In AP and IB psychology, students review dozens of original qualitative and quantitative research. In an effort to assist in critical thinking, I have developed an acronym to remember.
IDENTIFY THE COMMAND TERM | When writing an IB-style essay, the first step to high marks is properly identifying what the command term is asking for.
TRIANGULATION | Students should be able to show the validity of the research by discussing supporting or refuting studies. For example, when analyzing Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory, students could mention Baillargeon and DeVos (1991) "impossible event" experiment showing that object permanence develops in children earlier than Piaget suggested. There are many types of triangulation, for example method, data, multiple analyses, theory, member, and time.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES | Not all research is the made the same; therefore, students will need to examine the validity and reliability of studies by exposing the strengths and weaknesses. Does the research support generalizations? What is the ecological and population validity? Was the sampling appropriate? Were there any researcher or participant biases?
ALTERNATIVE METHODS | Were there confounding variables that impacted the outcome of the research? How could the researchers controlled for the variables? Sometimes it is necessary for researchers to use another methodology to test a hypothesis? For example, in Frederic Bartlett's 1932 qualitative research on schema and memory, should he have also had indigenous peoples recall the War of Ghosts story?
GENDER CONSIDERATIONS | It is necessary to determine if the results of the study can be generalized to all populations. For instance, Lawrence Kohlberg's research on moral development (1958) was developed through interviews with adolescent boys. He failed to interview girls as well, which could have led to a variation in his theory.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS | The notion of what is ethical has changed over the past 100 hundred years of research in psychology. Students of psychology should acknowledge when research fails to meet the APA's ethical guidelines, and examine the steps that should be take to meet expectations. For example, Milgram's Obedience study does not meet the standards of "no harm" due to the cognitive dissonance of the participants and the fear that they harmed another human.
CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS | Not all cultures are the same; therefore, it is hard to make assumptions about human behavior when studies exclusive to one society, country, or region. When examining research, determine if the results are applicable to individualist and collective cultures. Considering the differences between western and eastern societies and how cultures change can help this the analysis of studies.