F Option in Semester Courses


February 18

Last Day to Withdraw with "W" in Block I Courses


February 18

Last Day to Revoke S/D/F Option in Block I Courses


March 8

Block I Ends 4:00 p.m.; Spring Break Begins


March 9-17

Spring Break - No Classes


March 18

Classes Resume 8:00 a.m.; Block II Begins


March 20

Mid-Term Grades Due (Online) 10:00 p.m.


March 20

Block I Final Grades Due (Online) 10:00 p.m.


March 24

Last Day to ADD/DROP Block II Courses


March 24

Last Day to Audit Block II Courses


March 27

Last Day to Request S/D/F Option in Block II Courses


March 27

Summer 2019 Application for Graduation Due (Online)


March 29

Last Day to Revoke S/D/F Option in Semester Courses


March 29

Last Day to Withdraw with "W" Semester Courses


April 2-11

Online Registration for Fall 2019


April 19

Last Day to Revoke S/D/F Option in Block II Courses


April 19

Last Day to Withdraw with "W" in Block II Courses


April 19

Last Day to Withdraw with "W" in Graduate Courses


May 6

Last Day of Classes


May 7

Final Examinations Begin 7:30 a.m.


May 10

Final Examinations End 10:00 p.m.


May 15

All Final Grades Due (Online) 10:00 p.m.


May 19






This page is maintained by Barney Beins, Ithaca College Department of Psychology
Last modified: January 2019

Copyright: Barney Beins 2002-2019