HPS204-774 Human Social Behaviour
Assessment Task 1 (AT1): Research Proposal
These assessment guidelines will help you complete AT1 and are split into four key sections.
1. General Information. Overviews the general admin for this assessment (e.g. due date, word count, submission details, etc.). It also provides the learning objectives of this assessment.
2. Topic Information. Overviews the specific topic of this assessment, including background information to the topic, the study idea, and an overview of your required materials.
3. Completing Your Assessment. Outlines what each section of the assessment requires.
4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Answers commonly asked questions. Check here before emailing us or posting any questions on CloudDeakin discussion boards.
1: General Information
The word-count for this assessment is 1,800 words (with a ± 10% leeway). The word-count includes all sections of the research proposal, except for the title page, reference list, and the appendix. You must use APA formatting and referencing for this assessment (refer to Question 1 of FAQs for more).
The research proposal must be submitted by the due date specified above in electronic format (word docx. or pdf) via the AT1 assignment dropbox on the HPS204-774 CloudDeakin page. Ensure you check the work you have submitted is the correct version, as per Faculty of Health policy we can only mark what has been uploaded to the assignment dropbox. If you submit multiple versions, we will only mark your most recent submission.
If you have never submitted an assessment in this way, or would like a refresher, then check out this handy online guide: Submitting your electronic assessment
When completing any assessment, you must be conscious of your academic integrity responsibilities. Plagiarism, collusion, and contract cheating are not tolerated at Deakin University, so it’s important to submit only work that you have written yourself. Do not copy or use these guidelines as a source of evidence in your research proposal; if you do so, you will be in breach of your academic integrity responsibilities. You must use the primary sources of evidence (required materials) provided to you below when writing up your assessment.
If in doubt, you can use Turnitin before you submit your assessment to check how much your assessment matches other written work; the report will show you any areas that may need revising. You can do this by going to the following website: Check your submission
Learning Objectives of the Assessment
AT1: Research Proposal targets the following Unit Learning Objectives:
Although this table gives you a brief idea of what skills and content AT1 is trying to teach you, you’re probably still wondering what this assessment is all about. Let us elaborate further.
One thing we hope you learn when taking any psychology unit is that the discipline generates and maintains its knowledge via the scientific method. Those in social psychology will usually observe something – be it attitudes, beliefs, behaviour – in the real-world and seek to understand why this has occurred. To do this, they will first check the research literature to see if it can answer their question. If it cannot, or there is no clear answer, they will then use prior literature to propose a study idea that attempts to answer their question. They will then conduct the study and present the outcome in the form of laboratory reports, journal articles, theses, etc.
A research proposal is a piece of writing that provides an overview of a study idea before the study is conducted and reported. Therefore, it is one of the core steps of the scientific process outlined above. The study idea presented in a research proposal is always based on relevant prior literature (not on intuition!), and always has implications for the literature it is based on and the real-world.
Given this, research proposals are commonplace in psychology, and those who write them include fourth year, PhD, and master’s students, psychologists, and researchers in and outside academia.
Even if you do not want to be one of these people, the skills that research proposals develop are essential to most jobs (e.g. idea generation, reviewing literature, critical thinking, and writing).
We know this is a second-year unit, and so we do not expect you to write a research proposal or think of a study idea completely from scratch. What we will do is give you a topic area and relevant readings to help you generate a study idea and guide you on how write your research proposal in written resources (like this one) as well as in the seminars. So, let’s get started.
Unit Learning Outcomes
ULO1 Identify, describe, compare, and apply the major types of social psychological theories and concepts.
ULO2 Evaluate and integrate the major social psychology theories, studies, and research methods.
ULO3 Apply social psychology knowledge to generate hypotheses and solutions to everyday situations or problems.
ULO4 Demonstrate effective communication in written form, including writing for coherence and reflecting on group processes in a team setting.
2: Topic Information
Drought is a socio-political and environmental issue for any nation given the impact it can have on people’s everyday lives, but this is particularly the case for an arid country such as Australia. While Australia has always experienced droughts, many rural regions in Australia are experiencing some of the driest weather conditions on record (see Bureau of Metrology Drought report). For instance,rainfall in rural areas within New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia have been at record-lows, which has resulted in a severe limit in water resources and an intensification of drought-like conditions. As such, the current drought seen in these rural regions has received substantial media coverage over the last 1-3 months (see Australia’s big dry sucks life from onceproud towns and Drought affected communities finding hope in social media campaigns).
Although it is unlikely that we can stop the occurrence of drought in Australia, it is still possible to reduce and mitigate its impact by encouraging the public to engage in certain behaviours and actions. Indeed, social psychologists have often investigated how best to persuade individuals to engage in numerous sustainable or pro-environmental behaviours in the hope of improving environmental outcomes (Blose, Mack, & Pitts, 2014; Cheng, Woon, & Lynes, 2011). One proenvironmental behaviour of interest in the drought context is that of water conservation, which involves one actively reducing and conserving their individual household water usage in their day-today lives (Landon, Woodward, Kyle, & Kaiser, 2018).
Currently, social psychological research has examined several persuasive strategies to increase the likelihood of numerous pro-environmental behaviours, especially that of message framing (Cheng,Woon, & Lynes, 2011). This persuasive technique involves reorganising information within a persuasive message to emphasise a specific aspect of the issue, or relaying key information in subtly different ways, without changing the message’s overarching arguments. This includes emphasising benefits (gains) of engaging in a specific action or behaviour or emphasising the costs (losses) of engaging in the same action or behaviour. Gain and loss message frames have been used in an array of pro-environmental behaviours to some success, with loss frames being more effective in some contexts, and gain frames being more effective in others (Blose, Mack, & Pitts, 2014). However, loss and gain frames have yet to be employed in the context of water conservation.
The Study Idea (Research Aim and Hypothesis)
As alluded to above, an unanswered question within social psychological literature examining water conservation practices is: Are gain or loss message frames more effective for increasing water conservation?
Given this, you are required to present an argument, using previous research, that a study should be conducted to answer the above question. Your argument should build up to one aim and one hypothesis for your proposed study (nothing more, nothing less), and should only discuss prior research that is relevant. To put it more simply, you are essentially presenting an argument that a study is needed to compare gain/loss message frames for water conservation, and predicting which type will be better than the other in doing so (based on what you learn from the previous literature).
Note. We will help teach you how to create strong arguments in writing in your seminars, and strongly encourage attendance for the best possible performance on this assignment
For the aim, you can directly copy and paste the one below into your ‘The Current Study’ section in your research proposal. This is:
The aim of the current study is to compare how effective gain and loss message frames are in increasing water conservation in an Australian sample.
For the hypothesis, you will need to develop and present one testable hypothesis pertaining to the effectiveness of gain/loss message frames in increasing water conservation. This hypothesis should clearly predict which of the two (gain vs loss) will increase water conservation in an Australian sample. You must use evidence from the prior literature to build a strong rationale for your hypothesis.
Your Required Materials
In this assessment must use and cite the four references provided below, and source, use, and cite additional references. This is outlined in more detail below.
Note. How you use all these references is at your discretion, but they all must be used and cited somewhere in your research proposal.
The provided references required for this assessment are listed below, with tips on what to take from each article provided below each reference. The references given below are not in correct APA formatting, so you will need to format them correctly for your reference list.
You can obtain and print a copy of these readings via the HPS204/774 reading list (in Resources ->Assessments -> AT1: Research Proposal -> Required Materials (readings)).
1. Monthly Drought Statement Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)
This monthly report from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) outlines the current state of the drought being experienced in some rural regions of Australia. The key things you should look to use in your assessment is the impact this drought is having on these regions and why this is an issue we need to help reduce or mitigate.
2. Cheng, T., Woon, D.K. and Lynes, J.K., 2011. The use of message framing in the promotion of environmentally sustainable behaviors. Social Marketing Quarterly, 17(2), pp.48-62.
This article provides an overview of the research that has employed message framing as a strategy to increase engagement in pro-environmental behaviours. It is important to note that water conservation is one type of pro-environmental behaviour, and in this review, they discuss numerous types of pro-environmental behaviours. The key things you should look to use in your assessment is their description of pro-environmental behaviour (p.50), their overview and definition of message framing (p. 51), and their description of gain/loss message frames used for pro-environmental behaviours (p.52). They also discuss threatbased messages and while relevant to gain/loss messages, they are not necessary for you to discuss in your research proposal (you can if you would like but it is not needed).
3. Blose, J.E., Mack, R.W. and Pitts, R.E., 2015. The influence of message framing on hotel guests’ linen-reuse intentions. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 56(2), pp.145-154.
This article outlines a study that was conducted in the U.S. that compared loss and gain message frames in increasing engagement in hotel recycling programs (in particular, linenreuse programs). They also examine a few other variables but their focus on gain/loss message frames for a different type of pro-environmental behaviour is what is relevant to your assessment. The key things you should look to use in your assessment is their review of gain/loss message frames used for pro-environmental behaviour (p.147), the phrasing of hypothesis 2 (they compare which of the frames they think will be more effective) (p.148),and their research design (especially the phrasing of the actual message frames) (p. 148).
They do present some complicated statistics but don’t get too focused on this (we are not a statistics subject after all). Instead look to see what they say broadly in terms of which
message frame they found was better for linen-reuse (p.150 will be helpful for this).
4. Landon, A.C., Woodward, R.T., Kyle, G.T. and Kaiser, R.A., 2018. Evaluating the efficacy of an information-based residential outdoor water conservation program. Journal of cleaner production, 195, pp.56-65.
This article describes a study conducted in the U.S. which examined whether providing people feedback outlining their rate of water consumption reduced their residential water usage. This study is focused on water conservation but uses information provision as a way to potentially decrease water usage, not message framing. The key things you should look to use in your assessment is how they define and measure water conservation (p.60) and what they found (p.62-63). Also consider and compare how their findings and approach differ to ours (using information rather than message framing).
In addition to using and citing the four references above, another requirement of this assessment is that you also find, use, and cite additional journal articles that you consider relevant to the assignment topic. These cannot be books or book chapters – they must be journal articles. As this is a second-year unit, it is expected students will be able to source their own additional journal articles.
If you are enrolled in HPS204, you are required to source, use, and cite two additional journal articles. No more, no less.
If you are enrolled in HPS774, you are required to source, use, and cite four additional journal articles. No more, no less.
When it comes to scientific writing, we need to have relevant support/evidence/examples to back our claims. So, when looking for additional articles, ask “what do I want to argue and what evidence do I need to back it up”. It is also helpful to look at the reference list of the assigned readings too.
For example, is there a particularly relevant article that was cited in one of the four assigned readings?
To help you, relevant journal articles may refer to topics such as:
• Different message frames that have been used for water conservation.
• Gain/loss message frames that have been used for behaviours like water conservation.
• Reviews that have looked at (1) how to encourage people to be more sustainable or proenvironmental, (2) the types of message framing techniques used for pro-environmental
behaviours, or (3) the type of message framing techniques used for other types of pro-social behaviour (like health behaviours).
Once you have sourced your additional journal articles (not books or book chapters), you are required to:
• Discuss and cite these articles somewhere in your research proposal
• List these additional journal articles in the reference section according to APA style
• Provide a copy of the title, author, year, and abstracts of these additional journal articles in the appendix (labelled Appendix A). A screenshot or photo will do.
3: Completing Your Assessment
Steps and helpful resources for completing this assessment
This research proposal assessment is unsuited to being rushed and completed the night before it is due (trust us!). This is because it requires you to review prior literature and critique this literature to justify a study idea and a hypothesis you have generated yourself – these take time and thought if you wish to do them well.
If you feel you need some structure and additional help completing this assessment, then we highly recommend you check out and use the interactive webpage resource we have developed that does just this that is available on the HPS204/774 CloudDeakin page. This resource includes:
• Suggested steps for completing the assessment (that can be applied week-by-week or not),
• A pre-recorded lecture overviewing research methods and study designs in Social Psychology,
• Resources for searching for, and reviewing, research literature, and,
• Writing and referencing resources.
You can find this interactive webpage on CloudDeakin under Resources -> Assessments -> AT1:
Research Proposal -> Steps and resources to complete AT1
Sections required for this assessment
Your research proposal requires the following sections, in this order.
A title page (not included in the word count)
• This must be the first page of your assessment and be one page in length.
• It must include the unit code and title of the unit, the assessment (i.e. AT1: Research Proposal), your name, your student identification number, and the final word count.
Overview (1 paragraph max; 150-200 words) (included in the word count)
• This should start on a new page, after the title page.
• 1-2 sentences on the topic: What is this topic and why is it important.
• 1-2 sentences on the most major limitation or gap in the literature (i.e., what we don’t know about the topic). It must be something that you are addressing in your proposed study.
• 1-2 sentences on the current study’s aim(s) (i.e., what you are trying to achieve in your study). Again, it must be clear that this study is going to address the limitation or gap that
you just raised.
Handy hint #1: Make sure that every word used is relevant. This section is very short, so you need to be concise and only include what is absolutely relevant.
Literature Review (750 words) (included in the word count)
• What do we know about the topic? (1 paragraph)
• What don’t we know about the topic and why is this a problem? (you must raise points that are directly relevant to the study that you are proposing) (1-2 paragraphs)
• What social psychology research or theory could resolve this problem and why? (1-2 paragraphs) (you must raise points that are directly relevant to the study that you are proposing)
Handy hint #2: This section should start broad and then get more specific at the end so that leads the reader to the current study and most specifically, your hypothesis. At the end of it, the reader should have a very clear idea on what study you will be proposing in the next section, why it is important, and what you predict the outcome will be. It foreshadows what you will present next in the current study section. In fact, your reader should get to your aims and think “oh my gosh, of course you are doing this! It is so important. I so should have thought of this” and “of course you are making this hypothesis, it is clearly the best answer based on the previous literature!”.
Handy hint #3: Take care not to include everything on the topic. You just want to include what is relevant to your current study and the arguments you make to justify it. How do you know if it is relevant? Ask yourself whether it justifies your position or whether it is there because you read it and it was interesting. You don’t have the word count to include irrelevant stuff so be a harsh critic of your own work and trim the fat.
Handy hint #4: Each paragraph within the literature review should have a coherent and logical flow together. Think of the first paragraph like the first step in a staircase. The paragraph following it takes the reader to the next step, building on top of its foundation. You don’t want the reader to feel like they are jumping from point to point for no reason. One way to do this is to organise paragraphs around the key points in their argument, rather than around specific journal articles/studies.
The Current Study (1 paragraph max; 250 words) (included in the word count)
• 1-2 sentences on what we need to do to extend the literature (this should align with literature reviewed, especially the limitations and gaps covered)
• 1 sentence on your study’s aim. This is: The aim of the current study is to compare how effective gain and loss message frames are in increasing water conservation in an Australian sample. (Copy and paste this aim directly into your research proposal). This should be doing exactly what the prior sentence proposes.
• 1-2 sentences on the study’s hypothesis. It must be clear that you derived this from the literature you reviewed in the previous section.
Note. You only have the word count for one aim and one hypothesis. The aim is provided above. You will need to come up with the hypothesis.
Handy hint #5. When coming up with your hypothesis, here are some questions to think about…
1. Do you expect to be a difference between the two message frames?
2. If yes, will one message frame be better in increasing water conservation than the other message frame?
Implications (300-350 words) (included in the word count)
• Theoretical or research implications of the proposed study (1 paragraph; 150 words)
• Real world implications of the proposed study (1 paragraph; 150 words)
What are implications? Implications are tentative conclusions that you can make from the proposed study. Implications can be either relevant to the research literature or the real-world. For example, if the hypothesis is supported (or not), what would it mean for…
1. The social psychological literature that you outlined in the literature review section. What would it mean if what you found was similar or different to what has been found in previous research? How would this change the way we think about this research area?
2. The world we live in. Would your findings change the way we think about the real-world?
How would we use the findings to solve this problem in the real-world?
Handy hint #6: You should think about the implications in two ways:
1. What would happen if your hypothesis was supported?
2. What would it happen if your hypothesis was not supported?
References (not included in the word count)
• This must start on a new page after the implications section.
• It must include all the references you used in this assessment here.
• The references must be formatted according to APA style (refer to Question 1 of FAQs for more).
Appendix A (not included in the word count)
• This must start on a new page after the references section
• It must include evidence of your literature search for two (or four if you’re a HPS774 student) journal articles here. Be sure to provide the title, author, year, and abstracts of each journal article you sourced yourself. A screenshot or photo will do.
4: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are answers to questions we are often asked by students for AT1.
1. What reference style do I need to use for this assignment?
You must use APA style referencing for this assessment. However, the APA style manual had an edition update in October 2019 (it is now up to the 7th edition), and so for this assessment we will accept either 6th edition or 7th edition referencing.
If you are unfamiliar with this reference style or need a refresher, we recommend the following writing guides:
• The Deakin Library APA Style Guide
• The online APA referencing resources developed by the APA
2. What key resources do I need to use for this assessment?
It is a requirement of this assessment that use the readings made available to you in this guidelines document under the section ‘Your Required Materials’.
It is also a requirement that you use the two (for HPS204 students) or four (for HPS774 students) journal articles you were sourced yourself.
3. What is included in the word count?
The word count is 1,800 words. This includes all sections of the research proposal, except for the title page, reference list, and the appendix. Yes, citations in the body of the research proposal count towards the word count.
4. Is there a leeway for the word count?
Yes. There is a 10% leeway on the word limit, but there is a penalty in marks for exceeding that leeway. This is a deduction of 10% of the marks available for the assignment.
5. I need to apply for an extension. How do I do this?
All extensions within the School of Psychology are now dealt with by the centralised School of Psychology Extension Team. This means the unit team is not involved in the assignment extension process.
To apply for an assignment extension, please go to the ‘Tools’ tab in the navigation bar on the CloudDeakin page and then select ‘Extension Application’. Only extensions applied via this method will be considered by the Extensions Team.
6. What happens if I submit my assignment late (past the due date)?
Within the Faculty of Health, a due date and time is set for the submission of each summative assessment task. A marking penalty is then applied where the assessment task is submitted after the due date without an approved extension as follows:
5% will be deducted from available marks for each day up to five days where work is submitted more than five days after the due date, the task will not be marked, and the student will receive 0% for the task. ‘Day’ means working day for paper submissions and calendar day for electronic submissions
(Calendar day applies for this unit).
Therefore, for example, if you did not have an assignment extension and you submitted your assignment four days past the set due date, this means that 20% of the marks available for the assignment would be deducted from your final score on the assignment (5% x 4 days = 20% deduction). Furthermore, if you submit your assignment 6 or more days past the due date, you would be automatically given 0% for your assignment.
7. Can I get someone to look over my assessment?
Unit staff, including tutors, cannot look at drafts or plans due to equity reasons. If you feel that you need assistance with writing skills or statistics, please contact the Division of Student Life as they have several excellent services freely available to you. These include:
• Study Skills
• Writing Mentors
• Maths Mentors
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