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Most graduate students embark on their PhD researches with an interest in some general topic, issue, or problem. The task of writing a PhD, however, requires an ability to identify a specific research project that integrates theory, evidence, and methods into a coherent analytical framework.
At the same time, social science training frequently ill-prepares students for this task. Consider, for example, that substantive courses (religion, family, race/ethnicity etc.), theory courses, and methods courses are all thought separately and largely independently of one another.
Theory modules are often presented as a set of interesting yet abstract ideas lacking in empirical grounding. Methods modules are frequently perceived by students as largely theory-free.
This module, then, seeks to help you to consider more deeply the connections between theory, evidence, and methods, in your PhD research by exposing you to some of the variety of approaches and perspectives available in the discipline for thinking analytically about these linkages. As such, it will address important questions such as: what are the specific theoretical issues involved in your PhD? How does your study provide evidence for one theoretical approach as against another? And thus what evidence is most relevant?
Student Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
• Explain the relationship between theory, methods and data within their own PhD thesis.
• Map the argument of their PhD thesis
• Analyze the sociological arguments of other PhD theses
• Develop a ‘plan of action’ for their own PhD thesis
• Prepare a professional poster for their own PhD
The course is assessed on a ‘satisfactory/did not complete’ basis. There are 3 components to the assessment:
1) You are expected to attend all class meetings, do the readings before the class and come prepared to discuss them, and to make presentations and provide comments when that is part of the structure of the class.
2) You will be expected to prepare a professional poster mapping the structure of your PhD research including:
i. Description of topic (no more than 600 words):
• Aims and objectives
• Central research questions
ii. Methodology, including, for example (no more than 600 words):
• Investigative and analytic methods
• Theoretical frameworks
iii. Research plan (no more than 400 words):
• Schedule for the completion of tasks/phases of the project and
efficient management and performance of research.
iv. Description of the relationship of the project to existing research (no more
than 600 words).
• How the project will make a new contribution to knowledge.