A scientific discipline is defined in many ways by the research methods it employs. These methods can be said to represent the common language of the discipline’s researchers. Consistent with the evolution of a lexicon, new research methods frequently arise from the development of new content areas. By every available measure—number of researchers, number of publications, number of journals, number of new subdisciplines—psychology has undergone a tremendous growth over the last half-century. This growth is reflected in a parallel increase in the number of new research methods available.
As we were planning and editing this volume, we discussed on many occasions the extent to which psychology and the available research methods have become increasing complex over the course of our careers. When our generation of researchers began their careers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, experimental design was largely limited to simple between-group designs, and data analysis was dominated by a single method, the analysis of variance. A lew other approaches were employed, but by a limited number of researchers. Multivariate statistics had been developed, but multiple regression analysis was the only method that was applied with any frequency.
Factor analysis was used almost exclusively as a method in scale development. Classical test theory was the basis of most psychological and educational measures. Analysis of data from studies that did not meet either the design or measurement assumptions required for an analysis of variance was covered for most researchers by a single book on nonparametric statistics by Siegel (1956).
As a review of the contents of this volume illustrates, the choice of experimental and analytic methods available to the present-day researcher is much broader. It would be fair to say that the researcher in the 1960s had to formulate research questions to fit the available methods. Currently, there are research methods available to address most research questions.
In the history of science, an explosion of knowledge is usually the result of an advance in technology, new theoretical models, or unexpected empirical findings. Advances in research methods have occurred as the result of all three factors, typically in an interactive manner.
Some of the specific factors include advances in instrumentation and measurement technology, the availability of inexpensive desktop computers to perform complex methods of data analysis, increased computer capacity allowing for more intense analysis of larger datasets, computer simulations that permit the evaluation of procedures across a wide variety of situations, new approaches to data analysis and statistical control, and advances in companion sciences that opened pathways to the exploration of behavior and created new areas of research specialization and collaboration.
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