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Research in Abnormal Psychology

By:   •  March 19, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  1,124 Words (5 Pages)  •  408 Views

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Research in Abnormal Psychology

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Research in Abnormal Psychology

        There are many standards that must be upheld in proper psychological research. Some of these are ethical, some are intended to ensure that the results obtained are genuine and repeatable. This paper will briefly examine the situation set out as Assignment 1.

        In the situation described, a graduate student, Jane, comes into my class and asks the students be allowed to fill out a questionnaire. The purpose of this is to assist her with research for her thesis. After explaining the purpose of the study, Jane asks the students to read and sign a consent form that is required for participation in the study. While distributing the form, Jane explains the purpose of her study, and thanks the students for assisting her with it. A student in the class collects all of the completed consent forms and puts them into a stack. Jane proceeds to hand out her questionnaire. The instructions on the questionnaire state that participants should not put their names or student numbers on the questionnaire. Jane adds, however, that students will be allowed to participate in an additional, related, study if they put their names and other information on the back page. She reassures the students that this back page will be removed from the questionnaire. Jane reminds the students to ensure that they have completed all of the questions before handing it their questionnaires.

        After the questionnaires have been completed, Jane repeats the purpose of the research and points out that the results of the survey will be posted on a website and provides me with the website’s URL. Some time later during the same semester, a friend of mine and I meet Jane by chance. She thanks me again for taking part in the study. I am curious, and so I ask Jane how I scored on the questionnaire and she tells me.

        The question to be answered about this situation is whether the research was conducted in an acceptable way. A number of points will be made in response. First, it is not clear from the description precisely who is being asked to fill out the questionnaire. The class is described as ‘my class’—this suggests that I am teaching the class. This suggestion is also supported by the fact that Jane later gives me the URL. Other elements of the description, however, suggest that I am merely one of the students in the class. For example, Jane tells ‘people’ (not merely me) that she is appreciative, and reminds them to fill out the form completely. Perhaps it is intended that I am teaching the course, but both I and the students fill out the questionnaire. If this is correct, however, then one problem with the way Jane is conducting her research is that the students in the class have no assurance that I will not be able to see their answers (see below); and this could bias their responses, for they might think that what I read on their questionnaires could influence their grades.

        A second problem is that anonymity—which is clearly intended to be respected by the study—is initially violated in two different ways. First, the consent forms are put into a stack. If one were paying attention one could match each consent form with the questionnaire corresponding to it, compromising anonymity. Second, it is not enough to assure students that if they choose to participate in the second study they can put their information on the back sheet, and it will be removed before the information on each questionnaire is added to the tabulation. This again allows for the possibility—and in this case it is not even necessary to pay attention—that Jane or someone else could match responses on the questionnaire with the names of students. No doubt Jane would not do this, but anonymity needs to be assured in psychological research, not merely promised (see Bersoff 2003, Haverkamp 2005, Koocher and Keith-Spiegel 2008, and Schlenker and Forsyth 1977).


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