OTHM010 Research Proposal | My Assignment Tutor

Student  number Page  1OTHM010 Research ProposalResearch question: Do adult undergraduate students experiencesocial connectedness whilst playing massively multiplayer onlinegames?1. Introduction1.1. JustificationThe Higher Education Academy (HEA, 2012) highlighted three areasfor focus regarding retention and success of students; academic,professional services and social, concluding that engagement andbelonging is cultivated through these three. Students’ informalsocial interaction and their learning are intertwined (Thomas andHanson, 2014, p.62) with social connections being a source ofsupport for both academic and social aspects (Hommes, Rienties, deGrave, Bos, Schuwirth and Scherpbier, 2012, cited in Thomas andHanson, 2014, p.62). Social integration increases retention asfriends provide the social connections equivalent to that provided byfamily and can buffer stressful situations (Wilcox et al, 2005).When social connections are lacking, social isolation potentiallyexists; others being present does not result in people feelingsocially connected (Cornwell and Waite, 2009). Social isolation isassociated with a range of both physical and mental healthproblems (Pettigree et al, 2014, p.914), there is therefore anincreasing recognition of the need to prevent and treat socialisolation.There are hundreds of online games available and the onlinegaming community is continually growing (Warmelink and Siitonen,2013, p.285) Massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) arecomputer based social virtual worlds, within a narrative. The playercommunity then creates norms within the constraints of the game’srules (Steinkuehler and Williams, 2006, p.887). The players’ worktogether and this often develops into social connections (O’Connoret al, 2015, p.460).Virtual worlds provide the equivalent space for social interaction andrelationships as found in non-virtual worlds confirming theoryregarding psychosocial norms (O’Connor et al, 2015). Researchregarding the potential of these to exist within virtual MMOGs hasmainly focused on the individual player experience and theseresearchers highlight the additional need for research regardingadults experiencing social connectedness when playing MMOGsStudent  number Page  2(Trepte et al, 2012; Teng et al, 2012; Warmelink and Siitonen,2013; Shen et al, 2014; Grove et al, 2015).1.2. RelevancePsychosocial theory is replicated within MMOG communities(O’Connor et al, 2015). Social interaction within MMOGs is valuedby players and develops interpersonal loyalty and interdependence(Teng et al, 2012). Such connections often result in offline supportbeing sought, offered and found regarding both the game andpersonal emotional issues (Teng et al, 2012; O’Connor et al, 2015).MMOGs and the social effects generated might therefore be of usein a clinical setting to facilitate social interactions reducing socialisolation (Trepte et al, 2012).Beginners busily create new contacts, which are often short lived;however as the players become experienced these socialconnections became more selective and the players learn socialroutines to enable this. The longer a connection has been made, theless likely it is to discontinue (Shen et al, 2014). Social identitydevelops; a key aspect is the online nature of the relationshipsmeaning that there can be a breakdown of traditional social andgeographical borders allowing a greater diversity of relationships todevelop (Shen et al, 2014).By 2020 in the UK a third of the working population and half of theadult population will be over 50 year of age (The Office for NationalStatistics, 2013). Life expectancy in the UK by 2050 is predicted tobe 91 years of age (Conservative and Liberal Democrat CoalitionGovernment, 2015). With the increasing recognition for addressingsocial isolation due to the health implications and the rising adultpopulation in the UK, the potential for MMOGs to provide socialconnectedness, will be considered within this assessment.The adults who will fit into the two demographic groups above arenow of the age where they currently have the potential to be inadult education, employment/other. This assignment is thereforeproposing to narrow its focus to students in adult education and thepotential for social connectedness to be found within MMOGs.Student  number Page  32. Aims & ObjectivesAim: To explore the lived experience of social connectedness foradult undergraduate students when playing massively multiplayeronline games.Objectives:1. To explore psychosocial construct theory within MMOGplayers’ lived experience, eliciting this via semi-structuredinterviews.2. To establish if MMOG players experience a sense ofcommunity, social identity and social support and how theyinterpret this.3. To evaluate the potential of multiple realities of the livedexperiences of MMOG players and the psychosocial constructtheory found to contribute to social connectedness.4. To identify potential recommendations for future researchregarding the application to address social isolation in highereducation and health and social care.3. DesignThe three major approaches to research in the social sciences arequalitative, quantitative and mixed methods (Morgan, 2014, p.45).Different research methods have different strengths that need to bebalanced against the complexity of the identified project (Morgan,2014, p.3). Qualitative is typically inductive and subjective,generating theory and quantitative being deductive and objective,testing a theory (Morgan, 2014, p.48). Qualitative research placesan emphasis on insights, meanings and interpretations, exploringunderstanding and experiences whilst focusing on particularcontexts (Fawcett & Pockett, 2015, p.55). Quantitative research isfor testing theories, establishing facts, showing casual relationships,predicting outcomes and generalising results to specific populations.Qualitative develops concepts, explores meaning, describes multiplerealities, critiques multiple perspectives and can producegeneralizable theory (Nicholls, 2009, p.591). Mixed methods arewhen both are used for data collection in the one study (Moule andHek 2011, p.170). The lived experience of social connectednesswithin MMOGs is sought and therefore qualitative is deemed to bemost appropriate.Many qualitative philosophical approaches were considered.Ethnography is a “description of people or cultures” (Denscombe,2010, p.79), to live amongst the studied group, to become one ofthem looking at the systems, values and culture (Moule and Hek,Student  number Page  42011, p.59). Routines and norms are considered as valid(Denscombe, 2010, p.80), virtual ethnography, where onlinecommunities are investigated and explored would be applicablehere (Hine, 2000 cited in (Denscombe, 2010, p.82). Out of the“intimate knowledge” a theory is built that could be latergeneralizable to the whole population (Grossoehme, 2014, p.111).To engage in a MMOG community would require months, or longer,of commitment. Whilst this might seem appealing for the study, itwill not be appropriate within the module time constraints;however, there could be potential for future work.Grounded theory is a systematic theory developed by Glaser andStrauss in 1967, for looking at a phenomenon, based on symbolicinteractionism between the person and the world (Nicholls, 2009,p.588). The researcher frequently revisits the data, finds furtherevidence and revises the research question, resulting in themes andcategorising describing behaviour (Moule and Hek, 2011, p.62).This cyclical engagement continues until saturation (Grossoehme,2014, p.114). It is systematic, ordered and structured, attemptingto develop reasoned theory where it was absent (Nicholls, 2009,p.588). Focusing on how people generate meaning (Nicholls, 2009,p.588) however, is not the philosophical stance that best fits thisline of enquiry regarding the lived experience. Additionally, due totime constraints within the module and the likely need to submit forethical approval more than once, other options were consideredpreferable.Evaluation research evaluates the effects of change as result ofimplemented policy, exploring what has changed and why. Oftenexisting alongside audit, where the extent of change is recordedand measured against standards (Moule and Hek, 2011, p.63). Thisis not relevant to the chosen research question.It is important that the philosophical orientation and design arecompatible, as the philosophy will inform the creation of the design.Methodologies are grouped around the philosophies that they relateto (Nicholls, 2009, p.586). The philosophical stance will be informedby a phenomenological approach, where the knowledge gained isbased on individual’s experiences (Moule and Hek, 2011, p.60).Husserl and Heidgger initially established the philosophical work andmany other phenomenologists have developed different forms(Nicholls, 2009, p.587).Student  number Page  5(Boss et al, 1996, cited in Grossoehme, 2014, p.117).Health, education and business have all benefitted fromphenomenological research, wanting to understand the thinking ofpatients, students and employees (Van Manen, 1990 and Crotty,1996 cited in Denscombe, 2013, p.94). Rather than categorising,quantifying and theorizing, it concentrates on that which is directlyexperienced by people; to understand in the way the peopleexperiencing the phenomenon understand it to be; the lived worldof everyday experience (Finlay, 2011, p.10; Denscombe, 2013 p.95) from the individuals own unique distinct perceptions andattributed meanings (Bowling, 2009, p.139; Nicholls, 2009, p.588;Moule and Hek, 2011, p.170).The research question dictates the sample and therefore must bedefined prior to data collection, which due to the phenomena cansometimes then set some limits on the sample (Grossoehme, 2014,p.114). The target population are adult undergraduate students thatplay MMOGs. The participants will be included via non-probabilitysampling, a subset for practical reasons such as time, cost andaccessibility (Burton et al, 2009, p.47) and convenience sampling,this is where professional contacts are used to access the easy toreach participant (Fawcett & Pockett, 2015, p.56). Taking intoaccount aspects associated with accessibility this will beundergraduate students’ studying at The University of Northampton.The professional contacts/gatekeeper being the Dean and moduleleader, who will be used to access students that are enrolled ontomodules within “Games Development” and “Games Art” courses.This information will be anonymized once ethical approval has beensought and approved to maintain confidentiality.Within the module students access a gaming suite; here posters forrecruitment will be on display. There is a potential for recall bias,which is due to imperfections in human memory (Vogt and Johnson,2016, p.368) therefore recruitment will be aimed at those who haveStudent  number Page  6gamed within the last twelve months or less. A maximum of tenstudents will be sought, or until data saturation is reached.Qualitative research often starts with a small sample focusing onquality not quantity (Nicholls, 2009, p.590). There is no specificnumber for qualitative research (Fusch and Ness, 2015), reinforcingFinlay (2011, p.191) who stated qualitative, phenomenologicalresearch does not aim to get a representative range.Focus groups are ideally between six and ten people interacting thatrepresent a particular homogenous group (Fawcett and Pockett,2015, p.69) considered as being in an intensive discussion (Vogtand Johnson, 2016, p.164). However, whilst seeking personalinsights they can be inhibiting for some (Bowling, 2009, p.424),individuals sometimes choose to not reveal to their peers that theyare a gamer (O’Connor et al, 2015) so whilst the students withinthe target sample group all share the identity as a student in themodule they may not have revealed their personal choice to playMMOGs. Using focus groups therefore could potentially reduce theamount of volunteers. One-to-one interviews will therefore beconducted, seeking the individuals lived experience (Denscombe,2013, p.176).An interview is a data collection method that can be used for bothqualitative and quantitative research, the difference being in theway that the questions are asked, quantitative being more like aspoken questionnaire (Doody, 2013). Qualitative structuredinterviews use a guide with questions which are not deviated from,semi-structured is preferred and will therefore have a guide andthere is the potential for follow up questions when pursuing thelines of enquiry (Burton et al, 2009, p.86; Grossoehme, 2014,p.110). Questions need to be asked carefully; the interviewer needsto know when to prompt, possessing good facilitation skills (Doody,2013, p.29).The quality of the data collected depends upon the quality of theinterview questions (Grossoehme, 2014, p.110) therefore it will becritical to develop these within supervision which is recommendedfor specific advice and directions (Siddiqui and Jonas-Dwyer, 2012).Open-ended predetermined questions (informed by the literaturereview) will be developed. Some descriptive statistics will beobtained (guided by similar information sought in the key articles todate), regarding whether they consider themselves to be anovice/experienced gamer; education level; occupation (in additionto that of student), and relationship status.Student  number Page  7Incorporating the philosophical stance previously discussed theinterview questions will seek:• The lived experience and meaning• Rigorous, rich description• The existential issues (lived space; body; time and humanrelation)• How the body, self and (virtual) world are intertwined(Finlay, 2011, p.15)A layperson that games will be sought to pilot the interview guideand questions, consider the opening question, the wording of thequestions and the order.Participant criteria:Reflection and critical concentration will be required of theinterviewer to ‘bracket’ habituated perceptions of the virtual worldto meet the phenomenon openly (Finlay, 2011, p.23). It isimportant to understand any bias that the interviewer has;understanding their influence on the data (Grossoehme, 2014,p.111). This, therefore, will increase the potential for usingbracketing. The relationship between the investigator andparticipant is seen as a “virtue not a vice”, participatory andtrusting (Nicholls, 2009, p.590 & 591).The data expected will be about quality and a limited use ofnumerical information (Nicholls, 2009, p.591). It will be elicited andcross-referenced against theory, therefore in-depth information isrequired from knowledgeable participant(s) (Burton et al, 2009,p.74; Walliman, 2011 p.193). The interviews will last a maximum ofan hour. They will be audio recorded, on campus within a prebookable room, during the autumn term when the students are lesslikely to be experiencing assessment pressures.The significance and balance of power between a participant andthe investigator is important to acknowledge and consider, due tothe possibility of subtle coercion. Attempts should be made to benon-threatening and the title of the investigator themselves mustStudent  number Page  8be considered (Grossoehme, 2014, p.120). The investigator willconsider what capacity in which to introduce themselves and willdiscuss this within supervision. This might be as a member of staff,a fellow student completing their final project and/or as someonewith prior experience of MMOGs.It is essential to plan for the potential risk of harm to be caused toparticipants (Grossoehme, 2014, p.120). Qualitative interviewersneed to anticipate the potential for emotional distress and theirresponse to it (Mitchell, 2011, p.653). Whilst the focus will be onthe lived experience within MMOG the interview might causereflection on a lack of social connectedness outside of virtualworlds. Information regarding additional support from studentservices within the university will therefore be given in theparticipant information and be available at the interview.An interview guide is recommended for a “comfortable interactionwith the participant”; the area of focus identified and the topics tocover, which can be developed into a sequence (Doody, 2013,p.30). Participants will be given a crib sheet, explaining what aninterview is, that it will be audio recorded and the time commitment(Doody, 2013, p.31). This will also include a flow chart of therecruitment strategy, increasing trustworthiness. They will also beinformed that pseudonyms will be used to keep the participantsidentity anonymous and deductive disclosure, where scrambling ofdata will be considered to make sure people can’t be identified bytheir quotations, protecting their privacy (Grossoehme, 2014,p.120).To be valid the work must “portray what it claims to portray”(Grossoehme, 2014, p.111). This ensures the trustworthiness of thedata, member checking will therefore be sought, where theparticipants are invited to check the findings and give feedback(Grossoehme, 2014, p.111). This will be optional as participantchecking of the transcriptions can cause some to feel embarrassed(Ahern, 2012 p.675). Qualitative research accepts that theinvestigator will influence, yet enhance, the study (Grossoehme,2014, p.111). To therefore demonstrate reliability, a research diarywill be used and accountability sought with the supervisor, meaningthat another researcher should be able to read it to understand thedecisions made.The interviews will be transcribed and data analysis, via coding,conducted, which is acceptable within phenomenology (Walliman,2011, p.217; Finlay, 2011, p.234). Novice interviewers developskills overtime and it is therefore important to transcribe each asthey occur and identify if any misunderstanding occurred due toStudent  number Page  9questions being confusing (Doody, 2013, p.30). The data analysisoccurs throughout the process, requires re-analysis and iscontinual. Resulting in thick description, words not numbers beingfocused upon (Nicholls, 2009, p. 591), seeking to identify themesthat will be coherent grounded in data and highlighting importantconcepts (Finlay, 2011, p.236). The software program, NVivo will beconsidered for collecting, organizing and analyzing the data (Vogtand Johnson, 2016, p. 297).Grossoehme (2014, p.118) highlights Giorgi’s (1985) approachwhich will inform the analysis. He articulated a method for analyzingphenomenological data. Firstly the data is read and reread to get asense of the whole. Next texts are coded highlighting the meaningfor a participant. Then similar coded data (meaning unit) is placedinto categories and finally for each meaning unit the participantsown words will be spelt out. Due to the recognised need toaccurately portray the phenomenon, an accurate presentation of theexperience is more important that the ability to generalise acrosssituations or people (Boss et al, 1996, cited in Grossoehme, 2014,p.117).4. Ethical ConsiderationsEthical approval will be sought by submitting an ethics applicationto the School of Health (SoH) via the HEAORG0015 NILE site andsupervision sought prior to any further action.Student  number Page  10(Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care, 2005;Burton et al, 2009, p.48 & 52; Moule & Hek, 2011, p.36).Informed consent is particularly important in qualitative researchwhere the participants are dependent upon confidentiality (Ahern,2012, p.671). The participants understand the nature of theproject, what it will involve, potential benefits, any limits to theirparticipation and potential risks (Social Research Association, 2003cited in Finlay, 2011, p. 189; Ahern, 2012, p.671). It is importantto emphasise that both positive and negative aspects of anexperience may be explored and that this can be achieved throughthe participant information sheet (Ahern, 2012, p.675).Negotiation points can be integrated e.g. reviewing the transcriptwith the participant before finalising it (Finlay, 2011, p.189) duringwhich confirmation of the interviewers ability to bracket anddescribe the lived experience will be sought. Choosing whether toparticipate continues during the research, giving them the right towithdraw at any point, a time-limit of up to a month after reviewingthe transcript will be placed to enable potential dissemination(Smith et al, 2009 cited in Finlay, 2011, p.190).Due care regarding boundaries and roles is relevant here as theinterviewer is a lecturer and the participants, students. It is advisedthat by avoiding research with those directly in receipt of your role,pressure felt through authority and the ability to then say no, isreduced. By working with students in a different subject area thisaspect will be reduced (Finlay, 2011, p.190). It might also bepreferable to introduce the interviewer as a fellow student.Student  number Page  115. PracticalitiesA Gantt chart has been developed highlighting the specific phases ofthe project and how the tasks relate to each other (Gantt, 2016)(Appendix 1).


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