Behavioral Lab Note-Taking
Behavioral Sciences include any project that studies humans or other animals by the means of an observable action. This includes projects in psychology, political science, sociology, sociolinguistics, and other social sciences.
Research in the behavioral sciences typically falls into two types of design: experiments and non-experiments. Both of these designs are important in behavioral science research but they are used for vastly different purposes.
In experimental research, you must have more than one condition to test – in other words, you must compare the effects of treatment A vs. treatment B. Often, it is a good idea to make one of these treatments the “control” group, meaning that it receives no treatment and acts as the baseline for comparison.
- Organize your notes using the General Lab-Notebook Guidelines
- Create a list of all the participants in your study. Your study should be confidential so you need to assign each participant a specific number instead of recording their names.
- Randomly assign your participants to the various conditions, and record their group in your notes (examples of conditions are: exposure to noise, answer to surveys, etc).
- Many experiments will give all participants an equivalent pre-test at the beginning of the study. It will make the analysis of your research easier if you design the test to receive a numerical score, such as a time or a percentage correct (record each score in your notebook).
- After the pre-test, you must give the treatment to the participants. For example, in an experiment to test how long it takes rats to run through a maze, you might give all rats in treatment A food at the end of the maze, while treatment B rats receive water, and treatment C (the control group) rats get nothing. During the experiment, you should take notes on any possible sources of error that occurred or any unique observations you found, try to be as specific as possible.
- Finally, all experimental designs include a post-test that comes after the treatment. The post-test should be designed using the same guidelines as the pre-test and will usually be the exact same test. Record the post-test scores for each participant in your lab notebook.
Non-experiments are research designs that do not include a treatment of any kind, so the researcher does not try to change the responses of the participants. Furthermore, there is only one group and one test (or group of tests). This design is used almost exclusively for descriptive studies which describe one aspect of the world. An example of a non-experiment is an opinion poll. Because non-experiments are less in-depth than behavioral science experiments, they often perform poorly at science fairs and are not a suggested design.