List of psychological research methods

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A wide range of research methods are used in psychology. These methods vary by the sources from which information is obtained, how that information is sampled, and the types of instruments that are used in data collection. Methods also vary by whether they collect qualitative data, quantitative data or both.

Qualitative psychological research is where the research findings are not arrived at by statistical or other quantitative procedures. Quantitative psychological research is where the research findings result from mathematical modeling and statistical estimation or statistical inference. Since qualitative information can be handled as such statistically, the distinction relates to method, rather than the topic studied.

There are three main types of psychological research:

The following are common research designs and data collection methods:

Research designs vary according to the period(s) of time over which data are collected:

  • Retrospective cohort study: Subjects are chosen, then data are collected on their past experiences.
  • Prospective cohort study: Subjects are recruited prior to the proposed independent effects being administered or occurring.
  • Cross-sectional study, in which a population are sampled on all proposed measures at one point in time.
  • Longitudinal study, in which subjects are studied at multiple time points: May address the cohort effect and indicate causal directions of effects.
  • Cross-sequential study, in which groups of different ages are studied at multiple time points; combines cross-sectional and longitudinal designs

Research in psychology has been conducted with both animals and human subjects:


  • Stangor, Charles. (2007). Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences. 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Weathington, B.L., Cunningham, C.J.L., & Pittenger, D.P. (2010). Research Methods for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.