Research Methods for Investigators Level Two 206FIS

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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Department of Social and Community Studies
Research Methods for Investigators
Level Two
206FIS
Research Methods
Mandatory Module for Forensic Investigations Honors Degree
 
Contents
Page
Welcome to FIS Research methods 2
 
Intended learning outcomes 2
 
Teaching arrangements 2
 
Teaching strategy 2
 
Module Outline 3
 
Reading 4
 
Key journals 6
 
CU Online 6
 
Students with disabilities 6
 
Module Assessment 6
 
The Dissertation Proposal 7
 
Presentation of the dissertation proposal 7
 
What you should read 9
 
Warning on plagiarism/cheating 10
 
Attendance 10
 
Submission of your assignments 10
 
Return of marked assignments 10
 
Assessment 10
 
Marking evaluation 11
 
Marking guidelines 11
 
What to do if you fail the assignment 12
 
Session outlines 13
 
 
 
 
 
Welcome to Research Methods
 
The aim of this module is to introduce you to the principles of undertaking social investigative and criminological research and evaluation. You will develop a critical awareness of theoretical debates pertaining to the foundation of knowledge and the relationship between epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology and method. The skills which you will develop will allow you to adopt a critical approach to the examination of social research and to make informed theoretical, practical and ethical decisions concerning the practice of research. The aim is to prepare you for undertaking your research project at Level Three and thus the module will provide you with the skills to identify a research objective and draw up a research proposal. It will then systematically cover the various issues that you will encounter in the research process and the different approaches to gathering and analysing data, which you will have the opportunity to put into practice in your research project at Level Three.
 
Intended learning outcomes
 
On successful completion of this module you should be able to:
 

  1. Explain the underlying principles and practice of different research methodologies and methods
  2. Critically examine a variety of research studies relevant to your proposal in terms of methodological, practical and ethical strategy
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the principles and practice of conducting a literature search and library-based research
  4. Design a meta-analysis of literature relevant to your research proposal

 
Teaching arrangements
Students will be required to attend two two-hour workshops each week as follows:
 
Mondays 11.00 – 1.00
Thursdays 13.00 – 15.00
 
The total study time for the module is 200 hours, which is made up of the formal contact time stated above with the remainder being independent study.
 
Teaching strategy

One of the problems in teaching research methods, also common in many text books on the subject, is that the various aspects tend to be presented in terms of issues (sampling, ethics, data collection, etc) rather than process, and so to the uninitiated doing research can appear to be a very abstract undertaking indeed. In Phase One of this module the teaching strategy aims to take you through the decision-making process that you will undertake when you embark on your own piece of research at Level Three, dealing with the fundamental questions you will ask, such as ‘where do I start?’, ‘how do I focus my project?’, and ‘should I do qualitative or quantitative research?’ in the order they would most likely appear in the process. Each week of this phase you will be introduced to the issues in more detail as you need to understand not only what decisions you need to make, but also why you are making them. However, in order to keep a view of the overall context in which your decision-making will reside, we will use the notion of the research design roadmap, which charts all of the likely key decisions you will make in a way that allows you to see where you are at in the process at any one time, but in relation to what you have already covered. In this way it is hoped that you will develop a good understanding of how the issues and process of doing research fit together, and that the roadmap will be a tool that you can refer back to in a way that will be very useful when you come to do your own research project at Level Three.
 
These sessions will be student focused in which you will develop and present work in progress on a research design that will inform the approach you will take to your assignment.
Intended Learning outcomes.
The intended learning outcomes are that on completion of this module the student should be able to:
1. Explain the underlying principles and practice of different research methodologies and methods.
2. Critically examine social and criminological research studies in terms of methodological, practical and ethical strategy
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the principles and practice of conducting a literature search and library-based research.
4. Produce a research proposal.
 
Assessment
Coursework: 3000 word dissertation proposal. Learning outcomes 1-4.
 
Re-assessment: Re-submission of coursework

Submission.
The course work will be submitted via TurnItIn no later than 23:55 hours on 28th March 2017
However all students are advised to get their submissions in as early as they can. Even a second over the deadline will be considered as late.
All late submissions will be marked 0 and will fail.


Module outline

Week Date Session Title

Phase 1: Workshops
1 23.01.17 Introduction to module and assessment
26.01.17 Research process and research design
 
2 30.01.17 Ethics and research
02.02.17 The role of theory – what is knowledge?
 
3 06.02.17 The principles of quantitative research
09.02.17 The principles of qualitative research
 
4 13.02.17 Reviewing literature & doing library-based research
16.02.17 Data collection: Empirical research
 
5 20.02.17 Analysis: Making sense of the data
23.02.17 Putting it all together and assessment briefing
 
 
6 27.02.17 Workshop introduction and briefing
02.03.17
 
7 06.03.17 Outline approach to research
09.03.17
 
8 13.03.17 Key literature and context
16.03.17
 
9 20.03.17 Methodological approach and justification
23.03.17 Ethical issues
 
 
11 27.03.17 Reading and research strategy and technique
30.03.17 Critical aspects of question design
 
12 03.04.17 Preparing for the research project
06.04.17 Module review
Reading
 
Atkinson, P. (ed) 2001 Handbook of ethnography. Los Angeles; London: Sage
 
Audi, R. 1998 Epistemology: A contemporary introduction to the theory of knowledge. London: Routledge
 
Babbie, E., Halley, F. & Zaino, J. 2007 Adventures in social research: Data analysis using SPSS 14.0 and 15.0 for Windows. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press (Sage)
 
Barbour, R. S. 2007 Doing focus groups. Thousand Oaks, CA; London: Sage
 
Bell, J. 2005 Doing Your Research Project: a guide for first-time researchers in education and social science. Buckingham: Open University Press
 
Berg, B. L. 2007 Qualitative research methods for the social sciences. Boston; London: Pearson
 
Blaikie, N. W. H. 2007 Approaches to social enquiry: advancing knowledge / Cambridge : Polity.
 
Blaxter, L., Hughes, C. & Tight, M. 2006 How to Research. (Third edition). Buckingham: Open University Press
 
Bloomberg, L. D. & Volpe, M. 2008 Completing your qualitative dissertation: A roadmap from beginning to end. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
 
Bond, M., Hughes, C. & Owen, K. 1996 ‘In the Field in the Library: methodological analogies for library-based researchers’. Teaching in Higher Education. 1(3): 373-83
 
Bryman, A. & Cramer, D. 1990 Quantitative data analysis for social scientists. London: Routledge
 
Bryman, A. & Burgess, R. (eds) 1994 Analyzing qualitative data. London: Routledge
 
Bryman, A. 1996 Quantity and quality in social research. London: Routledge
 
Bryman, A. 2004 Social research methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press
 
Colombo, A. 2008 ‘Doing social research’. In C. Alcock, G. Daly & E. Griggs (eds) Introducing Social Policy. (Second edition). London: Pearson
 
Corbin, J. M. & Strauss, A. 2008 Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Los Angeles, Calif; London: Sage
 
Creswell, J. W. 2007 Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA; London: Sage
 
Crotty, M. 1998 Foundations of Social Research: meaning and perspective in the research process. London: Sage
 
Crow, I. & Semmens, N. 2008 Researching Criminology. Maidenhead: Open University Press
 
Dancy, J. 1985 (1994) An introduction to contemporary epistemology. Oxford: Blackwell
 
Davies, C. A. 2002 Reflexive ethnography: A guide to researching selves and others. London; New York: Routledge
 
Davies, M. B. 2007 Doing a successful research project: Using qualitative or quantitative methods. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
 
Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (eds) 2005 The SAGE handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA; London: Sage
 
Elliott, J. 2005 Using narrative in social research: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. London: Sage
 
Elliott, R. & Shankar, A. (eds) 2005 New paths to thick descriptions: Innovativeness in data collection and interpretation. Bradford: Emerald
 
Fuller, S. 1991 Social epistemology. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press
 
Gibbs, G. 2007 Analyzing qualitative data. London: Sage
 
Grbich, C. 2007 Qualitative data analysis: An introduction. London: Sage
 
Hagan, F. E. 2006 Research methods in criminal justice and criminology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Hammersley, M. & Atkinson, P. 2007 Ethnography: Principles in practice. Abingdon, Oxford; New York: Routledge
 
Hardy, M. & Bryman, A. (eds) 2004 Handbook of data analysis. London: Sage
 
Holliday, A. 2007 Doing and writing qualitative research. London: Sage
 
Jupp, V., Davies, P. & Francis, P. (eds) 2000 Doing Criminological Research. London: Sage
 
Jupp, V. (ed) 2006 The Sage dictionary of social research methods. London: Sage
 
Kvale, S. & Brinkmann, S. 2009 InterViews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks: Sage
 
Lennon, K. & Whitford, M. (eds) 2002 Knowing the difference: Feminist perspectives in epistemology. London; NY: Routledge
 
Lofland, J. (ed) 2006 Analyzing social settings: A guide to qualitative observation and analysis. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
 
O’Leary, Z. 2005 Researching real-world problems: A guide to methods of inquiry. London: Sage
 
Ramazanoglu, C. & Holland, J. 2002 Feminist methodology: Challenges and choices. London; Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage
 
Rea, L. M. & Parker, R. A. 2005 Designing and conducting survey research: A comprehensive guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
 
Reardon, D. 2006 Doing Your Undergraduate Project. London: Sage
 
Robson, C. 2002 Real World Research. Oxford: Blackwell
 
Sarantakos, S. 2005 Social Research. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
 
Schostak, J. F. 2006 Interviewing and representation in qualitative research. Maidenhead, England; New York: Open University Press
 
Seale, C. (ed) 2007 Qualitative research practice. London; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
 
Silverman, D. 2006 Interpreting qualitative data: methods for analysing talk, text and interaction. London: Sage
 
Somekh, B. 2006 Action research: A methodology for change and development. Maidenhead: Open University Press
 
Stanley, E. (ed) 1990 Feminist praxis: Research, theory and epistemology in feminist sociology. London: Routledge
 
Stanley, E. & Wise, S. 1993 Breaking out again: Feminist ontology and epistemology. London: Routledge
 
Thomas, H. & Ahmed, J. (eds) 2004 Cultural bodies: ethnography and theory. Malden, Mass.; Oxford: Blackwell
 
Walliman, N. S. R. 2006 Social research methods. London: Sage
 
Yanow, D. & Schwartz-Shea, P. 2006 Interpretation and method: Empirical research methods and the interpretive turn. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe
 
Key journals
 
Journal of Mixed Methods Research
International Journal of Qualitative Methods
Sociological Methods & Research
Survey Research Methods
Ethnography
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography

CUOnline
 
Information about this module and teaching material will be posted on Moodle. However, this is to assist you in your note taking and shall not represent a substitute for attending workshops. It is your responsibility to check the site regularly (as well as the Level Two Criminology notice board) for information and notices regarding the module.
 

Students with disabilities

 

If you have a disability or medical condition and need adjustment to allow you to fully participate in this module (e.g. different forms of handouts, clear communication for lip reading, etc), please inform the module leader so that suitable arrangements can be made.

 

Module assessment


Assessment for this module will be by a single coursework component comprising the following::
 

  • 3000 word dissertation proposal (weighting 100% of module mark which assesses learning outcomes 1-4)

 
Pass requirement for the module is a minimum mark of 40% in this assessment.
 
Please note that this module is pre-requisite for 303FIS Forensic Investigative Project and therefore you must pass this module before you are able to undertake these research project modules at Level Three.
 

The dissertation proposal


When conducting a piece of research the common starting point is to draw up a research proposal setting out what the research is about, the aims and objectives of the study, the context in which the research will be based (for example, an exploration of what work has already been conducted in the topic area), the research design and the methodology that underpins it (for example, the practical and theoretical decisions that need to be made about how to conduct the research), and the considerations that need to be made to ensure that the research is carried out in an ethical manner.
 
The aim of the assessment is twofold:
 

  • To enable you to demonstrate your capability in designing a small-scale research project and communicating clearly your intentions in respect of the criteria set out above
  • To develop a proposal that will form the basis of your research project at Level Three.

 
The second aim is important – in choosing the topic on which to base your dissertation proposal you need to ensure it is something that interests you and you intend to study since proposals will be used to allocate you to a dissertation supervisor and assess the ethical aspects of your proposal for ethics approval.
 
Presentation of the dissertation proposal
 
Presentation shall be in A4 format (on both sides of the paper if you wish) using minimum 12 point font with double line spacing and all pages stapled together (no ring binders, plastic binding strips or plastic wallets please). Failure to adhere to these presentation requirements will result in you being marked down, and if you present work that is difficult to read, for example by being in too small a font, it may not be read and you will fail the assignment.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your assignment shall be presented in the following format:
 
Title Page:
This shall contain:

  • Your student number;
  • The module number and title (206FIS Research Methods for Investigators);
  • Module leader (Chris Haycock)
  • Assignment title (Dissertation Proposal);
  • Year (2016/17)


Research topic, aims and rationale (approx. 800 words)
Task: Outline the topic and provide a brief background to your research. State your rationale for carrying out the research and the key questions/issues that you wish to address.
 
Note: The first steps in the research process involve deciding on the broad topic of your research and then narrowing this down to a particular aspect of that topic area that you would like to study. You need to formulate a clear question that you want to investigate and answer in your study, although you may have arising from that question additional subsidiary questions. You should also have a sound rationale for undertaking the research. For example, what makes the topic important or of particular interest and to whom? The term rationale implies a deeper meaning than reason and so you should look beyond your own interest when justifying your choice of topic. ‘I chose this topic because I was interested in it’ is simply not good enough! Instead, concentrate on wider concerns; for example, evaluating a policy for which little or no evaluation has been carried out before.
 
Key literature (approx. 800 words)
Task: Carry out a brief review of the key literature relating to your area of research and set out the main issues that arise and will inform your own exploration of the topic.
 
Note: You need to look at what other writers have written, what other research has been conducted, and indeed what theories may apply to the topic of your research. In other words, you need to contextualise your enquiry in what is already out there in the public domain before you can go on and develop it through your own research. Remember, coverage of the literature needs to be critical rather than just descriptive. If you intend to do a library-based study, this aspect of your proposal will be particularly important.
 
Methodology (approx. 800 words)
Task: Discuss the research design that will guide your project including the epistemological and practical issues that have influenced your methodological approach and chosen method of data collection.
 
Note: Your proposal should contain a discussion of your chosen methodology, When you carry out research, irrespective of its nature, you make decisions about how you are going to gather your data and why you choose to do it a particular way. These decisions are based on two fundamental elements of any research: first, theoretical in the sense of the assumptions you make about knowledge and how it can be captured (epistemological assumptions) and second, practical in that there will be opportunities and obstacles that present themselves in the research setting (remember that in library-based research the library is your research setting so these considerations still apply) to influence your progress (access, sampling, resources, etc.) that need to be accounted for at the outset and negotiated during the process.
 
Ethical issues (approx. 600 words)
Task: Discuss the main ethical considerations in carrying out research and explain what (if any) consequences are associated with your own research and the steps you anticipate taking to account for these.
 
Note: Ethical issues can be broadly categorised as legal and good practice. For a comprehensive discussion of these issues, see http://www.socscidiss.bham.ac.uk and click on Research Ethics for Projects Involving Data Collection with Human Participants. If you carry out empirical research (e.g. fieldwork involving human participants) then there will be a number of ethical issues that you need to consider, and you will need to demonstrate how you will deal with them before you can go into the field. If you do library-based research using documentary sources already in the public domain and not involving human participants, then many of the ethical issues associated with empirical research will not apply. However, there are still issues that affect all research that you should consider, such as honesty in the compilation and presentation of data, as well as any ethical issues that may have presented dilemmas in approaching your research empirically, thus justifying your decision to undertake library-based research.
 
Reference List
A full list of the references used in your assignment set out in alphabetical order of lead author surname using the CU Harvard system of referencing only. Remember to ensure that references in your text appear in your reference list and vice versa.
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
Your proposal should be written clearly and concisely and should keep to the word limit for the assignment (plus or minus 10%). This will not include title page or reference list. Please bear in mind that the suggested number of words for each section is for guidance and may vary according to the type of research to be undertaken. For example, an empirical study involving some sort of fieldwork will require a more detailed consideration of ethics than a library-based study, whereas a library-based study will focus more attention on the literature part of the proposal so you will need to prioritise your use of words accordingly.
 
Do remember that you will be expected to adhere to good academic standards in the presentation of your work and will be marked accordingly. Write in proper English – do not use text-messaging language, such as u for you and so on. Do not use abbreviations, such as don’t for do not, or I’m for I am. Proof read your work checking for spelling and typographical errors as well as legibility….and do reference the ideas of others and any factual material you present.
 
What you should read
 
To assist your work on this module you will need to read around the topics, and to get the most out of workshops you are expected to prepare for each session before the workshop so that you are able to make a meaningful contribution to the workshop discussions.
 
Any work presented in workshops or entered into your dissertation proposal should be well referenced from bona fide sources (see below), without which you will not perform well on this module. As stated earlier, referencing should reflect the influences on your ideas and support any factual statements you make. You should also aim to provide references throughout your dissertation proposal, not just in the literature section. Rather than stipulate a set number of references, you are required to think about the appropriateness of your reading to what you have written to make sure you avoid anecdotal statements or uninformed opinions. However, as a guide anything less than a dozen sources will be classed as limited reading and you should expect to present a reference list well in excess of this figure.
 
Your reading should be predominantly from books and journal articles recommended in this module guide or other relevant academic texts. The reading list is taken from the library catalogue and is comprehensive but not exhaustive and you are encouraged to search more widely, particularly from the library academic databases. Bear in mind also the appropriateness of the text to the level of study. Reference to introductory texts is fine but if the whole work is based solely on reading from elementary texts, then you will not deepen your knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. Do not reference
Lecture/workshop presentational material.

You may use internet sources for some of your background research but only bona fide academic and organisational sources, such as online journals, and government and academic institution websites will be acceptable. Much other web material that you will find through Google for example, such as Wikipedia, is not subject to academic scrutiny and peer review so may be unreliable, or often personal and anecdotal (knowledge pertaining to what people think rather than necessarily what has been substantiated). Please note that if you rely solely on inappropriate reference material your work will be marked as having no reading or references. If you present your assignment with no appropriate references at all you will fail.
 
As previously mentioned, where you have referred to other texts you need to provide evidence of your reading through proper referencing in the text and a reference list. Do not provide a bibliography as this lists texts that you have read but not referenced and it is important to demonstrate which texts have contributed to your thinking and writing. Do notuse any other referencing system. Marks will be awarded according to how much reading is apparent and its appropriateness to your work, as well as how well you have referenced it. Remember, you will lose marks for lack of evidence of reading and proper referencing and where you have drawn on sources with no acknowledgement, you run the risk of being accused of plagiarism – see below.
 
If you are in doubt about how to reference, what to reference or the suitability of a particular web source please seek advice from the module leader.
 
Warning on plagiarism/cheating
 
The University has a policy on plagiarism and cheating in assessments (see your student handbook) and you are advised to familiarise yourself with this before undertaking the assessment for this module. Plagiarism is a growing concern and the University does take such cases very seriously. Suspected cases will be referred to the Faculty Examinations Investigatory Panel and, where upheld, these will be dealt with severely. If you are unsure about how to avoid plagiarism and other forms of cheating in your work please consult with the module leader for advice.

Attendance
 
Since your assignment will be based on work carried out in workshops that will contribute to the development of your proposal, attendance is essential. It will be difficult to pass this module with poor attendance. If you are unable to attend through ill health or other unavoidable circumstances, you must contact the module leader.
 
 
 

Submission of your assignment
 
One copy of your assignment shall be submitted online through Turn it In on (or before) 23.55 on Tuesday 28th March 2017.

Please note that under University regulations you MUST make a submission on or before the due date, even if it is only a token submission (a title page for example), and failure to do so will result in you not being eligible to re-sit with consequent impact on your ability to achieve your named award. The only exception to this rule will be if you have applied for and been granted a deferral prior to the submission date (see University deferrals policy for more details). Remember there is no scope for late submission you MUST submit by the due date unless you have a deferral. All work submitted after the deadline will receive a mark of 0%.

Return of marked assignments
 
Marked assignments will be returned to the Assignment Handling Office in the Richard Crossman Building within three weeks of the submission date, as set out in the University’s policy on Coursework Submission, Return and Feedback. You are advised to collect your assignment as soon as it becomes available for collection (see the AHO notice-board for module assignments ready for collection) as it will only be stored there for a limited period of time after which it is unlikely to be available to you. Please do collect your work as it will contain guidance on your performance and, particularly, how you can improve.

Assessment
 
The following marking evaluation shall form the basis of assessment for the coursework assignment:
 
Marking evaluation

ExcellentGoodAveragePoorVery poor
Research topic, aims and rationale
Key literature
Methodology
Ethical issues
Evidence of reading
Standard of referencing
Overall presentation of work

Marking guidelines

 
First class

An excellent assignment (70%+) will present a deep and critical proposal based on thorough background research with a solid understanding of the research process and its various issues demonstrated. Presentation will be clear and logical. It will be evident that substantial reading around the subject has taken place supported by good reference to an appropriate academic literature base, correctly set out in the text and reference list. Some minor errors or discrepancies in referencing will be tolerated provided these are very limited. Writing will be well-structured and coherent. Some minor writing errors will be tolerated but only provided these are limited. The brief shall be fully met in terms of content.

 
Upper second class

A good assignment (60 – 69%) will present a sound critical proposal based on good background research with a good understanding of the research process and its various issues demonstrated. Presentation will be clear and logical. It will be evident that considerable reading around the subject has taken place supported by fair reference to an appropriate academic literature base, correctly set out in the text and reference list, although some anecdotal statements will be tolerated provided these are very limited. There may be some minor errors or discrepancies in referencing provided these too are very limited. Writing will be well-structured and coherent although limited minor writing errors will be acceptable. The brief shall be fully met in terms of content.

 
Lower second class

An average assignment (50 – 59%) will present a fair critical proposal based on adequate background research, although there may be more descriptive content than is necessary to contextualise your discussion. Presentation will be largely clear and logical. There will be adequate reference to an appropriate academic literature base and although there may be some anecdotal commentary or unreferenced statements evident, it will be clear that some reading around the subject has taken place. A work that is well argued and presented but with only a basic level of reading evident and lightly or inappropriately referenced will not be awarded higher than a lower second class mark. Writing shall be coherent and reasonably presented, although there may be writing errors as long as these are not significant or protracted. The brief shall be met in terms of content.

 
Third class

A below average assignment (40 – 49%) will present a largely descriptive proposal, while there should be evidence of some attempt at background research and critical engagement, this may be limited and superficial. Presentation may lack imagination and whilst meaning should be reasonably well conveyed, some lack of clarity may be evident. There will be some indication of reading around the subject but there may be many areas of anecdote. References may be below the minimum requirement and there may be some lack of rigour in referencing, but there will be some attempt to properly reference the work. A work that is well written but has limited evidence of reading and well below the requirement for referencing shall not be awarded higher than a third class mark. Although there may be writing errors, some of which are significant or protracted, these shall not interfere with the conveyance of meaning and generally the writing shall be largely coherent and reasonably presented. The brief will be largely met in terms of content.

 
Marginal fail

A poor assignment (30 – 39%) will present a fairly sketchy and largely descriptive proposal with little or no attempt at background research or critical engagement. Some lack of understanding and effort may be evident. Presentation may lack coherence and meaning may not be fully conveyed. There may be little or no indication of reading around the subject with most statements made anecdotally, and limited or absence of referencing. Any referencing included may be inappropriately sourced and inaccurately set out. Writing may be incoherent in parts and poorly presented and writing errors may be significant and protracted. A proposal that is otherwise presented appropriately but with no evidence of reading and no appropriate references will not be awarded higher than a marginal fail. There may be some shortcomings in meeting the brief in terms of content.


Fail

A very poor assignment (0 – 29%) will present a totally sketchy and descriptive proposal and will reflect a general lack of understanding and/or a total lack of effort. Presentation will be poor with little coherence and meaning may be only partially conveyed or absent altogether. There may be little or no indication of reading around the subject, mostly or totally anecdotal commentary and limited or no referencing, which will be largely inappropriately sourced and inaccurately set out. Writing may be incoherent and poorly presented and writing errors may be significant and protracted. In addition, there may be significant shortcomings in meeting the brief in terms of content.

 
Although marking is not an exact science, the marking guidelines above nevertheless provide you with a good indication of what you need to produce to gain the mark you desire; it is no use expecting an upper second class mark if you have done little reading, or have relied heavily on lecture material, and there are few references to support your work.
 
What to do if you fail the assignment
 
If you receive a mark below 40% for this assignment you will fail both the assignment and the module and will need to re-sit in the late summer re-sit period. You will receive notification about the submission date for re-sit coursework after the exam boards in June of the current academic year. If you need to re-sit this assignment you are required to re-submit your dissertation proposal in exactly the same format as the first submission and you will be expected to improve your work taking account of the comments and advice given in the feedback from your first submission and thereby bringing your assignment at least up to the pass mark. Remember that after re-sits module marks are capped at 40% but you may be awarded a higher mark for the assignment itself.

If you submit but fail this assignment at the first attempt you will be automatically registered for a re-sit and must re-submit by the re-sit deadline (your second attempt). If you fail your second attempt then you will have to re-take the module the following year, or a subsequent year depending on the number of failed modules carried and at the discretion of the Programme Assessment Board. Remember failing this module will delay your entitlement to do your third year dissertation, which will impact on the length of study for your degree.
 
Important! Please note:
University regulations allow you a maximum of four attempts at a module after which you cannot proceed with that module and this will also affect the award you will receive if you go on and complete your course.

Session Outlines

Phase One

1.1 (23 January 2017): Introduction to module and assessment

What does doing research mean and why do we do it? Where do we start if we want to undertake a research study and what steps do we need to go through? What decisions need to be made and what impact will they have on the shape our research will take? This first session provides a general introduction to doing research and sets about providing an overview of what doing a piece of research will entail. It will briefly outline the way the module will develop week by week and what will be expected of you in terms of the programme and the assessment.
 
1.2 (26 January 2017): Research process and research design
Drawing up a research design involves a series of decisions about the topic to research and the question or questions the research will ask that lead to an appropriate means of gathering data suitable for capturing a particular type of knowledge. For example, should we predict the outcomes of an interrelationship between phenomena (formulate a hypothesis in what is known as a deductive approach) and then conduct a test or experiment to prove or disprove our hypothesis? Or, should we go into the research setting with no preconceived ideas about what we will find and see what turns up and then attempt to make sense of it (what is known as an inductive approach)? The session this week aims to give you an overview of those key decisions and introduces you to the key terms and processes you will encounter when doing research and you will be encouraged to begin thinking about the topic of your own research project.
 
2.1 (30 January 2017): Ethics and research
One of the fundamental tenets of doing research is that it shall not cause harm; in other words, it should protect the rights, safety, dignity and wellbeing of those who participate in research. It should also protect the safety and wellbeing of those engaged in carrying out the research. As such, ethical considerations affect, and should therefore inform, every aspect of the research process, particularly the methodology and methods decision-making. In response all research needs to go through an ethics vetting process and to conduct research as an undergraduate you will need to seek ethics approval for any project that involves primary research with human participants. In this session we look at the types of ethical issues likely to affect research in the social sciences and steps taken to deal with them, and the ethical approval process you will undergo in carrying out your own research project at Level Three.
 
2.2 (02 March 2017): The role of theory – what is knowledge?
One of the fundamental decisions to be made when embarking on research is whether to do quantitative or qualitative research. However, that decision is based in a deeper theoretical and philosophical debate about what knowledge is and how people know what they know. This is known as epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and is important in enabling you to align your means of gathering data with the type of knowledge you set out to capture. The aim of the session is to explore the term epistemology and related concepts with a view to enabling you to begin to make key decisions about your own research design.
 

3.1 & 3.2 (6 and 9February 2017) The principles of quantitative and qualitative research

Drawing from our previous exploration of research design and underpinning epistemology these two sessions will be devoted to the two broad approaches to research, quantitative and qualitative research. Here we will look at the main rationale for each and how research designs might look using either approach.

4.1 (13 February 2017): Reviewing literature and doing library-based research

All research entails some sort of review of the literature on a chosen topic. This is necessary to situate new research within the context of what has been done before and what is therefore already known. However, we should not necessarily take what others have done as unproblematic and this is why reviews of the literature should be critical. For example, there may already be studies conducted on your topic that you want to replicate, but you may be critical of their methodologies and choose another approach, coming at knowledge generation from a different direction. We will discuss what comprises a literature review and the different forms it can take depending on your research design, and you will have the opportunity to review some literature. We will also explore what constitutes library-based research and how this is similar to, but also different from, reviewing the literature.
 

4.2 (16 February 2017): Data collection – empirical research

Arising from, and aligned with, the broader decisions about methodological strategy are the means of gathering data. Different research methods will access different types of knowledge in different ways. However, it is also important to realise that the choice of data collection method is dictated by what is possible and practical as much as it should be about alignment with theory. In this session we will look at different methods, how they logically relate to theory and their pros and cons in order that you can start to put the pieces together to make a comprehensive research proposal.

5.1 (20 February 2017): Analysis – making sense of the data
In order to complete our research journey we need to consider what we need to do with our data once it has been collected, in other words the process of data analysis and how we draw conclusions from it. It is important to remember that data analysis is integral to the research design and links back to the fundamental principles of our chosen research strategy, for example either a qualitative or a quantitative approach, and you will have the opportunity to carry out some analysis on both empirical and documentary data in this session.
 
5.2 (23 February 2017): Putting it all together & assessment briefing
This session will be dedicated to drawing together the issues covered in Phase One of the module and re-visiting the requirements of the assignment. Arrangements and expectations for the second phase of the module will be discussed.
 

6 (27 February and 02 March 2017): Workshop introduction & briefing

This first week of the second phase will be used to acquaint you with modus operandi and rationale for the sessions that follow. You will be allocated to action learning sets within your workshop cohort and you will remain and work in these for the rest of the module. Each action learning set will be given a different research topic for which you will prepare a research design stage by stage by exploring different aspects of the research design process over the ensuing weeks. The weeks that follow will be conducted on a student-centred basis in which workshop activities will be based on each action learning set presenting the results of their exploration on the various issues. The aim is to replicate the process you will go through when drawing up your own research design for your assignment, and you will be encouraged to reflect on how the workshop activities will inform your approach to your own research proposal.

7 (6 & 9 March 2017): Outline approach to research

Having been given your general topic, you will be expected to narrow this down to a focused project and develop a broad outline of how you will carry out the research, including rationale, research objective, outline methodological approach and ethical considerations.

8 (13 & 16 March 2017): Key literature and context
This week you will present the context of your research in respect of existing knowledge: previous research, critical debates, theoretical perspectives and so on. You will have conducted a literature search and identified key themes in the literature, explaining how these will inform your own research approach.

9 (20 & 23 March 2017): Methodological approach and justification
In preparation for this session you will need to have explored the literature on research methods and methodology and you will outline the methods you have chosen to conduct your research and justify your choice in terms of theoretical underpinning.
 
10 (27 & 30 March 2017): Ethical issues
This session will debate the principles of doing research ethically with particular reference to the dilemma inherent in some types of research between the desire to gain knowledge and the limitations that ethics place on means of gathering data, particularly with regards to difficult to research populations. You will be asked to take a stance on ethics and justify your position.
 
11 (3 & 6 April 2017): Final research proposal
In this final session you will briefly present your final proposal and reflect on the lessons learned in the process of considering research design in depth, and how you will apply your learning to your assignment.
 
 
 
 

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