The Research Project
In the Social and Behavioral Sciences, there are two main
kinds of research reports: the quantitative
report and the qualitative
report. They are distinguished by the kind of research
design used to gather information and the methods used to assess the
research, and this is reflected in the way the research report gets
written. In quantitative
studies, the research question is tested by using methods that will
produce numerical results. In other words, the research design (method)
is deemed successful based on statistical tests. We are very familiar
with this kind of research and it is the hallmark of the scientific
method. In social and behavioral science, such methods include surveys,
some kinds of interviews, and experimental manipulation.
Qualitative research relies on careful observation and good thinking. The results are not usually numerical, but represented as text with analysis and explanation. Qualitative research is often employed at the very beginning of a new study – we have to observe and learn what something is before intelligent questions can be asked or well-directed manipulation undertaken. Also, there are some kinds of topics that simply cannot be quantified. Qualitative research is often based on observations and literature review (as in a clinical case study) or on interviews (individual or group, as in a research-based case study).
For this project, you will design, administer, and communicate research. We will begin with a proposal, then talk about each part of the paper in linear order, starting with the introduction and finishing with the discussion section. For the introduction, you will gather sources and write a literature review of your research topic, and draft the introduction (this draft may change quite a bit by the time you've finished analyzing data!). Next, you will choose a method and design your study, using the lit review to help craft a research proposal. Finally, the entire project will be written up as a research report and delivered as a poster presentation at the end of the semester.
There are several routes to consider for your experimental design, but you must consider the very real limitations we have. First, you only have about 3 weeks to collect data and unless you've got $$ hidden somewhere, nothing but goodwill to offer participants as compensation. You will then need to analyze your results; if you know how to use SPSS or SAS software, then you may use inferential stats. Most, though, will likely be using descriptive statistics (though some of the simpler stats can be computed using just a calculator). Further, unless you have access to a lab and permission to use its equipment, you're probably not going to be running participants/subjects through complicated tasks requiring machines. Finally, though class work is officially IRB exempt, we will still be constraining topics to those that are ethically palatable within the limits of our class; for example, if you're interested in child abuse, you cannot ask someone to reveal their own abuse -- those studies need to be conducted by specialists trained to deal with potential damage to participants. You can, however, ask people what they know about child abuse or what they think about child abuse.
If you have a study already in progress, and you have NOT written it up before, you may use that study and some portion of its results for this project. Or, you want to run an adjunctive project that would contribute to the lab, but not copy what is already going on. Most of the class will devise their own research design. The most successful approaches given our limits are survey research, case studies, or "quasi"/"non" experimental studies.