For the ENGA14 paper, students may opt to design and incorporate an
original research component for additional credit. This component is not
required for the basic course credit, but is encouraged. Students who wish
to do the original research component should review this document.
Relationship of the Research Component to the Basic Paper
The original research component must be a fully-integrated natural
extension of the basic paper; it cannot be an "extra" section which is
simply appended to what otherwise would have been the paper.
Specifically, the original research would address the research question
posed at the beginning of the paper, the explication and analysis of which
is then given in the body of the paper. Are there still aspects of the
research question that are still "open" after you have exhausted the
available secondary sources? Is it possible to
clarify some of these aspects via your own research within the time and
other constraints of the course? (See for example the Followup
Report of Saija Suomaa's paper on Currant Production in
Finland.) Are the aspects you think could be clarified
reasonable subjects for academic research?
Will your research produce new knowledge? If so, how, and why?
All of the above questions should be considered when planning your
original research. Related to these is the question of your research
"target" and what information you wish to elicit and analyze.
While a wide variety of possible research methologies could be used,
depending on the paper's topic and the resources available to the student,
the most commonly-used have been questionnaires, interviews, surveys, and
primary sources which have not been used previously for that topic (at
least not in the way you will use them).
With questionnaires, interviews and surveys in particular, the issue of
validity arises in various forms.
The above is only a sampling of questions that need to be considered when
constructing a research methodology.
- Will you be able to obtain enough answers to claim that they will be
"representative" of your target audience? (Consider how "representative"
responses from 5 people would be considered, compared to responses from 50
- Are there "qualifications" to be included in your target audience?
Must they all be of a certain age, or gender, or race, nationality, or
educational level, or interested/disinterested in a certain topic or have
certain experiences or conditions in common? Should they be urban or
rural? Or are you interested in a cross-section of all of these?
- How objective are their responses likely to be? Would some or all
have a personal interest in the answers showing one aspect rather than
another? Do any of the respondees know you? If so, would that influence
their responses compared to others who may not know you?
- Will you be conducting all the research personally, or will others
helping you collect the data? If others are involved, might there be
influences on the data collection as a result of different personalities,
times and places, or ways in which the procedures were implemented?
- How will it be decided whether responses can be accepted for the
analysis? Do you have minimum and maximum target numbers? Will all
responses automatically be included, or is there a provision for
disregarding some which do not meet certain quality criteria? If so, what
are these criteria [ground rules should be established before
collecting the responses]?
- If you are using a questionnaire, how will it be deployed? If it is
a paper instrument, will you distribute it in person or use assistants? If
it is an e-mail or web-form version (see
two examples of form-questionnaires that have been used in papers by Salla
Hakulinen and 'Anna Annanen'), is
confirmed identity inportant? How can you control that each response is
from a different individual? Is there a specific time period during which
the questionnaire must be completed? With electronic data in particular,
what if you suddenly get dramatically more responses than you had
Designing a Research 'Instrument'
Regardless of the mode of your instrument (personal questioning, a print
or web questionnaire, etc.), it should be carefully designed before you
begin to use it. What information do you need to get in order to further
explicate your research question? What questions need to be asked, in
what order, in order to elicit this information in a usable (quantifiable)
form. The logical sequence of the questions is important. Are they
"yes-no" questions, multiple-choice, or open-ended? If "yes-no," and you
are assuming a "yes," what happens if the answer instead is "no"?
Research instruments should be reviewed by the instructor before
deployment. If there are experts on the topic about which you are
collecting data that you could consult, their opinions may also be
helpful. Test your instrument on a small sample audience before
deployment, to check that questions will be understood as you had
intended, that the question sequence is logical to the respondees, and to
guard against other "surprises."
All written instruments that will not be deployed by you personally
should identify you, your institution, and the purpose of the instrument.
If respondants have questions, how may they contact you (and when)? Will
their responses be confidential, or will they be identified? [remember
that questionnaire or survey responses may be confidential, but interviews cited in
your paper must identify the interviewee].
The 'Human Factor': Thanking and Informing Your Respondants
Above all, bear in mind the "human factor" when designing and deploying
your research instruments. Remember that all the people you consult and
interview are volunteering their time to help you. They must be treated
thoughtfully, with courtesy and respect.
A part of the "human factor" is to thank your respondants for the time they have taken to help you, and to make it possible for them to see the results of your research, should they wish to do so.
See for example Laura Paatelainen's Spring 2010 U.S. Popular Culture
paper comparing The
U.S Senior Prom and The Finnish Senior Dance. For this, two surveys
were employed, one to a Finnish audience concerning the Senior Dance; the
other to a U.S. audience concerning the Senior Prom. The U.S. survey
employed a webform, which can be seen here.
When respondants had completed the form, they were directed to a 'thank-you'
note which both thanked them for their effort and notified them when
the finished product would be available, and from what URL. The URL in the
thank-you note was a 'dummy'
page (which was originally at the URL now occupied by the paper) so
respondants could bookmark the URL and know where to return when the paper
had been published. It is a good example of the steps to be taken in (a)
planning ahead to (b) be considerate of respondants who have made your
Also included in Laura's paper (see Appendices) were brief samples of
the types of responses that were obtained to the questions asked, so those
reading the paper can judge the type of raw material that had been
available for the conclusions reached by Laura in the paper (respondants
are also usually interested in how others had answered the questions, and
whether their own responses might have been chosen for the sample).
A longer and more detailed responses summary can be seen here
[PDF], as appended to Rosamaaria Perttola's Spring 2010 US-7 paper on Images of Popularity
in Selected [U.S.] High School Movies.
In the examples above, the survey instrument and deliverables were all
online. However, even for personal interviews or paper surveys,
respondants should be properly thanked and informed of when and how they
might be able to see the results of their contribution in your paper, in
which they would naturally have an interest.
Additional Examples of Research Instruments
It is often useful to examine the instruments other writers have used for
insight into questions or wordings that might also be used in your
research. One example would be the questionnaire (PDF) employed by Jenni
Leinonen in her research on patient associations as information sources
for people with chronic diseases. Her paper concerned the Finnish
'institution' of patient associations for many chronic diseases. These
associations should act as a primary information source for the ongoing
treatment of the particular chronic condition. The research question
sought to test this assumption. Are the associations "primary"
information sources, relative to other possible sources to which the
patients might turn?
A contrasting instrument to Leinonen's, which was distributed by the
convenors of regular regional meetings of association members in Finland,
is the questionnaire used by Marjaana Lehtomäki in her research on
Finnish-African marriages. Marjaana administered her questionnaires
personally. As she was meeting couples, at least one member of which was
native Finnish-speaking, while the other member may not have spoken
Finnish, her questionnaire had both English and Finnish versions.
See also the Examples of Past Student Research
Instruments index page.
Describing Your Research in the Paper
The location for describing your research methodology and analyzing your
findings generally comes toward the end of your paper, after the text that
has preceded it has fully identified the research question and its context
within the larger topic. There should then be a smooth transition between
this background and what you have done to further explicate a particular
aspect of the research question.
The description of your original research might follow the IMRAD format (although all of the IMRAD sections
would not be relevant to ENGA14 research). At least the following
must be part of your description:
- An introduction to why you conducted the research. How does it
connect to questions raised in the descriptive part of your paper? What
specific information was your research designed to elicit? How does this
information clarify questions raised in the descriptive part of your paper
where existing sources did not provide adequate information? What is the
value of the reader knowing this new information?
- A description of the methodology you used. This must be
detailed; sometimes to those who are reading your paper it is more
important how you went about conducting your research than
what you discovered. The methodology must always be reproducible,
in case someone else wants to test your findings by employing the same
methodology and similar target audience. The methodology will also always
suggest potential variables or discrepancies in the data you had obtained.
The methodology must include all the whats, whys, wheres, whens, and
hows of your research. Include a copy of the research instrument in an
Appendix to the paper.
- A description of the results obtained through your
methodology. If the results are easily quantifiable, include a table of
the results either in the paper or in an Appendix, possibly also with
graphs to help interpret the data. If there is an overwhelming volume of
data, samples of the types of responses obtained may be used instead.
- The discussion or analysis of your results; the
conclusions you have reached on the basis of your results. What do
the results show? How? Why? What is the significance of your findings
relative to your research question (and thus the rest of your paper)?
- An additional point which may often be relevant is
recommendations you would suggest, post-facto, on how you
feel your methodology might be improved in future similar studies, and how
the differences in methodology might affect the future results. In short,
what do you now know might have been done differently to better effect,
Another point often covered in the recommendations is what related
questions might be studied in future studies that you were unable to study
in yours, or which only became apparent to you during the course of, or
after completion of, your own study.