PCH 593 - Special Project Seminar I
Professor Jung's Guidelines
for Writing the Special Project Proposal
Section 3 (Part 1 of Two Parts)

Guidelines for Sections 1 & 2 Part 2 of Guidelines for Section 3

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Purpose: This page contains some additional guidance to the writing of your Special Project Proposal. It is meant to supplement the Department's Special Project Guidelines document, the Department's syllabus for this course, and my supplemental syllabus. All these documents should provide you with what you should keep in mind when you write your drafts. However, I think there is a need for more specific directions. So, the purpose of this document is to provide you with that. E-mail me your thoughts about this.
Special Note: I wrote these guidelines specifically for the students I am currently advising for this Special Project Seminar. For everyone else, you are welcome to read these guidelines, and if they help you in understanding the requirements, well, that's great. However, you should check with your Special Project Advisor concerning what s/he expects from you.
WRITING SECTION 3 - Methodology & Procedures


The purpose of Section 3 is to describe exactly how you plan to carry out your Special Project, once the proposal has been approved. In this section, specify the reasons why you have decided to do what you say you are planning to do, and how you will be accomplishing the goals you've delineated in Section 1.

In essence, ANYONE should be able to complete your proposed Special Project just by following the directions given in Section 3, without questioning your rationale. In this section you can be a little more specific about what direction/form your "Communications Tool/Project" will be taking, based on the findings that you have reported in Section 2. You should, however, still give yourself some leeway in case the Agency's environment changes between now and when you actually start your project some time in late December or early January, after your proposal has been approved.

Operationalizing Marketing Concepts

As you begin to plan what you will be doing next semester, keep in mind that the overall conceptual approach to completing your Special Project comes from the discipline of Marketing. Rather than think of selling a product, think of using the principles of Marketing for developing a "customer base" for the Product.

Of course, you already know there is a need for the Product based on the Agency Preceptor's request for the Product (Letter of Intent). Also, this need is supported by your research on how your Product will be helping the Agency achieve a public health goal as defined by Healthy People 2010 (Section 1). This expressed need, however, may not necessarily be so obvious to your audience's primary population for whom the Product is being developed.

You won't really know that until you have collected data from the populations that are part of your audience. And, if you want these populations to accept your Product, you will have to get them to "buy in" to your Product. You do this by obtaining input from these populations for developing your product, and then gathering feedback from these populations during the pretesting/pilot testing of a prototype of your product.

Because you will be basically "tailoring" the product for the specific targeted populations in your audience, you can see why you really would not be able to generalize the usefulness of your Product to other populations. This is also the reason why it was important for you, in Section 2, to look at prior similar and related efforts, in practice and in research. This literature review should have given you a good understanding of what have been done, what works and doesn't work, and what you can and cannot do.

As you begin Section 3 you have to start thinking about the sustainability of your Product once you have submitted it to the Agency. If it was developed with input and feedback from the populations in your audience during the Product's development and pilot testing/evaluation phases then it will probably do very well. Therefore, it is important to understand who your audience is, and the populations it contains. You do this by segmentation. In Marketing, this concept is known as market segmentation, or, how to categorize your customer base. The categories can be based on any criteria, such as age, geography, consumer tastes, etc.

For purposes of the Special Project, you will be performing demographic segmentation for your audience research. You will categorize the populations in your audience on the basis of demographic characteristics. The Public Health discipline that uses the concept of population segmentation is Epidemiology, in which epidemiologists characterize the distribution of disease according to the variables of Person, Place and Time. This segmentation helps epidemiologists to concentrate their efforts on that portion of the population (subpopulation) that is the most affected. Health educators also do this when developing educational materials.

The second Marketing concept is marketing mix. This is basically the methods you would use to develop your "customer base." It involves thinking of how to reach those you want to be your customers. For the Special Project, how you develop and evaluate your product, and the shape that your Product finally takes will depend on the parameters that are defined by the Agency, Department/University, Expert, and Target Population(s). Hopefully these guidelines will make this clear to you. If not, let me know.
Note: For the rest of this section, I will be referring the Communications Tool/Product as the Product.


Start by writing a brief, coherent paragraph or two summarizing Sections 1 and 2, and what you will be writing about in Section 3.

Institutional Board Review

As with any research project performed under the auspices of Southern Connecticut State University, you are required to submit an application to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval. IRB reviews your application to determine that what you are planning to do will not adversely impact SCSU and the subjects you would like to recruit for your research. Therefore, you cannot collect any data until you have received approval. By the time you submit the application, you will need to include all the data collection instruments you plan to use (forms, scripts, etc.). In most cases, the kind of data you will be collecting is considered low risk. Nevertheless, any collection of data poses a risk of some kind, so you will need to qualify these risks in your application.

  • Describe the process of obtaining IRB approval for your proposed Special Project.
  • In your submission for IRB approval, you must include all letters of support/permission, data collection instruments, scripts, etc.
  • Submit on a floppy disk with one hard copy (or, 5 hardcopies).
  • Note in your description the dates submitted and approved by SCSU IRB.
  • Note that data collection will not begin until IRB approval has be received.
  • Include a copy of the IRB as an appendix.
  • Include the IRB approval letter as an appendix.

Segmentation & Audience Research

The purpose of this section is to describe all the populations that are part of your audience. I am making a distinction between audience and populations for the sake of simplicity (it took me hours to arrive to this conclusion). You can refer to all your target populations as audiences, but it will eventually get very confusing. You will understand this better with the following explanation and accompanying table.

Describing your Audience

Operationalizing the terms of "Audience" & "Population"

Your Special Project starts with an Agency Preceptor asking you to develop a communications tool/product for him/her to address a perceived need. However, while you are writing Sections 1 and 2, you learn that it's not so simple as that. You have to think about how the Product fits into the world of Public Health (Section 1), and then you find that there are many approaches to addressing the expressed need, along with other factors to consider, such as who would benefit from the Product (Section 2).

For purposes of clarity and simplicity, I am defining audience in the singular. Audience is being defined as the group of people your Product has brought together. Otherwise, these groups of people may have very little in common, and come from different populations or even subpopulations.

The audience includes all your target populations. Yes, in the plural. This is why you have to segment your audience. You may have two, but most likely three target populations within your audience. This depends on how your Agency Preceptor is situated in the agency, especially for products that are being developed for internal use. S/he could be part of upper management (2-population scenario), or middle management (3-population scenario).

Think of presenting your Product at a professional meeting. The audience for your presentation may include people from a variety of disciplines, work settings, and organizations. Clusters of these people may come from the same discipline, and/or work in the same place, and/or are part of the same organizations. Though they all came together to hear you speak (how wonderful), it will be a challenge to reach all these people with what you have to say. Each person, however, will take away something different from your presentation, based on his/her perspective.

When you look more closely at your Product's audience, you will find it is a heterogenous audience. This audience will consist of several populations, each of which will derive a different benefit from your Product. Therefore, you have to characterize these groups, or subpopulations as precisely as you can so you (and your readers) can understand what their specific needs are that your Product will address.

It may help you to think of your target populations as primary, secondary and tertiary populations. Or, direct and indirect populations. Your direct target population would be your primary population, and your indirect target populations would be your secondary and tertiary populations (this is how I conceptualize this.)

Let's say your Product is an educational product, such as a curriculum, training program, marketing materials, an educational brochure, multimedia, etc. Whatever population to ultimately benefit from the Product is your Primary Population. This Primary Population, which is part of your audience, can be defined as a subpopulation that is unique in some way from the larger population it came from. It can be a homogenous group that differs from other groups or subpopulations of the same larger population. Example - The undergraduate student population includes Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors.

Once you can define your audience in this precise way, you will be able to explain why you have to collect the data you have to collect from whom and for what. For every target population you have in your audience, you will have to collect data at some point during your Special Project, either during the development or evaluation phases, and possibly both.

Here is how you can think about your audience:

What the Agency Preceptor Wants Primary Population (Direct) Secondary Population (Indirect) Tertiary Population (Indirect)
A Product to improve internal communications among the staff Staff Management Agency Preceptor, Host Agency (that may or may not also be the sponsoring agency)
A Product to improve inter-agency communications within an organization The Agency Unit you are developing this for The other Unit your Agency Unit wants to improve communications with Agency Preceptor, Host Agency
A Product for the community the Agency serves The Community The Agency (Host Agency, Agency Preceptor) Sponsoring Agency (other than the host agency, providing the funds for the Product)
A Product for a Constituent for the Community the Constituent serves The Community the Constituent serves The Constituent The Agency (i.e, Management, along with Agency Preceptor)
A Product for an Entity (i.e., nurses, counselors, etc.) to educate a group (i.e., employee or community group) The Group (i.e., employee or comunity group) The Entity (i.e., nurses, counselors, etc.) The Agency (i.e., Workgroup, or, Management, along with Agency Preceptor)
A Product to be used jointly by two groups to achieve a common goal The larger population (i.e., client, community group) The smaller population (i.e., provider, agency group) The Agency (i.e., Management, along with Agency Preceptor)

I think I covered all the possible permutations/combinations a Special Project can take. If you have more than 3 target populations, then something's wrong. You will drive yourself crazy trying to please and understand more than 3 populations within your audience. Rethink the Product, and who you want to benefit from your Product.

In terms of collecting data, you may only need a letter from the Agency Preceptor "population" if s/he is in an upper management position. If your Agency Preceptor is in a middle management position, then you would need to collect either data from upper management, or, a letter of permission for access to the resources you need (depending on how elaborate the management structure is), in addition to a letter of support from your Agency Preceptor.

Describe this Primary Population, within the context of the agency, or community they are part of.

Example, "This Product is being developed for agency staff who provide direct services to the homebound. Agency staff consists of program managers, nurses, social workers, home health care aides and clericals. Those who provide direct services include: Nurses, social workers and home health care aides. This Product will be used by home health care aides to assess the safety of the clients' home environment (safety assessment tool). The educational level of home health care aides is high school, with additional vocational training. They are certified and require recertification to continue employment. The scope of their work involves provision of services that involve the activities of daily living that clients cannot perform, or, find hard to perform themselves. Such activities include cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc."

Describe your Secondary and Tertiary Populations in the same detail as shown above. Note that just because they are called secondary and tertiary populations, they are no less important than the primary population. These two populations will derive some measure of benefit from your product, though not necessarily as directly as the primary population. If they come from the same population, then you have to describe how they are alike and how they differ. If they come from different populations, then you have to describe their unique group characteristics that differentiate them from the larger populations they come from. AND, you have to describe how your secondary and tertiary populations are alike, even though they may come from different larger populations, that your product would be suitable for both.

If your Product will impact two populations in different ways, then you should describe the relationship between the two populations. It may be easier for you to think of them as direct (primary) and indirect (secondary & tertiary) populations. Referring to them in this way can help you (and the reader) develop a clear understanding of how you segmented your audience (works for me).

For example, if the above example about a safety assessment tool included an educational component, then there would be two populations in your audience - the home health aides and the homebound clients. Let's say the product includes remedies for identified hazards. The remedies could include the physical correction of the hazard by the aide, and/or have the aide give simple verbal instructions or tangible reminders (i.e., refrigerator magnet) to the homebound client on how to avoid the hazard in the future. Then those instructions and reminders must be developed so they are suitable for the homebound population, which is different than the home health aide population. In this case, your audience would consist of the home health aides, which is your primary (direct) population, and the homebound population, which is your secondary (indirect) population.

You are probably wondering why the homebound population is not the primary population. It could be, for example, if the primary purpose of the Product was to educate homebound clients on how to identify environmental hazards in their homes.

If you are having problems determining which of 2 populations you will be working with should be considered the primary population, or, the focus for your Product, then use the following rules of thumb I've developed:

  • The larger of the two populations and/or,
  • The less educated of the two populations and/or,
  • The broader or closest to the "general public" of the two populations.

If you shoot for the largest common denominator for your primary population, then you can't go wrong. This is probably the closest to a Public Health approach in health education I can think of. By the way, you can use this to stratify your secondary and tertiary populations as well.


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Published on the Net: November 5, 2000
Updated: December 20, 2015 R89

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