This work is the result of my own investigations, except where otherwise stated. All sources are acknowledged in explicit citations. A complete list of References is appended.
This work has not previously been accepted in substance for any degree and is not being concurrently submitted in candidature for any degree.
Signed ..................................................................... (candidate)
[Check for current wording]
[Summarise the whole dissertation briefly in a way that would help a reader to decide whether it was what they were looking for. Identify the methodology used and give basic details of the sample. Include the main findings.]
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
Introduction and rationale
Key studies of closely-related issues
Summary of key findings
Review of appropriate methodologies and published examples
Rationale for choice of methodology
Data gathering and analysis
Outline of the procedures
Sample selection, size and demographics [or whatever]
Comparison of groups [or whatever]
Patterns in the data
Discussion and conclusions
Key findings (related to existing studies)
Limitations of the current study
List of Figures
[List sources only for those you have taken from elsewhere]
List of Tables
[List sources only for those you have taken from elsewhere]
[It is always polite to include your supervisor, as well as all those who have helped you. Do not be tempted to name any of the informants quoted in the text or you will of course compromise their anonymity; however, you can thank them collectively here.]
Introduction and rationale
You must include a rationale: an explanation of why you are studying the topic and of why it is important. You will need to show evidence that specialists in the field do find it important. It is not good enough to say that you find it personally interesting (you shouldn’t be studying it otherwise!). Think of your reader(s). In justifying your study it can be useful to imagine a cynical critic who cannot imagine why anyone would waste their time on such a study! If you can address their concerns you will be doing well. You could ask one of your friends to play ‘Devil’s Advocate’ for you to check how persuasive you are being. On the other hand, bear your specialist readers in mind and don’t try to explain terms that should already be familiar to them: just demonstrate that you understand such terms by the way in which you apply them throughout your study.
A theoretical framework often features as an early section in a dissertation. Firstly, you must make explicit the particular academic discourse within which your study is framed. It should be clear (to the reader) from the outset that your approach is (for instance) historical, psychological, sociological, philosophical, semiotic or linguistic (be wary about stepping outside the specialisms into which you have been inducted within your department, though your topic area may straddle traditional disciplinary boundaries). Within any given discipline you also need to locate your study within a relevant sub-discipline or branch of the subject (e.g. social psychology or visual semiotics) and then within a particular tradition or ‘school of thought’ (e.g. social constructionism or queer theory). In a theoretical framework you would include an outline of existing theories which are closely related to your research topic. You should make clear how your research relates to such theories. Who are regarded as the key theorists in the field on the central issues involved? You should find some names coming up repeatedly (these will later appear in your literature review). Justify your choices. If you can’t identify key theorists this suggests that your topic lacks theoretical interest. What are the key debates and what arguments and evidence have the key theorists put forward? What questions remain unresolved? What key concepts that feature in your study are disputed and which of the competing definitions are you adopting or challenging (see, for instance, Chandler & Munday 2011 for different definitions of key concepts within Media and Communication Studies). How are ‘research questions’ in the field framed? How does your own research relate to such framings? You should make your own theoretical assumptions and allegiances as explicit as possible. Later, your discussion of methodology should be linked to this theoretical framework.
Your research should be guided by a central research question (or a series of closely-connected questions). This needs to be made explicit early on (although you may refine your question(s) as your understanding deepens. Your research questions will help you to stay on target and to avoid being distracted by interesting (but irrelevant) digressions.
Chapter 2 Literature review Academic dissertations at all levels in the social sciences typically include some kind of ‘literature review’. It is probably more useful for students to think of this, as examiners usually do, as a ‘critical review of the literature’, for reasons which will be made clear shortly. The literature review is normally an early section in the dissertation.
The broader survey
Students are normally expected to begin working on a general survey of the related research literature at the earliest possible stage of their research. This in itself is not what is normally meant in formal references to the ‘review of the literature’, but is rather a preparatory stage. This survey stage ranges far wider in scope and quantity than the final review, typically including more general works. Your survey (which exists in writing only in your notes) should help you in several ways, such as:
to decide on the issues you will address;
to become aware of appropriate research methodologies;
to see how research on your specific topic fits into a broader framework;
to help you not to ‘reinvent the wheel’;
to help you to avoid any well-known theoretical and methodological pitfalls;
to prepare you for approaching the critical review.
The ‘critical’ review
Clearly, if you are new to research in the field you are not in a position to ‘criticise’ the work of experienced researchers on the basis of your own knowledge of the topic or of research methodology. Where you are reporting on well-known research studies closely related to your topic, however, some critical comments may well be available from other established researchers (often in textbooks on the topic). These criticisms of methodology, conclusions and so on can and should be reported in your review (together with any published reactions to these criticisms!).
However, the use of the term critical is not usually meant to suggest that you should focus on criticising the work of established researchers. It is primarily meant to indicate that:
the review should not be merely a descriptive list of a number of research projects related to the topic;
you are capable of thinking critically and with insight about the issues raised by previous research.
What is a literature review for?
The review can serve many functions, some of which are as follows:
to indicate what researchers in the field already know about the topic;
to indicate what those in the field do not yet know about the topic - the ‘gaps’;
to indicate major questions in the topic area;
to provide background information for the non-specialist reader seeking to gain an overview of the field;
to ensure that new research (including yours) avoids the errors of some earlier research;
to demonstrate your grasp of the topic.
What should I include in a literature review?
The formal review is not a record of 'what I have read' and your 'literature review' is not like a series of book reviews. A literature review summarises what reputable researchers have already discovered about a particular research question. The main items discussed are not usually entire books, but more often papers in academic journals or chapters in specialist academic books. They should include only published research studies: not introductions to a subject, or purely theoretical works, for instance. You can (and should) refer to broad theoretical works in your introduction, and you can refer to works about methodologies in your Methodology section (rather than in your Literature Review). You should refer back to all such works when related issues are discussed in your own study (especially in your discussion of your own findings).
Your supervisor may be able to direct you to a published literature review as an exemplar of the general format expected. If a literature review of a closely-related topic has already been published, you should 'set the scene' by referring to this first before discussing research published since that review appeared.
In the formal review of the literature you should refer only to research projects which are closely related to your own topic. If your problem is how to choose what to leave out, one way might be to focus on the most recent papers. You should normally aim to include key studies which are widely cited by others in the field, however old they may be. Where there are several similar studies with similar findings, you should review a representative study which was well designed.
Some tutors encourage their students to refer to a range of relevant projects representing various research methodologies; others may prefer you to concentrate on those employing the methodology which you intend to use (e.g. experiments or field studies). Where you have been advised to review studies representing different methodologies, do not over-represent any single methodology unless it represents that which you intend to use.
If you find that very little seems to exist which is closely related to your topic you should discuss this with your supervisor. In such a case the most obvious options would be either to widen the net to include less closely-related studies or to reduce the length of the review. However, you should make quite sure that your search for relevant papers and books has been adequate.
Wherever possible, your discussion of each published research study should include details such as:
the department(s) and institution(s) where these were based at the time
the academic disciplines of the researchers (e.g. psychology, sociology)
the year(s) when it was conducted (as well as where and when it was published, which should appear in your References list, of course)
the country or countries in which it was conducted (together with any more specific information on region, cities etc.)
the sample size and composition (and how it was selected)
why the study was undertaken
the key research questions which it sought to address
the methodology or methodologies employed (in as much detail as possible in the available space)
the main findings, especially those most closely related to your own study
the limitations of the study (as noted by those involved as well as by any subsequent commentators) - particularly any methodological limitations (especially where you will be employing a similar methodology)
any issues which it failed to resolve and any further research questions that it raised (especially where you will be addressing any of these)
how it relates to similar published research studies (especially others reviewed here by you), including whether or not it replicates any particular findings
Where should I look?
Always start by asking your supervisor for some suggested initial reading. Your institution’s libraries should (still) be your next port of call. Undergraduates may not until now have made regular use of specialist academic journals - the serious journals are an essential resource for your dissertation, regardless of whether they are in print or online. Your university library should be able to advise you how to locate relevant articles in such journals. For other online documents, begin by checking for specialist on-line academic ‘portals’ (again, your supervisor may know some). For research purposes, you should not rely on online sources which lack details of author and date, including Wikipedia.
If you still cannot find relevant research publications, your tutor may suggest that you should review more loosely-related studies which nevertheless employed the research methodology which you are intending to use.
At Aberystwyth University we are fortunate to have a National Library on our doorstep: any of our students undertaking a dissertation should make as much use as possible of this invaluable resource. Books and journals not or in that of the National Library can be obtained (for a fee) using the Inter-Library Loans service within the university library.
As for non-book materials the topic is too vast to cover here. However, some videoclips are available online. Commercials in particular are quite widely available on YouTube (although not always the ones you wanted!).
How long should a literature review be?
This varies and the attitudes of your supervisor and examiners must be taken into account: some supervisors allow undergraduate students to devote the bulk of a mini-dissertation to a literature review; others insist on some element of original research. As to how many research studies you should review, this varies too. You should not review so many that you can devote little space to each.
Chapter 3 Methodology
A section on methodology is a key element in a social science dissertation. Methodology refers to the choice and use of particular strategies and tools for data gathering and analysis. Your choice of methodologies should be related to the theoretical framework outlined earlier. Particular methodologies are usually well-established within the particular tradition and ‘school of thought’ with which you have allied your study and reflected in the academic work that you have reviewed. Some methodologies embrace both data gathering and analysis, such as content analysis, ethnography and semiotic analysis. Others apply either to gathering or analysing data (though the distinction is often not clearcut):
data-gathering methodologies include interviews, questionnaires and observation;
There are many varieties of each methodology and the specific methodological tools you are adopting must be made explicit. Interviews, for instance, are often categorized as ‘structured’, ‘semi-structured’ or ‘open-ended’. You should mention which other related studies (cited in your literature review) have employed the same methodology. Note that ‘textual analysis’ as such is not a methodology - it is a focus; if you are focusing on texts (in any medium) you need to specify what form of textual analysis you are going to use: for instance, semiotic analysis, content analysis or discourse analysis.
A key practical consideration when deciding on your methodology is your own competence and confidence in using the selected methods. For instance, do not attempt a psychoanalytical approach to textual analysis unless you and your supervisor are confident that you can handle this (and that this is appropriate and acceptable). Ideally you should use a method you have successfully employed before. If you need further training or advice in using your chosen method, seek out local academic advice from someone who regularly uses that method. Always consult methodological handbooks in your topic area for guidance on issues and pitfalls. It’s a good practice to consult several of these when you prepare your methodological section. In addition, you should read several published academic papers in related topic areas which employ a similar methodology to the one you are planning to use. You are not expected to invent the tools that you use, although the way that you apply them may be novel and you will probably be applying them to different materials. Check out some student dissertations which you know were regarded as acceptable within your course: their discussions of methodology might give you some pointers for yours.
The section on methodology should include a rationale for the choice of methodology for data gathering and for data analysis. In the rationale you should consider what alternative methodological tools might have been employed (particularly those which related studies have employed), together with their advantages and limitations for the present purpose. For instance... Why did you choose to undertake interviews? Why open-ended interviews? Why did you opt for audio-recording (for instance)? Refer to a relevant study which approached interviews in a similar way. Cite a reputable study which selected participants on a similar basis. On what basis did you choose your participants (that they were friends of yours with time on their hands is not an adequate justification!). If there are any obvious segments of the population which are not represented within your sample why is this? Where class, age, gender and/or ethnicity is likely to be involved in the phenomenon you are studying then make sure that your sample is demographically appropriate. What limitations of your sample should your readers be alerted to?
If data can be counted it is quantitative; otherwise it is qualitative. Often one or the other kind of data predominates in a study, in which case this may reflect the tradition or school of thought within which the study is framed. However, qualitative and quantitative approaches are not seen as incompatible within all academic research traditions: many studies (such as research into advertising) do successfully combine both approaches (e,g. content analysis and semiotic analysis). If you are excluding either quantitative or qualitative data, you need to explain why you are doing so. How does your decision relate to the approaches adopted in the literature you have reviewed?
Relevant ethical issues need to be discussed. You are advised to seek special guidance on this from your supervisor since the issues involved are highly dependent on the specific study. Note that investigations involving children and vulnerable persons require special protocols and this may not be practicable for undergraduate dissertations.
Chapter 4 Data gathering and analysis
Data should be presented as clearly as possible for the reader. Wherever possible you should present your readers with sufficient data in an appendix for them to test your approach and to draw their own conclusions. There is no data without a theory, so you need to underline the theoretical basis for your selection of relevant data. Data does not ‘speak for itself’: it requires interpretation. Methods of interpretation vary widely but note that you must adopt some recognised method and definitely not appear to ‘make it up as you go along’! Try to follow the practices employed in some relevant and reputable published study.
Online forms can be useful to gather data, although remember to note that this affects the character of the sample - skewing it in favour of those with internet access who go in for online surveys (see Appendix 3).
Some notes on numeric data If you are investigating mass media texts it often helps to provide well-sourced demographic data at the outset (see Table 1).
If you are going to compare the responses of different groups a basic statistical test that is suitable for such comparisons is the Chi-Square Test. Examples of its use can be found in Chi- Chandler & Griffiths (2000) and Chandler & Griffiths (2004).
Remember that when you compare groups you need to ask yourself whether the differences between groups are greater than the differences within them. Extensive tabular data is usually best confined to appendices: select only the most important tabular data for inclusion in the main body of your text. Where you refer to total numbers it is often useful to include percentages (but only where the numbers involved are greater than twenty or so). Avoid any reference to ‘significant’ findings unless you can specify their statistical significance. Consider where it would be most useful to employ graphical displays such as bar-charts or pie-charts rather than tables. Label tables as ‘Table 1’ [or whatever] and all other forms as ‘Figure 1’ [etc.]. Remember to list these at the beginning of the dissertation. While every table or figure requires comment in the main body of the text do not simply repeat the data: help the reader to notice and make sense of patterns in the data.
If your data is some kind of text (including audio-visual texts), be clear about your methodology for textual analysis and follow a specific published model. The main options are semiotic analysis, content analysisand discourse analysis. Beware of assuming that the meaning lies within the text rather than in its interpretation. You can avoid privileging yourself as an ‘elite interpreter’ by seeking the responses of other viewers/readers/listeners.
Bear in mind that transcribing interview data takes a great deal of time - as a rough guide allow at least 2 hours for 10 minutes of audio-recording. Some of my own online notes on interpreting interview data may be useful as a general framework (they were developed for the interpretation of children’s talk about television but they have a broader relevance). Do not assume that ‘people say what they mean’ or ‘mean what they say’. Supplement your comments on theirwords with reference to non-verbal cues. Adopt an established method for your transcription of extracts from such interviews, citing the source for your transcription conventions. For my own students I usually refer them to the transcription conventions employed by David Buckingham as being adequate for most of our purposes (see the table below). Set out the interview somewhat like a playscript, with each speaker’s pseudonym in a column to the left. Always anonymise your informants (and assure them in advance that you will do so). It should not be possible to determine who they are from the data you provide. However, you should provide whatever details of their background (age, sex etc.) which seem relevant to interpreting their comments. Data from several interviewees is usually best analysed on a thematic basis rather than interviewee by interviewee. Clearly you will need to focus on themes which relate to your research question(s).
Talk omitted when irrelevant to the issue being discussed
Contributions follow on without a break
Pause of less than two seconds
Pause of more than two seconds
Interjections by an unidentified speaker
Stage directions e.g. [laughter]
Simultaneous or interrupted speech
Continuing speech, separated in the transcript by an interrupting speake
Figure 1: Basic transcription conventions
The ways in which you report your ‘findings’ depend heavily on the methodologies employed so it is difficult to provide general guidelines here. However, it is important to ensure that you go beyond basic description of your data (e.g. simply reporting which television programmes were watched by which groups of people). There must be a substantial element of formal analysis and this analysis should be seen to emerge from your engagement with the data you present; examples should not simply be presented in order to illustrate the points that you wish to make. Whatever kind of data you are dealing with, try to be reflexive in dealing with it: reflect on the constructedness of your data and on your role in constructing it.
Chapter 5 Discussion and conclusions
In this section you need to summarise your key findings and discuss possible connections between them. Refer back to your research question(s). You should relate your own findings to those in any related published studies outlined in your literature review. Where your findings differ you should offer a suggested explanation. What light do they shed on the phenomenon under discussion? What new research questions are raised by your study?
Make clear what the limitations of your own study are. What are the limitations of your ‘sample’? To what extent are your findings specific to a particular socio-cultural context? In what ways is your interpretation of your findings related to your own theoretical assumptions (outlined earlier)? What insights into the phenomenon does your study seem to offer? What could others learn from your study?
Discuss any broader implications in relation to your theoretical framework. This is important because many people discuss ‘implications’ as if these were simply logical consequences and leave implicit the model within which the findings might have such implications. Your theoretical model must be explicit. Undergraduates are sometimes unwisely tempted into using the concluding section of their dissertation in order to make general pronouncements on the topic, often going well beyond the scope of their study. Conclusions must follow coherently from the evidence; do not be tempted into speculation, prediction or moralising. Unless specifically called for, personal opinions should not feature. If you must end with a quotation, make sure it is a very short one.
Interviews, Photography and Recording
ACTIVITY/PROJECT TITLE: ________________________________________________________________________________________ DATE AND TIME:____________________________________________________________________________________________________ STUDENT NAMES and CONTACT DETAILS: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1. I hereby give permission for these recordings (‘the Recordings) to those authorised by the Aberystwyth University (‘the University’) on this occasion:
[ ] to interview me and take notes
[ ] to record my voice
[ ] to photograph me
[ ] to video/film me
[check those that apply]
2. I agree that for educational/non-commercial purposes the University may use the Recordings:
as part of student coursework
[ ] in which I will be anonymous;
[ ] which will not be published outside the university;
[ ] which may be published as part of student coursework on the university website.
[check those that apply]
3. I understand that the information provided will be treated in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act 1998.
Your work should look as professionally done as possible. Even if relatively few marks may be formally devoted to presentational issues (this varies between departments and institutions), the ‘halo effect’ of reading a well-presented dissertation can dispose markers positively towards your efforts. Most institutions do allow you to submit your draft to a proof-reader to check for the adequacy of grammar, punctuation, spelling and so on (but check with your own university for its policy on this issue). Far too many otherwise able students leave proof-reading and other presentational issues to the very last minute, in which case they may expect to lose marks. Since ‘first impressions count’, ensure that (at the very least) the first paragraph of each chapter is well-written.
It is important to make your text easily ‘navigable’ for the reader, providing ‘signposts’ to help them to find their way about. If you have been writing primarily to clarify your own thoughts (as many people do) then as you get closer to presenting your writing to others you must switch your focus to the convenience of the reader. It can help to ask a friend to comment on a late draft because it is not always easy for the writer to spot the problems which readers may have. If you know who the reader(s) will be, then try to consider the ways in which they are likely to react to the text. Can you anticipate any objections which they might have? If so, then you need to revise your text to address these.
Your dissertation should ‘tell a story’ in the sense that you should ‘set the scene’ (and grab the reader’s attention) at the start, then try to lead the reader as smoothly as possible from point to point, working up to some genuine conclusions at the end. Not many of us can write like this at the first attempt, but a dissertation can be gradually edited into this form. Check in particular that there are no sudden jumps from one point to another.
Include a contents page (some universities have specific guidelines for the way in which this should be done). Use subsections within each chapter (these can usually be included in the contents page). After the contents page include a list of figures and a list of tables. It is customary to include an ‘Acknowledgements’ page: be sure to record your thanks to all of those who have helped you. Most universities, faculties or departments have a preferred order in which introductory sections should appear: check the conventions. Sometimes the numbering of the introductory pages is in Roman numerals.
Check whether you are required to use a ‘report style’ format (with numbered sections, sub-sections and paragraphs) or more continuous prose. Occasional lists of short items can help to break up the text: use plain ‘bullets’ for such lists unless there is a good reason to number them. Don’t forget to number your pages! It may also help to have ‘running heads’ which indicate which chapter each page belongs to.
You should double-space your text and use generous margins. Choose a font size of 12-13 points, and avoid ‘san-serif’ fonts (Arial, Helvetica etc.) since these are hard to read in large blocks of text; ‘serif’ fonts (such as Times Roman) are more readable in bulk. Use italics only for occasional emphasis and for the titles of books, journals, newspapers, television programmes etc. Check that you have included the author, date of publication and page numbers immediately after quotations in the main body of the text and full references at the end. And check that you have included your alphabetical list of references, in the preferred form, at the end.
If you include a long quotation (of four lines or more) you should indent it from the left-hand margin (in which case you should drop the inverted commas). You should avoid using too many quotations, however: it may give the impression that you have no ideas of your own and that you accept too uncritically what others have said on the topic. If you are discussing, for instance, how people feel about something, direct quotations may be appropriate in social science. But someone else’s bald assertionis certainly not to be taken as adequate evidence of the truth of what they are saying: just because the statement appears in print doesn’t of itself make it any more reliable than remarks in the pub! You should consider the adequacy of your source as evidence. Normally, you should use a direct quotation only when the writer has put the point particularly well, and generally a paraphrase is preferable. However, note that the source of any original ideas expressed in this way must still be given. The cardinal sin in academia is plagiarism, which we may define as the presentation as one’s own of ideas or phraseology knowingly derived from other writers. For students, there are very serious penalties for this: it may be treated as an act of fraud. One may, of course, make use of the ideas of others, since as one wit has observed, ‘when you take stuff from one writer, it’s plagiarism; but when you take it from many writers, it’s research’! However, academic writing does require such ‘borrowed’ ideas to be formally acknowledged.
Your argument may be considerably strengthened by your inclusion of appropriate diagrams. Ask yourself how you could usefully visualise some of the key concepts which you are exploring. If your topic is a visual one (e.g. film, television, the internet) it is even more important to consider using carefully selected illustrations (such as screenshots). These should never be purely decorative: they should be discussed in appropriate detail in the text. Indeed, doing so is often a very productive way to anchor your argument in concrete details. Consider where carefully thought-out diagrams or tables might help to make a point clearer. Note that for any textual analysis, it is often both productive for the writer and helpful to the reader to place closely related images side by side for comparison. Many students who feel that they have little to say when looking at one image in isolation quickly realise that there is a lot to say about each image when they are displayed alongside each other. A particularly powerful semiotic technique is the commutation test: imagine swapping over particular features of each image (such as fonts, colours, postures) and consider how this affects the interpretation of the image.
Table 2: British women’s magazine readerships
Source: Derived from NRS data, June 2011
Table 3: British men’s magazine readerships
Source: Derived from NRS data, June 2011
Figure 2: Front covers of British women’s magazines,
Figure 3: Front covers of British men’s magazines,
Although full-page images (e.g. scans) may be placed in an Appendix, it is always better to have at least scaled-down versions in the main body of your dissertation, as close as possible to where you discuss them. Cost-conscious students may be tempted to reproduce such images in greyscale, but colour images are frequently more effective, and of course where colour is being discussed, such images are essential.
Note that you should at the very least record sources and include full details of these in your text. Depending on your topic it may also be useful to take some photographs with a stills camera. If you are lucky enough to have access to a digital camera you can of course upload these into your document. The incorporation of images which are already in print can best be accomplished by using a scanner (once again pasting the image files into your text). If the text is to be published in any form it is of course essential to obtain copyright permission for any images which you reproduce.
Illustrations should be labelled as either Figures or Tables, and each should be numbered. This enables you to refer to them directly (‘see Figure 1’), avoiding the awkwardness of such formulations as ‘see the illustration reproduced below’ (partly because when you are writing such texts the relative position of illustrations is constantly shifting). Each should also have a short and appropriate descriptive caption. A list of Figures and a list of Tables (including their captions and sources) should appear in the preliminary pages of your dissertation.
Using Online Survey Forms
Keep such forms as short as possible and try not to gather more data than you know you can handle. Only ask for what you are intending to make use of. Refer back to your key research questions/concerns. Exactly what kind of data will be most likely to help you to address these?
Test the form out carefully before releasing it for general use.
Choose carefully where to advertise your survey site. Your supervisor may be prepared to circularise the URL to students in appropriate classes but obviously this skews your sample towards students (and towards those at our own university). In the case of film and television topics you may wish to contact fan sites and ask if they will consider including a link to your survey site.
Reassure your respondents that they will be anonymous and keep this promise in what you write about your findings.
Some respondents may be more keen to participate if you offer to let them know your main findings (if you do this, keep to your word).
Many respondents are understandably very wary about including their email address. If you require this reassure them that you will not pass it on to any third parties or send them unsolicited mail.
Decide what basic demographic data you need from your respondents (e.g. sex, age). Consider what differences in responses you might be looking for in relation to such demographics: e.g. you might want to consider whether men tended to respond differently from women, straight males from gay males, older people from younger people etc. .
Many older respondents prefer to indicate age-range rather than exact age.
Don’t assume heterosexual orientation.
When you used closed (fixed alternative) questions you should normally allow for ‘not sure’/’don’t know’/’none of these’.
When you are using statements with which respondents may agree or disagree, use the standard Likert scale: strongly agree, agree, not sure, disagree, strongly disagree. Try to ensure that positively and negatively loaded statements balance out, and that they are distributed irregularly through your form.
Where you use attitude statements keep them as simple and short as possible and definitely avoid any that seem to have two parts (because respondents may agree with one part and not the other). If you find yourself saying ‘it depends...’ then rework the statement.
Allow respondents some open-ended questions (even if it’s only: ‘Is there anything else you wish to add?’) - especially why? and how? questions. However, remember that the systems used may cut short their replies to around 250 characters.
If you are referring to characters in films or television programmes include photographs so that you can be sure they know exactly who you mean.
How will you know if respondents have sent more than one submission (either accidentally or not)?
How will you weed out the forms of respondents who are just being silly? Daft ages? Clearly bogus email addresses? Or what?
Are you going to discard incomplete forms? If so, say so.
Consider the format in which data will be generated - will it be emails (in which case you’ll have to enter data by hand into a database if you are using one) or will it be in ‘csv’ format (comma-separated values) as used by most databases? The use of csv format may require special technical assistance since this is not the default format generated by standard forms. If you don’t have the necessary technical skills this may be beyond your budget. However, if you’re at least able to create your own webpages you might like to check for what format conversion utilities may be available.
If you are using a database which one will it be? It needs to be one to which you and your tutors have easy access and obviously you need to know how to use it effectively for analysing the data your survey will generate.
[List in alphabetical order by surname all of the sources used in the in-text citations, and only those sources. Do not cite Wikipedia or non-specialist dictionaries. You may use online sources but ensure that you include at least 6 offline academic sources. If a source has no author and no date, don’t use it. Book and journal titles should always be in italics. Here are some example formats.]
Brown, Mac H., Patsy Skeen & D. Keith Osborn (1979) ‘Young Children’s Perception of the Reality of Television’, Contemporary Education50(3): 129–33. [note that the volume number is in bold, the ‘part number’ is in brackets and the page-range is not preceded by ‘pp.’]
Buckingham, David (1993) Children Talking Television: The Making of Television Literacy. London: Falmer. [always include the city where the book was published]
Chandler, Daniel & Merris Griffiths (2000): ‘Gender-Differentiated Production Features in Toy Commercials’ Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media44(3): 503-520; [WWW document] URLhttp://usera.aber.ac.uk/dgc/Documents/short/toyads.html
Chandler, Daniel & Merris Griffiths (2004): ‘Who is the fairest of them all? Gendered readings of Big Brother 2 (UK)’. In Ernest Mathijs & Janet Jones (Eds.) (2004): Big Brother International: Format, Critics and Publics. London: Wallflower Press; [WWW document] URLhttp://users.aber.ac.uk/dgc/Documents/short/who_is_the_fairest_of_them_all.doc
Chandler, Daniel and Rod Munday (2011) Dictionary of Media and Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [note that authors after the initial one have their names in normal order]
Chandler, Daniel (1995) ‘Children’s Understanding of What is “Real” on Television: A Review of the Research Literature’ [WWW document] URL http://users.aber.ac.uk/dgc/realrev.html [accessed 21/1/12].
Jaglom, Leona M. & Howard Gardner (1981) ‘The Preschool Television Viewer as Anthropologist’. In Hope Kelly & Howard Gardner (Eds) Viewing Children Through Television (New Directions for Child Development13). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 9–30. [note the inclusion of the page-range for the chapter, using ‘pp.’]