Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


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

Unit rationale, description and aim

Critical thinking and advanced knowledge of the scientific method and research skills are fundamental for understanding, evaluating, and conducting psychological research. Scientific knowledge is never static but continuously evolving and changing. Through concrete examples of how understanding of psychological phenomena has changed over time, students will acquire a deeper understanding of how psychological knowledge evolves as a result of theoretical and technological development, societal change and the acknowledgement of cultural minorities’ perspectives. Science literacy requires that we are aware of cognitive biases that hinder critical thinking and, potentially, promote beliefs in pseudoscience. This unit will provide practical activities where students will identify logical fallacies and flaws in the scientific method via engagement in critical analysis. Issues of replication and the development of open science practices will also be discussed. To fully understand the process of scientific research, students will have the opportunity to engage with the initial steps of the research process (i.e., background review and critical evaluation of literature, development of research question, formulation of hypotheses and research design, and identification of ethical issues), individually, collaboratively, and under supervision. In summary, the aim of this unit is to provide a foundation in critical thinking and science skills that will assist in preparing students 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 (GA1, GA3, GA5); 

LO2 - Understand and apply critical thinking in the discipline of psychology (GA4); 

LO3 - Demonstrate scientific thinking through the development of theory-driven research questions, formulation of testable hypotheses, and identification of ethical issues (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10); 

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

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

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

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 

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 and philosophical roots of psychology as a science 
  2. Cognitive biases that impair critical thinking  
  3. Decolonising psychological theory and research, particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  4. The research process: identifying a research question through to dissemination of findings  
  5. Research ethics 
  6. How to write a literature review and research proposal 
  7. Relationship between basic/fundamental research, applied research, and evidence based practice

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Teaching and learning strategies will include workshops, where lecturing, tutoring, supervision 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. Students should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of study for this unit, including class attendance, readings and assignment preparation. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their 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, students must obtain an aggregate mark of 50 or greater.

The assessment strategy used allows students to progressively develop their knowledge and skills to a level of sophistication where they are able to develop a design for an empirical study. In order to develop this level of scientific understanding, students will demonstrate their knowledge of the research process through a series of quizzes. Research teams will be formed to explore a psychological topic. Students will individually write a critical literature review pertinent to that topic. Building on this review, the research teams, under supervision, will develop a research question and hypothesis and, individually, write a research proposal for a study aimed to test the hypothesis with consideration to ethical issues.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes


The quizzes assess understanding of the content delivered in the unit.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5

Literature review

The literature review assesses analytical and critical thinking skills. It involves reviewing and discussing theoretical and associated empirical work on a psychological topic and identifying future directions for research on the topic. 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Research proposal

Students apply knowledge of the research process through the articulation of a research question, research hypothesis, and methods to test the hypothesis.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

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

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

American Baker, M., & Penny, D. (2016). Is there a reproducibility crisis? Nature, 533(7604), 452–454.

Chaffee, J. (2017). Thinking critically (12th ed.). Cengage.

Douglas, K. M, Sutton, R. M, & Cichocka, A. (2017). The psychology of conspiracy theories. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26(6), 538–542.

Dudgeon, P., & Walker, R. (2015). Decolonising Australian psychology: Discourses, strategies, and practice. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(1), 203-206.

Gordin, M. D. (2017). The problem with pseudoscience: Pseudoscience is not the antithesis of professional science but thrives in science's shadow. EMBO Reports, 18(9), 1482–1485.

Lilienfeld, S. O. (2017). Psychology’s replication crisis and the grant culture: Righting the ship. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(4), 660–664.

Pennycook, G., & Rand, D. G. (2020). Who falls for fake news? The roles of bullshit receptivity, overclaiming, familiarity, and analytic thinking. Journal of Personality, 88(2), 185–200. 

Wertheimer, M., & Puente, A. E. (2020). A brief history of psychology (6th ed.). Routledge.

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