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PSYC206 Research Design and Statistics II and PSYC213 Individual Differences or PSYC214 Learning and Behaviour

Unit rationale, description and aim

Critical thinking and advanced research skills are fundamental for understanding, evaluating, and conducting psychological research. This unit will provide an introduction to the development of psychology as a science, a comprehensive introduction to fundamental ideas in critical thinking in relation to psychological science, and a hands-on understanding of the research process and research methodologies.

You will learn about the iterative nature of research and theory development. You will learn how to write a research proposal by following the basic steps in the research process from identification of a research topic, formulation of research questions, and selection of appropriate research designs and methodologies.

The unit will teach you how to engage in independent research studies, and work collaboratively within a research team.

In summary, the aim of this unit is to provide a foundation in critical thinking and research skills that will assist in preparing you to undertake psychological research.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify key developments and themes underpinning the historical and philosophical foundations of the science of psychology, including the relationship between research findings and their contribution to society (GA3, GA4, GA5); 

LO2 - Describe and apply basic concepts of critical thinking (GA4); 

LO3 - Apply scientific thinking through the development of theory-driven research questions and formulation of testable hypotheses (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10); 

LO4 - Critically evaluate one’s own research and that of other social scientists (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10); 

LO5 - Communicate scientific thinking in written and oral form (GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

Content selected to ensure that students achieve the learning outcomes for the unit.  

  1. Development of psychology as a science 
  2. Critical thinking for psychology 
  3. Cognitive biases that impair logical thinking. 
  4. Philosophy of psychological science 
  5. Research ethics 
  6. Culture and context as (intended and unintended) research factors 
  7. Special research topics in psychological science 
  8. The research process  
  9. How to write a research proposal 
  10. Nexus between research and society 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Teaching and learning strategies will include workshops, where lecturing, tutoring and reflective/critical thinking activities are incorporated as needed. Web-based learning will also be included when relevant. These strategies aim to foster intellectual understanding and practical research and critical thinking skills.  

Teaching and learning strategies will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. You should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of study for this unit, including class attendance, readings and assignment preparation. You will be expected to take responsibility for your learning and to participate actively within class activities. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, students need to complete and submit three graded assessment tasks. To pass, you must obtain an aggregate mark of 50 or greater. 

The assessment strategy used allows you to progressively develop your knowledge and skills to a level of sophistication where you are able to produce your own research proposal. In order to develop this level of scientific understanding, you will first demonstrate knowledge of critical skills and the scientific process in an exam. You will further develop your understanding of the research process by developing a research proposal in a small research team comprised of peers, which culminates in a class presentation. You will then demonstrate your research and critical skills in a written research proposal. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

In-semester exam  

The purpose of the exam is to assess mastery of course content 


LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4

Group presentation of research proposal 

The purpose of the research proposal is to demonstrate your understanding of the research process 


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Research proposal (2000 words)  

The purpose of the research proposal is to apply your knowledge of the research process in the development of a research project. 


LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

American Psychological Association (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Author.

Creswell, J., W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Denscombe, M. (2012). Research proposals: A practical guide. McGraw-Hill.

Leahey, T. (2012). A history of psychology: From antiquity to modernity (7th ed.). Taylor & Francis.

Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2015). Practical research: Planning and design (11th ed.). Pearson.

Mitchell, M. L., Jolley, J. M., & O’Shea, R. P. (2013). Writing for psychology (4th ed). Wadsworth.

O’Leary, Z. (2017). The essential guide to doing your research project. Sage.

Smith, R. A., & Davis, S. F., (2013). Psychologist as detective: An introduction to conducting research in psychology (6th ed.). Pearson.

Stanovich, K. E., (2013). How to think straight about psychology (10th ed.). Pearson.

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