For the research portfolio, the student is required to do the following: 1) select a data set, 2) get the data set approved by the instructor, 3) using the data set establish a research project, 4) describe the theoretical basis for your research project, 5) identify and describe the key concepts involved in your research project, 6) identify the indicators/variables that you will use to operationalize each concept, 7) identify which indicator(s)/variable(s) will be the dependent variable(s), 8) identify which indicators/variables will be the independent variables, 9) identify and state the specific hypotheses that you intend to test in your research project, and 10) gather and review a minimum of five academic (peer-reviewed) sources that relate to your research project.
1) Select a data set: three different data sets will be made available to the students the BRFSS, World Values Survey, and APNORC. Students are encouraged to select one of the data sets that are supplied; however, if a student has a particular interest in a topic and easy access to a usable data set, they can submit these to the instructor for approval.
2) Get the data set approved by the instructor: even if a student chooses one of the supplied data sets, the student must submit either in writing or by email a request to utilize that data set. The instructor must approve this submission.
3) Using the data set establish a research project: the student must come up with a research problem to investigate using the selected data set. Students should spend time reviewing each data set’s associated codebook (the codebook will tell you what variables are included in the data set) before selecting a data set. By becoming familiar with the codebook, the student should already have a good idea of the research problem they want to investigate. The student should prepare a narrative of what the research project is – that is, what is the research problem and why it is important. This section will be the first document in the portfolio. This section should likely be anywhere from a quarter of a page up to a page in length.
4) Describe the theoretical basis for your research project: in this section, the student should provide a narrative regarding the theoretical basis for their research project. This section will be the second document in the portfolio and should be approximately half a page to a page in length. It should demonstrate the theoretical rationale for why the project is important and the student’s overall theoretical expectations.
5) Identify and describe the key concepts involved in your research project: here the student should describe each of the concepts they will be operationalizing. Remember concepts tell us what things are and how they are different than other things. “Dog” and “cat” are both concepts. They share many similarities but at some point a researcher would have to be able to tell us how they are different as well as similar. In describing your concepts, you are describing what they are and what they are not. This section will be the third document in the portfolio and will likely be at least a page or more in length.
6) Identify the indicators/variables that you will use to operationalize each concept. The student should identify one or more variables that they intend to use from the data set to operationalize each concept. Remember to operationalize is to measure the concept, or to translate the concept into an empirically verifiable form. This section can be combined with the previous section as part of the third document in the portfolio. Accordingly, at the end of the description of each concept in the third document, the student can list the variable(s) to be used to operationalize the concept.
7) Identify which indicator(s)/variable(s) will be the dependent variable: At the beginning of this section, the student should identify the dependent variable. Remember, the dependent variable is the variable that is being explained/acted upon by the independent variables. In most cases there will be only one dependent variable; however, it is possible that a student may have more than one. Items seven and eight should be combined to form the fourth document in the portfolio. See item eight for a description of this section’s length.
8) Identify which indicators/variables will be the independent variables: After identifying the dependent variable(s), the student should then identify each independent variable. Remember that independent variables are the ones that explain or act upon the dependent variable. It is highly unlikely that there would only be a single independent variable; if a student only has a single independent variable, they should talk to the instructor and get assistance in identifying other possible independent variables. Again, items seven and eight will be combined to form the fourth portfolio document. This section, containing the list of dependent and independent variables, should likely not be longer than a page.
9) Identify and state the specific hypotheses that you intend to test in your research project: In this section the student should write out in explicit format each of their proposed hypotheses. Wherever possible, the hypotheses should be stated in if/then language and should indicate the nature and direction of the relationship proposed in each hypothesis. For example: Increased exercise leads to better health. In the BRFSS there are questions about people’s exercise habits and about how healthy they are. Thus, there are variables in the BRFSS data set that can operationalize or measure the concepts exercise and health that we use in our hypothesis. Note that the hypothesis indicates a positive direction in that it states that increasing exercise leads to better (or increased) health. Thus, based on how the hypothesis is worded, we would expect exercise and health to covary in the same direction. This section will be the fifth document in the portfolio and should be approximately half a page to a page in length.
10) Gather and review a minimum of five peer-reviewed academic journal articles that relate to your research project: even though this step is listed as the last step, the student should be working on this step at the beginning and throughout the project. It is these sources that should help the student to figure out the theoretical basis for their project, better understand both the concepts and hypotheses that they are developing, and provide a basis in the literature for why they may choose certain indicators to operationalize their concepts. Thus, while this narrative section will be the sixth and last document in the portfolio, the student should be gathering and using this information throughout each of the aforementioned steps. You should use the five articles you select (you will likely start with many more than five but ultimately settle on five) to create a literature review that is five pages in length. Please use this link to see information on what a literature review is and how to write one if you are not familiar: https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/
(Links to an external site.)
Finally, the sixth page of this section should include a reference sheet with a complete bibliographic reference to each academic source used in the literature review.
In total, the research portfolio should contain six documents and at least eleven pages of material.
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