When it comes to textbooks, what most people recall is dull texts of how some author says how things are, and reading through them holding onto your chair as if otherwise you’d take off like a rocket – they’re that bad. At least the school ones. However, there’s one explicitly recommendable one I stumbled upon recently: Scott A. Miller’s Developmental Research Methods (4th ed).
Like the title says, it’s about the methods in the research of development. What the title doesn’t say is that it should be a vital read for anyone who is curious about psychology, human development, and/or research.
It starts off by explaining in careful detail and clear wording the very fundamentals of research – definitions of concepts such as validity, reliability and, for example, what p-values mean. So, technically if you’re interested in research, but not development, the first chapters would be of interest to you, as the language used for breaking the basics down is neat – digestible for a pro and only mildly challenging to a newbie. Sentence structures do magic and pages fly by. There are only a few* writers who have the skill of explaining things in a flow that doesn’t require taking a break and thinking what that sentence just meant, or that doesn’t feel like you aren’t learning anything new – the author of this book seems to be one of them.
For the ones interested in human development, this book, like a proper science writing, explains design of research, procedures and other relevant points through examples of research with a decent load of citations. That means more curious ones can do extra research and those just reading the book can learn both how to conduct a research and what have been the results of the research that has been brought up. It includes proper criticism for many methods used by past contributors to the science, such as Piaget. Again, the criticism doesn’t come from a ceiling, it always has a scientific base. It sounds too obvious to me to mention that, but perhaps some readers would find this useful to know. “Oh really? Uni textbooks have citations? WOW!” Yeah, captain obvious strikes this one.
Turns out that the old belief that came from Piaget’s research that younger children don’t understand object permanence, and many other conclusions that Piaget derived from his research is bullsh. The reason is validity – Does the method really measure what you want to measure? His focus was too strongly focused on verbalisation so it resulted in poorer performance of younger kids mostly because they didn’t understand what was asked the way the experimenter thought it should be understood. And object permanence experiments were failed due to a too early stage of motoric development. The book gives more examples and a thorough guide through all these threads of arguments and better alternatives to which methods are more valid for such topics.
Miller gets the style points.
* I’m saying that there are only a few, because it sounds better. Of course there are much more. The percentage of them among all writers, however, is minuscule, as well.