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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING]Malcolm Williams, thank you very much.Before we begin, could you just let us know who you areand what your role is?Yes.I'm a professor and Director of the CardiffSchool of Social Sciences.

  • 00:21

    My background is in methodology and methods,philosophical problems in social scienceand also secondary analysis of lost data sets.Thank you.We're going to talk about designing a researchproposal today.And research proposals will alwaysbe shaped readily by whoever the funding body is but aren'tthere commonalities there?

  • 00:47

    There are commonalities and they'reimportant commonalities.And I think I would suggest there are four.The first one is the importance of a clear research question.The second one is to be very clear about your researchdesign.The third one is to be clear about the methods youpropose to use and they may change as the research goes on.

  • 01:09

    And the last one is a realistic appraisal of resources.So when we're talking about design, research design,are you talking about quantitative over qualitative?No, I'm not.

  • 01:30

    I'm not talking about that.I think it's very important to get away from that.By designs, I think there are four main designsor subsets of those.The first one's experimental, the second one is longitudinal,the third one is cross-sectional,and the last one is case study.So let's take something like living alone.If we are interested in exploring that,we might be interested in finding out how living alonehas changed over time.

  • 01:55

    You might want to follow, for example, cohorts of peoplethrough several years.Now, that could be quantitative or qualitative.You use a large data set to do thator you might actually follow some people over time.But you might be interested, perhaps,in a case study of a group of people, any person or persons,to look at that in depth.

  • 02:18

    So the design and the method are not necessarilyassociated-- there's not one design fits one kind of method.They might be quite separate.So what you're saying, though, isthat the research question can imply the kind of designsthat we use.Yes, it would.Yes.

  • 02:39

    Again, taking my initial question of living alone,if you're looking for the kinds of things that are associatedwith living alone, there are very often things through time.What was your previous household?What was the previous kind of household you lived in?What was the household composition?What was your marital status?

  • 02:59

    How does that change?And in fact, in that particular example,it's different for women at different times in their lifecycle.So that would kind of imply a longitudinal design there.But you might also want to go to a case study, whichmight be a group of people.It could be quantitative then.Or it might be to look in some depth of the experiencesand understanding who lives alone.

  • 03:27

    So yes, the research question would imply the designto a great extent.So how does design relate to methods?Well, again, it's about whether youare looking at things at the macro, meso, or micro level.

  • 03:57

    Let's look at qualitative methods.Now, qualitative methods are obviouslyvery good at drilling down into the life experiencesof individuals or groups.And to some extent, you can perhaps informallygeneralize from those away from thosebecause there are commonalities becauseof the kinds of social backgroundsthat the individual will have with a particular kindof community.

  • 04:24

    But there's a limit to that and youdon't know whether you've got typicality or not.So at some point, you have to movetowards quantitative methods and that might be cross-sectionalIt might be longitudinal data.So there is a relationship but the relationship is nota fixed one.

  • 04:45

    Then, indeed, take, for example, longitudinal research.Though there is a growing body of qualitative longitudinaldata, actually, what we very often mean by thatare the large data sets in Britain,such as millennium cohorts, whichfollow a large group of individuals at a time.

  • 05:15

    You've mentioned the need to appraise the resources that wehave, as well, but what kind of resourcesdo you have in mind for a researcher?All resources are finite and the most finite one of all is time.I think people don't often think about time.Time is what will constrain with every cohort.

  • 05:36

    Let me take it in a couple of extreme examples.Suppose someone said to you, look,you can have as much money as you need to do this researchbut basically, what we want is a 2,000-sample survey and we wantthe data in by next week.You cannot do it.It's very difficult.If, for example, that survey required self-completion eitheronline or by post, you wouldn't have timeto do the reminders to the non-responders then.

  • 06:08

    And so your non-responders are going to be a problem for you.Likewise, if you do face-to-face interviews,you probably would be able to get your samplein that kind of time.At the other end of the kind of methodological scale,you wouldn't have time to have focus groups or depthinterviews with people in that time span.

  • 06:28

    So actually, practice for lots of people's first experiencewith research is doing their PhD and you'vegot really around nine to 10 months to do your field work.What can you realistically do in that kind of time frame?So that's the first one is time.The second one is expertise.

  • 06:50

    Do you have the expertise or will someone in your teamhave the expertise to do the kind of research youwant to do?So for example, you might want to use multi-level modeling.Have you got someone who can do multi-level modeling--not just understanding what the results are,understanding what it is, but to actually do it?

  • 07:11

    So you do need to have that.You need to have perhaps statistical expertise.You might need to have expertise in doing in-depth interviews.There's a range of things you will need.Have you got those and can you get them?If you can't, then you have to tryto think of answering the question in a way thatwill fit with your portfolio of expertise.

  • 07:32

    So be pragmatic.And the third one, then-- and of course,this is less of an issue for PhD research-- labor costs.When you're doing PhDs, you possiblywill make some help with transcription and so on and soforth-- [INAUDIBLE].But your labor costs are always by far the biggestcosts in the social sciences.

  • 07:54

    We don't have lab costs as the natural sciences as such.Our lab costs are relatively smaller, a few computersand so on.But your biggest costs are your labor costs.And if you're designing a study, it'svery important that you make sure you'vebuilt in enough money for all those labor costs.

  • 08:15

    And then, after that, the other kinds of thingsare all relatively straightforward and simple.They're things like travel, consumer rules and so on.They're not so much of a problem.But time, expertise, and labor costsare the most important things to think about.

  • 08:40

    You're painting a picture there, Malcolm,of quite a lot of compromises going on.And I want my PhD to be the best PhD it can possibly bebut that does feel like compromisesin what you've said there.It is compromises and there will alwaysbe compromises, even in the most well-resourced research.

  • 09:01

    But a PhD, as much as anything else,is about research training.No, you obviously want to do the very best work that you canbut it's about learning from our experienceand I can show you what you can dowith those resources in a relativelyshort period of time.So that is OK.And it depends on the con-- if youwanted to do a national study of a particular social phenomenonand make claims that are going to hold upacross a large number of cases, then that'sa very difficult construct to patch up a local transportstudy, where it's very pragmatic and simple and straightforwardanswers.

  • 09:48

    So it's about being fit for purpose, really.So there are compromises, yes.And coming back to the whole idea of constructed answers,there's one thing we haven't talked aboutis how that might build on what might already be written.

  • 10:11

    How do you build on previous research?This is also related to resourcesbecause there's very few areas of researchthat people have not done work on.Usually, it's a fairly well-trodden path.

  • 10:32

    What you're doing is answering the very specific question,whether slightly pulled of context.And sometimes, you may work on a research proposaland then suddenly find someone's actually done almost exactlywhat you're looking for.And there's nothing one can do about that.But you can start by first of allconducting a very thorough literature review.

  • 10:53

    Who has done what, how have they done it,and how well have they done it?And how far can it answer part of your questionor all of your question?So sometimes, market research, we've got desk research.So get your desk research done first.The second thing them is to look at the datathat the model will be there, the available data.

  • 11:17

    You don't want to be spending time and money on developinga large survey, several thousand cases, when there's alreadya perfectly good set of data existing.Can secondary analysis do part of the job for you?

  • 11:37

    And obviously, again, coming back to PhD students,the skills are different but they are neverthelessstill important.To be able to do that kind of analysisis still an important skill.So you shouldn't think somehow-- because you'redoing secondary analysis as opposed to primary work,you shouldn't denigrate that.

  • 11:57

    That's actually terribly important-- samegoes for qualitative data sets.A re-analysis of qualitative data setscan often give you better answersthan going out and collecting original data.Then, when you've done what you can in those kinds of ways,then think about where there's a deficit in termsof the data, when you need to actually go out and handlemore.

  • 12:18

    Malcolm Williams, thank you very much.You're welcome.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2013

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Research design, Research proposals

Keywords: adjustment; communications; context effects; expertise; funding bodies; generalizability; generalization; household composition; labor costs; life cycle; living arrangements; resource management; resource materials; resources for the future; reuse/recycling; Skills (abilities); time factors; training ... Show More

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Abstract

Professor Malcolm Williams discusses how to plan and design a research proposal. He stresses the importance of a good literature review, a clear research question, and accurate assessment of resources and costs.

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Designing Your Research Proposal

Professor Malcolm Williams discusses how to plan and design a research proposal. He stresses the importance of a good literature review, a clear research question, and accurate assessment of resources and costs.

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