SOC 330 Qualitative Research Methods – Spring 2021
Research Proposal Assignment Sheet (30%)
Over the course of your semester, you will construct a research proposal. The objective of this assignment is two-fold. First, it will give you the opportunity to apprentice as a scholar in the field of sociology. Second, it will allow you to come away with a deeper understanding of a specific topic of your choosing within the field of sociology. There are several deadlines throughout the semester that correspond to the steps associated with your proposal. These deadlines are designed to make sure you all are making good progress and are on the right track. The culmination of will be a ten to twelve page paper that describes a research project you propose to conduct. Your paper should be an attempt to convince an academic audience that your proposed research is meritorious and that you have the know-how to conduct it. In addition to thoroughly reading this assignment sheet, make sure to also consult the Research Proposal Grading Rubric (accessed via Blackboard).
Your proposal will consist of four parts:
Introduction (~1 page): Select a topic or question and write a statement about the chosen problem. This can be any social concept that you might have learned about in another class, relates to your job or interests, or based on an observation of everyday life. Be smart about your decision; choose a topic that you will be interested in enough that you will be able to work on throughout the semester. You may change your topic, but only with my permission and only early on in the semester, so choose carefully. If you would like to pursue a topic or question not on the provided list, you must get instructor permission (via the Research Proposal Topic/Question submission due on Friday, 2/12).
To write the introduction, you will start off with a broad and then focus this topic into a more specific research question. Your introduction should address the following questions: (1) What is your study about and what are your specific objectives? (2) Why is the study important? In other words, what contributions will your study make to the literature on this particular topic? Are you filling a gap in knowledge or improving our understanding of a socially and/or scientifically significant research question? and (3) You should have a clearly defined research question – that is, what do you want to know?
Framework (~3 pages): This section should contain a systematic and well organized review of the literature that is directly related to your research problem. A good review of the literature should tie your research problem to existing theories, previous research, and current issues in the field of interest. It is not an annotated bibliography but a summary of a body of knowledge that is pertinent to your specific research question. You must identify, read, and integrate at least ten publications (books or journal articles) from academic sources (newspapers or magazines are not recognized as academic sources) into your proposal. Pay careful attention to the literature review sections in the journal articles you are reading for the style of an academic literature review. Your articles, since they are on the same topic, should inform each other in a complimentary way. Thus, weaving together multiple journal articles is necessary for a successful literature review. Keep in mind that there is most likely a lot of literature to draw from, and in such a small project, I do not expect you to cover all of it. I would recommend that you find ten solid journal articles and base your literature review around those.
Methods (~4 pages): This section provides details of the research procedures you will use in search for a valid answer to your research question. You may use the qualitative methods we cover in class for your proposal: in-depth interviews; focus groups; ethnographic field work; or content or frame analysis. If you would like to pursue a method not listed here, you must get instructor permission by Monday, 3/15. This will be the largest part of your proposal and you should focus on convincing your audience that you are capable of conducting your proposed research (i.e., demonstrating your knowledge about the research process in general and your selected method in particular).
The methods section should include the following items:
a. An introduction that reiterates your research question and then describes at least two expectations based on the Framework section.
b. A clear outline of the research procedures including details about where, when, who, what, and how the research will be conducted.
c. An evaluation of the project’s feasibility that addresses issues of access to research sites and human subjects.
d. A description of the data to be collected including examples of the kinds of evidence to be gathered, the different modes of data collection that will be used, the places data will be obtained.
e. An assessment of the possible impact of the researcher’s presence and biography on the research from the point of problem selection.
f. Information about replicability, in particular try to consider and suggest ways in which others might reproduce this research.
Depending on the specific method you propose to use, the following questions may also be helpful:
If you are using in-depth interviews or focus groups:
a. Who will be your respondents? Describe your sampling strategy. How will you recruit them? How many total respondents do you plan to have? How many people will be in a focus group and how many focus groups do you plan to have? How long will the interviews last?
b. Given your research topic, do you expect to have trouble getting subjects to participate in your interviews or focus groups? How will you try to overcome these difficulties?
c. Where will you conduct the interviews or focus groups? What are the advantages and disadvantages of conducting them in these locations? What steps (if any) will you take to ensure that both you and your respondents feel safe and at-ease in this setting?
d. What will you ask respondents about? List the main constructs you will include in your interview guide. Design at least 5 interview questions that you will ask your respondents. At least one of these questions should specifically be about your main topic of interest.
e. Explain how you will gather your data. Will you record the interviews, take notes during the interview/focus group, or do both strategies?
If you are using ethnographic field work:
a. What social setting(s) will you do your research in? What time of day will you conduct these observations? How long will these observations last each time? How long do you anticipate your entire observational period to last?
b. Explain why this setting is appropriate. How is this setting an appropriate place to investigate your research question? What are you going to be looking for in this setting? What will you need to observe and measure?
c. Given your research topic, do you expect to have trouble getting access to the social setting in which you want to do your observations? What steps will you take to gain access?
d. Where will you fall on the complete participant to complete observer continuum? What role will you have in the setting? How might your presence in the setting affect what you observe? How will you minimize the possibility that your presence in the setting will bias your observations because people will act differently than they normally do?
e. Explain how you will gather your data (Will you take photographs? Will you take notes in the setting, when you leave the setting, or both? Will you use a video camera? Will you speak your notes into a recorder?).
If you are using content/frame analysis:
a. What type of content will you study? How much of it will you analyze? Explain your sampling strategy (how exactly will you decide which “texts” to study, and how will you select these texts?).
b. Specify at least 8 concepts that you will measure. Conceptualize these measures.
c. Indicate what procedures you will use in your approach to coding.
d. Create a coding sheet that you could use to record your data.
e. What difficulties do you anticipate facing as you code your data? What implications does this have for the reliability and validity of your results?
Analysis Plan (~2 pages): The final component contains a number of important sections. First, restate your research question. Then, provide a detailed plan of analysis by indicating how you expect to answer your research question, the type of analysis technique you will use, how long you anticipate it taking. Also, consider the advantages and disadvantages to conducting this type of research. If you were to add another research method to deal with some of your studies shortcomings, what method would you pick and why? Then address any ethical considerations important to your study. How will you minimize the possible harm to your respondents within your study? Finally, what will you do with your data and analysis once it is complete? How will you disseminate your results? Who will be your likely audience?
You should have 1” margins, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, and double-spacing. Your paper should include proper ASA in-text citations as well as a reference list. Consult the following resources for help on how to do this:
In order to keep everyone on track, you will submit a variety of assignments associated with the paper across the semester. The assignments and due dates are as follows:
1. Research Proposal Question (Friday, 2/12; Submit via Blackboard by 11:55 pm EST): Indicate your qualitative question and give a brief description of what interests you about this topic.
2. Research Proposal Annotated Bibliography (Friday, 3/12; Submit via Blackboard by 11:55 pm EST): This component is the beginning of your literature review. In this piece, you will find important articles related to your question. In your write up, discuss the tactics you took to find your articles. What search databases did you utilize? What search terms did you use and were they successful in finding articles that were directly related to your research question? Did you have a hard time finding articles on your topic, or is there a lot of research already done on your topic?
For each source, create an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography includes both a bibliographic citation and a summary of the article. First, list the source that you found, properly cited using ASA style guidelines (as shown in your ASA handbook). Then, summarize this article (go beyond the abstract, including as much of the following information as possible):
· What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?
· Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography?
· Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
· Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research proposal? Has it changed how you think about your topic?
You need a minimum of five scholarly publications (books or peer-reviewed journal articles – newspapers or magazines are not recognized as academic sources). Please keep in mind that the final research proposal requires ten academic sources total.
3. Framework Outline (Wednesday, 4/14; Submit via Blackboard by 11:55 pm EST): For this component, you will provide an outline of the framework (i.e., front-end) of your paper. The outline should sketch out the planned topic of each paragraph, bonus points if you can actually draft your paragraph topic sentences. The outline should cover your Introduction and Framework sections.
4. Methods and Expectations Outline (Friday, 4/30; Submit via Blackboard by 11:55 pm EST): For this component, you will provide an outline of the methods (i.e., back-end) of your paper. The outline should sketch out the planned topic of each paragraph, bonus points if you can actually draft your paragraph topic sentences. The outline should cover your Methods and Analysis sections.
5. Research Proposal (Friday, 5/7; Submit via Blackboard by 11:55 pm EST): Your complete research proposal should include the above-described components.
Your overall Research Proposal grade is worth 30% of your final grade, and will be determined based on the following components:
Research Proposal Topic/Question
Research Proposal Annotated Bibliography
Methods and Expectations Outline
Please make sure the references are scholarly sources.