Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Research Design

Alan E. Kazdin

To the public at large, scientific “facts” constantly seem to change. Some of these changes are dramatic. When I was a child there were nine planets in our solar system. However, a child born today will learn there are eight, but maybe one more lurking very far away. Additionally, scientific research once suggested foods such as eggs, avocados, and chocolate were harmful to one’s health and should be avoided. Now these foods are not just fine but, with minor qualifications, beneficial.

The public can view this as scientists flipping their views, that nothing is reliable, and a distrust of the entire enterprise. Scientific findings begin to look like fads (e.g., in clothing and fashion or diet) rather than the accumulation of facts. On the other hand, when we are struck with a medical or mental disorder, we are relieved to learn about effective treatments. We have no time to think about the fact that the treatment probably came from years of scientific research.

The main reason findings seem to change is that the methods that scientists use are constantly advancing. The advances give us deeper and more refined understanding and tell us new things we never could imagine. Many facets of the world are complex and we need science to reveal the connections.

For example, people who experience a heart attack are at risk for becoming clinically depressed. Likewise, those who are clinically depressed are at risk for having a heart attack. People who have a heart attack while depressed face a higher risk of another heart attack being fatal. These relations would be hard to know without science. Now, we can do more scientific research to determine preventions and treatments for people at risk for these problems.

Training our Scientists

Training of our scientists ensures familiarity with the latest methods to understand the many facets of our world. Equally, scientists should know the limits of science, how to serve and protect the public, and above all to have integrity. With specific and broader goals in mind, I have prepared Research Design in Clinical Psychology (6th edition).

Clinical psychology is a broad field that evaluates diverse areas of health, both mental and physical, across the entire age span and among diverse ethnic and cultural groups. Clinical psychologists work in hospitals, clinics, businesses, government, space, universities, schools at all levels, assisted-living facilities, the military, and others to carry out research to answer pressing questions. The book provides the latest advances to improve the quality of research in these many settings.

Science is a human enterprise which means we need to be concerned about such matters as bias, competition, fraud and other factors that can mislead what is reported. There are many protections within science to combat human biases and these are important to include in training as well.

Research Design in Clinical Psychology, the textbook

The book I prepared is not a how-to or a recipe book. Although procedures are discussed, it is important for researchers to learn what we are trying to accomplish and why. We want scientists who are principled, adhere to high ethical standards, and not forget that we are serving the public.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) noted that, “Many people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character” (National Research Council, 2002, p. 16). In this context, character refers to the values and standards one has, invokes, and follows in conducting science. The Research Design book integrates the latest practices and methods of science with an emphasis on standards to follow while conducting research.

Cover design for Research Design in Clinical Psychology featuring a faded blue background with colorful puzzle pieces

Research Design in Clinical Psychology, 6th edition available now!

About The Author

Alan E. Kazdin

Alan E. Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry (Emeritus) at Yale University. Kazdin's research has focused on treatment development and assessment of clin...

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