Research Methods

Course Description

This course introduces you to research methods and their application across liberal and professional studies as preparation for lifelong inquiry. Emphasis is on qualitative and quantitative research approaches, experimental design, sampling, measurement, analysis, ethics in research, and research communication. A comprehensive research proposal in your area of interest is the primary document produced and assessed in Research Methods. Note: Completion of a college-level quantitative reasoning course is recommended before taking this course.

The Research Proposal
The Research Methods course is open topic, such that the core research question pursued centers on a topic of your choice. You are especially encouraged to explore issues in your professional area that will expand your knowledge, but you may alternatively choose a research area that fascinates you.

The final project for this course is an implementation-ready research proposal employing the most suitable research method(s). Most of the exercises in the course contribute to building the final proposal, but revision will be required to fully integrate them into your final proposal.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this course, you should be able to:

Learning Strategies

This course uses the following learning approaches:

Course Resources

To buy your books, go to


Trochim, W. M., Donnelly, J. P., & Arora, K. (2016). Research methods: The essential knowledge base. Boston, MA: Cengage learning.

Online Resources:
This course extensively uses online resources and videos to support student learning. These resources are aligned with specific modules and are itemized in the syllabus section below ‘Course Readings and Supplementary Resources’ as well as the corresponding Readings and Media section of the course site.

Course Structure

This course consists of ten modules, each of which takes one week to complete, as indicated in the course schedule below.  Due dates are provided in the online course calendar. This course is NOT a self-study course. This is a paced course and it is important that you keep up with the course activities and contribute to the course discussions.

Note: The workload for this course is heavy, proportional to the 6 credits weighting and cannot be completed in less than a full quarter. You cannot pass the course without turning in your assignments in a timely manner, revising them based on instructor feedback, keeping up with the sequential pace of the assignments, and participating in the discussion forums. To get the most out of the course you should be sure to finish all assignments, but also put to use the textbook and videos.

If you have a general question about an assignment or a requirement, please place them in the course discussion board. Individualized questions should be sent directly to the instructor. Your instructor will be checking the discussion board frequently and will usually respond within 24 hours during the week, 48 hours over the weekend, unless you are advised otherwise. This course is also labor-intensive for the instructor so respect your instructor's time and work load.

In the four tables below, you will find: 1) the Course Schedule that summarizes the theme for each module, 2) the Course Readings and Supplementary Resources which details what part of the textbook you read each week and the supplemental videos to support your learning, 3) a Summary of Deliverables that lists the sequence of exercises, proposal drafts, and other submission assignments, and 4) the Course Discussions which previews the themes for weekly discussions.

Course Competencies

In this course, you will develop the following competencies:


Competence Statement and Criteria


Can pose questions and use methods of formal inquiry to answer questions and solve problems


To be written by faculty/student

1. Identifies focused and appropriate questions withing a specified context.

2. Reviews existing knowledge about the question and determines directions for additional inquiry.

3. Designs methods of gathering and interpreting information to advance knowledge relevant to the question.

4. Constructs a proposed research model.

Students demonstrate this competency by actively pursuing knowledge that will contribute to answers or solutions for questions or problems of interests. To do so students must develop a familiarity with the literature in relevant fields and assess its contributions to the question. From this, students should identify needs for additional inquiry and create ways of learning more about the specific question. Students must draw connections between categories of learning in the undergraduate program and the nature of the research question. Completion of Research Seminar is a pre-requisite for Advanced Electives and Advanced Project.


Grading Scale

A = 93 to 100

A- = 92 to 90

B+ to B- = 89 to 80

C+ to C-= 79 to 69

D+ to D- = 68 to 60

F = 60 or below




Grades below C- in SCPS courses do not satisfy competence and are not counted toward graduation.

Course Schedule




Module 1: Foundations of Research Methods

Chapter 1 Trochim et al. ‘Foundations of Research Methods’

Narrowing a Topic and Developing a Research Question

21 Ways of Generating Research Ideas from Previous Research

Video ‘What is Research I’ (3 Minutes)

Video ‘What is research II’ (3 Minutes)

Video ‘Nature of Research’ (6 minutes)

1.1 Introductions Discussions

1.2 Selecting an Area of Research Assignment

Module 2: Research Ethics and Research Communication

Chapter 2 Trochim et al. ‘Ethics’

Video ‘A Public Documentary on the History of Research Ethics‘ (20 Minutes)

Video Belmont Report (3 Minutes)

Video Medical Research Example (6 Minutes)

Chapter 13 Trochim et al. ‘Research Communications’

Video ‘Introduction to Academic Research‘ (5 Minutes)

Video ‘The Research Proposal’ (14 Minutes)

1.2 Selecting an Area of Research Assignment

2.1 Research Ethics In Your Area Discussion

2.2 Research Ethics Assignment



Module 3: Qualitative Approaches

Chapter 3 Trochim et al. ‘Qualitative Approaches to Research’

Video ‘Overview of Qualitative Research Methods‘ (12 Minutes)

Video ‘Types of qualitative data collection Part I and Part II’  (6 Minutes)

3.1 Qualitative Research Discussion

3.2 Annotated Bibliography Assignment

Module 4: Sampling

Chapter 4 Trochim et al. ‘Sampling’

Video ‘Overview of Quantitative Research Methods‘ (22 Minutes)

4.1 Sampling Discussion

4.2 Literature Review Assignment

4.3 Sampling Assignment

Module 5: Introduction to Measurement

Chapter 5 Trochim et al. ‘Introduction to Measurement’

Video ‘Nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio data: How to...‘ (11 Minutes)

Video ‘Precision and Accuracy‘ (5 Minutes)

Video ‘Validity and Reliability‘ (4 Minutes)

5.1 Aspect of Research Measurements Discussion

5.2 Initial Research Question/Hypothesis Assignment

Continuing Activity

Module 6: Scales, Tests, and Surveys

Chapter 6 Trochim et al. ‘Scales, Tests, and Indices’

Video ‘Likert Scale Example’ (2 Minutes)
Chapter 7 Trochim et al. Survey Research’

Video ‘Survey in 10 Steps‘ (5 Minutes)

6.1 Data Instruments Discussion

6.2 Scales, Tests, and Surveys Assignment

See the document “Outline and Format Checklist for Your Research Proposal”

Module 7: Research Design

Chapter 8 Trochim et al. ‘Introduction to Design’

Video ‘Types of Experimental Design‘ (7 Minutes)

7.1 Cause and Effect Relationships Discussion

7.2 Cause and Effect Assignment

See the document “Outline and Format Checklist for Your Research Proposal”

Module 8: Experimental Design

Chapter 9 Trochim et al. ‘Experimental Design’
Video ‘What is a null hypothesis?’

Video ‘Null Hypothesis, p-Value, Statistical Significance, Type 1 Error and Type 2 Error’

8.1 Experimental Design Discussion

8.2 Null Hypothesis and Research Hypothesis

See the document “Outline and Format Checklist for Your Research Proposal”

Module 9: Data Analysis/Basic Statistics/Inferential Analysis

Chapter 10 Trochim et al. ‘Introduction to Data Analysis’
Chapter 11 Trochim et al. ‘Introduction to Data Analysis’

Videos: How to Pitch your research proposal
Example 1 Education (4 Minutes)

Example 2 Education (6 Minutes)

9.1 Data Analysis Discussion

Presentation– Research Proposal Summary
(and review of classmates) - Due Middle of Module 10

Final Research Proposal (including Sections 1-3; 7-9 - Due End of Module 10

See the document “Outline and Format Checklist for Your Research Proposal”

Module 10: Finalizing and Communicating Your Research

No Readings or Supplements.

10.1 Finalizing and Communicating Your Research Discussion

10.2 Presentation - Research Proposal Summary

Week 11

Final Research Proposal (DUE) (FINISH)

Course Policies

Grading Policies and Practice
To complete the course, students must fulfill each of the assignments as described in the course and submit them to the instructor by the assigned deadline in the course submission area. In addition, students must participate in the course discussion forum by responding to all discussion instructions and by interacting with fellow classmates as required.

Course Grading
Research Methods is a graded course with the option for Pass/Fail. Students wishing to be graded on the Pass/Fail option must inform the course instructor of this preference before the end of the 2nd week of the quarter. After the 2nd week, requests for a change in the grading basis cannot be approved. To pass the course you must meet the C- grade level.

Late Work Policy
Points will be deducted for late work that has not been exempted with the instructor (i.e., for medical or significant personal reasons). Work received later than one week after the deadline will receive 0% credit. Discussion forums will generally be 'locked' one week after the deadline to exclude further submissions.

Workload, Time Management, and Attendance
This online course is not self-paced and requires a regular time commitment each week throughout the quarter. You are required to log in to the course at least three to four times a week so that you can participate in the ongoing course discussions. Online courses are more flexible but no less time consuming than onsite courses. You will have to dedicate some time every day or at least every second day to your studies. To work towards an excellent grade in Research Methods, students should expect to commit at least 10 hours of time spread out through each week of the quarter.

Online Participation Guidelines
All the discussion that would ordinarily take place in a classroom takes place in the Discussion Boards in your online course. Just as you are expected to attend a course scheduled to take place in a classroom, you must attend to your online course, at least three times a week. This is done by going to the Discussion Board area to read what is written there and to contribute to the ongoing discussion. Note: The D2L system permits the instructor to evaluate the participation level of students.

Course Netiquette
Online discussions are an important part of the course experience. To ensure a positive learning environment, students should follow the guidelines below:

Instructor's Role
The instructor's role in this course is that of a discussion facilitator and learning advisor. It is not their responsibility to make sure students log in regularly and submit their assignments. The instructor will read all postings to the general discussion forums but may not choose to respond to each posting. Most often you will receive individualized feedback to assignments through the D2L assessment system.

Office Hours
As this is an online course there will be no set office hours. Typically, students will receive a response to emailed or posted queries generally within 48 hours during regular business days. Responses will be usually by e-mail or telephone if prearranged.

Student's Role
Online students must take a proactive approach to the learning. As the course instructor's role is that of a learning guide, the role of the student is that of the leader of their own learning. Students will be managing their own time to assure completion of the readings, activities and assignments for the course. In addition, students are expected to take a more active role in peer learning expressed in the discussion forums.

Writing Assignment Assistance
Consider visiting the Writing Center to discuss your assignments for this course or any others. You may schedule appointments (30 or 50 minutes) on an as–needed or weekly basis, scheduling up to 3 hours’ worth of appointments per week. Online services include Feedback–by–Email and IM conferencing (with or without a webcam). All writing center services are free.

Writing Center tutors are specially selected and trained graduate and undergraduate students who can help you at almost any stage of your writing. You will not do your work for you, but you can help you focus and develop your ideas, review your drafts, and polish your writing. You can answer questions about grammar, mechanics, different kinds of writing styles, and documentation formats. You also can answer questions and provide feedback online, through IM/webcam chats and email.

Obviously, the tutors won't necessarily be familiar with every class or subject, but you are able to provide valuable help from the perspective of an interested and careful reader as well as a serious and experienced student-writer.
Schedule your appointments with enough time to think about and use the feedback you'll receive. To schedule a Face-to-Face, Written Feedback by Email, or Online Appointment, visit

News Items and Discussion Forums for Online Courses
Discussion Forums are an important component of your online experience. This course contains discussion forums related to the topics you are studying each week. For requirements on your participation in the Discussion Forums, please see "Discussion Forum" and the "Discussion Rubric" in this syllabus.

A Course Q & A discussion forum has also been established to manage necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. This is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask 'process' questions and receive answers throughout the course from the instructor or other students.

Discussion Forum Rubric
The instructor expects that students will contribute to discussions each week. For online discussions, the instructor uses the rubric described below (modeled after Pelz, 2004). Take this into consideration as you prepare and participate in class discussions.



Character of the Contribution



The comment is 1) accurate, 2) original, 3) relevant, 4) teaches us something, and 5) is well written (where posted online). Four-point comments add substantial teaching presence to a course and stimulate additional thought about the issue under discussion. Likewise, a response to another student's postings should also have these qualities.


Above Average

The comment lacks at least one of the above qualities but is above average in quality. A level 3 comment makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the issue being discussed.



The comment lacks two or three of the required qualities. Comments which are based on personal opinion or personal experience are often within this category.



The comment presents little or no new information. However, level 1 comment may provide important social presence and contribute to a collegial atmosphere.



The comment adds no value to the discussion.

Assignment Rubric



Character of the Contribution



The exercise report has the following qualities: 1) the report is complete having addressed all instructions, 2) the report demonstrates an understanding of the central theme/concept of the exercise, 3) the reported information and/or items requested are accurate and 4) report is well written.


Above Average

The report lacks at least one of the above qualities but is above average in quality. A level 3 report demonstrates a strong understanding of the issue being discussed.



The report lacks or only partially meets several of the required qualities. A level 2 report demonstrates a reasonable understanding of the issue being discussed.



The report presents little evidence of the above qualities. A level 1 report demonstrates a nominal understanding of the issue being discussed.



The report does not demonstrate understanding of the fieldtrip topics.

Research Proposal Rubric






A level 4 Proposal has these qualities:

  • Review of the recent and scholarly literature has uncovered knowledge gaps that exist for original contributions and innovations.
  • Research question is grounded in a core of scholarly literature that has been critically reviewed.
  • Proper use of the concept and language of research (e.g., hypotheses, variables, types of data, and analysis)
  • The form of research is identified: exploratory research, descriptive research and explanatory research.
  • Proper application of research ethics principles in the proposal including concepts of informed consent, institutional review, and ethics codes.
  • If qualitative research is proposed, methods for participant and direct observations such as interviews, case studies and focus groups clear.
  • Sampling strategy proposed is appropriate to achieve a research proposal objective.
  • Probability and sampling error are discussed (as relevant).
  • Reliability and validity are considered.
  • Variables are identified (independent, dependent and control) and incorporated into the framing of the research question or hypothesis.
  • Scaled, test or survey data collection instrument is sound (as applicable)
  • Cause-effect relationships and experimental design is clear.
  • Null and Alternative (i.e., research) hypothesis are clearly defined
  • Basic statistical procedures are incorporated into the research proposal as appropriate (means, medians, modes, distribution, variation, correlation, analysis of variance and analysis of covariance).
  • Proposal is well written (grammar, flow and spelling).
  • Final Proposal adheres to the required organization and format.
  • Overall, components of research methods are well-synthesized into the research proposal.


Above Average

The Proposal lacks several of the above qualities but is above average in quality. A level 3 report demonstrates a strong understanding of the issues being discussed and the application of research methods into the proposal.



The Proposal lacks a significant number of the required qualities. A level 2 report demonstrates only a reasonable understanding of the issue being discussed and the application of research methods into the proposal draft.



The Proposal presents little evidence of the above qualities. A level 1 report demonstrates a nominal understanding of the issue being discussed and the incorporation of research methods.



The Proposal does not demonstrate understanding of the research methods concepts or their application.


College and University Policies

This course includes and adheres to the college and university policies described in the links below:

Academic Integrity Policy (UGRAD)

Academic Integrity Policy (GRAD)

Incomplete Policy

Course Withdrawal Timelines and Grade/Fee Consequences

Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Protection of Human Research Participants

APA citation format (GRAD)

Additional Course Resources

University Center for Writing-based Learning

SNL Writing Guide

Dean of Students Office


Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary. If a change occurs, it will be clearly communicated to students.


This course was designed and produced by faculty and staff at SCPS of the School for Continuing and Professional Studies of DePaul University.

© 2018 School for Continuing and Professional Studies, DePaul University. All Rights Reserved by SCPS.