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Research Methods Empirical Research Project on Dynamic Norms as a Means of Encouraging Sustainable B

Learning Outcomes

As part of the formal assessment for the programme you are required to submit a Research Methods empirical research project assignment.

Please refer to your Student Handbook for full details of the programme assessment scheme and general information on preparing and submitting assignments. 

After completing the module, you should be able to: 

Identify, research, critically summarise and apply key concepts in psychology to a range of psychological issues

Critically evaluate and apply different methodological approaches to the study of psychological concepts

Report a mini research project at a postgraduate level with a reflective understanding of ethical issues in human participation in research

Critically distinguish between different research approaches in psychology and their application, based on relevant theoretical, philosophical, practical, statistical, and methodological reasoning

Demonstrate an understanding of how to plan and execute research to a professional and ethical standard, act autonomously, and demonstrate originality

Undertake effective communication and presentation skills to support or strengthen arguments and analysis

Professional Skills: Utilising the skills to perform effectively within the professional environment such as showing competence in data analysis and reporting of results.

Your assignment should include: a title page containing your student number, the module name, the submission deadline and a word count; the appendices containing SPSS output and a reference list in APA format.

You should address all the elements of the assignment task listed below. Please note that tutors will use the assessment criteria set out below in assessing your work.

Maximum word count: 5000 words

Please note that exceeding the word count by over 10% will result in a reduction in grade by the same percentage that the word count is exceeded. 

You must not include your name in your submission because Arden University operates anonymous marking, which means that markers should not be aware of the identity of the student. However, please do not forget to include your STU number. 

Assignment Task 

For this assignment, you are required to write a research report about dynamic norms (see background below). You will receive a complete data set to analyse and you will answer the research questions below.

You should analyse the data using appropriate statistical techniques in SPSS and write a 5000-word report using the report writing conventions of the APA. 


Getting people to change their behaviour is difficult. Many public health services find this when they encourage people to eat healthier, exercise more, or live more sustainably. One explanation for this is through norms, where people see others doing the same thing they are doing.

Assignment Task

Changing these perceived norms is a key part of changing peoples’ behaviour, but what is an effective way of doing this?

Researchers have tried emphasising dynamic norms:how norms have changed over time in contrast to current norms.

Demonstrating how dynamic norms increase interest in changing behaviour compared to static norms is important to replicate.

We are also interested in extending this area of research to investigate whether dynamic norms affect different types of behaviours.

Dynamic norms might be more effective for behaviours that require greater personal change. This study investigates the effect of dynamic norms on different sustainable behaviours.

You will answer the following research questions: “Do dynamic norms increase interest in adopting more sustainable behaviours compared to static norms?” and “Is there a larger effect of dynamic norms on sustainable behaviours requiring greater personal change?”.

The following references are provided to you as a starting point: Sparkman and Walton (2017) and Cialdini and Jacobson (2021). Both articles are available on iLearn. 

What do I need to do?

When you conduct your own research in future, you will search for literature and develop hypotheses before you plan a study.

Therefore, before we release the data to you, you are encouraged to start exploring this area of research to develop your own hypotheses.

Try to focus on research that has investigated the effect of dynamic norms on sustainable behaviour change. Furthermore, explore whether behaviours that require greater change are

Read the articles provided to you and conduct a small literature search to identify any further articles on the effect of dynamic norms on sustainable behaviour change.

The aim of this is to develop your hypotheses for the research based on what you have read.

This means when we release the data to you, you can analyse the data in order to test your hypotheses.

We delay the release of the data to stop you being tempted to develop hypotheses after you have already analysed the data. 

At approximately week five of the module, we will release the data to you.

This will be data from a study using real participants. We will also provide you with some basic demographic information and the materials used to conduct the study so you can fully report the methods.

You are required to analyse the data in SPSS and to include the SPSS output in an appendix.


If you experience any issues with installing or using SPSS, please email your lecturer for advice.

We will outline the variables used in the experiment when we release the data and materials.

It is your job to choose the appropriate statistical test, perform any data screening to justify the choice of test (parametric or non- parametric), and report the descriptive and inferential statistics.

You can include tables and figures where relevant, but you must format them in line with APA style.

Although you are not directly collecting data, it is important you understand the ethical processes involved when testing human participants. Each participant must be presented with a participant information sheet, informed consent form, and debrief form.

You can find templates for these documents on the virtual psychology lab. We would like you to add these documents in the appendix of your report, adapted to the details of the study you are reporting.

These will not be marked, but their appropriateness will be commented on for when you are designing your own study in future.

6. The suggested word allocation of the report is: 
1.    Abstract 200 words 
2.    Introduction 2000 words 
3.    Method 400 words 
4.    Results 400 words 
5.    Discussion 2000 words 

This is only a guideline and does not need to be strictly adhered to, but your report should not exceed 5000 words in total (excluding reference list and appendices).

7. See further guidance on iLearn. (5000 words) (100 marks)

You have the opportunity to submit a full draft of your report to receive formative feedback.

The feedback is designed to help you develop areas of your work and it helps you develop your skills as an independent learner.

If you are a distance learning student, you should submit your work, by email, to your tutor, no later than 2 weeks before the actual submission deadline.

If you are a blended learning student, your tutor will give you a deadline for formative feedback and further details.

Formative feedback will not be given to work submitted after the above date or the date specified by your tutor - if a blended learning student 

You must underpin your analysis and evaluation of the key issues with appropriate and wide ranging academic research and ensure this is referenced using the APA format.

The My Study Skills Area on iLearn contains useful resources relating to referencing. 

Additional notes:

Students are required to indicate the exact word count on the title page of the assessment.

The word count excludes the title page, tables, figures, diagrams, footnotes, reference list and appendices. Where assessment questions have been reprinted from the assessment brief these will also be excluded from the word count.

All other printed words ARE included in the word count See ‘Word Count Policy’ on the homepage of this module for more information. 

Submission Guidance

Assignments submitted late will not be accepted and will be marked as a 0% fail.

Your assessment should be submitted as a single Word (MS Word) or PDF file. For more information please see the “Guide to Submitting an Assignment” document available on the module page on iLearn.

You must ensure that the submitted assignment is all your own work and that all sources used are correctly attributed. Penalties apply to assignments which show evidence of academic unfair practice. (See the Student Handbook which is on the homepage of your module and also in the Induction Area).

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