Social Science Research Paper Structure:
This Social Science Research Paper consists of 2 Assignments:
Assignment 1 (8%)
Select a topic of inquiry. Obtain 6 social science research articles on the topic, and provide an annotated bibliography of these articles.
Assignment 2 (10%)
Detailed critical analysis of three field research articles. Create a proposed alternative (improved) measurement/analysis including a topic guide for conducting two intensive interviews or brief systematic observations. A brief report your pilot test will be included in proposal paper.
Social Science Research Paper Guidelines:
Select a topic of inquiry. Obtain 6 social science research articles on the topic. At least three must be based on qualitative field research, and at least three must be based on quantitative survey research. Additional articles are permitted for the final proposal paper (eg., experimental or archival research).
- Your introductory paragraph describes your research topic.
State the problem/research question.
This should generally take the form of : “What are the causes of y?”, “What are the consequences of x?”, “Is there an association between x and y?”, “How does x influence y?”, “To what extent does x impact y?”. Include a brief definition of independent and dependent variables and the ideas linking them.
Describe why it matters. Opening statements might address the following issues: Why is it worth studying? Why is this an interesting topic to a sociologist? Is the study of primarily practical and/or theoretical significance? What is generally known or of concern about the topic? What, specifically, do you hope to contribute to your research?
- Statement of the “problem.” I overheard a conversation about…
- Why important. I found the topic (personally, theoretically, sociologically) interesting for the following reasons…
- Theoretical Perspectives. Several people chimed in on various aspects of the topic.
- One individual talked about it in this way…
- Another person looked at it from a different angle…
- Someone else added the following insights…
- Entry point. Finally, I spoke up to add my “two cents” and explained what appeared to be lacking/needed correcting in what was said…
- The annotated bibliography will then include a very short descriptive paragraph (your notes about the article in your own words) on each of the SIX sources you have so far obtained related to your topic. These sources should be published within the last ten (preferably five) years.
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations of books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a concise descriptive and evaluative paragraph (approximately 150 words) called the annotation. The purpose of the annotated bibliography is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of sources on your list. It is also used to jog your memory about articles you have already read as you continue forward with your literature review and data collection.
It should include:
A full citation that includes the author, date, title, and publication information.
Following, a brief paragraph addresses:
- The research question, theoretical framework, and general methodological design of the study,
- Significant findings and substantive conclusions of the study (ONLY as regards YOUR research question),
- A brief, critical analysis of the quality (strengths and weaknesses) of the study.
Waite, L.J., Goldscheider, F.K., and Witsberger, C. 1986. “Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations among Young Adults”. American Sociological Review. 51:541-554.
The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.
The American Sociological Association publishes a “Quick Style Guide,” which provides all the information you need to cite properly both in-text and in your bibliography. The Guide can be found on the course website (and cited in your text).
Now that you have developed your research question, you need to begin the process of developing your research design. Since your proposal will ultimately involve multiple methods proposal, recognize that the process will differ for your qualitative and quantitative studies. You will move toward the development of your proposed design by first providing a more detailed analysis of the research articles on your chosen topic (from Assignment 1).
Assignment #2 Qualitative Field Research
You will complete Parts I-IV for each of your three qualitative research articles. The issues you need to address are outlined below, and your critical analysis will be approximately two typed pages for each article.
- Theoretical Orientation.
What is the research question/topic? What theory is presented? Why is the research important? What are the hypotheses (if any)?
What is the unit of analysis? What is the time dimension? What sampling procedure was used (if any)? Was it appropriate for the research question/ the population under consideration? Discuss the sample size (and demographic characteristics), and representativeness. What was the research setting? Was it appropriate for the research question?
- Data Collection and Analysis Critique
- Has the research set out to test hypotheses or generate theory? How are the main concepts/variables defined and measured? How does the study assess reliability and validity? How were people interviewed/observed? How does the author discuss relationships with participants and reflexivity? How much did the researcher participate-observe, or reveal their identity (overt-covert)? How might the researcher’s feelings or background have influenced the observations and interpretations?
- What form of qualitative analysis does the author apply? Are the analytic techniques (e.g., coding) adequately described? Does the analysis lead to an in-depth understanding of the topic? Does the author discuss member checking and/or negative cases?
- Conclusions and Reporting.
Is the method used appropriate, or well-suited, to addressing the research question or testing the hypothesis?
How do the researchers address ethical concerns? Are procedures implemented that adequately protect participants’ rights and welfare?
What substantive conclusions are drawn from the study? Are the conclusions appropriate to the design and the representativeness of the sample? Does the author discuss alternative explanations of findings or results? Does the research replicate, modify, extend, or contradict previous studies?
Has the researcher reported any shortcomings in the study design or execution? Does the author discuss the implications of the study results for future research?
What do you think of the quality of the research?
- Proposed Research Design
This section will be approximately three typed pages.
First, provide a brief integration (compare and contrast) of the articles to summarize “what is known” about the topic. You might note important similarities or differences in theoretical orientation, sampling/methods, data analysis/results, conclusions, strengths/limitations. Taking the articles together, what do you now know overall about your research topic, and what gaps in existing knowledge still remain?
Then, based on these gaps, propose an alternative qualitative design to replicate, extend, or improve upon the studies you reviewed, particularly addressing any noted errors, limitations, or deficiencies. What population/sampling procedure would you use; why? What qualitative design will you use; why? How will your qualitative design (intensive interview plus participant-observation) differ from the studies you reviewed? What type of individual will you interview; why? What research setting will you use; why?
Include your interview guide (an introductory statement, prepared general questions/probes) and your tentative field guide (who/what you will observe in what setting). You will include your interview transcription and field notes from your two pilot test data collections in your final proposal paper.
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