Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Advanced Data Analysis and Methods for the Behavioral Sciences

How do we figure out what is true about the world around us? For situations that are simple and obvious, we can just look for ourselves (for example, if you wanted to know whether SEA or PMA is the taller building).

For the vast majority of important things in the world, however, the way to arrive at the truth is to collect good data and analyze them appropriately. In this course, we will learn about how to handle data from a variety of common situations, and how to use the data to reach sensible conclusions about the world.


PSY 420 covers three foundational areas:

1. data visualization and analysis

2. the communication of data-based findings (in the form of APA-style manuscripts)

3. the formulation and testing of scientific hypotheses (that is, how to take a question about some topic that interests the student, turn it into an executable experiment, and then use the data from such an experiment to address the original question).

Learning Outcomes

1. Ability to assess, explore, and analyze data

2. Skills to communicate data and findings effectively

3. Ability to formulate and answer scientific questions


This course carries three important flags that correspond to the foundational areas and learning outcomes described above:

· Quantitative Reasoning

This course carries the Quantitative Reasoning flag. Quantitative Reasoning courses are designed to equip you with skills that are necessary for understanding the types of quantitative arguments you will regularly encounter in your adult and professional life. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from your use of quantitative skills to analyze real-world problems. Quantitative reasoning will be required in almost all aspects of this course. Reflected in the labs, the quizzes, and the projects, it will determine 60% of your grade or more.

· Writing

This course carries the Writing Flag. Writing Flag courses are designed to give students experience with writing in an academic discipline. In this class, you can expect to write regularly during the semester, complete substantial writing projects, and receive feedback from your instructor to help you improve your writing. You will also have the opportunity to revise one or more assignments, and you may be asked to read and discuss your peers’ work. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from your written work. Writing Flag classes meet the Core Communications objectives of Critical Thinking, Communication, Teamwork, and Personal Responsibility, established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Your writing will be graded for all of your submitted projects, and will determine roughly 50% of your grade.

· Independent Inquiry

This course carries the Independent Inquiry flag. Independent Inquiry courses are designed to engage you in the process of inquiry over the course of a semester, providing you with the opportunity for independent investigation of a question, problem, or project related to your major. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from the independent investigation and presentation of your own work. Independent inquiry will be reflected in two components of the course 1) your “pre-final project”, in which you will develop your own research question and refine it into a feasible experiment, and 2) your final project, in which you will analyze and interpret the data and in order to answer your research question. Independent inquiry will determine roughly 35% of your grade.

There is a tremendous amount of overlap between these flags. Both your quantitative reasoning and independent inquiry will be intertwined with the writing of both the rough draft and polished version of your final paper, for example. This is why the percentages above are approximate and sum to 145%.

How will I learn?

In this course, you will learn by working with data sets yourself. You will learn to manipulate and plot data using R with RStudio. You will learn what you can and can’t conclude from the data, given their various properties. Finally, you will learn to communicate data-based findings to others by presenting findings in written form using the APA style.

Pre-requisites for the course

· Restricted to Psychology majors

· Requires M 302 or higher level math in addition to PSY 301

· Students cannot enroll in PSY 420 a second time without written permission from a departmental advisor

· Students may not enroll in PSY 420 a third time

How to succeed in this course

Think, code, study, write. Keep up.

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  • Department of Psychology

    The University of Texas at Austin
    SEA 4.208
    108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000
    Austin, TX 78712-1043