What is a research protocol?
Note that a research protocol is not a research proposal, but a research protocol would be contained within a proposal. After deciding on the problem to be examined, the next step is to develop the plan for how the research is to be conducted. This is a very important phase as the integrity of the research and credibility of its outcomes depend on the methods. Think garbage in, garbage out. There are many approaches that may be used for the same problem. Which one will provide the best evidence and thus the best answers? Which one is the most feasible given the time and resource constraints?
Analogically, a research protocol is like a recipe; you need to specify all of the ingredients and the procedures for how the ingredients will be combined. You need enough detail so that another person could replicate what you have done.
1. What is the nature of the problem? This will predict the research design and type of methods used.
a) is it a problem that knowingly exists, but little is known about its characteristics or possible causes?
b) do you suspect certain factors contribute to the problem?
c) do you know which factors contribute to the problem, but you need to understand the cause, and potential solution?
d) do you know enough about what causes the problem, and would like to assess an intervention?
2) Once the type of problem is known, then what is the best way to study it?
a) by soliciting data from a set of respondents via a survey, interview (structured and unstructured), or focus groups
b) by observing a situation using human observation or machine observation
c) by testing a condition using experiment
Sometimes, the design includes mixed methods. We will examine types of designs mapped with appropriate methods in the class on January 21st . But you will need to do your homework in advance. Use the checklist provided in class to assess your particular problem.
The research protocol identifies the variables to be tested; the methods used; any instruments from questionnaires to interview script and experimental protocols; if required, a description of the potential participant group and how you will recruit; and how you propose carrying out the process. This should be a blueprint for the next stage in the process.
The intent of this assignment is to ensure that you have an appropriate procedure before conducting the research.
What must you submit?
For the deliverable, include the following sections (although there may be some variation depending on the purpose of the study):
The introduction specifies the reasons for conducting the research in light of what we know about the problem. It should put the problem in context indicating why the research needs to be done and what is its potential value, i.e., what will it do for the organization. Identify the most relevant work that may be applied to the problem. Since this is an applied research study, who has done the fundamental work in this area demonstrating that it is a problem worth examining?
2. Study Objectives/Research Questions
Specify the overarching objectives for the research. These may be written as objectives or questions. But whichever format is chosen, the objectives or questions must not be vague or overly complex; they must be achievable in the context of this project. Each concept must be fully explained with appropriate citations from the research literature. This is particular important for abstract concepts that are defined in multiple ways, and measured in different ways. The notions of complexity, trust, satisfaction, and user experience are classic concepts for which there are many “creative” definitions.
3. Study Design
In this section specify the type of study and provide a rationale for the choice. This must be fully documented. For example, if you have specified a survey, then you need to explain why. (In the final report, you will have to not simply rationalize your method, but will have to justify it in relationship to the other methods. This aspect is not required here. But feel free to include for feedback)
Explain both conceptually and operationally how each variable is defined with appropriate citations from the research literature. If you are examining usability or user experience for example, how are they defined and how will you measure each?
An instrument may be a questionnaire used in a survey, an interview script, the description of the process used in experiments, an observation checklist and so on. Each should be described, and the first draft included in the appendices.
If human participants are part of the research design, then a consent form and demographic questionnaire must be included.
Identify who the potential participants will be and how they will be recruited. If potential participants are not simply “any adult 18 years or older,“ then you must explain who will be excluded and why. For example, perhaps you are looking for those with an expertise in history, or those who use a particular type of software.
A copy of the recruitment instrument, e.g., email message, poster, telephone script, must also be included in the appendices, indicating how it will be distributed.
Specific precisely how the protocol will be implemented. Consider this the instructions part of a “recipe” in which you have previously described all of the ingredients.
How should it be formatted?
• Papers must be single spaced, with 12-point font, and 1 inch margins.
• Submit about 10 pages.
• Use section numbering style for the content, e.g., 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 2.0, etc.
• Include a cover page with the title, your names (in alphabetical order by last name), student ids and email addresses.
• Papers must be free of grammatical and syntactic errors. (Note that something this simple will automatically separate the As from the Bs).
• Use the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style for all references.
How will it be evaluated?
The protocol which is worth 15% of the final grade will be assessed according to:
• Is the writing clear and the document well organized?
• Is the nature of the problem well-understood and appropriately documented?
• Is the protocol sufficient to answer the research questions?
• Is it feasible and realistic?
• Is there sufficient information such that another researcher could replicate the study, that is, could follow the procedure and potentially reach the same conclusions?
• Are there any reliability and validity problems, or confounding variables?
The ultimate question is: could the instructor what you propose?