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How to do a Research Project: A Guide for Undergraduate Students, 2nd Edition

How to do a Research Project: A Guide for Undergraduate Students, 2nd Edition

Colin Robson

ISBN: 978-1-118-69132-8

Dec 2016

170 pages

Select type: Paperback

Out of stock



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.

Friendly and accessible, this fully-updated second edition includes a number of accompanying student 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 suggested further reading, enhance each chapter.  A wide range of additional helpful materials relevant to particular subject areas is also available on the accompanying website at This textbook is an invaluable resource for students in a wide range of disciplines and fields of study, particularly those planning to use social research methods or to carry out a library-based study, for their undergraduate research project.

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Preface ix

Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction 1

Part I – Making Preparations 5

1 Preliminaries 9

Recognizing Realities 9

A serious warning 10

Making it Worthwhile 10

Considering Your Audience(s) 11

Individual or Group Research? 12

Types of group research 12

Support groups 13

Planning Your Project 14

Doing it 15

The Structure of the Book 15

End of Chapter Tasks 16

Further Reading 17

Chapter 1 Tasks 17

2 Using Social Research Methods 19

A Concern for the Truth 19

Different Purposes of Research 20

Description 21

Exploration 21

Explanation 21

Emancipation 21

Research Design 22

Flexible designs 23

Fixed designs 23

Qualitative and quantitative data collection 23

Demands on Researchers 23

Different Approaches to Doing Social Research 24

‘Library’ studies 32

Examples from Undergraduate Projects 32

Methods of Collecting Data 32

Examples from Undergraduate Projects 46

Using More Than One Method 53

Mixed Method Designs 53

Data Collection Methods Used in Different Approaches 54

Trustworthiness and Credibility 54

Reliability 54

Validity 56

Research Arguments 56

Further Reading 57

Chapter 2 Tasks 57

3 Developing Your Ideas 59

Selecting a Topic 59

Researching internet topics 62

Research topics to avoid 62

Replication research 62

From a Topic to Research Questions 63

From Research Questions to a Research Design 63

One research question or several? 65

Do I really need research questions? 65

Hypotheses 66

Developing the Design 67

Finding and Using Sources 67

Planning the search for sources 68

Key word searching 68

Internet searching 69

Library searching 70

Dealing with the sources 71

Getting an Overall Picture 73

Ethical Considerations 74

Formal ethical approval 75

Ethical committees 75

Avoiding the unethical 76

Moving beyond box-ticking 77

Confirming Your Choices 77

Further Reading 78

Chapter 3 Tasks 78

Part II – Doing It 81

4 Practicalities of Data Collection 83

Sampling and Sample Sizes 83

Representative samples 84

Non-probability samples 85

Laboratory Research 86

‘Subjects’ or ‘participants’? 86

Informed Consent 86

Gaining Access 89

Finding the place to carry out your project 90

Making the contact 90

Formal approval isn’t enough 91

Formal and informal contracts 93

Approaching participants 93

Getting on and getting out 95

Insider research 96

Pilots 97

Collecting the Data 98

What to Do if You Run into Difficulties or Out of Time 98

Further Reading 100

Chapter 4 Tasks 101

Part III – Making Something of It 105

5 Analysing and Interpreting Your Findings 107

What This Chapter Tries to Do 107

Preparing for Analysis 108

Quantitative (Numerical) Data 109

Categorical variables 109

Ordered categorical variables 110

Summarizing and displaying categorical data 111

Continuous variables 114

Calculating summary statistics with continuous variables 115

Calculating variability 116

Displaying continuous variables 117

Statistical tests and statistical significance 118

Effect sizes 118

Clinical significance 119

What test do I use? 119

Do I really need to use statistical tests? 121

Qualitative Data 122

Data reduction and organization 123

An example – the grounded theory approach to analysis 124

Using specialist computer packages for qualitative data analysis 125

Summary of qualitative data analysis 126

Interpretation – What is Going on Here? 126

Further Reading 129

Chapter 5 Tasks 130

6 Reporting the Findings 131

Planning and Drafting 132

Research Arguments 134

Claims 134

Reasons and evidence 135

Considering Your Audience(s) – Again 136

Avoiding Plagiarism 137

Professional Standards 138

Language matters 138

References 139

Abstracts and executive summaries 139

The First Full Draft 140

Revising and Polishing 140

The Final Version 141

Disseminating Your Findings 142

Oral presentations 142

Other types of publication 143

A Final Thought 143

Further Reading 144

Chapter 6 Tasks 144

References and Author Index 145

Subject Index 153

  • A student-friendly and supportive guide to designing, implementing, analyzing and reporting on undergraduate degree projects.
  • A key publication for the vast study skills market, written by the author of the bestselling Real World Research, 3e
  • 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.