Perspectives on Social Research
Word Count: 3,000
Question: What difference does using different research methods make?
Please choose one of the following topics from any in the list below and write an essay of not more than 3,000 words providing a comparison of two research methods your ‘home’ discipline would utilise in examining one of the following topics.
a) Professional ethics in mental health care
b) Electronic voting systems
c) Missing persons
d) Sex education in schools
e) Understanding loneliness
f) Older people in rural areas
g) Involving lay people in monitoring environmental change
h) University tuition fees
i) Changing political values between generations
Your account needs to focus on the research methods used in investigating the topic rather than producing a research proposal.
You need to be producing a comparison between different methods in investigating a particular topic, and showing how the different methods inter-relate with the topic.
The following might be a useful guide in thinking about the essay:
a. The conceptual issues that your chosen topic raises
b. The challenges of researching in this area, either from a primary or secondary research perspective
c. The particular methods your home discipline might employ for research in this area, their appropriateness, and the constraints they might put upon your research.
d. The difference that using alternative methods might make to your answer in c.
e. The use of theory in research in these areas, and the way that this structures research
f. Other methodological aspects you believe are appropriate, and which are derived from research in your specific topic area or from the methods literature.
Please note: The topic area that you choose for this assignment must be different to the one you will choose for the module on Research Design and Process, if you are taking this course.
General guidelines for your preparation of the summative assignment
Answer the question. In other words, directly address the essay assignment in the essay.
A conclusion paragraph is often a useful feature of an essay, in which you summarise what you’ve discussed and succinctly and directly address the essay question.
Generally avoid acronyms.
Very carefully proofread your work. Check EVERY sentence for sentence structure, spelling, and grammar. I realise you’re busy and may work up to the deadline but whenever possible, proofread with fresh eyes.
Ask someone else to read your work and, to avoid them having to do much work which would likely put them off agreeing to help you out, ask them simply to circle poor sentence structure, spelling, and grammar. Pay them in food, coffee, or early Xmas presents if you have to, but find a way to get some feedback. This way you will learn to write better.
If you are not a native English speaker, the previous point is very important. This is meant with no ethnocentricity. It is simply a practical issue; I can’t give you marks if I can’t understand your writing.
Do not exceed the word count. Aim for 5% less than the word count.
Avoid ‘over’ writing. There are some motivated, bright people in this class who want to write at a high level. I certainly don’t want to discourage this but part of the skill of being a good academic writer is to be able to write at a high level plainly. In other words, whenever possible, aim to convey complex concepts simply. If in doubt, make a sentence shorter rather than longer – a colleague at FSU used to say, “use bite-sized chunks”. If a simpler word is as effective as a more complex one at communicating a meaning, use the simpler word.