Why you should care about research methods in VCE Psychology

Research methods in VCE Psychology are SO important – they came up on every single one of my SACs. They are the most important thing to nail down in Units 1&2; there is no other content that will be as heavily examined in Units 3&4. However, sometimes they can be a bit overwhelming and even after Units 1&2 you’re still likely to have room to improve on this. If that’s the case for you, make sure you put in the time. Here are my tips for improving on research methods in VCE Psychology – whether you’re in Units 1&2 or Units 3&4.

1. Don’t just memorise, think

Think for yourself about how you would try to investigate a possible relationship between variables. Then look at the different research designs you need to know and compare the two (independent groups, matched participants, and repeated measures). Think (for yourself before looking at the answers!) about what the advantages and disadvantages are of each. Again compare what you thought of with what your notes say. If anything doesn’t make sense, ask!

Repeat this process for decisions you would need to make during the experiment. For example:
– How do I recruit people to participate? -> Sampling
– How do I determine which people go in what group? -> Allocation
– How do I make sure my method is morally & legally ok? -> Ethics

2. Get comfortable with the knowledge

Thinking about research methods in VCE Psychology will help you make connections and more deeply encode your memories, but for easy retrieval you may also need to do extra work. The focus of basic practice is on getting you comfortable with the knowledge you need to know; you shouldn’t need to problem solve your way to suggesting counterbalancing for a repeated measures design or to explaining what debriefing is.

In this stage, you may be making mind maps, recording yourself reading summaries you’ve written or using flashcards (physical or digital). You could also be doing basic multiple choice or 1-2 mark short answer questions which rely on rote memory. You can come back and revisit this stage if you’re forgetting content, but you want to be moving onto applying the knowledge fairly swiftly.
If you’re not sure what you need to know, then check the study design

3. Practise applying the knowledge

Congratulations! This is where you learn to get the higher-end marks and ace the differentiator questions. Over here, you’re confident in the knowledge and are now learning to apply that to unfamiliar scenarios. You’ll need to practise reading methods and breaking them apart for extraneous variables. Then, you want to consider the impact of those variables and how a future experimenter could reduce the impact of these. If you get into the habit of doing this even for questions where it isn’t explicitly required, you’ll get in more practice.

Speaking of practice, the best exam practice is doing the VCAA exams, but you can gain additional practice from the ATAR Notes forum question sets, exams your teacher has, and EdUnlimited if you have it or other commercial sets. Consider talking to your classmates or other Psych students about your answers to bounce ideas off each other, gain additional feedback, and think more deeply about the content (it’s all about that elaborative rehearsal). When you’re unsure about your marking, you may also want to seek feedback from a teacher or tutor. You can also ask on the forums to get opinions from current and/or previous students. (If you’re not familiar with the forums, this might help.)

Take away messages:

Although having confident recall is important, rote learning should only be a small part of your approach to studying research methods. Focus on understanding first and later extend yourself to application questions. Research methods in VCE Psychology can be intimidating but this topic connects a lot to real life and is incredibly valuable. There’s help available, whether through AN sources such as the forums, tutoring, or guides & tests; or through places like the VCAA website and your teacher. On that note, the VCAA advice for teachers section on terminology in scientific investigations is a good read for students as well!

Best of luck with research methods in VCE Psychology – hopefully this article has given you a good method to research research methods with :D.

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