The Research Enterprise in Psychology

The Research Enterprise in Psychology


The term enterprise is often associated with commercial ventures whereby an entrepreneur takes the risk of introducing something new to the market with the aim of taking an opportunity that existing businesses have failed to realize. It may be based on a need that has emerged in the market or a more efficient way of doing things. With respect to the field of psychology, this kind of thinking needs to be embraced, not necessarily for the financial gain but more as a means of making those in the field more empowered to add value to society through their increased knowledge and skills. Of all social sciences, psychology is undoubtedly one of the fields that has constantly undergone changes in schools of thought and practical applications (Tajfel, 2010).

Prior to the emergence of empirical methods as the main fact-finding approach in psychology, professionals and society in general were guided by pseudo-scientific beliefs based on cultural traditions and misconstrued interpretation of religious teachings. These were the days when lobotomy was considered as an accepted solution to mental problems.

Empirical Methods in Psychological Research

The advent of scientific methods being embraced in psychology brought about empirical approaches that probed several parameters relating to individuals and society before the formulation of remedies and knowledge (Cohen et al, 2011). This falls into the category of entrepreneurial thinking because those involved identified a disconnect between the existent knowledge and the situation on the ground such as a host of psychological problems that clearly exhibited patterns yet had no meaningful procedures put in place for dealing with them (Lambert, 2013).

Empirical methods of research

The modern psychologist does not just rest on his or her laurels having received formal training. He or she is a proactive professional who constantly seeks to increase the knowledge that they have and this is done through the employment of scientific methods that aid in the testing of these individuals’ theories and thoughts in an empirical manner. Empirical interrogation in the field of psychology refers to the act of researching through data collection that is based on observations and sensory experiences which are then expressed as research data.

Scientific methods of researching psychology

Empirical approaches to research in the field of psychology go hand in hand with the scientific method which comprises of five key steps that ensure a matter of concern is investigated and the findings made public for the purpose of criticism and the knowledge of other interested parties who are likely to be drawn from the same field (Bernard, 2011). The five stages of the scientific method begin with the development of a hypothesis. This is the putting forward of a proposed theory that the psychologist holds regarding a specific aspect of the field (Cooper et al, 2009). This is followed by the conducting of a controlled test. This is a test geared at collecting data relevant to the subject under investigation (Leech and Onwuegbuzie, 2008). The third stage is therefore the gathering of objective data which will then be analyzed in the fourth stage of the Scientific method. The fifth stage of the scientific method is the publishing of the research findings and these will then be either subjected to criticism and reproduced for future reference by psychologists who may have an interest in the same area.

Naturalistic observation as a research instrument in psychology

One of the branches of psychological research that is instrumental in helping scientists to understand human reactive behavior is naturalistic observation which basically refers to the observation of people in their natural environment (Robinson-Riegler, 2012). This is very similar to the manner in which wild animals are at times investigated in the wild with the aim of identifying how their instincts are manifested and possibly understanding why these operate in a particular manner. In this regard, the surrounding parameters in a person’s environment are highly investigated so as to see the impact they have on the behavior of the individual (Spector, 2010). The relationship between this branch of psychological research and animal behavior as investigated by zoologists is symbiotic as they tend to complement each other (Matsumoto and Juang, 2013).

The challenge of reduced survey respondents

One of the challenges that psychologists are facing in their research and other related fact-finding endeavors is the fact that response rates for the surveys they give are going down at an alarming rate. The reduced number of respondents or responses has the effect of reducing the overall accuracy of findings of these researches since the scope they cover is relatively limited. This in turn makes the conclusions that have been made by the researchers highly unreliable in increasing understanding on human behavior and consequently the prediction of the same (Babbie, 2012). This is happening because the group of people who used to be considered as ideal respondents are busier thus making them increasingly unwilling to spare their time and fill out surveys. This has persisted even in the advent of internet technology that permits the faster and wider spread of these surveys.

Placebo and alcohol consumption

Another emerging issue that is of great interest to the psychologist community is the issue of placebo which is a phenomenon that is characterized by an individual experiencing the effects of a drug based on its description and their expectations of the same. Given that one of the most widely consumed stimulants is alcohol, psychologists have looked into the manner in which the placebo effect plays out in the consumption of alcohol by the masses. The most common effect of alcohol is impaired judgment. This has led psychologists to question whether people’s behavior change following the consumption of alcoholic beverages is caused by the actual alcohol or their expectations of the drinks’ effects on them.

Research methods in psychology

Research methods in psychology are diverse and dependent on the goals of the researchers as well as the prevailing conditions in the place the research is to be conducted. When it comes to the data collection methods, both primary and secondary data can be consulted depending on the nature of the study and the objectives that have been set. Examples of methods that are used in psychological research include archival research, case studies, content analyses, twin studies, meta- analyses, field experimentation and also modeling through computer simulation among others. These are employed differentially depending on the scope and subjects being studied (Breakwell et al, 2012).

The internet and psychological research

In the past psychological research relied on face to face interactions. Today however there has been a shift towards the internet mainly due to the fact that it promises access to larger numbers of people who will be more concise in their expression due to the guaranteed anonymity. The challenge with internet-based psychological research is that it is difficult to verify the authenticity of respondents and at the same time it can become impersonal thus taking away some vital elements of psychological research (Elmes et al, 2011).

The significance of libraries

Library research remains a crucial component of psychological research as it helps to give researchers new ideas while at the same time expose gaps in knowledge that are in existence. In the past psychological abstracts greatly simplified the search for information in libraries. The advent of internet based search engines and databases reduced its relevance and as a result it has ceased to be updated and used since 2006.


Since psychology is such an important area of study in our lives as well as the future generations, it is imperative that these advancements continue to be developed and supported. These will help those who deal with patients have more proactive approaches that are more effective than the conventional reactive methods used in dealing with psychological challenges.


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Bernard, H. R. (2011). Research methods in anthropology. Rowman Altamira.

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Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education. Routledge.

Cooper, H., Hedges, L. V., & Valentine, J. C. (2009). Handbook of research synthesis and meta-analysis. Russell Sage Foundation.

Elmes, D. G., Kantowitz, B. H., & Roediger, I. H. L. (2011). Research methods in psychology. CengageBrain. com.

Lambert, M. (2013). Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change. John Wiley & Sons.

Leech, N. L., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2008). Qualitative data analysis: A compendium of techniques and a framework for selection for school psychology research and beyond. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(4), 587.

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Matsumoto, D. R., & Juang, L. P. (2013). Culture and psychology. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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