Methods of Social Investigation Emma Woodman see ” Describe how you would plan and undertake an investigation into why some of this College’s students do not complete their degree courses.’ (You have been given only 100 to finance the study; and one term’s sabbatical. ) Define the variables in the given title After a Research Statement has been formulated it is very important that the researcher defines any variables within it. A variable is any word whose meaning may be ambiguous or which could have several different meanings. This is a crucial stage in the planning process as a vague title renders any results at the end of the research without true meaning. In this case, the Research Statement is the given title ‘Describe how you would plan and undertake an investigation into why some of this College’s students do not complete their degree courses.’ Within this Research Statement there are several variables: ‘college’s’, ‘students’, ‘complete’ and ‘degree courses’. These variables will be defined as follows:’ College’s’ We will take this to mean students at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London.’s tudents’ Undergraduates on a first degree (excluding postgraduates and so on).’ Complete’ Graduate ” Degree courses’ The course for which the student originally registered.
By defining the variables above there can be no confusion as to the meaning of the Research Statement. This process also helps the researcher to focus on the group of people that he wishes to study. Decide on the purpose of the research Having defined the variables in the Research Statement, the researcher now needs to focus his attention on the purpose of the research, and consequently lay down the Research Objectives. This part of the planning process allows the researcher time to consider what he hopes to achieve from the research and ensures that the research represents his objectives. The purpose of our research is to identify the reasons for students failing to complete the degree course for which they were originally admitted (variables already identified).
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The results of the research would allow the college to take action to encourage students to continue their studies and could even be used to aid the selection process and perhaps prevent problems from the outset.
This is the final purpose of the research. Who is to be studied The researcher needs to identify the group of people upon which to base the study. The process is made easier by the fact that we have already defined the variables in the Research Statement. The research group has been thus so far defined as those students of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London who did not graduate from the first degree course for which they originally registered. To concentrate the study group further, the research will be based on those students who left during the academic year 1995/6 only.
The study will include students who were registered in all faculties within the University. Initial sources of information Once the research group has been identified the researcher needs to consider how to identify those individuals which fall within the specified group. In this case, the information we require will be held in the College Registry and also in the Faculty Offices. This information is confidential and is not available to the public, and this difficulty will be dealt with in the next section. How to begin the investigation This particular research project requires the cooperation of a group of ex students of the college on what may be a sensitive subject. Therefore, the first action that we would take is to send a contact letter out to all those within our potential research group.
... I surveyed that a traditional mode of research should be used in all papers which they publish, hence the large proportion of student ... ; (g) psychiatric patients; (h) others (writers, U. S Presidents, religious groups, prison inmates etc. ). The proportions of the subject populations used ...
The letter would describe the research that we are carrying out, it’s purpose and the method by which we intend to conduct it (thereby informing the recipient of what they will be asked to do).
It would then ask the ex student whether they would mind taking part in the research. It would then ask those who are willing to be involved to send some basic details about age, sex, faculty and so on. The letter would not be personalized as we do not yet know the names and addresses of the ex students. We would then take the letter (and copies) to the registry and ask if they would mind sending them to the ex students that they have on their files. This is to protect the confidentiality of the information held at the Registry.
We would also include a stamped addressed envelope in the letter to encourage the ex students to respond. At this time we still do not know the names of the ex students and will only know that information from the response. I would also set a final response date so that we have a cut off point and know when we can begin the investigation in full. After the final response date we would examine the basic details of the respondents (age, sex and so on) and from this information, formulate a Random Sample. Random sampling is a procedure in which bias is removed from the sample.
In other words, we ensure that we do not have thirty women and 3 men in our sample. We would aim to have a wide cross section of people with no one particular group being any more predominant than the other. In official statistics approximately 3% of all students ‘drop-out’ of University. Whilst I suspect that the figure would be lower here, we shall use this figure as a base and given the number of students is approximately 5, 000 would estimate the total number of ‘drop-out’ cases to be around 150. Bearing in mind that the sensitive nature of the research may cause a low response rate we would hope to have approximately 50 research subjects after the random sample. Which method of investigation to use?’ A survey is a method of collecting information from people about their ideas, feelings, plans, beliefs, social, educational and financial background’.
... of thinking. The correct research question must be formulated so as to produce results that the students have to find out by ... habits of this monstrous lizard. 3. The correct research question: Our students are novices in every way: They are novices in ... lifting is choosing the research question carefully. When the research question is not well formulated or when the student goes for information that ...
The survey would be the most effective way of conducting this investigation for several reasons. Firstly, the postal survey allows us to cover a wide geographical area within our limited budget. Secondly, the survey allows the respondent to answer the questions in privacy, which is important given the sensitive nature of the questions and thirdly the survey allows us to correlate the results more easily. Survey design Survey design is a complicated topic as so many points need to be considered together. The points that we would bear in mind whilst designing our survey areas follows: The position of the questions is very important The first question should be clearly related to the purpose of the research as defined in the research statement. The questions should move from the familiar, such as name and so on, to the more complex.
Sensitive questions should be placed in the middle, so that the respondent is still concentrating on the questionnaire but is not put off from starting to answer it. The final questions should be relatively easy to answer as the respondent may be getting bored with the questionnaire. It is very important to ensure that the questions are independent from each other. We should be careful about the language that we use, avoiding emotional language, leading or presuming questions. It is also important to stress the confidentiality of the questionnaire so that the respondents are encouraged to both take part and answer honestly. Bearing in mind these design criteria we would use open ended questions to ask the respondent for basic information about their age, sex, ethnic origin, course title, and year of entry to the college.
We would then go on to ask them why they decided to leave the college prior to graduating. Pilot survey After we had designed the survey we would conduct a small pilot survey on current students at the University. A pilot survey allows the researcher to check that the questionnaire is understandable and so on. It may also give him some idea as to the amount of time it may take to get a response and may even indicate a response rate. On a limited budget, it is hoped that the pilot survey would help to prevent any expensive mistakes later on in the research project. If the pilot survey is successful we would go on to send the survey, with a stamped addressed envelope, to our sample group.
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Survey Results After the final deadline for respondents has passed we would collect together the received surveys and initially examine the basic information (age, sex and so on) to ensure that we still have a random sample. We would then look at the reasons given for leaving the college. The easiest way to correlate these results would be to them in a table such as that displayed below. Reason for leaving Number of respondents Total Change of course IIIIIIIIIIIII 13 Change of college IIII III 7 Illness IIII IIII 8 Not ready to study / year out II IIII 6 Financial / grant problems IIIIIIIIIII 11 No longer wishes to study II 2 English language problems I 1 Accommodation II 2 Other I 1 After we had correlated the results in a table we would calculate percentages to give a more meaningful picture. We would then represent the results graphically in either a pie chart or a bar chart so that the information can be assimilated easily by anyone interested in the results of the survey. Problems with our approach The main problem with research of this kind is the sensitive nature of the topic and the low response rate that might result from that.
Also, those people who reply to the initial contact letter may differ from those who do not and a whole strata of ex-students may not reply to the contact letter because of the reason that they left. This must be taken into consideration when the results a republished. A final problem may be that a large number of students may have left the address held by the college and this may affect the response rate. Conclusion In conclusion then, this method of planning and undertaking an investigation into why some of this college’s students do not complete their degree courses should produce some useable and unbiased results.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Fink, A & Kose coff, J (1985) How to Conduct Surveys Giddens, A (1993) Sociology Howard, K & Sharp, J (1983) Management of a Student Research Project Kane, E (1985) Doing Your Own Research Moser and K alton (1971) Survey Methods in Social Investigation Oppenheim, A (1992 2 ed) Research Methods in Social Relations.
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