This site is a tutorial on research methods with examples pulled from Psychology, Biology, Geology, and Sociology. It was created by individuals within the Maricopa Community Collge system, especially those within theMaricopa Center for Learning and Instruction. The site addresses the basics, strengths, and limitations of the experimental, correlational, naturalistic observation, survey, and case study methods.
Type of Material:
This website is a tutorial on research methods utilizing Shockwave and including the descriptions of five basic research methods (experiment, correlation, naturalistic observation, survey, and case study) and examples of the methods from four different disciplines (Psychology, Biology, Geology, and Sociology), as well as practice and post-tests on identifying the methods, their strengths, and their limitations.
This tutorial could be used as either an in- or out-of-class assignment or review for introductory (or other undergraduate)students in psychology, sociology, biology, or geology.
The only technical requirement for the tutorial to function properly is Shockwave. The site contains a link to download Shockwave if needed.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The site seeks to provide the student with a basic understanding of the experimental, correlational, naturalistic observation, survey, and case study methods. After completing the tutorial, the student should be able to identify examples of each of the methods, as well as their strengths and limitations.
Target Student Population:
The target student populations are students in the introductory courses in psychology, biology, geology,
and gociology as well as undergraduate students in these disciplines who need to review basic research methods.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Evaluation and Observation
The content in this tutorial is of high quality. The descriptions of the research methods (as well as their strengths and limitations) are well-written and the examples used for each method are drawn from actual research studies. Two examples are given for each discipline (psychology, sociology, biology, geology) to illustrate the research methods.
Minor concerns are: (1) the practice and post-test questions are not discipline specific so that, for example, a psychology student who completed the tutorial and read the examples dealing with psychological studies would have test questions on research methods used, not only in psychology, but also in sociology, biology, and geology; (2) some of the test questions dealing with research method strengths and limitions can be confusing. For example, one strength of several methods is that they can be used when it would be ethically or practically unreasonable to use an experiment. In the practice and post-tests on this site, however, this answer is considered correct for only one particular research method; and (3) an opportunity for the student to explore and learn more would be useful as the site presents material at a very basic level.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Often, research methods is a difficult topic for students to grasp, especially as they are used within specific disciplines. This tutorial is a wonderful one to help make the topic a little easier for students to understand. It is easy to use; the site is clearly laid out with prominent navigational links. An introduction is given examining the question "What is science all about anyway?" Learning objectives are explicitly stated. The major research methods are clearly described,
even correlation. (There is a wonderful correlation meter!) Practice and post-tests are useful teaching tools, because feedback for both correct and incorrect answers are given in the practice tests and final scores are given for the post-tests. The use of actual research studies (from the various disciplines) to illustrate each research method is a particularly effective teaching tool. Another nice feature (which may help students relate to the material) is that upon entry into the lab, one can type in a name for a personal welcome.
If students are sent to this site as their sole exposure to research methods, it may not be sufficient for complete understanding for all students. As a supplement to other instruction, however, it is excellent (and for some students, may be all that they need). There are some flaws in the testing. In the identifying strengths practice quiz, for example, it is not possible to determine if one's answers are correct or not. The lack of direct feedback in the post-test is also a problem
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The tutorial is very easy to use and has a navigation button to click for help in understanding the program.
One concern is for students unfamiliar with Shockwave who will need to download the software in order to use the tutorial. However, the site makes this download easy by providing a link by which to obtain the multimedia player. The problems noted with the quizzes interfere with the ease of use of the site. In addition, the site is not accessible.
Other Issues and Comments:
Links are available to e-mail the creators of the website.