Psychology 3780G-001

Research in Social Psychology

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


An introduction to the methods and techniques used in the study of human social behaviour.  Students will examine and conduct research, and will develop an independent research proposal.

Antirequisite: Psychology 2780E

Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit. So if you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course.

Prerequisites: Psychology 2800E, 2810, and one of Psychology 2070A/B or 2720A/B, plus registration in third or fourth year Honours Specialization in Psychology or Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Psychology Majors and Psychology Special Students who earn 70% or higher in Psychology 2820E (or 60% or higher in Psychology 2800E and 2810), plus 60% or higher in one of Psychology 2070A/B or 2720A/B) also may enrol in this course.

2 lecture hours, 2 laboratory hours, 0.5 course

Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


Instructor: Erin Heerey

Office: SSC 6322

Phone number: (519) 661-2111 ext. 86917

Office hours: By appointment only


Teaching Assistant: Jaclyn Siegel

Office: SSC 7327

Office hours: By appointment only




The course website will host all course content and is available at:



Lecture: Mondays, 10:30AM-12:30PM, SSC 3024

Lab: Fridays, 10:30AM-12:30PM, SSC 3010



Monday classes: These classes will consist of (a) a lecture on the weekly topic, focusing on specific issues that relate to social psychology specifically and psychology/scientific methods generally, (b) discussions of readings and other materials and (c) critiques of the independent research proposals that each of you will develop and write up.

Friday classes: During these classes, we will discuss research design and conduction more specifically, including specialized techniques for manipulating or measuring variables along with reading and understanding research methods. Additionally, we will discuss questions you may have about the weekly readings or other course requirements.

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


There is no textbook for the class. Instead, a list of required readings will be posted separately to the OWL site.

It is, of course, recommended that you purchase a copy of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., second or third printing).



The purpose of this course is to provide students with experience in most phases of social psychological research. The objectives are to develop the ability to critically evaluate research literature, to gain experience in planning, designing, and conducting experimental research, and to practice explaining research ideas and results to others (including laypersons) in both written and oral formats.


By the end of the term, students should have developed the following skills:


Learning Outcome

Learning Activity


Depth and Breadth of Knowledge.

Describe the replication crisis in social psychology, including identifying the factors that precipitated it, questionable research practices, and the steps the field has begun to implement to enhance research practices in social psychology.


Lecture; Readings; Class discussion; Group project preparation



Critical review; Multiple choice exams; Group project

Application of Knowledge.

Articulate the above concepts when critically evaluating published research and when designing research.



Lecture; Class discussions


Independent project; Critical review; Multiple choice exams


Integrate research findings on a topic relevant to social psychology and generate hypotheses and study design based on this previous work.


Research projects; Class discussions; Readings


Independent project; Class participation


Application of Methodologies.

Operationalize your research ideas by designing a social psychology experiment that exemplifies best practices in the field and coherently interpret the results of statistical analyses.



Independent project; Group project; Class discussions; Lecture; Readings


Independent project; Group project; Multiple choice exams

Communication Skills.

Communicate research ideas and results (your own and others’) clearly and concisely, in language accessible to intelligent non-experts (oral and written formats).



Class discussion

Project drafts

Student feedback in class


Newspaper article; Class participation; Independent project presentation; Group project presentation

Awareness of Limits of Knowledge.

Identify questionable research practices when they appear in published research and articulate weaknesses/knowledge gaps within a topic area.



Lecture; Class discussions; Literature review


Critical evaluation; Independent project report; Class participation

Autonomy and Professional Capacity.

Work collaboratively with others to develop a data analysis strategy and present results.



Group project


Group participation ratings; Class participation



PLEASE NOTE:  Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations (, you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.

Please note that I do not make grade adjustments (e.g., applying a bell curve to the distribution of marks on an exam or paper). In addition, I cannot adjust marks on the basis of need (e.g., because a certain mark is necessary to get into a particular academic program).





A one-page description of your initial thoughts on your research project (200 - 400 words) is due in class on Monday, January 26. This is a formative assignment and its purpose is to gain feedback on your project idea. It will not be formally marked. Be prepared to discuss your idea with other members of the class and the instructor.


A one-page description of your initial research project results (200 - 400 words) is due in class on Friday, March 9. This is a formative assignment and its purpose is to gain feedback on your preliminary results. It will not be formally marked. Be prepared to discuss your results with other members of the class and the instructor.


This mark includes participation and discussion in both Monday (5%) and Friday (5%) classes. Participation means more than class attendance; every student is expected to join the class discussion each meeting. Additionally, in the Monday class, each student will make short presentations of his or her research proposal at different stages of development, for purposes of eliciting critical, but constructive, feedback on the proposed research from the rest of the class.


There will be two formal presentations at the end of the term, one on the Independent Project (10%) and one on the Group Project (10%). You will receive more information about both presentations in class.

EXAMS (40%)

There will be two exams. The first exam (20%) is scheduled for Monday, February 5 and will cover the readings and topics assigned to that point and all material covered in lectures and in the labs. The second exam (20%) is scheduled for Monday, March 19. Both exams will follow a similar format. Although we will discuss many of the readings in class, you are responsible for reading anything that we do not cover in class. You will have the opportunity to discuss any questions you may have about this material in both the Monday and Friday classes. Both exams will consist of multiple-choice questions plus a take-home essay question. The exact essay question and relevant materials will become available on the OWL site five days before the exam. The first of these essays (associated with Exam 1) will consist of a 500-word description of a research project aimed at lay audiences. This will take the format of a newspaper article (you will have a choice of three research papers). The second of these essays (Exam 2) will comprise a 500-word critical review of a research report published in the literature (as above, you will receive three papers from which to choose). Both essays will be due at 10:30AM on the day of the relevant exam. Electronic submission only (upload to the OWL site as a Microsoft Word document; .doc or .docx file extensions).

The take-home essay is (obviously) “open book,” meaning that you may use information from the readings, lecture notes, the internet, etc., as you write. The multiple-choice portion of the exam will be taken in class. You will have the full class period (or exam period) to do the exam (110 minutes). You may bring one sheet of paper (letter sized; you may use both sides) with any notes you wish written/printed on it to help jog your memory for the course information. The multiple-choice questions (which will not be drawn from any test bank) are designed to test your understanding of the course material at a deep level. That is, a study strategy involving rote memorization of material will not help you to get a high grade on the exam. Rather, you should conceptualize each item as an individual decision and approach it from the background of the course material. Focusing your revision of the course material on understanding the concepts and information we discuss and the relationships between topics will help you to make the best decisions on the exam.


The research proposal is due by 5:00PM on Friday, April 6. It must be submitted electronically via the OWL site as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx file extensions). The proposal should be no longer than 1500 words (excluding the References section, cover page and abstract), and you should follow APA format as outlined in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., second or third printing). Note that the word limit is strictly calculated, as learning to communicating clearly and concisely is an important skill. Therefore, research proposals that exceed the word limit by more than 5% will be penalized by the proportion of extra words in the document (based on the 1500 word limit). Please report the word count on the title page (this will be checked at the marking stage). There is no penalty for turning in a paper that contains fewer than 1500 words, as long as it describes the research proposal clearly and completely. Note that the relevant audience for this proposal is a professional one who may or may not possess expertise related to your specific topic. Therefore, for the sake of clarity, you should avoid the use of highly technical jargon.

You will have a chance to discuss the proposal extensively in the Monday classes and to a lesser degree in the Friday classes. In addition, feel free to contact the course instructor or teaching assistant at other times to discuss your proposal.

For the research proposal you are strongly encouraged to propose an experiment, rather than a correlational study. Your experimental design should include two (or maximally three) independent variables; only one of these may be an individual difference variable (e.g., a personality measure), and the others must be manipulated independent variables.

Introduction: Your proposal should start out by stating the social psychological research question your study/experiment examines. You should then describe how this question relates to recent theorizing and research in social psychology. Review relevant theory and research. Do not provide an exhaustive review of past studies; rather, the literature review should provide a context for your proposed study. Next, provide a general overview of your proposed experiment and state your specific hypotheses. Thus, the Introduction should state the major purpose of the study, indicate its relationship to selected past research, and suggest how it will contribute to knowledge in the area. You should also indicate what pattern of results would confirm your predictions; that is, which cells of your experimental design must be different from which others to demonstrate your hypotheses were confirmed (please include descriptive figures as appropriate).

Method: The next section of the proposal should describe in detail the procedure you would employ to conduct the study. Be sure to indicate what your independent and dependent variables are and how you plan to operationalize them in your experiment. You should provide enough detail of the procedure so that another person could read your proposal and know how to conduct the study. You will not actually conduct the study you propose at this time.

Thus, your proposal should follow the format of a standard journal article, up to (but not including) the Results section, plus References. For the proposal, you may use either past tense or future tense, but please be consistent. Regardless of which tense you choose, please be sure to use the active case.

A good guide on how to write Introduction and Method sections is to note how other authors have written these sections in the published studies related to your own research idea. See the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., second or third printing) for additional information.

University regulations permit deadline extensions only for legitimate medical or compassionate reasons.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows the University of Western Ontario grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail










Readings are listed by number in “Reading_ List.pdf” (all PDFs available on OWL)


January 8 (Lecture)

January 12 (Lab)


Introduction & Review of Basics

Scientific Thinking



1, 2


January 15

January 19


Developing Research Ideas

Reading and Critiquing Research 1


3, 4

5, 6


January 22

January 26


Designing and Constructing Experiments

Field Experiments + Introduction to the Group Project





January 29


February 2

Study Design, Replicability and the Scientific method

Sample Size and Statistical Power

* Independent project outline due

8, 9




February 5

February 9


EXAM 1 (20%)

Implicit and Explicit Measures





February 12

February 16


Independent and Dependent Variables

Reading and Critiquing Research 2



12, 13


February 19

February 23


Reading Week (No lecture this week)

Reading Week (No lab this week)



February 26

March 2


Critical Thinking in Research

Mediation and Moderation

14, 15, 16


March 5

March 9


Ethics, Research Transparency and Openness

Group Project Outline Presentations

17, 18, 19


March 12

March 16


Validity, Realism & Errors

Group Project Data Collection


20, 21


March 19

March 23


EXAM 2 (20%)

Work on Group Project



March 26

March 30


Independent Project Presentations

Good Friday (University Holiday; no lab)




April 2

April 6

Independent Project Presentations

Work on Group Project

* Final independent project report due



April 9


Group Project Presentations




Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Lecture slides will be available on the OWL site at least two hours before the lecture is due to begin. Occasionally, additional material may be vodcast/podcast and posted to the OWL site. This material will be made accessible for those with disabilities. Lectures will not be podcast. However, if you wish, you may make a recording of the lectures for your own personal use (recordings may not be shared via social media or other platforms). Note that any group discussions of student projects that occur in class may not be recorded.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.