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Old 02-21-2011, 04:05 PM   #1
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Default Ideas for Dissertation, Academics Vs Public

I need to come up with a proposal for dissertation, was hoping you guys could help!

Im doing an Environmental science degree (BSc).

I'll give you a rought idea of what im interested in and the field in which i wuld like to carry it out in. Im going to just put down somew of my points in a brainstorm style!

The ultimate thing i want from is, is some sort of hypothsis to anser for my diseration of research question.


The main thing of what i would like to do is Public vs Academics.

I would like to structure it around Climate change /or/and general sustainability.

Im very intereseted in the transference of academic research into practical public society.

In the sense of Climate change, im intereseted in why the academic world has general acceptance that it is happening and is an issue, yet infiltration into the public world of academic research has merly scratched the surface.

Media---> are they a help or hinderance? are the media a good medium of academic to public knowlwdge transference?

Is the Threat of climate change understood? ---->either if it is Nautural or anthropgenic? is it the responsibilty of academics to make there research impact the public world?

Which sources do/should the public trust? ----> do they need accsess to academic research? would it benefit?
Would the public trust scientific knowledge more if academic got more behind the publication of their research?

Why is it that once an academic has written a jornal or other likewise report that that seems to be the end of it and they move onto other work? no further pursuit is carried out to make sure their work has an impact. Is it beacuse they jsut dont care? or worried of consequences of purseing ther work?

The misonconceptions of climate change---> is it due to barriers of knowledge or lack of trust in the scientific community and if so, should academics be tryiong to resolve this?


thats all the ideas i sort of have but am struggling to condense them into a dissertation proposal!

I was planning to collect data in the form of questionares which i would sitrubute to academics at university and to the public (two sets for both catagories)

Sorry for the length but hope you can help!!!!!

Cheers, Alex
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Ideas for Dissertation, Academics Vs Public

Quote:
Originally Posted by alex_boothby View Post
The main thing of what i would like to do is Public vs Academics.

I would like to structure it around Climate change /or/and general sustainability.

Im very intereseted in the transference of academic research into practical public society.

In the sense of Climate change, im intereseted in why the academic world has general acceptance that it is happening and is an issue, yet

infiltration into the public world of academic research has merly scratched the surface.
firstly, you don't seem to be looking at academic v.s. public, you're premise actually appears to be that you [wrongly] assume that all academia agree that climate change is happening, -they don't.
you then [wrongly] assume that those in academia are instantly more knowledgeable than the public. that the public are ignorant of the arguments.

your title of academic v.s. public doesn't really fit.

what you actually seem to be looking at is the politics of climate change. and the dissemination of academic theories to the public.


Quote:
Media---> are they a help or hinderance? are the media a good medium of academic to public knowlwdge transference?
this is good, but not broad enough to base a whole dissertation on.

Quote:
Is the Threat of climate change understood? ---->either if it is Nautural or anthropgenic? is it the responsibilty of academics to make there

research impact the public world?
even combined with the previous point about the media this still isn't a good question to ask, it's not nearly big enough.

(besides which the answer is obvious, and the answer is given by your first question about the media).

Quote:
Which sources do/should the public trust? ----> do they need accsess to academic research? would it benefit?
Would the public trust scientific knowledge more if academic got more behind the publication of their research?
this is reasonably good questioning, and with the three points combined you could form a good dissertation on this, but it's a bit vague.

Quote:
Why is it that once an academic has written a jornal or other likewise report that that seems to be the end of it and they move onto other

work? no further pursuit is carried out to make sure their work has an impact. Is it beacuse they jsut dont care? or worried of consequences of purseing ther work?
so after following your first line, which would be insulting to the public, you then go on to insult academics.

there is no dissertation material in this point.

the answer is because academics get paid to research, they don't get paid to push that research into peoples faces. they don't follow their first paper to world fame, they just go on to investigate more and write further papers.


Quote:
The misonconceptions of climate change--->
what misconseptions?
Quote:
is it due to barriers of knowledge or lack of trust in the scientific community and if so,
your first question isn't quantified enough to go on to generate other questions
Quote:
should academics be tryiong to resolve this?
the questions should be "what should be done to resolve this" -your question there will limit your investigation.
it might be that it should be academics are the answer and they should be pushing their material more. but don't put conclusions that you've already drawn into the question.

Quote:
thats all the ideas i sort of have but am struggling to condense them into a dissertation proposal!

I was planning to collect data in the form of questionares which i would sitrubute to academics at university and to the public (two sets for both catagories)

Sorry for the length but hope you can help!!!!!

Cheers, Alex
in short, whilst [some of] your ideas are good, some of them are redundant (the answer is obvious), some of them are insulting -your blanket statement that the public aren't as educated as academics, that academics seemingly don't care about their research once pay day is done. and the ones that are good aren't nearly developed enough to actually form a dissertation.
-in short you need to ditch half of what you've proposed there.
If you really want opinions answers then talk about it, but you're not going to get a decent dissertation out of it. (and you're going to rub people up the wrong way).

that's obviously just my opinion, I can't imagine that your tutors are going to feel much differently from that.

as a suggestion, (basically if I wanted to investigate what you've written I'd write this proposal).

The Politics of Climate Change.
(if you want a snappy subtitle) -Town Vs. Gown

For this dissertation I would like to look into the varying social and political factors associated with public acceptance of climate change.

My research will be broken down into three key areas

General acceptance to and knowledge of the ideas presented from academic researchers surrounding the theory and phenomenon of climate change to the public.

The channels of distribution of knowledge from researchers to the public. -what are those channels, are they a good tool for reporting complex science ideas to the masses, do they report fairly and accurately the facts. To expand this point I would like to investigate what happens when facts are misrepresented inside of these channels of distribution -how are mistakes or misreporting noticed and dealt with within the academic community, do academics follow their findings in the popular press, (if not why not), do academics write to outlets that have misrepresented them, (if not, why not) and how do these outlets deal with correcting what they have published. (for example is this properly followed up with a second article, or is this a correction to an article that may be published weeks later without context).

Finally I would like to realise what modifications to behaviour, or changes in lifestyle the climate change debate has caused (any increase in sustainable living, farming fishing etc).

I will gather data through the use of questionnaires asking a representative cross section of the public (categorised by age/sex/geographic location/affluence/education).


I believe that this is the perfect time to carry out this research.
There have recently been controversies in the media regarding climate science, (hacked/leaked emails from the University of East Anglia [dubbed "climate-gate"]). I believe that these events are recent enough to be remembered in popular memory, but distant enough, and discussed enough that the fall out can accurately be measured.

The UK is currently emerging from a difficult financial period, this has meant that people have prioritised their spending. I believe that this will give greater credence to the results of my surveys. (Example: if a family chooses to remain on a more expensive but "green" electricity tariff, and at the same time cuts back luxuries in their spending, this would imply that to that person sustainable energy is perhaps more important than some other luxury goods).
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:48 AM   #3
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Default Re: Ideas for Dissertation, Academics Vs Public

Thank you greatly for you detailed reply.

It sounded as though some ogf my poits angered you, each point was only a point and not intended to be the only question in my disertation, mearly a beainstorm which i want to condense.
, but i do stand strong on my point that i find it some what confusing that many researchers fail to continue persuing their work. I understand it is mainly due to restraints, but what is the point in spending 3 years on researching a subject if once finished it has little effect on the field you were aiming it at (with respect to many social science papers) Im saying, it is interesting to why many academics do not follow up there work in the public sector (as obv. only a few scientists will actually read the published paper and NO public) as the public sector is where the involvement of the work will actually make a difference. Its all well and good scientists understanding climate change (which i disagree with you, on the whole i do beleive it is of agreement that it is happening and having direct effect, wether its antrhopogenic or not) but if they do not influcenes the masses, who can make a difference, what is the point? apart from earning money obviously.

I am in no way insulting academics, i plan one day if im lucky enoeugh to become one. But if their research is not making a difference in the real world, is their reseach truely significant? These two books some it up nicely:
Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style: Amazon.co.uk: Randy Olson: Books
Am I Making Myself Clear?: Amazon.co.uk: Cornelia Dean: Books

I really like your improved suggestions, but i would really like to get the involvement of the academics. (without insulting them! not only as that would be detrimental to my mark) But i am hessitant of getting the issue of politics to heavily involved as that brings into the frame the issue of dimensions of power (Steven Lukes book).

Oce again Thank you ever so much for your reply, it has been very useful, i mean i know way to sound ignorant but find it hard to type what im feeling, if you knwo what i mean.
Also sorry if it sounds rushed and bad spelling but im very short of time and trying to get this down as quickly as i can!

I hope to hear a reply from you.

Thanks again, Alex

upon reading your post again, i really like your idea of public acceptance of climate change, and maybe go into analysing the channels of distrubution of knowledge and the academics opions on this. Maybe wether they think they have a responsibility to disperse their knowledge or if it is someones elses. I also like the 'what modifications of behavior' but i beleive this could be a diss. all on its own, maybe i could as 1 if knowledge was presented to you differently to what degree would you change your behaviour/if any"
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ideas for Dissertation, Academics Vs Public

Quote:
I also like the 'what modifications of behavior' but i beleive this could be a diss. all on its own, maybe i could as 1 if knowledge was presented to you differently to what degree would you change your behaviour/if any"
This can be a dissertation on itís own, especially once you look at the theories of education, (how people best learn), thoughts on hierarchies of needs etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alex_boothby View Post
It sounded as though some ogf my poits angered you, each point was only a point and not intended to be the only question in my disertation, mearly a beainstorm which i want to condense.
The points didn't anger me; I was more pointing out that you need to be careful how you put things. -especially if you're going to be relying on the responses of people to get your data, angered respondents = no responses = no data = no dissertation = fail.

Quote:
many researchers fail to continue pursuing their work. I understand it is mainly due to restraints, but what is the point in spending 3 years on researching a subject if once finished it has little effect on the field you were aiming it at (with respect to many social science papers)
I agree...
Why devote your whole life to something to then not look at it again, if youíre impassioned enough to devote your life to something then surely it should matter more than past the point that you press send and mail it off to a publisher.
But, these academics arenít putting their lives into it. Itís not that they arenít interested, but consider that most post graduates doing research likely wonít stay on at the university that they are studying at and become academics or researchers. Theyíll graduate and leave, and go be a private paid academic. Possibly in the subject that they studied in, possibly in something partially related, possibly in something not at all related.
Also, it might be that one person does the research, says something, but there comes a point when the research is done. The project is over, the contract is done, youíve run out of time/money etc...

As a question, you clearly feel that people in Academia donít follow their research through enough, so much so that you wish to research the cause and effect of this...
Will you be devoting your life to this? or will you follow your line of research right up to your project deadline? -e.g. will you hand it in and forget about it
Quote:
Im saying, it is interesting to why many academics do not follow up there work in the public sector (as obv. only a few scientists will actually read the published paper and NO public) as the public sector is where the involvement of the work will actually make a difference. Its all well and good scientists understanding climate change (which i disagree with you, on the whole i do beleive it is of agreement that it is happening and having direct effect, wether its antrhopogenic or not) but if they do not influcenes the masses, who can make a difference, what is the point? apart from earning money obviously.
There are media outlets that read [academic] papers, for example lots of news on the BBC site around climate change is taken straight from the journal ďNatureĒ. Ėe.g itís the academics job to research something well enough to be published in an established journal.

Itís other academics work to look at that research and find faults, print counter-research etc.
Itís the medias job to report that to the masses. Ėin a way that the masses understand.
The fact that itís reported in a non-technical way (dumbed down for the masses) means that the popular press (tabloid) isnít going to set the academic world on fire.

The best example I can give is that E=MC2 is not the theory of relativity, all scientist know this. Nobody corrects anybody saying that it is. (itís the theory of energy mass equivalence that makes up a small part of Einsteinís special theory of relativity).

Academics donít have the job to influence the public; the point is to influence the policy makers.
Thatís how we end up with things like this.
BBC News - Oxfordshire town sees human waste used to heat homes
The public didnít decide to build that, the politicians did, because itís Ďgreen/renewable energyí.

The public are largely irrelevant in world changing decisions.

Quote:
i would really like to get the involvement of the academics. (without insulting them! not only as that would be detrimental to my mark) But i am hessitant of getting the issue of politics to heavily involved as that brings into the frame the issue of dimensions of power (Steven Lukes book).
I canít see that youíre going to be able to get much time from lecturers/postgrads/researchers/academics, whilst they are going to appreciate your need to do a dissertation, they may not be keen to feature in it, (especially given the negative connotations that it seems that they arenít bothered to follow through on their research), plus they tend to be busy people.

I can understand you not wanting to involve the words politics. Because that opens a very large can of worms.
(one the other hand, that could also be an entire dissertation in itself, think of Professor Nutt the drugs advisor, his research and the fact that the government not only ignored his research, but when he tried to make his research more well known he was sacked from the advisory board).

Quote:
I am in no way insulting academics, i plan one day if im lucky enoeugh to become one. But if their research is not making a difference in the real world, is their reseach truely significant? These two books some it up nicely:
Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style: Amazon.co.uk: Randy Olson: Books
Am I Making Myself Clear?: Amazon.co.uk: Cornelia Dean: Books
I think that youíre missing the point a bit there,

You donít need every man woman and child in the country to agree with you to make difference, you need about 10 policy makers in the government. They go on to persuade/cajole/bully others to believing it, and then itís country wide policy.

Another thing, there are already books on the subject, youíre writing an undergraduate dissertation, not launching a multi-year well funded research project.

(I donít know you, so perhaps am not best placed to say this) I think that if you go down this route of investigation with such a broad subject (wanting to cover all your points) then there are two problems, either you tackle the whole thing, and itís too broad youíll end up writing a dissertation of vague thoughts on multiple subjects, it wonít be in depth enough, it wonít be researched enough. You wonít have any concise material for the presentation of your dissertation. In short youíll mark low on the project. And youíll run out of time on any presentation and get marked down on that. Or youíll barely scratch the surface in your presentation [of your dissertation] and score low on that because of that.


To be honest, I like your ideas.
but, when you expand and develop them to their logical conclusion (as you will be doing in the dissertation) they form multiple papers, multiple avenues of research. not just one.

Have you received guidelines for your dissertation, look at the rough page/word count that your lecturers will be expecting? can you really cover all the points that you want to within that?
The idea of a final year project however is that you take a good idea, and you produce an in depth project on it.

It seems that youíve got three ideas.
1) Knowledge contained in/by the public, (and how the public have used this knowledge to modify their behaviour (if at all).

2) Channels of distribution, e.g the press.
Whilst this is reasonably small on itís own, you can look at pro press (e.g scientific journal) and tabloid press (fish papers). Who policies the press, are press watch dogs effective, or are they too vague and un-knowledgeable themselves to act as a guardian for complex subject reporting.


3) Academics, and their life pursuit of knowledge, or rather lack there of.
What drives academics, why do they stop. Can they do more, should then do more etc. [to publicise their research] Ėdo they even have the tools to publicise their research.

4) how have people modified their behaviour in light of popular climate change theory. what importance do you gather people placing on sustainable energy or sustainable living.

My advice, pick one and do it well.
Point 1 can bleed a little into point 2,
Point 3 can bleed a little into point 2
Point 2 could bleed a little into both points 1 and 2. But try to stay on focus


I still think that the question of why academics don't follow their research isn't a good one. aside from anything else it'll be too easy for your tutors to poke holes in it.

if you draw the conclusion that they don't get paid to care, they'll poke holes in it.
if you draw the conclusion that they just run out of research space, they'll poke holes in it.
if you draw the conclusion that academics have no route themselves to the public to push their ideas, they'll poke holes in it.

if you come to the conclusion that it's a broad spectrum of possible reasons, with no one reason standing out more than any other. they'll just think that you couldn't be bothered to research properly.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:51 PM   #5
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Default Re: Ideas for Dissertation, Academics Vs Public

Thank you once again for your reply, upon looking into this more, i completely agree with everyone of your points.
Ive decided i should dismiss the involvement of academics as it can only lead to bad things (rightly or wrongly).

Ive kind of narrowed it down to:
A-what are those channels, are they a good tool for reporting complex
science ideas to the masses?

B-do they report fairly and accurately the facts?

C-Is better communication needed from scientist to the public?

D To expand maybe look at what happens when such channels of information
misinterpret the facts - what is the resulting effect on the public?

i was thinking to get data for 'A' I could set up a focus groups, get them to watch 4 videos on climate change
one from a scientist
one from a Watchdog governened news show shuch as the BBC
one from non reviewed something like ITV or the SUN
one from a non-expert e.g 'your friend from accross the road'

and then get responses on which sources people reacted most to, and which would influence them to do anything (if at all)
And then also get them to fill in quesationaire with things such as age, social status, econimic status, education level etc
and then see what group is influenced the most and by whom.

To be honest im getting so stressed now im going round in circles and very much doubting the whole thing.
What do you think of it now? is it good enough to make a whole project out of?
Its 10,000 word diss.

Thank you so much for your time and effort i really do appreciate it, if i could buy a beer i would! But to be honest if you help me any more i would seriously have to pay you through Pay pal or something and hire you as a tutor or something!, as ure help is invaluble and its so useful to have someone to state ideas to!

Thanks once again, Alex
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Old 02-25-2011, 07:31 AM   #6
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Default Re: Ideas for Dissertation, Academics Vs Public

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What do you think of it now? is it good enough to make a whole project out of?
IMO yes
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