Welcome to Research Methods and Design

Research is a complicated enterprise, but not as complicated as many think.  Designing research projects can be broken down into 6 key steps.  Each of these involves several decisions, both practical and theoretical.  This course covers the basics, at a level suitable for undergraduate majors in environmental studies, sociology, and anthropology.  From the rudiments of epistemology to the practice of research design, it introduces the choices you have to make, as you seek to learn systematically about our world.

We will consider the following topics, among others:

  • the difference between a research topic and a research question, and how to develop your topic into a good question (step 1);
  • how to choose a logical structure for your research (step 2);
  • the relationship between research questions and the types of data that can answer them (step 3);
  • the kinds of data-gathering methods suitable for capturing particular types of data (step 4);
  • the proper choice of research sites or samples for answering your research question (step 5);
  • ways to analyze the data that these methods produce (step 6).

Click HERE to learn more about the six decisions
you have to make when designing research.

We will spend the first few weeks of the semester focusing on research design principles.  We will spend the central part of the semester exploring various data-gathering methods and learning to analyze the data that results.  We will become familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of these various methods.  Each student will then prepare a formal research proposal, outlining a research project of her or his choice.  After critique, students will revise these proposals for public presentation.

  • Class meets MW from 9:30-10:50am in Larsen Hall 224.
  • Final project presentations will be our regular classroom, during the regularly scheduled final exam period.  (You are welcome to invite friends to see your presentation.)

By the end of the course, students should know a good deal more about research than they do at the beginning.  They will also learn a good deal more about scholarship!

This course fulfills the University of Redlands WB requirement for Junior/Senior level writing (LAF) and the SS*, IMLA*, and WD* requirements of the new Liberal Arts Inquiry (LAI).

*SS = Social Scientific Practice; IMLA = Information Literacy Advanced Embedded Experience; WD = Writing in the Discipline