Research Methods


Intellectual Circles
Course Contract
Lecture Outlines
Research Project Guidelines
Course Schedule


Research Methods
HDFR 290
Fall Term 2000

Professor: Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Ph.D.
Office: FS/DRM 313
Phone: 486-6263
Class Website:

This course is designed to provide an overview of research methods in the field of family studies. Topics covered include 1) hypothesis formulation and theory construction, 2) the measurement of social variables, and 3) data collection techniques (observational, survey, and experimental). Teaching and learning in the context of this class will be multidimensional. You will learn about research methods through lecture, discussion, documentary films, simulation and/or fieldwork. Through these alternative pedagogical strategies, this class will work as a learning community to explore the social structures in which American families are embedded and the methods used to understand the effects of those structural opportunities and constraints.

By the end of this course students will be able to

1. Describe and appreciate the strengths and the limitations of social science research processes and methods and how those are used to explore family issues.

2. Demonstrate mastery of one research method and one data analysis software package.

3. Objectively analyze existing assumptions about families in the United States by testing those assumptions with existing empirical evidence.

4. Communicate effectively through written and oral presentations.

To obtain these goals, students will

1. Review existing studies in four areas of family studies research (goals #1, 2, & 3).

2. Take daily quizzes that test comprehension of assigned readings (goals #1 & 4).

3. Attend an in-class skills workshop to learn either SPSS, or GIS (goal #2).

4. Design and execute a research study that tests a hypothesis involving family issues either independently or for a community based non-profit organization (goals #1, 2, & 3).

5. Synthesize and present research findings for in-class presentations (goal #4).

You are warmly invited to attend my office hours with any questions or concerns regarding the class. During scheduled office hours, I will be available in my office (FS/DRM 315). If the posted times are inconvenient for you, feel free to e-mail me with your questions or concerns, or it may be possible to set up an appointment at a different time. My office hours are:

Monday: 2:00-3:00pm
Wednesday: 2:00-3:00pm

1. Arrive on time and be prepared for class.
2. Follow the written syllabus and communicate any changes in advance.
3. Take students' interests and experiences into consideration when preparing for class.
4. Respond in a timely fashion and as fully as possible to student work.
5. Be available to students as needed outside of class.
6. Evaluate the student's work fairly according to clearly communicated expectations.

There are two required books for this course. They may be purchased at the campus bookstore. The textbooks are:

Demmitt, Kevin. 1999. _Marriage and Family_. New York: Microcase.

Ragin, Charles. 1994. _Constructing Social Research_. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.

All other required readings will be on electronic reserve at the library. To access the readings, simply go to the UConn Library's course reserve webpage (, click on Current Course Reserves, then Human Development and Family Relations, then look for my name. Keep in mind that you must either use a campus network connection OR have a proxy account to access the library reserves.

In addition to the textbooks, you will need to purchase a 3-ring binder to keep all of your course materials together. The binder should include dividers for quizzes, participation activities, in-class writing, option project, class handouts, and miscellaneous items. You may also want to purchase a portable three-hole punch to add items to your binder as they are returned in class. At the end of the course, I will ask you to turn in the binder as a portfolio of all the work you have done over the semester.

The final "text" that you will need is the New York Times. Every student in the class is expected to obtain a daily subscription to the New York Times. We will discuss and make reference to articles in the Times regularly in class. Semester subscriptions are available at a discounted rate from the UConn Co-Op or students may view the entire text of the daily paper free at the New York Times Website (

This course is based on a system of contract grading. Each student will select one of the available options for mastering the course material. This agreement will be put in writing and signed by both the student and the professor. Read it thoroughly, as it will serve as the basis of a contractual obligation.

To Obtain a Grade of "C" in the Class, Students Must Successfully Complete the Following Requirements:


Students are REQUIRED to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned material and participate in class activities. This course is based on a model of active learning hence, careful preparation and active participation on the part of all students is absolutely critical. Regular attendance makes possible the kind of continuing give-and-take on the issues that enhances the experience for everyone in the course. For this reason alone, you should want to come and take part in the discussion. For students enrolled in the course, attendance is mandatory.

Students are allowed three absences for whatever reasons (i.e., the professor does not differentiate between "excused" vs. "unexcused" absences). It is NOT necessary to notify the professor of the reason for your absence. Any time a student misses class, they may obtain the missed material via the course web-site or from other students in the class. Students should NOT expect to attend office hours after an absence to receive a "condensed version" of the missed class. This is simply impossible because the course is based on a model of active learning. STUDENTS WHO MISS MORE THAN THREE CLASSES WILL BE ADVISED TO DROP THE COURSE IN ORDER TO AVOID A FAILING GRADE. If you think that you will miss more than three classes, kindly do not take this section of research methods. Students will not be allowed to join the class after the third class meeting.

I will keep track of your attendance and participation on a daily basis. If you are not in class when attendance is taken, you are not in attendance for that class period. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class period so be on time!

Note: Regardless of whether you actually attend class meetings or not, you are responsible for all announcements made, policies set, and materials covered during class meetings.


My Assumption is that you will spend three hours of preparation for each hour of in-class time. If you feel this assumption is "ridiculous", "impossible", or "unfair", kindly do not take this class.

HDFR 290 is 3 credits X 3 hours p/credit = 9 hours p/week in prep time.

You should divide that preparation time in the following way:
3 hours p/week on your option project
3 hours p/week reading the newspaper (approximately 1/2 hour p/day)
3 hours p/week in required reading (1 hour for Monday, 1 hour for Wednesday and 1
hour for Thursday)

Your preparedness will be measured by your performance on short quizzes that will be given each and every day at the beginning of class. If you are not in class when the quiz is given, you will not be allowed to make up the quiz. Hence, students should make every possible effort to be on time to class. Students must maintain an average of 85% or above to fulfill this requirement. This requirement is graded on a pass/fail basis. If your average is 85% or better, you pass. If your average is 84.9% or below, you fail. You will be allowed to drop your lowest THREE quiz scores, therefore, there will be absolutely no make-up quizzes offered for any reason.


Participation refers to your mental, attitudinal, AND physical behavior. Your participation grade will be determined by the instructor based upon your in-class behavior, attentiveness, and understanding of the material (See Appendix A). On lecture days, the instructor may give a quiz at the end of the class to measure your comprehension of the lecture materials. On activity days, your groups may have a collective project to hand in for evaluation or you may turn in an individual in-class writing assignment.

The professor reserves the right to dismiss any student from the class who's behavior is disruptive or grossly disrespectful towards the professor or other students in the class, as defined by the professor. Students will receive one warning, in writing, if their behavior is unacceptable and then they will be dismissed from the class. In general, students should avoid excessively rude behavior, as it will have a negative impact on their daily participation grade. Students must maintain an average of 85% or above to fulfill the participation requirement. This requirement is graded on a pass/fail basis. If your average is 85% or better, you pass. If your average is 84.9% or below, you fail.

I value your participation in class discussions and group exercises. Below are some guidelines that may help you to participate in a meaningful and appropriate manner:

* Bring the assigned reading to class every day.
* If you have not read the assignment and have not prepared for class, do not participate in class discussion. This will have a negative impact on your grade so mentally plan to be prepared for class every day.
* Limit your comments and discussion to the materials at hand.
* Present coherent, rational explanations backed up by relevant empirical evidence from the text. Always be ready to be challenged to support your views with specific empirical evidence. Be advised that personal experiences, while interesting, do NOT constitute empirical evidence.
* Try to develop an intellectual willingness to entertain explanations that you may intuitively disagree with.
* Uphold your responsibilities in small groups.
* Be courteous.
Do not bring or consume food or beverages in class.
Do not come to class late.
Do not read the newspaper or do homework for other classes during class.
Do not pass notes or talk while others are speaking in class.
Do not answer your cellular phone in class.
Do not wear your beeper to class.
Do not glare or roll your eyes at others.
Do not put your feet up on the furniture or on other people.
Do not leave the room to use the restroom during class (adults know how to "hold it").
Do not pack up your belongings five minutes before class ends.
Do not ever, under any circumstances, fall asleep.
* Consciously cultivate a positive attitude toward your learning experience. Come to class with questions, be open to the answers, and try to make connections between material learned at every stage of the course.

If a Student Wishes to Obtain a Grade of "A" or "B" in the Course, in Addition to Fulfilling the Previously Stated Requirements, They Must Contract for ONE of the Following Options:

Students choosing this option will be required to conduct an independent field research project and turn in a 15 to 20-page empirical paper. The projects involve reviewing existing literature, collecting data and performing quantitative or qualitative data analysis. Students are required to turn in a Research Plan and Bibliography (10%), Research Update (10%), Outline of the final paper (20%), a Rough Draft (20%), and the Final Paper (40%). The various components of the project each contribute to the final grade and each will have a separate due date throughout the term (see your course calendar for due dates). Students may work individually or in pairs (that means no more than two) on the independent research projects. See Appendix E of your syllabus for project options.

Students who select this option will meet in small groups with the instructor outside of class time. The purpose of the intellectual circles is to allow students to delve more deeply into the substantive issues raised in the class. The groups will meet every other week on Wednesday afternoon for 1.5 hours. Group members will be assigned a book for each group meeting (7 books total) which they will read and then prepare a 5-page critical reflection essay. Group meetings will then consist of engaging and lively conversations of the materials. Students will receive a grade for each of the seven critical reflection essays and their participation in the group meetings.

Students may choose to take a mid-term and a cumulative final exam. The exams will be composed of true/false, multiple choice, and short answer answer questions. In addition, there will be an oral component to each exam lasting 30-60 minutes. The final grade for this option will be an average of the students?rformance on the two examinations.

Note: To get a grade of "A" or "B" in the course, a student's grade on any of the listed options must be an "A" or "B"! Do not choose one of these options if you are unwilling to invest the effort to obtain an "A" or "B" on the project. Getting a "C" on any of the following options is the functional equivalent of not doing any project at all.

This menu of options is intended to allow you to chart your own learning path through the substantive material of this course. There are many different learning styles, so choose an option that best suits the way you learn. Appendix G of the syllabus contains a GRADING CONTRACT that you must sign and turn in to the instructor no later than September 8th (due at the beginning of class). Choose carefully! This is a CONTRACT between you and the professor. That implies that there will be no amendments or changes after it is submitted. If you fail to meet any of the core requirements of your contract, your grade will be dropped one full letter for each requirement you fail to meet. For example, if you contract for a grade of ???a Option C (The Traditional Path) and you average a ?on both the mid-term and final exams, but fail to pass the participation, preparedness, and attendance requirements ??u will receive a grade of ?in the course. Note that the core requirements (participation, preparedness, and attendance) are recorded on a Pass/Fail basis, the student either has passed the requirement or has failed to pass the requirement. The only numerical grades recorded for your final grade are for the ???tions (Independent Research, Service Learning, Exams).


General Course Policies:

EXTRA CREDIT: No extra credit will be offered in this course.

POLICY ON ACADEMIC DISHONESTY (CHEATING): The University of Connecticut considers academic dishonesty to be a serious offense. Each student in this course will be held to the University policy on ethics. Students choosing to violate the policy can expect to receive a failing grade in the course and have the incident reported to the Academic Ethics Committee.

Have questions? E-mail me at