The Correlational Method

Instructions below:


The correlational method can be very useful, but it must be used with caution. If knowledge of one variable (age) helps predict another (buying), does that mean that one causes the other? Not necessarily. It is possible that the first variable caused the second, or that the second variable caused the first, or that some other variable caused both variables. Without further research we cannot know which possibility is true. For example, a researcher might find a negative correlation in schools between the number of teachers monitoring hallway behavior and the number of acts of aggression in the hallway. It is possible that more teachers in the hallway caused lower aggression, but it is also possible that there were fewer teachers in the hallway in the face of aggression because they had left to avoid it. Knowing that there is a correlation between two events does not tell us which, if either, is the cause. In fact, it is quite common to have a third variable cause a correlation between two other variables. For example, sunburn and outdoor temperature are correlated. Does this mean that hot weather causes sunburn or that sunburn causes hot weather? Of course not. The summer sun causes both sunburn and hot weather. Cum hoc propter hoc—correlation does not imply causation.


Feenstra, J. (2020). Social psychology (2nd ed.). Zovio.


“The correlational method can be very useful, but it must be used with caution.” If knowledge of one variable (height) helps predict another (weight), does that mean that one causes the other? Not necessarily. It is possible that the primary variable caused the secondary, or that the secondary variable caused the primary, or that some additional variable caused both variables. We cannot understand what chance is true without further studies. For example, ice cream consumption and violent crime are correlated. Does this mean eating ice cream causes violent crime? Or, does a spike in violent crime cause consumption of ice cream? Probably neither… rather, a common factor (e.g., heat) may be to blame for both. “Cum hoc propter hoc—correlation does not imply causation.”

· Define academic voice and plagiarism.

· Apply your knowledge of academic voice and plagiarism to the rewritten passage, locating and identifying errors.

· Paraphrase or summarize the original passage appropriately using your own Academic Voice (Links to an external site.) .

· Be sure to utilize strategies for Quoting, Paraphrasing, & Summarizing (Links to an external site.) , avoiding direct quotes and appropriately utilizing in-text citations.

· Demonstrate the importance of developing a strong academic voice for both your education and career.

· What are some key features of academic writing that might be particularly relevant within your own program/intended career?

· What types of plagiarism do you find most difficult to avoid? (See Turnitin, 2012).

· What methods/strategies can you use to ensure that you avoid these errors in your own work?

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The correlational method can be extremely valuable, but it must be utilized with extreme caution. Does knowing one variable (age) assist predict another (purchasing) imply that one causes the other? No, not always. It’s possible that the first variable caused the second, or that the second variable caused the first, or that both variables were caused by something else. We can’t tell which of the two possibilities is correct without more research. In schools, for example, a researcher may discover a negative correlation between the number of teachers monitoring hallway behavior and the amount of aggressive acts in the corridor. It is possible that there were more teachers in the corridor, but it is also plausible that there were fewer.

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