The purpose of this proposal is to lay an effective analytical and structural foundation for the research dissertation which is to follow. As such, the primary purpose of this report is to outline in detail the research parameters and processes which will be undertaken in year 3. Given this, this work will provide a detailed appraisal of the research topic in general and offer justifications as to its relevance in the wider field of study, along with offering a clear and succinct outline of the practical and theoretical research issues involved.
- Focus of the Research
The essential focus of the research project will be centred on disability and sport. This focus will assume two primary forms. Firstly, the research will examine the degree to which sport can enhance the individual agency of disabled people and thus play a positive role in their life development. As such, the first stage of the research will be directed at the personal perspective of disabled people and the degree to which participation in sport allows for effective personal development. Following this, the focus of the research will be directed at the general issues and assumptions which are proffered in relation to disability and sport. Naturally, it is important to note that this general assessment has obvious and clear connotations with the personal perspective assessed previously. As such, in many respects the general appraisal of disability and sport will serve to directly enhance the examination undertaken in relation to the individual.
- Justification and Significance
The research focus outlined above is fully justifiable in terms of the present academic focus in sport studies. Moreover, the research which will be undertaken has clear significance in terms of the political realm and wider social policy in general. Firstly, from the individual perspective, the issue of independent living and individual agency are paramount to general social policy in relation to disabled people in general (Horne et al, 1999). Political actions such as Direct Payments and other legislative endeavours aimed at enhancing the ability of disabled people to direct their own lives clear denote a process which has been personified by an attempt to engender agency among disadvantaged groups like the disabled (Mastandrea & Czuberant, 2006). Given this political focus, much attention in sport studies has been placed on the potential sport has for developing individualism within disabled people and the possibilities of enhanced social development through participation in group sports (Houlihan, 2008).
The second justification for the research to be undertaken bears has direct connotations with the final point made previously. It has long been accepted and understood that sport has a central social role. In particular, much academic attention has been placed on the extent to which participation in sports can lead to increased social capital, both in individual and wider society (Collins & Kay, 2003). Moreover, it is now widely accepted that sport is capable of acting as pivotal combatant against social exclusion and social oppression (Collins & Kay, 2003). It is of course important to note that significant problems remain in terms of access to sport on the basis of minority status. However, for the purposes of the present research, the role sport plays as a method social progression will be heavily emphasised. Given this, the research will examine in detail the degree to which social exclusion among the disabled can be actively combated through increased access to, and participation in sports.
- Aims and objectives of the research
The above section detailed the overall research parameters will be undertaken. In terms of direct aims and objective, the research will be split into two distinct yet related sections as suggested. Thus, the primary objectives of the research will be as follows;
- To offer assessment and detailed examination of the how participation in sport can enhance the individual agency of disabled people and allow them greater control and direction over their own lives.
- In wider general terms, the research will examine the role sport can potentially play in combating social tendencies of exclusion in certain social groups. Thus, given that the disabled serve as a primary group that are invariably subject to high levels of social exclusion, it is here that graduated examination will be undertaken.
- In general academic terms, the central objective of the research will be to combine secondary assessment with practical empirical research undertaken in the field.
- In furtherance of the above aims and objectives, the research will endeavour to place sport studies firmly within an interdisciplinary foundation. The study of social exclusion and the enhancement of individual agency are paramount to social scientific investigations such as social policy and sociology (Thomas & Smith, 2009). Thus, a pivotal aim of the research will be to conceptualise sport and the disabled within the broader framework of social science in a way which personifies the role played by sport studies in furthering our understanding of social processes and functions.
- Research Questions
In order that the research aims and objectives above are fully explored in a detailed and effective fashion, it is paramount that specific research questions are provided in order for comprehensive research focus to be provided. As such, on the basis of the above aims and objectives, the research will be centred on the following specific questions;
- What role does sport play in enhancing the agency and individualism of disabled people?
- To what degree can sport act as a practical facilitator in terms of furthering the advancement of legislative actions aimed at increasing the independence of disabled people?
- What is social exclusion and what to degree does it affect the life chances of disabled people?
- What is the general intrinsic interaction between sport and social exclusion?
- What role can participation in sport play in combating the social exclusion experienced my members of the disabled community?
- Subject Literature
A significant amount of academic attention has been dedicated to sport and disabled people. Thomas & Smith (2009) point out that disability and sport have a relatively long historical basis in international events such as the Paralympics. However, even beyond this global base, the interaction between sport and disability is clearly evident at both the national and local level. In particular, Thomas & Smith (2009) also suggest that sport has a direct role to play in enhancing the potential for disabled people to live full and self-sufficient lives. This assessment works in conjunction with that offered by Horne et al (1999), who assert the primacy of sport as an essentially social activity. This societal basis for sport thus allows the study of sport to be encapsulated within the wider framework of social scientific investigation, in terms of its social connotations and the impact it has on wider social processes and vice versa.
In terms of the social connotations of sport, Collins & Kay (2003) have dedicated considerable attention to the issue of sport and social exclusion. Social exclusion is suggested to be the structural forces which serve to inhibit the agency of individuals and groups (Collins & Kay, 2003). Therefore, social structures often affect the ability of certain groups to alter their own conditions, whether on an economic, social or personal basis. Fitzgerald (2009) suggests that sport and social exclusion among the disabled are interlinked at a fundamental level. Therefore, sport can often serve to act as a social structure which reduces the potential for certain groups to advance in social terms. Given this, Mastandrea & Czubernat (2006) utilises the examples of sports such as tennis as a means of highlighting the racial oppression which often takes place in certain sports. Indeed, Asian identity and football can be used in a similar fashion (Mastandrea & Czubernat (2006).
As such, it is clearly possible to see how the research parameters, aims and objectives of the research to be undertaken can be firmly placed within a specific academic discourse in sport studies. Moreover, given the interdisciplinary nature of the subject matter in question, assessment will also take place within the wider social scientific disciplines of social policy and sociology. It is certainly the case that general texts in social policy and sociology rarely tend to focus on the issue of sport in detail and the role in plays in the structure/agency dialectic (Collins & Kay, 2003). As such, the majority of the literature this regard will remain within the realm of sports science and sport studies. This problem thus highlights the extent to which the wider social sciences are yet to fully accept to the role of sport studies as a central pivot of interdisciplinary investigation. However, consistent reference will be made to wider sociological assessments.
Bryman (2004) suggests that in order for a piece of research to be based on a firm academic and analytical foundation, it is vital that clear and accountable research processes are undertaken. As such, in any social research, there is an essential need to ensure that effective methodological processes of research are outlined before the actual research itself is undertaken. Therefore, this section will offer a detailed appraisal of the processes and methodological functions of the research in question, so that the research is formed on the most comprehensive academic basis possible.
May (2001) points out that academic research both inside and outside of empiricism is best conceptualised on the basis of primary and secondary assessment. Primary sources denote research material which has been derived from the actual experience of someone present at the time of an event. Alternatively, secondary source material is usually formed after an event or outside of an issue in a manner which is exemplified by post-event analysis (May, 2001). Both primary and secondary source materials have benefits which can be utilised as a means of enhancing the effectiveness of the research process itself and the consequent outcome of the research process. However, it is equally important to note that academic texts invariably include a combination of both primary and secondary material. In particular, primary material gained from empirical research is usually subjected to secondary analysis (Dawson, (2002). The empirical research in question is sometimes undertaken by those responsible for the text, or has otherwise been derived from other sources. However, all texts in sport studies and the wider social sciences include detailed secondary assessment of information taken from primary sources (Gratton & Jones, 2004).
Given the above, in order for the aims and objectives of the present research to be achieved, there is clear need to ensure that both primary and secondary assessments are undertaken. The former evidently denotes a strong element of empiricism. Thus, the research which will be undertaken in year 3 will include such empirical assessment on the subject matter in question. However, in order that both primary and secondary source material is given full expression in the research, it is paramount that the analytical research foundation is sound and effective. In this aim, both primary and secondary source assessment needs to be subject to the rigours of general social science investigation on the basis of the two primary paradigms used for social research; quantitative and qualitative.
The research process will be undertaken to meet the aims and objectives outlined above will include both quantitative and qualitative assessment. Long (2007) suggests that quantitative research is objective in nature and invariably takes the form of specific data sets which aim to highlight general trends in terms of statistical analysis. The subjective nature of quantitative research is therefore far less prevalent. The consequence of this is that quantitative research rarely allows for detailed intrinsic insight into why trends occur (Long, 2007). Thus, as Mason (2002; 4) points out, quantitative assessment in social research is almost always concerned with the “what” and the “when”. Alternatively, qualitative research is subjective in nature. The objectivity which personifies the quantitative approach is thus significantly reduced in favour of more focused assessments on why trends take place as opposed to merely highlighting statistical movements (Mason, 2002). As such, whereas quantitative research is often wide-ranging and includes large numbers of data-sets, its qualitative counterpart is often more detailed in its research parameters, thus utilising small numbers of constituent sets (Mason, 2002).
Fin et al (2000) suggest that a combination of both the quantitative and qualitative research paradigms often results in beneficial results in terms of research effectiveness. Moreover, given the research aims and objectives outlined previously, it is clear that a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods would certainly be beneficial. In particular, the two distinct yet related sections of the research require different modes of research paradigm in order to achieve success. As suggested above, the first section is ultimately concerned with the individual perspective of disabled people and the attitudes they have towards the positive role of sport in their lives. As such, accurately ascertaining the innate assumptions and opinions of disabled people is evidently reliant on the subjective analysis which results from comprehensive qualitative assessment. Given that time and resource constraints are clearly a problem for the present research under discussion, one feels it prudent to undertake small levels of very detailed examination in relation to disabled attitudes towards sport. As such, using the guidelines for qualitative research as outlined by Mason (2002), the research process will include around a dozen detailed interviews with disabled people who have a history of high levels of participation in sports. These semi-structured interviews will conform to the highest standards of qualitative assessment. Thus, the research will ensure that qualitative problems such as researcher impartiality is fully understood and accounted for.
The second part of the research requires a much wider analytical foundation than the first. Therefore, the wish to account for wider trends in disability and sport is reliant on the assessment of primary data-sets. Therefore, quantitative assessment will form the primary research paradigm for the second section of the research project. Of course, as suggested above, although the two sections of the research are fairly distinct in nature, they are nonetheless inter-reliant. Thus, a central outcome of the research is that an effective combination of both quantitative and qualitative assessment can be undertaken in a manner which enhances the overall effectiveness of the research itself.
- Limitations of the Study
The primary limitation to which the research will be subjected lies in the first part of the study. The willingness to ascertain the attitudes and opinions of disabled people is clearly paramount in order that the research is formed on an effective and comprehensive empirical foundation. However, in addition to the general difficulties relating to qualitative assessment, there is also evidently a limitation in relation to scope. It is hoped that this limitation will be offset by the fact that qualitative assessments undertaken in the semi-structured interviews will be as detailed and encompassing as possible. However, the fact remains that limitations in terms of resources and time will inevitably inhibit the possibility of a truly comprehensive study.
Access to resources may also prove to be a possible limitation. The university library is well equipped with material on the research subject, however, it will also be necessary to utilise on-line journal databases. This will obviously add to the personal expense of the research, however, one hopes that this limitation can be offset to some degree by utilising available resource material in great detail.
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Collins, M.F & Kay, T (2003) Sport and Social Exclusion. London: Routledge.
Dawson, C (2002) Practical Research Methods: a user friendly guide to mastering research techniques and projects. London: How To Books.
Finn M, Elliot-White M and Walton M (2000) Tourism and Leisure Research Methods. Longman: London.
Fitzgerald, H (2009) Disability and Youth Sport. London: Taylor & Francis.
Gratton C and Jones I (2004) Research Methods for Sport Studies. Routledge: London.
Horne, J; Tomlinson, A & Whannel, G (1999) Understanding Sport: an introduction to the sociological and cultural analysis of sport. London: Taylor & Francis.
Houlihan, B (2008) Sport and Society: a student introduction. London: Sage.
Long J (2007) Researching Leisure, Sport and Tourism: The Essential Guide. London: Sage.
Mastandrea, L & Czubernat, D (2006) Sports and the Physically Challenged: an encyclopaedia of peoples, events and organisations. London: Greenwood Press.
Mason J (2002) Qualitative Researching 2nd Edition. London: Sage Publications.
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Thomas, N & Smith, A (2009) Disability, Sport and Society: an introduction. London: Taylor & Francis.
The purpose of this narrative is to outline the personal issues which may arise as a consequence of undertaking the research project. Moreover, through detailed narrative and personal reflection, it will be possible to suggest beneficial outcomes which may result from the research project.
The successful completion of the research project is dependent of me overcoming a number of personal factors. Time management is central in this regard. Therefore, it is undoubtedly paramount that I ensure effective time management processes are put in place. One possible method that could achieve this would be to outline a detailed timeline of what I want to achieve in terms of work load. Thus, setting time-related objectives is essential, along with meeting those established targets. Furthermore, in the past I have had academic problems related to procrastination, thus, as a concurrent process of time management I must ensure that I maintain effective working patterns which are directed in a suitable fashion.
In addition, effective time management and the avoidance of procrastination must work in combination with a process which exemplifies self-reflection. Self-reflective practice is often cited as being important in sport studies and the wider social sciences. In particular, accurately accounting for the degree to which innate personal assumptions will affect the research process is essential. Moreover, through a process of self-reflection, it will be possible for me to account for the effectiveness of the research process itself and whether I need to undertake any alterations or adjustments.
In terms of practical academic study, it will be essential that I overcome difficulties in relation to processing vast amounts of information into key ideas and assumptions. Obviously, this problem is common in academic study; however, it remains vital for me to ensure that I am not overwhelmed by the vast literature which exists on this subject.
Provided that the above limitations and difficulties are addressed in a deliberate and effective fashion, I believe that I can attain effective academic outcomes as a result of the research undertaken. This will be beneficial for me as I will then have a firm knowledge of how to undertake social research, which will benefit me considerably in terms of employment opportunities following completion of the course. Furthermore, the nature of the research undertaken will allow me to accurately account for the wider social role played by sport. As a consequence of this, I feel that I will have a graduated ability in being able to utilise the numerous benefits sport can have for individuals and groups. Of course, I will need to effectively forge a link between the academic and practical realms. However, the nature of the course in general, along with the specific research project will I think allow for the forging of such a link.
Finally, I feel a strong sense that the effective completion of the research project will engender in me a greater understanding of oppression in society and the negative assumptions which often pervade social thinking in relation to certain groups. If this understanding allows me to engage with such problems in a generally beneficial manner, then it will certainly be worth the effort.