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Quantitative data may also result from non-participant observations or other measurements (e.g. in an experimental design). Also, sometimes data that are collected through qualitative processes (participant observation, interviews) are coded and quantified. Your research methods tutor can give you further information on these types of data, but here are some common quantitative data collection methods and their definitions:
Yes. If you decide to do a primarily theoretical dissertation, it is almost certain that your dissertation will be entirely literature-based. This is likely to be the methodology of theoretical analysis: selection and discussion of theoretical material and descriptive material, in context, and detailed comparison of theories in terms of their applicability. You might ask how useful certain concepts or theories are for understanding particular patterns of behaviour. How useful is the concept of institutional racism? Is objectivity in the media possible? How useful is subcultural theory for understanding virtual communities? Here, the focus of attention is not so much to discover something about the social world, for example virtual communities, as to reach a judgement about the value of key concepts or theories in understanding that world. How the study is approached and how contrasting approaches are drawn upon needs to be stated very clearly.
A library-based or theoretical study is not necessarily 'easier' than an empirical study, indeed, it may well be harder. Remember that theoretical studies, like data-based studies, need to have their research design spelled out from the start.
But even if your dissertation is more empirically focused, it could still be entirely literature-based. You might choose to conduct a review of a field of work. What does the research literature in this field tell us about x? While all dissertations will include a literature review, it is possible to produce a dissertation that is entirely based on a review of the literature. If you do this, it is important to review the literature from an explicit angle and identify some themes to make the review distinctive. You might, for example, explore empirical debates in your chosen field across different countries or time periods.
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There are a range of documents that already contain research data that you can analyse. You may, for example, be interested in exploring whether gender stereotypes in the media are changing. This might entail content analysis of newspapers, magazines, video or other media over different time periods. Here you would not be collecting your own data but instead would be analysing existing documents.
11. What is a proposal anyway? A good proposal should consist of thefirst three chapters of the dissertation. It should begin with a statementof the problem/background information (typically Chapter I of the dissertation),then move on to a review of the literature (Chapter 2), and conclude witha defining of the research methodology (Chapter 3). Of course, it shouldbe written in a future tense since it is a proposal. To turn a good proposalinto the first three chapters of the dissertation consists of changingthe tense from future tense to past tense (from "This is what I wouldlike to do" to "This is what I did") and making any changesbased on the way you actually carried out the research when compared tohow you proposed to do it. Often the intentions we state in our proposalturn out different in reality and we then have to make appropriate editorialchanges to move it from proposal to dissertation.
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b. Choose your methodology wisely. Don't be too quick in running awayfrom using a quantitative methodology because you fear the use of statistics.A qualitative approach to research can yield new and exciting understandings,but it should not be undertaken because of a fear of quantitative research.A well designed quantitative research study can often be accomplished invery clear and direct ways. A similar study of a qualitative nature usuallyrequires considerably more time and a tremendous burden to create new pathsfor analysis where previously no path had existed. Choose your methodologywisely!
If you are interested, for example, in doing historical research, you may need to visit archives. Government reports and autobiographies may also be used as data.
Other documents include official statistics, datasets (statistical data), and banks of interview transcripts which are all freely available to the academic community. Increasingly, documents, databases and archives are readily accessible online. Research Methods tutors on your course will be able to advise on the availability and accessibility of such data sets.
There are some advantages of doing secondary analysis, particularly if you are doing a quantitative study. You will be able to work with much larger datasets than you could have collected yourself. This has the following advantages:
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I ask the student to prepare a 20-25 minute presentation that reviewsthe entire study. This is done through the help of a series of 10-12 largepieces of paper, wall charts, that have been posted sequentially aroundthe walls of the room. Each piece of paper contains key words regardingeach of the different aspects of the study. Some pieces of paper containinformation about the study setting, questions and methodology. Other piecesof paper present findings and finally there are those pieces that presentthe conclusions and implications. By preparing these wall charts aheadof time the student is able to relax during the presentation and use thepieces of paper as if they were a road map toward the goal. No matter hownervous you are you can always let the wall charts guide YOU throughyour presentation. Lettering is done with a dark marking pen and extranotes are included in very small printing with a pencil (that no one canreally see). We've also tried it with overhead projected transparenciesbut it doesn't work as well. With the transparencies they're gone fromview after a few seconds. The wall charts stay up for everyone to see andto help focus attention.
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12. Focus your research very specifically. Don't try to haveyour research cover too broad an area. Now you may think that this willdistort what you want to do. This may be the case, but you will be ableto do the project if it is narrowly defined. Usually a broadly definedproject is not do-able. By defining too broadly it may sound better toyou, but there is a great chance that it will be unmanageable as a researchproject. When you complete your research project it is important that youhave something specific and definitive to say. This can be accommodatedand enhanced by narrowly defining your project. Otherwise you may haveonly broadly based things to say about large areas that really providelittle guidance to others that may follow you. Often the researcher findsthat what he/she originally thought to be a good research project turnsout to really be a of research projects. Do one project for yourdissertation and save the other projects for later in your career. Don'ttry to solve all of the problems in this one research project.
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