Centre collégial de développement de matériel didactique

Collegiate Contest

Collegial contest

 

The Collegiate Contest is the end point in the sequence of TRC scientific inquiry scenarios. Custom-designed players’ scripts and application forms provide everything needed to host a Contest at your college.

This scenario extends the role-play experience beyond the four walls of a single classroom. Students from a number of classes, as well as teachers, staff and administration, participate in an external grants competition, similar in design to a Science Fair.

Collegial contest

 

A Lead Research Director supervises a Collegiate Contest to choose the best Research Proposal from among participating student Contestants.

Research Proposals from the two other scenarios, the Fund$ Game and the Research Institute, can be used for the Contest.

NOTE: To print the entire content of the Collegiate Contest, please click on the PRINTER icon on this page.

What is it?

The Collegiate Contest is like a science fair for social science research proposals. Teachers, staff, administrators and, most importantly, social science students promote the production of high quality research proposals by hosting a college-wide contest for the best research proposals.

  • Methods student contestants compete for the chance to get published, become Grant Holders and win the Research Work of Outstanding Merit award.
  • Students, teachers, staff and administrators all have various roles to play in this open competition.

COLLEGIATE CONTEST ROLES

Rules and Code of Conduct

RULES

ROLES

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

Québec CEGEP social science students who have produced supervised Research Proposals as course work.

GOAL OF THE GAME

For students to play a scripted role in the inquiry-based setting of an external grants competition.

SCENARIO SETTING

An external grants competition held across participating Research Methods courses in a college. Hosted by a Lead Research Director, student Contestants compete to become the Grant Holder, get published and be honoured with a Research Work of Outstanding Merit award.

CHRONOLOGY

The game is spread over four successive stages:

  • SET-UP 
  • PREPARATION 
  • CONTEST 
  • POST-CONTEST

ELIGIBLE PROJECTS

Research Proposals that adhere to the rules and Code of Conduct governing this scenario. The Research Proposals must also have been produced under the supervision of a Research Director (teacher) and must be sponsored by that Research Director. Individual or group (no more than five students) proposals may be submitted.

WHAT IS REQUIRED?

Submission of the Research Proposal along with the Contestant Entry Form containing the signatures of applicant(s) and the sponsoring Research Director. A signature signifying consent to abide by the Code of Conduct is also required.

WHAT IS THE ENTRY DEADLINE?

Entries must be received by the date specified by the Lead Research Director, generally toward the end of the semester. The winners are announced a few weeks after the closing entry date.

ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATIONS

Contestants and sponsors must comply with the regulations set out in the Grant Holder’s Script. The Regulations are aligned with the rules governing research granting organizations, as well as the research boards/guidelines of educational institutions. The Contestants and sponsors are responsible for reviewing the regulatory and ethical conduct materials in advance. Failure to comply may lead to automatic disqualification.

PEDAGOGICAL TECHNIQUES

Inquiry-based role-play scenario

  • Based on an emergent “distributed learning” trend, the learning environment is less anchored in the classroom. Teaching, assessment and curriculum development involves larger and more diverse teams of learners working together in broadly scoped learning environments, also known as extended learning communities.
  • The “Outside the Classroom” setting allows the students to experience the micro-political and cultural realities of the research world.

OBJECTIVE OF THE LEARNING ACTIVITY

Teachers, students, staff and administration partake in a learning activity that reaches beyond the conventional boundaries of classroom learning. Functioning much like a science fair, it provides an enriching 21st century co-curricular learning experience.

Co-curricular activity has become part of a wider international effort to infuse 21st century learning initiatives such as culture and ethical citizenship, computer and digital technologies, problem-solving, collaboration and decision-making into the educational fabric of Canada. (http://www.c21canada.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/PIAACDec3.pdf)

Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC) settings offer “compelling learning experiences” in which a learning-for-life curriculum can be developed (Ofsted 2008). UK Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.  

CODE OF CONDUCT

Respect for the well-being and integrity of research participants and full and voluntary adherence to scientific protocol and government laws and regulations govern behaviour at all levels of research. The COLLEGIATE CONTEST Code of Conduct is drawn up in light of these multiple scopes. Even though it is a game, the specific prescriptions in the Code are rooted in the ethical rules governing researchers.

The Code of Conduct should be followed not just as a means to be “a good sport” but as a way to “behave your way into the world of professional research.”

The Entry Forms contain the Code of Conduct relative to each player. A signature signifying consent to abide by the Code of Conduct is required.

Timeline

Player Scripts

Player scripts provide players with role-specific materials for playing the game.

A script is available for each of the roles - Lead Research Director, Contestant, Research Director, Judge, Ethics Board Reviewer, Grant Holder, and Secretariat Staff.

Scripts include practical materials such as a step-by-step timelines, samples, and fill-in forms.

Lead Research Director

The Lead Research Director can be an individual or a small group of Research Methods teachers who head up the entire Contest from start to finish.

  • They are responsible for recruiting, setting timetables and deadlines and communicating information among players and the Secretariat Staff.
  • They run an organized and professional Contest experience for all involved.

Contestant

Contestant is a social science student who submits a Research Proposal to an external grants review, the Contest.

  • The applicants with the best Research Proposals will be selected as Grant Holders and honoured with the Research Work of Outstanding Merit award.
  • Research Proposals can be submitted by individuals or teams of up to five students.
  • The Contestants are expected to have produced a Research Proposal in supervised course work, preferably in the TRC Fund$ Game and Research Institute scenarios.
  • The application period runs for about two weeks at the end of the semester. Proposals are vetted by Research Directors, Judges and Ethics Board Reviewers.

Research Director

The Research Directors are teachers who supervise the production of Research Proposals as part of course work and who agree to sponsor student Contestants for the Contest.

  • By signing entry forms for student Contestants, the Research Directors certify that they have supervised all or some of the proposal work and agree to sponsor the Contestant.
  • The winners’ Research Directors will receive honourable mention on the TRC website.
  • One or more Research Directors acting as Lead Research Director supervise the overall operations of the Contest.

Judge

The Judges are volunteers from a variety of sectors within the college – teachers, students, staff and administration.

  • They set criteria and choose the winning proposal(s) from the Contestant submissions.
  • The Judges will disband and the Contestant files will be deleted once a winner is selected.

Ethics Board Reviewer

The Ethics Board Reviewers are a few volunteer students, teachers, staff members or administrators.

Grant Holder

The Grant Holders are Contestants, either individuals or teams, who, after having entered the Collegiate Contest, are selected by the Judges and approved by the Ethics Board Reviewers to be the winner.

  • The winners become Grant Holders once they sign the Grant Holder Agreement, indicating acceptance of the terms of publication on the website and the duties and obligations related to the Research Work of Outstanding Merit award.
  • The Grant Holders will have their name, institutional affiliation, photo and proposal posted on the TRC website, with all the rights afforded an author.
  • The Grant Holders may be presented with their Research Work of Outstanding Merit award at their convocation ceremonies.

Secretariat Staff

The Secretariat Staff is responsible for the publication of Collegiate Contest Grant Holders winning proposals.

Lead Research Director

Lead Research Directors must be teachers who have taught in Research Methods in Québec’s CEGEP Social Science Program. From recruiting players to convening meetings, the Lead Research Director is in charge of the overall operations of the Contest team of Judges, Research Directors and Ethics Board Reviewers, who vet high-quality student Research Proposals in a fair and professional manner.

By reaching beyond the confines of a single classroom to include learners and teachers from multiple courses, a Lead Research Director creates “a holistic learning ecosystem" as defined in Blessinger (2013). Learning-Scapes: Cultivating Meaningful and Sustainable Learning EcosystemsHigher Education Tomorrow, Volume 1, Article 5.

STEP-BY-STEP

Step 1 - ALIGN AND RALLY

  • Read the Collegiate Contest materials.
  • Confer with fellow teachers, staff and administrators about the prospects for hosting the Contest. Find out what kind of resources are available to support such an activity. The Lead Research Director has the heaviest workload; consider release time from teaching or share responsibilities among a number of people.
  • Find out about the required procedures and policies for research at your college by consulting your college’s portal.
  • Since the other players are required to obtain the research ethics Certificate of Completion, you should as well. Take the self-paced Tri-Council Policy Statement TCPS 2 Tutorial
  • Align the Contest requirements with local conditions.
  • Rally support. Encourage fellow Research Methods teachers to get involved. Invite other college members (staff, other teachers and administrators) who take an interest to apply as Judges or Ethics Board Reviewers.

Step 2 - ORGANIZE

  • Draft a working schedule for the Contest in concert with the Judges, Reviewers and Research Directors (your team).
  • Finalize schedules and set deadlines.
  • Create email address(es) and instructions for application.
  • Determine file protocols for the applications, especially the Research Proposals.

Step 3 - OPEN THE CONTEST

  • Send out invitations; include dates and contact information.
  • Solicit participation.
  • Send friendly reminders.
  • Inform students and teachers/staff/administration of the requirements (e.g., logging hours and obtaining the signature of a teacher) to earn service credits for the Québec-wide volunteer service program.
  • Select a few Judges and Reviewers from among the applications, based on the following considerations:
    1. Quality of the Letters of Intent
    2. Balance among participating groups (students, teachers, staff, administrators)
  • Inform applicants of acceptance or rejection.
  • Convene first meetings for Judges and Ethics Board Reviewers.

Step 4 - DEVELOP A COMMUNICATIONS PLAN

  • Provide clear contact information for the Contestants and Research Directors. They need to know the best way to contact you.
  • Liaise with the Judges’ Communication Officer and the Chair of the Ethics Board, especially when the proposals are going through the first and second readings.
  • Send out reminders; respond to questions and direct queries to the relevant bodies and individuals.

Step 5 - MANAGE THE JUDGE AND REVIEWER EVALUATIONS

  • Collect the Contestants’ Research Proposals.
  • Triage the proposals; disqualify proposals that do not meet the basic requirements.
  • Code proposals that qualify; remove names and other identifiable information such as student numbers and teacher name.
  • Send the coded Research Proposals with the Letters of Intent to the Judges’ Communication Officer, requesting that they be put through the first reading within ___ days.
  • After the deadline, ask the Judges’ Communication Officer to send you the short-list of proposals and the evaluation forms.
  • Send the short-listed Research Proposals to the Ethics Board Chair, requesting that short-listed proposals be put through the ethics review within ____ days and that the decision be communicated to you.
  • Send the short-listed proposals that pass the ethics review to the Judges’ Communication Officer, requesting a second reading within ____ days. Ask them to communicate the decision concerning the winning proposal to you.

Step 6 - INFORM AND REPORT

  • If there is a misunderstanding or grave error in judgment, do not immediately announce the results of the Contest.
  • Ask for the Ethics Board Report to be delivered to you as verification that due process and fair procedures were followed.
  • Formally announce the winner and contact the Secretariat Staff once the designated winner has signed and agreed to the GRANT HOLDER terms.

Step 7 - FOLLOW UP

  • Ensure that the Judges and Reviewers dispose of the Contestant Research Proposals.
  • Confirm that the Secretariat Staff has received the required materials from the Grant Holder.
  • Remind the players of the requirements to earn service credits for the Québec-wide volunteer service program.
  • Arrange for Research Work of Outstanding Merit award certificates to be printed out and ready to deliver for convocation in June.

Contestant

The Contestants apply as members of their college’s social science program and identify with one of the ten social science disciplines. 

As a members of separate professional associations (psychology, history, economics…), the Contestants are expected to think and act their way to winning the funds for their discipline affiliation.

  • Anthropology
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology

The Contestants must be students who:

  • Are currently enrolled in Québec’s CEGEP Social Science Program
  • Have worked on a written Research Proposal as a component of course work
  • Have worked under the supervision of a Research Director (teacher) who agrees to sponsor their submission 

The Winners get published, become Grant Holders and are honoured with a Research Work of Outstanding Merit award.

STEP-BY-STEP

STEP 1 - ASSESS PROSPECTS

Since the Contestants’ Research Proposals have to be judged and reviewed before the beginning of the vacation period, you have to ensure that you can complete your Research Proposal weeks before the end of the semester. You may have produced most or all of a Research Proposal in a previous semester or while playing the Fund$ Game or the Research Institute. Determine whether you can meet all the requirements and the deadlines.

  • Read the Contestant Entry Form to determine whether you think your Research Proposal can meet the requirements within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Read the scripts for the Judges and Ethics Board Reviewers to assess your chances of winning.

STEP 2 - DEVELOP YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY

Strategize how to align your Research Proposal to meet the requirements, especially for the Judges and the Ethics Board Reviewers. 

STEP 3 - DRAFT A TO-DO LIST

Once you have your Research Proposal in hand, make a To-Do list of improvements to your existing proposal that can be undertaken in a reasonable amount of time. These should include:

  • Taking note of recommended improvements received in teacher feedback and peer reviews
  • Consulting the key design tools on this website, particularly the CONFETTI WAY for writing a Literature Review and the DECISION CIRCUIT for the Method Plan
  • Targeting changes that will meet the criteria outlined in the Judges’ and Ethics Board Reviewers’ scripts

Step 4 - MODIFY PROPOSAL

  • Modify the proposal as per your To-Do list. 
  • Consider having a peer review it.
  • Consult with your Research Director (teacher) if you have difficulty deciding what to modify or how.

Step 5 - SECURE SPONSOR SUPPORT

  • Obtain your Research Director’s support as a sponsor for your entry to the Contest.
  • To qualify as your sponsor, this Research Director must have supervised the production of your Research Proposal in some form or another.

Some recommendations:

  • Get verbal agreement first.
  • Set up an appointment well in advance of the deadline.
  • Before the meeting, submit your modified proposal and your partially completed entry form.
  • Meet to confirm that everything is in order for the Research Director to sponsor you and sign the form.

Step 6 - ASCERTAIN CODE OF CONDUCT ALIGNMENT

Ensure your Proposal complies with the Code of Conduct guidelines before signalling your approval in the entry form.

Step 7 - COMPLETE THE CHECKLIST & SUBMIT THE ENTRY FORM

Step 8 - WAIT FOR THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

  • The Winner will probably be announced shortly before the start of the vacation period or shortly before the beginning of the following semester. This is in the hands of the Lead Research Director who is supervising the Contest at your college. 
  • The Contest results will be communicated at large when the information is transmitted to the Secretariat Staff.

Contestant Checklist

Check off the items that are in order

  • Is your proposal document formatted according to the specifications?
  • Does your proposal meet the criteria outlined in the Judges’ Script?
  • Did you consider all the study design options? (see the Decision Circuit)
  • Did you follow the basic guidelines for writing a Literature Review? (see the Confetti Way)
  • Is the proposed research ethical?
  • Is the study design feasible for a full-time college student? 
  • Did you enter your signature in the two required fields (Code of Conduct and Contestant Entry Form)?
  • Did you obtain the sponsorship and signature of your Research Director?
  • Did you identify a featured discipline in the Entry Form?
  • Are you prepared to assume the rights and responsibilities of a Grant Holder?

Contestant Entry Form

REQUIREMENTS

  • Be a current day student in the Social Science program at a CEGEP in Québec.
  • Have authored an original Research Proposal or similar paper in a Research Methods course.
  • Submit a completed Entry Form with all fields of information completed by the deadline:
    1. Contact information
    2. 100-word statement of intent
    3. Signed agreement to enter Contest and abide by the Code of Conduct below
    4. Signed support from a sponsoring Research Director (teacher)
  • Submit an original Research Proposal that you have authored, formatted to specific standards. The most common formatting standards are shown below. Please verify the standards in effect for your local Contest.
    1. Page format: 8 1/2 X 11”, 1-inch margins, 12-point font, Times New Roman, single-spaced.
    2. Consistent and correct use of an appropriate formatting style such as APA or CMS.
    3. Word count (excluding title page, bibliography and appendices) between 2000 and 2500 words.
    4. Include a descriptive titleintroduction (consisting almost exclusively of a literature review), a Method Plan, a list of sources referred to in the proposal, and an appendix if necessary (for items such as consent forms, working questionnaires, list of qualitative interview questions or coding sheets, depending on actual methods chosen).
    5. Optional inclusion of a timetable and budget.

TERMS OF SERVICE

  • Being a Contestant is volunteer position, without financial compensation.
  • Student volunteer hours devoted to participation in this science-oriented activity aiming to fulfill the Ministerial criteria for “engagement contributif” in scientific activities that are certified by the various Student Involvement Recognition programs in the CÉGEP network. Their institution alone is responsible for verifying the conformity of the hours spent to the Ministerial criteria.
  • Contestants can only submit one application per Contest.
  • A supervising teacher must sign the sponsorship agreement included in this entry form.
  • For a team submission, no more than five authors can apply for any one proposal and the team members must come from the same college.
  • Once processed, the Contestant proposals will be assigned a code, with names and other identifiable information removed.
  • Submitted proposals will not be returned , but files will be deleted at the close of the Contest.
  • Late, unethical or incomplete/incorrect submissions will be automatically disqualified.
  • Only the winning entry will be notified of the Judges’ final decision.

CODE OF CONDUCT

The Contestants shall strive to advance knowledge on a topic with scientific rigor while showing respect for the integrity and rights of research subjects and authors.

The Contestants agree to:

Conduct their research in a way that honours accuracy and truth and formally recognizes the academic contributions of others.

Scientific fraud, forgery, fabrication of information and misconduct are not condoned at any level. This involves:

  1. Referring to sources from which they have extracted central ideas, theories, findings, specific arguments, definitions, conclusions, interpretations and scales of measurement, even when not using direct quotations.
  2. Avoiding fabrication of facts and figures, falsification by wrongful author attribution or exaggeration and plagiarism.
  3. Avoiding colloquial, emotional and non-academic expression.
  4. Consistently and correctly using a formatting style that is appropriate to the discipline(s) featured in the proposal.

Obey the general rules regarding the ethical treatment of human subjects, which are embodied in the ethical rules governing researchers and members of your institution’s community.

This mostly involves:

  1. Informed consent, which may include a consent form (attached as an appendix item for the Contest) or, when only verbal consent is viable, a consent script (embodied in the Method Plan).
  2. For subjects under 18 years of age, informed consent from a parent or legal guardian, the recognition of the subjects’ right:
    1. Not to be distressed, humiliated, dishonoured or harmed through their participation
    2. To withdraw from the study at any point in time
  3. Requesting permission from the director, board of directors, manager, owner, or other person in charge for access to institutions.
  4. Permission form to request access to and terms of use for personal possessions such as photos, personal diaries or letters.
  5. Refraining from direct contact with children and physically, emotionally or socio-economically vulnerable individuals.

Protect themselves and others from physical, emotional, legal, social or professional harm.

This mostly involves erring on the side of caution. It is best to exclude a technique if the related liability or potential for harm is unclear.

SIGNATURE OF CONTESTANT

I, ______________________________ [please print], hereby declare that I have read and understood the Code of Conduct governing the Contestants in this Collegiate Contest.

I agree to adhere to the principles and values expressed in the Code and will, to the best of my abilities, assume the duties and obligations implied therein.


Signature: __________________________________

Date of signature: ______________________________

 

Contestant Name:

Names of team applicants (for a team submission):

  •  
  •  

College Name:

  •  

 Student ID #:

  •  

Date of birth:

  •  

Email address:

  •  

Mailing address:

  •  

Projected date of graduation:

  •  

Name of Research Director (sponsoring teacher):

  •  

Name of course(s) for which proposal was completed:

  •  

Date(s) of course completion (e.g., fall 2016):

  •  

Social science discipline(s) of proposal:

  •  

 

Please also include a STATEMENT OF INTENT (100-word account of reason for applying).

For team submissions, each Contestant must submit a separate entry form and write a separate Statement of Intent.

SIGNATURE OF SPONSORING TEACHER

I, ______________________________ [please print], supervised this Contestant’s submitted proposal

in the course(s) _____________________________, in the ____________semester of 20___,

and I feel confident that the proposal meets the basic requirements of the Contest.

Briefly indicate how you supervised this Contestant’s proposal:

  •  
  •  
  •  

Signature: __________________________________

Date of signature: ______________________________

Research Director

Research Directors encourage students to become part of a co-curricular Contest to choose the Grant Holder with the best Research Proposal. They facilitate student involvement in the Contest either as Contestants, Judges or Ethics Board Reviewers. They also help Contestants align their Research Proposal with the Contest requirements and sponsor student Contestants by attesting to having supervised some or all of the Contestant’s Research Proposal work.

Research Directors must be teachers who have taught in Québec’s CEGEP Social Science Program and supervised the production of a Contestant’s Research Proposal.

Step-by-Step

Step 1 - GET ORGANIZED

  • To sponsor a prospective Contestant, you need to have supervised some or all of the work on the Contestant’s Research Proposal.
  • Proposal work could have been completed during previous semesters or in the context of the other two TRC scenarios – the Fund$ Game and the Research Institute. If you plan to have your students write up proposals in your current course, be sure to coordinate the completion of the proposal work with the submission deadline.
  • Decide on the mechanics for sponsoring Contestants or involving students. Either invite a few students (past and/or present) on an ad hoc basis or have your entire class participate in the CONTEST. Bear in mind that this scenario was not designed for you to assign a grade for participating in the CONTEST per se or for all students to qualify for the Contest.
  • Inform the students and other prospective Research Directors how you plan to participate in the Contest.

Step 2 - REVIEW THE CONTEST REQUIREMENTS

Step 3 - OBTAIN ETHICS COURSE CERTIFICATION

  • Go to your college’s portal for information on research ethics and research boards and find out what is required for student research at your college.
  • Since the other players are required to obtain the research ethics Certificate of Completion, you should as well. Take the self-paced Tri-Council Policy Statement TCPS 2 Tutorial

Step 4 - PROVIDE STRUCTURED FEEDBACK ON THE EXISTING PROPOSAL

Review the Research Proposal(s) being considered for sponsorship and provide a couple of concrete measures that can be taken to improve the Contestant’s chances of winning the Contest. This could also be done as a peer review exercise modelled on the Research Institute’s Internal Grant Review. In providing feedback, consider recommending some of the following measures:

  • Add more descriptive detail to the title, especially regarding …
  • Provide a more cogent reason for choosing the topic; consider such things as …
  • Re-organize the literature review by …
  • Consult the CONFETTI WAY to write your literature review.
  • Look to the DECISION CIRCUIT for suggestions on …
  • Clarify the reasons for choosing this particular research question (thesis or hypothesis).
  • The sampling plan seems overly ambitious and could be …
  • Consult your methods textbook regarding this method to identify a few limitations.
  • What do you think about using method X as opposed to method Y?
  • … could be considered unethical; consider …
  • Maybe you could analyse the data using …
  • Write more about what you expect to find and your goals or objectives.

Step 5 - USE CONFETTI WAY AND DECISION CIRCUIT TOOLS

  • Ask to see the Contestant To-Do Checklist of improvements for their existing proposal. This is recommended in Step 3 of their Script. This should include:
  • Identifying content that requires modification after consulting key design tools on this website, particularly the CONFETTI WAY for the Literature Review and the DECISION CIRCUIT for the Method Plan.
  • Spend some one-on-one time showing the Contestant the features of these design tools (CONFETTI WAY and DECISION CIRCUIT).
  • You could ask them to commit to a deadline to complete the To-Do list and have them report back to you with an update.

Step 6 - ASCERTAIN ALIGNMENT WITH ETHICAL RULES

  • Make sure the proposal meets the ethics guidelines before signalling your agreement to sponsor it.

Step 7 - ADVISE ON LETTER OF INTENTION

  • Consider having the students work on a draft version in a peer review session first.
  • You can then give your reactions to the Letter of Intention in a few words.

Step 8 - FINAL CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE SIGNING

  • Communicate any missing or weak elements with the Contestant and request that these be addressed before you sign off as sponsor.
  • If the Contestant is not able to adequately address problems, you may choose to defer or withdraw your sponsorship.

Step 9 - FOLLOW UP

  • If the Research Proposal that you supervised and sponsored is selected as the winner, you will be contacted by the Lead Research Director. The Secretariat Staff will probably want to include your name in the official website announcement.

Research Director Checklist

Check off items that are clearly completed

  • I have reviewed the Contest rules, regulations and scripts.
  • I consulted our college ethics rules, procedures and policies, especially regarding student research.
  • I have completed the ethics course.
  • I have worked with the student Contestant on the Research Proposal and we have discussed the ethical implications of going forward with the plan.
  • The Contestant’s proposal meets the document specifications (word count range, font style, component parts) outlined in the Call for Contestant Entry Form.
  • The Contestant seems to have considered the basic guidelines for writing a literature review (consulted the CONFETTI WAY tool).
  • The Contestant seems to have considered study design options (consulted the DECISION CIRCUIT tool).
  • The proposed research meets ethical requirements.
  • The study design is feasible for a full-time college student.
  • I have reviewed the proposal and assisted the Contestant with the letter of intention.
  • The proposal document is properly named and formatted for delivery.
  • I agreed to sponsor and have signed the Sponsor field in the Contestant Entry Form.

Judge

The Judges read and evaluate the Contestant Research Proposals for the External Grants Review and select Grant Holders. The Lead Research Director selects the Judges from social science student, teacher, staff and administrator applicants.

The Judges must be:

  1. Enrolled as a student in Québec’s CEGEP Social Science Program or be a current or recently retired teacher, staff or administrator at a CEGEP
  2. Able to volunteer some time to review and evaluate the Contestant Research Proposals.
  3. Familiar with the Social Science Program and the Research Methods course material.

STEP-BY-STEP

Step 1 - SET CRITERIA AND DESIGN SCORING SHEETS

  • Review TRC website material, especially for this scenario.
  • Read the Suggested Evaluation Criteria.
  • Determine whether the Suggested Evaluation Criteria should be altered. Share your thoughts with your fellow Judges.
  • Meet with your fellow Judges to finalize the criteria and create a score sheet that all Judges agree to use when evaluating the proposals.

Step 2 - DESIGNATE ONE JUDGE AS COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

  • One Judge has to serve as Communications Officer to manage files and lists and act as the communications hub. If no one steps forward, organize a random draw. Consider diminishing that Judge’s proposal review load in compensation.
  • The designated Communications Officer should quickly inform the Lead Research Director of this decision.

Step 3 - TAKE PART IN THE FIRST READING

  • The Lead Research Director will submit the Contestant proposals that meet the basic requirements.
  • To reduce the potential for favouritism and bias, names and other identifiable information will be removed from the proposals by the Lead Research Director. Be sure to include the code numbers assigned to each proposal on your score sheets.
  • Read and review the assigned proposals using the agreed score sheet with weighted values.
  • Ideally, each qualifying proposal should be read and evaluated by at least two Judges.
  • The Communications Officer finalizes the score sheet, assigns Research Proposals to the Judges and sends them their assigned proposals.
  • The score sheets are for internal use and will only be shown to the Lead Research Director.

Step 4 - GENERATE A SHORT-LIST

  • The Communications Officer determines how to organize the short-listing.
  • As a group, generate a short list of the better proposals based on the score sheets.
  • The Communications Officer communicates the short list to the Lead Research Director and asks for the contact information of the Ethics Board Reviewers for the next step.

Step 5 - SEND SHORT-LIST ITEMS TO ETHICS BOARD REVIEWERS

  • The Communication Officer sends the short-listed proposals to the Ethics Board Reviewers. It is preferable not to send the score sheets.
  • Be attentive to the timeline. Transfer the proposals as soon as possible and encourage the Reviewers to conduct their review in a timely fashion. The Lead Research Director may have specific dates for completion.
  • The Ethics Board returns the proposals indicating acceptance or rejection on ethical grounds. Accepted proposals are subjected to a second reading by the Judges.

Step 6 - TAKE PART IN THE SECOND READING

  • Determine together how to select a winner from the finalists that passed the ethics review.
  • If there are not too many, have every Judge read and review all the finalist proposals.
  • One option is to compare the scores from the first reading and devise a way to generate another score or some other distinguishable measure.

Step 7 - TALLY THE SCORES AND CHOOSE THE WINNER

  • From the finalists, determine which one is the winner.

Step 8 - TRANSMIT THE NEWS TO THE LEAD RESEARCH DIRECTOR

  • The Communications Officer informs the Lead Research Director of the winner.
  • The Judges’ decisions are final and no appeals will be considered.

Step 9 - TRANSFER THE PROPOSALS AND SCORING SHEETS TO THE COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

  • The proposals and score sheets are all transferred to the Communications Officer who sends them to the Lead Research Director.

Suggested Evaluation Criteria

The evaluation criteria below can be used to select a winning proposal. The Judges determine which criteria they prefer and how to weight each item.

For first and second readings

  1. Uses appropriate scientific vocabulary, writer’s voice and formatting style to refer to sources.
  2. Demonstrates a college-level grasp of a social science topic and the research process.
  3. Proposes to tackle a tangible problem.
  4. Is feasible in scope and within the limited budgetary range of a full-time CEGEP student.
  5. Demonstrates a basic awareness of key issues and findings in the literature.
  6. Proposes a Method Plan (methods, instruments, sampling and analysis) that will produce meaningful results for a college-level student project.

Student Judge Application Form

REQUIREMENTS

  • Students, teachers, staff and administrators are eligible to volunteer time to serve as judges. This requirements list applies to student judges.
  • Be a current or recently graduated day student in the Social Science program at a CEGEP in Québec.
  • Have completed or be currently completing at least one Research Methods course.
  • Not concurrently submit a Proposal as a Contestant in the Contest.
  • Submit a completed Application Form with all fields of information completed by the deadline:
    • Contact information
    • 100-word statement of intent
    • Signed agreement to abide by the Code of Conduct
    • Proof of having obtained the Ethics Certificate of Completion

TERMS OF SERVICE

  • The applicants must complete the Ethics Certificate of Completion Course on Research Ethics (CORE), an 8-module, self-paced TCPS 2 Tutorial
  • The applicants will be informed by the Lead Research Director whether they are accepted to the Board.
  • Judging is volunteer work, without financial compensation.
  • Student volunteer hours devoted to judging in this science-oriented activity fulfills the MELS criteria for “engagement contributif,” in scientific activities that are certified by the various Student Involvement Recognition programs in the CÉGEP network.
  • Meeting times and frequency will be determined by the Judges as a group.

CODE OF CONDUCT

Judges embody professional authority at its highest level, and as such, the Judges should be objective, respectful and fair in rendering decisions about the Contestants’ work.

The Judges agree to:

  1. Treat each Contestant and Research Proposal in a fair, impartial, open and honest manner.
  2. Create an amiable work environment.
  3. Render judgments in a timely fashion, based on an objective set of evaluation criteria without prejudice as to the gender, institutional affiliation or topic choice of the Contestants.
  4. Refrain from publicizing or publically discussing the deliberations. Discretion and confidentiality about the Contestants are required.
  5. Return or delete the Research Proposals at the close of the proceedings.
  6. Refuse offers of gifts or favours from Contestants or others.
  7. Request removal from judging when privileged information, such as the identity of a Contestant, may compromise the impartiality and independence of a decision.
  8. Refrain from coaching or advising a student Contestant.
  9. Not serve concurrently as Sponsors or Contestants.

Failure to abide by this Code may lead to disqualification from the Contest.

SIGNATURE OF JUDGE

I, ____________________________ [please print], hereby declare that

  • I have read and understood the Code of Conduct for Judges in this Contest. I agree to adhere to the principles and values expressed in the Code and will, to the best of my abilities, assume the duties and obligations implied therein.
  • I have successfully obtained the Ethics Certificate of Completion “Course on Research Ethics (CORE),” the eight-module, self-paced TCPS 2 Tutorial.

Signature: __________________________________

Date of signature: ______________________________

  

Applicant’s Name:

Program of study:

Student ID #:

Email address:

Projected date of graduation:


Please also include a STATEMENT OF INTENT (100-word account of reason for applying).

Teacher / Staff / Administrator Judge Application Form

REQUIREMENTS

  • Be a current or retired teacher, staff or administrator at a CEGEP in Québec.
  • Submit a completed Application Form with all fields of information completed by the deadline:
    • Contact information
    • 100-word statement of intent
    • Signed agreement to abide by the Code of Conduct
    • Proof of having obtained the Ethics Certificate of Completion

TERMS OF SERVICE

  • The applicants must complete the Ethics Certificate of Completion Course on Research Ethics (CORE), an 8-module, self-paced TCPS 2 Tutorial
  • The applicants will be informed by the Lead Research Director whether they are accepted to the Board.
  • Judging is volunteer work, without financial compensation.
  • Student volunteer hours devoted to judging in this science-oriented activity fulfills the MELS criteria for “engagement contributif,” in scientific activities that are certified by the various Student Involvement Recognition programs in the CÉGEP network.
  • Meeting times and frequency will be determined by the Judges as a group.

CODE OF CONDUCT

Judges embody professional authority at its highest level, and as such, the Judges should be objective, respectful and fair in rendering decisions about the Contestants’ work.

The Judges agree to:

  1. Treat each Contestant and Research Proposal in a fair, impartial, open and honest manner.
  2. Create an amiable work environment.
  3. Render judgments in a timely fashion, based on an objective set of evaluation criteria without prejudice as to the gender, institutional affiliation or topic choice of the Contestants.
  4. Refrain from publicizing or publically discussing the deliberations. Discretion and confidentiality about the Contestants are required.
  5. Return or delete the Research Proposals at the close of the proceedings.
  6. Refuse offers of gifts or favours from Contestants or others.
  7. Request removal from judging when privileged information, such as the identity of a Contestant, may compromise the impartiality and independence of a decision.
  8. Refrain from coaching or advising a student Contestant.
  9. Not serve concurrently as Sponsors or Contestants.

Failure to abide by this Code may lead to disqualification from the Contest.

SIGNATURE OF JUDGE

I, ____________________________ [please print], hereby declare that

  • I have read and understood the Code of Conduct for Judges in this Contest. I agree to adhere to the principles and values expressed in the Code and will, to the best of my abilities, assume the duties and obligations implied therein.
  • I have successfully obtained the Ethics Certificate of Completion “Course on Research Ethics (CORE),” the eight-module, self-paced TCPS 2 Tutorial.

Signature: __________________________________

Date of signature: ______________________________

 

Check whichever option applies:

  •    Teacher
  •     Staff
  •     Administrator

If you are a teacher, are you sponsoring a Contest applicant?

  •    Yes
  •     No

Email address:

Phone number:


Please also include a STATEMENT OF INTENT (100-word account of reason for applying).

Ethics Board Reviewer

As members of an Ethics Board, the Reviewers are expected to enforce the ethical standards of research in the Contestant Research Proposals and ensure fair and equitable procedures are followed in the Contest proceedings.

An online tutorial on research ethics helps the Reviewers to evaluate the Research Proposals and judge the Contest participants’ adherence to their Code of Conduct.

The Reviewers determine whether to endorse the short-listed proposals for a second reading and write a Final Report on the Contest.

STEP-BY-STEP

Step 1 - APPLY

Step 2 - QUALIFY

  • Learn about the required procedures and policies for research at your college by consulting your college’s portal.
  • Read the Codes of Conduct for each of the Contest roles in the respective application forms.
  • Obtain the Certificate of Completion by taking the self-paced Tri-Council Policy Statement TCPS 2 Tutorial. The “Course on Research Ethics (CORE)” is a self-paced series of eight learning modules designed for members serving on Research Ethics Boards. It takes a couple of hours to complete and can be done in stages.
  • Download the most recent version of the TCPS for future reference.

Step 3 - GET ORGANIZED

When the Lead Research Director convenes the first meeting of Reviewers, you should:

  • Choose one Reviewer to act as the Chair. Usually someone volunteers. The Chair liaises between the Judges and the Lead Research Director, moderates and convenes meetings and collates the infraction report and Ethical Evaluation Forms from each Reviewer.
  • The Chair should exchange contact information with the Lead Research Director.
  • Create a working schedule and make sure it is given to all Reviewers and the Lead Research Director.

Step 4 - NOTE INFRACTIONS TO THE CODE OF CONDUCT

  • At the close of the Contest, the Reviewers deliver a brief Final Report on ethical conduct (fairness, impartiality and adherence to ethical rules) during the Contest proceedings. The names of individuals or particular incidents are not mentioned directly.
  • Refresh your memory on expected behaviour by reviewing the Codes of Conduct again. Record incidents of misconduct and share these with your fellow Reviewers and the Chair.
  • If a serious infraction arises that requires immediate attention, such as a conflict of interest (e.g., a Sponsor judging their own Contestant’s proposal), immediately contact all Reviewers, especially the Chair, and inform the Lead Research Director. Agree on remedial action, including disqualification if necessary.

Step 5 - CONFER AND MAKE INQUIRIES

  • Discuss ongoing Contest matters with your fellow Reviewers, the Lead Research Director and the Judges.
  • For reasons of confidentiality and fairness, the Contestants’ names will be concealed.
  • Stay informed of matters being discussed by fellow Reviewers.
  • If you have any questions regarding ethics, direct your inquiries to the Lead Research Director and be sure to copy your Chair and fellow Reviewers.

Step 6 - RATE THE SHORT-LISTED PROPOSALS FOR A SECOND READING

  • The Lead Research Director sends the short-listed Research Proposals to the Chair of the Review Board. The Chair arranges for distribution and reporting.
  • Since only a few proposals will be short-listed, the Reviewers are expected to evaluate each proposal.
  • The Reviewers are encouraged to use the Ethical Evaluation Form provided and send completed forms to the Chair in a timely fashion.
  • Based on the ratings, the Reviewers decide whether to promote the proposals to the next stage, the second reading by the Judges.
  • Once the Contest is completed, the Reviewers delete the proposals from their file systems.

Step 7 - PREPARE AND SUBMIT THE FINAL REPORT

  • At the close of the Contest, work together to prepare a one-page report on the ethical conduct of the Contest proceedings and submit it to the Lead Research Director.

Ethical Evaluation Form

The Reviewers should use this form, or a modified version of it, to evaluate the short-listed Research Proposals. Use a separate form for each evaluation. Items 6-16 apply only to Research Proposals involving direct contact with participants. Place a checkmark in the N/A boxes for these items for proposals that do not involve direct contact with participants.

Reviewer Name: ____________________________________

Code # ______________________ Short title of Proposal ________________________________________________________

  EVALUATION CRITERIA PLACE A CHECKMARK IN APPROPRIATE BOX
    YES SOMEWHAT NO N/A
1. Does the Contestant appear to have properly credited all sources referred to and provided a complete bibliography of sources?        
2. Are the information sources or intended data sources from reputable sources or has the Contestant at least stated the limitations of any less reputable sources?        
3. Does the research question warrant the time and trouble to pursue the research?        
4. Does the Contestant demonstrate a clear and thoughtful understanding of the ethical rules governing research?        
5. Would you feel comfortable giving the Contestant permission to gather data in this way?        
6. Does the data collection plan appear to involve dignified, fair and respectful treatment of individuals or groups?        
7. Would you characterize the proposed interaction with the research subjects as LOW RISK? 1        
8. Does the recruitment (sampling) plan provide enough detail to judge whether it is ethical?        
9. Does the proposal exclude participants who are legally (under 18) or otherwise unable to give valid consent (e.g., people with learning difficulties, receiving counselling or suicidal…) or in a dependent or subordinate relationship with the researcher?        
10. Does the recruitment (sampling) plan restrict the participants to people who can safely be studied by untrained, novice student researchers?        
11. Is adequate information provided in the consent/permission form concerning participant rights, such as the right to withdraw?        
12. Are adequate measures in place to obtain informed/voluntary consent?        
13. Will the participants be aware they are being studied?        
14. Are adequate measures in place to ensure confidentiality?        
15. Are the risks to the participants’ health, safety or professional integrity acceptable?        
16. Would you be willing to participate?        

 

COMMENTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                  

 

“NO” responses warrant serious consideration. Consult the Tri-Council Policy Statement TCPS used in Step 1 of the Step-by-Step for further information. You may also want to confer with your fellow Reviewers.

RATING ORDER

After completing the 16-item checklist items, rate the proposal under review:

  • 1st rank – In my view, this proposal is fully aligned with all ethical standards. All ethical issues have been satisfactorily addressed.
  • 2nd rank – In my view, this proposal is partially aligned with ethical standards with only minor transgressions that can be addressed without significantly altering the original plan. This proposal will be acceptable once the following adjustments are made:
    •     
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • 3rd rank – In my view, this proposal is out of alignment with one or more ethical standards and cannot be modified without significantly changing the original plan. The ethical issues have not been satisfactorily addressed. The proposal should not be considered for a second reading by the Judges. 

Please forward these completed forms to the Judges’ Communications Officer and the Lead Research Director. Only the Judges’ Communications Officer and the Lead Research Director will have access to these forms.

 

Low risk is defined as involving minimal to no physical or emotional risk to either the Contestants or the research participants, risks that are no greater than those likely to be encountered in everyday life. A proposal that involves significant risk or involvement or direct knowledge of illegal activities should be rejected. Tests that determine IQ or emotional or mental well-being or those requiring the extraction of bodily substances or fluids, the use of drugs (including alcohol), the consumption of caffeinated drinks or special diets can pose significant physical or emotional risks and do not qualify as low risk.

Ethics Board Reviewer Application Form

REQUIREMENTS

  • Be a current or retired teacher/staff/administrator OR a current or recently graduated social science student at a CEGEP in Québec.
  • Submit a completed Application Form with all fields of information completed by the deadline:
    1. Contact information
    2. 100-word statement of intent
    3. Signed agreement to abide by the Code of Conduct
    4. Proof of having obtained the Ethics Certificate of Completion
  • Have some knowledge of social science disciplines and research methods, research ethics and institutional review boards.

TERMS OF SERVICE

  • The applicants must complete the Ethics Certificate of Completion Course on Research Ethics (CORE), an eight-module, self-paced TCPS 2 tutorial.
  • The applicants will be informed by the Lead Research Director whether they are accepted to the Board.
  • Service as a Reviewer is volunteer work, without financial compensation.
  • The applicants must be available to provide some hours of volunteer work, mostly at the end of the semester.
  • The meeting times and frequency will be determined by the Reviewers as a group.

Code of Conduct

Ethics Board Reviewers ensure that finalists’ Research Proposals are thoroughly vetted for compliance with ethical standards. Ethics Board Reviewers agree to:

  • Conduct their reviews in a way that upholds fairness, impartiality and objectivity.
  • Exercise independence in their deliberations and decision-making process.
  • Not override or supersede existing ethical rules.
  • Exercise extra caution in granting permission for novice student researchers to conduct very intrusive forms of research such as fieldwork or experiments.
  • Uphold the requirements outlined in the Contestants’ Code of Conduct

The Contestants agree to:

  1. Conduct their research in a way that honours accuracy and truth and formally recognizes the academic contributions of others. 
  2. Scientific fraud, forgery, fabrication of information and misconduct are not condoned at any level. This involves:
    1. Referring to sources from which they have extracted central ideas, theories, findings, specific arguments, definitions, conclusions, interpretations and scales of measurement, even when not using direct quotations.
    2. Avoiding fabrication of facts and figures, falsification by wrongful author attribution or exaggeration and plagiarism.
    3. Avoiding colloquial, emotional and non-academic expression.
    4. Consistently and correctly using a formatting style that is appropriate to the discipline(s) featured in the proposal.
  3. Obey the general rules regarding the ethical treatment of human subjects, which are embodied in the ethical rules governing researchers and members of your institution’s community.
  4. This mostly involves:
    1. Informed consent, which may include a consent form (attached as an appendix item for the Contest) or, when only verbal consent is viable, a consent script (embodied in the Method Plan).
    2. For subjects under 18 years of age, informed consent from a parent or legal guardian.Recognition of the subjects’ right:
      1. Not to be distressed, humiliated, dishonoured or harmed through their participation
      2. To withdraw from study at any point in time
    3. Requesting permission from the director, board of directors, manager, owner, or other person in charge for access to institutions.
    4. Permission form to request access to and terms of use for personal possessions such as photos, personal diaries or letters.
    5. Refraining from direct contact with children and physically, emotionally or socio-economically vulnerable individuals.

Protect themselves and others from physical, emotional, legal, social or professional harm. 

This mostly involves erring on the side of caution. It is best to exclude a technique if the related liability or potential for harm is unclear.

SIGNATURE OF REVIEWER

I, _________________________________ ,

  • Have read and understood the Code of Conduct for Reviewers, and agree to follow the Code to the best of my ability.
  • Confirm that I have completed the Ethics Certificate of Completion “Course on Research Ethics (CORE),” the eight-module, self-paced TCPS 2 Tutorial.

Signature: __________________________________

Date of signature: ______________________________

 

EBR Applicant’s Name:

College Name:

Status:

  •    Student
  •    Teacher
  •    Staff
  •    Administrator


Position/Program/Department:

If you are a teacher, are you sponsoring a Contest applicant? 

  •    Yes
  •     No


Email address:

Phone #:

  •  

Please also include a STATEMENT OF INTENT (100-word account of reason for applying).

Grant Holder

Contest winners who choose to be published and honoured with a Research Work of Outstanding Merit award sign an agreement to become Grant Holders.

To qualify, Grant Holders must

  1. At the time of filling out the Contestant Entry Form, be enrolled as a student in Québec’s CEGEP Social Science Program.
  2. Have worked on or completed a Research Proposal as a component of course work under the supervision of a teacher.
  3. Be selected as a winner by the Judges and the Ethics Board Reviewers in a Collegiate Contest.

STEP-BY-STEP

Step 1 - CONSIDER THE TERM

  • Consider what it means to become a Grant Holder. Take a look at these steps to get a clearer picture.
  • Review the terms of the Grant Holder Agreement Form at the bottom of this document.

Step 2 - SIGN AND DELIVER THE GRANT HOLDER AGREEMENT

  • If you agree with the terms, complete all required fields and sign the form.
  • Send the form to the Lead Research Director at your college in the next ten (10) working days. The prize and award will be forfeited if the completed form is not processed in time.

Step 3 - CONSULT WITH YOUR SPONSOR AND LEAD RESEARCH DIRECTOR

  • Inform your sponsor of your decision to sign (or not). Consider whether to ask for some final editing or revision advice for publication purposes.
  • Let your sponsor know that they may be asked to have their name featured along with yours in communications by the Secretariat Staff.
  • If you do not receive confirmation that the Grant Holder Agreement Form was delivered, follow up with the Lead Research Director. If there is a problem, notify your Research Director (sponsor).

Step 4 - EDIT YOUR FINAL RESEARCH PROPOSAL

  • Check the date that the Secretariat Staff expects your proposal to be ready to post and plan your editing accordingly.
  • Conduct a final edit on your proposal. Be sure to polish, not alter the substance of the proposal. The posted proposal must not differ materially from the one that won.
  • Ask your Research Director or the Lead Research Director for advice if you have any concerns in this regard.

Step 5 - FOLLOW UP ON CERTIFICATE AND POSTINGS

  • If you are attending the convocation ceremonies, you should verify with your Research Director and the Lead Research Director that they will have a certificate ready for the ceremonies and that the person presenting the awards has you on the list.

Step 6 - POST-Contest INVOLVEMENT

  • Consider applying to be a Judge or Reviewer for next year’s contest.
  • Read the Judges’ and Reviewers’ Scripts to see whether you are willing and able to participate in another Contest in one of these roles.

Grant Holder Agreement Form

I, ______________________________ [please print], from _______________________________ (college), agree to assume the rights and responsibilities of a TRC Grant Holder. This involves being granted the Research Work of Outstanding Merit Award, being designated a Grant Holder and having my Research Proposal disseminated by the Secretariat Staff. I understand that I may be called on to provide further information and approval.

I confirm that the Research Director ___________________________________ [please print], named as the sponsor on my Contestant Entry Form did offer instructional assistance in the production of my Research Proposal and, with their agreement, can be named as my official Research Director. 

 

Signature: __________________________________

Signature of parent or guardian if under 18: _________________________________________

Date of signature: ______________________________

  

Date of birth:

College:

Mailing address:

Email address:

Secretariat Staff

The Secretariat Staff for the Collegiate Contest is in charge of general administrative functions related to official website communications and postings about the Contest winners. They provide web exposure to exceptional scientific work at the CEGEP level.

We recommend that Lead Research Directors get in touch with the Communications or Public Affairs department of your College to plan with them the announcement of the winners, and show them the Collegiate Contest materials to explain them the scenario.

Possible conduits for publication of winners may include:

  • College newspaper or newsletter
  • Graduation ceremonies
  • Student engagement awards ceremony
  • Social media
  • Posters or billboards inside College
  • Social sciences forum

If you would like to feature winning proposals on the TRC website, please get in touch with the CCDMD at soutien@ccdmd.qc.ca.

Topics

The list of suitable topics is wide-ranging. Browse through subject or topic searches on online databases such as Academic Search Complete to get a sense of the extensive possibilities.

However, contestants should AVOID the following three pitfalls regularly found in student topic choices:

1. POLARIZING, SENSATIONAL TOPICS

Don’t

Choose topics from tabloid magazines or websites featuring one-sided source information such as “legalization of marijuana.” Starting research on this kind of footing often generates an opinion piece or argumentative essay which disposes the author to consider one side or the other as though a debate needs to be won.

Do

Choose evidence-based topics such as “elasticity of cannabis demand” based on existing research literature in one or more social science disciplines. Choose a topic or angle of inquiry that provokes scientific investigation, not tabloid rhetoric.

A research proposal is not a journalistic or tabloid account of a chosen topic but rather a systematic interrogation of a research question. Such questions are grounded in the research literature and are evaluated in light of current scientific knowledge.

Human trafficking, sports violence, ethnic cleansing and workplace discrimination are examples of topics that generate viable problem-based research questions.

  • One of many “problems” tackled by researchers on the topic of human trafficking, for instance, is the relative ineffectiveness of counter-trafficking programs.
  • Questions such as “What is being done to better train law enforcement officials on intervention and prevention?” or “Why are victims of human trafficking not getting the protection offered by police or counter-trafficking programs?” or “What are the statistics about this largely hidden crime not telling us?” beg for answers.

HOW? Create questions from gaps, inconsistencies and disagreements in the literature. Take cues from the conclusions in research papers where there are usually suggestions for further research.

2. TOPICS NOT DIRECTLY RELEVANT TO SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH 

Don’t

Choose topics that are exclusively based in non-social science fields of health, medicine or the pure sciences such as chemistry or physics.

“High mortality rates of captive cetaceans (orca and dolphin)” is a marine biology topic, not a social science topic.

Do

Choose topics where social science relevance is clearly evident or where a social scientific perspective can be adopted.

Instead of the marine biology topic of “high mortality rates of captive cetaceans,” look at captive cetaceans from an anthropological perspective in terms of the educational value to humans of aquatic park amusements or from a business perspective in terms of aquatic cetacean park management or marketing.

This adjustment in perspective corrects what otherwise would be a pure science topic to a viable social science topic.

HOW? Search an online academic database from a number of different discipline perspectives; try at least three. A discipline name such as psychology, political science, business, economics, geography, anthropology or the like should be placed as a search term along with the topic.

3. TOPICS THAT ARE UNMANAGEABLE

Don’t

Choose topics that are broad in scope (“causes of genocide”) or cause-effect (“long-term effects of cannabis consumption”) in orientation.
These require elaborate and powerful research designs such as replicable, randomized, controlled experiments that are well beyond the reach of a student. 

Do

Choose topics that lend themselves to feasible and ethically viable research plans typically conducted in college and university social science courses.

Included in many course syllabi:

  • primary document analysis
  • secondary analysis
  • content analysis
  • interviews

A few examples of topics that are not too broad in scope are:

  • “use of social media in the 100-year commemoration of the Armenian genocide”
  • “college cannabis myths”
  • “victim-blaming in news coverage of intimate partner violence”

Broad topic areas and powerful experimental designs are not feasible for college student research assignments, whereas focused topic areas, secondary and content analyses and interviews are actively encouraged and more ethically viable.

HOW? Consult your methods textbooks, examine the Decision Circuit and speak to your teacher to determine which research designs are recommended for student research projects at your level. Also, recall techniques that you have already used such as interviews or secondary analysis. Then cross-reference these with existing study designs in the required subject area.