Professor Nicole Hala
Assignment # 3: Preparing a Research Proposal - Part II
Please type (and double-space) your research design, which should not be longer than five pages.
Step 1: Specify research question.
Fit the research question with a type of social research. [See Ch. 1, pp. 12-17 and Summary
Review: Purposes of Research, p. 17]
Descriptive (Who? When? How?)
Explanatory (Why? Also: How?)
Evaluation (Does it work?)
Consider whether your research orientation is "basic" or "applied." [See Ch. 1, pp. 18-19]
Consider which type of research path you will follow, "linear" or "nonlinear" [See Ch. 2, pp. 47]
Step 2: Relate to existing research.
Sharpen and improve your literature review!
Step 3: Propose hypothesis, a statement about the relationship of two (or more) variables yet to be tested with empirical data"
[See Ch. 5, Summary Review: Steps in Quantitative and Qualitative
Conceptualization, p. 122]
First, decide what you want to explain. What is your explanandum or your "dependent
variable"? Do you have subsidiary hypotheses?
What is your suggested explanation? You need to state your proposed explanation as a hypothesis in order to start to show how you would test it. a.
What concepts are you using? Refine your ideas by providing clear, explicit definitions.
[Ch. 5, pp. 116-121]
Starting with the most abstract level of ideas, you can specify the relationship between two concepts to form a "conceptual hypothesis," where the variables are stated as abstract concepts.
Consider the "unit of analysis" the unit on which you measure variables and gather data.
Step 4: Operationalization/measurement
Explain how you will measure your concepts, why the variables you have chosen are good
measures. [Ch. 5, pp. 116-121]
Justify your choices. One way to do this is to mention alternative possibilities which you have
considered and discarded.
Consider reliability and validity. [Ch. 5, pp. 122-125]
Step 5: Consider and control for alternative explanations
What are alternative explanations for dependent variable or the outcome you want to explain?
How will you avoid "spuriousness" (an illusionary relationship that is due to an unacknowledged
other variable -- different from the independent variable(s) or causal factor(s) in your hypothesis
-- that is actually causing your outcome). [Ch. 2, pp. 55-56.]
Are there any variables which need to be controlled in your design? As you identify them, explain why they need to be included in your design as control variables.
How you actually control for alternative explanations depends on your data (whether it's qualitative or quantitative) and on your specific research design: a.
For surveys, see Ch. 6, Making it Practical: Survey Research and Control Variables, p.
For experimental designs, see Ch. 7, pp. 183-185 on "control groups."
For historical-comparative research and studies that use existing statistical sources, see
Ch. 11, Example Study Box 5: Prisons and Unemployment Across Nations, p. 314.
Step 6: Specify research design
Data collection techniques may be quantitative or qualitative (although there is overlap between the two) a.
Quantitative: experiment, survey, content analysis, existing statistical analysis (also secondary data analysis) b.
Qualitative data collection techniques: ethnographic field research, historicalcomparative research (also participant observation, informal "depth" interviews, and
Explain just what your design is going to be and say why the design is a good choice for dealing with your chosen problem.
Consider the trade-offs involved in selecting one research technique over another.
Step 7: Specify your research site or the population you are studying, and whether (and how) you will draw a sample.
What is your unit of analysis (individuals, events, or something else)? [Ch. 2, p. 54]
What is the level of analysis of your study (micro or macro)? [Ch. 2, pp. 54-55]
If you are proposing to study a sample of your population, explain how and why you will choose your sample. [Ch. 4, pp. 188-103]
Step 8: Re-read it and think about it
Is your proposal persuasive? Can you identify weak spots in the proposal? Are there any areas
where reviewers are likely to request more information, or want to know more about your reasons for designing the research in this way?
If you can identify such weaknesses, please address them and if they can’t be fixed, show that you are aware of the problem by acknowledging them.
Step 9: Edit and rewrite and polish your essay to make it clear and effective.
Assignments are due on November 30th. Please submit them electronically through Blackboard
SafeAssignment (Go to the Assignments page, "Assignment #3 submission").