Tag Archive | DT840

Ethical issues in Social Research Projects

This short paper discusses ethical issues as embedded in a TV reality show format that provides the [ill-designed] imagined setting for a social psychology-informed research project looking at group dynamics and performance under stress. The core principles of informed consent, briefing and debriefing, backup, coercion and incentives are applied to the experiment.
You find the PDF below and for download on Slideshare where you can also get a presentation transcript. Creative Commons Licence applies, attribute please. And if you like it: quote, embed – and question it 🙂

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exam revision: deductive versus inductive research strategies

This belongs to the revision of social research strategies, I am going to summarise the key differences between inductive and deductive research approaches – but first what they’ve got in common. Both strategies are rooted in a positivist assumption in terms of epistemology and ontology. The underlying empiricism, i.e. the notion that only knowledge gained through experiences and senses is acceptable, is implemented by rigorous testing. Enlarging the number of instances observed (samples) increases plausibility and the number of regularities being identified. The accumulated ‘facts’ provide basis for general laws of cause and effects. Those are depicted in models as dependent (predictor) and independent (outcome) variables.

Inductive theory is being derived from the observations made. This approach cannot test hypotheses but generates them. In contrast, deduction is theory-driven, it’s based on preconceptions and aims to overcome the limitations of induction. It puts theories to the test, that means hypotheses can be falsified and disproved. The aim is to move closer to the truth, hence the gradual elimination of false theories implies that theories tested and not disproved can only be considered provisional.

Ideally, a deductive approach starts with a theoretical framework (for instance based on Erving Goffman’s ‘stigma’ or Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘social capital’) and the formulation of hypotheses. Usually, this includes an alternative hypothesis (also called experimental H., which states the effect assumed) and the null hypothesis (which states the effect is absent). What follows is the data collection which delivers findings that either result in confirmation or rejection of the null hypothesis and a subsequent revision of the theory.

In practice, though, deduction often entails an element of induction and vice versa. This is rooted in theoretical reflection once the data has been collected or the desire to establish conditions which allow the theory to hold (or not). This continuous weaving back and forth between data and theory and is called an iterative strategy, particularly evident in qualitative research which takes a grounded theory approach and a way to add to the validity of research. In quantitative research, it is advisable to carefully distinguish between the more complex development of theory and the generalisation of empirical findings.

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Research Methods – DT840 and beyond, review of course books

As announced in my earlier post on Research Methods and Skills
I am providing here a brief review of the books which present the set books in my current post-graduate course on research skills and statistics, i.e. the Open University post-graduate course DT840 (DTZY840). The assessment (5 assignments and an exam) is based on the following materials:

LE VOI, M., Sapsford, R., Potter, S., Green, A., Redman, P. and Yates S. (2008) DT840 Course and Study Guide. Milton Keynes: The Open University

POTTER, S (2nd ed.) (2006) Doing Postgraduate Research. London: Sage.
This set book by Stephen Potter – OU Professor, specialist in transport strategies, and course team members – is available on Amazon. There is also a companion which contains related links and chapter excerpts: Potter companion on Sage which, unfortunately, appears to be neglected: 3 listed links out of 4, supposed to connect to ethical frameworks, turn out to be broken. Some of the course assessment is based on the online sources which you will need to find elsewhere. I have listed ethical guidelines in a separate box on the right hand within this blog.

SAPSFORD, R. (2nd ed.) (2007) Survey Research. London: Sage.
Also this one is available on Amazon, interested readers can: search inside. The reviews on Amazon are throughout very negative and the reviewers have gone into great detail with their substantiated critique. It’s helpful to read them and keep in mind the following problems with the material:

  • Lack of a glossary
  • Minimalist link list and Index
  • Key concepts such as triangulation not mentioned
  • Discusses online research settings only very briefly, insufficient
  • References to chapters/figures/boxes/tables rather than to pages
  • 1st edition had attracted equally negative reviews
  • 16 pages contain substantial errors: in formulae, explanations of concepts, tables are wrongly labelled etc. Luckily the OU provides a list of corrections, but it’s not comprehensive and you will need to constantly check and correct.
  • Carelessly compiled bibliography: referencing appears to follow random systems and lacks consistency (the OU prefers Harvard referencing style also in this course).
  • Unclear structure with a wordy approach

[N.B. To make matters worse: NO previous exams available – as common for the majority of courses on OUSA site, yet 1 exam specimen paper is delivered by OU.]
Here is a site which lists Sapsford’s content without providing any evaluation: Sapsford content, overview by OU student.

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Statistics makes me cry – Andy Field makes statistics sexy

„Statistics makes me cry“ – how many times have I seen this over the past months? Too often, I decided Friday night, when I submitted the last piece of coursework for the Research Skills and Survey Methods Master’s course (DT840 / DTZY840 at the Open University which is a compulsory course for the MSc in Human Geography Research Methods, MSc in Management and Business Research Methods MSc in Psychological Research Methods, MSc in Research Methods for Educational Technology MSc in Social Research Methods, MSc in Technology Strategy Research).

With only the exam to go, in October, I felt it is time to write a brief review and summarise the sources I have been using in order to make this least of inspiring courses more useful. Good news first: the course contributed significantly to me growing up as an independent student who critically evaluates sources. I also learned to make hard choices: do I need to gain marks only or will I need to understand the concepts in depth? And hence, perhaps disagree with the course authors which may make me loose marks on the short term but gain on the long term, in future projects. Sadly, it seems, students still have to make such kind of choices, in my case that included discussing with the staff tutor a change of the allocated associate lecturer.

The bad news: at more than GBP1300 you expect a minimum of quality of teaching material – prepare yourself for disappointment, unless you spend a little more on secondary literature and some additional time on the internet. Make the most of it – and enjoy the inspiration that comes with leaving the tightly demarcated patch called „you won’t need to know this for the next paper, exam etc“. There is no rule that says you cannot grow more independent before having finished your PhD.

So, above, in a separate post I will publish a list of resources I have been using with comments and links, hoping you will find it useful or add whatever you think should be added.

And before I forget: my deepest thanks to Dr Andy Field who helped me see the usefulness of statistics, who made me laugh and who made me believe that also writing a statistics book can be real fun (according to all the photos he included and all the references to the 1970 and 1980s). No doubt, he’s heard that before. And he’s been officially rewarded for his teaching talent. I don’t take enthusiastic lecturers for granted, as you may have noticed…

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