5 Most Common Research Methods Used in Psychology

admin October 3, 2022
Updated 2022/10/03 at 4:02 PM

The study of the human mind and its functions is known as psychology. It is a branch of social science that uses various evaluation techniques to look at how people think, feel, and act. Experimental and clinical psychologists use different research methods in psychology to create treatment plans, establish frameworks, and implement strategies for tackling mental health issues. Novice researchers are often unaware of psychology’s most common research methods. Therefore, this article provides a comprehensive overview of various research techniques used in psychology.

What is the aim of psychological research?

Understanding the aims and goals of psychological research before exploring the various research methods is imperative. Once you clearly understand the aims and objectives of psychological research, it will become easier for you to tackle the research projects in psychology. Researchers in psychology, including experimental and clinical psychologists, study how people think and behave.

Researchers in psychology frequently use various scientific techniques to investigate thought patterns to devise appropriate therapy plans. The primary focus of psychological research methods is to understand the complexity of human thought and understand why people do what they do. Therefore, psychology utilises both quantitative and qualitative approaches to provide a comprehensive overview of the human mind.

Several psychological studies aim to make inferences about a population using statistical tools which they can generalise to a broader population. Non-statistical strategies are used in qualitative psychology research methods to understand about the experiences of the people and groups under examination. Psychology has broader implications and useful benefits for several domains and industries. For example, psychology helps employers assess the mental framework of potential and existing employees.

Similarly, several psychometric tests enable organisations (governmental and non-governmental) to assess candidates’ mental and behavioural characteristics and make decisions based on the results gathered through psychometric tests. Furthermore, analysis of consumer demographics, promotion of goods and services, and customer engagement can all be accomplished with the help of psychological research in sales and marketing.

What are the five most common research methods used in psychology?

There are two overarching categories of research methods used in psychology: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research methods encompass using numerical data for generating descriptions, forecasting results, and exploring possible correlations between variables. On the other hand, qualitative methods evaluate non-statistical data such as texts, spoken and verbal language, and images for assessing psychological behaviours and mental processes.

A qualitative study uses narratives, whereas a quantitative study works with statistics. Although some researchers believe that quantitative research is preferable, both have benefits and drawbacks. Qualitative research has a great deal of importance in psychology. It is so because the complexity and breadth of the human experience are indescribably complex and impossible to quantify. Both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies are extremely sophisticated and demanding. Therefore, if you experience difficulty undertaking research in psychology, you can get help from expert writers available at the best dissertation writing services.

Psychology uses the following most common research methods:

  1. Case Studies
  2. Experimental Studies
  3. Observational Studies
  4. Survey Studies
  5. Content Analysis

Case Studies

The qualitative subfield of research techniques includes case study research. It attempts to observe and examine people, communities, societies, and particular occurrences. Interviews with participants and covert observations are combined in a case study technique. In psychology, case studies are frequently undertaken on particular people. Most of the time, a patient’s essential personal experiences are gathered for a psychological case study. Additionally, it compiles significant incidents from the person’s everyday life that might be the cause of harmful actions and ideas. Sigmund Freud popularised case study research methods, and he attempted to probe into the complexity of the human mind and devise appropriate solutions to address the anomalies.

Experimental Studies

A comprehensive category of research methods called “experimental research” is crucial in psychological research. Several principles govern the usage of experimental studies. One of them is having a control group which is not susceptible to manipulation. The management of variables is another guiding principle. In other words, the experiment should not contain unnecessary data. Considering this, psychologists can conduct the experiment again.

A third concept is measurement consistency, as using inconsistent measures in experimental research makes replication difficult and renders the findings questionable. The fourth principle is demonstrating causality, which means that the outcomes of experimental research methods were solely a product of the modifications made throughout the experiment and no other extraneous variable.

Observational Studies

An observational study is a type of qualitative research that can be conducted using various techniques. Using observational research methods helps the researcher assess the behaviour systematically. The primary aim of observational studies is to assess the factors that influence individuals’ and communities’ behaviour and shape or reshape social structures. Researchers conduct observational studies in people’s natural habitat, and therefore, unlike experimental studies, it does not involve having control groups. For example, psychologists can observe patients in a psychiatric ward or prison cell to understand criminal psychology.

Survey Studies

Researchers can use survey research methods for both qualitative and quantitative research. Researchers use surveys to comprehend the impact of specific variables on people’s thought processes and behaviour. The sampling technique employed in survey research is one of the most important factors. Researchers usually prefer large samples that reflect a specific population’s overall characteristics and dynamics. Random or probability sampling is the commonly used technique to gather large samples. The survey method is less expensive than other research methods since all you need to do is create a survey online, distribute it via email or social media, and gather the responses.

Content Analysis

Content analysis encompasses evaluating large chunks of text to comprehend the psychological processes and thought patterns. Content analysis is based on broader themes where researchers occasionally a subject matter with an overarching theme in mind. Conversely, the researcher identifies and extracts various themes after analysing the data.

Content analysis research method in psychology helps psychologists understand behavioural patterns at a broader level. For example, psychologists can evaluate social media content to understand the consumption patterns or thought processes of Tiktok users and how the current generation validates their identity based on how many likes or comments they receive on their posts.


Psychological research methods can be combined to gather rich data and draw insights that provide a comprehensive understanding of the human mind. Researchers can use the five methods mentioned above to understand the complex phenomenon of human behaviour and thought processes.

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