Warning: This is an archived course website that is part of my teaching portfolio, so some links may no longer work. Please contact me with any questions about this site.

Research Design and/or Pilot Study

(Worth 20% of your grade; due on May 13)


Your final assignment in this course is to develop a research project that explores one or more of the topics we have discussed this semester. Due to the limited time we have remaining in the semester, it would be unrealistic to expect that each of you could not only design and execute a research study, but also analyze the data and produce a finished article containing your findings. Hence, I am asking you to (1) identity a research question (or questions) that needs to be answered, (2) explore the academic literature related to your question(s), (3) develop a practical set of methods that will help you answer your question(s), and, if possible, (4) carry out a small pilot study to test the effectiveness of your research design.

Each project will be unique, and I will work individually with you to ensure that your project is feasible and has the potential to turn into a conference presentation or journal article, should you decide to pursue the project after the end of the semester. I have built in several checkpoints along the way to help you stay on track, and I hope you will visit with me as often as I can be helpful.


The primary deliverable for this project will be a paper roughly 4,000 words long. Depending on the size, scope, and topic of your project, you may produce some or all of the following items:

  • Short abstract (~100 words)
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methods section
  • Preliminary findings
  • Draft of research instrument(s)
  • Raw data from pilot study
  • Draft of Institutional Review Board application
  • Brief commentary addressing the gaps in your project and outlining the course of action you would take if completing the research study (no more than 300 words)

Project Milestones

  • March 27: Project proposal (1-2 pages) due
  • April 12: Annotated bibliography (at least ten sources) due
  • April 26: Draft of methods section due
  • May 8: In-class presentation (10 minutes)
  • May 13: Final draft of project due

Evaluation Criteria

  • Completeness: Does the finished paper contain roughly 4,000 words? (Shorter than 3,500 is a problem; longer than 5,000 is a problem.)
  • Structure and organization: Does the paper follow a logical format, leading the reader from one section to the next? Does the paper use headings and subheadings to provide signposts to the reader? Are all of the major sections (abstract, introduction, literature review, methods, preliminary findings) represented in the paper?
  • Evidence of secondary research: Does the paper demonstrate the author’s familiarity with ongoing disciplinary conversations about the research subject? Has the author effectively incorporated outside sources into the paper? Does the paper use a consistent citation style (APA, MLA, etc.)?
  • Evidence of primary research: Does the paper clearly explain the author’s data collection and analysis methods? Does the project build upon well-respected methods in the appropriate discipline? Does it successfully modify or adapt those methods for this specific project?
  • Quality of prose: Is the paper easy to read? How well does the author follow the genre conventions of academic writing we have observed this semester?
  • Correctness: Does the paper adhere to the conventions of standard written English (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.)?