Methods in Behavioral Research

Spring - 2021

PSYC 3100-C1 (T & Th 3:30-4:45)
Hale Center 203
Rotation A = Tuesdays in-person
Rotation B = Thursdays in-person

Class Handouts GRADES

  Instructor: Stephen T. Paul, Ph.D.                          Office Hours: M & W: 2:00 - 3:30
Office:    471 Nicholson Center.   T & Th: 12:30 - 1:30 & appt.
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. (2019). Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences, 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage. [ISBN: 978-1-5443-0981-1]

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. Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Robert Morris University welcomes students with disabilities into all of the University's educational programs. If you have (or think you may have) a disability that would impact your educational experience in this class, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) to schedule a meeting with the SSD Coordinator, Grace Novacek. She will confidentially discuss your needs, review your documentation, and determine your eligibility for reasonable accommodations. To learn more about SSD and available supports, please visit the SSD Website at, email, call (412) 397-6884, or visit the SSD office, located in Nicholson Center, Room 280.

  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, Amy McCall, at (412) 397-5968 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).
    • SNEHS Policy: All academic integrity violations will be reviewed by the SNEHS 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: Unless otherwise and explicitly noted by your course instructor, 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. Excessive evidence of an electronic addiction may be dealt with more seriously.

  5. COVID-19: Students must wear appropriate masks in the classroom that cover mouth and nose and must sit in marked seats to allow for necessary physical spacing. Students in non-compliance with these requirements may be removed from the classroom by campus police (in such cases a Student Conduct report will also be filed). Single use masks may be obtained in the Library, each Dean's Office, the Office of the Registrar, UPMC Event Center and at the Campus Police Station. If you believe you have symptoms or have been exposed to Covid-19 you should immediately leave the classroom and call UPMC MyHealth@School Center at 412-397-6220 for phone screening/triage during business hours (do not visit the clinic). If the Center is closed, you should contact your own medical provider for assistance or use the UPMC Anywhere Care App - Virtual Urgent Care (fees apply) and call the MyHealth@School Center on the next business day.
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 10 percent for each of these expectations that are not met on any assignment).

6 Take-home assignments (5 pts each)
    (To familiarize you with important key issues).....30%
4 SPSS Assignments (6 pts each)
    (To reinforce some statistical expertise)...............24%
4 Brief Quizzes (5 pts each)
    (To evaluate/motivate the educational process)...20%
1 Final Exam (via BlackBoard) (8 pts)
    (To evaluate/motivate the educational process)...8%
1 Proposal Paper & Presentation (13 pts + 5 pts)
    (To provide closure on what you've learned)........18%

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

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
1st Week Online
1 January 18 Introduction to Scientific Thinking [online this week; click here t/th at 3:30] Chapter 1
1st Week Online
2 January 25 Identifying Scientific Variables SPSS-01 Data Entry Chapter 4
3 February 1 Choosing a Research Design
Quiz 1
Operational Definitions Chapter 6
4 February 8 Non-Experimental Research Designs SPSS-02 Chi Square Chapter 7
Chapter 8
5 February 15 Quasi-Experimental Designs
Quiz 2
SPSS-03 Correlation Chapter 9
6 February 22 Between Subjects Experimental Designs Confounds Chapter 10
7 March 1 Within Subjects Experimental Designs
Quiz 3
Interactions Chapter 11
8 March 8 Factorial Experimental Designs Partitioning Chapter 12
9 March 15 Variability & Statistical Inference SPSS-04 ANOVAs Chapter 13
10 March 22 Analysis and Interpretation
Quiz 4
Graphing Handouts
11 March 29 Project Presentations (10-12 minutes each)
12 April 5
13 April 12
14 April 19 Research Ethics Ethics Chapter 3
Paper Due: Friday, April 23, 2021 e-mailed to me no later than 5:00pm as an MS Word DOC. Final Paper
Assignments are usually due one week after they are given. Extensions will NOT be granted. Also note that late assignments will incur a 10 percent penalty per day they are late (including days that occur over weekends & holidays).
The final exam will be available throughout finals week starting on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.