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Designing a Research Project in Social Science


What: For this assignment, you are asked to design a piece of research, drawing from the methods taught in this module. The exercise involves identifying relevant – to your chosen topic - published research and approaches as a basis for developing a feasible research question(s), explain and justify your choice of sampling strategy and method(s), address any ethical implications that might arise from the research, and indicate how you would analyse the data that would result if the design were carried out and data collected. Please note, this is a design exercise, and you should NOT actually carry out any data collection. The assignment is assessed on the quality, justification and feasibility of the research design.

Length and Weighting: The assignment must be between 2,000-2,500 words, and is worth 65% of module mark.

Why: The purpose of the assignment is to provide students with the skills and experience to answer a series of research questions using quantitative and/or qualitative methods. In doing so, it fulfils Intended Learning Outcomes D: Develop skills around how to collect, manage, analyse and interpret social science research; E: Explain the benefits and drawbacks of methodological tools used in research; and F) Academic integrity in their submitted work through appropriate use of academic citation and referencing conventions in their discipline (for example in directly quoting or paraphrasing the work of others).  

Further detail and guidance:

Remember, this is a PLANNING/DESIGN exercise, and you should NOT carry out any data collection for this assignment. You are being assessed on your ability to design a research project.

Make sure to fully reference all books, articles and other material used in your research design exercise, using Harvard Referencing Style 
The Research Design exercise should have the following structure and elements (Regarding length, remember that the overall word-length is 2000-2500 words. The bulk of your writing is expected to be focused on sections 3 Literature Review and 4 Methodology and Research Design, with sections 2, 5 and 6 being much shorter, but it is the overall length-limit that needs to be observed):

1. Title: Use a title that clearly signals what the main focus is without being overly specific, e.g. ‘A comparison of news media reporting of the Covid pandemic in China and the UK’ or ‘Social media roles in climate change protest’.

2. Introduction: Briefly describe what the topic of the research is, why it is interesting/relevant, and what the wider context is.

3. Review of literature: Explain how you have identified and selected relevant previous research and literature for a brief review. The main purpose - in this assignment - of reviewing previous research relevant to your chosen topic is to get ideas and an overview of how previous studies have approached this or comparable topics: e.g. what theoretical frameworks, what methods/approaches, and what types of data have previous studies used? For this assignment, you are not expected to provide a comprehensive review of previous research, but rather to identify selected key relevant studies that can serve to inform your own research design. Use also the review of existing research to formulate your research question(s).

4. Methodology and Research Design: If you haven’t already stated your research question(s), do it here now. Explain and justify (e.g. with reference to the research discussed in the Review of Literature section) your selection of data for analysis (e.g. what social processes and/or communication processes will you be analysing, and why?), your choice of sample and sampling strategy(ies), your choice of analytical approach(es)/method(s), and justification for the type of variables that you will be examining/measuring. It is essential that you explain and justify the choices that you make regarding sample and method, including showing how they will enable you to answer the research question(s) or your project. 

You should also outline the ethical implications/considerations arising from your proposed research. Will it require informed consent from participants? Are there risks to participants or yourself, and if so, how will you mitigate these? Will there be privacy and data protection issues? And how can they be dealt with?

If you are doing a content analysis, which dimensions of content are you focusing on, what content variables? List the main ones here, but also include a full coding sheet as an appendix. If you are doing interviews, what are the key questions you would ask, and why? If you are doing a focus group, explain how you would run this and your ‘menu’ of discussion points. If you are doing a survey, what kinds of questions (multiple choice, open-ended, using likert scales?) are you asking, and why? Include a copy of your full questionnaire in the appendix.

5.  Analysis: This should be a brief section outlining what kind of analyses you would expect to do (if data had been collected for the study). If you are proposing quantitative analysis, will this include univariate or bivariate analysis? What core tables or charts would you expect to use? Which analysis programmes would be used (e.g. SPSS, Excel, etc.)? If you are proposing qualitative analysis, how do you expect to organise and analyse the data - e.g. with programmes like NVIVO, and with what kind of textual analysis?

6. Summary/Conclusion: Briefly summarise how you expect that your proposed design will enable you to answer your research question(s), and reflect briefly on any limitations of your design and/or enhancements that could be addressed in future research.

7. References: make sure to include full references to all, and only those, references mentioned or referred to in your report. All references must be in the Harvard/APA style required by the School – see the PGT Handbook for details.  

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