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LUISS Guido Carli

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A social research experiment at university

LUISS students in Professor Lorenzo De Sio’s course on Methods in Social Research launch an online survey

Lorenzo De Sio social researchAs part of the course in Methods of Social Research taught by Lorenzo De Sio, students this year took part in a contest to create a survey that would help them grasp social research methodologies. The students participated in all phases: from determining hypotheses and the field of research, through the reading and interpretation of the data.

"This is the first year in which we did this 'experiment’ as part of the bachelor’s degree program in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and the results so far have been extraordinary," recounts De Sio. "The students really got involved and they all created interesting surveys, directly tackling issues like making the questions comprehensible and effective, ensuring that the interviewee is interested, etc."

Divided into twelve teams, students identified several research questions and drafted a questionnaire designed for their friends, to be disseminated via the internet and social networks. "Having the students, separated into groups, develop the survey, helps them understand on the field what problems need to be translated into specific questions, questions that are relevant to concepts of social research and how to administer these questions to a cross-section of a population to arrive at an answer and therefore at research results.”

The professor selected four of the questionnaires drafted, and then students voted on which one was the most interesting. "Each questionnaire was corrected and commented on in detail with regard to its strengths and weaknesses. Then, with my colleagues, I chose these four surveys, which to us seemed more complete and more geared towards getting meaningful data. Given the short timeline, we prioritized those that could be launched online with the least number of changes."

There were four final topics (sex, food, talent shows and the environment) from which the students chose the winning survey: the one that related a person’s sexuality to the social context in which they were raised. "Sex has always been a topic that is very important to young people, even if we were surprised by the fact that they did not feel too inhibited to respond truthfully to very personal questions. They themselves told us that in the preliminary tests carried out on a small sample of friends there was no embarrassment, something that we have also found in the results obtained so far. This has already provided us with some initial research results; that for the younger generations sex is an interesting topic but one that can be dealt with quite naturally, especially with a balanced questionnaire that is neither too prudish nor too bohemian."

The winning survey was launched on the social networks of a number of students and has already gathered over a thousand responses. "This is not a representative sample, but it gives us a way to begin evaluating the tendencies of our young students and their social environment." The last few weeks of the course will be dedicated to a statistical analysis of the data, starting next week. "Through a quantitative analysis of the data, students will have acquired both theoretical and applied knowledge of these skills by the end of the course." Skills that are increasingly in demand in research involving politics, corporate marketing and public institutions.

Participate in the online survey for the course on Methods in Social Research