2 Researching and Writing Dissertations The Research ProposalWEEK 4
3 Reading Recommended text: Researching and Writing Dissertations Horn, RCIPD: London2nd Edition, 2012ISBN:Chapter 4: The Research Proposal, page 45.
4 Lecture outline The purpose of the research proposal. The importance of the research proposal.The headline contents of a research proposal.Expressing your research as:aims,research questions, andhypotheses.Setting out the stages of your research.
5 Learning objectivesUnderstand the nature and importance of the research proposal.Understand the content of the research proposal.Understand the important issues connected to the research.
6 The proposalThe research proposal is the key ‘gateway’ document to your dissertation. It sets out the main details of how your research will be conducted.In many universities the dissertation cannot be progressed until a supervisor has been allocated and the research proposal agreed between student and supervisor.It is also a key document in formulating and crystallising your topic ideas into a ‘do-able’ dissertation.
7 The purpose of the research proposal Organising and developing your topic ideas.Testing the scope of the research.Identifying an appropriate supervisor.Convincing other people of the merit of your idea.Initiating the research process.Gaining support and early access rights.A foundation for developing your research.
8 The content of the research proposal 1 Title.2 Background to the research.3 The research problem.4 The objectives of the research.5 Literature.6 Methodology.7 Ethical issues.8 Access issues.9 Time-scale.10 Bibliography.
9 The research problem Aim statement An aim statement is a common way to express the research problem. It is – to give an example – normally of the form:‘The aim of this research is to investigate absence at SEDO Ltd.’
10 The research problem Aim statement Note that this is still a fairly loose statement of aim. This aim can be ‘tightened’ by further specifying the following:The place of research.The guiding theory for the research.The type of study – quantitative or qualitative.The method – for example, a comparative study, a case study, etc.
11 The research problem Aim statement The aim above could now become ‘A qualitative case investigation of absence at SEDO Ltd, using Steers and Rhodes (1978) notion of the ability to attend’.Using an aim statement to specify a research problem works well when the research is of a broad, exploratory or investigative nature.
12 Activity Aim Statement Work alone 10 minutes prep2 minutes feedbackAim StatementUsing your own research ideas express them as an aim statement. You may need to try this a few times to achieve the required detail and precision.Work aloneFeedback to the group – ‘The aim of my research is...’
13 The research problem Research questions Using research questions is a more specific way to state the research problem.The normal arrangement is to list a number of questions that the research will answer, such as:RQ(1) – What are the current attendance levels at SEDO Ltd?RQ(2) – What is the pattern of absence for individual employees (using the ‘Bradford factor’ to measure this absence)?
14 The research problem Research questions RQ(3) – What aspects of the work design is affecting absence at SEDO Ltd?RQ(4) – What are the employee issues around ability to attend?RQ(5) – What aspects are reported that lie outside the Steers and Rhodes (1978) absence model?Using this method expresses your research problem in a much ‘tighter’ manner from the start, and is suitable where you have a clear set of issues arising from the literature that addresses the research problem.
15 Activity Research Questions Work alone Using your own research ideas, express them as research questions. You may need to try this a few times to achieve the required detail and precision.15 minutes prep3 minutes feedbackWork aloneFeedback on one OHP sheet – ‘My research questions are...’
16 The research problem Hypotheses The research problem can also be specified using a set of testable hypotheses – a set of logical, reasonable, tentative explanations of the subject under investigation.It is normal to reject the ‘null hypothesis’ (H0) before testing alternative hypotheses.The null hypothesis states that the two variables under consideration occurred solely by chance.If the null hypothesis is rejected, alternative hypotheses may be developed.
17 The research problem Hypotheses Continuing with our example of absence management, the following hypotheses can be tested (Burton, Lee and Holtom, 2002):Hypothesis 1: Ability to attend will be positively related to the frequency of absenteeism that is attributed to family issues.Hypothesis 2: Ability to attend will be positively related to the frequency of absenteeism that is attributed to transportation problems.
18 The research problem Hypotheses Hypothesis 3a: Motivation to attend will be negatively related to the frequency of absenteeism that is attributed to illness.Hypothesis 3b: Ability to attend will be positively related to the frequency of absenteeism that is attributed to illness.Hypothesis 4: Motivation to attend will be negatively related to the frequency of absenteeism that results in a failure to notify the organisation.
19 The research problem Hypotheses Note: Hypothesis 3 is split into a) and b), which test the relationship to that factor, a) testing the negative relation and b) testing the positive relation.
20 The research problem Hypotheses Hypotheses are never proved or disproved. In a research study it is normal to either support or reject a hypothesis. For a hypothesis to be rejected would commonly lead to the substitution of a new hypothesis that is then either supported or rejected.
21 The research problem Hypotheses If a hypothesis is supported by the data in your study, it may later be supported by further studies. Eventually, a hypothesis that is well supported from multiple sources will be developed into a well-grounded theory. It could be that your research istesting, in a different context, hypotheses from earlier research studies.
22 Activity Hypotheses Work alone Using your own research ideas express them as an research hypotheses. You may need totry this a few times to achieve the required detail and precision.15 minutes prep3 minutes feedbackWork aloneFeedback on one OHP sheet – ‘My hypotheses are...’
23 The objectives of the research Once the aim of the research has been clearly stated, the next section in the proposal deals with the detail of how the aim is to be achieved. The objectives are normallyexpressed as a set of closely specified statements that would enable the aim to be achieved.
24 The objectives of the research The objectives are likely to be the ‘milestones’ of the research as it progresses, and for a typical dissertation may look like this:Objective 1 – Critically review the literature and development of one guiding theory.Objective 2 – Develop and pilot the methodology, consistent with the theoretical framework adopted in objective 1.
25 The objectives of the research Objective 3 – Clarify and define the population for the study, and select the sample.Objective 4 – Distribute the questionnaires and follow up with a telephone enquiry for maximum response.Objective 5 – Analyse the data and present the findings.Objective 6 – Make recommendations to improve management practice.
26 My Research Objectives ActivityMy Research ObjectivesUsing your own research ideas express them as research objectives.10 minutes prep2 minutes feedbackWork aloneFeedback on one OHP sheet – ‘My objectives are...’
27 LiteratureAt the proposal stage the literature review is likely to be a list of possible sources related to the research problem. Even at this stage it is important to be critical andevaluative. The sources must be closely related to the research you intend to carry out.
28 LiteratureMost literature reviews in a research proposal for business topics contain the following:1 A critical explanation of three or four main theories that could guide the research.2 An overview of two or three professional body websites related to the research topic.
29 Literature3 Ten to fifteen journal articles relating to the research. These may serve a number of different uses:– empirical articles related to the research problem,– articles that critique or extend the main theories,– explanation and critique of methods and their use, or– articles containing data analysis techniques likely to be used in the research.4 Secondary data sources related to your research study – for example, ESRC Labour Force Survey.
30 Ethical issuesAll research has ethical implications and in this section some thought should be given to the ethical issues of your research.In some areas of research – such as research involving children, medical research, or psychological research – there are formal procedures to be followed, and ethical approval is required from an ethics committee.
31 Ethical issuesIf you think your research will address one of these areas or will include any human- or animal-based research data that may cause harm, you must indicate this clearly in the research proposal.
32 Ethical issuesIf your research does not require formal approval, your proposal should address the following questions:How will the research be designed and undertaken to ensure integrity and quality?How will research participants be informed about the purpose, methods and intended possible uses of the research?
33 Ethical issues Continues … How will possible risks of participating in the research be considered?How will you ensure the confidentiality of the information supplied by participants, and how will you assess the need for anonymity?How will you ensure that participants engage with your research voluntarily and without coercion?
34 Preparation activity for next week Prepare for next week’s workshopCompleting on timePrepare one slide of PowerPoint presentation setting out:1. The stages of your research and how long they are likely to take to complete.Work alone
35 Conclusion The research proposal is the ‘gateway’ to your research. Develop a clear set of aims and objectives.If your research warrants it use research questions and/or hypotheses.Consider the ethical implications of your research.Ensure your proposal contains all the sections discussed today.
36 Next Week Completing on time. How long your dissertation will take to complete.How the project life cycle can help you to be successful.What work breakdown structures are, and how you can use them to manage the dissertation.How to develop and use Gantt charts.How to manage bibliographical data.What the main barriers are to completing on time.