Topics anchor the research proposals and focus the preparatory work.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD TOPIC?
- A topic that generates enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity.
- A topic generous enough to produce diverse, discipline-specific research questions and designs.
FIVE TRIED AND TRUE TOPICS
Rich country or poor, capitalist or communist, POVERTY stubbornly persists all over the world. Why is POVERTY so resistant to all of our modern know-how and global wealth? Join with inquiring scientific minds from a number of disciplines to try to find answers and solutions to this interminable problem. The research agenda on POVERTY is so broadly interdisciplinary that discipline teams may be tempted to collaborate with each other, even venturing outside of social science per se to medical research, nutrition, architecture and urban planning.
Investigations into the impact of human existence on the natural and physical worlds have deep philosophic and historic roots dating back to sixth century B.C. pre-Socratic thinkers such as Thales, Heraclitus, and Diogenes.
Millennia later, the concept SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT emerged, carrying with it token recognition of its ancient philosophical and scientific foundations. This topic is of great value as it is imbued with depth (historically and philosophically) and is in step with current issues relevant to inquiring minds: environmental protection, recycling, alternative energy, green living, green washing and more.
From enhancing the livelihood of small agricultural workers to enlarging the social network of ‘friends,’ CELLULAR PHONES are paving the way for newer, cheaper and more useful connectivity. The ubiquity of these small devices makes it easy to identify problems and questions from which to raise researchable hypotheses. The research tends to be “applied” with lots of relevance to today’s “connected” youth. TRC proposals on CELLULAR PHONES have varied from an experimental test on the pedagogical applications of cell phones in the college classroom to a feasibility study for a newly emerging target market (seniors).
DISCRIMINATION attracts those interested in law, theories of justice, rights and advocacy. This topic exposes students to the fascinating ways researchers tackle issues of fairness, equality and justice in many different contexts. Whether it is a sociological content analysis of visible minority representation in court case scenes of Law and Order shows or a philosophical estimation of the moral weight of objections to same-sex marriage in socially conservative countries, DISCRIMINATION exposes students to the broad, sweeping scope of social science research.
Which factors promote the integration of immigrants into a host society? Does a policy of multiculturalism enrich or impoverish society? Does family reunification place an undue strain on the host country’s social support system? These and many other questions regarding IMMIGRATION are tackled by social science researchers using a variety of methods and approaches. From collecting oral history accounts of immigrant experiences to statistical portraits of the frequency, health and educational status of incoming groups, proposals are part of a rich heritage of analysis on this topic.
Ten abstracts for proposals on the topic of IMMIGRATION
Inspiration for these sample research proposals on IMMIGRATION emerged directly from existing research in each of the respective disciplines. They are written as if the designated discipline teams were communicating a written summary of their research proposals. Such proposals are normally presented orally during the GAME PLAY phase of the Fund$ Game scenario. The proposed budgets and timetables are not included.
For anthropologists, the goal of the proposed research is to investigate the cultural and kinship challenges faced by foreign workers who provide domestic and healthcare services abroad. One such study titled “Theorizing Migration in Anthropology: The Social Construction of Networks, Identities, Communities, & Globalscapes” by Caroline B. Brettell (2000), provides the framework for this proposed study. Living away from their families, these workers experience dislocation which has implications on their connectedness to the host country. In countries such as the Philippines, with a high proportion of its working-age population living abroad, this has serious repercussions on social and familial fabrics, leading to high levels of crime, poor health and social anomies in the Philippines.
The target sample is Filipino domestic and healthcare workers in major cities in Canada. The data will consist of a statistical portrait of these workers using available data from Statistics Canada and crime, health and domestic violence reports from the World Bank and the government of the Philippines. Also, information from agencies and social work organizations representing Filipino workers in Canada and in the Philippines will be obtained through online site information, correspondence and person-to-person visits. It is also hoped to interview to at least 30 Filipino workers from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver who have been working in Canada for at least 10 to 15 years and whose families are or were located for a significant period of that time in the Philippines.
Fortunately, one of the members of the research team originates from the Philippines and has close ties to the Filipino communities here in Canada and in the Philippines.
Little is known about the performance of immigrant entrepreneurs who come to Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Business Immigration Program (CBIP). The CBIP is designed to attract foreign entrepreneurs to Canada.
One study, David Ley’s 2006 “Explaining Variations in Business Performance Among Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Canada” was conducted in the Vancouver area and included Asian entrepreneurs (900 from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea). The most successful of the three groups, Korean-Canadian entrepreneurs, created strong transnational network connections with their originating country, an attribute highly valued by analysts. Transnational business enriches the economic culture of the host country. It exposes the host country to foreign national markets, business networks, industry practices, investment opportunities, familial/community support systems, foreign professional associations, institutes and universities, etc. Ley discovered, however, that the impacts vary based on the immigrant groups analyzed, resulting in uneven benefits.
As business analysts specializing in immigration and entrepreneurship, our goal is to construct an inventory of enriching transnational business practices. To do so, we propose to extend Ley’s study beyond the confines of the three Asian entrepreneur groups in the Vancouver area to include 100 CBIP entrepreneurs from a few of the top country-of-origin immigrant countries: China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Colombia. Questionnaires and follow-up interviews will be conducted with each of the 100 entrepreneurs to determine best practices from among these various country-of-origin entrepreneurs.
Over 130,000 “immigrant investors” have been admitted into Canada since 1986. They are an elite category of immigrants as they are admitted on the basis of their personal and business assets and capacity to invest. This class of immigrants makes up for its relatively feeble presence in the immigration pool (<3% of the immigrant population) by providing significant monetary benefits, contributing annually from $1.9 to $2 billion to the Canadian economy (Ware, Fortin & Paradis, 2010, p. 4).
Taking a cue from a recommendation in the landmark study of the Canadian immigrant investor program conducted by Ware, Fortin and Paradis (2010), we propose to analyze second-generation immigrant investors. It is hypothesized that second-generation immigrant investors are financially secure, highly educated, mobile (dual citizenship) and proficient in more than two languages. Anecdotally we see patterns of weak connections to Canada in the second-generation group. The net benefits of this category of immigrant appear to be short-lived, residing mostly with the first generation, but no systematic study has tested this. This is what we, the economics research team, will endeavour to do.
The data will be gathered in three ways: first, devise a socio-demographic profile of first-generation immigrant investor families using data in the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) database. Second, interview a randomly selected sample of 20 immigrant investor families with adult children who are in their 30s or 40s. Last, hold a series of conversations with the original researchers Ware, Fortin and Paradis who administered questionnaires and conducted numerous interviews and in-depth case studies of these immigrant investor families a few years ago.
It is a well-known fact that lower-income and immigrant groups are less likely to avail themselves of medical services than higher-income and non-immigrant groups. Some immigrants are at higher risk than others, however. With the use of Global Information System (GIS) data imaging of the Peel District of Ontario, Lofters, Gozdyra and Lobb (2013) discovered that cancer screening tests for South Asian women (those originating from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) were extremely low. Through the diagnostic mapping of health and census data, the researchers were able to identify the most vulnerable and devise targeted and culturally sensitive techniques to address the obstacles to such screening tests.
The geography team proposes a TWO-PHASE STUDY: The first phase is to conduct a similar GIS diagnostics test with respect to cancer screening rates in three demographically comparable districts in Ontario and three in Québec. The goal is to determine cancer-screening test HOT SPOTS with regard to the most vulnerable populations: immigrant and low-income individuals. The second phase is to develop targeted and culturally sensitive resources that could then be delivered to those most in need in ways most appropriate to their demographic profile.
We propose to create an inter-disciplinary team to work on the second phase: geographers, cultural anthropologists and psychologists.
Inspired by a historical account about the struggle for recognition and status for foreign medical graduates (FMGs) in the mid-20th century by Balla (2010) titled “We Wanted To End Disparities at Work: Physician Migration, Racialization, and a Struggle for Equality,” the historians propose to refresh the examination of this struggle by looking at its more recent manifestations, from the 1980s to the present. In contrast to immigration in the 1950s, immigration in the 1980s and beyond has increased and countries of origin are largely non-European. The historians expect discrimination towards immigrant medical graduates in Canada and the US to be less prevalent yet more complex and multidimensional.
In order to track changes from the Balla period to the 1980s to the present, we will analyze available data: various medical associations’ publications, immigration regulations, eligibility requirements and retraining programs, news coverage, hiring and promotion, statistical trends, and reports from FMG associations such as the International Medical Graduates Association.
Combined, these data should provide an updated and more comprehensive portrait of the trends and challenges first envisaged by Balla in his historical account of FMGs in the US during the mid-20th century.
Reasonable accommodation of cultural and religious minorities generates acrimonious public debate. The 2007 Bouchard-Taylor Commission, convened by the Liberal party then in power under Jean Charest, set the stage for a public debate in Québec over the integration of immigrants into the national fabric of a secular society. A series of bills and proposed reforms were introduced by the Charest Liberals and later by the Parti Québécois government.
Evident in these legislative initiatives is the goal of establishing the secular neutrality of political authority and employees in the public sector. False assumptions, inconsistent arguments and weak conceptualization are evident in these government-issued initiatives. This philosophy team proposes to conduct a systematic analytical critique of said legislative initiatives. The policy statements and prescribed guidelines for establishing secular neutrality appear, paradoxically, to undermine social cohesion and immigrant integration efforts, going against the very principles underpinning immigration policy and government-sponsored programs. With the use of a philosophical treatise by Charles Taylor, titled “A Secular Age,” published in 2007, the philosophy team will clear up some of the false assumptions and conceptual confusion surrounding these initiatives.
Based on an existing study from the United States called “Bringing back the (b)order: Post-9/11 politics of immigration, borders, and belonging in the contemporary south,” by Winders (2007), the political science team proposes to investigate the Canadian immigrant experience in a post-9/11 world. Winders (2007) examined southern US reactions to 9/11 threats. Whether between New Mexico and Mexico or between Georgia and Alabama, the meaning and regulations of borders and borderlines took on a whole new significance. No such study was conducted on northern US reactions, in close vicinity to the actual 9/11 attacks.
The political science research team would like to systematically analyze the meaning and regulations of borders from a uniquely Canadian perspective. Particular attention will be focused on the regulations, protocols and laws governing border mobility and controls, especially for immigrants originating from “suspicious terrorist states” travelling to and from Canada. It is hypothesized that there is systemic discriminatory treatment of certain classes of immigrants beyond the threshold of the Rights Charter. The researchers will canvas the laws, regulations and critical incidents of rights infractions occurring both pre- and post-9/11 in Canada to discern patterns in governmental vigilance over certain classes of immigrants crossing Canadian border frontiers.
Psychological research on immigration revolves around the process of immigrant acculturation to the host culture. The psychology team proposes to investigate the acculturation of children of first-generation Chinese-Canadians in terms of fitness, especially participation in organized sports teams and community leagues. Lu, Sylvestre, Melaychuk and Li (2008) interviewed 10 first-generation Chinese-Canadians to get a sense of their accommodation to Western styles of diet and fitness. They discovered a certain rigidity in adapting beliefs and health practices to a Western frame of reference. The respondents tended to regard their Eastern health practices as superior to Western health practices, seeing Western practices as centred on fast food and fast-paced exercise regimes, often too focused on building muscles and winning than on the more valued Eastern emphasis on attaining balance and equilibrium.
The psychology team proposes to take this original study’s findings to a new level: to conduct a quantitative analysis of Chinese-Canadian fitness practices and attitudes with special attention to participation and support for sport team/leagues for their school-aged children. A survey questionnaire measuring socio-demographic variables as well as attitudes and participation rates in all categories of sports and fitness will be distributed. A complex cluster random sample of 100 Chinese-Canadian families with school-aged children will be selected. A statistical analysis of the critical paths in acculturation to Western-style fitness for school-aged children will be undertaken. Identification of attitudinal and behavioural features of this large and growing immigrant group should help to inform fitness specialists, community sports organizations and policy makers on opportunities for enhancing health and fitness among all Canadian youth.
The religious studies research team proposes to investigate how religious beliefs and traditional values factor into the health status of immigrants coming to Canada. In a landmark 2011 study, Edward Ng, in concert with the Statistics Canada Longitudinal Health and Administrative Data Team, determined that immigrant groups experience fewer instances of chronic diseases, disability, depression, addiction and suicide. They coined this “the healthy immigrant effect.” Explanations for this effect were not tested, hence the following research questions need to be addressed with your support:
- Which immigrant characteristics generate these health outcomes?
- How does religious belief factor into “the healthy immigrant effect”?
The method chosen to investigate these questions is to analyze available statistical data accessible through Statistics Canada/Health Canada datasets from the past decade. The data will be collected from medical files and cross-referenced with socio-demographic information for statistical analysis. The target population will be recent (past 10 years) immigrants to Canada.
Three major social psychological theories (scarce resource theory, contact theory and educational progressivism theory) have been pivotal in helping to explain determinants of beliefs towards immigrants in a host country setting. Recently these theories were put to statistical tests by Mulder & Krahn (2005) using a sophisticated questionnaire instrument on a randomly selected sample of 802 Albertan adults. Overall, the researchers found robust levels of acceptance for immigrants and immigration, but for unexplained reasons, acceptance levels among older individuals and in larger cosmopolitan areas such as Calgary were below expected values. Therefore, we propose to explore possible explanations for these unexplained results by modifying the original questionnaire and testing it on a randomly selected sample of approximately 1000 adults in Alberta. Should additional funding be available, further validity could be added to the design by extending the population to be sampled to four major Canadian cities (Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal). Revealing opportunities to improve support for cultural diversity would go a long way to helping immigrant integration in a wider range of Canadian lives and communities.