Guide to the Manual

This manual is designed for undergraduate students who are thinking about doing research in the social sciences and other disciplines. We purposely designed the manual with the help of feedback from students who previously undertook honours research at the undergraduate level to ensure this was not your standard research methods text, but a friendly companion to the research journey. Hence, you will not find detailed coverage of research methods or expansive discussions of concepts. Instead, the manual is arranged to loosely resemble the organization of an undergraduate research project. We have opted to offer references and links to resources that will help you dive deeper into conceptual, theoretical and methodological content throughout the book and at the end of each chapter. We purposely designed the manual with the mindset of you trying to complete your research project in 8 months (between September and April). Of course, the manual is still useful if your project has a longer (or even shorter) time horizon. To meet this goal, the topics covered in this manual are intended to mimic the steps you would take to complete your project. We also tried to write the text using the simplest language possible, with many practical examples, templates and checklists so that it is accessible to you, regardless of your competence. Our aim is that this manual will serve as both a source of reference, a handbook and a guide throughout your research process.

Issues Covered

The book is divided into thirteen chapters as follows:

Chapter 1 provides extensive guidance on how to develop and refine a research idea. The approach is multi-focused: on one hand, we assume that you have no idea what your research idea is; on the other we assume that you have some ideas and want guidance to refine it. The chapter also provides descriptions on how to write positionality statements and how to engage in reflexive practice. We also introduce and elaborate on issues of relational accountability, sources of research questions and strategies for evaluating your research question.

Chapter 2 builds on the previous chapter by elaborating on how to write a research proposal. It provides step-by-step guidance on the process and expounds on the components of a typical proposal. The chapter ends with a sample template, which you can use as a starting point for your own proposal.

Chapter 3 offers guidance on the ethical review process. We highlight Tri-Council Policy Statements’ key guidelines, but revert to UBC’s Behavioral Ethics Review process as an illustrative template to explain what the review process entails. We emphasize the importance of understanding your institution’s process, yet, by elaborating on principles, the chapter will be useful to you regardless of your institution.

Chapter 4 highlights self-care as an important part of the research process. The chapter provides tips, testimonials and suggestions to help you maintain balance while doing your research. We also offer advice on mindfulness time management, supervisor-student relationship and dealing with imposter syndrome.

Chapter 5 outlines how academic writing is a technical genre that is different from other genres such as business or creative writing. Hence, we emphasize the importance of knowing your audience and tailoring your writing to them. We discuss the conventions of academic writing and differentiate between qualitative, quantitative and theoretical genres before ending with general tips to help you clearly connect with your audience.

Chapter 6 outlines the literature review process alongside detailed commentary on its components. We highlight different types of literature reviews and offer strategies for producing a solid review. The chapter also covers issues such as how to calibrate your search, how to read and take notes, and how to manage citations as well as some general writing tips.

Chapter 7 is intended to help you develop confidence writing your methodology. It discusses the limitations and justifications for common methods in the social sciences to enable you to confidently choose and defend your methodology. It provides a detailed description of each element of a methods section along with checklists and a worksheet to get you started.

Chapter 8 offers tips on quality data collections measures. We outline issues that can compromise your data and offer strategies to overcome them. We specifically examine issues in the primary data collection process as well as the secondary data collection process (highlighting problems specific to systematic literature review, essays and theoretical data) before addressing data organization, missing data and data transformation.

Chapter 9 presents practical tips on how to analyze your qualitative data. We cover common analytical strategies including grounded theory, and content and framework analysis. The chapter also outlines how to present your findings and develop a cohesive narrative through storylining.

Chapter 10 offers practical tips for analyzing your quantitative data. It guides you through common research objectives and corresponding statistical techniques, before exploring major descriptive and inferential statistics, including T-tests, ANOVA, chi-square, correlation and regression. Importantly, the chapter offers practical ways for writing up your results for each of these tests. It ends with a discussion of data visualization using R.

Chapter 11 highlights the tasks involved in writing up your discussion (interpretation and explanation of findings, and other components) and conclusions. We provide practical tips for discussing your findings within the context of the literature, making applications and articulating your contributions. We also provide tips on identifying and writing about your limitations and recommendations. The chapter ends with tips on how to assess your discussion and some strategies for overcoming common mistakes.

Chapter 12 outlines how to present your findings publicly. We outline how to apply for conferences and offer tips for oral and poster presentations. We also discuss strategies for answering difficult questions at conferences.

Chapter 13 discusses the intricacies of academic publishing. It outlines the realities of the publishing world, and guides you through the entire process, from selecting publication venues to dealing with editorial decisions. We also offer tips to improve your chances of getting published.

Features of the Manual

The manual has a number of features designed to improve its accessibility. We highlight them below:

  • Objectives at the beginning of each chapter: students will have a clear sense of what is covered in the chapter and what are some expected outcomes.
  • Project Timeline: At the beginning of each chapter, we provided suggested timelines to help students stay on track and monitor their progress over an eight months span (September to April). Of course, this is customizable depending on the duration of your research.
  • Testimonials: Most chapters have at least one testimony from a student researcher. This will enable users of the manual to see strategies that others in a similar position used to successfully navigate the research process. In addition to students’ testimonials, the authors provided their own testimonies throughout the body of the text. One of the authors (Wilson) is an undergraduate student and his testimonials are provided throughout to make the material more relatable.
  • Checklists: For all the major components covered in each chapter, we provided checklists to allow you to assess your work. We also have end of chapter checklists so that you are able to evaluate your work against a more objective standard upon completion.
  • Suggested and Further Readings: We included suggested readings at the end of each chapter to make it easy for you to find resources that are not covered in detail in the chapter.
  • Glossary: We defined major concepts throughout the chapter and provided a glossary at the end of the book to enable you to quickly reference the meaning of key concepts.
  • Worksheets: We provided worksheets at the end of all the technical chapters so that users have a template to guide their writing.
  • Boxes and Real life examples: We provided boxes with excerpts from real research in many chapters. We also draw on real life research examples in the body of the chapters to give you a practical sense of how to construct your chapters.
  • Website Links: Users of the ebook will have click-able links embedded throughout the chapters. We also provided website addresses for users with printed versions of the manual to enter in their browsers. We offered an abundance of websites as additional resources.

We hope that these features will make your research experience much more enjoyable. We also look forward to your feedback so that we can improve this manual in the future.



Icon for the CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license

To the extent possible under law, Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Guide to the Manual, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book