San José State University

Department of Psychology

PSYC 018: Introduction to Research Methods

Section 80, Spring 2024

Last updated: January 23, 2024

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Instructor Contact Information

Instructor: David Schuster, Ph.D.

Office Location: DMH 315

Telephone: 408-924-5659


Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00am-10:00am online via Zoom meeting; also available by appointment

Course Information

Classroom: Online; this is an asynchronous course

Class Days/Time: Online

Prerequisites: PSYC 001 and STAT 095 or equivalents


My name is Dr. David Schuster, and you are welcome to call me ‘Dave,’ ‘David,’ or ‘Dr. Schuster.’ My preferred pronouns are he/him/his. I have been teaching since 2008 and a professor at SJSU since 2013. I earned my Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Central Florida. I am looking forward to being your instructor as we explore research psychology.

I am here to help you, so please take advantage of opportunities to meet with me during drop-in office hours and by appointment. In these meetings, you can ask me questions, further discuss any part of the course, talk about your plans after graduation, and connect to other resources on campus.

Course Description

The major goal of this course is for you to understand and evaluate claims from the perspective of the social scientist. This course will introduce you to research in psychology and prepare you to design your own research. Skills developed in this course will be useful to critical thinkers in a data-driven society.

The catalog description of this course is: Psychological research methods and design (experimental, quasi-experimental [correlational], and descriptive investigations) covering observation, instrumentation, and the collection, analysis, interpretation, and reporting of research data as illustrated through a review of original research in a variety of the subdisciplines of psychology.

Course Format

This is an asynchronous online course. That means that you will complete each week’s material at your own pace.

Learning Outcomes

Course Learning Outcomes

The objective of this course is to provide you with a solid introduction to psychological research. We will examine the logic and strategies of scientific research and learn how to use statistics to draw conclusions from data. You will learn what research methods are available, when to use specific research methods, and how to interpret research results.

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • CLO1 – Explain the basic principles of the scientific method

  • CLO2 – Distinguish between experimental, quasi-experimental, and non-experimental methods

  • CLO3 – Strategically select appropriate research designs

  • CLO4 – Make inferences from research

  • CLO5 – Critique the validity of inferences from research

  • CLO6 – Explain the ethical treatment of human and animal participants in research and the institutional requirements for conducting research

  • CLO7 – Apply statistical analysis and the logic of hypothesis testing to address research questions

  • CLO8 – Demonstrate familiarity with APA style

  • CLO9 – Identify mentorship opportunities in science

The learning objectives will be assessed via written assignments and exam questions.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the requirements for a major in psychology, students will be able to:

  • PLO1 – Knowledge Base of Psychology – identify, describe, and communicate the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in psychology

  • PLO2 – Research Methods in Psychology – design, implement, and communicate basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretations

  • PLO3 – Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology – use critical and creative thinking, skeptical inquiry, and a scientific approach to address issues related to behavior and mental processes

  • PLO4 – Application of Psychology – apply psychological principles to individual, interpersonal, group, and societal issues

  • PLO5 – Values in Psychology – value empirical evidence, tolerate ambiguity, act ethically, and recognize their role and responsibility as a member of society

Each assignment in this course maps onto one or more of these PLOs, with full coverage over all assignments in the course. PLOs 1-6 are especially emphasized in the first weeks of the course, and PLOs 7-9 are especially emphasized in the subsequent weeks of the course.

Required Materials

Canvas and E-Mail

All graded assignments will be accepted in electronic form using the Canvas learning management system assignments page (Canvas is available at Communication regarding the course will be posted to Canvas or sent via the e-mail address linked to your MySJSU account. It is your responsibility to make sure you are enrolled in Canvas and receiving my emails.

Required Texts/Readings

Stanovich, K.E. (2018). How to think straight about psychology (11th ed.). Pearson Education. ISBN: 978-0134478623

You will need the textbook for required readings throughout the semester. Supplemental handouts will be provided on Canvas.


A laptop or tablet computer with Internet access will be necessary to participate in class activities, take exams, and for your use outside of class. In lieu of a computer or tablet, a smartphone may be used but is unlikely to provide a good experience. You will need a keyboard and the ability to browse web sites and use spreadsheets, a calculator, a word processor, and a stopwatch. If you do not have a laptop or tablet computer available for this course, please meet with me to discuss free options for computer resources. I will work with you to find acceptable free computing resources.

You may choose to meet with me via Zoom. A webcam and microphone are recommended but not required. For your security, I recommend that you disable or cover your webcam when not in use.

This course may require occasional use of software such as Excel and Word. I will provide instruction in the use of the software; you do not need to start the course with this knowledge. You do not need to purchase licenses for any software.

In case you need them, these software packages are available to you at no cost:

Grading Policy

Determination of Grades

Grades will be available to you on Canvas throughout the semester. Grades are assigned based on your final point total out of 1000 points for the course:

Grade Points
A plus > 965 points
A 916 to 965 points
A minus 896 to 915 points
B plus 866 to 895 points
B 816 to 865 points
B minus 796 to 815 points
C plus 766 to 795 points
C 716 to 765 points
C minus 696 to 715 points
D plus 666 to 695 points
D 616 to 665 points
D minus 595 to 615 points
F < 595 points

Rounding is Included in the Grading Scale

The point totals reflect rounding up to the nearest percentage. For example, an A- would normally require 900 points (or 90% of 1000 points). With rounding, it only requires 896 points (or 89.6% of 1000 points). Because rounding is built into the grading scale, your grade will be based on your final point total, rounded to the nearest whole point (so, 895.6 points is an A-, but 895.4 points is a B+). To be fair to everyone in the class, these are firm cutoffs.

Course Requirements and Assignments

Engagement Week (5% of grade = 50 points)

Just as the name would imply, Engagement Week is your opportunity to make sure you’re ready for our asynchronous online course, and if so, that you are also ready to meet the challenges, responsibilities, and expectations of this class in particular. The week will involve activities designed to get you ready to succeed in our class.

  • Get on Canvas – Getting logged into and familiar with Canvas is key to your success. Activate your Canvas account and view our course site. Open the “Modules” page to see all the materials for each week of the course. Download everything in the first module (labeled “Start Here”), and keep these materials handy throughout the course.

  • Watch the welcome video

  • Submit your personalized schedule (50 points) – This activity guides you in the preparation of your individualized class schedule. Instructions can be found on the “Modules” page on Canvas.

  • Introduce yourself on our discussion board

Activity Assignments (30% of grade = 300 points)

Ten activities are worth 30 points each. The activities are designed to give you hands-on practice with the techniques discussed in the lecture and handouts. For each assigned activity, attempt every item at least once. Type out your answers to each item along with any work needed to solve the problem. This is graded for completion, (it is okay to make mistakes!) and you must attempt every item without leaving any blank. Substantially incomplete or blatantly effortless work will receive a score of zero. Submitting answers duplicated from others without attempting the problem yourself is academic dishonesty. Always check your completed work against any answer key posted to Canvas for feedback on your mastery. I am always happy to answer your questions about the activities, discuss strategies, and/or provide additional feedback on your work. Maps onto CLOs 1-7.

Reflection Questions (10% of grade = 100 points)

Ten reflection questions are worth 10 points each. During video lectures, I will ask one or more a reflection questions; you only need to find and answer one of them. The purpose of the reflection question is to help you think actively about the lecture content and connect it to your own experience. This is graded for completion (it is okay to not have the right answer). Note that lecture 10 has no question in the video; instead, I will post a question on the Canvas assignment page. Maps onto CLOs 1-7.

Quizzes (15% of grade = 150 points)

Eleven quizzes are worth 15 points each, and the lowest one is dropped (making each quiz only about 1.4% of your final grade). This leaves 10 quizzes worth 15 points each, for a total of 150 points. Quizzes are designed to give you quick, low-stakes feedback on your mastery of the prior unit. Most weeks, a quiz will be assigned within Canvas. You may use support materials (your textbook, web sites, and your notes) when you take your quiz, but you must take your quiz alone without the help of any other live individual or automated aid. You may not communicate with anyone or any automation, including chatbots (e.g., ChatGPT), except the instructor during a quiz. Doing so is academic dishonesty. For example, you may refer to the web page of a textbook during a quiz, but you may not post messages or send e-mails to someone while you take a quiz. As with activities, I am always happy to answer your questions following the quiz or discuss its concepts in more detail.

In summary: Live help or automation is not okay for quizzes, but any other resources are okay. Please let me know if you have questions about what is allowed during quizzes or exams. Maps onto CLOs 1-8.

Exams (15% of grade = 150 points)

Three exams are worth 50 points each, which is only 5% of your final grade per exam. The purpose of the exams is to give you feedback on your ability to apply the knowledge learned in the previous part of the course. The second exam is a cumulative final exam.

You may use support materials (your textbook, web sites, and your notes) when you take your quiz, but you must take your exam alone without the help of any other live individual or automated aid. You may not communicate with anyone or any automation, including chatbots (e.g., ChatGPT), except the instructor during a exam. Doing so is academic dishonesty. For example, you may refer to the web page of a textbook during an exam, but you may not post messages or send e-mails to someone while you take an exam. As with activities, I am always happy to answer your questions following the exam or discuss its concepts in more detail.

In summary: Live help or automation is not okay for exams but any other resources are okay. Please let me know if you have questions about what is allowed during quizzes or exams. Maps onto CLOs 1-8.

Final Project (25% of grade = 250 points)

More details about the project, including the rubric for grading, will be posted to Canvas during the course. As part of the project, you will present a summary of a research paper. You will need to video record your presentation. Maps to CLO2, 4, and 5.

Extra Credit

I intend to offer a small extra credit opportunity (approximately 25 points) for those who watch and respond to short videos about mentorship. Details are subject to change and will be announced in class. Maps to CLO9.

Late Assignments and Make-Ups

Assignments are due as indicated on Canvas, and the deadlines are strict. Because of this, I encourage you to avoid submitting assignments in the last two hours before the due date whenever possible. Late activity assignments and reflection questions will be accepted with a 20% penalty per day. That is, an assignment submitted between 0 and 23 hours past the deadline will be accepted with a 20% reduction included after grading. An assignment submitted 24 hours past the deadline will be accepted with a 40% reduction included after grading. Please allow extra time for me to grade late-submitted assignments. If your circumstances warrant an exception to the late assignment penalty, such as due to a health emergency, complete this form to request an exception. When you need an exception to the late assignment penalty, I need the request form completed as soon as you are able to complete it.

Class activities that are time-sensitive, such as quizzes and exams, cannot be recreated easily and are not accepted late without an approved makeup. If you need a make-up assignment, please complete this form to request a make up. Complete this form as soon as you are aware of your need for a make-up and able to do so. Make-ups are intended for exceptional, unforeseen, and unavoidable circumstances.

No assignment submission after the last day of instruction

I can only accept assignments (except the final) until 11:59pm on the last day of instruction for the semester. At that time, all unsubmitted and unsatisfactory/no credit assignments will receive zero points. Should an event prevent you from completing the course, contact me as soon as you are able to discuss our options for an incomplete.

Final examination or evaluation

Faculty members are required to have a culminating activity for their courses, which can include a final examination, a final research paper or project, a final creative work or performance, a final portfolio of work, or other appropriate assignment.

The culminating activity for this course will be the final presentation.

Classroom Environment

We agree to:

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9,relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

You must obtain the instructor’s permission to make any audio or video recordings in this class. Unless otherwise specified, course materials created by your instructor are copyrighted and cannot be redistributed.

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of 45 hours over the length of the course (normally three hours per unit per week) for instruction, preparation/studying, or course related activities, including but not limited to internships, labs, and clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Library Liaison

Our library liaison is Christa Bailey. Email:

Course Schedule

The course schedule is tentative and likely to change; modifications will be posted to this page.

See Canvas for activity and exam due dates

Week Starting Date Topics Textbook Quiz & Activity
1 Wed., Jan. 24 Engagement Week Engagement week
2 Mon., Jan. 29 Introduction Ch. 1
3 Mon., Feb. 5 The scientific method Ch. 1 Quiz 1, Act. 1
4 Mon., Feb. 12 Operational definitions & measurement Ch. 3 Quiz 2, Act. 2
5 Mon., Feb. 19 Causality Ch. 5 Quiz 3, Act. 3
Note: Drop/Add Deadline is Feb. 19
6 Mon., Feb. 26 Exam 1 Exam 1
7 Mon., Mar. 4 Intro to Hypothesis Testing Quiz 4, Act. 4
8 Mon., Mar. 11 Validity and Reliability Ch. 4 Quiz 5, Act. 5
9 Mon., Mar. 18 Descriptive designs Quiz 6, Act. 6
10 Mon., Mar. 25 Experimental designs Ch. 6 Quiz 7, Act. 7
Mon., Apr. 1 Spring recess
Cesar Chavez Day (Observed) - Campus Closed Mon. Apr. 1
11 Mon., Apr. 8 Exam 2 Exam 2, Extra credit
Exploring mentorship in research careers extra credit
12 Mon., Apr. 15 Evaluating literature Ch. 8 Quiz 8, Act. 8
13 Mon., Apr. 22 Moderating, mediating, and confounding variables Ch. 9 Quiz 9, Act. 9
14 Mon., Apr. 29 Statistics and effect size Ch. 10 Quiz 10, Act. 10
15 Mon., May. 6 Quiz 11 & Exam 3 Quiz 11 & Exam 3
Mon., May 13 Last day of instruction, assignment submission ends 11:59 pm
Final Thu., May 16 Project presentations due, 5:15pm Final project