”Most Promising New Textbook” author shares insights on behavioral research methods

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Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences, by psychologist Gregory J. Privitera, has been honored by the Text and Academic Authors Association with a 2014 Most Promising New Textbook Award, dubbed a Texty. The award category was created in 2012 to recognize current textbooks and learning materials that are still in their first editions. Judges are themselves published textbook authors.

This is Privitera’s second textbook; he is also the author of Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences. An associate professor of psychology at St. Bonaventure University, Privitera is also a veteran of the U.S. Marines, from which he mustered out as a sergeant .

To help celebrate this award, SAGE—Privitera’s publisher– asked him to share some insight about the way the book was written and some expertise about behavioral research methods:


One of the most unique and useful features of the book is that it integrates statistical analyses such as SPSS [Statistical Package for the Social Sciences] throughout and not just isolated in its own section. What made you decide to design the text this way?

My desire was to write a book that prepares students to be “lab ready”—to be efficient as members in a research lab. The ability to analyze data using SPSS will be a vital skill for many students who wish to gain research experience—not a side note to be sectioned off apart from the main content in the book. Thus, SPSS content is integrated throughout my book to show how simple and valuable it can be to analyze data sets, as topics in research design are introduced. It gives context to the use of SPSS in research, which can better prepare students to be “lab ready.”


The focus on ethics in this text is admirable. How do you see ethics playing out in the real world for behavioral science methods?

Ethics is a central theme in my book because it is of central importance to the research process. No research study can be conducted without approval from an ethics review board. In research today, we do not simply ask a question, then use any means possible to answer it. Instead, we ask a question, then are considerate of the ethically responsible means by which we can answer it. Ethics is of central importance in research today, and my book reflects that importance in each chapter, as new research designs are introduced. 


What are some of the biggest challenges unique to research methods in the behavioral sciences that other types of researchers might not encounter?

One of the biggest challenges in the behavioral sciences is that we study constructs such as love, happiness, satisfaction, and memory. We must define exactly how we measure or observe these constructs, so that others can measure or observe them in the same way we do. This can be quite challenging, so I dedicate significant space in my book to address these issues for each research design introduced, with many examples given throughout the book to help guide students as they learn new designs. 


What are some of the most useful tips you give to students doing research in the behavioral sciences?

Here are some good tips for students, particularly for those who wish to pursue graduate school in the behavioral sciences. First, do not sell back your research methods and statistics textbooks—trust me, you’ll need them. Second, if “research” is not fun to you, it will be when you use the research process to answer a question that interests you. Third, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that much of the information you are told is “fact” came from studies that used the scientific process to make the claim. Consider research methods as a course on critical thinking. Regardless of your pursuits, use your understanding of the scientific process to help guide you to accept only the most reliable and “trustworthy” claims. It will serve you well.