MB 313 Prof. Borgatti Fall 2000




This course introduces students to the tools they need to conduct and evaluate social and organizational research. One of the  goals of this course is to help qualify students for positions in personnel consulting and/or human resource management. Organizational research is a hot topic in human resource consulting these days, so this is a great time to take this course. Here are some examples of the kinds of investigations students should be able to conduct after taking this course:

In different years, this course focuses on different topics. This year, we focus on qualitative research methods, and on researching people's perceptions of the world around them. Topics include:

Although the course is geared to organizational research, the skills you will learn are more general. Essentially, you will learn how to find out how things work. This is great training for any field, but especially management consulting.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  I want you to realize up-front that this is a difficult and time-consuming course. I do everything I can to support your learning process, but ultimately it will be up to you to put in the effort needed to learn the material.


Course Materials

The textbook for this course is

In addition to the textbook, there are some journal articles to be read, and there are numerous handouts available on the web. Some are my lecture notes, others are supplementary materials drawn from many sources. It is important that you check the web frequently for changes and additions. If at this point you have not had much opportunity to use the web, don't worry: it is not hard to learn, and it is an extremely valuable job skill. If you have any trouble finding the handouts on the web, please contact me right away -- you're probably not the only one!

There will also be DOS software required, which will be made available on the web. Most of you have never used a DOS program, and will have some difficulty here. I will help as much as possible. 

Don't forget to sign up for the class listserv. You are required to send at least one substantive e-mail message per week to the listserv, and you are also required to read your class email every single day.



This course has no midterm, but it does have a final. There are several significant homework assignments. In addition, participation (both in person and on the listserv) is graded. Each individual assignment is described in detail on the web. Go to the schedule page for access to each description.

Here is the breakdown of weights and due dates for the assignments:

Assignment Weight
Text analysis presentation 5%
Text analysis report 25%
CDA project presentation 5%
CDA project report 25%
Quizzes 5%
Final exam 30%
Participation 5%

The two main assignments (aside from the final exam) are two empirical research projects, in which you will study any population you like, including BC students. The first project is a text analysis, in which you will collect textual data (e.g., stories) from people, and then analyze them. The second project is a cognitive domain analysis, in which you will attempt to discover how people perceive a given domain, such as universities or ethnic groups. More detailed descriptions are available in the schedule.

All assignments in this class except quizzes may be done collaboratively by teams of up to 6 people. In fact, I strongly recommend it because this course requires a lot of work. You don't have to tell me in advance who you are working with, and you don't have to work with the same combination of people for each assignment. When you hand in the work, just make sure you have listed the names of all the authors. IMPORTANT NOTE: It is not permissible to work together and then hand in separate papers -- that is regarded as cheating.

I recognize that learning how to do research is a slow process. I don't expect everyone to "get it" at once. That's why, for the projects, the presentations are only worth 5%, but the reports on the same projects are worth 25%. The reports are due any time during the semester, and can be redone to get a higher grade. In other words, if you hand in the report on the same day as the presentation, I will grade it and hand it back. If you don't like the grade, you can redo the report and hand it in again a few weeks later. Your final grade on the report will be an average of the two grades you get.

Be careful about the participation score. Suppose you do well in class (say, a score of 90), but only send 7 messages on the listserv. That's half of the required number. So you have a 50% on the email portion. I weight the higher of your two scores twice as much as the lower, so the weighted average of 50 and 90 is 77. Do you really want to have a score of 77 factored into your grade when it would have been so easy to just send an extra 7 messages during the whole semester?

Although class attendance is not required per se, much of the material covered is not contained in the textbook, so it is not a good idea to skip class. Furthermore, participation is graded, both in class and on the listserv. An absolute minimum of one relevant listserv contribution should be made each week, but 2 or 3 contributions would be better to ensure a good grade. All class participation is graded on frequency, relevance, insight and politeness.

All assignments should be emailed to me (borgatts@bc.edu) in Microsoft Word for Windows format by midnight of the due date. When you give your presentations, you can either use overhead transparencies or a powerpoint presentation projected directly on the screen. If you use overhead transparencies, you must put all your names on the opening slide, and remember to give me the transparencies after your presentation, in a folder. If you are using a powerpoint presentation, all the names must be on the opening slide, and you must email me the powerpoint file.



I do not grade on a curve. This means that it is technically possible for the entire class to get an "A" -- but it is extremely unlikely. Normally, the median grade in this class is a B. I usually grade all assignments by giving a percentage score, like "82%". Percentages translate to letter grades as follows:

Percentage Range Letter Grade
93.4 - 100 A
90.0 - 93.3 A-
86.7 - 89.9 B+
83.4 - 86.6 B
80.0 - 83.3 B-
76.7 - 79.9 C+
73.4 - 76.6 C
70.0 - 73.3 C-
66.7 - 69.9 D+
63.4 - 66.6 D
60.0 - 63.3 D-
0.0 - 59.9 F

Class participation is graded according to the amount of quality contribution to the discussion. Quality contribution means that it is thoughtful, relevant and expressed in an appropriate manner (e.g., not rude or insulting to another class member). It does not mean you have to give the correct answer.

All written assignments are graded on the following criteria (where applicable):



The schedule of assignments for each class may be found on the web at this address:


Descriptions of each assignment are obtained by clicking on the assignment in the schedule. It is important to realize that the schedule changes throughout the semester to accommodate our changing needs. This is why it is on the web in the first place! Therefore, it is your responsibility to check the schedule before each class. Do not print it out once at the beginning of the semester and assume that it will hold for the rest of the semester.



If you miss an assignment because of a really good reason, I will try to arrange a substitute with you, but only if you inform me of the situation within 48 hours of the due date. For example, if you had a death in the family and flew home, call my department secretary (Jean Passavant, 552-0450) and leave a message explaining the situation. Or send me an email (borgatts@bc.edu). Or call me at home (978 456 7356) and leave a message. Do NOT claim that you couldn't reach me.

I like my classroom to be informal, alive, talkative, argumentative, interruptive, humorous, and happy. I love students who are willing to take a chance on being wrong. I give lots of brownie points to people who try out ideas in class. I don't really care if they are right or wrong, as long as they are thoughtful and interested. I also like students who can take a little ribbing. For example, if somebody says something wrong in class, don't be surprised if I say something like "That is absolutely, 100 percent, unbelievably, WRONG!". When I do say things like that, it means that (a) I'm having a little fun, (b) I like you, and (c) I think you can handle it.

Also, sometimes I call on people (especially quiet people). If you don't know the answer, don't worry about it. First of all, the main purpose of class discussion is not evaluation. Second, I don't assume that people are incompetent just because they didn't have a particular answer on the tips of their tongues.

This course can be painful. Most students do not go to college thinking "I can't wait to take courses in research methods!" The course requires an understanding of statistics. It also requires thinking theoretically and causally (that's "causally", not "casually"), which most people are not used to doing. What you need to realize, however, is that the skills you will learn in this course will help you in other courses, as well as in a future job and in life in general. I think you will find that it is all worth it, but you must plan accordingly! It would be a huge mistake to assume that this will be your easy course this semester. My goal in this course is to prepare you to work in today's corporate environment, particularly a consulting situation. I take this very seriously and I am quite confident that if you work hard in this course, you will be ready.

Copyright 1996-2000 Stephen P. Borgatti Revised: September 14, 2000 Go to Home page