Research Proposal Done!

It’s here! Phew. A lot of work, and a lot of wasted time. This is probably my third? Research Proposal, and all three have been on different ideas! This is certainly my strongest though, and most well researched. Now, you can download the word document here:

Research Document CG 1304319

Where I have made it look very nice and navigable, but here is the full thing in all it’s glory (click the read more, its very long!)

1. Section I – Introduction & Review  
1.1 Abstract
1.2 Introduction
1.3 Contextual Review
2. Section II – Methodology & Production  
2.1 Methodology
2.2 Research Methods
    2.3 Production Schedule
3. Section III –Conclusions & References  
3.1 Outcomes/Conclusion
3.2 References & Bibliography
3.3 Further Reading


Section 1- Introduction & Review

1.1 – Abstract

Educational Podcasting is one of the largest sectors of the podcasting market, from Academic Lecturers to Commercial Amateur Podcasts. Studies and Research have concluded that educational podcasts do have a beneficial effect on learning, be it in collaboration with classes and courses, distance learning or just in interested parties not part of an academic curriculum listening for pleasure. More and more of podcast listening has become a mobile activity, with audiences consuming hours of various on-demand content in different ways. Knowing this, what specifics of a podcasts editing, writing, structure or length create the most effective and engaging show for audiences? Our study aims to create a short series of educational history podcasts to gauge listener’s preferences for these variables. Each episode will release in three different variations of length, content and editing. Using a combination of surveys, feedback forms and analytics we will build up a picture of what audiences prefer in educational podcasts. Our research will hopefully build a picture of what listeners come to expect when listening to podcasts, and provide valuable data and a guide for academic or commercial outlets hoping to create the most effectively structured podcast for their audience.

1.2 – Introduction

On January 13th 1998, Zen Miller, the Democrat governor of Georgia announced that his proposed budget would include $105,000 every year towards a program to provide every child born in the state of Georgia with a tape of CD of classical music (Sack, 1998). Miller’s flawed but no doubt well-meaning idea came from a particularly famous pop-science of the 90s; the “Mozart Effect”, a widely misunderstood and controversial experiment and claim that babies and infants could actively learn and become cleverer through listening to certain sounds. This is often coupled with a similar idea of “Sleep-Learning”, or “hypnopedia”, commonly portrayed in popular culture as subconscious learning or conditioning through playing recordings to someone while they sleep (Robson, 2014). Both have been broadly discredited by the scientific community at large (Ackerman, 2007). However, the more conventional idea of learning through audio has not gone away, and the growing popularity of podcasts has brought more attention to the idea of recreational or extra-curricular learning. Much like Miller, in 2004 Duke University passed out free iPods to its entire freshman class for use in replaying lectures and course material. Unlike Millers proposal however, Duke found that 75% of students used the device in at least one course (Lonn, Teasley 2009, p88).  Since 2008, the number of Americans over the age of 12 listening to podcasts on a monthly basis has been climbing year by year, from 9% in 2008 to 15% in 2014, approximately 39 million Americans (Edison, 2012). Today there are over 115,000 English language podcasts on the internet (Myndset, 2012), ranging from minimally edited amateur comedy and general opinion shows, to professionally produced academic educational series. According to the book Podcasting for Learning in Universities, “Podcasting is capturing the attention of teachers from many sectors of education” (Salmon, Edirisingha, 2008), from allowing more constructive learning environments for students by tasking them to create their own podcasts, to university produced podcasts and lectures for distance learning and study. From a commercial viewpoint, podcasts have started to dominate the listenership’s of talk radio and multi-part radio documentary series. The BBC’s top 10 podcasts total over 417 million total downloads, with 24 million UK downloads of BBC programmes in August alone, up 36% on the same time last year (Plunkett, 2014). US talk show flagships Radiolab and This American Life have become internationally renowned through their distribution online as podcasts. Udell (as cited in Gribbins, 2017) proposes five reasons for podcast growth: the pervasive nature of the Internet, the rapid growth of broadband, the creation of multimedia personal computers, the blurring of streaming and downloading media, and the rapid adoption of MP3 devices.


However a major mistake has been made lumping together Radio and Podcast listening audiences. The audience demographics, methods of consumption and typical makeup of those listening are very different- under half of US podcast audiences listen to live radio. Similarly, the approach taken my many lectures in terms of podcasting has not created engagement in students, with many finding podcast efforts to be uninspired and irrelevant to their study (O’Brannon, 2011). Since last year, Podcast audiences have shifted from a minority using portable audio devices to listen (34%), to a majority (51%) (Edison, 2012). 1 in 5 smartphone owners are now podcast consumers. Podcast audiences are younger (half of all listeners are aged 12-35), well-educated, more affluent and eager consumers of new media in the form of YouTube videos and online news outlets and content aggregators (Wires, 2014). This is an entirely new generation of audiences, who are consuming podcasts on demand everywhere they go- audiences are downloading and listening to educational podcasts, everything from history and philosophy to languages and food recipes while traveling, studying or taking part in other hobbies. Podcasts have become a background learning experience, with easily digestible shows that can passively teach you as you draw, type, run, drive or cook. How can podcasts best tailor themselves to this new audience? How can we ensure a new generation of audiences, brought up accustomed to limitless content on demand, stay interested? What creates the best learning experience for an educational podcast? What editing techniques, presentation, writing approaches and overall length work best for podcast audiences? With these queries in mind, we ask the question:


What writing, structure and editing techniques create the most effective, immersive and retentive listening experience for educational podcasts?


To answer this will require an in depth look at different podcasting techniques. Our aim is to create a series of educational podcasts that utilise different writing, structure, presentation and immersive editing approaches, determining which creates the most cohesive and effective educational structure for podcast audiences.

To do this, our objectives include:


  • Creating a series of educational podcasts with different levels of content makeup and structures, including:
    • Episode Length
    • Interview sections and monologue lengths
    • Use of SFX and music
    • “Live” Vs “In Studio” presenting


  • To survey audiences on their retention, interaction and interest in the different episode structures


  • To collate this data into a guide that can accurately show us in detail the effectiveness of these different techniques are and which audiences prefer





1.3 – Contextual Review

To better understand the writing and relevant documents that have influenced the creation of our research question, in this contextual review we shall look into the literature covering both “Genres” of educational podcasts, connections between theories and the gaps in knowledge in the field and practices and review criteria employed by similar studies in relation to data gathering, questionnaires and surveys.

For our study, we are defining two “genres” of educational podcasts- Academic and Commercial. Generally, this is the difference between teachers creating podcasts for their students or course, while commercial are generally made with popularity, mass appeal and professional quality in mind, for example uploaded radio documentaries. The vast majority of study has been on the effects of podcasts in the academic genre. Hew (2009) discovered that in an academic setting, podcasts are used in one of three ways: To Duplicate the classroom lecture, to share additional information with the student and preparing the learner for new information in future classes. One study concluded “that podcasts can replace lectures with no detrimental effects on achievement [on students]” (O’Bannon, 2011, p1885). However the basis of our research is not to conclude whether podcasts can help in education (whether inside or outside an academic setting), but rather what specifics of a podcast’s editing and structure create the most interesting and retentive experience for listeners. This is the current gap in the research of podcasting – while studies have concluded “that additional research to examine the effects of specific instructional uses of podcast technology is merited” (Abdous, Camarena and Facer, 2009), and gone in depth to confirm the effectiveness of podcasting for education, our study aims to take that conclusion and develop an effective means of constructing and creating educational podcasts across all genres- be it for university lecturers, amateur podcasting enthusiasts, or radio stations wanting to develop or reedit live broadcasts for online use.

In the studies Using podcasts to replace lecture: Effects on student achievement (O’Bannon, 2011), Creative use of podcasting in higher education and its effect on competitive agency (Lazzari, 2009) provides probably our most relatable and in-depth methodology in their approach to testing the effectiveness of podcasts in learning. O’Bannon’s use of surveying and data collection is most relevant to us; we shall be using a similar method to collect the effectiveness of the various in podcasting techniques in our study, turning it into a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data.

Finally, our study will be taking an in-depth look at the “commercial” podcasting sector, of which there is little academic writing or studies. While journals have looked into the basis of whether podcasts are a viable educational tool and come to relatively quantifiable conclusions, the makeup and structure of current educational podcasts varies wildly and makes study of it incredibly difficult. Popular podcasts that our study uses as references such as Dan Carlins Hardcore History, A History of Rome, History Hour and The British History Podcast vary in everything from content, structure, writing, music and length. In methodology, we shall cover how our study will try to incorporate each of these main variations into our research.



Section 2- Methodology & Production

2.1 – Methodology

For our project, let us first look once again at the aims and objectives –




To create a series of educational podcasts that utilise different writing, structure, presentation and immersive editing approaches, determining which creates the best cohesive and effective educational structure for podcast audiences.




  • Creating educational podcasts with different levels of content makeup and structures, including:
    • Episode Length
    • Interview sections and monologue lengths
    • Use of SFX and music
    • “Live” Vs “In Studio” presenting


  • To survey audiences on their retention, interaction and interest in the different episode structures


  • To collate this data into a guide that can accurately show us in detail the effectiveness of these different techniques are and which audiences prefer


We shall start with the first and most important aspect of the proposal, the podcast itself. As mentioned in the Literature Review, the differences between history podcasts form the basis of the content of our project. Our podcasts will be a series of three History podcasts, focusing on various topics and subject. Each of those podcasts, however, will be have at least three variations in relation to structure, editing and other aspects. For example-



Episode 1- The Glencoe Massacre


An episode that deals with the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe, an infamous moment of

Scottish history that has had repercussions in the history of Scottish Nationalism and

the perception of the Jacobite Uprising ever since (Sadler, 2010).


Version 1 –       This version will be reduced in length from the standard 15 to 7 minutes

and edited to a faster pace

Version 2 –       This version will focus on immersive sound effects and acted parts

Version 3-        This version will be feature more cuts and “scene changes”, as well as



In this regard, our approach to making the podcast is qualitative, in that we are using a relatively small base of 3 versions to 3 episodes. With three episodes each using three similar variation techniques, we can then use audience surveys and data to measure the effectiveness and reception of each version, creating a guide that accurately lays out the effectiveness of the aspects that should be considered when creating structured podcasts.


2.2 – Research Methods

As mentioned in the contextual review, our outcome of the project will hopefully produce a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data. The collection of data will work as such:

Each new episode of the Podcast will be uploaded to a website on a regular basis. All three version of the podcast will be available, but which episode plays to each listener is random. Each page will have a feedback form and survey included, and listeners will be offered to give feedback on the episode, with questions ranging from interest in subject, favourite topics covered, knowledge recalled and over appreciation of the episode. They will also be asked what device they used, what they did while listening and if they listened continuously on in parts. The comments and ratings from the survey will then be collect, and compared to each version and episode. Hosting the files allows us to also see total episode plays, downloads and most importantly retention rates (i.e. the length of time people listened before turning off the podcast.) on each episode and episode version.

By the end of episode 3, we should have a full picture of what listeners preferred, with both quantitative feedback from comments and listeners as well as qualitative data in the form of listener numbers, retention rates total episode plays.




2.3 – Production

  October November December January February March April May
Documentation: Blog Research Proposal

Exec. Summary

Research: Website


Episode 1- Glencoe Episode 2-

Age of Sail

Episode 3-




Blog Podcast 1 Podcast Episode 1 Podcast

Episode 2



Episode 3

Production Podcast Episode 1 Podcast Episode 2 Podcast Episode 3
Publishing Episode 1

1.1, 1.2, 1.3

Episode 2


Episode 3




Section 3- Conclusions & References


3.1 – Outcomes & Conclusion

Our study hopes to provide a valuable contribution to the development of podcasts as an educational medium. We expect an outcome that will provide us with quantifiable data on how to effectively structure a podcast for an audience to maximise audience retention, interest and emersion. We hope to make a clear connection through study and feedback of variations in podcast editing on what amount of sound effects, pace of presentation, use of interviews and length of episode affect the way in which podcast audiences learn and listen to episodes. This study can hopefully provide more evidence to the usefulness as podcasts as a teaching aid by finding what particulars are most interesting to audiences.



3.2(a) – References

SACK, K. (1998) Georgia’s Governor Seeks Musical Start for Babies NY Times [Online] Available from: [Accessed 29th October 2014]

ROBSON, D. (2014) Can you learn in Your Sleep? BBC [Online] Available from [Accessed 22 July 2014]

ACKERMAN, J. (2007) Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream Houghton Mifflin Books p.p. 171

LONN, S. TEASLEY, S (2009) Podcasting in higher education: what are the implications for teaching and learning? Internet and Higher Education: Elsevier, pp. 88-92

EDISON RESEARCH (2012) The Podcast Consumer 2012 [online] Available from: [Accessed October 12th 2014)

THE MYNDSET (2012) How many podcasts are there? What’s the future of the Podcast? [Online] Available from: [Accessed October 12th 2014]

SALMON, G. EDIRISINGHA, P. (2008) Podcasting for Learning in Universities, Society for the Reachsearch into Higher Education pp. 1-2

PLUNKETT, J. (2014) The Archers Tops BBC Podcast List The Guardian 15/10/14 pp. 34 Available from: [Accessed November 20th 2014]

GRIBBINS, M. (2007) The perceived usefulness of podcasting in higher education: a survey of students’ attitudes and intention to use. AIS Electronic Library, Paper 6 [Online] Available From: [Accessed October 24th 2014]

O’BANNON, B. (2011) Using Podcasts to Replace Lecture: Effects on Student Achievement. Computers &  Education: Elsevier Vol. 57 Issue 3 pp. 1885-1892

WIRES, N. (2014) The rising popularity of podcasts: Why listeners are rediscovering podcasts [Online] Available from: [Accessed 12th November 2014]

HEW, K.F. (2009) Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: a review of research topics and methodologies Education Technology Research and Development: Springer pp. 333-357

ABDOUS, M. CAMARENA, M, FACER, B.  (2009) MALL Technology: Use of Academic Podcasting in the Foreign Language Classroom ReCALL, 21, pp 76-95. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 27th October 2014]

LAZZARI, M (2009) Creative use of podcasting in higher education and its effect on competitive agency: Computers & Education: Elservier Vol. 52 Issue 1 pp. 27-34 [Online] Available From: [Accessed November 1st 2014]

SADLER, J. (2010) GLENCOE: The Infamous Massacre 1692. Amberley Publishing


3.2 (b) Bibliography


EXLEY, K. DENNICK, R (2004) Giving a Lecture: From Presenting to Teaching Psychology Press

HEILESEN, S.B. (2010) What is the academic efficacy of podcasting? Computers & Education: Elservier Vol. 55 issue 3 pp 1063-1068 [Online] Available from [Accessed 20th November 2014]

CURTHOYS, A. (2011) How to Write History that People Want to Read. Palgrave Macmillan

CAVE, H. (2014) Time to Switch Off? Focus Magazine, BBC November 2014 Issue 274 pp.45-49

DYMOND, D (2009) Researching and Writing History: A Guide for Local Historians Carnegie Publishing

CAMPBEL, G (2005) There’s Something in the Air: Podcasting and Education EDUCAUSE Review Magazine, Issue 40 pp 32-46

LEE, M.J.W (2007) Reducing the effects of isolation and promoting inclusivity for distance learners through podcasting Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education pp. 85-104 [Online] Available from:

BURNS, C. (2014) Hear Yourself Happy: How noises you make influence the way you feel New Scientist 22nd of November 2014 Issue 2996 pp.40-43

MARTIN, T. (2012) Marketing At the Speed of Sound Converse Digital [Online] Available from: [Accessed 12th November 2014]

DEAL, A. (2007) PODCASTING: Teaching With Technology White Paper [Online] Available from: [Accessed 27th October 2014]

HAMMERSLEY, B (2004) Audible Revolution The Guardian [Online] Available From: [Accessed 27th October 2014)


3.3 – Further Reading


BANDURA, A. SCHUNK, D.H. (1981) Cultivating competence, self-efficacy and intrinsic interest through proximal self-motivation Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Issue 41 pp. 586-598

Brown, E. (n.d.) Writing About History University of Toronto [Online] Available from:

BUCHAN, J. (2009) The Massacre of Glencoe House of Stratus

BBC (n.d.) Writing Radio Drama: Scriptwriting Tips [Online] Available From:

CHION, M. (1994) Audio Vision: Sound on Screen Colombia University Press

WHITTINGTON, W. Sound Design & Science Fiction University of Texas Press

SONNENSCHEIN, D.  Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Cinema Michael Wise Productions

VIERS, R. (2008) The Sound Effects Bible Michael Wiese Productions

MACLEOD, J. (2010)  When I Heard the Bell: The Loss of the Iolaire Birlinn Ltd





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