Writing a Proposal for a Ph.D. Dissertation: Guidelines and Examples

This user-friendly guide helps students get started on–and complete–a successful doctoral dissertation proposal by accessibly explaining the process and breaking it down into manageable steps. Steven R. Terrell demonstrates how to write each chapter of the proposal, including the problem statement, purpose statement, and research questions and hypotheses; literature review; and detailed plan for data collection and analysis. Of special utility, end-of-chapter exercises serve as building blocks for developing a full draft of an original proposal. Numerous case study examples are drawn from across the social, behavioral, and health science disciplines. Appendices present an exemplary proposal written three ways to encompass quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods designs.

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Posted in Thesis | Tagged

Mapping Your Thesis: Manual of Theory and Techniques for Masters and Doctoral Research

If this book provided a set of rules to be learned and applied, writing a thesis might seem pleasingly easy. But, because writing a thesis is seldom easy, the book instead offers a more complex mapping of the process. The purpose is to raise awareness of the critical choices involved in research and thesis writing for both masters and doctorates. Running as a leitmotif throughout is the notion that no conceptual construct can be complete unto itself. Concepts can only be defined in terms of their dynamic relations with other constructs. It is in this context that the three broad methodological categories informing discussion in the book – exegetic, empirical, and qualitative – were adopted for didactic purposes only: at no time are they considered autonomies. Therefore, not only can they be compared in multiple ways, their shared continuities are often as significant as their differences. Nonetheless, as in the case of different disciplines, differing methodological positions have different textual outcomes. Writing a masters’ or doctoral thesis is not only an inherently idiosyncratic exercise, it is also epistemic and, in the current intellectual climate, rhetorical. The malleability of the disciplinary and methodological vocabularies used in academic rhetorics reflects the manner in which not only words but also styles of writing evolve to suit particular purposes. For this reason, the style of writing and the words used in a thesis will need to be interrogated with the same informed intensity applied to all other aspects of the research undertaking. Only then, with the drawing of a more complex cognitive map, will a definition incrementally develop of what – in terms of a researcher’s own needs – constitutes sound academic discourse.

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A Qualitative Framework for Collecting and Analyzing Data in Focus Group Research

Despite the abundance of published material on conducting focus groups, scant specific information exists on how to analyze focus group data in social science research. Thus, the authors provide a new qualitative framework for collecting and analyzing focus group data. First, they identify types of data that can be collected during focus groups. Second, they identify the qualitative data analysis techniques best suited for analyzing these data. Third, they introduce what they term as a micro-interlocutor analysis, wherein the meticulous information about which participant responds to each question, the order in which each participant responds, response characteristics, the nonverbal communication used, and the like is collected, analyzed, and interpreted. They conceptualize how conversation analysis offers great potential for analyzing focus group data. They believe that their framework goes far beyond analyzing only the verbal communication of focus group participants, thereby increasing the rigor of focus group analyses in social science research.

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Posted in Focus Group, Research, Research methods | Tagged , ,

The social sciences and the web: From ‘Lurking’ to interdisciplinary ‘Big Data’ research

‘Big data’ is an area of growing research interest within sociology and numerous other disciplines. The rapid development of social media platforms and other web resources offer a vast and readily accessible repository of data associated with participants’ activities, attitudes and personal information on a scale and depth that would have previously been difficult to access without substantial resources. However, as well as offering opportunities to social researchers, this medium also presents a significant range of challenges. Ethical issues are one much debated area where social scientists are having to reassess their longstanding modus operandi, given questions regarding access to personal data and ambiguities regarding its status and legitimate usage. In addition, the scale of data accessible and the possible skills required to collect and analyze it is also a critical issue and is an area that, arguably, has received lesser attention. In its infancy, online research could be fairly rudimentary, employing simple techniques to gather information from weblogs, forums and so on. However, the possibilities now presented by large-scale social media platforms have created the potential for more sophisticated research that often requires specialist technical expertise, involving collaborative work by computer and social scientists working together. This is a scenario that raises its own concerns, not least in terms of forging areas of shared understanding between these disparate disciplines sufficient to facilitate such projects. This article addresses such issues, providing a reflection on the theoretical and practical experience of engaging in online research, from fledgling involvement to embarking on a current collaborative interdisciplinary project. The aim is to provide some insights to other social scientists with respect to some of the potential advantages and pitfalls of web research, while a flavor of the current project, exploring Scottish Referendum and UK General Election-related Twitter data, is also presented.

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Posted in Social media, Social science, Web 2.0, Web-based learning | Tagged , , ,

Epistemological obstacles to interdisciplinary research

What causes interdisciplinary collaborations to default to the standard frameworks and methods of a single discipline, leaving collaborators feeling like they aren’t being taken seriously, or that what they’ve brought to the project has been left on the table, ignored and underappreciated? Sometimes it is miscommunication, but sometimes it is that collaborators disagree. And sometimes disagreements are both fundamental and intractable. Often, these disagreements can be traced back to different epistemological frameworks. Epistemological frameworks are beliefs about how particular disciplines conceive of what it is they investigate, how to investigate it, what counts as sufficient evidence, and why the knowledge they produce matters.

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Posted in Epistemology, Interdisciplinarity, Research | Tagged , ,

Creating a Culture of Inquiry in the Classroom

For the moment let’s set aside the details associated with various methodologies and think about the core elements of the research process. In most cases, we begin with a problem and define the questions we want to answer. We find people or materials to explore and gather relevant data. After we analyze it, we tried to draw some kind of conclusions then share what was learned by presenting it to others in written or verbal form. We carry out these steps within epistemological and theoretical frameworks that help us understand and explain their positions as researchers in relationships with the world. How can we use these steps to build a culture of inquiry in classes we teach?

Here are some suggestions from a learning to research, researching to learn orientation. Depending on the available time and the nature of the class, you can use these ideas to reframe discussions are written assignments, or as the basis for research projects that involve collecting and analyzing data.

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Posted in Classroom, Learning, Research | Tagged , ,

Engaged Urbanism: Cities and Methodologies

Engaged Urbanism: Cities and Methodologies is an imaginative foray into rethinking how scholars approach the city and challenging assumptions around urban research. It mirrors recent academic debate seeking to innovate in contemporary university conditions and attempts to make social research more “crafty” (e.g. Les Back and Nirmal Puwar). In this, it sits alongside Kirsteen Paton arguing for “getting real, going DIY and going live” and also draws on David Beer’s notion of a “punk sociology” in pushing social research in novel directions.

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Read also: Engaged Urbanism: Cities and Methodologies

Posted in Cities, Methods, Urbanism | Tagged , ,

The Methodology for Inequality

How does the methodology of looking at disparities differ from methods as applied to other research efforts?

Most of the econometric methodologies for looking at disparities use the same tools and techniques used in looking at inequality generally. The best tools are the ones that are not limited in their scope to the analysis of disparities. As a result, when one uses conventional tools with widespread acceptance within the broader research community and applies them to specific areas of disparities, one has the opportunity generalize and to use the disparities as an illustration that can be read and embraced across topics.

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Posted in Inequality, Methods | Tagged ,

Ethnography in a Time of Upheaval – Arab Spring

In this interview with Leila Zaki Chakravarti, sociologist Mona Abaza explores how the obstacles encountered by researchers doing fieldwork in enduring political upheavals are addressed in the context of contemporary Egypt. Chakravarti is a research fellow at the SOAS Centre for Gender Studies at London University. She is currently publishing a monograph based on her PhD fieldwork exploring constructs of class, gender and religion within an export-orientated garment manufacturing factory in Port Said, Egypt. Her current research interests focus on constructs of masculinity within the workspaces of professional football.

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Young People’s Constructions of Self: Use and Analysis of Photo Methods

The article examines the use of photo-elicitation methods in an ESRC-funded study of young consumers. Participants were asked to take photographs of consumer items that were significant to them. These were subsequently used in recorded interviews as a trigger to elicit the discussion of the relationship between consumer goods and identity. The analysis focuses on how the features of visual representation influence the versions of identity that are presented. We show how participants both accommodate to and exploit aspects of the photographic image in creating their accounts. This is achieved by using the visual image to bolster identity claims and employing the verbal accounts to edit and contextualize the identity implications of the visual image. We suggest that the photo interview offers participants an opportunity to show rather than ‘tell’ aspects of their identity that might have otherwise remained hidden. It may, therefore, be a useful tool for researching contentious or problematic identity positions.

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