Skip to Main Content


This Research Guide provides information about psychology resources found in the CCCC libraries and online.


In this section, you will find an overview of different research methods in psychology. You will find links to tools and resources in the library related to the different types of research and writing.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

Research in Psychology is categorized into two general methods:

Speech Bubble Icon with Quotation MarksQualitative Research

Non-numerical evidence, usually examined in its raw form

Used when a researcher wants to understand people's opinions, idiosyncratic responses to an event, motivations, or underlying reasons for actions or decisions.

Learn about the Types of Qualitative Research Methods. link will open in a new window

Example: Interviewing the victims of a natural disaster to gather a range of emotional responses.

Icon of gearsQuantitative Research

Numbers!  Collected as numerical data or converted into numerical data and examined using statistical methods of analysis.

Used to examine trends and compare populations.

Learn about the Types of Quantitative Research Methods. link will open in a new window

Example: Asking victims of a natural disaster to rank their feelings of anxiety using a pre-determined scale.

When to use them

Psychological research is best when it uses complementary quantitative and qualitative approaches together in the same study, a method called triangulation.

Example: Observing parent-child interactions while watching tv then comparing those observations to measured rates of social and cognitive development in the children who participated in the study.

The Research Continuum

Image of the Research Continuum showing the spectrum of research from qualitative to quantitative.







Magnifying GlassObservational Studies

The researchers record data by studying participants at a distance.  Researchers try not to influence the participants or their actions.

Types of observational studies include: Naturalistic Observation link will open in a new window, Participant Observation link will open in a new windowor Ethnography. link will open in a new window


Icon of Scales to BalanceCase Studies

The researcher will collect and write detailed accounts of individual lives. A case study can combine a few research approaches, including interviews, observational data, and archival data.

Examples of Case Studies include Freud's history of Anna O link will open in a new window., and the stories related in Oliver Sacks's best selling book The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.

Open Book IconArchival Research

A researcher applies their own analytical model to data that has already been collected.  They attempt to answer a new question or discover a new trend by looking at old data.

Typical sources of archival data include: census datalink will open in a new window , court records will open in a new window , medical records, and even case files from other researchers.

Question Mark IconQuestionnaires

Participants are asked a standard set of questions.  These questions may be delivered in writing or through an interview format.

There are three main types of questionnaire methods: Random Sampling link will open in a new window , Stratified Sampling link will open in a new window , and Convenience Sampling link will open in a new window .

Icon of Crossed ToolsApplied and Field research

Researchers are trying to find a solution to an immediate, practical problem.  Examples include reducing drug use or improving worker happiness. 

Field research is a type of applied research that is undertaken in a non-laboratory setting. These settings may include a hospital or workplace.

Erlenmeyer flask or beaker iconExperimental Research

Research conducted in a controlled environment.  The results help scholars in the field to learn more about psychological processes such as cognition or emotional development.