Chapter 2 Getting Started in Research
Here is the first paragraph of a 2009 article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
Human figure drawings (HFDs) are commonly used by professionals who interview children about suspected sexual abuse. It is assumed that these drawings will decrease children’s linguistic and emotional or motivational limitations, as well as memory problems, and thus will result in the elicitation of more complete and accurate details of abuse. There is, however, little scientific information to support claims of their benefits. This article presents the results of two studies that examined young children’s ability to use HFDs to report body touches. (Bruck, 2009, p. 361)Bruck, M. (2009). Human figure drawings and children’s recall of touching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15, 361–374.
Do human figure drawings like this one help children recall information about being touched—for example, in sexual abuse cases? Unfortunately, initial research suggests that they do not.
Copyright © 2004 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission. The official citation that should be used in referencing this material is Aldridge, J., Lamb, M. W., Sternberg, K. J., Orbach, Y., Esplin, P. W., & Bowler, L. (2004). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 304–316. The use of APA information does not imply endorsement by the APA.
In this paragraph, the researcher has identified a research question—about the effect of using human figure drawings on the accuracy of children’s memories of being touched—and begun to make an argument for why it is interesting. In terms of the general model of scientific research in psychology presented in Figure 1.2 "A Simple Model of Scientific Research in Psychology", these are activities at the “top” of the cycle. In this chapter, we focus on these activities—finding research ideas, turning them into interesting empirical research questions, and reviewing the research literature. We begin, however, with some more basic concepts that are necessary to understand how research questions in psychology are conceptualized.