Areas and Designs of Psychological Research

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Psychological research is a vital necessity towards further development within society. Psychology is a varied discipline that covers many areas of study, and as such requires divisional areas of research, along with practical and effective research designs.

First of all we will take a look at areas of psychological research, and then move onto research methods.


Psychobiology is the biological research of psychology. Psychobiologists study the human brain from cellular level to research possibilities and reasons for mental illness – such as schizophrenia – from a biological standpoint. It is one of the most popular research areas in psychology today.  Psychobiology is a study of the brain.


Cognition is a research study of how human process information, which importantly leads us to making everyday decisions. Cognition study is very much a research of the mind; how memory works, and how previous events effect future decisions (as per Sigmund Freud’s hypotheses).

Human Development

Human development is an area of psychological research which involves the assessment, outcomes and – depending on age – possibilities across a lifetime. We will go through many changes in life from social, physical and cognitive mandates and decisions. Human development research has helped us understand the processes of childbirth (including raising the children), to career paths and outcomes.

Social Psychology

Social Psychology is a discipline in that how we psychologically affect each other as individuals in everyday society, and how opinions, superstitions and stereotypes lay their foundations in this vital area. An example research of social psychology would be a study of the types of writing styles and attitudes on an internet forum, and how it relates to the forum subject area.


Psychotherapy is an applied research method in that psychologists evaluate appropriate therapy methods for illness such as Bi Polar, Anxiety and Depression in practical situations.

Psychological research designs can be categorised into three areas: descriptive, predictive, and experimental. Each have their positives and negatives, but are all appropriate depending on the type or subject of study taking place.


Descriptive is an informal research approach which gives a descriptive verbal picture of the current situation. It can be an eye balling naturalistic approach in a natural everyday environment, or a controlled laboratory observation. An individual or group can also be used as an example case study and a description of participant’s responses to a survey can also be used. The advantage of observational research is that it can validate further research, while the disadvantage is lack of control due to minimal or no facts.


Predictive research methods can be categorised into two areas: corelational and quasi-experimental.

Corelational is the assessment of the relationship between two variables. An example would be the relationship between high powered cars and road fatalities (high powered cars being one variable, road fatalities the other). If the study showed the rate of road fatalities goes up when matched with high powered cars then this would show a positive relationship (both variables going in the same direction). Whilst if the study variable of high powered cars was replaced with low powered cars, and the road fatality rate was low, then this would be a negative corelational relationship.

Quasi-experimental predictive research method involves the selection of two identifiable groups. An example of this would be a study conducted on the body fat percentage of a division one soccer team against a division four team. If the division one team were to show lower levels of body fat then we could describe and predict that all higher level soccer players carry a lower body fat percentage than lower levels players. It is important to note that the quasi-experimental method differs from the experimental method in that the groups were naturally occurring.


The experimental method could be seen as the most reliable, accurate and valid method of research. The experimental method involves a study where the variables are controlled as much as possible. For example, let’s say a researcher was interested in the effect of consuming a No Doz tablet (containing 100mg of caffeine) 30 minutes before a weight training session in terms of levels of intensity.