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JMC capstone syllabus


									                                  St. Bonaventure University
              Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication

                              J/MC 499-01 – Senior Capstone
                                   M/W 4 – 5:15 p.m.
                                       Murphy A

Instructor:            Pauline W. Hoffmann, Ph.D.

Office Hours:          T/TH: 10 a.m. to noon; 1 – 2 p.m.
                       Or by appointment

Phone:                 716-375-2578 (office)
                       716-937-7036 (home)

Email:        (preferred method of communication)

Required Texts:        A Pocket Style Manual, 4th ed., by Diane Hacker, Bedford/St. Martin
                       Press, Boston

Program Goals:
1.) Our students will write in clear, concise English.
2.) Our students will understand how to craft messages in ways appropriate for specific
3.) Our students will research critically, filter the results, and present them in a cogent manner.
4.) Our students will have a practical understanding of their chosen field of work.
5.) Our students will integrate broad-based learning into their professional activities.
6.) Our students will understand that with their power as communicators comes a moral and
    ethical responsibility.
7.) Our students will understand the meaning of citizenship in the context of their professional
    activities and their personal lives.
8.) Our students will recognize and overcome biases, prejudices and limited viewpoints
    (including their own) so that they can communicate effectively in a diverse world.

Course Description:
In this course the student produces a project in a communication field under the direction of the
instructor. The project may be either a traditional research-oriented thesis or reflective of the
student’s area of interest based on the school’s curriculum.

Course/Learning Objectives:
The purpose of this course is to facilitate the completion of a formal thesis or senior capstone
project in journalism/mass communication, a degree requirement for all J/MC majors. Senior
projects must be authorized by the instructor and the J/MC dean. If a student chooses to produce
a traditional thesis, the research method used may be qualitative, quantitative, or a combination
of the two methods. Students undertaking a quantitative thesis MUST understand quantitative
research or begin by quickly gaining a rudimentary understanding. Statistical background is
necessary for most, but not all, quantitative research projects.

Additional objectives, directly related to the J/MC program goals, include:
 Exercising the skills acquired through the J/MC curriculum at the highest level of capability.
 Using research skills.
 Properly evaluating the results of research.
 Focusing on a skill set that best matches the student’s course of study.
 Instilling a commitment to professionalism in journalism or other mass communication areas
   (as chosen by the student).
 Finally, writing clearly, the ultimate “capstone” of the Jandoli School.

Attendance Policy:
Attendance in this class is required since we meet once. Individual conferences will be
scheduled by the student. Pay attention to e-mail as this will be the preferred method of
communication as a group. It will also be the mechanism by which a formal class will be called,
should it be necessary.

Individual conferences will be held at the discretion of the student. It is important that you keep
me apprised of your progress. This is not a project for procrastinators. It will not wait until the
last minute. In some cases, meetings may occur via email, particularly to deliver updates. If you
would like to schedule a regular meeting, let me know. If you prefer a more self-directed
approach, that’s fine also. If I do not hear from you, I will assume you are working diligently
and don’t require my help. Remember, even if you think you are on the right track and know
what you’re doing, talking to me may be a good idea. I’ve been doing this much longer and may
have fresh insight or a new/different perspective. Instead of struggling, come see me.

Proposal Approval
All students must submit a proposal to be approved by the instructor and the Dean. This
proposal should contain the topic of your Capstone, your hypothesis, planned research
(Appendix C outlines/summarizes common research methods), and proposed communication
scholarship. You may use the attached Capstone proposal sample (Appendix B) as a guideline.

Final grades will be based on 100% divided as follows: Capstone Work Habits: 10%; Capstone
Abstract: 5%; Capstone Introduction: 5%; Capstone Literature Review: 20%; Capstone Methods:
20%; Capstone Results/Discussion: 20%; Capstone Conclusion: 20%. Mid-term grades will be
based on work to that point. Below is the letter grade scale I will use:

       A = 93 and above               B- = 80-82                    D+ = 68-69
       A- = 90-92                     C+ = 78-79                    D = 63-67
       B+ = 88-89                     C = 73-77                     D- = 60-62
       B = 83-87                      C- = 70-72                    F = 59 and below

The following Capstone Rubric applies (Appendix A highlights each section of the Capstone
with examples.):
Work Habits (10% of Final Grade):
     To earn an A: All deadlines met, meetings attended on time, final project professional
     • To earn a B: Most deadlines met, most meetings attended on time, final project
     professional quality but with minor revisions.
     • To earn a C: Some deadlines met, revisions not accurate or timely, late for meetings,
     final project showed lack of attention to detail.
     • To earn a D: Most deadlines missed, meetings missed or chronically late, sloppy final
     • To earn an F: All deadlines missed, particularly final deadline, meetings missed,
     project not reflective of J/MC school.

Abstract or Proposal (5% of Final Grade):
      • To earn an A: Clear understanding of proposal.
      • To earn a B: Proposal generally clear with minor revisions.
      • To earn a C: Proposal not entirely clear.
      • To earn a D: Proposal not clear at all.
      • To earn an F: No proposal.

Introduction (5% of Final Grade):
      • To earn an A: Clear understanding of project scope and study.
      • To earn a B: Scope and study described with minor revisions. More clarity required.
      • To earn a C: No clear understanding of project or many unanswered questions.
      • To earn a D: Project and scope not articulated well with a lack of focus.
      • To earn an F: No recognizable scope/project. Theme not understand or reflected.

Literature Review (20% of Final Grade):
       • To earn an A: Sources used were extensive, appropriate and well documented.
       • To earn a B: Adequate use of sources with appropriate documentation.
       • To earn a C: Sources used were inappropriate or inadequate, not well documented
       • To earn a D: Inadequate sources with poor documentation.
       • To earn an F: No sources and no documentation.

Methods (20% of Final Grade):
     • To earn an A: Clear well-executed plan to collect appropriate data.
     • To earn a B: Plan was well-executed to collect appropriate data with minor revisions.
     • To earn a C: Plan in place was unclear or not as appropriate as could be.
     • To earn a D: Lack of detail to plan. Not clear or articulated well.
     • To earn an F: No plan at all or not executed.

Results (20% of Final Grade):
       • To earn an A: Results organized and analyzed well, easily understood.
       • To earn a B: Well organized and analyzed results with minor revisions.
       • To earn a C: Results lacked organization and were not analyzed appropriately.
       • To earn a D: Difficult to understand, unorganized, inadequate results.
       • To earn an F: No results to organize or complete lack of understanding.

Discussion/Conclusion (20% of Final Grade):
       • To earn an A: Discussion of results excellent with thought to future insight.
       • To earn a B: Discussion clear with minor revisions.
       • To earn a C: Unsure of discussion or conclusions.
       • To earn a D: Lacks understanding of results or unable to translate to discussion and
       future insight.
       • To earn an F: No conclusion to be drawn, inadequate conclusion, inaccurate

Class Presentation:
Each student will make a 10-15 minute presentation of his/her capstone work during the last two
regularly scheduled classes (Monday, December 1 and Wednesday, December 3). Video
projects will be aired (if possible). Students with written projects are encouraged, but not
required, to develop visual aids to assist in understanding. Please sign up now for a scheduled

Academic Integrity Statement:
Academic dishonesty is inconsistent with the moral character expected of students in a
University committed to the spiritual and intellectual growth of the whole person. It also subverts
the academic process by distorting all measurements. It is a serious matter and will be dealt with
accordingly. A list of unacceptable practices, penalties to be assigned, and procedure to be
followed in prosecuting cases of alleged academic dishonesty may be found in the Student

A Note Regarding Plagiarism:
I take academic integrity seriously, and will not tolerate plagiarism or any other form of
cheating. For further information, these resources on proper citation and how to avoid
plagiarism may be of help:
 "Writing With Sources" (
 Plagiarism Defined (
 Plagiary and the Art of Skillful Citation (
 Using Sources (

There are three common styles to work with in developing a research paper: Chicago, MLA,
APA. Follow your style handbook for details of the style you have chosen to work in. Choose
the one you are most comfortable with and follow the guidelines for that particular style. If you
compare the three, you will find that each gives similar information on citations and references.
Be consistent in your use of the style you choose.

All quoted material, whether from interviews, electronic media or print sources, must be set apart
as an exact quote and cited. If you paraphrase information, you must use a citation to credit the
source. All citations should refer to a source that is documented in more detail in your reference
list. If you didn’t come up with it, cite it! Often professors have seen the reference to which you
are referring and will recognize if something is not cited. Software also exists to aid professors
in detecting plagiarized work. Just cite it – it makes everyone’s job easier.

My experience is with APA style. If you choose another style, please refer to style manuals and
be consistent.

Services for Students with Disabilities Statement:
Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodations in this class are
encouraged to contact the Disability Support Services Office, Doyle Hall, Room 26, at 375-2066
as soon as possible to better ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely
fashion. Documentation from this office is required before accommodations can be made.

                        J/MC 421 Tentative Schedule/Sample Timeline

    Date                                            Topic
Week One
8/25/08            Course Introduction. Discussion of topics/project ideas, proposals,
8/27               No longer meeting as a class.
Week Two
9/1/08             Formal written proposal due.

9/3                GET TO WORK!

Week 3-End of      We will meet at your discretion to discuss your progress and to answer
semester           any questions. Each person works differently and will have a different
                   timeline and schedule. We will develop this individually. I will not
                   babysit. This project is yours to do extremely well, merely pass or fail
11/21/08           DRAFT DUE! (I read drafts of projects and hand them back to you
                   with the grade you would have as of this writing and what would need
                   to be done to improve the grade.)
12/1/08            FINAL PROJECTS DUE!

Monday,            Presentations
12/1/08 and
                                           Appendix A

Each student is able to do a project catered to his/her interests. Examples of projects (others may
be proposed):
     Video documentary
     Public relations campaign
     Advertising campaign
     Series of feature articles
     Series of investigative articles
     Research paper
     Magazine development and production
     Event planning

Any ideas must be approved by the instructor and the dean. Please don’t get started without
getting approval first.

NOTE: This is the time to showcase what you excel at. It is the time to highlight what you have
learned while at SBU. I DO NOT recommend that you take this time to do something you have
never done before. I will not disallow it, I just do not recommend it. If you have never worked
with the video production equipment, this is not the semester to decide to do a video
documentary. Likewise, if you know nothing about Public Relations, perhaps you shouldn’t
embark on an extensive PR campaign. Choose something you enjoy and choose something you
can do.

If you have trouble coming up with an idea, please see me. I am quite good at getting ideas from
students. Think about what you enjoy, what you like. Even if you think your likes are crazy,
you may get an idea out of it. There are endless possibilities.

The following represents what needs to be included in your capstone. At the end of this
Appendix, you will see an additional breakdown of common capstones I have seen. This should
prevent any confusion once you get ready to put your capstone together.

Cover Sheets:
When you have finished your Capstone and are ready to hand it in on the final due date, please
see Sue Ciesla in the J/MC administrative offices. Please give her the title of your capstone,
capstone advisor’s name (Pauline W. Hoffmann), date, and other information she needs. She
will print one (1) copy of the Capstone cover page for you to hand it with your completed
Capstone. Your completed Capstone, with cover sheet, is to be given to me.

Table of Contents:
This should be self-explanatory. Include a Table of Contents (which means you will have to
number the pages of your Capstone). In addition to including page numbers for each section in
your Table of Contents, please also include any diagrams, tables, figures, and graphics in the
Table of Contents Section.
The Abstract is the shortest part of the paper. Ideally, you will relay your hypothesis, research
question, or focus (goals), and what you found (results and conclusion). If someone were to ask
you to describe your Capstone in less than 250 words, this would be your Abstract.

The introduction to any academic work is a summary of what you have done. What is your
Capstone summary? It may differ depending on the subject matter/project focus, but it should
summarize the literature on the subject, the methods you used, your results, and conclusions.
There are three main parts to the Introduction:
   1. What is the background of your Capstone? What made you choose this topic? What are
       you hoping to find?
   2. What is your focus and what is your purpose?
   3. What will be included in the different sections of the Capstone? This portion of the
       Introduction is ideal for those students choosing to write a series of articles. The
       Introduction is the place to summarize the articles so the reader knows what is coming

Literature Review:
This will be one of the most extensive parts of your Capstone. This section forces the student to
go to the Library or at least use the online version of the Library. As a researcher myself,
students in my Capstone group will suffer more because I will have higher expectations of
research. Please note the following:
     Students are expected to cite all sources (please see A Note About Plagiarism and
        Appendix B in this syllabus for more information). Remember that paraphrasing
        information is still taking it from a source, so please remember to cite it. Absolutely cite
        any quotes.
     Students WILL NOT be allowed to use Encyclopedic references of any kind.
        Encyclopedias are a wonderful place to start. TO START! If you are trying to gather
        basic information, encyclopedias may offer basic insight and give you ideas as to where
        to go to get more information. That is fine. Please do not quote from an encyclopedia. I
        won’t allow it.
     If you use online references (which I know everyone will do), keep the following in
            o Do not exclusively use websites that you found from your initial Google search of
                the topic. Dig deeper. You are in the J/MC school.
            o If you choose to use a website I find questionable, I will make you defend your
                choice. It would be easier to go a different route.
            o Remember the problems with online resources. Think about that when you are
                finding information.
     Please be sure to check books, periodicals, newspapers, journals, and other academic
        research options in addition to web searches, interviews, etc.

The literature review should focus on what research has already been done on this subject.
Assume the reader is not already familiar with what is out there. How does your subject relate to
communication research? What is your research going to add to the volumes of research already

This section describes exactly what you did. If you are writing a series of articles, this section
outlines how you decided on the topics, who you interviewed, and how you got whatever other
information you found. This section would also include any questionnaires, surveys, and focus
group research you may have done.

Think about this: If students wanted to redo your Capstone project, they should be able to read
this section and duplicate it without issue.

What did you find? This does not include an analysis of the results; it just states the results.
This would include any research findings, tables, graphs, etc., if appropriate. For those who
decided to write articles, the results section will be a short section summarizing what you found
when writing the articles.

This section includes the analysis of the results. State why you think you found what you found.
This should be based on an analysis of your data/results and your knowledge of the literature
available on this topic. This would also be the section to include any shortcomings you
discovered along the way, any problems with your methodology, and any future questions or
work in this area. Draw your conclusions.

Literature Cited:
Cite all work here based on your citation method – APA format is in Appendix B. APA is
favored by this instructor, but is not mandatory.

Notes for specific capstones – what should be included:

Video documentary
    Cover Sheets – required as noted above.
    Table of Contents – required as noted above.
    Abstract – required as noted above.
    Introduction – Your introduction with be an elaboration of the Abstract. As noted above,
      please summarize what you did and why.
    Literature Review – This won’t be as extensive for video documentaries as much of the
      information will be contained in the video itself. Additional information could be
      included in the Introduction.
    Methods – This won’t be as extensive for video documentaries as much of the
      information will be contained in the video itself. Additional information could be
      included in the Introduction.
    Results - This won’t be as extensive for video documentaries as much of the information
      will be contained in the video itself. Additional information could be included in the
      Discussion/Conclusion - This won’t be as extensive for video documentaries as much of
       the information will be contained in the video itself. Additional information could be
       included in the Introduction.
      Literature Cited – it goes without saying that this is required as noted above.

      Video – you will need to put the video together. I will need to be able to view it. If you
       decide you want to do video anything, the expectation is that the project is finished at the
       end of the semester.

Public relations campaign/Advertising campaign/Event planning/Magazine development
and production
    Cover Sheets – required as noted above.
    Table of Contents – required as noted above.
    Abstract – required as noted above.
    Introduction – Your introduction with be an elaboration of the Abstract. As noted above,
       please summarize what you did and why.
    Literature Review – Your Literature Review will likely be contained within your plan. It
       will include all of your research on the topic, the background information, executive
       summary, SWOT analysis, etc. Some of this information may also be included in the
    Methods – This information could be included in the Introduction and in the campaign
    Results - This information should be included in the campaign itself.
    Discussion/Conclusion - This information should be included in the campaign itself.
    Literature Cited – it goes without saying that this is required as noted above.

      You will need to do research. I expect that you know to whom you plan to market your
       campaign and why. This will require research on your part. Please see me if you choose
       to do this. In the past, students have just developed a magazine because they thought it
       might be cool. That’s nice, but not practical. Why? Who will read it? How do you
       know that? Your PR/advertising campaign might be cute, but will it work? How do you
      For campaigns: executive summary; SWOT; research summary and analysis; campaign
       ideas; campaign collateral; budget; timeline; proposed evaluation method.
      For events: Details of the event including, event checklist, timeline, budget, proposed
       evaluation method, invitations, collateral, etc. Think about what is involved in an event.
      For magazines: why this magazine; demographics; proposed distribution method;
       readership; potential advertisers (you needn’t solicit advertisements, but you should show
       examples of advertisers – cite them); articles (you will need to write the articles or solicit
       them from writers); layout/design of magazine (I expect to see a printed copy of the
       magazine). If you are writing an extensive magazine, you needn’t write the entire
       magazine. I do need to see an example, however. You may note in your Introduction
       any other pieces what may also be included. You will need to consider colors, page
       layout/design, logos, graphics, etc. You needn’t take photographs, but you may. For
       purposes of this project, you may find representative samples of photos and cite them.
Series of feature articles/Series of investigative articles
    Cover Sheets – required as noted above.
    Table of Contents – required as noted above.
    Abstract – required as noted above.
    Introduction – Your introduction with be an elaboration of the Abstract. As noted above,
       please summarize what you did and why.
    Literature Review – This won’t be as extensive for articles as much of the information
       will be contained in the articles. This information could be included, briefly, in the
    Methods –This information could be included, briefly, in the Introduction. The articles
       will highlight the methods.
    Results - This information should be included in the articles.
    Discussion/Conclusion - This information should be included in the articles.
    Literature Cited – it goes without saying that this is required as noted above.

      You will need to write at least five to six articles. The articles need to be at least three to
       four pages double-spaced, although they may certainly be longer. Think about the
       audience for your articles. Think about the magazine/newspaper/other media and make a
       note of it in your Introduction.

Research paper – a strict research paper should be written as outlined in this appendix.

NOTE FOR ALL: I am often asked about page lengths. I never give them. I don’t want crap.
If you are finished – STOP. I don’t want you to write more because you think you need to give
me 60 pages. If you are finished in 20, you are finished. Each person is going to have a different
length anyway so imposing some arbitrary page length seems foolish.
                                           Appendix B

This Capstone proposal was used in the past and was deemed appropriate to use as an example
to current and future students. It is a guideline only.

                               Capstone Project Proposal

Description: I intend to write a series of investigative stories concerning the dairy industry. The

pieces will include stories about the formula for milk pricing, the elimination of the family farm,

the rise of corporate farms, the industry from a consumer point of view and the industry from an

international point of view.

       I feel this project is very important because of my experience growing up in a farming

community and witnessing the hardships of local dairy farmers to sustain a viable life for their


Research Question: The entirety of my research will focus on one main question: Why are

family farms unable to survive in today’s current economic climate?

Research Method: I have found many sources to interview for these stories. I have connections

to dozens of local farmers in the central New York area. I also have made contacts with

representatives within the creamery sector along with representatives from the consumer side of

the industry. I also plan on consulting with the “Market Administrator,” a bulletin which

attempts to predict the change in milk prices.

Importance: When this product is finished I hope I will have answered some burning questions

for upstate New York farmers. I also believe that these articles will enlighten an otherwise

ignorant public on the mild pricing system and the economic battles of everyone involved within

the dairy industry.
                                          Appendix C

Senior Capstone – Research Methods Review Guide

What kind of research are you doing?
Why are you doing this research?

Primary Research – first hand research. Interviews, survey, observation, experiment data
collected by the researcher.
Secondary Research – research others have collected that the present researcher is going to use.
Library research to get information others have done.
Which is better?

How do you measure data?

How do you present data?
When you are working on your final capstone paper and developing your methodology, you
want to make sure that you describe your research methods in such a way that others can
replicate it and get the same/statistically similar results. You will want to include a sample of
your survey or the questions for your interview, or the nature of your observation/experiment, or
the questions/issues in your focus group. As well, you may need to include a sample transcript
of your materials. Be as detailed as possible. This section you may want to give to someone
unfamiliar with your project and see if they can understand it and figure it out.

What kinds of research are out there?
   Surveys
   Interviews
   Focus Groups
   Content Analysis
   Observation
   Experiments

Focus Groups
Participants should represent your audience/target demographic – but not be related. Often
participants are paid a fee and are offered refreshments at the site. The site is usually a
conference room/classroom and may have a one-way mirror. A moderator is present. The
moderator acts as the “survey”. The moderator:
     Keeps people talking.
     Makes sure one person isn’t dominating the group and that all participants are heard.
     Encourages all to participate freely without repercussion.
     Leads the discussion usually based on certain questions – much like survey questions.

Usually proceedings are audio and/or videotaped for later review by the researcher. The
researcher looks for:
      Comments that may be observational or anecdotal.
      Recurring themes and feelings.
      Verbal and non-verbal comments/cues.

How do you do focus group research?
   Choose your demographic and figure out how to reach them.
   Invite them to the conference room.
   Select a moderator they likely don’t know and who can be completely objective.
   Select questions you need answered.
   Be prepared to have a thick skin.

Where do you see focus group research:
   Broadcast media may solicit focus group information in determining the behaviors of
      listeners. Also may be interested in content issues.
   PR/Advertising/Marketing uses focus group research all the time in brand development,
      new product/service development in gauging the public’s interest.

We can see benefits of focus group research:
   People interacting in a brainstorm-type session regarding your products/services/ideas.
   Get instant feedback.
   Get verbal and non-verbal cues.
   Easily ascertain sincerity.

    What happens when you want to say something counter to the group’s view? And you
       are shy? Do you speak up? Or do you sit silently?
    May not be representative sample. Who is showing up? People who have nothing better
       to do? People who happened to be free that day? People who are cranky or opinionated?
       People who need a free meal or money?

I will say no more about interviews because I know that every person in the J/MC school has had
extensive experience with interviews. Suffice to say that interviews in this context are similar.
You may want to consider issues with surveys and focus groups in your interviews, but other
than that, go with what you have learned from other faculty.

Content Analysis
What is content analysis?
When you think of content analysis you probably think about:
   Evaluating a series of ads or pr campaigns from your competition or others in a particular
   Evaluating a series of tv/radio/cable/internet broadcasts for content.
   Evaluating a series of print media for content.
   Evaluating a series of interviews or other data for content.
According to Bernard Berelson, “Content analysis is a research technique for the objective,
systematic, and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication.” What does
that mean? I don’t know either.

Objective: all research should be objective. You should not approach research with a particular
agenda. This sounds contradictory since we have said you should have an hypothesis or a
research question. But we are also quick to state that you should be flexible and adapt to the data
and evidence you collect. Always keep an open mind!

Systematic: You shouldn’t just cherry pick those pieces that are suitable to support your
hypothesis (goes along with objective). Be sure to include all you can. Sometimes it gets
daunting. Perhaps you need to narrow it down. But make sure you are inclusive and systematic
in your approach.

Quantitative: The object of content analysis is to break the information down in such as way as
to give numbers to text. This sounds complicated but doesn’t need to be. It may be as simple as
analyzing a series of news articles about St. Bonaventure, 50% reference that SBU is a party
school, 25% reference the bad reviews of Hickey Dining Hall, 10% Service, 10% reference
academics, 5% are police blotters.

Descriptive: Once you have collected your data and analyzed is quantitatively, you may describe
what you see. Another approach to content analysis (while still quantitative) involves coding
words/phrases into common elements. For example, CATPAC is able to take articles,
interviews, etc. and analyze it to come up with common clumps.

Manifest: Simply means obvious. When you analyze your data, you should see some obvious
patterns that, with any luck, are based on your research questions, but if not, you follow that lead

As with most research, what you have to do with content analysis is:
    Decide what you want to analyze.
    Decide your demographic/audience.
    Define what you want to measure/count/analyze.
    Develop categories.
    Figure out how you plan to code things.
    Collect data.
    Analyze data.
    Report results.

When you are collecting data, collect everything.

Observation and Experiments:
Like Wild Kingdom or the Discovery Channel, you want to sit and observe behaviors of your
peers or those in your demographic group. Often when developing research experiments like
this, you have to have a control group and an experimental group. This takes into account the
placebo effect.
Go into the field and watch what people do. You may decide to sit inside Hickey Dining Hall
and watch how people react to certain specials on the menu. Perhaps you sit in the lounges in
your dorm and watch people react to certain news stories on TV. Or perhaps you set up certain
experiments yourself. What if you want to see how people react when facing the Devereux Hall
ghost so you set up equipment that mimics a ghost and get people’s reaction.

You may also set up lab experiments that bring people into a lab-like setting and give them a
series of tasks. If you give them a series of headlines to read to see if it prompts some action
from them, what do you expect to find?

Once you decide your experiment and perform it, you analyze your data in much the same way
as other data collection methods.

Think about whether you can observe without being seen or do an experiment without tainting
the data and evidence?

Most people consider survey research to be the easiest method to gather data. That may be true.
If you administer the survey via mail, e-mail or internet, in person, through a group interaction
you are dealing with a fairly quick, cost effective method of data gathering. Of course, as with
all research methods, problems exist in data collected.

Two of the most important considerations in survey data are who to survey and how to craft or
develop the survey. Most researchers (and that’s exactly what you are if you are conducting
research, as fancy or unlikely as that label seems) think that slapping together a series of
questions and distributing it to a group of people is no problem. In theory, they are correct.
However, it is also far too easy to make errors in judgment that may skew your data or render it
completely useless and inaccurate.

We are going to prevent you from doing that.

Different types/kinds of surveys:
Most researchers are familiar with the standard written survey that asks a series of questions that
respondents are to check off answers or express likes and dislikes on a numerical scale. Brief
descriptions follow regarding the different forms a survey may take:
     Questionnaire: What most researchers are familiar with.
     Word association tests/complete sentence tests: This survey form asks respondents to
       give a word association or complete a sentence provided by the researcher. For example,
       if I want to rename the J/MC school to the Center for Journalism and Mass
       Communication, I may ask what association people give to the word “Center.” If I
       wanted to assess how people feel about Clare College I might phrase a question “Clare
       College is…….” and ask that the respondent complete that sentence.
     Interviews: I consider interviews to be a sort of survey – not in the traditional sense, but
       the analysis of the data may be the same.
      Ask for experience: This is an extension of the above survey method. If I wanted to
       know how people felt about Clare College, I might ask: “Can you tell me about an
       experience you had with Clare College” and make a note of their response.
      Third Person Technique: This method plays on peoples reluctance to implicate
       themselves. The familiar “I’m asking for my friend” is what is considered here. You
       may say, “How do you think your roommate feels about Clare College” to assess the
       person’s true feelings. People are more apt to discuss their “friends” responses rather
       than their own because they don’t feel as though they are expressing their own interests.
      Compare/Contrast: This method is often used when companies are trying to repackage
       or re-brand products or services. For example, if I was redesigning the course catalog for
       SBU, I might develop several styles and ask that people choose those they like best. Or if
       SBU were to develop a new ad campaign, I would ask respondents which ads would
       work best or ask them to give feedback on each piece.

Most comments regarding surveys speak to all survey methods. Some exceptions may exist and
will be noted.

Survey Considerations:

Sample Size:
The number of people you choose to survey depends on several factors: money, time, data
needed, expected response.

Students have one semester to finish their Capstone projects. This eliminates huge surveys that
might require thousands of responses from a worldwide audience. Some ambitious
overachievers may be able to accomplish this, but they aren’t people we like to discuss.

Students are also notoriously poor. Money must be saved for The Burton, not survey research.
Mailing surveys can get costly, particularly since postage rates just increased. Interviews and
compare/contrast studies may cost the researcher money in terms of equipment or production of

Students/Researchers need to decide how much data they need. If they are surveying all J/MC
students versus the entire student body at SBU, the number of possible respondents is smaller.
The question then becomes, how many respondents do you need in order to get results that will
stand up to statistical analysis and debate? Researchers should consider that survey sample sizes
are to represent the group in question. Certainly you may survey one person, but is that person
representative of your group? Generally speaking, the more respondents you can get (in terms of
percentage of population), the better you data and the better your results.

Researchers also need to recognize that the response rate for surveys is 10% at best most of the
time. If you work with this number, that should give you an idea how many people you need to
send your initial survey to. If you feel you need 100 responses in order to make your data and
your research worthwhile, expect to send at least 1,000 surveys.
Who do you want to survey? This is your most important consideration. It requires that you
think very hard about what information you want, what you propose to do with that information,
and why you want it. If you want to get a handle on student drinking on the SBU campus, it
wouldn’t make sense to send a survey to students at Geneseo. If you wanted to poll faculty to
find out their opinions about the current SBU administration, sending the survey to students
won’t give you much insight. These are very black and white examples. Often the line is not
that clear cut. You may want to find out how students at SBU feel about Hickey Dining Hall.
Who do you send your survey to, if you send it? Do all students eat at Hickey Dining Hall? If
you distributed your survey to students as they enter the dining hall and then collect the surveys
as they leave, are you getting the best representation? What about students who no longer eat at
Hickey Dining Hall for whatever reason, but did. Do you want their opinion? How do you get

Please remember that try as you may, you are not going to get the perfect survey distributed in
the perfect manner with perfect results. That’s an urban myth. You can, however, get the best
results with what you have available to you.

How are you going to distribute and collect your survey? Will your survey be confidential or are
you going to personally administer your survey? How much money do you have for
photocopying, mailing, etc.? Do you want to try an email survey? These are all considerations
when planning your survey. There are no hard and fast answers. Just know that you must think
about all of these factors in the development of your survey. Using the Hickey Dining Hall
example above, I would think that distributing the survey as people enter and then collecting it as
they leave would be a good opportunity to capture that population. Of course you won’t get
everyone, but you will get a representative sample. If you are computer savvy, you may consider
an email survey. However, bear in mind that many people will think your survey is spam and
may not even open it. Email surveys are difficult to administer unless it is a population you
expect to be open to an email survey. For example, SBU alumni are a loyal group. If they
receive an email from a student, they will likely open it and respond. Other groups and
populations may not be as interested and forthcoming.

Money also determines how many surveys you distribute. Students are generally operating with
limited funds and may not have money to copy, mail, provide a return envelope, etc. This may
cut your sample size down considerably, thus not providing the most representative population.

Students in Capstone have one semester to complete their projects (generally speaking).
Developing a survey that requires months and months of preparation, distribution and analysis
may not be the route to take.

After deciding how you want to distribute your survey and to whom, developing the survey will
be the most taxing project. Developing survey questions seem straightforward, but this may be
your most difficult task. In deciding what form your survey will take, think for a moment about
how you plan to analyze your data. Data is generally gathered using one of four numerical
   1. Ordinal: Rank order usually increasing or decreasing order. May use to describe
       preferences and attitudes.
   2. Nominal: Categorical description. This may be your religious or political preference,
       demographic information often collected through surveys.
   3. Interval: Expresses the absolute distance between objects, you may add and subtract but
       not multiply and divide. Temperature and calendar items.
   4. Ratio: Ideally what you want to collect. This information is easiest to analyze using
       statistical software. There is an absolute zero. Weight and duration may be measured.

One measure is not necessarily better than another. In fact, the measure you use may depend
entirely on what you are measuring. Asking people to tell you if they are male or female is not
going to be a ratio measure, but rather a nominal measure. Asking people their preference about
the Dining Hall food would rank on an ordinal scale. However, we will discuss how ordinal
numbers may be used as ratio measures.

Survey questions usually ask about facts, beliefs and opinions and are either open or closed.
Questions about facts are easiest because they are either true or false, there is no middle ground.
Are you male or female, may be considered fact. What is your age? Are you a freshman,
sophomore, junior, or senior? What is your major? All of these questions may be easily
answered (we hope) and can also be verified. Granted, even with factual questions, respondents
may lie. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

Questions about beliefs and opinions are more difficult to analyze but are often more in keeping
with the nature of the survey. Do you think Devereux Hall is really haunted?

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