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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, wordcount, 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 the unit team or posting any questions on CloudDeakin discussion boards.
1: General Information
Administration
Assessment Task 1 (AT1) is an individually written research proposal. The research proposal is due by 8pm (AEST) Thursday 23 April 2020 (Week 6). It is worth 40% of your total unit grade.
The word-count for this assessment is 1,800 words (with a ± 10% leeway). The word-count includes in-text citations and all sections of the research proposal. It does not include the title page, reference list, and the appendix. You must use APA formatting and referencing for this assessment.
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 in English and is the correct and final version. Faculty of Health policy stipulates that we can only mark what has been uploaded to the assignment dropbox. If you submit multiple versions, we will always 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
Academic Integrity
When completing the assessment, you must abide by your academic integrity
responsibilities. Plagiarism, collusion, and contract cheating are not tolerated at Deakin University, so it is important to submit only work that you have written yourself. If you do not do so, you will be in breach of your academic integrity responsibilities. Click the link above to read more about what is considered a breach of academic integrity.
If in doubt, you can use Turnitin before you submit to check how much your assessment matches other written work. The report will show you any areas that may need revising and more thorough paraphrasing. You can do this by going to the following website: Check your submission When checking the Turnitin report, look closely at what the report is identifying as similar or the same as other sources (rather than just the final percentage score). Please be aware that as we will give all students the same aim and starter references for this assessment, these sections will be identified as identical to other sources. We expect this and would not penalise you for this when reviewing your work for academic integrity.
Note. Do not copy or use the guidelines provided here as a source of evidence in your research proposal. Instead read the required materials provided to you below and then write up your assessment in your own words.
Learning Objectives of the Assessment
AT1 targets the following Unit Learning Objectives:
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.
Although this table gives you a brief idea of what skills and content AT1 is trying to teach you, you are probably still wondering what this assessment is all about. Let us elaborate further.
One thing we hope you learn when taking any psychology unit, including ours, 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, or behaviour – in the real-world and ask why it has occurred and what its potential consequences are. 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 the prior literature to propose a study idea (or even a series of study ideas!) that attempts to answer their question. They will then conduct the study and present the outcome in the form of laboratory reports, critical essays, journal articles, theses, conference presentations, etc.
A research proposal is a piece of writing that provides a justification and plan for 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 real-world and the literature it is based on.
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 research, critical thinking, and succinct writing).
We know this is a second-year unit, and so we do not expect you to write a research proposal or even 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. We will also guide you on how to write your research proposal in written resources (like this one) as well as in the seminars (especially the Week 3 and 5 seminars). So, let’s get started.
2: Topic Information
Background Information
Drought is an environmental and socio-political issue for any nation, and this is particularly the case for an arid country such as Australia. While Australia has always experienced droughts, many regions in Australia are experiencing some of the driest weather conditions on record (see Bureau of Metrology Drought report). For instance, rainfall in rural regions in Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia are at record-lows. This has resulted in public water shortages and decreased soil moisture, and therefore an intensification of drought-like conditions. As such, this current drought has received substantial media coverage in Australia (see Australia's big dry sucks life from once-proud towns and The unequal cost of the drought).
Although we cannot stop the occurrence of drought in Australia altogether, it is still possible to mitigate its impact by encouraging the public to engage in certain ‘pro-environmental’ actions, especially via persuasive messages. Indeed, social psychologists themselves have conducted research to determine how best to persuade or ‘nudge’ individuals to engage in numerous types pro-environmental behaviours (Smith et al., 2012). However, one pro-environmental behaviour that is only now receiving increasing attention in the field, but is of critical relevance to mitigating drought, is that of residential or household water conservation. This behaviour involves one actively reducing and conserving water usage in and around their home (Seyranian, Sinatra, & Polikoff, 2015).
Currently, growing research into household water conservation has often examined the effectiveness of persuasive messages that simply outline what behaviours to engage in (known as information provision strategies). An apt example of this approach in the real-world is the current Melbourne Waters 155 Target information campaign. However, social psychological research has also examined the effectiveness of messages that harness socio-psychological concepts such as identity and social norms (i.e. the shared beliefs about appropriate conduct in a situation) (Seyranian et al., 2015). Yet it is important to note that social psychology distinguishes between two specific types of social norms – descriptive and injunctive norms. Persuasive messages targeting these two types of norms have often been compared in the context of other types of pro-environmental behaviours (e.g. recycling) (Smith et al., 2012), not in the context of household water conservation. Further, prior studies have often not examined these constructs with Australian samples, even though drought is such a pertinent social issue for this nation.
The Study Idea
As alluded to above, an unanswered research question within research literature examining household water conservation is: Are descriptive or injunctive normative messages more effective for increasing household water conservation in Australia?
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 the one aim we will provide you below and one hypothesis that you need to generate (nothing more, nothing less), and should only outline and critique prior research that is relevant to this question. To put it more simply, you are essentially presenting an argument that a study is needed to compare descriptive/injunctive normative messages for household water conservation, and predicting which type will be better than the other in doing so (based on what you learn from the previous, relevant literature).
Handy hint #1. We will teach you how to develop written arguments in your HPS204/774 Week 3 and 5 seminars, and strongly encourage attendance for the best possible performance on this assessment.
Your Required Materials
In this assessment you must use and cite the four references provided below, and source, use, and cite additional references. This is outlined in more detail below.
Handy hint #2. How you use all these references is at your discretion, but they all must be used and cited somewhere in your research proposal.
Provided References
The provided references required for this assessment are listed below, with a few tips on what to take from each article provided below each reference. These tips will be beneficial to those who find it difficult to read an article, and/or require some structured guidance for identifying what is useful from an article. However, you do not need to use these tips when writing your research proposal if you do not find them helpful.
Handy hint #3. Remember that not all information in every article is relevant! Think about what information you need to support your argument.
The references given below are not in correct APA formatting and do not include all the required information, 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 several regions of Australia. You should look for information within this reference that you can use to support your own argument about the impact this drought is having on these regions and why this is an issue we need to help reduce or mitigate in Australia. That is, why should we care about drought (what negative impacts has it had)?
2. Cialdini, R. B. (2003). Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment.
This article provides a brief overview of the research that has compared the effectiveness of descriptive and injunctive social norms for pro-environmental behaviour, discussing some of the most seminal studies in the area which were conducted by Cialdini and colleagues. Some key things to note is how Cialdini defines descriptive and injunctive social norms, what was found in previous studies comparing the two, and the consequences these findings have when we go to develop persuasive messages that are intended to increase proenvironmental behaviour.
3. Smith, J. R., Louis, W. R., Terry, D. J., Greenaway, K. H., Clarke, M. R., & Cheng, X. (2012). Congruent or conflicted? The impact of injunctive and descriptive norms on environmental intentions.
It is important to note that household water conservation is one type of pro-environmental behaviour, and in this article, they discuss numerous types of pro-environmental behaviours and end up examining how descriptive and injunctive norms may impact energy conservation. Some key things to note is their overview of descriptive and injunctive norm research (p. 354), and their discussion of how the cultural context can contribute to the development of norms (p. 356). You should also look at their findings concerning which message was more effective overall (what they call the main effect – p. 355, p.358). They do spend a lot of time discussing and demonstrating how the interactions between the two norms may lead to increased or decreased intentions. While this is relevant to the social norm literature broadly, it is not necessary for you to discuss in your research proposal given you are comparing the effectiveness of these two social norms only not their interaction with one another.
4. Seyranian, V., Sinatra, G. M., & Polikoff, M. S. (2015). Comparing communication strategies for reducing residential water consumption.
This article outlines a study that was conducted in the U.S. that compared several persuasive messages that attempt to reduce water consumption. Some key things to note is their review of different types of persuasive messages previously used for water conservation (including which countries the samples come from) (p. 82), and their phrasing of hypothesis 2 (they state which of the frames they think will be more effective, and this may be helpful when writing your hypothesis) (p. 84). You should also look at their research design, especially the actual phrasing of their messages (what they call interventions) and what social norm they claim to have measured in this message (p. 85). They do present some complicated statistics but do not 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 they found was better in the short and long term (p. 87 will be helpful for this).
Additional references
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 assessment 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 EXACTLY two additional journal articles (no more, no less).
If you are enrolled in HPS774, you are required to source, use, and cite EXACTLY 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 references?
To help you, relevant journal articles may refer to topics such as:
• Different types of persuasive messages that have been used for any type of water conservation.
• Descriptive and/or injunctive normative messages that have been used for other types of pro-environmental behaviours.
• Reviews that have looked at (1) how to encourage people to be more pro-environmental, (2) the types persuasive messages typically used for pro-environmental behaviours, or even (3) persuasive messages typically 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 and format these additional journal articles in your 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 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. We know all units say this, but trust us! This is because it requires you to review prior literature and critique this literature to justify a hypothesis you have generated yourself – these tasks 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 on the HPS204/774 CloudDeakin page we have developed that does just this. This resource includes:
• Suggested steps for completing the assessment (that can be applied week-by-week or not), • 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
You should also attend (or at least listen) to the Week 2 Class (aka lecture). In this Class, we will outline some of the core research methods employed in Social Psychology, and this content will be helpful in understanding the prior literature and writing your hypothesis.
Writing style for this assessment
This assessment requires a scientific writing style. When it comes to the writing tense, you should write in past tense when discussing previous research, and present tense when outlining your proposed study idea (e.g. the aim and hypothesis) and the potential implications that may arise from this study.
Sections required for this assessment
Your research proposal requires the following sections, in this order.
An APA style 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.
• You should also include a running head (the shortened title in caps) and page number on each page of the assessment.
Overview (1 paragraph max; around 150-250 words) (included in the word-count)
• This should start on a new page, after the title page. The first line should be indented.
• A few sentences on the topic: What is this topic, why is it important to study, and how can social psychology help to solve this issue?
• A few sentences on the most significant 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. There may be many limitations you discuss, but you should identify and clearly state the most pertinent limitation here.
• A few sentences on the research question we are trying to answer and the current study’s aim, which is provided for you (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 #4. 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 (around 850-1,000 words) (included in the word-count)
• What do we know about the topic so far, according to prior literature? (2-3 paragraphs)
• What don’t we know about the topic, according to prior literature, and why is this a problem? (you must raise points that are directly relevant to the study that you are proposing) (3-4 paragraphs)
• How can social psychological concepts, theories, or prior research findings address this gap, and why is your study important? (1-2 paragraphs). Be aware that you need to justify your argument with relevant social psychology research and/or theory.
Handy hint #5. 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 aim and hypothesis which are to be presented in the section immediately after. It essentially foreshadows what you will present next in the current study section. In fact, your reader should get to the end and think “oh my gosh, of course you are doing this! I so should have thought of this” and “of course you are making this hypothesis, it is clearly the most likely outcome based on the previous literature!”. Think backwards from your aim and hypotheses about what arguments you need to make in order for them to be justified.
Handy hint #6. 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 do not have the word-count to include irrelevant stuff so be a harsh critic of your own work and trim the fat so to speak.
Handy hint #7. 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 your argument, rather than around specific journal articles/studies. The week 5 seminar will give you some tips on how to minimise doing this too.
The Current Study (1 paragraph max; around 150-300 words) (included in the word-count)
• A few summative and broad sentences outlining what is known and unknown in the literature, with a focus on identifying the gaps that your study specifically will address.
• 1 sentence stating the study’s aim. 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.
For HPS774 students only, you must also include in this section:
• A few sentences that explain how you would test your hypothesis (i.e. what would be the research design?). Outline what kind of study you would run, what would your independent and dependent variables be, and what will the participants in the study be doing.
For both HPS204 and HPS774 students:
For the aim, you must 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 persuasive messages using descriptive versus injunctive social normative messages are at increasing household water conservation in an Australian sample.
For the hypothesis, you will need to develop and present one testable hypothesis pertaining to the effectiveness of these two social normative messages in increasing household water conservation. This hypothesis should clearly predict which of the two (descriptive vs injunctive) will increase water conservation in an Australian sample. You must use evidence from the prior literature to build a strong rationale for your hypothesis.
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 your own hypothesis.
Handy hint #8. When coming up with your hypothesis, here are some questions to think about…
1. Do you expect there to be a difference between the messages?
2. If yes, will one message frame be better in increasing water conservation than the other message frame?
Implications (around 300-350 words) (included in the word-count)
• Theoretical/research implications of the proposed study (2-3 paragraphs)
• Real world implications of the proposed study (2-3 paragraphs)
• Both theoretical/research implications AND real world implications must be discussed, and you must include at least two implications.
• You should consider whether the implications will be different depending on whether or not the hypothesis is supported.
Handy hint #9. So, 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 realworld? How would we use the findings to help solve problems in the real-world?
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, including the ones you sourced yourself.
• The references must be formatted according to APA style and include all the relevant information (refer to Question 1 of FAQs for more).
Appendix (not included in the word-count)
• This must start on a new page after the references section
• Use the title: Appendix
• 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 https://apastyle.apa.org/6thedition-resources/basics-tutorial
Just remember, correct referencing and format is a requirement for this assessment, but it is only a minimal amount of marks out of the available 100 so do not get too hung up on it!
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 for this assessment is 1,800 words (with a ± 10% leeway). The word-count includes in-text citations and all sections of the research proposal. It does not include the title page, reference list, and the appendix. You must use APA formatting and referencing for this assessment.
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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