Research Designs in Forensic Psychology

Research is not only important in the field of psychology but extremely important in forensic psychology. Forensic Psychology encompasses a broad range of areas and branches such as corrections, law enforcement, government entities, and court systems. Research is relevant to these branches in a variety of ways and being able to understand the research and its impact on the field, will make a professional or aspiring professional more credible as they can critically review the research. Reasons for conducting research can vary and how research is applied can also differ. Research design , basic research, and applied research can all apply to the specialty of forensic psychology. There are three basic research designs when studying behavior; descriptive, correlational, and experimental. Each research design has strengths and weaknesses as they relate to forensic psychology research (Stragnor, 2011).

Research Designs

Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is a collection of data in regards to the qualitative and quantitative research. This research encompasses specific characteristics about a specific set or individuals or a certain occurrence that is currently being studied (Tourigny, Clendinneng, & Gaboury, 2011). The descriptive research design focuses on the qualitative, who, what, where, etc. Since the design is highly focused on this aspect, it can be invalid. This can be a reliable design depending on what it is used for. A forensic psychologist in police psychology may use this design to investigate with the officers and can be beneficial. When it comes to quantities results, this is the weakness of the approach.

Correlational Research

Correlational research is applied to numerous fields. Correlational research combines the observations of the study and makes sense out of the data. (Strangor, 2011). This design takes two or more variables and how they correlate and relate to each other. For example, SAT scores and college achievement, these would be related as they have found those with higher SAT scores have higher grades in college. The benefit to this design is that you take two variables and correlate them with data. Scatter plots are often used in this design to give a visual of the data collected. The weakness of this design is that one must be good with numbers, statistics, graphing, research, etc. It takes an extremely dedicated individual. But this is also a strength as the best of the best are creating the final product. (Stragnor, 2011).

Experimental Research

Experimental research is a different approach to the scientific method. The scientist can alter and manipulate variables in the experiment, hence the name “experimental research”. An good example of this research is design is: There are a group of Marines. Divide them into two groups in whichever way one sees fit. Give one group of Marines a steroid while being deployed and not the other group. The biggest difference of this design is that the professional would not choose their group, the professional did. If this were a correlational study there could be more differences between the two variables. In this experiment the professional decided who would take the steroids. The professional could conclude that it was the steroids that made the soldiers better in combat. If this were a correlational design that would not apply.





Stangor, C. (2011). Research Methods For the Behavioral Sciences (4 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Tourigny, J., Clendinneng, D., & Gaboury, I. (2011, July-August). Demystifying the Research Process: Understanding a Descriptive Comparative Research Design. Pediatric Nursing, 37(4), 188-189.



One thought on “Research Designs in Forensic Psychology

  1. Pingback: Forensic Psychology | Forensic Psychology

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