Research Methods in Social Science
Social Science 320 … Fall 2016
University of Maine at Augusta
Faculty Contact and Office Hours
Assistant Professor James Cook
Social Media: Google+ | Facebook | Twitter
Office Hours: Wednesdays from 9-11 AM by phone, Thursdays from 8-9 AM and 11:45 AM – 2:45 PM at the University College at Rockland; other times available by appointment
Alternative Contact in case of Emergency: Arts and Sciences Administrative Assistant LeeAnn Trask, 621-3272.
Social science is the study of human thoughts, behaviors, interaction, institutions, and populations. Social science research is a logical approach to improving our understanding of society by building and testing theory through careful empirical observation. This class is an introduction to the methods social scientists have developed to describe and explain the regularities of social phenomena. The tools and techniques of social research are used in a wide variety of fields ranging from business to behavioral health, from epidemiology to economics, from marketing to military intelligence, from psychology to politics. If you aspire to professional work in any environment having to do with human behavior, you’ll need to know about social research.
The results of social research are certainly important, but the process of research can also be rewarding and even fun. Thinking about the way the world works, learning how to ask questions and forging a path to an answer is a lot like designing or completing a puzzle. At its best, conducting research can be like play, and I hope to impart a bit of that joyful feeling as we make our way through the semester.
General Course Outcomes
With successful completion of the course, you will be able to:
Describe the Ideas Behind Social Science Research
- Describe the historical development of scientific methods within the social sciences;
- Describe the limitations of scientific method;
- Explain ethical standards of social science research and ethical limits in social science research.
Practice the Habits of Social Science Research
- Identify, operationalize and evaluate theories, hypotheses, and variables in social science research;
- Enter and organize quantitative data using a spreadsheet program;
- Enter and code qualitative data electronically;
- Select and deploy methods of data analysis involving univariate and multivariate data, varying levels of constraint, and descriptive and inferential research goals;
- Use appropriate software to accomplish analytical tasks;
- Engage in effective communication of research results.
Exhibit Strengthened General Academic Skills
- Critically analyze logical arguments;
- Identify, cite and evaluate available evidence;
- Gain comfort with the vocabulary of academic inquiry.
Your continued participation in class is an agreement to the terms of the course laid out in this syllabus. If you find any part of the syllabus objectionable or worrisome, please contact me as soon as possible so that we can talk about it.
To be used fully, this syllabus needs to be accessed online through the course Blackboard page (available at bb.courses.maine.edu or my.uma.edu) because it contains links to web pages for readings and other resources. I do not anticipate the need to make any changes to the requirements laid out in this syllabus, but I reserve the right to do so under extenuating circumstances or as unforeseen events may warrant. Should I make any changes to the syllabus, I will let you know in advance and through multiple means — by changing the syllabus itself, by posting an announcement and by sending a copy of that announcement to your official university e-mail account.
You will need to acquire one book for this course: The Process of Social Research by Jeffrey C. Dixon, Royce A. Singleton, and Bruce C. Straits, offered for sale at the UMA Bookstore offers this book. Other readings will be accessible from links to web pages in the online syllabus and as citations to journals you can find through the UMA Library web page.
All reading assignments for this class are required and should be completed by the date of the class under which they are listed. If you do not understand the material in the readings, I encourage you to send me a question or see me during office hours.
Internet Access and Computer Use
Internet access and computer use is required for this course in order to access the syllabus, locate readings, complete problem sets, engage in research activities, use library resources, and communicate with me.
I expect you to regularly check the course Blackboard page and your University of Maine @maine.edu e-mail account for messages, announcements and other useful course materials. The internet is the primary means by which you should use this course syllabus, since it contains multiple links to important online resources. If you need help activating your Blackboard and e-mail privileges, call the UMA Help Desk at 1-800-696-4357.
Links to online lecture materials will be provided on our Blackboard page — they will point to a special course website, jamescookuma.com/researchmethods, where course lectures are kept in a publicly available form. You are free to add your questions and commentary to these lectures, but if you choose to do so please use a pseudonym to protect your privacy.
If you have technical issues with Blackboard, give the UMA Information Technology “Help Desk” a try. You can contact them by sending an e-mail message to UMAHelp@maine.edu or by placing a phone call to 207-621-3475.
Following the accreditation standards of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the University of Maine at Augusta has defined “the appropriate workload” for a three-credit-hour course as a minimum of nine hours per week. If you find yourself consistently working more than nine hours per week and are still not succeeding in your classwork, please let me know so that we can identify the source of your trouble and work creatively on devising an efficient study strategy.
Office Hours and Staying In Touch
It’s really important for you to stay in touch with me during the semester, especially if you’re feeling unsure about how to succeed in class. At the top of this syllabus, I’ve indicated when my “office hours” are. These are times when you don’t have to make an appointment to come in to see me — just pop in or give me a call at these times and I’ll be happy to discuss any matters regarding class with you. If you can’t meet with me during office hours, I’d be glad to make appointments for other times, too. I can be reached by phone at other times at 621-3190; if I don’t pick up the phone right away, leave a message and I’ll return your call within 24 hours during the week or within 48 hours on weekends and holidays. You can also e-mail me (email@example.com) at any time. I’ll write back within 24 hours during the week or within 48 hours on weekends and holidays.
Withdrawals and Incompletes
Policy on Withdrawals and Incompletes
The UMA Student Handbook notes that students who officially drop a course before the first week of November 2016 “will receive W grades for the courses they drop. After that date, faculty must assign either a W or WF (withdrew failing).” W grades do not count against your grade point average; WF grades count as a F (0.00) for your grade point average. If students drop after the first week of November 2016 and are not passing the class, I will assign a WF grade.
The UMA Student Handbook notes that “an incomplete (‘I’) grade is a temporary grade assigned to a course when a student has obtained permission of the instructor to complete course requirements at a later date. Incomplete grades will remain so for one semester. At the end of that period, the incomplete grade will be converted to an ‘F’ unless the instructor has authorized an extension.” I will authorize incomplete grades for students who:
- have already completed a majority of the work required in the course
- are currently passing the course
- are unable to complete work for unavoidable circumstances that they document, and
- meet with me during this semester in office hours to negotiate and agree to complete their work by a mutually agreed upon date
The awarding of an incomplete grade is at my discretion. Please see me as early as possible in the semester if you’d like to discuss this option.
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
If you have a disability which may affect your ability to participate fully in this course, I strongly encourage you to make contact with the Learning Support Services Office, your resource on campus to ensure accessibility to this course. I believe firmly in supporting students with accommodations, but I am only permitted to make accommodations through the Learning Support Services Office, and it is your responsibility under the system at UMA to request accommodations promptly and well in advance of any quiz or exam. Here’s how the process works:
- Promptly contact the UMA Learning Support Services Office (phone 207-621-3066, email firstname.lastname@example.org) on the UMA campus to discuss possible learning accommodations. It is the responsibility of these professionals to determine whether you are eligible for accommodations.
- If the professionals in Learning Support Services or Student Support Services determine you are eligible for accommodations, I will be provided with a letter from the office notifying me confidentially that you are eligible for accommodations.
- After you receive approval for accommodations, it is your responsibility to contact me to make specific arrangements to fit your accommodations to the work in class. I will be happy to provide the accommodations mentioned in your letter from Learning Support Services or Student Support Services.
- Accommodations are not provided retroactively, and the process can take some time. This means that it’s a good idea for you to start this process well before accommodations are needed.
More information on accommodations can be found at http://www.uma.edu/disabilityservices.html.
Title IX Statement
The University of Maine at Augusta is committed to providing an environment free of violence and harassment based on sex and gender. Such civil rights offenses are subject to the same accountability and support as offenses based on race, national origin, et cetera. If you or someone else within the UMA community is struggling with sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault relationship violence, or stalking, you can find appropriate resources online at http://www.uma.edu/about/title-ix-info/.
It is your responsibility to complete all assignments on the dates stipulated in the schedule below. The only reason I will accept to reschedule an examination or a due date is an absolutely unavoidable emergency such as a major health crisis, an arrest or a death in the family. For these emergencies, I’ll ask you to submit some form of record (an airline ticket to a funeral or a doctor’s admission record, for instance) documenting that you couldn’t make it to the exam. At that point, I’ll be happy to reschedule the exam or assignment with you. Any graded work that is submitted late less than 24 hours will lose 10 points on a 100-point scale. Graded work that is submitted more than a day but less than a week late will lose 20 points on a 100-point scale. Graded work that is submitted more than a week will lose 30 points on a 100-point scale.
I will post grades on Blackboard within two weeks of receiving your work. There are sometimes delays in the mail which may keep your exams from getting to me right away; if your exam grade does not appear within 20 days of your having completed an exam, please let me know so we can track your exam down.
- Exam. There will be one exam in this class, scheduled for Week 9. This exam will incorporate multiple-choice, definition, skill-based and short answer questions. The exam is closed-book: this means that you must take the exam without any looking at notes, textbooks, other materials or other people. You may only bring your pen to the exam. This exam will count for 20% of your final grade.
- Very Important! Although this is an online course, your exam is completed using pen and paper and will be proctored, requiring you to travel to an ITV site, University Center or another location near you to take an exam. There are dozens of these sites peppered across the state of Maine, so if you live in Maine there should be a location convenient to you. If you live outside the state of Maine, you will be responsible for finding and paying the fee for a professional exam proctor near you. Because I’m asking you to travel a short distance to take the exam, you will be able to schedule a block of 3 hours for the exam at a time that works best for you within a 5-day period on Week 9 — but you need to take action to make the exam system work. Here’s what to do:
- All Students: please go to the website http://www.learn2.maine.edu/exam during the first two weeks of the semester and choose a location at which to take your exam. You MUST sign up for an exam site during the first two weeks of the semester to ensure that appropriate exam materials will be delivered to your proctor site in a timely fashion.It is also your responsibility to contact the location you’ve chosen, before the exam, to arrange a specific day and time which is practical for both you and the site staff. If you need help contacting the site to arrange a specific day for your exam, please let me know by e-mail (email@example.com) and I’ll be glad to help — but this is your primary responsibility.
- If you are a student who does not live in Maine, please find a local education professional who is willing to proctor your exam. E-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the name, title, work address and e-mail address of your proposed proctor. There are many of these across the country at public universities and public libraries; if you have trouble finding a proctor where you live please let me know during the first two weeks of the semester by e-mail (email@example.com) and I’ll be glad to lend you a hand. After you’ve found a proctor, visit the website https://sites.google.com/a/maine.edu/testing-location-registration/home/university-college-out-of-state-testing and fill out the web form you find there so that the folks at UMA can get a copy of my exam to your proctor.
- There is a small extra credit opportunity available for the midterm exam. If you are not satisfied with the grade on your midterm exam, you may raise your grade by choosing one (and only one) exam answer on each exam for which you earned no points. Write an explanation, no more than one page long, in which you answer the question correctly, show why your initial answer was incorrect, and explain why the subject matter of the question is consequential in the study of research methods. Turn in this explanation to me by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Depending on how well you do, you will be given anywhere from no credit to full credit for that exam question. Corrections for the midterm exam are due October 30.
- Problem Sets. You will need to complete ten problem sets associated with chapters of our course textbook; these are listed in the schedule below. Problem sets may be completed on an “open-book” basis: this means that you may refer to your textbook when finding answers. However, the answers you produce must be your own; no copying from other sources or other people is permitted. Each problem set grade will be tabulated as the percentage of answers that are correct. Your overall problem set grade for the semester is the average of your weekly grades, and will count for 20% of your final grade.
- DIY Activities. DIY is an acronym standing for “Do It Yourself.” You’ll be expected to turn in completed results of ten DIY Activities at at various points during the semester; see the course schedule below for specific due dates. DIY Activities will be diverse: for some activities you will collect and analyze data; for other activities you will review your peers’ work; for yet other activities you will share your reflections in essay form. DIY Activities are open-book: you may use all the resources you can find. However, the work you produce must be your own; no copying is permitted. You should also explicitly cite whatever sources you use. DIY Activities will be graded based on both how complete and how accurate they are. Your DIY Activity participation will count for 20% of your final grade.
- Participation Grade for Class Research Project. During the semester, I will periodically ask you to take certain steps (such as generating theories, operationalizing variables, collecting data, and interpreting the results of analysis) to help us complete a social science research project together as a class. Each step will be relatively straightforward (if you’ve been keeping up with your classwork). I will grade your participation on the basis of the timeliness, completion and accuracy of your work on this project.
- Final Research Proposal. Your final piece of graded work will not be an exam, but rather a research proposal in which you identify a research question, review relevant research literature, identify relevant theory, generate hypotheses, and design a research project that you could carry out in the future to answer your research question with an appropriate, detailed research method. This research proposal will count for 20% of your final grade, and will be due to me by December 17.
|How to Calculate your Grade:|
|Final Grade Range|
A: 93 – 100
A-: 90 – 92.99
B+: 87 – 89.99
B: 83 – 86.99
B-: 80 – 82.99
C+: 77 – 79.99
C: 73 – 76.99
C-: 70 – 72.99
D+: 67 – 69.99
D: 63 – 66.99
D-: 60 – 62.99
F: 0 – 59.99
Course Schedule with Readings
All readings should be completed before the class meeting for which they are scheduled.
PART I: FUNDAMENTALS OF SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH
Work in this first half of class is organized week-by-week, with due dates established according to a goal of weekly progress.
Week 1, August 29 – September 3: Introduction
- Read the entire Course Syllabus and Student Academic Integrity Code. If you have any questions about either the syllabus or the code, please send me a question by e-mail to email@example.com September 2.
- DIY Activity #1: Complete the online quiz regarding the syllabus and student academic integrity code, listed as DIY Activity #1: Quiz in the “DIY Activities” link on the left-hand side of our course Blackboard page at courses.maine.edu. Due date: September 3
- Read Dixon Chapter 1: Why Care about Research Methods?
- Complete Lecture 1: Course Introduction — click here to read Lecture 1
- No problem set this week.
Week 2, September 4-10: How Theory and Data Power Research
- Read Dixon Chapter 2, Dixon Chapter 14, pp. 428-435.
- DIY Activity #2, “Paradigms, Theories and Hypotheses in the News,” due by September 10
- Complete Lecture 2: Science, Paradigms, Theory and Data — Click here to read Lecture 2
- Problem Set 1 due September 10
Week 3, September 11-17: The Ethics and Politics of Research
- Read Dixon Chapter 3
- No DIY Activity this week
- Complete Lecture 3: Measurement and Ethics — Click here to read Lecture 3
- Problem Set 2 due September 17.
- Read Dixon Chapter 4
- No DIY Activity this week
- Complete Lecture 4: Reading Research, Designing Research — Click here to read Lecture 4
- Problem Set 3 due September 24.
Week 5, September 25 – October 1: Variables, Operationalization, and Measurement
- Read Dixon Chapter 5
- Complete Lecture 5: Questions, Variables and Data — Click here to read Lecture 5
- DIY Activity #3, “Main Street Sociology,” due by October 1
- Problem Set 4 due October 1.
Week 6, October 2-8: Sampling
- Read Dixon Chapter 6
- DIY Activity #4, “Random Bears” due by October 8
- Complete Lecture 6: The Logic of Sampling — Click here to read Lecture 6
- Problem Set 5 due October 8.
Week 7, October 9-15: Experiments
- Read Dixon Chapter 7
- DIY Activity #5, “Give the Pepsi Challenge” due byOctober 16
- Complete Lecture 7: Experimental Design — Click here to read Lecture 7
- No Problem Set due this week — Problem Set 6 canceled
- Part 1 of the Class Research Project due October 15.
Week 8, October 16-22: Consolidation and Review
- No Readings
- No DIY Activity
- No Problem Set
- Review, Review, Review!
- Send Questions to Me by October 15; Review Lecture and Video to be Posted by October 18.
Week 9, October 24-28: MIDTERM EXAM, to be taken with a proctor between October 24 and October 28. See “Exam” section above for expectations.
Week 10, October 30 – November 5: Field Research and In-Depth Interviews
- Read Dixon Chapter 9
- DIY Activity #6, “Observation, Inference and the Field” due byNovember 5
- Complete Lecture 8: Qualitative Field Research — Click here to read Lecture 8
- Problem Set 7 due November 5.
Week 11, November 6 – November 12: Existing Data Analysis
- Read Dixon Chapter 10
- DIY Activity #7, “Unobtrusive Research in the Maine State Legislature” due byNovember 12
- Complete Lecture 9: Gender in the Maine State Legislature — Click here to read Lecture 9
- No Problem Set due.
Week 12, November 13 – November 19: Quantitative Data Analysis
- Read Dixon Chapter 12, pp. 352-371
- DIY Activity #8, “Entering Data from the Maine State Legislature” due byNovember 19
- Complete Lecture 10: Working with Data — Click here to read Lecture 10
- Problem Set 8 due November 19.
THANKSGIVING BREAK: November 20-26
Week 13, November 27 – December 3: Quantitative Regression Analysis
- Read Dixon Chapter 12, pp. 371-391
- DIY Activity #9, “Contingent Means in Politics” due byDecember 3
- Complete Lecture 11: Interpreting Multiple Regression Results — Click here to read Lecture 11
- Problem Set 9 due December 3.
Week 14, December 4 – December 10: Qualitative Data Analysis
- Read Dixon Chapter 13
- DIY Activity #10, “A Target on Target” due by Decenber 10
- Complete Lecture 12: Qualitative Data Analysis — Click here to read Lecture 12
- No problem set due.
Week 15, December 11 – December 17: Wrap-up
- Read Dixon Chapter 14, pp. 435-445
- Research Proposal Due December 17
The following is a verbatim quote of the Student Academic Integrity Code for all students at the University of Maine at Augusta. The words below not only describe the general expectation for all students at UMA (that your work must be your own) but also my particular expectations for your conduct in this class. You are responsible for learning the standards of academic integrity and ensuring that your work meets these standards. Failure to do so may result in appropriate sanctions — and nobody wants you to end up in that circumstance. If you have any questions about whether you might be violating standards of academic integrity, do two things: First, stop. Second, if you’re in doubt, consult with me to find out what the right course of action would be.
“Plagiarism: the representation of others’ words or ideas as one’s own. For example,
- Submitting as one’s own work an examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project (laboratory report, artistic work, computer program, etc.) that was created entirely or partially by someone else.
- Failure to use quotation marks to signal that one is using another person’s precise words. Even brief phrases must be enclosed in quotation marks.
- Failure to identify the source of quotations and paraphrases. Of course one must cite the source of quotations; one must also cite the source of ideas and information that is not common knowledge even when paraphrased (presented in one’s own words). Sources include unpublished as well as published items — for example, books, articles, material on the Internet, television programs, instructors’ lectures, and people, including other students, friends, and relatives.
- Creating an academically dishonest paraphrase. When paraphrasing the author must find their own way of expressing the original meaning. Simply inserting synonyms into the source’s sentence structures is plagiarism.
- Failure to identify the source of the elements of a nonverbal work (for example, a painting, dance, musical composition, or mathematical proof) that are derived from the work of others.
“Cheating: the use or attempted use of unauthorized assistance in an examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project. For example,
- Copying answers from another student’s examination.
- Communicating in any way with another student or a third party during an examination without the permission of the instructor.
- Using unauthorized materials or devices (e.g. notes, textbooks, calculators, electronic devices) during an examination without the permission of the instructor.
- Obtaining and/or reading a copy of an examination before its administration without the permission of the instructor.
- Collaborating with other students or third parties on a take-home examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project without the permission of the instructor.
“Additional violations of academic integrity include:
“Duplicate Work: Submitting a paper or other project in more than one course without the permission of the instructors. Students are expected to produce original work for each course. A student should not submit identical or substantially similar papers or projects in two different courses (in the same or different semesters) unless both instructors have given their permission.
“Facilitating Academic Dishonesty: assisting another student’s academic dishonesty. For example,
- Writing a paper or other project for another student.
- Permitting another student to copy from one’s examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project.
- Assisting another student on a take-home examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project if one knows or suspects such assistance is not authorized by the instructor.
“Fabrication: For example,
- Fabrication of data: Inventing or falsifying the data of a laboratory experiment, field project, or other project.
- Fabrication of a citation: Inventing a citation for a research paper or other project.
- Alteration of an assignment: Altering a graded examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project and resubmitting it to the instructor in order to claim an error in grading.”
In this class, I encourage you to share notes with other students and to study together for exams. However, you may not collaborate with other students in any way when actually taking exams. DIY activities and problem sets may be carried out as “open-book” exercises, meaning you may refer to your own notes and your textbook when completing them — but you may not copy the work of others, and your answers must be the result of your own work. You may not plagiarize or fabricate in your research projects in any way. You may work cooperatively with members of your group to complete your group research project. The individual research proposal, however, should solely reflect your own work. If I uncover evidence that you have violated academic integrity in these ways, I will notify the University’s Student Conduct Officer for review and possible university-level sanctions. At the course level, possible sanctions include a zero grade for your graded assignment and a zero grade for the course.
Writing a research paper even though may seem challenging is a substantial part of everyday student life. You are required to write at least one research paper in a semester for the majority of the subjects. Do not underestimate research projects, as they demand a huge effort and a lot of time from you. Nevertheless, do not let your research paper assignment give you anxiety and influence your overall studies. To minimize worries and inconsistencies while working on the research paper you must be sure in your research paper topic. There are times when you are assigned to the topic but more frequently, you will have to create a topic by yourself. The whole research should be built around or from the topic. In order to choose an interesting topic, which will demonstrate your best talents, you should keep reading.
How to select the best research paper topic?
When choosing your research paper topic, you need to make sure it is neither boring nor worn out. An interesting innovative topic will intrigue the readers and motivate them to read your whole research. But if you don’t know how to create a topic on your own, use help of writers in topic creation.There are some things to consider when selecting an appropriate topic:
THE FIELD OF YOUR INTEREST
There is no secret that you will not be able to write a good insightful research paper if you are not interested in the subject overall and in the topic in particular. If on the other hand the topic is linked to the field of your interest, you may consider yourself lucky. It would be easier to explore the theme and write about it. You may even find some additional resources on your computer or I cloud service for the topic, which excites you. If you enjoy science, you are sure to talk non-stop about it. The same goes for writing.
A TOPIC SHOULD BE DEFINITE
You need to be sure to understand everything clearly when you choose an essay topic. Do not hesitate to ask questions if there are some unclear points. The more you understand the simpler it is for you to write a successful research paper. If the indistinct issues are still at large, it is advisable to leave this topic be and simply select another one. You need to show the readers that you master of the topic and not a confused newbie who does not know what he or she is talking about.
BE PRECISE AND SPECIFIC
You need to understand completely that you are not writing a descriptive essay. A research paper is an accurate and thorough work, which is based on facts details. You cannot add watery text about anything into the paper. Your statement should be supported with examples or reference other profound research and academical works.
This advice may seem dull if you are working on historical paper. How innovative can you get discussing French revolution or Perl Harbor? However, an innovative approach can give you the edge among other students. A topic should address the matter from a different and surprising perspective. With a deep investigation, you may even find the unknown until now facts that can blow your readers’ minds. This approach will intrigue your readers and will make research paper stand out.