Sample Proposal

Deconstructing "Hooking-Up"


Introduction & Research Objective

College students use the term "hooking-up" to refer to a form of romantic/sexual behavior. Our objective is to determine exactly what the concept is from the students' point of view, how it relates to similar concepts, and examine the variation in meaning it holds for different people.

In defining the concept from the student's point of view, we will be conducting an emic investigation. As a result of this study, we should be able to specify all of the key elements that define hooking up and distinguish it from other concepts, such as dating, making out, one-night stands, etc. 

Hypotheses and Expectations

We believe that the core concept is widely shared and understood among college students, but that certain elements of the idea will vary. Some of the elements of the idea should involve activities (what actually happens when people hook up) and relationships (what is the relationship of the persons before and after they hook up), as well as situational conditions (setting, drinking, etc.).

We believe that in discussing hooking up, boys will focus more on the activities involved, while girls will focus more on the relationships and consequences. In addition, we expect more variation in the definition among freshmen than among seniors, as over time people come to learn what other people mean by "hooking up".



We will be interviewing 50 boys and 50 girls, drawing equally from all four classes. The interviews will be semi-structured.  We will begin by asking respondents to define hooking up. Will will use probes to get the respondent to answer as fully as possible.

After they have said everything they can think of, we will then ask them to think about the last time they hooked up. Using a grand tour type of question, we will ask them to takes us through the entire event from beginning to end. This procedure will help to elicit aspects of hooking up that the respondent didn't mention initially.

During each interview, we will record the person's sex and year.

All interviews will be tape-recorded. At the end of each day, we will playback the tapes and take very careful notes and as well as some verbatim quotes, which will then be entered into Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, along with the person's sex and year.

Once the textual data have been entered, each member of the team will code each of the texts for themes. The first objective will be to construct an aggregate definition of hooking up, noting which elements are widely shared, and which ones are more variable. After this is done, we will code the data for the specific themes we uncovered in the first step. A list of the themes will be given to each team member, and then each of us will independently code each of the texts for the presence or absence of each element. Then we will get together to and enter our codings into Excel, and (a) compute the percentage of agreement, and (b) identify which texts and codes we disagree on. For those texts that we disagree, we will discuss why we coded as we did and see if we can't come to some agreement. If there are any texts we can't agree on, we will drop those texts. Similarly, if there are certain codes that have many disagreements, we will modify or delete the code. After this, we will recompute the percentage of agreement.

Once we have obtained final codes for each text, we will compare the answers of boys and girls, and of respondents in different years, to see if there are any patterns. For example, we expect a larger proportion of girls than boys to mention relationship elements.