Module details for Evidence-based thinking: scientific approaches to studying human behaviour


Many of the theories and practical skills you experience during your early years of study are delivered in encapsulated sessions that can seem far removed from the bigger issues relevant to your discipline. This module will explain how theoretical knowledge is applied to the development of research questions, and how the skills you will develop are used in the scientific study of human behaviour in the field of psychology.


The aim of this module is to provide the student with a broad knowledge of different approaches to studying behaviour and to help them develop a suite of skills that will make them better psychologists. Through active participation in weekly classes, students will see how the core domains of psychology underpin the development of research questions and will be introduced to methods currently being used in psychological research at Abertay and beyond. Students will develop key skills in using an evidence base to develop research questions and understand different approaches. These will have far-reaching benefits in assessment preparation, project work, writing techniques and future employability.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Demonstrate an understanding of methods used in the scientific study of human behaviour.

2.  Understand the process involved in using an evidence base to identify research questions.

3.  Use theories from the core domains of psychology to guide development of research questions.

4.  Understand the process involved in critical evaluation of an evidence base to inform research decisions.

5.  Understand how psychology research can be applied to real-world problems.

Indicative Content

1 Where do I start? Understanding scientific literature

Understanding empirical research and extracting the most important information from a sea of confusing statistics and 'science-speak' can be challenging. You will learn how to approach a published research paper and how to identify the main message from the results.

2 Research approaches in psychology

Designing an experiment is challenging – there is often a balance to be made between the ‘ideal’ experiment and what can practically be done. You will learn about research questions and the different types of research that can be carried out. We will also consider how some famous approaches have influences scientific thinking.

3 Why does psychology need neuroscience?

Understanding the links between the brain and behaviour is a huge area of psychological research. You will be introduced to neuroimaging techniques and will be asked to consider the pros and cons of each method, and the extent to which we can learn about brain function from neuroimaging.

4 Viewing psychology through the lens of evolution

Evolutionary psychology examines human behaviour in the context of Darwin’s theory of natural and sexual selection. We will look at research on social judgements of faces, which uses this theory as a framework to pose questions such as why we find a face attractive or threatening.

5 What makes a good theory? Applications for understanding language

How do we use research to refine our theoretical understanding? For example, can psychology offer new perspectives on the age old debate about whether dialects are languages?

6 Applying psychology evidence to the real world: Forensic psychology

You will consider how data collected in the real world (e.g., through police work) can be used for research purposes, and also how lab-based experimental findings can then be usefully applied (e.g., in the interpretation of eyewitness testimony).

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Teaching and Learning Method Hours
Lecture 0
Tutorial/Seminar 26
Practical Activity 0
Assessment 26
Independent 148
Total 200

Guidance notes

SCQF Level - The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework provides an indication of the complexity of award qualifications and associated learning and operates on an ascending numeric scale from Levels 1-12 with SCQF Level 10 equating to a Scottish undergraduate Honours degree.

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2021/22 , and may be subject to change for future years.