Northwestern University in Qatar’s efforts to involve both faculty and students in research that is relevant to Qatar and the region received a boost this summer, when the media school was awarded two grants from the Qatar National Research Fund. The grants, worth more than $100,000, are designated for two research proposals on cross-cultural surveying and media influence on women’s sports participation.
Commenting on the impact the grants will have on NU-Q’s research program, Dr. Everette Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, noted, “students and faculty benefit from working together on systematic research- it sharpens their awareness of the context and background of what they are doing as they generate new, and we hope, useful knowledge."
“Research is a critical skill for today’s media professionals, and eleven of our journalism and communication students have been given an invaluable opportunity to improve this skill through QNRF’s program,” added Dean Dennis.
The students, led by faculty advisors Susan Dun and Jocelyn Mitchell, will be involved in all aspects of the research projects, from survey design, data gathering, and data analysis, to both co-authoring and co-presenting the research papers that come out of the projects.
Susan Dun , a senior lecturer in the Communications program, says her research “should discover the major barriers to women's participation in sports, allowing the design of effective media campaigns.” Dun will lead the research on ‘Catalysts and constraints: Women's and girls' experience of physical activity and sport in Qatar,’ with assistance from an undergraduate student in NU-Q’s Communications program.
Dun’s interest in the topic was sparked by Qatar’s recent efforts to encourage more young people, and women in particular, to take up sports. “As a communication researcher I'm interested in how they evaluate the role of the Arab media in women's sports and how role models influence their sport participation,” she explained, adding that she aims to include 300 women respondents in her research, with 190 having taken part so far.
The larger of the two grants went to research that will “make sure that Qatari responses [to surveys] are understood in a contextual way that allows for accurate comparison with other countries in the region and world,” according to Jocelyn Mitchell , a lecturer in Political Science who is leading 10 students and three other faculty members – including one from Qatar University – on an exploration of the pitfalls of ‘universal’ surveys used by media professionals and social science researchers.
“One of the major problems with universal surveys is their use of the same general questions for all countries – but does everyone understand the question in the same way? Or do the responses need to be contextualized in order to make sense of the data?”
Mitchell added that her research team would be testing survey methods within Qatar, paving the way for broader studies in other GCC countries.
The funds were granted by QNRF as part of the 12th cycle of its Undergraduate Research Experience Program, which aims to give students hands-on research experience under the guidance of academic supervisors. Only 43 of the 127 research proposals received during this cycle were awarded UREP grants.