Methods in Behavioral Research

Fall - 2017

PSYC 3100-C1 (M & W 4:00-5:15)
Nicholson Center 415

Class Handouts GRADES

  Instructor: Stephen T. Paul, Ph.D.                          Office Hours: M & W: 1:00 - 3:30
Office:    471 Nicholson Center.   and by appointment.
Phone:    (412) 397-5416. E-mail:

Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand.
-- Native American saying

Overview: Although topics in psychology vary widely, they are all the same with regard to using the scientific method to test theories. This course will provide you with tools to recognize testable hypotheses, plan as well as critically evaluate studies, gather, analyze, interpret, and present data.

An important emphasis in this course is the development of research skills. Research (in any field), never has been, nor ever will be, a realistically solitary pursuit. Therefore, you should know up front that this is not a "memorization" course. You cannot expect to do well simply by reading the texts and keeping a seat warm in class. To firmly ensconce the material into your mindset, you must become actively involved.

  1. To be capable of generating testable hypotheses about almost any topic. To do this, you must know what dependent and independent variables are, as well as internal and external validity, and you should know the common pitfalls in conducting research and how to avoid them.
  2. To understand the ways in which research designs determine the appropriate statistical methods to employ for data analysis. Through multiple examples of different research designs you will come to more fully appreciate the integral relationship between statistical and research methods.
  3. To be able to design and conduct good research (test hypotheses). To this end, you will be expected to propose and design novel experiments, determine various statistical qualities of these proposals, and present data (graph results).
  4. To learn how to interpret statistical outcomes and data results in theoretically meaningful ways. This will be demonstrated by conducting statistical tests (such as Chi Square, Correlation, ANOVA, and Multiple Regression if time permits) using SPSS and providing reasonable interpretations of these outcomes.
  5. Finally, as a result of having taken this course, you should be able to think more critically about any research result including the many commercial claims you encounter daily.

Text: REQUIRED: Privitera, G. J. (2017). Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences, 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Sage. [ISBN: 978-1-5063-2657-3]

OPTIONAL: Schwartz, B. M., Wilson, J. H., & Goff, D. M. (2015). An Easy Guide to Research Design & SPSS. Los Angeles: Sage. [ISBN: 978-1-4522-8882-6]

Students are expected to have their textbooks and other required course materials (lab books, digital media, etc.) at the start of the course. Failure to have required course materials will not be accepted as justification for failure to be prepared for class, missed or incomplete assignments, failure to prepare for exams, quizzes and other course evaluations or inability to complete other course requirements. The only exception to this policy will be situations in which the textbooks and/or other course materials are not available from the publisher as determined by availability in the RMU Bookstore.

Web Site:
  1. Accommodation: Students who may be eligible to receive learning support or physical accommodations must contact the Center for Student Success at 412-397-6862 to schedule an appointment with a counselor and to learn more about accommodation procedures. To receive accommodations in this course, arrangements must be made through the Center for Student Success.
  2. Title IX: One of my responsibilities as an instructor at RMU is to help create a safe learning environment in the classroom and on campus. Please note that I am required to report any information regarding sexual misconduct (including but not limited to: sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking). This is particularly important to me because sexual violence can undermine studentsí academic success. I want your performance in my class to reflect your ability, not your circumstances. If desired, students may speak to someone confidentially by contacting the RMU Counseling Center (412-397-5900 or They are located in Patrick Henry (lower level) and their office is open M-F from 8:30 am - 5:00 pm. If you prefer, you may also directly contact the RMU Title IX Coordinator, Dr. Yasmin Purohit, at (412) 397-5472 or email (see also Reports to law enforcement can be made to the Robert Morris University Police Department at 412-397-2424. Students also have the option to contact the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, ( at 215-656-8541.
  3. Academic Integrity: The fundamentals of Academic Integrity are valued within the Robert Morris University community of scholars. All students are expected to understand and adhere to the standards of Academic Integrity as stated in the RMU Academic Integrity Policy, which can be found on the RMU website at Any student who violates the Academic Integrity Policy is subject to possible judicial proceedings which may result in sanctions as outlined in the Policy. Depending upon the severity of the violation, sanctions may range from receiving a zero on an assignment to being dismissed from the university. If you have any questions about the policy, please consult your course instructor.
    • Plagiarism is defined as using someone else's work, ideas, or words without giving the author proper credit or recognition. This can include downloading papers or information from the Internet, using another student's paper or ideas, or inaccurately quoting/paraphrasing ideas or words from a text.
    • In the academic community, people earn their living through the use of their work, ideas, and words. Their reputation is built, in part, by others using their ideas and giving proper credit. As students, you have the responsibility, both legally and ethically, to cite the work of others properly.
    • At the very least, understand that plagiarism is a major offense in the academic community of which you are a part. Students who commit blatant acts of plagiarism will fail the course and may be required to present a defense to university officials to continue their education at Robert Morris University.
    • Penalties: 1st offense = no credit for assignment; 2nd offense = class failure. Note that EVERY offense will result in an official report to the university. Also note that each instance of plagiarism represents a separate offense (this means that multiple offenses can occur in a single assignment).
    • SESS Policy: All academic integrity violations will be reviewed by the SESS Academic Integrity Committee. As a result of their recommendations, violations may result in permanent removal from the psychology degree program.
  4. Use of Personal Technologies During Class Time: The use of laptops (of any sort), cell phones (of any sort), MP3 players (of any sort), or any other technology that serves to distract you (and/or your neighbors) from course content and delivery are prohibited. If you are caught using ANY of the above technologies during class time, you will be marked absent for that class. Should your electronic addiction become excessive, you may be asked to leave the room.
  5. Grades: The following breakdown will be used to determine final grades:
A93.0 - 100.0B-80.0 - 82.9
A-90.0 - 92.9C+75.0 - 79.9
B+87.0 - 89.9C70.0 - 74.9
B83.0 - 86.9D60.0 - 69.9

Grading: Your grade will come from multiple sources. NOTE that ALL assignments are to be typed and double-spaced unless otherwise indicated (expect a loss of 1 point for each of these expectations that are not met on any assignment).

8 Take-home assignments (4 pts each)
    (To familiarize you with important key issues).....32%
4 SPSS Assignments (5 pts each)
    (To provide some statistical expertise).................20%
3 Exams (5 + 10 + 15 pts)
    (To evaluate/motivate the educational process)...30%
1 Proposal Paper & Presentation (13 pts + 5 pts)
    (To provide closure on what you've learned)........18%

Schedule: This is provided as a general outline and ordering of what will be covered throughout the semester. I've indicated approximate dates for exams and assignments but these dates may change as required by the demands of the course. All changes to the syllabus will be noted on the class web page (i.e., HERE) and announced in class.

  Week Of Weekly Topics Assignments Readings
1 August 28 Introduction to Scientific Thinking Basic Proposals Chapter 1
2 September 4 (M) Identifying Scientific Variables SPSS-01 Data Entry Chapter 4
3 September 11 Choosing a Research Design SPSS-02 Chi Square Chapter 6
4 September 18 Non-Experimental Research Designs
SPSS-03 Correlation Chapter 7
Chapter 8
5 September 25 Exam I
Quasi-Experimental Designs
Operational Definitions
Chapter 9
6 October 2 Between Subjects Experimental Designs Confounds Chapter 10
7 October 9 Within Subjects Experimental Designs Interactions Chapter 11
8 October 16 Factorial Experimental Designs
Exam II
Chapter 12
9 October 23 Variability & Statistical Inference ANOVAs Handouts
10 October 30
11 November 6 SPSS-04 ANOVAs (see DP for data handout)
12 November 13 Analysis and Interpretation Graphing Chapter 13
November 20 - 24 Fall Break (there are no classes this week)
13 November 27 Project Presentations
Research Ethics
Ethics Chapter 3
14 December 4
Final Paper DUE: Friday, December 8, 2017 e-mailed to me no later than 5:00pm.
FINAL EXAM: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM (cumulative)
Assignments are usually due one week after they are given. Extensions will NOT be granted. Also note that late assignments will incur a 1-point penalty per day they are late (including days that occur over weekends & holidays).