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Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

7. Building Your Project  

Once students have developed an idea, outlined a rationale for their research, and found the relevant literature, they then need to start mapping out what their project will look like. To do this, they will need to make some decisions about how they will answer their research questions. Research can be approached and conducted in many different ways. Broadly speaking, there are four interrelated stages of building a social science dissertation: research strategy: the type of data under investigation (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods); research design: the framework through which that data will be collected; research methods: the methods associated with collecting the type of data selected; and type of analysis: the techniques through which the data will be analysed. This chapter focuses on the decisions that students can make in relation to the first two stages: research strategy and research design.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

5. Conducting a Literature Search  

Today, the world of research is quite literally available through the touch of a few buttons via online resaerch. But this increase in access and availability is not without its challenges. With ‘hits’ that can run into millions, unless the student knows how to search effectively and efficiently, the information that he or she finds can quickly become overwhelming. This chapter guides students through the process of literature searching for their dissertation. It outlines how to develop a successful search strategy and what to do with the literature once it is discovered. Topics covered include what counts as literature; different ‘types’ of literature searching; how to develop a literature search strategy; and common problems associated with literature searching.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

10. Sampling  

Whether the research project adopts a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed strategy, there is little point in asking a few non-random people a few non-random questions as the student has no idea what those answers might indicate, or whether they might apply in other situations. Therefore, the student needs to think carefully about his or her sampling strategy and justify this in the dissertation. This chapter explains the key principles of probability and non-probability sampling and explores why ‘who’ is asked is just as important as ‘what’ is asked. It discusses the two key stages of sampling: defining the appropriate population for study and developing strategies for recruiting the sample.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

C. Case Selection  

Laura Gelhaus and Dirk Leuffen

This chapter describes case selection, which is a crucial component of designing social research. Its importance can hardly be overstated because the cases you choose affect the answers you get. However, how should researchers select their cases? A careful inspection of the research question, the study’s objective, should be the starting point. The research question typically anchors the study in a research area, specifies the universe of cases, and guides its engagement with theory. Ideally, case selection is solely driven by methodology; however, practicality and feasibility considerations frequently make adjustments to the design necessary. Such considerations concern, for instance, the costs of data collection. The chapter introduces a few commonly used case selection strategies as well as two hotly debated topics in the literature on case selection: selecting on the dependent variable and random case selection.