Research Project – Introduction

This semester you will conduct a literature review and collect primary data examining recent research on a topic of public concern. We will begin this project by looking at topics from the General Social Survey (GSS). In this exercise, you will select a topic that will be the focus of your research. Since we will be working on this same topic all semester, you really should pick something you are very interested in and is relevant to you.

There are a number of topics listed in the GSS cumulative file from ideas of multiculturalism, religious beliefs, political participation, to beliefs about freedom of speech… your first step in you own research project will be to look through these variables and decide on a topic that interests you. This will be the topic you investigate for the rest of the semester, so choose wisely…

Go to the online General Social Survey topic list (http://sda.berkeley.edu/D3/GSS08/Doc/gs08v000.htm). Click on each topic and look at some of the questions that have been asked… do any of these topics resonate with you? Is there something you’d like to research? Is there something you already know a bit about?

>>>Select your topic>>>>Which topic did you pick? Why?

>>>From ‘nonscientific’ methods of knowing (ordinary human inquiry, tradition, and authority), what do you already “know” about your topic of interest? >>>How can research move beyond this commonly accepted wisdom?

Now return to http://sda.berkeley.edu/D3/GSS08/Doc/gs08v000.htm and the topic you selected. Look at the various questions that have been asked on that topic. For example, I am interested in immigration. I click on the topic immigration (http://sda.berkeley.edu/D3/GSS08/Doc/gs08v869.htm) and I see this list :

GSS 1972-2008 Cumulative Dataset


Variable Group: IMMIGRATION

Sub-Groups
Attitudes towards immigrants
Chances will be adversely affected at work by immigrants
Characteristics of immigrants
Entitlements for immigrants and undocumented aliens
Impact on US
Increase or decrease amount to US
Increase or decrease specific ethnic group to US
Status of R

When I click on Attitudes towards immigrants I see a list of four variables:

Variable Group: Attitudes towards immigrants

Variables
IMMPUSH ARE IMMIGRANTS DEMANDING TOO MANY RIGHTS?
IMMWRKUP SHOULD IMMIGRANTS OVERCOME BIAS WITHOUT HELP
KIDSHERE PARENT OF AMERICA BORN CHILD SHOULD BECOME CITIZEN
KIDSAWAY CHILD BORN ABROAD OF AMERICAN SHOULD BECOME CITIZEN
IMMRGHTS LEGAL IMMIGRANTS SHOULD HAVE SAME RIGHT AS AMERICAN

If I click on the variable IMMRGHTS, I see the question as well as statistics on how people responded:

IMMRGHTS LEGAL IMMIGRANTS SHOULD HAVE SAME RIGHT AS AMERICAN
Text of this Question or Item
1461. There are different opinions about immigrants from other 
countries living in America. (By "immigrants" we mean people who 
come to settle in America). How much do you agree or disagree 
with each of the following statements? e. Legal immigrants to 
America who are not citizens should have the same rights as 
American citizens.
% Valid % All N Value Label
11.7 0.3 139 1 AGREE STRONGLY
26.8 0.6 319 2 AGREE
15.6 0.4 186 3 NEITHER AGREE NOR DISAGREE
35.1 0.8 418 4 DISAGREE
10.8 0.2 128 5 DISAGREE STRONGLY
97.7 51,827 0 IAP
0.0 24 8 CANT CHOOSE
0.0 2 9 NA
100.0 100.0 53,043 Total
Properties
Data type: numeric
Missing-data codes: 0,8,9
Record/column: 1/5966

>>>Which specific variable are you most interested in?

>>>>Which specific question are you wanting to focus on?

>>>> What are the basic results to the question?

>>>> What do these results mean to you?

Great… now you know the topic, question, and variable that you will focus on for the rest of the semester. Write this down so you will remember.

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