(1) Reverse Outlining
This project requires students to have a first draft of a research proposal or report. Instruct students to:
(a) Read the last paragraph of your paper, not including the conclusion.
(b) Write the basic idea in this paragraph in one sentence or less. If there is more than one basic idea in the paragraph, split it.
(c) Proceed to the paragraph that precedes it and write its basic idea in one sentence or less.
(d) Repeat Step 3 until you have reached the introduction to your paper.
(e) Read the statements in reverse order, so that you begin with the beginning of the paper and end with the end.
(f) Highlight any paragraphs that are irrelevant or redundant.
(g) Match this outline with your intended outline. If they don’t match, you’ve got a great deal of revising to do (but don’t we all!).
(2) Divide the class into small groups (4–5 students are ideal). Each group should identify a public program or program-oriented organization. Locate an applied research report about this program (these can often be found in government documents sections of the library for public programs; organizations also usually keep copies of all reports conducted by or for them.) In addition, locate a social science journal article on the same topic (this will most likely not be drawn from the same data). Compare the two. In what ways are the two different? The same project could be extended by locating an article in the popular media about the same topic.
(3) This project requires you to have a final draft of a proposal or report and works best if you can team up with someone in your class.
(a) Exchange papers.
(b) Decide whether or not you will agree to proofread one another’s papers.
(c) In your partner’s paper, underline the key idea of every paragraph as you read it.
(d) Answer the following questions in a memo:
(I) Is the introduction appropriate? Does it set out the research question? Does it explain the purpose and structure of the report?
(II) Is the literature review convincing? Has your partner overused/underused other sources? Is the literature review structured in a meaningful way?
(III) Is the methods section complete? Can you explain after reading how variables will be (or were) defined and measured? Can you explain how data will be (or were) analyzed?
(IV) Does the report seem ethical in all ways?
(V) Is the conclusion appropriate? Does it review the main findings of the research (or what your partner hopes to find)? Is it honest about the limitations of the research?
(VI) Return the memo to your partner and retrieve their memo about your paper. Use these notes to modify your paper as necessary.
Individual and Group Activities
(1) Ask students to go to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Sociology Program. What are the components that the NSF’s Sociology Program looks for in a proposed piece of research? Examine the Table of Contents for an NSF proposal. Now outline a research proposal to the NSF to investigate a research question of your choice.
(2) Comparing Research Methods. Ask students to:
(a) Select a general topic of interest, such as the family, crime, the environment, politics.
(b) Locate one article on this topic that employs experimental methods, one that uses survey methods, one that uses qualitative methods, and one that uses some other method (e.g., historical, comparative, and content analysis).
(c) Read all four articles. Outline the strengths and weaknesses in each.
(d) How do the strengths and weaknesses you found compare with those in the textbook?