The aim of the essay is to draw upon your own disciplinary tradition to develop a mixed-method research design. This means using three different data collection techniques to collect the same data type. Mixed methods approaches are common in social science as they strengthen the evidence base for your claims. More immediately, however, the assessment supports the learning outcomes by illustrating your capacity to adapt different techniques to collect a single data type. The essay should be divided into five sections:
- Introduction: describe the research scenario you plan to research.
The aim of this section is to describe a broad research problem that researchers in your field or sub-field are currently working on. Your aim here is to help a reader from outside the discipline understand the broad research problem and why it is relevant. You are welcome to use a research project you are currently working on or choose one from the practicals. Examples could be: climate resilience in cities, food sovereignty movements, the geopolitics of resource extraction, etc. (200-250 words).
- Research question: develop a research question and establish relevant data
This section should do two things: first it should establish the central research question. While the question should follow from the research scenario, it should be more specific and identify a distinctive (i.e., answerable) research problem. Second, this section should identify what constitutes relevant data. Again, the emphasis here should be on the data that is required to answer the question effectively. There should be some description of the data itself (is it about emotions, opinions, beliefs, etc.) and some justification for why that data is most relevant. Bullet points are acceptable but there should be elaboration (200-250 words).
- Research context: describe where data resides and obstacles to its collection/production.
Discuss the nature of the research context (is it an office space, a domestic setting, is it urban or rural?) and the potential obstacles that reside there. Here you want to be thinking pragmatically about what kind of data collection will be possible. These constraints can be both practical (e.g., about timing, setting, safety, ethics, weather, equipment, available respondents etc.) and methodological in nature (e.g., constraints concerning bias or the likelihood of getting good and/or honest answers). The aim here it to think carefully about the feasibility of the study given the research context (300-350 words).
- Methodology: description of data collection techniques
This section should be divided into three sub-sections each of which discusses the research tools you will use to collect the data you have determined to be relevant. Here you should focus on the techniques you are deploying to collect the requisite data in a manner that fits the research context. I do not want a generic discussion here – e.g., about why interviews or surveys are good or bad. On the contrary, I want a discussion of the specific technique you are using and how it will work to collect the data you need in the context you are working in. You can also discuss how your approach avoids or mitigates the obstacles discussed in section 3. Remember to discuss three different techniques for collecting the same data (1200 words).
This section should summarise the discussion above by providing an overall justification for the research design. You should focus on highlighting the key decisions taken in sections 1-4 and justifying those decisions through key areas of the literature. Remember what counts when developing a methodology is not what you do (though this is important) but how you justify it. When you are in your Viva and your external examiner asks about your methodology, their questions will not be on the pros and cons of generic techniques, but why you – as a researcher – took the decisions you did. They will be less interested in what you did but why you did it. This section is designed to help you practise not simply how to design a methodology but how to provide a rational account for your decisions. (450-500 words). The key to success in this essay is to be creative and adaptable in terms of research design. I am looking for a design that is feasible and logical in its attempt to align the question asked to the techniques deployed. Thus, while re-programming a satellite might indeed be the most effective way to get data on a problem, I encourage you to find practical solutions even if it means the data will not be as good.