Social science researchers faced a myriad of challenges over the last year due to COVID-19. Chief among these was the inability to meet with study participants face to face. Dr. Mansureh Kebritchi, part of the social science department faculty at the University of Phoenix, sees these challenges as opportunities and offers ways for social science degree candidates and other researchers to make the most of this unique period in time.
Tips for collecting data
Kebritchi challenges her students and other social science researchers to get creative in finding ways to connect with people in research studies. Instead of meeting in person, Kebritchi suggests interacting via Zoom or Google Hangouts. For surveys, she suggests using SurveyMonkey or Google Forms rather than meeting people in person. She is quick to add that far from being negative, online data collection techniques may positively impact a study. For example, participants may be more likely to share information in an online forum rather than in person. They also may be more relaxed while participating from home.
Making research topics relevant
The pandemic forced people to stay indoors and avoid the majority of social interactions. This raised a host of potential social issues including isolation, depression, and loneliness. In addition, according to Kebritchi, education, healthcare, and business sectors changed their operations. Schools shifted to virtual learning and homeschooling. Healthcare facilities and workers faced unprecedented demands, and thousands of businesses closed or severely curtailed their operations. Kebritchi suggests that social science researchers make good use of these situations to find ways to help people deal with the challenges of the pandemic environment.
Designing a research study in a pandemic
Kebritchi advises social science researchers to take the pandemic environment into account when formatting and designing research studies. She emphasizes that the new pandemic environment may actually offer opportunities in addition to challenges. For example, connecting with participants is easier now that many people are at home and more accessible. She also suggests that researchers design studies around teleconferencing tools like Zoom or include survey tools like Google Docs.
The University of Phoenix continues its social science research work even in the face of COVID-19 era challenges. Kebritchi encourages researchers at the university and other institutions to design studies with flexibility, choose topics relevant to the current environment, and embrace new and established digital tools to help with data collection.
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