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Getting Started: The Process and

Stages in Social Research Study


Chapter 2

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Picking a Study Topic


A topic appropriate for social research is
one that
you generalize
about social patterns
that operate in aggregates and
are empirically observable.

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Picking a Study Topic


Generalize the topic is beyond one
isolated unique instance; it is likely to
reappear and applies to a broad scope of
people, places, times or events.
Social pattern the topic has regularity or
structure/form describing interconnections
among events, situations or relationships
in a condensed way.
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Picking a Study Topic


Aggregates the topic applies to a
collection of people or other units (e.g.,
families, businesses, schools, hospitals, or
neighborhoods).
Empirically observable the topic
appears in the observable world in a way
that we can detect and observe it using
our senses (sight, sound, touch, smell)
directly or indirectly.
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Picking a Study Topic


 Research Proposal = a detailed plan for
conducting a study on a specific research
question, that includes a literature review and
specific technique to be used.
 A well-written proposal is written to
communicate with all the reviewers, not
just those with expertise in the field.
 Reduce the text sufficiently that the page
limitations can be met with at least a size 12
font.
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Guideline for Good Proposal Writing


 Use diagrams to reduce narratives, and
paragraph titles to facilitate skimming.
 Do not force reviewers to read something
they already know.
 Well organized and readable at first glance.
 Reviewers expect a specific order of
presentation and length.
 5-8 pages for PSM I Proposal
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Conducting a Review Past Studies


 Literature Review = a summary of
previously conducted studies on the same
topic or research question.

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What is a Literature Review?


 A literature review provides the context and the
background about the current knowledge of the
topic and lays out a logical case to defend the
thesis position taken.
A literature review is a written document that
presents a logically argued case founded on a
comprehensive understanding of the current
state of knowledge about a topic of study. This
case establishes a convincing thesis to
answer the studys question.
(Machi & McEvoy 2012)

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Conducting a Review Past Studies


A Literature Review Search Plan:
Evaluate resources
Select and narrow the topic
Learn to use literature search tools
Plan to locate and scan read articles
Allow time to extract the major findings
Final Stagesynthesize

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Conducting a Review Past Studies


 Where do you find the research literature?
A Special Type of Periodical: Scholarly Journals
Peer-reviewed = A scholarly publication that has
been independently evaluated for its quality and
merits by several knowledgeable professional
researchers and found acceptable.
Article Search tool = an online service or
publication that provides an index, abstract database
with which you can quickly search for articles in
numerous scholarly journals by topic, author or
subject area.
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Conducting a Review Past Studies


 Where do you find the research literature?
Periodicals
Popularized social science magazines for general public
Practitioner advice/opinion/news
Opinion magazines
Mass market or trade magazines for general public
Scholarly Journals
Peer-reviewed = A scholarly publication that has been
independently evaluated for its quality and merits by
several knowledgeable professional researchers and
found acceptable.
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Conducting a Review Past Studies

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Conducting a Review Past Studies

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Conducting a Review Past Studies


Where do you find the research literature?
Books
Monographs
Readers
Edited Collections

Dissertations
Government Documents
Policy Reports
Presented Papers
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Effective Literature Review


 Effective literature review should include the
following characteristics (Levi & Ellis, 2006):
methodologically analyze and synthesize
quality literature,
provide a firm foundation to a research topic,
provide a firm foundation to the selection of
research methodology, and
demonstrate that the proposed research
contributes something new to the overall
body of knowledge or advances the research
fields knowledge-base.
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The basic literature review


begins by selecting and
identifying a research interest
or issue for inquiry; this is the
study question

As you proceed,
you will narrow and
clarify this interest
into a research
topic. The research
topic clearly
identifies and
frames the
literature review.

Outcome of
LR will be
development
of a case that
argues the
research
thesis

Basic Literature Review


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How to Conduct a Literature Review:


A Six Step Process
 STEP 1: Refine the Topic
 Go from research question to narrowed topic
 STEP 2: Design Your Search
 Decide on the reviews extensiveness
 Decide which article search tools to use (Boolean search
logic)
 Decide how to record bibliographic information and take
notes (bibliographic databases)
 STEP 3: Locate the Research Reports
 Articles in scholarly journals
 Books
 Other outlets
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How to Conduct a Literature Review:


A Six Step Process
 STEP 4: Read & Take Notes on the Reports
Found
Create source and content files
What to record in notes

 STEP 5: Organize Notes, Synthesize & Write


the Review
 STEP 6: Create the Reference List

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The steps for conducting a literature


review.
Step 6:
Write the
Review

Addresses

Step 1.
Select a
topic

Specifies
and
frames

Advocates
and defines

Step 5:
Critique the
Literature

The Literature
Review
Process

Step 2.
Search the
literature

Documents
and
discovers

Explores
and catalogs

Step 4
Survey the
literature

Organizes
and forms

Step 3.
Develop the
argument
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Focusing On A Research Question


Inductive = research in which you start
many specific observations and move
toward general ideas or theory to capture
what they show.
Deductive = research in which you start
with a general idea or theory then move to
test it by looking at specific observations.

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Focusing On A Research Question


IDEAS

IDEAS

Observed
data

Observed
data
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The Research Proposal


Research Proposal = a detailed plan for
conducting a study on a specific research
question, that includes a literature review
and specific techniques to be used.

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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
1. When do you focus the research question?
2. To what universe can you generalize from
a studys findings?
Universe = a broad category of cases or units to
which the study findings apply.
Sampling is important

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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
3. Which type of research path do you follow?
Linear path = a relatively fixed sequence of steps
in one forward direction, with little repeating,
moving directly to a conclusion.
Nonlinear path = advancing without fixed order
that often requires successive passes through
previous steps and moves toward a conclusion
indirectly.
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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
4. What do you examine?
Variable = a feature of a case or unit that
represents multiple types, values or levels.
Independent Variable = the variable of factors,
forces, or conditions acting on another variable to
produce an effect or change in it.
Dependent Variable = the variable influenced by and
changes as an outcome another variable.
Intervening Variable = a variable that comes
between the independent and dependent variable in a
causal relationship.
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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
4. What do you examine?
Hypothesis = a statement about the relationship
of two (or more) variables yet to be tested with
empirical data.
Null hypothesis = a hypothesis that there is no
relationship between two variables, that they do
not influence one another.

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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
5. How to Look for Patterns in the Data
Quantitative data: rearrange, examine, and discuss
numbers by using charts, tables and statistics to
see patterns.
Qualitative data: rearrange, examine, discuss
textual or visual data.

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The Research Proposal

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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
6. What type of explanation will you use?
Causal explanation = a type of research
explanation in which you identify one or more
causes for an outcome, and place cause and effect
in a larger framework.
Has three elements:
Time order
Association
Alternative causes ruled out
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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
6. What type of explanation will you use?
Grounded Theory = ideas and themes that are built
up from data observation.

7. What are the Units of Analysis in your


study?
Unit of Analysis = the case or unit on which you
measure variables or other characteristics.

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The Research Proposal


A Proposal for Quantitative or Qualitative
Research
8. What is the Level of Analysis of your study?
Level of Analysis = The level of reality to which
explanations refer, micro to macro.
Micro-Level: small-scale (a few friends, a small group)
 Macro-Level: large-scale (entire civilizations or a major
structure of a society).

Warning: Avoid Spuriousness


Spuriousness = when two variables appear to be causally
connected but in reality, they are not because an unseen
third factor is the true cause.
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Components of Research Proposal


















Title & Abstract


Introduction
Research Background
Literature Review
Problem Statement
Research Objectives
Research Questions
Scope of Research
Research Limitations
Conceptual Framework & Hypotheses
Research Methodology
Significance of The Research
Expected Outcome
Conclusions
Project Scheduling
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Problem Statement
 Problem statement components:
 There must be an individual (or a group or an
organisation), to whom the problem can be attributed.
 There must be some environment(s) to which the difficulty
pertains
 There must be at least two courses of action, to be
pursued.
 There must be at least two possible outcomes, say O1 and
O2, of the course of action,
 The courses of action available must provides some
chance of obtaining the objective, but they cannot provide
the same chance
P (Oj | I, Cj, N) represents the probability that an
outcome Oj will occur, if I select Cj in N,
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Selecting Research Problem


 Subject which is overdone should not be normally
chosen
 Controversial subject should not become the choice of
an average researcher
 Too narrow or too vague problems should be avoided
 The subject selected for research should be familiar and
feasible
contact an expert or a professor
read articles published in current literature
discuss with others
Working experience
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Selecting Research Problem


The importance of the subject, the
qualifications and the training of a
researcher, the costs involved, the time
factor are few other criteria that must also
be considered in selecting a problem
The selection of a problem must be
preceded by a preliminary study

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Technique Involved in Defining A Problem


Step 1: Statement of the problem in a
general way
the problem should be stated in a broad general way
the researcher must immerse himself thoroughly in
the subject matter concerning
to do some field observation and as such the
researcher may undertake some sort of preliminary
survey
seek the guidance of the guide or the subject expert
in accomplishing this task
Cool thinking
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Technique Involved in Defining A Problem


Step 2: Understanding the nature of the
problem
understand its origin and nature clearly.
enter into discussion with those who have a
good knowledge of the problem concerned or
similar other problems.

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Technique Involved in Defining A Problem


Step 3: Surveying the available literature
literature concerning the problem at hand must
necessarily be surveyed and examined
well-conversant with relevant theories in the field,
reports and records as also all other relevant literature.
whether the existing theories applicable to the problem
under study are inconsistent with each other,
studies do not follow a pattern consistent with the
theoretical expectations and so on

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Technique Involved in Defining A Problem


Step 4: Developing the ideas through
discussions
Step 5: Rephrasing the research
problem
 rephrase the research problem into a working proposition.
 Technical terms and words or phrases, with special meanings used in
the statement of the problem, should be clearly defined.
 Basic assumptions or postulates
 A straight forward statement of the value of the investigation (i.e., the
criteria for the selection of the problem) should be provided.
 The suitability of the time-period and the sources of data available
 The scope of the investigation or the limits
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Lets Discuss
Statement: Productivity in Japan is much
higher than in India
Why is productivity in Japan so much
higher than in India? General problem
statement

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Narrow the general problem


What sort of productivity is being referred
to?
With what industries the same is related?
With what period of time the productivity is
being talked about?

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Narrowing down the question-more


What factors were responsible for the
higher labour productivity of Japans
manufacturing industries during the
decade 1971 to 1980 relative to Indias
manufacturing industries?

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Better problem statement at the


operational basis
To what extent did labour productivity in
1971 to 1980 in Japan exceed that of India
in respect of 15 selected manufacturing
industries?
What factors were responsible for the
productivity differentials between the two
countries by industries?

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Exercise - Take Home Activity


Choose one journal related to the topic
that you plan to investigate for your PSM I.
Read carefully and find the problem that
the author(s) highlighted.
Give your own comments based on the
problem statement written by the
author(s).

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