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Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

4. Developing a Research Idea  

Social research is concerned with developing defensible knowledge about people and all of the things that they do. This means that the landscape for social research is both wide and varied. In some cases, the research gaze will be directed by disciplinary interests, in others it will be much more open. This chapter discusses techniques that can help students identify their research interests, develop project ideas, and build a rationale for research. It also considers how research is evaluated and explores the idea of quality in research. It begins by dealing with a question that many students ask — what makes a good dissertation project? To answer this question, the idea of research quality is discussed.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

15. Working with Documents  

Although much of the data used in social science dissertation projects is produced by interviews, surveys, and participant observation, there are other forms of data that can be used for the purposes of social science. This chapter explores some of this ‘documentary’ data and how to use it for the purposes of research. Documentary forms of data have some significant advantages that make them particularly useful for student research projects. This does not mean that they are without problems, but the chapter provides a practical guide for those who are prepared to look beyond familiar horizons. It makes the case for using documents; explores what can be included under the broad heading of documents; and introduces both quantitative and qualitative content analysis as a means to analyse documents.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

17. Writing Up  

After going through the process of planning, designing, and carrying out research, the student needs to write up the project. Writing is an extremely important part of the research process as a poorly written dissertation will constrain the student’s ability to communicate findings and limit the final mark he or she can achieve. This chapter discusses the basic elements of writing a dissertation and introduces the structures, forms, and styles that are commonly used to create one. Emphasizing the importance of developing an argument to connect the pieces of the dissertation together, it takes each element of the dissertation in turn and demonstrates how it is ‘built’.

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 How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

16. Evaluating Your Project  

Critical reflection is a key part of evaluating the research project, and a dissertation that demonstrates this is likely to achieve higher marks. However, one of the first things to recognize is that the process of evaluation does not necessarily begin at the end of the project. Instead, issues of research quality are implicitly embedded in all parts of the research process and all sections of the dissertation. This chapter introduces some key criteria that will help students evaluate their project and think critically about the research process. It discusses the importance of originality, rigour, and significance in research, and provides key questions students can ask about their project. Collectively, these questions will help students to assess and evaluate their research.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

3. Getting Started  

This chapter examines the more practical foundations on which all research projects are built and guides students through the realities of planning and managing their dissertation. It examines how to negotiate the workload of the research process, how to cope with unexpected problems, and how to best use the supervisor for support throughout this process. If students start their dissertation with a clear plan, and have an agreement about their working relationship with their supervisor, this will limit the problems they might encounter further down the line and give them the best chance to fulfil their potential. Steps to be taken when planning a dissertation including identifying the topic area and a potential title; making sure that the research aims are achievable; thinking about the kind of theoretical approach and methods to employ; and becoming familiar with dissertation guidelines and requirements, including the format that the dissertation should take.

Book

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

Tom Clark, Liam Foster, and Alan Bryman

How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation looks to help readers to navigate research for a project or dissertation. It starts with an introduction to the research process and how to get started. It examines the process of developing an idea. It reviews the available literature. It then considers how to build upon the project idea, the ethical issues, and how to write a proposal. Next it considers sampling, and collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data. Finally, it describes how to evaluate the project and the process of writing up.

Chapter

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

Concept Construction  

Louis Bélanger Pierre-Marc Daigneault

This chapter highlights concept construction. All social sciences research projects, be they qualitative or quantitative, are dependent on concepts. The chapter first explains what concepts are and why social scientists should be self-conscious in the way they use them. It then describes the methodology of concept construction and presents three different ways to structure a concept. Finally, the chapter provides criteria to evaluate the quality of the concepts we have built ourselves or borrowed from others. Concept construction involves two basic operations beyond choosing a term to designate the concept: identifying the fundamental characteristics of the phenomenon of interest, and logically connecting these characteristics.

Chapter

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

Research Question  

Irene Wieczorek and Piergiuseppe Parisi

This chapter looks at research questions, which identify what the researcher wants to find out or understand. They are a crucial component of any study and are connected to all parts of the research. Depending on the type of study, the research question may either serve as the starting point of the entire research or change in response to the research design. A research question should naturally be formulated in an interrogative manner and should be a query to which the answer is not known at the outset of the research process. Research questions have a twofold purpose: they define the boundaries of a research project, thus guiding the investigation, and they are meant to spark the reader’s interest.

Chapter

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

Survey Research  

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan

This chapter discusses survey research. Surveys are a very common method of data collection used by many social researchers. As such, they are used in public opinion polls to gauge political trends and trait, but also in marketing research examining consumer behaviour and feedback. Surveys are also a common data collection method in many social research projects. They are further used to evaluate needs, processes, and outcomes. Importantly, surveys are a unidirectional communication approach to collect data, which is very different from observational methods, semi-structured and structured interviews, or other types of data collection where the researcher takes an active role. Specifically, using surveys, participants are presented with a set of instructions and predetermined questions. The researcher is not expected to engage in any participatory interaction or in-depth conversation with participants.