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Mastering AP Psychology Research Methods FRQ

Mastering AP Psychology Research Methods FRQ

If you’re an AP Psychology student, you know that the AP Psychology Research Methods portion of the exam is one of the most crucial components that you’ll encounter on the test. To ace this section, you need to have a deep understanding of the types of research methods that psychologists use and how they apply these methods to answer research questions.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what it takes to master the AP Psychology Research Methods FRQ. We’ll break down each type of research method that’s commonly used in psychology, discuss how to apply those methods to experimental design, and provide examples of real-world scenarios where each research method would be most appropriate.

The Types of Research Methods in Psychology

Before we jump into how to approach the AP Psychology Research Methods FRQ, let’s first break down the different types of research methods that psychologists use. There are several types of research methods you might encounter on the exam:

Naturalistic Observation

Naturalistic observation is a type of research method that involves observing human or animal behavior in its natural environment. This method provides researchers with the opportunity to observe and document how people or animals interact with one another and their environment, without intruding or interfering with their activities.

Case Studies

Case studies involve the in-depth examination of a single person, group, or phenomenon. Researchers use case studies to gather detailed information on a particular phenomenon. Case studies also allow researchers to examine rare or unique phenomena that may not occur frequently enough to warrant a larger, more diverse sample.

Correlational Studies

Correlational studies are designed to investigate the relationship between two or more variables. Generally, researchers use correlational studies when it is not feasible or ethical to manipulate a variable. Instead, they simply measure existing variables and look for patterns of correlation between them.


Experiments are the most commonly used research method in psychology. They involve the controlled manipulation of one or more variables to observe the impact of those variables on behavior. Researchers use experiments when they want to make causal inferences about the impact of a particular variable(s) on behavior.

Applying Research Methods to Experimental Design

When designing an experiment, it is essential to choose the appropriate research method(s) based on the research question you are trying to answer. Here are a few examples of how you might approach choosing a research method and designing an experiment based on common research questions:

How does sleep deprivation affect attention span?

Since this research question is asking to establish a causal relationship between two variables (sleep deprivation and attention span), an experiment would best answer this question by manipulating the independent variable (sleep deprivation) and observing the dependent variable (attention span).

What are the most effective learning strategies for college students?

Since this research question is exploratory and doesn’t propose a causal relationship, a correlational study would be more appropriate. Researchers can measure study habits and compare them to academic performance across a sample of college students.

Is there a significant difference in happiness levels between people who enjoy nature and those who enjoy movies?

Since this research question is asking to discover if a significant difference exists in happiness levels between different types of people, a Naturalistic Observation would be best.

Putting Research Methods into Practice

To truly master the AP Psychology Research Methods FRQ, you need to understand how these research methods apply in real-world scenarios. Let’s take a look at some examples of how these research methods apply in day-to-day life:

  • Naturalistic Observation – studying the behavior of animals in their natural habitat.
  • Case Studies – understanding how a group of people are impacted by a particular event or circumstance.
  • Correlational Studies – relating two or more phenomena in the natural world.
  • Experiments – In the medical field, scientists may test new drugs on small groups of individuals.


Research methods are the backbone of any scientific field, including psychology. To do well on the AP Psychology Research Methods FRQ, you must master the different research methods used in psychology and how to apply them to real-world scenarios. Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the more confident and prepared you’ll feel on exam day. Good luck!