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Research Methods – Experimental Methodology

1. True Experiments

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About this Lecture


This first lecture starts by outlining a number of different ways in which a researcher might investigate how someone responds to music, settling on the theme of this lecture: the true experiment. Causality is described in the first part of this lecture, providing three criteria that must be met before considering a relationship to be causal. The two key parameters for manipulating an independent variable when testing for a causal relationship are noted as varying it across multiple levels and randomly allocating each level to each participant. Dr Allen then walks through an example field experiment aimed at improving student learning success, highlighting the important areas of focus to ensure that it is done utilising the best scientific practices. The last part of this lecture compares the example field experiment with a laboratory experiment, contrasting the differences and giving examples of how a researcher might perform the same experiment in a laboratory setting.


True Experiment – The purpose of a true experiment in psychology is to explain behaviour by isolating cause and effect relationships between variables.

Causal Relationships – A relationship where change in one variable results directly in change in another.

Field Experiment – A study that is conducted outside of a laboratory, in a 'real-world' setting. Participants are exposed to one of two or more levels of an independent variable being studied, with their reactions observed by an observer(s).


In this course, Dr Peter Allen (University of Bristol) explores the experimental structure and methodology that underlies much of the research that informs our psychological theories. The first lecture introduces the gold standard in psychological research: the true experiment. The second lecture breaks down the term ‘experiment’ by highlighting the definitions of quasi and natural experiments. The third lecture brings to light the commonly practiced alternative to the experiment, in the form of observational studies – a key aspect of a natural experiment. The fourth lecture builds on lecture three by focusing on the self-report methods which are often used in observational studies. The fifth lecture moves to the post-procedure aspect of experimentation by approaching correlations and what they mean in the analysis of results. The sixth lecture brings to light content analysis, a lesser studied qualitative method of categorising and analysing experimental results. The seventh and final lecture on this course addresses case studies, the divisive method of study which is equal parts invaluable and useless!


Dr Peter Allen is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychological Science at the University of Bristol. In recent years, Dr Allen’s research has centred around evidence-based learning and teaching in higher education. A key focus has been on statistical literacy, specifically on understanding the barriers that psychology students can face when learning research methods and statistics. A goal of this research is to derive strategies that can help students become better researchers and scientific thinkers.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Allen, P. (2022, January 07). Research Methods – Experimental Methodology - True Experiments [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Allen, Peter. "Research Methods – Experimental Methodology – True Experiments." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 07 Jan 2022,

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