Defined project ideas

Each of these projects has been proposed by a particular department or unit at LSE. If your application is successful, we will put you in touch with them for further support.

For the application form, you can use as much of the information given here as you like, and suggest particular methods for your project, or a particular focus (see below). For projects which already provide a lot of detail, you could add some information on why you would be particularly suitable to undertake the project.

Methods

Some of these projects state that they would be qualitative (using data which is not numerical). Others are completely open. This resource suggests some ways to choose a methodology. Try to identify a method which can both answer the question, and give you some benefit from using it (furthering your studies; developing your broader skills; enjoyment!).

Focus 

The majority of projects are not specific to one department, and are open to investigations of different programmes and years. To make your project more focused, and thus make the recommendations more useful, you might wish to propose:

  • researching one department or a small selection of departments
  • investigating one particular level of study (e.g. a specific year of undergraduate study)
  • looking at one programme (or a small selection)

For many of the projects you might also want to ask a more specific question than the broad topic title (for example, looking at one possible aspect or variable). For example, if a project asks about student experience with food, you could propose to look specifically at use of the 4th floor restaurant. If a project asks about student assessment stress, you could specify that you will investigate the impact of Lent Term week 0 exams.

Or your focus could be conceptual: you might have a particular concept or framework through which you want to investigate the issue.

You can contact lse.changemakers@lse.ac.uk to discuss whether the focus you’re planning is productive, or too narrow!

Including all our students

Change Makers is a chance to amplify the voices and experiences of students at LSE. In 2019/20 we would be particularly interested in projects in these areas:

Experiences of ‘commuter students’ at LSE

This qualitative project would investigate the LSE experiences of first year students who live at home or in private accommodation. Research could explore issues around belonging, community, access to services and support, relationships, advantages and disadvantages to living at home or in private accommodation. What could the School do to better support this group of students?

Students from asylum seeker or refugee backgrounds

LSE has a very small number of these student registered. How do they experience their time at LSE, and what the School could do to support them?

White working class students at LSE

Looking into the experiences of white working-class students: how does their background impact on their experience? How do they perceive and describe themselves? What kinds of support they want from the School?

Experiences of students from rural and coastal areas at LSE

This project would explore the experiences, self-perception and self-definition of students from these areas, and what kinds of support they want from the School.

Why did the UK-domiciled PhD researchers at LSE from BME (black and minority ethnic) backgrounds choose to study for a PhD here?

This project will aim to

  • understand the motivations of UK-domiciled BME PhD researchers to undertake PhDs at LSE
  • enhance understandings of what attracts and encourages BME master’s students to want to pursue a PhD in general
  • explore the perspectives of the BME PhD researchers on being a minority
  • examine the potential influence of mentors (of any background) and role models in nurturing a desire to undertake a PhD

Why did the female STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) PhD researchers at LSE choose to study for a PhD here? NB: For the purpose of this project, we understand STEMM to refer to PhD programmes in the Departments of Statistics and of Mathematics.

This project will aim to

•              understand the motivations of women pursuing STEMM PhDs at LSE

•              enhance understandings of what attracts and encourages female master’s students in STEMM subjects to want to pursue a PhD in general

•              explore the perspectives of female PhD researchers in STEMM subjects on being a minority

•              examine the potential influence of mentors (of any background) and role models in nurturing a desire to undertake a PhD

What makes undergraduate students who are disabled and from a BME (black and minority ethnic) background feel included at LSE?

This project will aim to

  • collect first-hand feedback from disabled BME students on their experiences of inclusion and exclusion at LSE
  • produce enhanced understandings of the challenges of navigating two or more minority identities at the School
  • generate practical suggestions about how to enhance the experiences of students who are disabled and BME

Widening participation beyond London

This project would investigate the factors influencing university decision-making of undergraduate students coming from WP backgrounds/postcodes from outside London. Also, factors influencing WP students' decision to accept or decline LSE’s offer of a place.

LSE students with hidden disabilities

The project aims to explore the integration and social experiences of students at the LSE who live with so called hidden disabilities. Hidden disabilities refer to a person’s impairment or condition that is not apparent or visible to outside observers and could include a wide variety of conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism and Asperger’s syndrome, mental health problems, diabetes, arthritis, asthma or for instance extreme anxiety.

According to research people with hidden disabilities often hesitate whether to disclose their disability or not (Valeras et al., 2010), because they would like to avoid ‘discrimination’ and ‘stigma’ (Riddell & Weedon, 2014) or because they do not want to identify themselves as being ‘disabled’ (Jacklin, 2011). Consequently, we can assume that more students are affected by hidden disabilities than the university is aware of. Understanding the needs of these students and creating an environment that suits their needs - not only in relation to the curriculum, but also the wider learning space and social context - will increase the wellbeing and community feel of the whole student body.

The project will investigate how LSE students – both with disclosed or non-disclosed disabilities – perceive the LSE’s learning and social environment, with a special focus on some of the following issues:

Inclusion in the classroom

  • Social integration among peers (including issues such as sense of belonging, experiences of bullying (if at all), finding peer support for collaborative study, work in groups etc.)
  • Support systems beyond the access to curriculum/assessments
  • Accessibility of spaces and events outside the classroom: open learning spaces, open lectures, extra-curricular events, social groups, volunteering, internships, career fairs, networking events etc.

Two further angles of the project or further related mini-projects could explore:

  • The experiences of disclosed and non-disclosed students in terms of support and social integration
  • The perspective of lecturers and what they find helpful or challenging in supporting students.

References

Jacklin, A. (2011). To be or not to be ‘a disabled student’ in higher education: The case of a postgraduate ‘non-declaring’ (disabled) student. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 11, 99–106. doi:10.1111/j.1471-3802.2010.01157.x

Riddell, S., & Weedon, E. (2014). Disabled students in higher education: Discourses of disability and the negotiation of identity. International Journal of Educational Research, 63, 38–46. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2013.02.00810.1016/j.ijer.2013.02.008

Valeras, Aimee. (2010). “We don’t have a box”: Understanding Hidden Disability Identity Utilizing Narrative Research Methodology. Disability Studies Quarterly. 30. 10.18061/dsq.v30i3/4.1267.

Mapping services and systems

Are the current systems and services at LSE reaching the right people, and doing the right things? Change Makers is interested in the following projects:

Assistive technology at LSE: current service users

Assistive technologies are devices or software which makes information (whether online or on paper) more accessible for individuals with disabilities. LSE makes Assistive Technology available to students who can benefit from them. What are the experiences of students currently using this service?

Assistive technology at LSE: publicity and awareness

Assistive technologies are devices or software which makes information (whether online or on paper) more accessible for individuals with disabilities. LSE makes Assistive Technology available to students who can benefit from them. Who knows about the assistive technology available at LSE? How did they find out about it? Who needs to know, and doesn’t get the information? What communication and publicity routes would reach potential users?

Student Services, physical and virtual

Student Services Improvement Project is currently reviewing all student facing support processes, and in particular enquiry management both physically (via a counter) and virtually (via a new Salesforce platform).  Student Services has also begun to consider a future physical location for the department. This project would help investigate how students want to access central ‘services for students’. How best does this sit with how they access services and support through their individual departments?  How can LSE make services easy to navigate, and produce a coherent student support experience?

Careers and undergraduate students

This project would investigate why undergraduate students use the Careers services less than other user groups. Careers can provide some attendance data and student feedback for the project to analyse.

Student Futures: enrichment opportunities at LSE

LSE offers enrichment opportunities to students, from languages and data skills to sustainability projects and entrepreneurship. This qualitative project will map the available opportunities. By communicating with current students, it will also identify gaps in the provision. The project will investigate student awareness, and suggest how LSE can best publicise what’s on offer.

Moodle and other learning technologies

How can effective Moodle use make for a satisfactory online student experience? Which Moodle features are most useful to support student learning, and what other learning technologies could be integrated to make the blended learning experience seamless? Some recent audit data is available as a start-point for the project.

The Mentor/Mentee relationship

This project was proposed by the Economics department and additional support is available from that department; Change Makers would also be interested in proposals that focus on other departments

What expectations do students have of their Academic Mentor, and what shape would they like that relation to take? Why do some students rarely consult their Academic Mentors?

Accessing course readings

What are student expectations for accessing the content of course readings? What are their reading behaviours, and how effective is the online reading list system?

How can the Student-Staff Liaison Committee system be improved?

Student-Staff Liaison Committees (SSLCs) are one of the most important bodies in the School. Their purpose is to create a forum for students to discuss their experience, both in and outside of the classroom, with LSE staff. Two years ago a small working group was convened to review the effectiveness of SSLCs across LSE and in 2019/20 the group is looking for student Change Makers to help provide further insights and ideas for improvements. There is freedom for the researchers to look at any aspect of the SSLC system or student representation and voice more broadly. We are looking for innovative approaches, research and practical ideas for making things better. Advice and support will be provided by the chair of the working group as required.

Mapping experiential learning activities

Many experiential learning activities take place cross the School (e.g. placements, internships, Capstone projects, Links projects) both within departments, and through other professional services. This project would aim to map the activities (across the School or in a smaller subsection) and investigate sustainable ways to grow these opportunities.

Working with pre-existing data

Most Change Makers projects require the researchers to gather data yourself, or identify appropriate existing datasets. By contrast, each of these projects can provide researchers with the data with which they will be working.

Research and analysis of the Student-Staff Liaison Committees notes

This project would work with existing data from the Student-Staff Liaison Committees and analyse it from a recent student perspective.

Using econometric and data science techniques to evaluate degree classification rules

At the end of a university education, students’ performance is given a label such as a merit or a distinction (for MSc courses) or a first or lower second (for UG courses). This raises the question whether all students with the same label can be reliably thought of as being similar. One simple example makes clear that this may not always be the case. Consider this hypothetical one-year university programme with this hypothetical degree classification scheme under which you get a distinction if and only if at least three of the four courses are a distinction and you pass all courses. Now consider this hypothetical student who gets a score of 100 in two courses and a 69 in two other courses. According to the rules, this student does not get a distinction. Common sense tells us that this student is probably much more similar to the distinction students than to the merit students. By contrast, consider a student who gets a 70 for three courses and a 50 for his fourth course. This student will be awarded a distinction but may actually be closer to the merit students. Although common sense can be useful in some extreme cases which are not likely to happen in practice, econometric and data science tools can be used to detect whether a group of individuals with certain characteristics (here the course marks) are similar.

This project will consider techniques to analyse historical data (with anonymized course marks); it will aim to discover whether degree classification rules really do group students’ achievements in the most appropriate way. Students applying for this project will need to have (i) completed an advanced econometrics course such as EC220 or EC221 and (ii) some programming experience (e.g., Stata, R, or Matlab).

Transitions, progression and decision-making

Does LSE give its students what they need to move into the next stage of their life with confidence?

Building on Work it Out, a joint initiative between LSE Careers and LSE LIFE that started two years ago, and in line with taxonomies of “21st century skills” such as that developed by the World Economic Forum (2016), we are proposing to look into what LSE needs to provide its students in terms of personal and professional development opportunities so that they can move into the next stage of their life with confidence.

Ideally, this project will include students who have attended Work it Out, LIFEwise or any careers exploration workshops and use action research as the overarching methodology. It would also involve different stakeholders (e.g., members of Careers and LIFE teams, undergraduate and postgraduate students, recent alumni, academics and professional services staff), forming a community of practice (Wenger, 2009) and providing us with a vehicle with which to map out what an ideal personal and professional development programme at LSE would look like.

In addition to these outcomes, it is hoped that this project will contribute to a reflection on the role of universities and how they can best promote “a humanistic vision of education and development, based on respect for life and human dignity, equal rights, social justice, cultural diversity, international solidarity, and shared responsibility for a sustainable future” as proposed by UNESCO (2015).

What factors influence final year undergraduate students’ decision-making on whether to undertake postgraduate study?

This project could look at reasons why LSE is a choice, or not; what sources of information students draw on; when students begin thinking about postgraduate study; how LSE undergraduate students who progress to postgraduate study at LSE have transitioned.

Using data to support learners: what would LSE students prefer?

Many universities analyse data generated by their students, over the course of the academic year (a process known as Learning Analytics). This can enable Universities to offer support to students who may need it, and additional insights to students about their own progress. This Change Makers project would discover LSE students’ preferences, and their potential concerns, regarding any future use of Learning Analytics at the School.

Options for study abroad

Building on research already undertaken on student mobility and study abroad at LSE, this project could look at further options for study abroad, student interest in such a programme and a student perspective on the processes involved.

Incoming students experience of the undergraduate and postgraduate admissions processes and their expectations of LSE

This qualitative project would complement data the School already collects from offer-holder surveys and give a more rounded picture. 

The wider student experience

Campaigns to challenge stigma around mental health difficulties and empower early disclosure

This project would explore how best to have students engaged in campaigns to raise awareness of MH difficulties and challenge stigma. We would like to see a strong student-led focus through multiple strands, which could involve activities such as digital campaigning, in person engagement, student led activity (including campaigning/ discussion groups, tackling stigma via clubs/ societies) as well as working in partnership with other charity and voluntary organisations (e.g. London Nightline, Charley Waller Trust, Student Minds etc.). As a welcome new initiative, this year the School is working in partnership with MIND to deliver new student facing workshops. The Student Wellbeing Service will directly support the work of a new officer to help them develop and run sessions across various student areas including MH awareness, resilience and transition into the workplace, as well as staff-facing work including the recruitment of MH champions, as well helping the School achieve core employer standards (through Thriving at Work). An overview and recommendations of how best to challenge stigma and empower early disclosure will be most useful.

How to promote wellbeing via online resources/apps/virtual platforms

This project would investigate the best digital resources for advice, support and self-help, and link into good practice and positive strategies to enhance mental health and wellbeing. It could cover areas such as healthy lifestyle (including diet, exercise, sleep), positive psychology, emotional resilience and self-awareness, and compliment the range of actual activities taking place across the School (e.g. through LSE Life, Student Wellbeing Service, PhD Academy, Halls of residence, Departments, as well as the new MIND partnership referred to above). Contextually, we are looking to improve signposting to services/ other activities, as well as the branding and profile of the many positive wellbeing/ health events taking place across the School. The issue of online resources and apps/ virtual platforms is an area where would greatly value CMP input.

The pros and cons of laptop free classes.

Find out how students use laptops, and the advantages and problems of their ubiquity.

This project was proposed by the Law department and additional support is available from the department; Change Makers would also be interested in proposals that focus on other departments.

Behaviour in the library

How can the Library influence student behaviour, particularly around eating, drinking and noise levels? Recommendations from this project could include nudge behaviours and signage.

Belonging to the LSE community

Do students feel part of LSE, or part of a ‘sub-community’ within it (for example departmental communities)? Do sub-communities enhance (or detract) from the whole?

What makes students feel part of an academic community, at undergraduate, post-graduate taught and postgraduate research level?

This study could focus on specific departments, evaluate particular initiatives, or look more broadly at a sense of an academic community.

What makes a successful group project at LSE?

This project was proposed by the Management department and additional support is available from the department; Change Makers would also be interested in proposals that focus on other departments

Group projects are a very important way of assessing students, not least because they equip students for working in teams when employed. Several departments offer specific support for group projects, but students still struggle. This project can discover what students’ main anxieties are when it comes to group projects, so that we can better anticipate these and provide appropriate support structures in advance. It can also identify issues that arise during group work and what support/solutions would be appreciated.

What does a well-rounded LSE experience look like?

This project was proposed by the Management department and additional support is available from the department; Change Makers would also be interested in proposals that focus on other departments

How can the School support engagement with co-curricular activities, careers and wider learning? Students coming to LSE can feel pressure to ‘be the best’ at everything, and link any academic or extra-curricular activity to a career/further study path. Does this detract from their overall LSE experience, and their ability to fully engage in the learning community at LSE? What do student feel are the barriers to engagement, and is there anything that the School or departments can do to better support them with these endeavours?

Space, technology and learning – the relationship from LSE students’ perspectives

This qualitative project could focus on how any LSE space is used, including newly developed learning spaces in existing buildings, the new learning commons in the centre building, teaching spaces around the school, student departmental common rooms.

Space improvements in the Library

What do we do to improve the physical environment in the Library? We intend to reduce the number of shelves in the building to enable us to improve study spaces – what improvements would have the most impact on students?

What does a happy and healthy department look like? Improving student and staff wellbeing by strengthening the department of Social Policy community.

The project will review current practice in the Department as regards ‘community building’ and ‘student and staff wellbeing (mental and physical)’. It will consider what the relationship is between the two areas and propose initiatives to help the Department improve in both areas.

Understanding and enhancing “student voice” in the Statistics Department

LSE values and encourages student feedback on all aspects of their programme and experience at LSE, but it is not clear how best to collect student views and to communicate how their feedback has been acted on. This project would involve talking to undergraduate students in the Department of Statistics to explore questions such as: (i) how can feedback be given? (ii) what are the preferred ways to give feedback? (iii) does giving feedback make a difference? (iv) what is the best way to communicate actions taken to address concerns and suggestions?

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