Orientation on Master Thesis topics

Research themes Dr. Joris van Hoof

  1. Compliance with age limits from an organizational perspective
  2. Attitudes and support for age validation systems
  3. Over-serving of alcohol
  4. Sales protocols in pharmacies and drug stores
  5. The relation between professional performance and wellbeing
  6. Analysis of visitor information

1 – Compliance with age limits from an organizational perspective
In order to decrease the consumption of risky products (such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling products, and detrimental media) among youngsters, many governments (also in the Netherlands) have implemented legal age limits which forbid the sales of these products to people under a certain age. Although vendors are supported, instructed, and trained extensively, compliance with these age limits is low. Mystery shopping studies in the fields of alcohol, tobacco, gambling products and media show compliance levels ranging from 0% up to the 62% maximum.

In this research theme we (thoroughly) explore vendors’ behaviour and daily routines in stores. The following research approaches are relevant and interesting:

  1. Interviews with vendors of the four types of age restricted products (alcohol, tobacco, gambling products, detrimental media) in order to get more familiar with the daily routines regarding the sales of age restricted products (what does a typical day look like, do they encounter many youngsters, etc.), and acquire insights in sellers’ accounts for (non-)compliance.
  2. Interviews with managers of stores focussing on internal communication processes, relating to this topic (what is being communicated to the own personnel, in what way, and is it effective?).
  3. Observations of sales personnel in shops (how do sale employees behave in particular (manipulated?) situations).
  4. Experimental studies (e.g., combined with a mystery shopping approach) aimed at improving compliance in stores (based on literature study: what variables are promising to improve compliance and can also be manipulated?).

Of course, the all final study designs are in cooperation with the students’ ideas.

Further reading suggestions:

  • Van Hoof, J. J., Gosselt, J. F. (2013). Underage Alcohol Sales—It Only Takes a Minute: A New Approach to Underage Alcohol Availability. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74, 423–427.
  • Gosselt, J. F., Van Hoof, J. J., & De Jong, M. D. T. (2012). Media Rating Systems: Do they work? Compliance with age restrictions on the shop floor in the Netherlands. Mass Communication and Society, 15, 335-359.
  • Gosselt, J. F., Van Hoof, J. J., & De Jong, M. D. T. (2012). Why should I comply? Sellers’ accounts for (non-)compliance with legal age limits for alcohol sales. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 7, 1-12.

2 – Attitudes and support for age validation systems
Recently, in the Netherlands, legislation for alcohol and tobacco sales has been changed. The legal age limits has been increased from 16 years of age to 18, and furthermore, for alcohol also youngster can be fined when they are caught drinking in bars or carrying alcohol in the public domain. Alongside with this change in legislation vendors (e.g., supermarkets, liquor stores, tobacco stores) have incorporated age validation systems to prevent illegal sales. The different systems range from minor to severe impact on both the customers and sales personnel. Low impact interventions already exist longer and involve cash registers which beep when an age restricted product is scanned or communication campaigns in stores. Two new major impact systems are currently implemented; (i) ID scanners and (ii) a remote age verification system. In stores with ID scanners customers need to give their ID and that card is scanned after witch the purchase is (dis)approved. In stores with remote age verification, the customer needs to stand in front of a camera and a validator in the control room (dis)approves the purchase (sometimes after asking to show ID – on a different camera).

In this project we would like to explore what the attitudes and support for these systems is among both vendors and customers. From a theoretical perspective the traditional models of TAM or UTAUT could be implemented in this situation, the societal impact is evident.

The project could start right away. One or two students can participate (we could –for instance- divide these question in one vendor focus and one customer focus), the students can help each other, but –of course- have their own project. We are looking for student(s) with a hands-on mentality, research experience, and who want to make the best of their Master-thesis.

3 – Over-serving of alcohol
In Dutch legislation it has been included that serving alcohol to people who are intoxicated is prohibited. Nevertheless, each year hundreds of young people are treated in hospitals with severe alcohol intoxication. About a third of them has been served alcohol in the catering industry (mainly bars).

Over-serving behaviour is difficult to measure and is currently mainly done by making use of actors who pretend being drunk. In this project we would like to develop a method which is more easy to use, and still reliable. One approach could be observing bar tenders in the catering industry, or ordering high quantities of drinks at once. Both methods have been used before, but not in the Netherlands.

In this project it could also be considered to interview or question bar tenders about their behaviour.

Further reading suggestions

  • Gosselt, J. F., Van Hoof, J. J., Goverde, M., & De Jong, M. D. T. (2013). One More Beer? Serving Alcohol to Pseudo Intoxicated Guests in Bars. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(7), 1213-1219.

4 – Sales protocols in pharmacies and drug stores
In pharmacies and drug stores the sales personnel work with sales protocols in order to prevent wrong medicine use. Before an over-the-counter medicine is sold, vendors ask a series of questions te make sure that the drug requested matches the problem and to prevent possible interactions with other medicines (also prescribed medicines) the patient might use.

Two previous projects show that vendors are very sloppy in their behaviour and just sell medicines without complying to their sales protocols. In real life these situations could have harmed patients seriously.

We would like to further investigate vendors behaviour in these contexts. The specific research questions and approaches will be discussed, also together with the student researcher.

The previous research reports are not published yet, but are available via the supervisor.

5 – The relation between professional performance and wellbeing
In this project we would like to explore the relation between professional performance and personal wellbeing, making use of innovating methods of data collection. For various reasons individuals in survey may prefer not to disclose correct answers to certain questions. We, the social scientists, have various tricks to increase valid answers, such as anonymousness, question formulation, design of the answering scales and so on. Another way of stimulating respondents to answer more in line with their actual behavior is making use of a randomized response method. These methods ensure anonymous data for each respondent, but statistical analyses can ensure valid data for the population participating. Within the corporate context this method is rarely used. In this project we would like to compare results making use of traditional methodology and RRT in two major aspects of life: (i) professional performance (e.g, stress, burnout, identification, performance and (i) personal habits –such as smoking, alcohol use, drug use.

Also, of course, input from the student who is going to do this project (and the specific organization involved) can be used. As a first step in this project a thorough exploration of the literature is requested, after which the topic will be determined. Since data needs to be collected in a corporate environment, some connections with suitable organizations is a benefit. We are looking for a creative student with an interest in methodological, quantitative, data collection.

Supervisors: dr. Joris van Hoof, dr. Mark van Vuuren

Further reading suggestions (more articles available via supervisors)

  • Meta-Analysis of Randomized Response Research. Thirty-Five Years of Validation GERTY J. L. M. LENSVELT-MULDERS, JOOP J. HOX, PETER G. M. van der HEIJDEN, CORA J. M. MAAS SOCIOLOGICAL METHODS & RESEARCH  Volume: 33   Issue: 3   Pages: 319-348
  • A New Method of Examining Relationships Between Individual Difference Measures and Sensitive Behavior Criteria: Evaluating the Unmatched Count Technique ALLISON M. AHART, PAUL R. SACKETT Organizational Research Methods 2004 7: 101-114
  • Randomized Response Estimates of Problem Use of Alcohol among Employed Females Beverly J. Volicer PhD*, Mary H. Cahill MSP, Evelyn Neuburger MLS, Gretchen Arntz MSW
  • Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Volume 7, Issue 3, pages 321–326, June 1983
  • Occupational stress and alcohol use: a study of two nationwide samples of operational police and ambulance, personnel in Norway. Sterud T, Hem E, Ekeberg O, Lau B. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2007 Nov;68(6):896-904.

6 – Analysis of visitor information
In 2007 the Western Gorilla ‘Bokito’ became frontpage news when he broke out of his enclosure and seriously injured a visitor of Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo. Luckily, such incidents are a rarity as zoo’s and similar organizations (e.g. amusement parks and  museums) have adapted their environments to ensure the safety and security of both the visitor and the property of the organization. For example, they install fences and make clearly visiblewalkways. Thanks to these adaptions the rules and regulations can be kept to a minimum facilitating maximal fun. However, most organizations are not dependent on visitors and adhere a different approach than adapting the environment. To keep the occasional visitor safe they use specialized visitors’ safety instructions manuals / brochures.

Part 1: Aim of this research is to map differences and similarities between visitor folders of organizations. Within this analysis there will be special emphasis on the communication of regulations aimed at the safety and security of the visitor. How do visitors get motivated to comply with the set regulations? Are the regulations communicated clearly? Do the folders tell visitors what to do in case of an emergency?

Part 2: After the analysis of different folders the aim is to set up an experiment aimed at investigating the effects of different communication approaches / strategies used in visitors’ safety instruction manuals.

In this project two students are able to participate, both with their own research questions. The final research questions, research design, areas of interest, et cetera will be determined in the first weeks of the project.

Supervisors: Pieter Cornelissen, MSc and dr. Joris van Hoof.