11 Teaching Social Sciences Online by Engaging Students in Content Analysis Research

Dr. Marina Klimenko

Course: Research Methods Lab (PSY 3213L)


Students engage in content analysis, such as analyzing films, music videos, or social network activities. This type of research is done at home, in front of a computer.

Assignment Goals/Outcomes

  • Student Engagement
  • Critical Thinking
  • Understanding of Research Process

Assignment Setup (Instructor)

The process is broken down into three interrelated assignments:

  1. Proposal of data collection (assignment 1)
  2. Data and data analysis (assignment 2)
  3. Research paper (assignment 3)

Students receive general feedback on assignments 1 and 2 from the instructor.
assignment breakdown

Student Instructions

project submissions of tv show content analysis
Example Project: Prosocial Acts and Motivations in Adult and Children’s Comedy Shows.

Typically, instructions are based on the topic of the project. Instructions must contain detailed information about what students must do. I like to choose topics from already published articles; the articles help me give them more details in terms of the significance of the topic, the details about the procedures, and the literature review that I don’t have to provide for them. I also prepare instructions modifying to some extent what they have to do for their own study. For example, I usually reduce the number of variables to only two and one hypotheses; I also reduce the number of participants or sample units. I make sure that the research question can be addressed in a simple study, by one student and within a short period of time.

Grading (Instructor/TA)

The first two assignments are graded solely on completion and timely submission. Students receive full credit. They receive feedback from the instructor to self-check their work and revise their work if necessary. The idea is to help students learn from mistakes and realizing that science isn’t a perfectly straight line. The research paper that students submit at the end is graded based on quality. By then, students would receive feedback on their work and self-correct if necessary. So the final product is expected to be of good quality.

Tips and Suggestions for Instructors

  • Develop the topic in advance
  • Prepare the feedback in advance as if you are doing research yourself
  • Try to find topics that are relatable and fun.
  • I mentioned that I have at least four topics; each topic is usually done with a different research design; so not only do they choose a topic, they also choose a research design.

Keywords: content analysis, feedback, research design, engagement, topics


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