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How to do a Research Project: A Guide for Undergraduate Students

ISBN: 978-1-4051-1489-9
176 pages
January 2007, ©2007, Wiley-Blackwell
How to do a Research Project: A Guide for Undergraduate Students (1405114894) cover image


In How to do a Research Project, Colin Robson has created an essential tool for students. Written specifically to address the needs and concerns of the undergraduate, this tightly focused volume guides students through the process of conducting and completing a research project and is relevant to all disciplines that require the use of social research methods.

Friendly and accessible, this text includes a number of accompanying support materials to aid students further. Closely integrated sets of end-of-chapter tasks covering all aspects of research projects from design to completion, as well as lists of suggested further reading, enhance each chapter. Additionally, an extensive associated website at www.blackwellpublishing.com/researchproject gives students access to a wide range of helpful materials relevant to their particular needs, making this book an invaluable resource.

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Table of Contents



PART I: Making preparations:.

Project planning checklist.

1 Preliminaries.

Recognizing realities.

As a student on a course.

If you are by yourself.

If you are doing this as part of your job.

To everybody.

Making it worthwhile.

Considering your audience(s).

Individual or group research?.

Types of group research.

Support groups.

Working together successfully.

Project milestones.

The structure of the book.

End-of-chapter tasks.

Further reading.

Chapter 1 tasks.

2 Approaches to research.

A concern for truth.

Different purposes of research.





Research design.

The qualitative/quantitative divide.

Fixed and flexible designs.

Fixed designs.

Flexible designs.

Overview of some different research traditions.

Action research.

Case studies.

Documentary analysis.

Ethnographic research.

Evaluation research.


Grounded theory studies.


A note on feminist research.

Choosing an approach.

Further reading.

Chapter 2 tasks.

3 Developing your ideas.

Selecting a topic.

Replication research.

From a topic to research questions.

From research questions to a research design.

Do I really need research questions?.


Developing the design.

Finding and using sources.

Planning the search for sources.

Internet searching.

Library searching.

Asking the author.

Dealing with the sources.

Ethical considerations.

Ethics committees.

Ethics guidelines.

Avoiding the unethical.

Confirming your choices.

Further reading.

Chapter 3 tasks.

4 Selecting the method(s) of collecting data.

Trustworthiness and credibility.



Research arguments.

Data collection methods.


Fully structured interviews.

Semi-structured interviews.

Unstructured interviews.

Group interviews.

Telephone interviews.

Using interviews in your project.

Questionnaires and diaries.



Using questionnaires or diaries in your project.

Tests and scales.

Using tests or scales in your project.

Observation – structured and participant.

Structured observation.

Participant observation.

Using observation in your project.

Using documents and other secondary sources.

Library research.

Unobtrusive measures.

Using documents in your project.

Other methods.

Using multiple methods.

Which method?.

Further reading.

Chapter 4 tasks.

PART II: Doing it:.

5 Practicalities of data collection.

Sampling and sample sizes.

Representative samples.

Non-probability samples.

Informed consent.

Laboratory research.

Gaining access for field research.

Formal and informal contracts.

Getting on and getting out.

Insider research.


Collecting the data.

What to do if you run into difficulties or out of time.

Further reading.

Chapter 5 tasks.

PART III: Making something of it:.

6 Analysing and interpreting your findings.

What this chapter tries to do.

Preparing for analysis.

Quantitative (numerical) data.

Categorical variables.

Ordered categorical variables.

Summarizing and displaying categorical data.

Continuous variables.

Calculating summary statistics with continuous variables.

Calculating variability.

Displaying continuous variables.

Statistical tests and statistical significance.

Effect sizes.

Clinical significance.

What test do I use?.

Qualitative data.

Data reduction and organization.

An example – the grounded theory approach to analysis.

Using specialist computer packages for qualitative data analysis.

Summary of qualitative data analysis.

Interpretation - what is going on here?.

Further reading.

Chapter 6 tasks.

7 Writing the report.

Planning and drafting.

Research arguments.


Reasons and evidence.

Considering your audience(s) again.

Avoiding plagiarism.

Professional standards.

Language matters.


Abstracts and executive summaries.

The first full draft.

Revising and polishing.

The final version.

Other forms of presentation.

A final word.

Further reading.

Chapter 7 tasks.

References and author index.

Subject index

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Author Information

Colin Robson is a Professor in the Centres for Applied Childhood Studies and Evaluation Studies at Huddersfield University, and chief consultant to a major international project on the education of children with disabilities, difficulties and disadvantages, OECD, Paris. He is the author of the bestselling Real World Research, (second edition, Blackwell, 2002).
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The Wiley Advantage

  • A student-friendly and supportive guide to designing, implementing, analyzing and reporting on undergraduate degree projects.

  • A key new volume for the vast study skills market, written by the author of the bestselling Real World Research, Second Edition (Blackwell, 2002).

  • Useful for students studying within the fields of education, health, social work, and the social sciences.

  • Includes closely integrated end-of-chapter tasks, covering all aspects of designing and completing the project.

  • Features links to extensive website material appropriate for a wide range of disciplines and fields of study which use social research methods.
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"Most introductory research methods texts are dreary, overly technical, weighty manuals that no one really wants to read. How to Do a Research Project is not one of these. It is a highly readable, engaging guide that provides the necessary technical detail minus the dryness." (International Journal of Qualitative Methods, Spring 2007)

"An excellent, succinct, comprehensive, one-stop resource. Students and tutors will appreciate the book's accessibility, clarity, ease of use and practical suggestions for how to conduct a well informed and rigorous research project. " Saul Becker, Director of Research, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham

"As someone responsible for an honours thesis seminar in anthropology, where undergraduates are to undertake their own research projects, I found this newest contribution by Colin Robson to be of substantial value and special merit. Robson is keenly aware of the many difficulties encountered by students in making the transition from consumers to producers of knowledge. This work draws in readers with illuminating guidelines and it educates even those with an advanced knowledge in research methods. As usual, Robson is able to synthesize and present knowledge distilled not just from personal experience but also from his coverage of the vast methods literature. He does so in a manner that, far from overwhelming students, furnishes students with an invitation to undertake exciting projects in social research that will surely leave them with a lasting impression."
Dr Maximilian Forte, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University

"Colin Robson has produced a practical guide for undergraduates conducting research projects. The text is clear and accessible and includes material on planning, conducting and writing-up projects. It will be a valuable guide for beginners."
Bob Burgess, University of Leicester

"Having just graduated, I wish this book had been available when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree. Research projects can be very daunting for undergraduate students when they are let loose on a project of their own in the third year. This book provides some handholding during these times with its very clear and logical structure... This book’s main purpose is to aid final-year undergraduate students, but it would also benefit levels one and two as it explains the basics of conducting research projects and general information, such as ethics and plagiarism in a clear and accessible way... This book levels the playing field of information so that all students have the same basis for their projects, e.g., a clear understanding of design and research types... Lecturers could use this book as a primer to save time explaining the basics, thereby allowing more time for expert guidance... How to Do a Research Project brings clarity, simplicity, and brevity to the methodology behind research projects. I suggest that higher-education institutions recommend this accessible and practical book to students as prerequisite reading where applicable."
Tamsin Shaw, University of Leeds (in 'Qualitative Research In Psychology')

"How to Do a Research Project...is a highly readable, engaging guide that provides the necessary technical detail minus the dryness. ... This volume...represents a comprehensive yet concise primer for anyone contemplating undertaking research. It is also a constructive resource for instructors and supervisors of student research. ... Drawing on his lengthy career in research and teaching, Robson interjects the mundane realities, potential pitfalls, and other considerations likely to arise during the research process. ... After reading the text in its entirety, students will find these handy reference tools [text boxes] useful to return to when conducting a live research project. ... Included also is a valuable section on searching, reviewing, and summarizing the literature that will be useful for students. ...for the novice or tentative researcher Robson's commonsense style of writing conveys an intuitive grasp of the process that brings the reader into the "feel" of the project, breaking the research process down into logical, manageable stages, which is empowering and encouraging, rather than presenting the process as a daunting one that can dissuade students. ... At a cost of $24.95 (US/Cdn) this book is accessible to students and it is not just another dry, dull research methods textbook."
Lynn Eldershaw, PhD, International Institute for Qualitative Methodology, University of Alberta (in International Journal of Qualitative Methods 6 (2) June 2007)

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