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Communication in Relationships (04:192:201)

Library research guide for Communication in Relationships (04:192:201)

Keep track of your sources!

It is very important that you take careful notes during your research. You will need to cite your sources in the text and at the end of your paper. For help with formatting your citations, consult the Cite! page of this guide.

Step 1. State the hypothesis

Regardless of the topic you choose (e.g., siblings relationships, male (or female) behavior in romantic relationships, behavior in nonverbal settings, women in leadership roles, etc.) your project should proceed in the following manner.

  • First, carefully set forth the problem and define the terms to be used.
  • Second, delimit the historical context and the social and physical environment in which the problem is embedded.
  • Third, set forth a preliminary hypothesis (or, more generally, a research question) that stipulates the factors that need to be considered in analyzing the problem, or how you expect certain factors to be related. In rigorous hypothesis testing, change in one factor - the independent variable - is presumed to cause change in another factor - the dependent variable.

For example, if you are studying how hunger affects relationships in societies where there is starvation (this is the problem), you first need to define what you mean by hunger (feelings of acute need for food, levels of caloric intake, etc.) and starvation (widespread food shortages) and then state the context where this problem will be analyzed (for example, Europe after World War II). Because hunger depends on the availability of food, it is the dependent variable while the availability of food is the independent variable. Then the influences of social behavior, changes in social institutions, etc. are discussed.

  • While it is not necessary to be highly formalistic in setting forth these relationships, much good social research is based on an account of how variables interact. The exposition can range from simple description to complex statistical analyses.
  • In framing the problem, therefore, begin with the most general formulation and proceed to greater specificity as required. When you set out the probable relationship of cause and effect, note if this presumed relationship has already been formulated by an existing theory. Be sure to reference that theory, e.g., McCall and Simmons' role identity model, Cooley's "looking glass self, " Burgoon and Hale's intimacy subcategories, or A. Goetting's three stages of sibling relationships.
  • Making reference to existing theories places your work in the context of on-going debates but also provides background, justification, and qualifications for your argument. It is the major way that scientific knowledge accumulates.

Step 2. Gather evidence

It is at this step when you carefully read the journal articles found in your earlier searching. You may also want to do additional searching in relevant indexes.

If you find a particularly good article that is relevant to your topic, be sure you check out the bibliography at the end of the article. You are likely to find other relevant and useful articles through this method of "citation chasing."

Your methodology can vary from interviews with appropriate individuals, participant observation, surveys and statistical or textual analysis, etc.

Step 3. State and discuss your conclusion

Always summarize your findings in a succinct manner. Point out the implications for research, and for ordinary life and practice. If you are ambitious, indicate what future research can be done to further an understanding of the problem. Also discuss major weaknesses or qualifications to your study.


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