Understanding Forensic Psychology Research

Week 1: Introduction to Psychological Research

Welcome to Week 1 of Understanding Forensic Psychology Research.

No doubt, you find forensic psychology exciting and interesting, as you are enrolled in a graduate program of studies in this field. A foundational element of forensic psychology is the research that is conducted to help guide clinical practice. How might research guide forensic psychology practice? How is this research conducted? And, finally, what guidelines can be followed when critically reviewing forensic psychology research?

These are some of the questions that you will answer this week Psychology Research. Keep in mind that even the best research study has its limitations. Also, do not be frightened by the statistical part of this process. Remember that you are not expected to be a statistician after completing this course. Instead, you will learn about statistical concepts, how they apply when conducting research, and how to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of any research article in forensic psychology.


By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • Explain the relevance of research in forensic psychology Research
  • Conduct a literature search for research articles related to forensic psychology Research

Learning Resources


Course Introduction

Stangor, C. (2013). Research methods for the behavioral sciences (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

  • Chapter 1, “Introduction to Research”
  • Chapter 2, “Developing the Research Hypothesis”


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Understanding forensic psychology research: Introduction to psychological research. Baltimore: Author.
Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 10 minutes. Accessible player–Downloads–Download Video w/CCDownload Audio


Note: Because of the ever-changing nature of websites such as those listed below, there is no guarantee that clips or websites will always be available. Hence, the following links are listed as Optional Resources only. However, it is highly recommended that you view them as they will assist you in completing one or more of your assignments.

Vitriol, J. A. (2008). The reality of forensic psychology. Observer, 21(3). Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publ…

Helfgott, J. B. (2008). The influence of technology, media, and popular culture on criminal behavior: Copycat crime and cybercrime. In Criminal behavior: Theories, typologies, and criminal justice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Retrieved from http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/19507_Chapter_10.p…

Discussion: General Understanding of Psychology Research

Forensic psychology covers a very broad body of knowledge and has many branches. Forensic psychology professionals often choose an area of interest, such as criminal forensic psychology or custody evaluations, and specialize in that area in their clinical practice. Research is relevant to forensic psychology for a variety of reasons. As a forensic psychology professional, you will need to know what the research literature says about your area of practice in order to effectively conduct your work. For example, you may need to administer psychological tests or conduct other evaluations, and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of these tests or evaluation tools will inform your practice.

Different types of research and research approaches are presented in this week’s Learning Resources. And, while you may not ever conduct research as a forensic psychology professional, it is important for you to be able to critically review such research and understand its impact on your practice.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Review this week’s DVD program, “Introduction to Psychological Research.” Think about the role and benefits of research within forensic psychology.
  • Review Chapter 1 in your course text, Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences. Pay particular attention to reasons for conducting research and how research is applied.
  • Think about how basic and applied research, as well as research designs, could be used in forensic psychology research.
  • Consider the three basic research designs (e.g., descriptive, correlational, and experimental) for studying behavior.
  • Think about the strengths and weaknesses of each research design as it relates to forensic psychology research.

With these thoughts in mind:


Post by Day 4 your understanding of the relevance of research within forensic psychology. Describe how the three basic research designs could be used in forensic psychology research. Explain the strengths and weaknesses of each design as it applies to forensic psychology research.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.


Respond by Day 6 to at least one of your colleagues’ postings. Respond in one or more of the following ways:

  • Ask a probing question.
  • Share an insight from having read your colleague’s posting.
  • Offer and support an opinion.
  • Validate an idea with your own experience.
  • Make a suggestion.
  • Expand on your colleague’s posting.

Return to this Discussion in a few days to read the responses to your initial posting. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you have gained as a result of your colleagues’ comments.


Grading Criteria

To access your rubric:
Week 1 Discussion Rubric

Post by Day 4 and Respond by Day 6

To participate in this Discussion:
Week 1 Discussion

Assignment: Beginning Your Research

Perhaps more than any other area of psychology, forensic psychology has at its base, an empirical foundation. This is not to say that all forensic psychology professionals are researchers; they are not. However, forensic psychology professionals need to have a good understanding of statistical terminology, research design, and the contemporary empirical findings in their practice areas.

It has often been said that one can use statistics to support any hypothesis. Although this may have some truth to it, forensic psychology professionals need to understand what the empirical findings really do support or refute in their areas of interest. Eye-witness testimony research is an excellent example. As a forensic psychology professional testifying on the accuracy of eye-witness testimony, you would need to know the many findings in this area of research. You also would need to know competing theories, the amount of evidence for any single area, and even the limitations of individual research articles regarding eye-witness testimony. The tool that a forensic psychology professional uses to understand research in any area of study is the literature review.

This week, you begin the process of learning how to conduct a literature review, starting with perhaps one of the least accurate sources, the popular news media. By the time a research study is broken down by the media and presented to the general public many of the weaknesses are often left out. You will get a better feel for this issue throughout this course, but for this week, you start with this area of information dissemination.

To prepare for this assignment:

  • Review Chapter 2 in your course textResearch Methods for the Behavioral Sciences. Focus on the guidelines for conducting an effective literature search.
  • Think about how to search and locate research articles applicable to forensic psychology.
  • Select a single topic that exemplifies the application of psychological research in forensic psychology.
  • Research this topic and review three news articles you found related to the application of research in forensic psychology.
  • Think about any possible flaws in the articles and why you believe they are flaws.

The assignment (2–3 pages):

  • Briefly describe three news articles you selected (past or current) on a single topic in forensic psychology that you find most interesting.
  • Briefly explain the search terms (keywords) you used.
  • Describe any flaws you discovered in the articles.
  • Then, explain your reasons for identifying the flaws you discovered.

Support your Assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation. You are asked to provide a reference list only for those resources not included in the Learning Resources for this course.


Submit your assignment by Day 7.


  • Click on the Submit button to complete your submission.
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