Griffith academic releases ‘one-stop shop’ handbook on psychological research design

In authoring her new book, Advanced Research Methods for Applied Psychology, Professor Paula Brough sought to fill the gap she continuously encountered while supervising postgraduate students.

“The idea came to me during a PhD confirmation where the student was assessing the different methods to conduct missing data analysis,” Professor Brough said. “I realised most students wouldn’t be aware of the different methods – but should be!

“I wanted to write a friendly and approachable book and this student even ended up writing the chapter on missing data analysis.”

Professor Paula Brough

Professor Brough says that many postgraduates are not fully equipped to consider the multiple nuances involved in conducting high-quality psychological research.

“They flounder in the information thrown at them from every direction on research designs,” she said, “and I found that students often struggle to start their projects.”

The aim of Advanced Research Methods for Applied Psychology is to assist beginner researchers to understand how topics such as research design, data collection techniques, missing data analysis, and research outputs are all inter-related, and that each should be duly considered when starting a research project.

“The ‘siloing’ of such key research topics is acknowledged to be necessary for a suitable depth of detail; however, it can prevent researchers from seeing the big picture,” Professor Brough said.

The book provides updated research techniques from across the globe for data collection platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and social network analysis, and discusses the pros and cons of these methodologies.

Some of the research designs described in Professor Brough’s book have been applied to nationally renowned projects, such as her ‘Work-stress contagion’ research – recently featured on Sunrise – and ‘Workplace mental wellbeing: lessons from criminal justice workers’, conducted by Dr Amanda Biggs, a contributing author.

Professor Brough believes that the increasing volume of postgraduate researchers in psychology and related fields is indicative of several key drivers, including a growth in intrinsic interest to conduct psychological research; recognition of the value of a post-graduate qualification for career development; and – arguably the strongest driver (within Australia at least) – the increased requirement for psychologists to complete a postgraduate qualification containing a research thesis component for professional psychology registration purposes.

At the same time, most university academics are experiencing significant work intensification processes; academic time spent in teaching, research, and supervision work tasks are subject to increased monitoring and being reduced into specific allocations of work hours.

For example, Professor Brough says, it would not be uncommon for an academic to be given a formal allocation of 18 hours per year to supervise a Psychology Masters student in their thesis research.

“For this reason, we also intend this book to be of direct value to both increasingly busy academic supervisors and their theses students, as a useful reference point for the most relevant issues concerned with the conducting of postgraduate thesis research,” she said.