HDFS 3390 -- Research Methods in HDFS
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Sciences, Texas Tech University
Fall 2019 -- TR 12:30 pm - 1:50 pm,  Human Science 220

Professor Alan Reifman, Ph. D.
HS 509, Phone: 806-834-5174
Office Hours:M & W 12:30-1:30; T & R 11:00-12:00

All readings will be from articles, either from the Internet or TTU Library e-Reserve. Assigned readings are shown below in the week-to-week calendar.

Expected Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to...
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the process of behavioral science research, and the ability to understand the characteristics of research designs that contribute to being able to draw valid conclusions from research.
  • Evaluate the quality of research relevant to HDFS from the standpoint of measurement, causal inference (internal validity), and generalizability (external validity). In short, students will become responsible consumers of social scientific research.
  • Gain an appreciation of how scientific research can have practical usefulness in individuals' daily lives (i.e., how research findings can contribute to greater health, work productivity, learning in school, etc.).
Achievement of these expected learning outcomes will be assessed by examinations, research projects/proposals, critiques of existing research studies, and class discussion.


Grades will be based on two mid-term exams (each 20%), the final exam (35%), a media paper assignment (5%), a research article-critique paper (10%), a class research project (5%), and participation (group activities; speaking in class; 5%).  The final exam will contain items mostly from the latter part of the class, but will contain a small number of items from earlier weeks; in this sense, the final will be cumulative.  Exams will all be multiple-choice. Grades will generally follow a pattern of 90% = A, 80% = B, 70% = C, etc., but I reserve the right to modify the scale in a way that is generous to students.  For example, if the highest anybody got were in the 80s, I would give the highest person(s) an A.  Or, if someone got below 70% but attended regularly and completed all the required work on time, that person could still receive a grade in the C range.  Pluses and minuses (e.g., A-, B+) will be used, so if you fall just below a cut-off you will only be slightly below the next highest grade, as opposed to being a full level below (e.g., A vs. B).  The University will show plus and minus grades on your transcript, but does not factor them into your GPA (e.g., B+, B, and B- are all counted as 3.0).  It could still be useful for some purposes to have a plus or minus there, however (especially a plus).  Attendance will not be taken, but because some of your course grade is based on participation, attendance will contribute to grades in that manner.  Also, poor attendance will probably lead to poor exam and assignment scores anyway, so attendance will further contribute to grades indirectly.

Each time I teach HDFS 3390, I have the class conduct an actual, hands-on research project, the topic of which varies semester to semester.  This term, we will be conducting an analysis of Twitter tweets.

Administrative Matters
  • Missed Exams/Assignments.  Missed tests and late assignments must be made up, or course passage will be jeopardized. If you have a compelling reason (e.g., medical emergency), documented by a note, for missing a test or not turning in an assignment on time, you can take a make-up test or get an extension on an assignment without penalty. The instructor reserves the right to contact the writer of the note for verification purposes.  If you do not have a documented excuse, the work must still be made up, but will be penalized with point deductions (2 points off per working day for an exam; 1 point off per working day for a paper). If you should fall behind on more than one thing (e.g., a missed exam and a paper not turned in), especially as it starts getting late in the semester, you  run the risk of receiving an F for the course and you might want to drop the class at that point (see below for drop deadlines).

  • Incompletes.  A grade of “I” will be awarded only by permission of the instructor prior to the end of the semester and only when a small amount of work remains to be completed for the course.  A grade of “I” is awarded only in case of emergency (see above procedures on notes and verification) and when class performance at the time of the request is satisfactory.  Poor planning or excessive absences are not valid reasons for requesting a grade of incomplete.

  • Withdrawals.  If illness or other problems keep you from attending class and/or lead to the missing of assignments and tests, then you should plan to drop the class by one of the deadline dates (Sept. 11 and Nov. 26), as shown on the university calendar of major deadlines. Do not simply stop coming to classes as this may jeopardize your grade point average.  Do not plan on an “I” under these circumstances; it will not happen, nor will there be special assignments or extra credit for these circumstances.

  • Disability Needs. According to university policy: “Any student who, because of a disability, may require special arrangements in order to meet the course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make any necessary arrangements. Students should present appropriate verification from Student Disability Services during the instructor’s office hours. Please note instructors are not allowed to provide classroom accommodations to a student until appropriate verification from Student Disability Services has been provided. For additional information, you may contact the Student Disability Services office in 335 West Hall or 806-742-2405.”

  •  Academic Integrity.  Students are expected to abide by all of the rules for academic integrity, as specified in the Undergraduate Catalog or in the web-based guidelines for academic integrity.  Any violations of these rules will be reported to the proper authorities for disciplinary review.

  • Religious Holy Day Statement. “Religious holy day” means a holy day observed by a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property taxation under Texas Tax Code §11.20. A student who intends to observe a religious holy day should make that intention known to the instructor prior to the absence. A student who is absent from classes for the observance of a religious holy day shall be allowed to take an examination or complete an assignment scheduled for that day within a reasonable time after the absence. A student who is excused may not be penalized for the absence; however, the instructor may respond appropriately if the student fails to complete the assignment satisfactorily.

  • Resources for Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence. Texas Tech University is committed to providing and strengthening an educational, working, and living environment where students, faculty, staff, and visitors are free from gender and/or sex discrimination of any kind. Sexual assault, discrimination, harassment, and other Title IX violations are not tolerated by the University. Report any incidents to the Office for Student Rights & Resolution, (806)-742-SAFE (7233) or file a report online at titleix.ttu.edu/students. Faculty and staff members at TTU are committed to connecting you to resources on campus. Some of these available resources are: TTU Student Counseling Center, 806-742-3674, https://www.depts.ttu.edu/scc/ (Provides confidential support on campus.) TTU Student Counseling Center 24-hour Helpline,806-742-5555 (Assists students who are experiencing a mental health or interpersonal violence crisis.  If you call the helpline, you will speak with a mental health counselor.) Voice of Hope Lubbock Rape Crisis Center, 806-763-7273, voiceofhopelubbock.org (24-hour hotline that provides support for survivors of sexual violence.) The Risk, Intervention, Safety and Education (RISE) Office, 806-742-2110, rise.ttu.edu (Provides a range of resources and support options focused on prevention education and student wellness.) Texas Tech Police Department, 806-742-3931, http://www.depts.ttu.edu/ttpd/ (To report criminal activity that occurs on or near Texas Tech campus.)

  • Emergency Procedures. In the unlikely event of an emergency, students and faculty should follow the guidance provided at these websites (here and here). There is a possibility that this may include evacuation of the building or seeking shelter within the building.

Schedule of Topics, Readings, Tests, and Assignment Due Dates

Week Topics Assignment/Test Reading
Aug. 27-29 Intro to course (LECTURE NOTES) Head Start Bulletin -- Why Research?
Sept. 3-5 Unit of analysis (LECTURE NOTES); Theories & hypotheses (LECTURE NOTES) Introduction to the Scientific Method (University of Rochester)
Sept. 10-12 Deductive & inductive research (See notes for Theories & hypotheses); Conducting a research study (LECTURE NOTES) Sept. 10 -- MEDIA PAPER DUE Key Elements of a Social Science Research Protocol (U. of Chicago)
Sept. 17-19 Research ethics (LECTURE NOTES) Guidelines for Research Ethics... (Notre Dame)
Sept. 24-26 Intro to measurement (LECTURE NOTES); Reliability & validity (LECTURE NOTES) Questionnaire Design (Pew Research); Validity and Reliability (Columbia U.)
Oct. 1-3 Finish reliability & validity; Review for upcoming exam (Oct. 3) ---
Oct. 8-10 Exam I (Oct. 8); Accuracy of self-report measurement (LECTURE NOTES) Oct. 8 -- EXAM I 10 Advantages and Disadvantages... (Survey Anyplace); Leading Practices... (Survey Gizmo)
Oct. 15-17 Response modes (see notes for Accuracy of self-report); Observation (LECTURE NOTES);  Twitter assignment given

Behavioral Observation and Coding (read only first 10 pages, stopping at “Experimental Manipulation”)

Oct. 22-24 Sampling (LECTURE NOTES)   No One Picks Up the Phone... (NY Times); Overview of Sampling Procedures (Fairfax County)
Oct. 29-31 Review for upcoming exam (Oct. 29); Exam II (Oct. 31) Oct. 29 -- TWITTER PROJECT DUE
Oct. 31 -- EXAM II
Nov. 5-7 Article-critique assignment given

Causal inference (LECTURE NOTES)
Nov. 12-14 Experimentation (see notes for Causal inference) Overview of Psychology Research Methods (Gabrenya)
Nov. 19-21 Program evaluation (LECTURE NOTES) Nov. 21 -- ARTICLE-CRITIQUE PAPER DUE The Health Communication Unit  pp. 5-15, 33-48 (University of Toronto)
Nov. 26 (Nov. 28 Thanksgiving) Intro to statistics (LECTURE NOTES) Statistics: A Brief Overview
Dec. 3 Review for final ---
Dec. 7 (Saturday) ==> FINAL EXAM 1:30 pm-4:00 pm (schedule) ---