Assignment 7


SO308 – Assignment 7 – Page 1 9/28/2007

Week 7 Assignment – “Core Assessment: Research Proposal”

Learning Outcomes

1. Describe and illustrate each step in the research cycle, both for laboratory and field research; and discriminate among the choices that must be made at each stage.

2. Apply the principles of the scientific method to social science research.

3. Operationalize a theoretical question or practical concern as a testable hypothesis.

4. Critically analyze and evaluate a research literature and then to build new research upon the foundation it provides.

5. Apply the fundamental aspects of measurement and construct variables based on those principles.

6. Identify and differentiate basic research designs and determine which is appropriate for a given research problem.

7. Identify the principles of probabilistic, nonprobabilistic, and multistage samples, and determine which is appropriate for a research problem.

8. Explain and justify the use of quantitative, qualitative and multimethod data gathering techniques.

9. Apply the principles of ethical research.


Assignment 7 – “Core Assessment: Research Proposal” exercise (200 points or 20% of your overall grade, due Sunday at midnight CST of Week 7).

Read the instructions early and get to work on this assignment during your first week. Follow the instructions and

the checklist. This assignment is both a detailed plan for a workable research project, and a justification for

why that project is worthwhile and feasible. You may submit a draft (or portions of a draft) at any time for

instructor feedback, but the final version is due at the end of week 7.

Write up a summary of your experience. What challenges did you encounter? What would you do different next

time if you were to repeat this exercise? This is required but is not included in the points in the graded assignment.

You will post your “Reflection” essay in the forum provided then participate in a conversation with the other

students and compare your experiences. Post your “Reflection” as early as possible in the week to allow time for a

good discussion to develop. This is required but is not included in the points in the graded assignment.

Submitting the Assignment and Due Date Submit your assignment to the Dropbox by Sunday midnight CST of Week 7.

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General Format (same as in week 2)

Please follow the format as described at the end of this file.

Grading Criteria

This assignment is worth 200 points. This is the Core Assessment, and is graded using the Core Assessment

Rubric as defined at

Requirements: Points

Covered the topic and project requirements thoroughly:

A – Problem Statement (max 1500 words): a summary and justification of the topic your proposed research will cover. 40

B – Literature Review (max. 1500 words): a critical evaluation of existing research your project will build upon. 40

C – Ethics & Conduct of Research (max. 1500 words): potential ethical, political, and practical challenges to completing your project, and their solutions.


D – Design & Procedures (max. 2000 words): description and justification for measurement, sampling, design, analysis, and interpretation in your project.


E – References: at least 10 scholarly studies properly cited and referenced. 10

Format – 20

Total 200

Questions and Issues: If you have any questions or issues, please post them to the Q & A or Reflections discussion thread.

Directions (including the Proposal Format and Checklist): Your Research Proposal is a plan for researching a very specific research question that are interests you. You should think about it early in the term, then consult your instructor to get your topic approved. Once your topic is approved, start finding appropriate research literature upon which to build your own plan of research. See the accompanying summary and checklist for detailed instructions (SO308_proposal.pdf and following). Good luck!

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SO308 Research Proposal

Your Research Proposal requires you to design a small project of original social scientific

research — but you will not actually collect or analyze the data in this class (although students

often use this proposal as the basis for a senior project, thesis, or work project. Your final

report should contain the following sections:

1. Abstract: a 200 word summary of your project, plus appropriate keywords. 2. Problem Statement: (max. 1500 words) an overview of the topic your research will

investigate. It introduces and justifies your research question, key variables, their

hypothesized relations, and your guiding theoretical perspective. It explains how

your planned research is unambiguous in its goals and methods, concerned with a

significant issue that will add to the store of human knowledge, theoretically justifiable

and testable, practical and feasible to implement, ethical and respectful of human

rights, and builds on existing knowledge in the field.

3. Literature Review: (max. 1500 words) a critical summary of existing research your project will build upon. Your review will evaluate at least five other relevant research

projects from original sources in reputable, peer-reviewed journals. The lit review

discusses previous research, as it influences the proposed project. It evaluates the

methodological, theoretical, or substantive strengths or weaknesses of those studies

and explains how they shape your research plans.

4. Ethics & Conduct of Research: (max. 1500 words) summarizes potential ethical dilemmas, political consequences, and practical challenges associated with designing,

conducting, implementing, and disseminating your research. It explains where your

research process might go wrong and the safeguards you will put into place to

minimize those risks.

5. Design & Procedures: (max. 2000 words) describes and justifies your plans for measurement, sampling, design, analysis, and interpretation of results. It explains

which data you would collect, when you would collect it, and what you would do

with it to make sense of your topic and shed new light on your research question —

and how and why. This section is a set of “how to” instructions for actually turning

your “good idea” into a real plan for scientifically answering your original question.

6. References: all internal text citations should be fully referenced according to APA guidelines in this section.

Your research proposal is a carefully constructed argument for why your question should be

answered and how a valid and reliable answer might be obtained. It should be a meticulous set

of instructions for generating an answer according to the rules of scientific method, and it should

make the case to interested parties for how such an answer can be achieved — then it should

demonstrate how you followed that plan to collect data, analyze the results, and form

implications and applications for those results.

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SO308 Research Proposal Checklist

Your Research Proposal is a report applying social science research techniques to better understand some

aspect, issue, or problem of social life. It is literally a set of step-by-step instructions describing how your research

question can be answered, why yours is a good method for approaching the problem, and a plan for the analysis,

interpretation, and implications of the data you would collect. You will not actually collect these data for this

class. This is only a plan! The following checklist will guide the write-up of your proposal. A successful report

will clearly answer every applicable question (but not all questions apply to every project, depending on the question

and methodology chosen). In addressing each question, you should describe what your position is, how you will

achieve it, why this is so, and justify yourself (citing any applicable reasons, evidence, or previous studies). Your

final report should conform to the APA Style guidelines for a research proposal. These questions correspond to

the Research Cycle on page 8. Don’t freak out! There is a lot here, but if you formulate a clear research

question and follow this step-by-step guide, you will get it done one piece at a time. Start early and be sure to

consult your instructor and student colleagues for feedback.

15 React to the literature: review the scholarly and professional literature, existing data sources, and other materials that help establish what we think we already know about your research topic (your should have

at least 3 to 5 scholarly sources in addition to any other references).

 01 What do we already think we know about your research topic?  02 Critically evaluate and analyze the existing research or conventional understandings of the issue: what is

sound or reasonable about previous work? Why? What is unsound about previous work? Why? How

might these deficiencies be improved? Justify your positions.

 03 How can you learn from both the good and bad elements of previous work so as to make your study better?

 04 What assumptions or biases did you find in previous work? How did that influence their findings?  05 Discuss how and why your hypothesis builds on previous applicable work. How did previous studies

influence your theoretical perspective or methodological choices?

01 Select research topic: identify your broad area of research interest then selectively narrow your focus to a manageable scope that can be accomplished in a finite amount of time and with a finite amount of


 06 Identify your research topic and place it in its larger social and intellectual context. How does it relate to other practical problems or phenomena and/or theoretical issues? Justify your choices and explain the

decisions you’ve made to limit your project.

 07 Introduce a clear hypothesis statement (or, if more than one, make sure that they are tightly related and do not unnecessarily enlarge or diffuse the nature of your study) that relates two or more variables

 08 Explain how and why your hypothesis is well thought-out and theoretically testable. Justify your position.  09 Explain how and why your hypothesis is practically developed and feasible to study. Justify your position.  10 Discuss how other researchers’ works have influenced your choice of topic.

02 Develop your framework: clearly state the perspective(s) or theoretical lens(es) through which you view your research and defend it as a reasonable, effective one through which to study the issue or


 11 Discuss each of your major assumptions underlying your perspective and the methods you’ve chosen to collect your data and test your hypotheses. Defend and justify your position.

 12 Discuss how your framework is related to, influenced by, or simply similar to both major “schools of thought” in the social sciences and to more specific, “middle-range” or “micro-“ theories in your field.

Elaborate how these intellectual connections shape your research project and justify your choices.

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 13 Thoroughly explain and defend your hypothesis. Justify it according to as many of the criteria we have discussed as possible. Explain the major alternatives and why you have elected for the choices you have


 14 Thoroughly explain each of your variables and clearly distinguish them and their operations from the others. Explain the major alternatives and defend why you have included the variables you have and failed

to include other, reasonable candidates.

 15 Specify the relations or mechanisms operating between or among the variables in your hypotheses — in other words, why and how do you think one variable influences or changes with another?

 16 Introduce the methods you have chosen and explain why they are appropriate to your research question and your theoretical perspective.

 17 Discuss how other researchers’ works have influenced your choice of theoretical perspective.

03 Design your study: discuss how you plan to measure each variable and collect your data, then justify your choices.

 18 Describe and justify how you will operationalize and measure each variable. Exemplify and justify your coding decisions for each variable. Discuss the possible alternatives and explain why yours is a superior

method, given your theoretical position and practical constraints. Include copies of instruments or

measurement criteria in an appendix.

 19 Who is the population about which you wish your research to generalize? Describe and justify your plan of sampling. Discuss the possible alternatives and explain why yours is a superior method, given your

theoretical position and practical constraints. How is your sample representative of your population and

what are its potential limitations? Justify the applicability of your findings, given the nature of your sample.

 20 Describe and justify your research design. Discuss the possible alternatives and explain why yours is a superior method, given your theoretical position and practical constraints.

 21 Explain why and how your methods are valid and reliable. Discuss specific threats to both and explain what procedures you are implementing to reduce or remove specific threats to validity and reliability.

 22 Discuss how other researchers’ works have influenced your choices of operationalization, sampling, and design.

04 Develop your proposal: identify who the formal gatekeepers are and what their procedures will be for approving your project; discuss what needs to be included in your proposal to satisfy their institutional


 23 From whom you will need to formal permission for your research by presenting them with a proposal?  24 What are their individual and institutional needs that must be addressed for you to obtain formal


 25 Develop a contingency plan for other sites or

05 Obtain resources, access, and permissions: identify who and what you will need to practically and ethically implement your research project, then explain how these resources may be obtained.

 26 Decide what process you will go through to get past each level of formal and informal gatekeeper. Develop contingency plans for each step. Justify your choices practically, methodologically, and ethically.

 27 Develop any necessary cover stories and justify their use. Alternatively, discuss why such stories will not be needed and explain your decisions.

 28 Develop access agreements for the institutions or organizations that you will be working with that set out the rights and responsibilities of each party.

 29 Develop permission agreements for your participants and include a copy in an appendix.  30 Develop a budget estimate for your research project (include itemized estimated expenses in an appendix)

and justifying your spending.

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 31 Determine what additional, non-monetary resources you will need to complete your project (equipment, personnel, and so forth). Justify their inclusions.

 32 Describe the greatest potential ethical dilemmas that may arise from your research. Develop safeguards to reduce or eliminate their occurrence and/or design plans for treating each ethical problem, should it arise.

 33 Discuss how other researchers’ experiences have made you aware of potential ethical pitfalls and how their solutions have provided positive or negative examples in your own study design.

06 Prepare materials, team, participants, and/or site: define what preparatory work must be accomplished before data collection to train your research team, prepare your participants or site, and

ready the necessary materials or instruments.

 34 Describe any material preparations that must take place before the collection of data (e.g., drafting, proofing, and copying instruments; building and testing equipment; etc.). Develop contingency plans in case

of potential mishaps.

 35 Describe any preparations or alterations to the site that must occur before data collection (e.g., if in the lab, how must it be outfitted or modified; or, if in the field, what ecological changes must be

implemented?). Develop contingency plans in case of potential mishaps.

 36 Discuss the composition of your research team. Can you do everything yourself or must you include others? What sorts of additional training must be undergone to prepare the team? Justify your decisions.

 37 Discuss what preparation must be implemented for your participants to successfully participate in your study. Is their any training, screening, or briefing necessary? Justify your decisions.

07 Collect data: discuss when and how you will collect the necessary data to test your hypotheses.  38 Explain exactly how you will implement the collection of your data, including the implementation of your

plans for sampling and design. What issues may arise in their implementation and how can you maximize

your results?

 39 Determine what role you will take in the field or the lab and explain why this is the optimal choice.  40 What are the particular threats to reliability and validity that may spontaneously arise during the course of

data collection? Develop contingency plans to reduce or eliminate their effects.

 41 What are the likely ethical dilemmas that may spontaneously arise during the course of data collection? Develop contingency plans to reduce or eliminate their effects.

 42 How might your biases or pre-existing perspectives become an issue during the data collection process? Explain what you have done to minimize their effects and justify your decisions.

08 Leave the field or lab: plan what steps are necessary to leave the field and/or your participants in at least as good a condition as before they participated in your study.

 43 How will you fulfill any organizational or institutional agreements made to facilitate the execution of your research project? Develop contingency plans to address problems in removing yourself from the field.

 44 How will you fulfill any individual agreements made with participants, informants, or indigenous team members to facilitate the execution of your research project? Develop contingency plans to address

problems in removing yourself from the field.

 45 How will you insure that, at minimum, you have fulfilled the dictates of the “harm principle?” Justify your position.

 46 Describe how you will safeguard your participants (both individual and organizational) and their data by collecting and storing said data in a responsible and ethical manner. Justify your decisions.

09 Analyze data: choose which techniques are appropriate to scale, test, assess, or otherwise manipulate your data.

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 47 Describe and justify any scaling or indexing procedures or any post-collection manipulations of the data. Discuss alternatives and explain why your choices are superior.

 48 Explain and defend any secondary or tertiary coding schemas and justify their inclusion. Discuss how they are superior to other reasonable alternatives.

 49 Explain and defend your selected methods for testing your findings. Justify the criteria you have chosen and explain why your choice is superior to other reasonable alternatives.

 50 Discuss how you will incorporate redundant measures or assessment tools and utilize methods of triangulation or replication to enhance the validity and reliability of your findings.

 51 What particular threats to validity and reliability may occur at this stage? What biases may potentially thwart your analyses? How might your theoretical, methodological, or practical commitments skew your analysis?

Discuss how you are minimizing or eliminating those threats.

10 Interpret data: choose what standards are appropriate to judge the relative success or failure of your hypotheses and how you will assess the meaning of your research findings..

 52 Discuss how your theoretical perspective becomes influential at this stage. What assumptions, biases, or preconceptions may influence you interpretation? Reflexively address your procedures and interpretations.

 53 Discuss how you will assess your findings and interpret your results. Defend your decisions in light of your theoretical, methodological, and practical commitments and constraints.

 54 What particular threats to validity and reliability may occur at this stage? What biases may potentially thwart your interpretations? How might your theoretical, methodological, or practical commitments skew your

interpretations? Discuss how you are minimizing or eliminating those threats.

11–14 Writing, submitting, reviewing, and distributing findings: identify the audience for your findings and the media or other distribution conduits through which you may share your


 55 Explain who your audiences are and why they were so selected. How will their composition influence your presentation?

 56 Discuss the political standpoint, uses, and potential abuses of your research. Describe and justify the steps you are taking to minimize or eliminate them.

 57 Discuss how you anticipate presenting your results to your subjects and your audience so as to be sensitive to any political and ethical ramifications. Justify your decisions.

 58 Discuss procedures and opportunities for applying your findings to actual practice.

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01 select research topic or question 15 react to the literature 14 publish or distribute findings 02 develop framework PREPARATION

13 peer review COMMUNICATION and process and DEBATE PLANNING 03 design 12 submit study report The RESEARCH

11 write CYCLE report 04 develop proposal 10 interpret data EMPIRICAL STUDY and ANALYSIS 09 analyze data 05 obtain resources, access, and permissions 08 leave the field or lab 06 prepare materials, team, 07 collect data participants, and/or site

Diagram of the Typical Social Research Cycle (keyed to questions).