Can someone explain to me the difference between the structure of an empirical study in psychology and its conception?

My interpretation is so far that structure means the test arrangement and conception the basic concept of how the study is designed. Would you agree?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about psychology or neuroscience. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jul 31 '18 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Since this is part of a question posed by my professor in educational psychology, I need to contradict. Please remark the specific reference on empirical studies in psychology. $\endgroup$ – Rico1990 Jul 31 '18 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ Your professor could also ask how the weather is going to be this weekend - that doesn't relate it to psychology. You are asking about words in English and your particular professor's interpretation of those words. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jul 31 '18 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not asking about words in English. I ask about these two words in the context of psychology since their use and definition might differ from the normal every day or general scientific use. $\endgroup$ – Rico1990 Jul 31 '18 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause - The question is about empirical studies in psychology. Surely this is on-topic here? Especially when there is the debate on what constitutes pseudoscience within psychology $\endgroup$ – Chalmondley Aug 1 '18 at 12:54

The word Empirical means (emphasis mine):

  • Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. (Oxford English Dictionary)

  • relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory — an empirical basis for the theory — and capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment (Merriam-Webster)

One comment over in english.SE states

I could, eg, use some mathematical theorem as "evidence", based purely on the fact that it's been "proven" mathematically, without any sort of practical test.

In order for Psychology to be scientific, it needs to have empirical evidence to back it up, and this is where the problem lies with some people. As pointed out, if you stick to hard and fast rules on what constitutes a science, then most psychology will be considered pseudoscientific.

The top voted answer to Is psychology a science? states:

Clinical psychology is not technically a science, but an applied science, or in other words, a technology.

If you are a "hard scientist", you will have problems with some aspects of psychology.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer. Would you say that by your answer one might deduce that the structure of a study and its concept can't be differentiated. I don't get the link from the meaning of "empirical" to the differentiation of "structure" and "concept" in psychological studies. $\endgroup$ – Rico1990 Aug 1 '18 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ If I am correct, what you are asked to write about is the structure (i.e. abstract, followed by introduction followed by method and so on) along with description of what each section is supposed to contain. but I could be wrong. As for conception, I am not sure what is meant by that particularly. Is it definitely conception (the forming or devising of a plan or idea), and not concept or are they asking about empirical vs conceptual research? $\endgroup$ – Chalmondley Aug 1 '18 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Chalmondley The questions you raise in your comment are exactly why I didn't feel like this question was on topic. The OP is asking about presumably their professor's interpretations of these words. We can't really help with that. The OP was not asking what empirical research means in the context of psychology. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 1 '18 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I told you above that I'm not asking about my professors interpretation but a meaning in psychological discourse. As you may know the conception is part of making a study thus related to theory behind it and so on. My problem was that structure and the process of conception have some intersections and from this I wanted to get a proper differentiation since I suppose that science without clear terms is of minor use. $\endgroup$ – Rico1990 Aug 1 '18 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ merriam-webster.com/dictionary/structure (see defs 2/4/5) merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conception (see defs 2/3) These are not the types of terms that science worries about precision for, and there is no problem if the meanings of those terms overlap in the description of the process of designing a study. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 1 '18 at 16:29

As has been touched on in the comments to this answer, "structure" and "conception" are not precisely defined terms in psychology. They do have meaning, but researchers will differ in how they conceptualise them. This would be my interpretation

Structure of a psychological study

The structure of a study sounds broadly synonymous with the "method". I.e., all the details of how data was collected and potentially how it was analyzed. That said, "structure" does suggest something more general. I.e., often we think of the structure as the broad elements on which the details sit. From this perspective, the design of the study and possibly the measures hint more at structure. For example, is it longitudinal or cross-sectional? If it is an experiment, how many between and within subjects factors are there? Was there random allocation to groups, etc.? What was the order of measures? These are all features that you might use to describe the broad structure of a study.

Conception of a psychological study

Conception, in this context, generally refers to the process by which a study comes into existence. I.e., how does the research go from having no study to have a study.

There are many ways of doing this. One approach is to read the literature, identify a gap or topic of importance, come up with a research questions, and consider practical and useful study design that might contribute knowledge about that research question.

Other times, you might be working in an established paradigm, and the methodology itself might be tightly linked to the research questions that you choose to explore.

  • $\begingroup$ Ok, thank you for your answer. That was a good explanation. $\endgroup$ – Rico1990 Aug 2 '18 at 10:35

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