1. Ecological fieldwork. Jane Goodall watching
gorillas. Graduate Students observing toddlers at the CCD.
2. Anthropological fieldwork. Observing “primitive”
cultures – e.g., rain forest tribes, teenagers interacting, etc.
3. Sociological fieldwork. Watching people at a specific
event – political rallies, rock concerts.
Direct Observation -clipboard, white coat, checklists - can be behind
Indirect observation-pretending to do something else while observing -
Participant Observation. - observer is actually involved in the
activities - studying motorcycle gangs.
Observing Physical Traces and Archival Records
1. Searching through Garbage Dumps and Landfills
2. Looking through the physical record
3. Library archives - special collections research.
Questionnaires and Interviews
1. Open-ended - guided interviews
2. Closed-ended/Forced Choice - questionnaires
Types of Measures
- Projected Measures - probes into personality, value systems, etc.
- Demographic Measures - height, weight, age, political party
- Physiological and Physical Measures - Body Mass Index,
- Experiments in Controlled Environments - two groups / two
measurement periods in the lab.
- Field Experiments - usually lack a control group - natural
settings, natural groups - War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast.
- Case Studies - in depth analysis of a single group or individual.
- Surveys - The NORC studies.
- Historical Research - marriage records and birth records from
churches establishes the number of premarital pregnancies.
- Content Analysis - content of t.v. programs or school books.
- Secondary Analysis of existing data - Census data uses,
- Evaluation Studies - of existing programs and policies - the 911
- Impact Assessments - from health to frame of mind.
Your job - either now or very soon in your graduate career - is to
isolate a researchable problem, begin reviewing the literature for your
topic area, make your summary tables of the literature, and start to
derive hypotheses from your literature review.
My advice, though not always appreciated by either graduate students
nor my colleagues, is to begin reviewing the literature at every
possible moment. Students who use term paper assignments and
classroom activities as opportunities to add to their stock of
knowledge on some researchable topic will be much further ahead of the
thesis or project when the time comes to see that task through to
A thesis is at least a one year project - the beginning of the process
can start any time while in your graduate program.
Imagine two graduate students, each one with a thesis or project ahead
of them. One waits until the middle of their 2nd year to begin the
literature review - which means they will likely be in their 3rd year
by the time the thesis is completed.
The other student uses term paper assignments for EACH graduate class
as an opportunity to review part of the literature for their thesis.
They'll start at the beginning of the literature and, over their first
three semesters, move to more specific research until - by the time
they are ready to select a thesis committee - they are
practically finished with their literature review and are almost ready
to write up a thesis proposal and have their first meeting. This
wiser, more efficient student will have only the data collection and
data analysis portions to complete - and will likely be finished by the
end of their 2nd year.
My advice is to start to become an expert in some aspect of your
studies by picking an area of concentration that holds good promise of
developing into a researchable idea. If a term paper assignment
is very specific, ask your instructor for some leeway in molding the
assignments to your advantage. You'll be surprised at the number
of your professors who also see the wisdom of this approach.
And that is your assignment for this class - to identify a researchable
idea in a general way.
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