Section author: Danielle J. Navarro and David R. Foxcroft

A brief introduction to research design

To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.

—Sir Ronald Fisher[1]

In this chapter, we’re going to start thinking about the basic ideas that go into designing a study, collecting data, checking whether your data collection works, and so on. It won’t give you enough information to allow you to design studies of your own, but it will give you a lot of the basic tools that you need to assess the studies done by other people. However, since the focus of this book is much more on data analysis than on data collection, I’m only giving a very brief overview. Note that this chapter is “special” in two ways. Firstly, it’s much more psychology-specific than the later chapters. Secondly, it focuses much more heavily on the scientific problem of research methodology, and much less on the statistical problem of data analysis. Nevertheless, the two problems are related to one another, so it’s traditional for stats textbooks to discuss the problem in a little detail. This chapter relies heavily on Campbell and Stanley (1963) for the discussion of study design, and Stevens (1946) for the discussion of scales of measurement.

[1]Presidential Address to the First Indian Statistical Congress, 1938.