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

Dr. Marina Klimenko

Course: Research Methods Lab (PSY 3213L)


Students engage in a content analysis, such as analyzing films, music videos or social network activities. This type of research be 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 assignment 1 and 2 from 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 hypothesis; 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 perfect straight line. The research paper that students submit at the end is graded based on the 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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