Tag Archives: research proposals

The importance of study design

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Parrot Study by benji2505, Attribution-NonCommercial License

This post directs you to a research paper by Simmons et al (2011) that is freely available online, and is well worth reading for three reasons.

One reason is its amusement value. In this paper the authors “prove” that listening to Beatles music makes you approximately a year and a half younger than you were before. They do not discover, unfortunately, whether it is just something about the song “When I’m sixty-four” or whether it is any Beatles song. This is a pity. One can easily get sick of listening to that particular song.

Another reason is that it is very well written and it is interesting to see how the authors structure their writing. Take, for example, the section headed “Nonsolutions” on the 7th page. Note how the authors introduce the point they are making first, before going on to give the detail. It is very easy to follow this sort of writing and is a pleasure to read. Also note the frequent use of the first person “we” and “our”. This shortens and simplifies sentences and makes the writing more direct.

And lastly, the message of the paper is important. The authors show how easy it is to reach different conclusions by changing the research design as you go along. One take home message is to spend sufficient time planning and ensure, in your research deign, that you can justify every step you plan to take. The other take home message is that you must record your steps and accurately report them when you write up your findings. Not keeping a research diary in which you record your steps and your thinking? You should be. See this previous post on research diaries.

Simmons JP, Nelson LD and Simonsohn U. (2011) False-Positive Psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant. Psychological Science, 22(11), 1359–1366. doi:10.1177/0956797611417632. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1850704

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Dimensions of research

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As I mentioned before in a post on Choosing your research topic, finding a project can be the most difficult part. In this slide show http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0201/What_is_research.ppt Will Hopkins provides a framework for thinking about the types of research that you could do. It is a great resource that might help you take a vague topic of interest into a more solid plan for a study.

Choosing a research topic

swimming

swimming by Marian Stanton Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Choosing a research topic is one of the hardest things ever. There is so much that is interesting, its hard to know where to start. And how do you work out where there is a gap until you know quite a lot about the subject. This stage of research often feels like trying to swim through mud. You don’t feel like you are getting anywhere.

There is lots written on the internet about finding a topic and here are few which I think are useful.

Choosing a topic, Claremont Graduate University Writing Center http://www.cgu.edu/pages/891.asp

Choosing an effective research topic, Kevin Klipfel, Information Literacy Coordinator, California State University www.csuchico.edu/lref/InfoLit/Choosing%20an%20Effective%20Research%20Topic.pptx

Choosing a topic, College of San Mateo Library http://www.smccd.edu/accounts/csmlibrary/tutorials/choosing.html

Choosing a research topic, University of California University Library http://library.ucsc.edu/help/howto/choose-a-research-topic

Justifying your research

so what?

so what? by Cyro Masci Attribution License

In both your research proposal and in your later writing up , you need to justify your research. That is, you need to show the reader why your research is worth doing and why it is worth reading on.

Think about the results you are expecting and the conclusions you may reach. How will these be able to be used and by who? Do your findings have the potential to change practice? Or to justify existing practice? Will your findings make something easier or safer or better or quicker or cheaper for animals, owners, vets or the public? Perhaps they will help indicate where the next steps in research should be directed. Or where further reseach effort does not look worthwhile.

You need to articulate this clearly. You need to be positive, but not extravagant with your claims for importance. You need to make a case for the importance of your work. That is, make an argument for it, not just assert it. Show that there is good reason for the importance of your work. Support your claim with evidence from the literature. Lead the reader through your writing so that they conclude, as you have, that there is a gap and that it needs filling.