Assignments

  1. Group Research Log (20%, Evals on Week8 and Week14: Weekly posts about course materials and individual progress)
  2. SSHRC proposal (25%, due Week 6: 2 pages, as per the SSHRC guidelines)
  3. Peer Review (25%, due Week 9: 1,500 to 2,000 words)
  4. Research Proposal (30%, due Week 13: 4,000-5,000 words)


Assignment 1: Group Research Log
Due Weekly (Evaluated on Week 8 and Week14): Value 20%

Students will form groups of10-12 in order to collaborate on a group research blog. The blogs will not only serve as an online archive of each student’s progress in this course, but will provide a place to record ideas and resources that you’re thinking of using in your research project (and proposal), as well as a forum to voice your thoughts and questions about weekly readings and topics covered in seminar. Group members are expected to interact with each other, commenting or replying to each other's contributions in order to engage in (and ultimately produce) an ongoing dialogue about research methods and the research process.

Each week, we will browse through one of these group research blogs (projected on the big screen), and extract from them discussion points to pursue in lectures and group discussions. Wherever possible, we will also use this opportunity to give the different contributors feedback and tips on how to develop their projects further. Each project will be reviewed twice over the course of the semester—once during the first half of the semester, and once during the second half. A fixed schedule to determine the order in which the blogs will be reviewed will be made during the first class (by drawing names from a hat).

The projects will also be evaluated twice - during Week 7 and Week 13. Your grade for this assignment will be based on the consistency (10%) and relevance (10%) of your individual contribution to the blog. Here, “consistency” means that contributions are made on a weekly or near weekly basis, and reflect a timely, ongoing engagement with weekly readings, materials, research, etc. “Relevance” means that the contribution contains one or more of the following: familiarity with course readings and other materials (lectures, group discussions, etc.), as demonstrated through the use of specific examples, author names or theoretical concepts; inclusion of themes and points that have a clear and direct relevance to research methods, their application, as well as associated issues and debates; discussion of literature, problems, ideas, examples and current events that pertain directly to your intended research topic/proposal, which includes consideration of the course readings and themes. It is therefore important that all of your posts and comments include a signature (First and Last Name), so that your work can be identified as yours.

Contributions will (and should) vary in terms of length and topic, but try to keep your posts brief (100-175 words) and to the point. Links and block quotes are welcome, but these should never “stand alone” – they should always be accompanied by discussion of contents and an explanation of why they are included.

Groups can decide for themselves which tool or site they will use, depending on familiarity and personal preference. Some good (free) ones to consider are Blogger and WordPress.


Assignment 2: SSHRC Application
Due Week 6: Oct. 15: Value 25%
2 pages, single spaced, as per SSHRC guidelines

For this assignment, students are asked to produce a two-page research proposal that follows the actual guidelines, formatting requirements and instructions that applicants must follow in completing the “Program of Study” component of the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship application. This assignment will give you a chance to start formulating your ideas (topic, thesis, methodology and research design) for the long version research proposal that is due at the end of the semester. You will also have the opportunity to get some early feedback and advice in terms of the project’s scope, design, and possible resources. Additionally, for those of you planning to actually apply for a CGS (this year or next), this assignment will provide an excellent opportunity to workshop and refine a first draft of the “Program of Study” document that is a required component of your SSHRC application (Note: The internal deadline for 2011 SSHRC applications is November 26th).

The assignment can therefore function as either an exercise in creating a “mock” proposal, which will help prepare you for future grant (or scholarship) applications, or a forum for crafting an actual first draft SSHRC proposal. In both cases, the assignment will allow you to hit the ground running on the key learning objectives of this course, as well as get a head start on your final assignment.

We will go over the details and requirements of the SSHRC research proposal, and set aside some time to brainstorm possible research topics, during the first few weeks of lectures. In the meantime, you can expect to include the following information in your completed assignment:
• A description of your degree program, its research training component, and how it meets SSHRC’s eligibility criteria;
• For thesis, major research essay or project: provide a well-structured outline of your research design, including research question, context, objectives, methodology and contribution to the advancement of knowledge.
• Description of any relevant work experience, community involvement or other extracurricular activity.
• Bibliography (full details for all sources cited)


Assignment 3: Peer Review
Due Week 9: Nov.5: Value 25%
1,500 – 2,000 words

The peer review process is a crucial component of academic research. Ideally, it supplies a mechanism for independent, anonymous evaluation and assessment of new contributions to a particular field by a number of its established experts (usually between 3 and 5). “For better or worse,” as Luker (2008) describes, peer-reviewed journals “are the gold standard for much of the academic system” (p.69). For this assignment, you will engage in a peer review exercise, by carefully reading and assessing the research design and methodology of an as-yet-unpublished social science research article.

You will be given 5 different articles to choose from, which will span a variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches. You will select one paper only for your review. Using course readings and any relevant published (peer-reviewed) academic literature that you find, you will answer the following questions:
• What is the article about? What is its thesis statement, area of inquiry, research questions and objectives?
• Does the author(s) draw upon previous research in establishing their methodological approach or to justify the use (or non-use) of a particular method?
• What research methods are used? To collect the data? To analyze the data?
• Is the research design appropriate to the thesis statement and/or research question(s)? Why or why not?
• Do you think the research design has “reliability”? Do you think the data has “internal and external validity”?
• In terms of the methods and research design, how could this study or project be improved upon?
• What does this article teach you about research methods (either generally, or in relation to the specific methods applied)?

Assignment 4: Research Proposal
Due Week 13: Dec.3: Value 30%
4,000 – 5,000 words

For this assignment, you will revise, extend and elaborate upon the short proposal you wrote for Assignment 2, in order to create a fully developed research proposal on the topic of your choice. If you are completing a thesis, extended essay or project as part of your academic program, you can tackle this assignment as a first attempt at a thesis/project proposal. If you are not currently planning on undertaking a thesis or other research project, you might use this proposal to envision or even pitch a project that you might want to undertake in a professional capacity – for a community partner, at your current place of employment, or for your “dream job” later on.

Your research proposal should contain the following sections:
• Introduction: Introduce your topic and study, including thesis statement and research questions;
• Background: what got you interested in this topic, why is it worth investigating, what interest or impact will the research have, and what theoretical framework do you intend to apply to your research, analysis and discussion?;
• Mini-Literature Review: what bodies of literature and key texts will you include in your final literature review? Don’t forget to include literature on your method(s), as well as on the subject of your planned research;
• Research Methodology: be as specific as possible – methods, how you will apply them, how the data will be collected, how it will be analyzed, your projected timeline, etc. If you’re planning on conducting human research, be sure to include a description of your plans for securing ethics approval;
• Hypothesis (OR suspicions OR assumptions OR bias OR hunch - part of reflexive process).


Guidelines for Assignments
All written assignments for this course must be submitted in person, on paper, and handed in at the start of lecture (10:10am). All assignments should be written as clearly and cleanly as possible (i.e. thoroughly proof read for typos, spelling and grammar, hanging sentences, etc.), in a formal but accessible academic language. The overall “look and feel” should be professional (i.e. no crumpled papers or faded printing).

The required format for Assignments 3 and 4 is as follows:

  • Typed, 1.5 space, 11 or 12 point font, one-inch margins, page numbers in the upper or lower right hand corner. Double sided printing is fine, as long as it’s legible.
  • Align paragraphs in a standard way and avoid superfluous indentation.
  • The document must be stapled together – no loose pages, no paperclips.
  • No cover page required, but be sure to include your name & student number on page 1.
  • Total word count should be indicated at the end of the essay.
  • Use of footnotes/endnotes is permitted, but these should be used sparingly.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Written assignments that do not meet a minimum standard (in terms of legibility, formatting and proofreading) will be returned for re-submission, with late penalties in full effect.

Referencing
The American Psychological Association (APA) citation style is the most commonly used in academic writing in the social sciences. I recommend that you use APA for this course, as it's good to get used to the style you’ll likely be using over the course of your graduate career (and beyond). That said, if you think you have a valid professional reason for using another style, you are invited to come talk to me at least two weeks before the assignment is due and request that an exception be made. Permission to use referencing styles other than APA will be granted on a case by case basis, but only to students who make arrangements in advance.

The key here is that quotes and sources must be properly and consistently cited, using:
(a) in-text citation (including author name(s), year and page number); and
(b) a full list of references or bibliography at the end of your paper.
This is a necessary component of academic writing, as well as a good safeguard against inadvertent forms of plagiarism.

Images
Students can include copyrighted images in their assignments as long as they follow the Canadian Copyright Act’s current exceptions for fair dealing, in that the images must only be used for the purposes of criticism or review, and each image must be accompanied by:
(a) the source; and
(b) the name of the author(s) (if given in the source)

Acceptable Secondary Sources
As graduate students, you will be expected to use a majority of academic (i.e. peer reviewed) sources when writing your term paper. Students are very much allowed, but not at all limited, to use course readings and other sources referenced in lectures in their own papers. Additional sources and relevant journals that are recommended by the instructor are also acceptable. However, students are strongly encouraged to track down those resources that are best suited to their specific area of interest or inquiry, rather than rely too heavily on those provided in class. Media texts (books, comics, television episodes, films, videogames, websites, etc.) can be used and referenced as needed, but should always be treated as artifacts of study and analyzed accordingly. Here's a good position to adopt:
"The materials of popular culture may become raw materials for our creative expression, vehicles for exploring aspects of our own personalities, and shared points of reference to facilitate social interaction. Anthropologists and historians look at artifacts as materials that encapsulate the values and practices of another culture. We can look at the contents of mass media as artifacts that help us to better understand our own culture. In both cases, though, deciphering an artifact’s meanings is a complex process, because the same artifact may serve multiple purposes, operate in multiple contexts, and become invested with multiple meanings." Reproduced from Henry Jenkins’ (2000) Children’s Culture Study Guide
For cutting edge information, news, announcements, etc., popular press articles are of course acceptable. But these should be used to supplement or update rather than replace peer reviewed sources, and should never be used to explain a theoretical concept. They should also come from credible, verifiable sources, who have the credentials (whatever these may be) to back up their claims. Online sources are fine, as long as you can determine who wrote the content and for what purpose, and are prepared to defend the author's credibility and expertise if questioned. My definition of “expertise” is flexible. For example, if you're looking for parents’ reactions to the Harry Potter phenomenon, an online forum where fathers, mothers and other caregivers discuss the Harry Potter books and films is an excellent source of "expertise."

Late Papers
Unless a formal extension has been negotiated with the instructor in advance of the due date, late assignments (defined here as an assignment submitted after the deadline) will be penalized by one full letter grade per week (e.g. from A to A-), for a maximum of two weeks. After that point, late assignments will no longer be accepted. Furthermore, late papers will not receive detailed feedback or comments.

Extensions
Extensions on assignments within the term must be negotiated in advance, and may require supporting documentation (e.g. doctor’s note). Students must email requests for extensions to the instructor at least 24 hours prior to the due date. Exceptions will only be made in extenuating circumstances. Extensions beyond the end of the term in which a course is taken are subject to the guidelines established by the School of Graduate Studies (Which can be found here).