Introduction: How to Be Your Own Researcher
Ever come across a topic in a newspaper or an article on social media and want to know more about it? Here is your chance. Be your own researcher or a detective and explore a topic in-depth by creating your own survey of questions and using real people and real data to answer your questions. Sounds Cool Right? Let's Go!
Step 1: Ready. Set. Go.
Step 2: Important Notes:
- This is an activity where you can be creative. So, relax and Have Fun. You will be required to fill in a few of the blanks by yourself, but that is the nature of this activity. And just like a mother bird removing the twigs from a nest so that her baby birds can fly... You are going to have twigs removed too. Smile. This is okay. You will have detailed instructions to follow. So Enjoy...
- Basic computer operating skills are required for this activity / project.
- On your first survey, I recommend collecting no more than 30 surveys.
- Document any source you use, such as photos, exact phrases, articles, or videos. Do not poach anyone's information. Smile.
- Let people know if your survey is anonymous or is not anonymous. I included this information in my survey title. Easy.
- A survey of this type is ALWAYS voluntarily. Do not be rude or mean to people if you do not receive a lot of responses. In fact, the number of survey responses you receive will vary. This is okay. Some themes / topics are sensitive, so people avoid them. My cyberstalking survey is an example of a sensitive topic / issue.
- Always know that research naturally includes a disclaimer: What you find in your research study may be different than what someone else has found. The reality is that different groups of people may answer the same question differently. This is okay. Just report your results.
- If you wish to do research in public, such as handing out surveys, you must complete Human Subjects Training. More information on this is given later, specifically at STEP: 18. This research study DOES NOT involve human subjects. Perhaps that will be next mission...
Step 3: Materials
For this research activity you will need the following:
- A computer with access to the internet
- An internet web browser - Google is used for this activity
- A Google account - It is free to create and instructions are included within these steps
- A journal or notebook for writing down information and taking notes AND pencils.
- A social media account is helpful. However, there are other options for sharing your survey.
Step 4: Select an Overall Theme
Your research topic should focus on only one major theme or topic. My selected theme is: Cyberstalking. What is your theme? Select one and record it in your journal.
Step 5: Review Information About Your Theme
In this big world of ideas, it would be nice to know that we have discovered a theme or topic that has never been discussed before… I am an optimist, so it is possible. Smile. But to ensure that you have some background knowledge on your theme, perform an internet search of your selected theme.
Read or review 2 to 5 articles or information sources of your choice. As an example, I have listed 2 of the sources I used for my cyberstalking theme below. Use the additional space under these 2 examples to record sources for your own theme.
Source 1 - Google web browser - https://www.google.com/,
Source 2 - Google Scholar - https://scholar.google.com/
Record or write down up to five of the sources you viewed for your selected theme.
Source 1: ______________________________________________________
Source 2: ______________________________________________________
Source 3: ______________________________________________________
Source 4: ______________________________________________________
Source 5: ______________________________________________________
Step 6: Give Your Theme a Definition
Be it Wikipedia, the dictionary, an information source or even in your own words…write down a definition for your theme. Why? People will need to know about your theme and what it is. My cyberstalking definition is listed above. It is a combination of my own words and ideas about what I feel cyberstalking is.
Write Your Theme’s Definition Below:
Step 7: Review Survey Examples of Your Theme
If you are a visual learner like me, it may be helpful for you to view examples of survey questions related to your specific theme. So, we will...
Review and/or skim information sources related to your selected theme again, but this time, put the term questionnaire behind your theme. Questionnaire is simply another word for survey, but I found that it produces better internet search results. So, let’s use it.
Review what you find. Your internet search results should show you different examples of actual surveys related to your selected theme. You will also notice a difference in how the survey questions are asked or designed. The questions may allow people to write in their own response, only allow for yes or no responses or even appear as a multiple choice question. This is normal in survey design because different people and different organizations create their own questionnaires and surveys. In fact, we are going to create our own…
Using my selected theme, my internet search was: cyberstalking questionnaire. Examples of my search results are listed above.
Source 1: Google web browser
Source 2: Google Scholar
Step 8: Write Down 5 to 10 Questions About Your Theme
Curiosity is said to have killed the cat.. But we won’t take it that far. We just need a few questions to ask. What are some things that you really want to know about your theme?
You can create questions based on your individual interest, based on something you read and/or just be creative and develop your own. As an example, I have listed the questions related to my cyberstalking theme below. They are based on my personal interest and curiosity. I did go a little bit over 10 questions, but that is the beauty of being your own researcher, it is OKAY to add a few more questions... Feel free to add your own twist. Just remember that people may not answer all of your questions, which is okay and try to avoid questions that are too personal.
Write 5 to 10 questions related to your theme in your journal.
Step 9: Use Google Forms to Create Your Questionnaire
Google Forms is a free application in Google that can be used to create a questionnaire or survey. Users are required to have or create a google account. Therefore, if you do not have a google account, you will create one. .
- Go to the Google Forms webpage: https://www.google.com/forms/about/
- Click on GO TO GOOGLE FORMS
- Log-in to your Google Account or select MORE OPTIONS, then select CREATE ACCOUNT. If you see the option USE ANOTHER ACCOUNT, this is okay. You can select this option if you have a Google Account and it is not already listed as an option in the sign-in area.
- Create and Log-in to your Google Account
Step 10: Start a New Google From - Your Questionnaire
Once you are logged-in to your Google Form account, Select START A NEW FORM. This option is a clear, white box on the left side of the screen.
Think of a title for your survey and enter it in the area currently titled UNTITLED FORM. The title can easily be changed, so you can enter a temporary title for now if you are unsure of what you would like your final survey title to be. My cyberstalking title is also listed below an example.
Step 11: Add Your Theme's Definition to Your Questionnaire
Click in the area directly beneath the title, then enter your definition for your theme.
Also include a short description of what you hope to learn by receiving answers to your survey AND how the answers to your survey can be helpful to people, society or organizations in the future. In short, what are the benefits of your survey? Just being nosy is not the best answer. Smile. Yes. Research can be relaxed and laid-back...
My cyberstalking description is listed above an example.
Step 12: Get Familiar With Your Google Form Tools / Options
We are now going to start entering our survey questions. But before we begin, let’s get familiar with a few options available in Google Forms. Use your mouse to scroll over every icon in the Google Forms screen.
Do not panic if you click on an icon by mistake, most of the time you can just select CANCEL, to undo your selection or select the X icon to close the page option. In addition, these are buttons / tools that you may use, so it is okay to click on them to see what they do and what they are. Now, start scrolling left to right, then down the right side of the webpage. You will come across 3 groups of buttons.
Step 13: Let's Start Creating Your Survey - PART 1
To begin entering your questionnaire or survey questions, click on the line titled UNTITLED QUESTION, then type in your first question, regardless of the type of question it is.
Google Forms may automatically suggest answers based on your question. This is helpful because you may be able to simply click on the suggestion and add it to survey as an answer choice. For example, my first question is WHAT IS YOUR GENDER? In the area under the question, Google Forms has suggested ADD ALL, FEMALE, MALE, PREFER NOT TO SAY and OTHER as answer choices.
I clicked on the MALE, FEMALE, and OTHER answer choices. Therefore, these answer choices were automatically added to my survey. Neat isn't it!
Step 14: Let's Start Creating Your Survey - PART 2
There are also 2 sets of buttons in the survey creation area. The first is on the top right of the survey section and the second button area is on the bottom right of the survey area. Scroll over the items in both of the button areas to see what they do.
Step 15: Let's Start Creating Your Survey - PART 3
My cyberstalking survey begins with a multiple choice question. This is helpful because the default or automatic question type is set to the multiple choice question type. To view additional question types, click on the MULTIPLE CHOICE button. Doing this will open up the question type box. You can visually select the type of question you want to use. However, once you switch between question types, what you have typed will be reset. Therefore, you will need to retype it. A few question type examples include: short answer, paragraph, linear scale and a dropdown choice.
It is okay to get a feel for and play around with the survey creation tool. When you are ready, continue adding all of your questions in to the Google Form application. Use the ADD QUESTION button on the right of the webpage to add additional questions. You may need to hover your mouse over the tools / buttons to verify which button is the correct button.
Important Tip: As a Google Form user, you can drop and drag survey questions to change the question order. You can use the mouse to hover over screen items to identify or find out the item can be used for. You can turn on the REQUIRED button to make any question required or optional.
You can make the survey as simple or as detailed as you want to make it. Have Fun! And do not forget to preview your final survey before making it available to your survey participants. And check your spelling.
Step 16: Use Google Forms to Collect Survey Responses - PART 1
Now that you have input your survey questions in to the Google Forms application and hopefully completed spellcheck – Smile, you are ready to switch from the Google Forms Questions section, to the Google Forms Response section. The Google Form application / program does both, so there is no need to use another software program to collect your responses. To switch between the sections, simply click on the RESPONSES tab. It is to the right of the QUESTIONS tab. That is it. Cool isn't it.
Step 17: Use Google Forms to Collect Survey Responses - PART 2
The Google Form Response section has several buttons that you will use. Click on the button area with the three (3) gray dots. This button will allow you to select how you would like to receive your survey response data. In addition, think about how you wish to present your data. If you prefer Microsoft Excel or another software, feel free to use it. Pay attention to the data download options and select the best option for you and your theme.
I used the spreadsheet option for my cyberstalking survey. Specifically, I followed these options / tool selections: Click on Responses --- Select Response Destination – Select Spreadsheet - Create New Spreadsheet – Give the New Spreadsheet a Title.
A Very Important Hint: In the RESPONSE section, you can use the SETTINGS option to customize more items / information about your survey, such as allow people who have completed your survey to see the survey results or limit the people who will receive your survey. This is one of those removing the twig moments... Make decisions based on your personal interest.
Step 18: Share Your Survey
Whew… We are almost there… Smile. Now, it is time to share your survey with your selected audience of participants.
My survey is designed to be an online survey administered through social media outlets. Therefore, I will not seek to identify anyone participating in a survey. I just want voluntary information. I also will not be standing in front of a grocery store offering $10 to anyone over 18 who completes my 5 minute interview, but in ethnography, it pays.
If you plan to use your survey in public, your are required to complete Human Subjects Training. This training is free, provided by the National Institute of Health and helps to protect you AND survey participants - https://phrp.nihtraining.com/users/login.php
If you enjoy social media, there is a link to share your survey on Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter. This is how I my survey will be shared and with a few fellow classmates. To do this, switch back to the Google Form Question section. Use the preview button to preview your entire survey one more time. Once you are satisfied with your preview, select the SEND button. It is the white, rectangle button in the upper right area of the webpage.
I shared the URL for my cyberstalking study on a social media outlet. The webpage is: https://goo.gl/forms/tY7oD7IzfDAG2nFa2
Step 19: Promote Your Survey
Some researchers collect data for less than a week, while others collect data for several years. This survey only seeks 25 responses. Therefore, a small time frame will be used – less than one week. Set a time frame that is comfortable for you. And it is always interesting to find something you did not expect to find.
I sent my survey to a few classmates and friends. It has proven to be a sensitive issue indeed. Smile. But that is the risk you take using a theme that you are simply curious about... Hopefully, you have learned a lot and now feel more comfortable in becoming your own researcher.
Step 20: Organize Your Data Results
Google Forms presents your data results in easy to use graphics. Really Cool!!
If you wish to use a different software or application, organize the response data into no more than 5 categories. I recommend this to you because people tend to get overwhelmed with information if more than 5 categories are presented at once.
Note for People Using Another Software to Display Their Data: You can report additional information in a separate report at a later time or have a separate category for all items that did not fit neatly in your four major groups. This would give you 5 categories.
For my theme, I am using Google Forms to display data. If it works well, Use It!!
Step 21: Report Your Data Results
It is tempting, but only discuss your actual results / what you found at this step. For example, all 6 of the people who responded to my survey stated that it took less than one month for them to realize that they were being cyberstalked. Great information...
You can export your data responses into your own spreadsheet, such as Microsoft Office excel or use the Google Forms spreadsheet.
I am going to keep it simple and use the graphics that are already created in the Google Forms application.
Step 22: Discuss Your Data Results
Yes!. Now you can add your own opinion to your results. Perhaps you saw that your results were exactly what you thought they would be or found information you did not expect. Discuss it and discuss why you feel you received the results you have. For example, in my cyberstalking result above, each person who responded to my survey indicated that they did not seek assistance from an organization about the cyberstalking. It is my opinion that they did not seek assistance from an organization because they did not know what organization helps with cyberstalking.
If I were to repeat this survey, I would add the statement / question Why at the end of the question. If I do, the perhaps I can get actual information about why no one sought assistance from an organization.
Step 23: Write Your Conclusion
Wow... We are almost at the end of our research journey... How do you feel so far? Smile. Did you learn something new or information you did not know? Great. Now, we are ready for our final step. This is the step where you write your summary or conclusion.about your theme or topic. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Each topic and theme is different. And sometimes, data is collected, but for various reasons, it cannot be used. This is okay, just make sure you document what happened in your journal and write about it. Like anything, writing can be art for some people and a chore for others. In this sense, it is indeed an art form. You will begin to develop your own style. Perhaps even Sherlock would approve. And yes, I enjoy watching Sherlock Homes...waiting on the new season. I hope Mary returns.. Anyway...back to the conclusion recommendations. Last Step Bliss...
Start your conclusion by:
- Introduce your theme and its definition
- Discuss how you administered your survey and how many people participated.
- Discuss how you created your survey.
- Discuss 3 to 5 major points / results.
- Discuss a few of your points or categories and your opinion on why you think you found that specific result.
- Suggest ways that you or someone else could find out more about your theme / topic
My cyberstalking summary is listed below:
The following research study seeks to explore the issue of Cyberstalking and how it is experienced by everyday people. Cyberstalking is unauthorized and/or unwanted attention or communication initiated or maintained primarily through means of technology. Examples include, but are not limited to: emails, telephone calls, GPS tracking, monitoring, text messages, gifts, discussions and pictures. The research study was an online survey which sought twenty-five participants. The total number of actual participants totaled six.. The study consisted of three female participants and three male participants. The survey was created and displayed using Google Forms.
The study results indicated that none of the cyberstalking participants sought assistance from an organization, each participant knew in less than one month that the person was a cyberstalker, and half of the cyberstalker's were unknown to the person experiencing the cyberstalking. At the end of the survey, no participant wanted to add additional information to the cyberstalking discussion. Overall, the study showed that men and women are both susceptible to cyberstalking and this is important. I think each person knew in less than a month the cyberstalker was unstable because they noticed the unwanted attention.
Cyberstalking is still a real issue that must be discussed with both men and women. One half of the study participants indicated that their cyberstalker was unknown to them. This is an area that requires more study. Safety is an important issue and cyberstalking is always unwelcome and unauthorized attention.
Step 24: List Your References
Use your notebook or journal to list all of your references and additional resources, including photos.
- William (Chuck) Easttom - Computer Security Fundamentals (textbook)
- Dr. John Schulz - What is a Questionnaire? - (Youtube Video) 12 minutes, 15 seconds
Step 25: Print Your Certificate of Completion
Thank you for taking the time to complete this Instructable activity. This is my very first one...and I am looking forward to trying more.
Like I said in the beginning, research can be laid back and fun. So much so that I have included a Certificate of Completion for you.
Print it Out or Create your own. Smile.
Participated in the
First Time Author Contest