Previous assignments

Assignment #1: Science

  • 1 bonus point
  • Find a brief definition of science in an encyclopedia, dictionary, or lexicon (any encyclopedia in English except for Wikipedia counts). Copy it and include a reference to the source. Propose a way in which the definition could be improved – for example, by including an aspect of science which it does not reflect, or by making it more precise etc.
  • Save your work as a separate document and turn it in, via e-mail (juraj dot halas at uniba dot sk), by Monday Feb 25 (11:59pm)
  • Please include "(MS)" in the subject of your e-mail (e.g. "(MS) first assignment").

Assignment #2: Two statements

  • Consider these two statements:
    1. “2 + 2 = 4”
    2. “Some dogs bark.”
  • Answer the following questions:
    • Do you believe the statements to be true? (Are both true, or just one, or none of them?)
    • How do you know they are (or aren't) true? Are there any important differences, in this respect, between the two statements?
    • How could we find out whether they're true? Are there any important differences, in this respect, between the two statements?
  • Save your answers as a separate document and turn it in by Monday, March 4th, 11:59pm for a maximum of 2 bonus pts.
  • Note: make sure you put "(MS)" (including the parens) into the subject line of your e-mail.

Assignment #3: Arguments

  • 3 bonus pts.
  • Most opinion pieces in newspapers argue for something – they put forward a thesis and provide reasons for (or against) accepting the thesis. We call this argumentation.
  • Your task is to choose one of these three brief articles and read it:
  • Try to identify any arguments made in the text:
    1. Figure out the main thesis (or conclusion) that the article argues for. Copy it and clearly mark it as the conclusion.
    2. Identify the reasons (or premises) that the article puts forward to make the conclusion plausible. Copy them and mark them as premises.
    • In both cases, you may have to paraphrase (shorten, rephrase, ...) the sentences a bit – this is fine, as long as the meaning of the sentences is maintained.
  • Answer the following questions:
    1. Does the article make a strong case for the conclusion? (If you wish, you may point out any weaknesses in the argument.)
    2. Would you accept the conclusion based on the reasons provided? (If not, why not?)
    3. What factors do you think play a role in accepting (or dismissing) the conclusion of an argument?
  • Note on grading: if you correctly identify the conclusion, you get 1 point. Another point is awarded for identifying the premises. The final point depends on your effort in answering the three questions.
  • Note: make sure you put "(MS)" (including the parens) into the subject line of your e-mail.

Assignment #4: Sherlock Holmes (Obligatory)

  • Read this excerpt from A. C. Doyle's A Study in Scarlet.
  • The excerpt is about inference (argumentation) and it includes a description of one.
  • Identify the type of inference used by Holmes (using concepts from the last lecture: deductive, inductive, abductive, including the subtypes of inductive arguments).
  • Rewrite the inference into the standard form (premises, horizontal line, conclusion).
  • Using concepts from the last lecture, comment on the features of the inference.
    • Is the conclusion entailed by the premises? Is the argument valid or invalid?
    • Is the argument sound?
    • Is there some other relation between the premises and the conclusion?
  • Write your answers in a separate document and e-mail it to me (don't forget to put "(MS)" in the message's subject).
  • Read the solution here.

Assignment #5: Visiting the library

  • There's a university library in Bratislava. Ironically enough, it's not located at the university. Here's its website: Your task is to provide proof that you (personally) were there. More specifically, you have to e-mail me a photo that irrefutably proves that you (not your friend, not one person for the whole class, but you!) got to the first floor (above street level).
  • Unless you want to break in (note: this is strongly discouraged), getting there requires registration. Since this may be a bit less comfortable for English speakers, all students from abroad will get 3 points for completing this assignment. Local students will get 2 points.
  • No Photoshop trickery please.

Assignment #6: Online questionnaire (obligatory)

  • In this week’s assignment, your task is to create an online survey – a questionnaire. Imagine you’re working on a research project concerned with a particular topic. For example, you could be studying the various activities that students are involved in their spare time. To gather your data, you would need information from the students themselves. There are several ways of acquiring it, including interviews. Another classic method is to use a survey. In the past, these had to be handed out in print or sent in envelopes by mail. Today, an online questionnaire is often used. The (potential) respondents are sent a link to a page where they submit answers to the researcher’s questions through a form. The resulting data, available as a spreadsheet file, is then processed. Although online surveys are not without their disadvantages, they do save quite a bit of time.
  • Your task is to
    • read pp. 232–237 and 246–261 in Bryman, Social Research Methods (the book is available above under Recommended literature)
    • think of a topic of your (imaginary) research (you can’t use the one discussed above)
    • think of five questions:
      • three questions using the Likert scale (read Bryman to find out what it is)
      • one closed-ended question not using the Likert scale
      • one open-ended question
    • then, create a questionnaire with your questions. You can use Google Forms to do this. If you don’t have a Google Account, you can create one for free, or use the Microsoft Forms tool that is available to all Comenius students. If you’re not sure how to use these tools, read the documentation (for Google Forms, for Microsoft Forms)
      • to use Microsoft Forms, first log into your Uniba e-mail account. Then, in the top left corner next to the Outlook logo, click on the nine dots, and select Forms from the Apps list.
    • test your form and make sure the responses are recorded
    • Make sure the questionnaire has a title, a short paragraph describing the purpose of the research, and that each question includes brief instructions for the respondents on how to answer. Your questions should reflect the guidelines provided by Bryman (pp. 256–261).
    • Send me a link to your form via e-mail by Monday April 1st (11:59pm). I will then test the form myself and submit some answers. You will then (by Friday April 5th) send me the resulting data (an Excel file) to demonstrate that the form works.
  • Grading:
    • working form with title, introductory paragraph, and instructions for each question: 1 point
    • three questions using the Likert scale: 2 points
    • the other two questions: 1 point
    • upon e-mailing me the Excel file with my answer, you’ll receive the final 1 point

Assignment #7: Dependent and independent variables (obligatory)

Current assignment (obligatory)

  • In the last few lectures, we have distinguished between dependent and independent variables. When discussing measurement, we have also dealt with types of scales using which a property can be measured. In this assignment, you will have to draw on this knowledge.
  • Your task is to think of an example of research for the following three cases:
    • dependent variable measured using a nominal scale, independent variable measured using a ratio scale
    • dependent variable using an ordinal scale, independent variable using a nominal scale
    • dependent and independent variable both using ratio or interval scales
  • You should format your answers like this:
1. My first example concerns research into the influence of [independent variable] on [dependent variable]. The independent variable would be measured using a [type of scale] scale. It would acquire the values [names of values on a nominal or ordinal scale; an interval of values in the case of interval or ratio scales]. The dependent variable would be measured using a [type of scale] scale. It would acquire the values [names of values on a nominal or ordinal scale; an interval of values in the case of interval or ratio scales].

2. My second example...

3. My third example...
  • All examples should come from social science. In other words, the factors or properties involved (the dependent and independent variable) should not be, e.g., temperature, length or other physical properties. Rather, think of things like test scores, income, educational attainment, musical (or other) preferences, types of personality etc. The examples you provide should also make at least some sense (i.e., it should be prima facie plausible that the independent variable plays some role in determining the values of the dependent variable).
  • For an extra bonus point, you may also include extraneous (control) variables in your examples (characterize their scales and describe their values).
  • You may have to do a little bit of research yourself to complete this assignment. If you're feeling lost, look at Chapters 2 and 3 in Gott and Duggan (see Recommended literature above).
    • Hint: Semmelweis' research involved a number of combinations of independent and dependent variables. For example, the priest hypothesis involved an independent variable measured using a nominal scale (values/categories: the priest is present and the priest is not present) and a dependent variable measured using a ratio scale (the death rate; values: real numbers from 0 to 1 or from 0 to 100%).
  • Grading (5 pts. total):
    • 1 point for demonstrating that you understand the difference between independent and dependent variables,
    • 1 point for each example where the values match the scales (max. 3 points),
    • 1 point if all examples meet the other requirements (i.e., are based on social science and are somewhat plausible).

Assignment #8: Hypotheses (obligatory)

  • Think of an example of each of these:
    1. existential hypothesis
    2. universal hypothesis with limited scope (finite number of objects)
    3. universal hypothesis with unlimited scope (potentially infinite number of objects)
  • For each of your examples, derive a prediction (a testable implication of the hypothesis) – i.e., think of a statement the we would test to see if the hypothesis is plausible.
  • For each of your examples, think of a statement that would verify and/or falsify the hypothesis. If there's no such statement, make a comment.
  • Example:
1. Existential hypothesis: "..."
Prediction derived from the hypothesis: "..."
Evidential statement verifying the hypothesis: "..."/"No such statement, because hypotheses of this kind cannot be verified"
Evidential statement falsifying the hypothesis: "..."/"No such statement, because hypotheses of this kind cannot be falsified"

2. Universal hypothesis with limited scope: "..."
  • Obviously, you can't use any of the examples discussed in class. Also, all of your examples should come from social science/the humanities.
  • For 1 bonus point:
    • if a hypothesis cannot be verified, provide an example of an evidential statement that confirms the hypothesis
    • if a hypothesis cannot be falsified, provide an example of an evidential statement that disconfirms the hypothesis

Assignment #9: Examples of research (obligatory)

  • Find an (actually existing) example of empirical research from the 20th or 21st century that is related to one of the courses you're taking this semester (except Methodology of Science), took last semester, or will be taking next semester.
  • Provide a reference: either to the research itself or to a source where you’ve read about it. (1 point)
    • Books and scientific journal articles only. Webpages will not be accepted. Online books, e.g. on are fine.
      • Please also write down which course the research relates to.
    • Try to answer the following questions:
      • What was the (cognitive) problem the research was attempting to solve? (In other words, what was the research question?) (1 point)
        • Try to be as specific as possible (“What is culture?” or “What is the history of the Polish language?” is not specific enough)
      • Were any hypotheses formulated by the researcher(s)? (3 points)
        • If so, how were they tested? What empirical methods were used?
        • What was the result of testing? Was the problem solved? Did the research to any new problems/questions?
      • Alternatively, If no hypotheses were formulated, how did the research proceed? (3 points)
        • What methods were used?
        • What were the results? Did they lead to any new problems/questions?
  • No more than one page, please. The whole assignment can be done in one short paragraph. And no spelling mistakes, please!
  • Note: Keep in mind we are interested in empirical research. This excludes, for example, cases that compare two (or more) theories or reflect on the concepts used in a discipline. These would be examples of conceptual or theoretical research. The research you use should involve the use of observation (note that this includes various methods of social research, such as reading historical sources, doing interviews etc.), measurement (including questionnaires or the use of existing statistical data), or experiment (including natural experiments, i.e. not in laboratory conditions).
    • Valid examples of topics:
      • the history of a certain region, culture (including cultural artifacts), or language
      • the nature or history of institutions of a country or culture
      • the social characteristics of a country’s population
      • ... (there are many more possibilities – you get the idea!)
  • The previous presentations are your friends, ask them for help.

Assignment #10: Research proposal (obligatory)

  • This assignment is due on Monday, May 13.
  • Your task is to prepare a realistic research proposal related to your field of study. Think of it as a description of your future BA or MA thesis.
    • However, the research described in your project should be empirical. If you're planning to write a thesis focused on conceptual research (e.g. comparing theories, reflecting on the concepts used in a discipline, etc.), you'll have to think of something else.
  • The project should include:
    1. a description of the problem (research question)
      • Clearly explain the aim of your research. You can also describe the motivation behind it (why is it interesting? Why should anyone care? Why did you choose this topic?).
    2. a characterization of your research in terms of the three typologies discussed in the last presentation (goals, uses, type of data)
      • i.e., exploratory/descriptive/etc.; basic/applied; qualitative/quantitative/mixed
    3. your hypothesis or several hypotheses (if applicable)
      • if you don't envisage an explicit hypothesis (e.g. if your research will be exploratory), describe the possible findings of your research and how they could lead to new questions and further research
    4. a discussion of the methods that could be used to test the hypothesis (or, in the case of exploratory research, to gather data)
      • please be specific (don't just write “observation”, “measurement” etc.!) – write about the things you'd actually have to do
    5. a description of the possible outcomes
      • describe the potential findings, what they would mean for your hypothesis (if applicable), and, more generally, for the aims of your research
    6. a list of three secondary sources (books or journal articles) you would use
  • Your project should take up 1 A4 page, be typeset in 12pt Times, with single-spaced lines, with 2.5cm margins on all sides.
    • Please make sure it doesn't look like something you wrote on your phone while on the bus. This includes spelling and grammar.
  • You can take a look at these research proposal examples for inspiration. Yours should be much shorter and less detailed, though!
    • Here's a useful video from the University of Birmingham.
    • Here's a guide on writing research proposals.