Scientific Research: Why is it Important?
“Statistics? But I am studying psychology!”. Students are often shocked and surprised that statistics and research method are the compulsory subjects in psychology, because many of them just want to know more about people or use this knowledge to help others. This can be even more frustrating when they are bad at math and presume that psychology does not involve it. They may think research method is created out of nowhere just to torture them, and it is an “ivory tower” that no one in the real world (and with the right mind) would use, because it seems so irrelevant to their course and reality. After all, why do psychology students need to study research method?
As much as it sounds fun, psychology is still social science. It is not only about listening to your client on a couch talking about the relationship with their mothers (and how boring it can be), but also about empirical evidence and support. Psychology is sometimes considered as pseudoscience because they are studying the subjective phenomena with objective methods, and often time they test what people believe to be “common sense”, which makes them to think, “Did they really spend time and money on that?”.We are people, so we think we know about them (or us?) and do not need any studies. However, what seems like it does not necessary mean it is right, and sometimes it can be exactly wrong. When our intuition or subjective judgment about people turns out to be right, it reinforces our belief; but when they don’t, we may not even think about it. This is called the “hindsight bias”, or “I-knew-it-all-along” phenomenon (CrashCourse, 2014). Scientific method helps to study people in an objective and systematic way that supports our view about people. If you have some theory about people, even if it is “common sense”, then do a research about it. If the result matches the “common sense”, then it is supported by science and we know it can be right. But what if it does not? Then it is even better, because you found something new, and maybe name that theory after you so future students will remember who added on their burden (Just kidding!).
Students chose psychology for various reasons. You may choose psychology because you want to know more about people, about how they think, feel, and behave. Indeed, humans are naturally curious animals and always want to know more, including human’s mind and behavior. However, psychology is not only about memorizing all the facts about people, but also how to find out the answers. It is important to know how people come up with those theories because they are not out from nowhere. Students also need to know how to find out the answers themselves, and research helps them to do that. In the course, you indeed have to learn the theories, but you also have to think critically about the knowledge. By doing research, you can challenge the assumption, improve the methodology, and contribute to the field.
You may want to use the knowledge of psychology to help people. In fact, most psychology students want to be counselors or clinical psychologists in the future. However, there are plenty of interventions and therapies (I mean, PLENTY. By the way, do you know there is naked therapy?), and more keep coming up. Maybe you prefer some therapies, but if you want the best for your clients, you cannot just stick with limited ways. How do you know which one would help your clients? By research, you can find out the therapy or intervention that help your clients in an optimal way, and researching about a particular therapy helps you to think about it critically. If you create a new therapy or intervention program, you need studies to back it up, and test if it can help your clients.
The aim of research is actually finding the answers, and it applies to real world more than people might think it does. Regardless of your reasons choosing psychology, scientific method is an amazing tool to learn about people and help them with the knowledge. Knowing why research is important, however, is not enough to do well in the course. But with some effort, students still can do pretty well. It may sound corny, but the resources in school will help you when you have any problems in the subjects. Look for your instructors, i.e. lecturers or tutors, they will be more than happy to guide you through the course. Many programs are also aimed to help those students in need. If you think you work better in group, you can form a study group with your coursemates. More importantly, have fun learning it and wish you all the best.
CrashCourse. (2014, Feb 10). Psychological Research – Crash Course Psychology #2
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFV71QPvX2I (Here’s a YouTube link from Crash Course about research method in psychology, it talks about why it is important and the general process. Also do check out the other videos.)
Jordan Oh (Veng Thang) is a 3rd year psychology student in HELP. He studied and has the experience in Education (Teaching Chinese as Second Language), and now is a member of Peer Mentors and PAL (Peer Assisted Learning) tutor in quantitative research and cognitive psychology. His interest is in soft science like statistics and psychology, especially about how people acquire knowledge and anxiety issue in academic setting, that’s why he loves the course. Also, he is gay.
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