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Archive for February, 2012

When reading through a scientific journal, there is a rather large amount of technical and scientific language used, especially when it comes to the results sections wherein P values, one and two way hypotheses are confirmed or rejected with means, medians, modes, standard deviations, standard errors, practice effects, population parameters and percentile rank being mentioned amongst others. Other sections of the paper can be equally as guilty of this use of language, from description of what designs were used (single subject designs to within/between subjects etc), discussion of how constructs were operationalised and inferential statistics. Just by looking at a fairly recent article, Hyde’s (2005) Gender Similarities Hypothesis, we are already showered with statistical data from the hypothesis section onwards, huge tables of numbers gathered from various studies and different ways of studying the data. Whilst a layman could understand what was written, would it have any real meaning for them? Would they have any opinion of the research conducted? A fully trained psychologist would be able to understand and interpret what had occured, finding options for further study if they so wished from the data and their own personal opinion of the true validity of the data with reasons for and against, yet the layman may only really be interested in the abstract and conclusion due to the almost daunting amount of quantitative data present in most research and a belief that they will not be able to understand this due to being too complex or designed for trained professionals.

That having been said, Case Studies almost seem to be written for both the layman and scientist. Possibly due to the fact that they usually require some explanation due to their unique circumstances combined with the large use of qualitative data, they present a far more readable experience that informs very well with lots of detail and solid information without statistical terms etc. From a brief reading of both Rosenhan’s (1973) On Being Sane In Insane Places and Curtiss et al’s (1974) Linguistic Development Of Genie, I think it is entirely likely that a layman would be able to understand the content present in the studies.

I believe that Psychology should be written for scientists, at least in its pure form of journals. We need a clear way to be able to easily access other’s work and also to be able to publish our own work in order to further the field of Psychology and journals allow us to do just that. That does not mean however that psychology should not also be written for the layman. Magazines such as New Scientist essentially take the research in its pure form and re-publish it, with the exception that it is incredibly easy to understand in their articles, no jargon, no technical statistical terms, concepts and ideas explained throughout, with articles containing what happened, what was found and any comments, opinions or follow up research that could happen. Its incredible to see the transformation between the pure research and then the articles that describe it. I believe that Psychology should be written for scientists through journals as a way for us to share our knowledge, however there is no reason why it can’t be published again in such as in magazines or in news articles. Whilst psychological research is useful mostly to psychologists, it would do no harm to have it in a form for the inquisitive to learn about it without having to be educated about it first. Psychology can be understood by all, but some may prefer it in an easier format than journals. I believe it is most important that the results of experiments and studies are made well known to humanity as a whole, with the actual scientific content left to the scientists. In its most basic form, journals should be kept to scientists, with news articles or magazines providing psychology for the layman. Science should not be exclusively for scientists, yet I believe that the journals should continue to be treated as if they are exclusively for psychologists. Psychology can be written for the layman, but not in the form of journals.

References:

Rosenhan (1973) On Being Sane in Insane Places: http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/saclr13&div=30&g_sent=1&collection=journals

Hyde (2005) The Gender Similarities Hypothesis: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/60/6/581.pdf

Curtiss et al (1974) The Linguistic Development of Genie: http://www.neiu.edu/~circill/bofman/ling450/linguistic.pdf

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Case studies and single case designs may seem incredibly similar from first glance, they are in fact very different from each other. Whilst they both only employ one research participant, the way in which they conduct research is amply different, distinguishing one from the other through both this and the evaluation that can then be drawn from the research. Single case designs run either a single or multiple experiments through just one participant, however unlike a case study, the participant can be just anyone. Case studies focus on one person or small group of people in a unique situation, such as Genie, the girl who was locked in a room until she was rescued at age 13, however single case designs can be performed at almost any time, so long as the participant fulfills the requirements of the study in question.

Due to case study’s possessing such uniqueness, they are often hard to generalise to a larger population as there will not be many others in a similar position, maybe none at all which makes the study very unreliable, however its real-life setting will give case studies good ecological validity. Single case designs do not possess this uniqueness and so can be seen as generalisable whilst also sharing the high ecological validity. Single cases can also be considered reliable due to lacking an unique situation. Whilst performed on one person, they can be performed again on different people, and if an intervention has worked with one person then it is likely that it will work on others.

The two designs also differ in the types of data that they collect. Case studies typically collect lots of in depth data over an extended period of time, which usually consists mainly of qualitative data and some quantitative data. Single case designs usually also share the extended period of time however they may be any amount of qualitative/quantitative. As single case designs can be used to measure interventions (such as with our SAFMED cards), the data can consist almost entirely of quantitative data. This use of quantitative data also seperates single case designs from case studies in that the actual data is not as subjective as that of a case study. For example, with Genie there were many researchers applying to care for her and study her, each of whom may have gone about their task in a different way, whilst a single case design can use statistics and graphs to show what is happening to a person. We can see this with plotting our SAFMED scores on a graph over time in order to see how we are improving.

Single case designs and case studies both seem at a glimpse to be very similar due to their participant selection, yet by looking at their generalisability, types of data that they collect, subjectivity and use of unique situations, we can see that they are very different types of study and design.

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