Methods of Enquiry in Psychology - Solutions

 CBSE Class 11 Pyschology

NCERT Solutions
Methods of Enquiry in Psychology

1. What are the goals of scientific enquiry?

Ans. Like any scientific research, psychological enquiry has the following goals: description, prediction, explanation, and control of behaviour, and application of knowledge so generated, in an objective manner.

Description : This helps in distinguishing a particular behaviour from other behaviours. For example, the researcher may be interested in observing study habits among students. Study habits may consist of diverse range of behaviours, such as attending all your classes regularly, submitting assignments on time, planning your study schedule, studying according to the set schedule, revising your work on a daily basis etc. Within a particular category there may be further minute descriptions. The researcher needs to describe her/his meaning of study habits. The description requires recording of a particular behaviour which helps in its proper understanding.

Prediction : The second goal of scientific enquiry is prediction of behaviour. If you are able to understand and describe the behaviour accurately, you come to know the relationship of a particular behaviour with other types of behaviours, events, or phenomena. You can then forecast that under certain conditions this particular behaviour may occur within a certain margin of error. For example, on the basis of study, a researcher is able to establish a positive relationship between the amount of study time and achievement in different subjects. Later, if you come to know that a particular child devotes more time for study, you can predict that the child is likely to get good marks in the examination. Prediction becomes more accurate with the increase in the number of persons observed.

Explanation : The third goal of psychological enquiry is to know the causal factors or determinants of behaviour. Psychologists are primarily interested in knowing the factors that make behaviour occur. This goal is concerned with identifying the determinants or antecedent conditions (i.e. conditions that led to the particular behaviour) of the behaviour being studied so that cause-effect relationship between two variables (objects) or events could be established.

Control : Control refers to three things: making a particular behaviour happen, reducing it, or enhancing it. For example, you can allow the number of hours devoted to study to be the same, or you can reduce them or there may be an increase in the study hours. The change brought about in behaviour by psychological treatment in terms of therapy in persons, is a good example of control.

Application : The final goal of the scientific enquiry is to bring out positive changes in the lives of people. Psychological research is conducted to solve problems in various settings. Because of these efforts the quality of life of people is a major concern of psychologists. For example, applications of yoga and meditation help to reduce stress and increase efficiency. Scientific enquiry is also conducted to develop new theories or constructs, which leads to further research.

2. Describe the various steps involved in conducting a scientific enquiry.

Ans. The various steps in Conducting Scientific Research are:

Conceptualising a Problem

The process of scientific research begins when a researcher selects a theme or topic for study. Then s/he narrows down the focus and develops specific research questions or problems for the study. This is done on the basis of review of past research, observations, and personal experiences. For example, earlier you read that a researcher was interested in observing the study habits of students. For this purpose, s/he may identify different facets of study habits first, and then decide whether s/he is interested in study habits shown in the class or at home.

After identification of the problem, the researcher proceeds by developing a tentative answer of the problem, which is called hypothesis. For example, based on the earlier evidence or your observation, you might develop a hypothesis ‘greater is the amount of time spent by children in viewing violence on television, higher is the degree of aggression displayed by them’. In your research, you shall now try to prove whether the statement is true or false.

Collecting data

The second step in scientific research is to collect data. Data collection requires developing a research design or a blueprint of the entire study. It requires taking decisions about the following four aspects: (a) participants in the study, (b) methods of data collection, (c) tools to be used in research, and (d) procedure for data collection.

Depending upon the nature of the study, the researcher has to decide who would be the participants (or informants) in the study. The participants could be children, adolescents, college students, teachers, managers, clinical patients, industrial workers, or any group of individuals in whom/ where the phenomenon under investigation is prevalent.

The second decision is related to the use of methods of data collection, such as observation method, experimental method, correlational method, case study, etc. The researcher needs to decide about appropriate tools (for example, interview schedule, observation schedule, questionnaire, etc.) for data collection.

The researcher also decides about how the tools need to be administered to collect data (i.e. individual or group). This is followed by actual collection of data.

Drawing Conclusions

The next step is to analyse data so collected through the use of statistical procedures to understand what the data mean. This can be achieved through graphical representations (such as preparation of pie-chart, bar-diagram, cumulative frequencies, etc.) and by the use of different statistical methods. The purpose of analysis is to verify a hypothesis and draw conclusions accordingly.

Revising Research Conclusions

The researcher may have begun the study with a hypothesis that there exists a relationship between viewing violence on television and aggression among children. S/he has to see whether the conclusions support this hypothesis. If they do, the existing hypothesis/ theory is confirmed. If not, s/he will revise or state an alternative hypothesis/theory and again test it based on new data and draw conclusions which may be verified by future researchers. Thus, research is a continuous process.

3. Explain the nature of psychological data.

Ans. Psychological data are different as compared to other sciences. Psychologists collect a variety of information from different sources employing diverse methods. The information, also called data (singular = datum), relate to the individuals’ covert or overt behaviour, their subjective experiences, and mental processes.

Data form an important input in psychological enquiry. They in fact approximate the reality to some extent and provide an opportunity to verify or falsify our ideas, hunches, notions, etc. It should be understood that data are not independent entities. They are located in a context, and are tied to the method and theory that govern the process of data collection.

In other words, data are not independent of the physical or social context, the persons involved, and the time when the behaviour occurs. We behave differently when alone than in a group, or at home and in office.

The method of data collection (survey, interview, experiment, etc.) used and the characteristics of respondents (such as, individual or group, young or old, male or female, rural or urban, etc.) also influence the nature and quality of data.

It is possible that when you interview a student, s/he may report behaving in a particular manner in a given situation. But when you go for actual observation you may find just the opposite of what s/he had reported.

Another important feature of data is that it does not in itself speak about reality. Inferences have to be made from data. A researcher attaches meaning to the data by placing it in its proper context.

Data is any information related to mental processes, experiences and behaviour, collected by using various tools. Psychological data are of different types, such as-
1. Demographic information
This information includes personal information related to a particular individual. This includes name, age, gender, education, marital status, residence, caste, religion, income etc, which are personally relevant.
2. Physical information
This includes information pertaining to physical environment i.e. ecological condition.
It also includes information about economy, housing conditions, facilities at the home, in the school, transportation etc.
3. Physiological data
This is related to Biological data.
For example, height, weight, heart rate, level of fatigue, EEG, reaction time, sleep, blood pressure etc is collected.
Data related to animal's biological functioning is also collected.
4. Psychological information
This includes data regarding psychological functioning of individual.
It involves data about intelligence, personality, attitudes, values, emotions, motivation, psychological dysfunctions, consciousness etc.
Thus, obtained data is divided into various categories, so that it can be analysed using statistical measures.

4. How do experimental and control group differ? Explain with the help of an example.

Ans. An experimental group is a group in which members of the group are exposed to independent variable manipulation. On the other hand, the control group is a comparison group that is treated in every way like the experimental group except that the manipulated variable is absent in it.

The purpose is to see whether any difference occur in two groups as a result of application of independent variable on experimental group.

For example, suppose, an experiment is carried out to study the effect of presence of others on helpful behaviour, one participant was put in a situation requiring help, say, someone drowning in swimming pool, here five other people were also present, another participant was alone in the emergency situation.

In an experiment except for the experimental manipulation, other conditions are kept constant for both the groups.

5. A researcher is studying relationship between speed of cycling and the presence of people. Formulate a relevant hypothesis and identify the independent and dependent variables.

Ans. Variable: It is any stimulus or event which varies or can take on different values and can be measured. e.g. weight, height.
Hypothesis: It is a tentative and testable statement which expresses relation between two or more than two variables. e.g.: those who are rewarded shall require lesser number of trials to learn than those who are not rewarded.
Independent variable: It is the variable which is systematically manipulated or altered in an experiment. It is the cause.
Dependent variable: It is the variable that is measured in an experiment. It is the effect.
As per the question:
Presence of others will enhance the speed of cycling.
Independent variable. Presence of others.
Dependent variable. Speed of cycling

6. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of experimental method as a method of enquiry.

Ans. Experimental method is aimed at discovering causal relationship between various factors by manipulating the situation under totally controlled conditions.


  • Experimentation involves manipulation of variables to study their effect on other aspects.
  • Experiments are carried out in totally controlled condition.
  • Subjects or individuals are assigned to experimental and control group, randomly.
  • All factors other than manipulated variable that might affect the dependent variable are kept constant.


  • Experimental method aims at establishing cause-effect relationship between the variables.
  • Replication and verification of obtained result is possible.
  • The investigator can manipulate the independent variable according to the demands of the situation.
  • It can be performed at any time.
  • It is very objective-No personal bias exists.


  • Experiments are conducted in a very artificial and unrealistic situations-the setting is not natural.
  • They lack external validity i.e. generalizability. Since they are not done in natural settings, the results can't be generalized with confidence.
  • It is difficult to control and know all extraneous variables like - motivation, emotion, state etc.
  • It is not always possible to study a problem experimentally.

For example, personality can't be studied experimentally.

7. Dr. Krishnan is going to observe and record children's play behaviour at a nursery school without attempting to influence or control the behaviour. Which method of research is involved? Explain the process and discuss its merits and demerits.

Ans. Dr. Krishnan would use the method of non-participant observation to observe and record children's behaviour at play without attempting to influence or control the behaviour. He would sit in a corner and observe the children's behaviour without them being aware of it. He would note the behaviour of children while playing, how they interact with each other and their reaction towards winning or losing. He would collect all the data in a file and then match the conclusion with the hypothesis.
Merits of non-participant observation:
1. The researcher observes the people and their behaviour in naturalistic settings.
2. The observer can get first hand information regarding the subject.
1. This method is time consuming, labour intensive and subject to personal biases.
2. The researcher may interpret the behaviour based on personal values.

8. Give two examples of the situations where survey method can be used. What are the limitations of this method?

Ans. Survey Method is a research method utilizing written questionnaires or personal interviews to obtain data of a given population.
For example: Surveys are used in variety of situations such as
1. They can be used in political regime to know whether people approve or disapprove any particular policy of government, say for example, policy of reservation in higher education or Nuclear deal with America in recent times.
2. They are used during elections also to know who will people vote to.
3. Surveys can also be used to test hypothesis about the relationship among variables.
One may try to find out the effect of some event on people's behaviour.
For example - Surveys have been conducted after the earthquake at Bhuj in Gujarat to find out the impact of earthquake on people's lives.
4. In marketing area, before launching a product surveys are often conducted.
They are used to assess people's attitude on various social issues such as family planning and gender equality.
1. The major difficulty is the issue of accuracy and honesty of the responses as the respondents attempt to create favourable impression - faking is possible.
2. Surveyor's bias also affects the results. He/she may ask the question in such a way as to elicit desired response.
3. Surveys remain at the surface and it does not penetrate into the depth of the problem. They are time-consuming and expensive.
4. These techniques make the respondent conscious. So, he/she may mould his/her responses.
5. Survey demand expertise, research knowledge and competence on the part of the researcher. Most of the survey researchers don't possess these qualities in the required amount. This invalidates the quality of survey.
6. Sample selected might not be the true representative of the population.

9. Differentiate between interview and questionnaire.

Ans. Interview

The interview method is one of the most frequently used methods for obtaining information from people. It is used in diverse kinds of situations. It is used by a doctor to obtain information from the patient, an employer when meeting a prospective employee, a sales person interviewing a housewife to know why she uses a certain brand of soap.

An interview is a purposeful activity conducted to derive factual information, opinions and attitudes, and reasons for particular behaviour, etc. from the respondents. It is generally conducted face-to-face but sometimes it can also take place over the phone.

There can be two broad types of interviews: structured or standardised, and unstructured or non-standardised. This distinction is based upon the type of preparation we make before conducting the interview.

As we have to ask questions during the interview, it is required that we prepare a list of questions before-hand. The list is called an interview schedule. A structured interview is one where the questions in the schedule are written clearly in a particular sequence. The interviewer has little or no liberty to make changes in the wordings of the questions or the order in which they are to be asked. The responses to these questions are also, in some cases, specified in advance. These are called close-ended questions.

In contrast, in an unstructured interview the interviewer has the flexibility to take decisions about the questions to be asked, the wording of the questions, and the sequence in which questions are to be asked. Since responses are not specified in such type of interviews, the respondent can answer the questions in the way s/he chooses to. Such questions are called open-ended questions. For example, if the researcher wants to know about the happiness level of a person, s/he may ask: How happy are you? The respondent may reply to this question the way s/he chooses to answer.

An interview may have the following combinations of participants in an interview situation:
(a) Individual to Individual : It is a situation where one interviewer interviews another person.
(b) Individual to Group : In this situation, one interviewer interviews a group of persons. One variant of it is called a Focus Group Discussion (FGD).

(c) Group to Individuals : It is a situation where one group of interviewers interview one person. You may experience this type of situation when you appear for a job interview.

(d) Group to Group : It is a situation where one group of interviewers interview another group of interviewees.

Interviewing is a skill which requires proper training. A good interviewer knows how to make the respondent at ease and get the optimal answer. S/he remains sensitive to the way a person responds and, if needed, probes for more information. If the respondent gives vague answers, the interviewer may try to get specific and concrete answers.

The interview method helps in obtaining in-depth information. It is flexible and adaptable to individual situations, and can often be used when no other method is possible or adequate. It can be used even with children, and non-literate persons. An interviewer can know whether the respondent understands the questions, and can repeat or paraphrase questions. However, interviews require time. Often getting information from one person may take an hour or more which may not be cost-effective.


The questionnaire is the most common, simple, versatile, and low-cost self-report method of collecting information. It consists of a predetermined set of questions. The respondent has to read the questions and mark the answers on paper rather than respond verbally to the interviewer. They are in some ways like highly structured interviews.

Questionnaires can be distributed to a group of persons at a time who write down their answers to the questions and return to the researcher or can be sent through mail.

Generally, two types of questions are used in the questionnaire: open-ended and closed- ended. With open-ended questions, the respondent is free to write whatever answer s/he considers appropriate. In the closed- ended type, the questions and their probable required to select the correct answer. Examples of closed-ended questions require responses like: Yes/No, True/False, Multiple choice, or using a rating scale. In case of rating scale, a statement is given and the respondent is asked to give her/his views on a 3-point (Agree, Undecided, Disagree), or 5-point (Strongly Agree, Agree, Undecided, Disagree, Strongly Disagree) or 7-point, 9-point, 11- point or 13-point scale.

The questionnaire is used for collecting background and demographic information, information about past behaviour, attitudes and opinions, knowledge about a particular topic, and expectations and aspirations of the persons. Sometimes a survey is conducted by sending the questionnaire by mail. The main problem of a mailed questionnaire is poor response from the respondents.

10. Explain the characteristics of a standardised test.

Ans. Characteristics of a standardised test:

1. Reliability: Reliability refers to the consistency of scores obtained by an individual on the same test on different occasions. If the test is reliable, the scores obtained by the students on the two occasions would be similar.
For this we can complete the following:
(i) Test-retest reliability: it indicates the temporal stability. It is computed by finding out co-efficient of correlation between same test conducted on two different occasions.
(ii) Split-half reliability: It gives an indication about the degree of internal consistency of the test by computing coefficient of correlation between two equal halves of the same test.

2. Validity: For a test to be usable, it must be valid. Validity refers to the question "does the test measure what it claims to measure". E.g. If a test is for assessment of intelligence, it should only be testing intelligence and not aptitude.

3. Norms: A test becomes standardized if norms are developed for the test, Norm is the normal average performance of the group. The test is administered on a large number of people.. Their average performance standards are based on their age, sex, place of residence, etc. This helps us in comparison of performance of groups and individual students.

11. Describe the limitations of psychological enquiry.

Ans. The limitations of psychoogical enquiry are:

1. Lack of True Zero Point : Psychological measurements do not have a true zero point. For example, no person in this world has zero intelligence. All of us have some degree of intelligence. What psychologists do is that they arbitrarily decide a point as zero point and proceed further. As a result, whatever scores we get in psychological studies, are not absolute in nature; rather, they have relative value.

2. Relative Nature of Psychological Tools : Psychological tests are developed keeping in view the salient features of a particular context. For example, a test developed for urban students may contain items that demand familiarity with the stimuli available in the urban setting— multistoried buildings, air planes, metro railway, etc. Such a test is not suitable for use with children living in tribal areas who would be more at ease with items that describe their flora and fauna. Similarly, a test developed in the Western countries may or may not be applicable in the Indian context. Such tests need to be properly modified and adapted keeping in view the characteristics of the context in which they are to be used.

3. Subjective Interpretation of Qualitative Data : Data from qualitative studies are largely subjective since they involve interpretation on the part of the researcher as well as the person providing data. The interpretations may vary from one individual to the other. It is, therefore, often suggested that in case of qualitative studies, the field work should be done by more than one investigator, who at the end of the day should discuss their observations and arrive at an agreement before finally giving it a meaning. In fact, one is better off, if the respondents too are involved in such meaning-making process.

12. What are the ethical guidelines that a psychologist needs to follow while conducting a psychological enquiry?

Ans. The ethical guidelines that a psychologist needs to follow while conducting psychological enquiry are:

1. Voluntary Participation : This principle states that the persons on whom you want to conduct the study should have the choice to decide whether to participate or not to participate in the study. The participants should have the freedom to decide about their participation without any coercion or excessive inducement, and the freedom to withdraw from the research without penalty, once it has begun.

2. Informed Consent : It is essential that the participants in a study should understand what will happen to them during the study. The principle of informed consent states that potential participants must receive this information before data from them are collected, so that they make an informed decision about participation in the study. In some of the psychological experiments, electric shock is given to the participants during the experiment.

3. Debriefing : Once the study is over, the participants are provided with necessary information to complete their understanding of research. This is particularly important if deception has been used in the study. Debriefing ensures that participants leave the study in the same physical and mental state as when they entered. It should offer reassurance to the participants. The researcher should make efforts to remove any anxiety or other adverse effects that participants may have felt as a result of being deceived in the course of the study.

4. Sharing the Results of the Study : In psychological research, after collecting information from the participants, we come back to our places of work, analyse the data and draw conclusions. It is obligatory for the researcher to go back to the participants and share the results of the study with them. When you go for data collection, the participants develop certain expectations from you. One of the expectations is that you will tell them about their behaviour that you have investigated in the study. As a researcher, it is our moral duty to go back to the participants. This exercise has two advantages. One, you fulfil the expectations of the participants. Second, the participants may tell you their opinion about the results, which sometimes may help you develop new insights.

5. Confidentiality of Data Source : The participants in a study have the right to privacy. The researcher must safeguard their privacy by keeping the information provided by them in strict confidence. The information should only be used for research purposes and, in no circumstances, it should be passed on to other interested parties. The most effective way of protecting the confidentiality of participants is not to record their identities. This is, however, not possible in certain kinds of research. In such cases, code numbers are given on the data sheet, and the names with the codes are kept separately. The identification list should be destroyed as soon as the research is over.