Module 3: Conducting a Study


After doing this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Understand the relationship between research sampling, data collection, and the production of research instruments
  • Craft a well-constructed Research Instrument that will allow you to reliably collect and analyze data


On this module, you are encouraged to use any technologies  available to you, including word processors, web browsers, and online applications (e-mail, chat, blogging, productivity, workflow, etc.). We will cover some of these technologies as we go along, but you can use any that you are proficient with or want to experiment with on this module.

You will definitely need access to the following technologies to complete this module:

  1. A working and recently-updated Internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari are recommended)
  2. A word-processing application (e.g. Word, Pages, Writer, etc.)
  3. A reliable email client (Outlook, Apple’s Mail, or Gmail are recommended)


Now you have a research plan for conducting a study, but there is still one more step before you collect actual data, and that is figuring out where that data lies (sampling) and how to capture and record that data (data collection and management).

Your next task, as I mention below, is thus to craft a Research Instrument detailing all all the activities you will undergo to collect and manage actual data. This instrument is the last step before you go out and collect some data, so it must be rigorously designed and implemented.

Deliverables You Must Produce for this Project

The following must be posted to Blackboard by the following date / time:

The following must be posted to this course website by the following date / time:

  • A copy of your Research Instrument – 10/22/14 by Midnight ET
  • An answer to my research question (see below) on the posts of each of your peers – 10/27/14 by Midnight ET


The primary audience for your module is myself, an experienced researcher who will assess your plan for its validity as a series of activities for carrying out a study. Fellow researchers you will conduct this study for are an important audience to consider as well, however.

To Complete This Project (Workflow)

1) 10/9/14 by Midnight Eastern Time >>

Do Homework #3

2) 10/9/14-10/20/14 >>

As I mentioned above, a Research Instrument, also called a Research Protocol, is a means of conducting and managing data as part of a study. This means that it is a set of materials that orient the researcher to the data in a systematic and rigorous manner.

A full Research Instrument should thus include the following elements (but may include more, depending on the study):

  1. Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria: By what criteria are you including and excluding potential participants? To answer this question, you must first consider what kinds of people you will request participation from. What are the criteria that make them appropriate participants for your study?
  2. Benefits: What are the potential benefits of your study, both to individual subjects and to society? What might your participants learn about themselves or a particular process or topic, and what might other researchers learn from your study?
  3. Methods of Avoiding or Reducing Risk to Participants: Risks to participants in research range from risks to their privacy being violated all the way up to serious health effects in the case of the medical research. What are the primary risks your participants will face? Here’s a list of them to help you: How will you mitigate those risks? Some ways of doing so include: ensuring your data is kept confidential or private, informing participants of all potential risks, and presenting participants with alternatives to participating in your study. How do the potential benefits of your study outweigh the potential risks?
  4. Methods of Managing Data: How will you collect your data? Do you need any devices (e.g. cameras, audio recorders, laptops, overhead displays), and if so: where will you obtain them? What about supplies (e.g. paper, pens, booklets, etc.)? How will you capture your data? In what form will you capture it (e.g. field notes, video recording, surveys filled out by participants, etc.)? Where will you store your data so that it is kept private or confidential? Who will have access to this data besides yourself?
  5. Informed Consent: What information do you need to give participants so that they understand what exactly you’re asking them to do for your study? For the purposes of this class, you’re only required to verbally explain what you’re studying (which is called “assent”), but: what will you explain? Here’s an example of a full-blown consent form from a recent project of my own: Civic_Minded_Informed_Consent.
  6. Scripts: Everything you do in your study that requires interactions with participants should be scripted. This includes: recruiting scripts (or an explanation of the study you will read to participants–here’s an example: Civic_Minded_Initial_Participant_Recruitment_Script), interview scripts (here’s an example: Civic_Minded_Interview_Script), survey forms, focus group scripts, observational guidelines (or what exactly you’ll be observing and how you will ensure consistency across all your observations), testing protocols (or instructions for participants to attempt a particular task–here’s an example: NC_Coastal_Atlas_UX__Interview_Script). Again: everything you that involves interacting with participants should be scripted to ensure reliability.

3) If you want feedback from me on a draft of your Research Instrument, you must get it to me no later than 10/20/10 by 5:00 PM.

4) 10/22/14 by Midnight ET >>

Revise all your documents and hand them in:

5) 10/27/14 by Midnight ET >>

Post an answer to the following research question as a comment on the posts of each person’s webpage on this course website.

Each module, I will ask you a research question, which you must post a response to as a comment on the posts of each of your peers. Your research question for this module is the following:

  • Looking at this author’s Research Instrument: do the activities mentioned form a cohesive instrument? Does this instrument appear rigorous (systematic, reliable, etc.)? Are there additional activities they might want to add to this instrument? Is tweaking their research problem called for? Are there activities that don’t seem to fit?

Grading Criteria

Can be found here: grading criteria for this module