2 to appreciate the nature and the importance of the research proposal Lecture 4LEARNING OBJECTIVESto appreciate the nature and the importance of the research proposalto know how to put together the contents of the research proposalto understand the important issues involved in the research
3 LECTURE OUTLINE recommended reading the purpose of the research proposalthe importance of the research proposala headline contents list of the research proposalexpressing your research asaimsresearch questionshypothesessetting out the stages of your research
4 Recommended reading:Chapter 4: The Research Proposal, in the associated book:Horn, R. (2009) Researching and Writing Dissertations. London: CIPD
5 THE RESEARCH 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 beenallocated 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.
6 PURPOSE The research proposal: Organising and developing your topic ideasTesting the scope of the researchIdentifying an appropriate supervisorConvincing other people of the merit of your ideaInitiating the research processObtaining support and early access rightsBeing a basis on which to develop your research
7 CONTENTS The research proposal: 1 Title 2 Background to the research 3 The research problem4 The objectives of the research5 Literature6 Methodology7 Ethical issues8 Access issues9 Time-scale.10 Bibliography
8 THE AIM STATEMENT The research problem: 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.’Note that this is still a fairly loose statement of aim. This aim can be ‘tightened’ by further specifying the following:the place of researchthe guiding theory for the researchthe type of study – quantitative or qualitativethe method – for example, a comparative study, a case study, etc.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.
9 AN AIM STATEMENT Work-alone activity: Time allowed: 10 minutes’ preparation2 minutes’ feedbackUsing your own research ideas, express them in the form of an aim statement.You may need to try this a few times to achieve the required detail and precision.Feedback to the group: ‘The aim of my research is . . .’
10 RESEARCH QUESTIONS The research problem: 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:RQ1 – What are the current attendance levels at SEDO Ltd?RQ2 – What is the pattern of absence for individual employees (using the ‘Bradford factor’ to measure this absence)?RQ3 – What aspects of the work design is affecting absence at SEDO Ltd?RQ4 – What are the employee issues around ability to attend?RQ5 – 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.
11 RESEARCH QUESTIONS Work-alone activity: Time allowed: 15 minutes’ preparation3 minutes’ feedbackUsing your own research ideas, express them in the form of research questions.You may need to try this a few times to achieve the required detail and precision.Feedback to the group: ‘My research questions are . . .’
12 1 HYPOTHESES The research problem: 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.
13 2 HYPOTHESES The research problem: Continuing with our example of absence management, the following hypotheses could 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.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.Note that Hypothesis 3 is split into a) and b), in which a) tests the negative relation and b) tests the positive relation to that factor.
14 3 HYPOTHESES The research problem: 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.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 may be developed into a well-grounded theory. It could be that your research is testing, in a different context, hypotheses from earlier research studies.
15 HYPOTHESES Work-alone activity: Time allowed: 15 minutes’ preparation3 minutes’ feedbackUsing your own research ideas, express them in the form of research hypotheses.You may need to try this a few times to achieve the required detail and precision.Feedback to the group: ‘My research hypotheses are . . .’
16 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 normally expressed as a set of closely specified statements that would enable the aim to be achieved.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.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.
17 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES Work-alone activity: Time allowed: 10 minutes’ preparation2 minutes’ feedbackUsing your own research ideas, express them in the form of research objectives.You may need to try this a few times to achieve the required detail and precision.Feedback to self/supervisor: ‘My research objectives are ’
18 THE LITERATURE REVIEWAt 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 and evaluative. The sources must be closely related to the research you intend to carry out.Most 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 research2 An overview of two or three professional-body websites related to the research topic3 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– articles containing data analysis techniques likely to be used in the research4 Secondary data sources related to your research study – for example, ESRC Labour Force Survey
19 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, psychological research – there are formal procedures to be followed, and ethical approval is required from an ethics committee.If 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.
20 PERTINENT ETHICAL QUESTIONS Ethical issues:PERTINENT ETHICAL QUESTIONSIf 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?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?
21 SCHEDULING MY DISSERTATION Work-alone activity:SCHEDULING MY DISSERTATIONPreparation for the next learning sessionPrepare one PowerPoint presentation slide setting out:the stages of your research, and how long they are likely to take to complete
22 REFLECTION on the learning points of this lecture 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.