Social Sciences

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the "Social Sciences" as a branch of science that deals with the institutions and functioning of human society and with the interpersonal relationships of individuals as members of society.  The term "Social Sciences" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a number of fields including but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, business, communication, economics, education, linguistics, international relations, political science and psychology.  Below is a sample list of projects UROP has sponsored in the past we consider to be within the realm of "Social Sciences."

 

Sample Project 1: Role of Educational Technology in Instructional Improvement

Project Objective:
The purpose of this study is to evaluate a local school district's effort at improving classroom instruction and developing a laptop learning initiative. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, researchers will investigate teachers' approaches to teaching and how teachers go about integrating technology into instruction. Researchers will also identify the resources and support structures that are essential in helping the district meet its goal of improved classroom instruction. The study findings will contribute to a better understanding of the contexts surrounding computer use and how laptops may be useful learning tools. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: 
Undergraduate research assistants will initially meet with classroom teachers on a weekly basis to obtain samples of student work and collect data on how teachers' teach and on the ways in which technology is currently being used throughout the school district. Once expertise is gained, students will conduct library research and assist with statistical software data entry, qualitative software data entry and statistical and qualitative analysis.

Sample Project 2: Middle school science education that works

Project Objective:
Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation (NSF), our work involves the reform of science education, with a particular focus on urban middle schools.  We develop curricula (including technology tools and student reading materials) to promote inquiry-based science aligned with the National Science Education Standards.  The aspects of the project relevant to this posting are data collection in public schools, description of teaching practices. and assessment of student performance.  This involves administration and scoring of student assessments, collection and scoring of student artifacts, videotaping and analyzing videotaped enactments, data base entry, and interviewing of students and teachers. 

Student Task and Responsibilities: 
UROP students will be involved in organization of the research effort and management of data and data collection...  They may participate in scoring student assessments and artifacts, videotaping in Detroit Public School classrooms, interviewing students, coding data qualitatively, analyzing data quantitatively, writing brief reports of activities, and attending research meetings.

Sample Project 3: Economic and Community Development Strategic Needs Analysis

Project Objective:
The project is designed to provide the Lenawee county region with a comprehensive plan to design and achieve a future that is economically and socially secure.  Currently the region is experiencing a loss of population in the youth sector between the ages of 18 and 35.  Another issue is the movement of households from the urban residential areas in the towns to the outer areas of the region where land is available and taxes are lower.  Survey research, data analysis and development of an implementation plan will be accomplished during this academic year.  A specific outcome of the project will be a plan with recommended activities, responsible organizations or institutions, milestones and schedule, and projected funding requirements including potential sources of funding. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: 
Students will participate in all aspects of the project according to abilities, experience, and expertise.  Project activities include development and administration of survey instruments, interviews, data analysis, and report writing. .Project activities include development and administration of survey instruments, interviews, focus groups, data analysis, report writing and interaction with members of the business community, government officials, and with the other stakeholders in the proposed development project.

Sample Project 4: Urban history using geographical information systems

Project Objective:
The objective is to develop and deploy one or more geographical information system (GIS) databases on urban history, drawing on environmental, historical, physical and social elements of one or more places. The methods will include library research in urbanism, examination and selection of images, maps, remotely-sensed photographs and related materials for scanning, digitization of historic maps, and the integration of these into a functioning GIS and possibly a website. Dependent on students¬タル knowledge, one or more research questions may be presented, and the project will focus on those. 

Tasks and Responsibilities: 
Student tasks will include learning ArcGIS basic functions, understanding the methods of research on urbanism, and learning the forms of representation. The latter will require both quantitative and qualitative skills, as representation may include statistical data on a place. Relevant basic mathematics for cartography and geography will be taught where relevant to the student. Relevant technical skills with computing, scanning, etc. will also be taught where necessary. The student will keep a log of work, and will be expected to meet weekly with the supervisor or designate.

Sample Project 5: Iraq Information Project

Project Objective:
The student will aid me in gathering and web-publishing news about the situation in Iraq.  We will establish a "gateway" web page as a clearing house for academic and journalistic information on Iraq and keep it updated.  Students will do research in Lexis Nexis, the World Wide Web, and other sources, and may prepare print bibliographies for Web publication. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: 
Research into news and contemporary history regarding the Middle East, and summarizing or linking to them at the gateway site.

Sample Project 6: Information Requirements of the Human Service Organization

Project Objective:
The purpose of this research project is to understand the experience of using information technology in the human services workplace and to make needed changes in an agency¬タルs management information system.  The procedure will involve the administration of a survey, interviewing of personnel and the observation of work tasks.  The results expected from this study should serve to improve the utilization of information technology and improve client outcomes. The study will take place at a number of non-profit agencies in the Southeast Michigan area. Many of these agencies have existing systems that are sorely underutilized and their hope is to maximize this resource. Many of these agencies have needs associated with service and third party payor demands related to case/care management, accounts management, programs and services, and service outcomes. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: 
Maintaining the existing databases. Creating new database queries based on client requirements.  Developing reports based on organizational decision making requirements.  Developing web pages that display reports based on client requirements.

Sample Project 7: Cognitive and Experimental Economics

Project Objective:
Cognitive economics is a very new field of economics, and is focused on understanding how cognitive attributes, such as intelligence, cognitive flexibility, extroversion, and openness, effect economic behavior.  Evidence from a large scale survey conducted last fall has confirmed that cognitive attributes play a role in determining basic economic behavior.  We are attempting to collected additional data by designing and running experiments testing the relationships found in the survey. Our project specifically looks at how intelligence and cognitive flexibility change patience, risk-seeking, and behavioral elasticities.  We will be running experiments in the lab at the Institute for Social Research. The experiments will involve having subjects engage in a variety or purchasing and labor decisions under various payment schemes. This is an exciting opportunity to become involved in research with professional economists in an extremely new field, working on a project that should impact the way the profession thinks about economic theory and policy. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: 
Students will be involved at all levels of the research project.  They will have the opportunity to assist in designing the experimental protocols, help conduct experimental sessions, enter and manage data, and work on basic data analysis in STATA. It is not expected that students will have experience in any of these tasks, and so a large part of the project will involve learning the necessary skills from the project investigators.

Sample Project 8: Virtual Exhibit Project: Native American Achievements

Project Objective:
A team of two UROP students working with faculty members, museum staff, and graduate students is planned.  The project will result in a virtual exhibit about Native American achievements in mathematics and science that will be accessible on line and at a computer kiosk in the Undergraduate Science Building.  To develop the content of the exhibit, the project will involve library, archive,  and on-line research as well as personal interviews and other research methodologies to be determined.   Students will work with School of Information faculty and students to create the virtual exhibit.  

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: 
The two UROP students will work with a small team of faculty, staff, and graduate students to develop the proposed exhibit.  PHASE I:  Following on suggestions developed by the team as well as their own ideas, the UROP students will locate information and images, keep careful records of the information and images gathered, and make suggestions to the team for the major themes and subject areas of the exhibit. PHASE II:  The students will work with faculty and graduate students in the School of Information to develop the virtual exhibit.  PHASE III (if time permits):  The students will work with museum staff to research options for a computer kiosk for the display in the Undergraduate Science Building, and with the team to find ways to make the web-based virtual exhibit accessible to many audiences.

Sample Project 9: Elections Under Authoritarianism

Project Objective:
The project focuses on electoral institutions and administration.  We are interested in how elections can either perpetuate or undermine authoritarianism, with a focus on the Middle East.  Methodologically, I use large-n statistical analysis and case studies. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

  1. Students will be asked to read and summarize several pieces on the document. 
  2. Students will help create a database on electoral institutions. 
  3. Students will help create a database on violations and enforcement of election rules.

Sample Project 9: The Bioarchaeology of Pompeii

Project Objective:
The Bioarchaeology of Pompeii project will use archaeological sediments collected during excavation to understand the lifeways of the people of ancient Pompeii.  Specifically, we will be using small plant and animal remains found in the sediment to research questions about health, diet, environment, and socio-economic status in the ancient world.  By identifying and quantifying these ecofacts and researching the plants and animals they come from, we can reconstruct many important aspects of ancient life that are often overlooked. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: 
Students will sort archaeological sediments, removing artifactual and ecofactual remains.  They will then count and weigh the artifacts and ecofacts and attempt to identify them using the reference collections of the Museums of Anthropology and Biology.  Students will be expected to do background reading in the Roman economy and the plants and animals represented by the ecofacts.  They will also locate books and articles relating to the project's research questions.