Research proposal

 

Research ProposalAssignment

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Theaimoftheproposal

You are required to complete a 3,000 word research proposal to demonstrate your ability to identify, analyse a research problem related to business and management,and to set out a plan for a research project to investigate that problem. The aim ofthis assessment is to enable you to develop and demonstrate your ability to: (a)diagnoseaprobleminbusinessandmanagement,(b)formulateresearchquestions,

  • determinehowtoanswerthesequestionsbydrawingontheacademicliterature,
  • identify and assess the potential of appropriate research methods and (e) plan asmall-scaleresearch project.

 

This report is among the most challenging assignments set during your M.Sc.programme. You should note that it is quite different from, and more challengingthan, writing a conventional coursework essay-style paper. You are being asked toanticipate the issues that you will have to overcome in planning, conducting andreporting a small research project. The best research proposals are usually thoseproduced by those students who have devoted considerable thought to theassignment before even beginning to write the proposal. It is not an assignment thatcanbeleft to thelastminute.

 

Your choice of problem for the project proposal report does not commit you to thattopic for your dissertation. You can just complete the report as a free-standingexercise in which you are assessed on your competences as indicated in your abilityto analyse a problem, grasp the arguments and the evidence contained in theliterature, devise a suitable research design and present it effectively. You are free toselect a different topic for your dissertation if you so wish, although there areobvious advantages in sticking to a topic to which you have already given thoughtand invested some work (although you must avoid cutting-and-pasting parts of theproposalintothedissertation).

 

TheResearchProposalrequirements

Thereportmustincludethefollowingmain elements:

 

  1. This can include a subtitle and should indicate what the research isessentiallyabout.

 

  1. The abstract sums up the research problem and questions and/orobjectives, research design and methods, and relation to the literature and/orpractice(about 150words).

 

  1. Introduction in the form of a statement of the problem to be addressed.This introductory material will include a clear statement of the problem, thesignificance and objective(s) of the research, the research questions to beresearchedand thesignificanceofthosequestions.

 

  1. A summary critical review of the relevant literature will indicate what youhave learnt from the academic literature about the problem and will criticallyidentify some of the strengths and weaknesses of that literature. You are notexpected to provide a comprehensive guide to the literature relevant to yourproblem, but you are expected to demonstrate an understanding of some ofthe key ideas, theories and evidence relating to your topic. You must refer totheacademicliterature(whichwewillhavediscussedinclass)andnotjusttothe professional literature. Note that the former usually involves seeking anin-depthandcriticalunderstanding ofproblems,whilethelatterisusually

restricted to matters of ‘how-to-do-it’. You should also avoid usingunattributablesourcespulled offtheinternet.

 

  1. An outline of the proposed research design and methods which discussesandcriticallyassessesthe strengthsandweaknessesofyourproposedresearch method(s). Try not to be too ambitious in your research plan. Theguide is that you should outline a project which could be feasibly doneroughlywithinthe constraintsof the M.Sc. dissertationprocess.So youneedto think in terms of quite specific research questions. You should have goodreason to believe that the necessary data is available and can be collected (butwe are not looking for evidence of that at this stage), that your choice ofmethod(s) is broadly feasible and why you consider that the method(s) are/islikely to produce reliable and valid results, and that you have considered anyethicalquestionsraised bytheresearch.

 

  1. The conclusion summarizes the problem, the purposes of thestudy, the research question/s, and the methodology. It should alsoacknowledge any limitations of the approach (e.g. generalizability from one oralimitednumberofcases).

 

To pass the assignment you must include all these key elements. However, youdo not have to devote an equal number of words to each of them. In particular, thestatementoftheproblemisverylikelytobe shorterthantheotherelements.

 

WhatyoushouldNOTdo(thesereflectthefailingsofpastresearchproposals)

 

  • Donotwriteanessay aboutageneraltopic.
  • Do not just describe the application of a particular management technique ormethod (e.g. TQM, a project management technique), you must analyse theunderlyingproblemandindicatehowyouwould criticallyevaluatethe

alternative‘solutions’.

  • Do not write a literature review that is solely or largely dependent on popmanagementbooksortheprofessionalratherthantheacademicliterature.
  • Donotwritealiteraturereviewinthe formofan annotatedbibliography.
  • Do not try to impress the marker with a lot of references. Anyone can compilea bibliography. It is better to demonstrate your critical abilities in reviewingfewerreferences.
  • Insteadcriticallyevaluatethosemethodsor themethodyouarelikelytouseinyourresearch.
  • Do not include lots of incidental, trivial detail about how you would actuallycarryout theresearch.

 

Whatmakesforagoodtopicforthereport?

(Furtherguidancewillbegivenin thelecture andseminarclasses)

 

  1. Are you interested in the topic?You are going to spend a lot of timeresearching the topic, and if you are not interested it will become a struggle tomotivateyourself.

 

  1. Is the topic relevant and timely?A good way of finding a topic is to find outwhat issues are of current concern in the academic and professional literatureand look at recent issues particularly in the professional press (ManagementToday,PeopleManagement,HarvardBusinessReview).Anotherwayistoconsultyour formeror present employers.

 

  1. Is the topic specific enough? Most students start with too broad a topic.Usually the more successful project proposals (and dissertations) have veryspecific, clearly defined problems and research questions. A dissertation thatgoes deeply into a narrow topic is usually much better than one that touchesthesurfaceofabroad topic.

 

  1. Can the topic be completed in the time available?Most students beginwith an overly ambitious topic. More focussed topics make the researchproposal, and then the dissertation, more manageable. Remember that youhaveonlyashortperiodoftime inwhichtoplan and researchthetopic.

 

  1. Have you the skills to use the necessary research methods? You shouldavoidcommittingyourselftousearesearchmethodwhichinvolvesskills

 

whichyoudonothave,forinstanceavoidhighlyquantitativemethodsifyouareuncertainofyour numeracyskills.

 

  1. Are there any ethical issues involved, such as problems of confidentiality?You need to mention any difficulties of this type which might make it difficulttocollectyour data orrequiresomeformof permission.

 

Somehintsonwhatmakesforagoodresearchproposal

There are many ways to write a project proposal report and we have no particularmodel answer in mind. The following are some general points of guidance but alsoseethe markingdescriptorsinthelastsection.

 

  • Youmusthaveaproblemwhichyoucananalyse,defineandforwhichyoucandevisefeasibleresearchquestions.
  • When reviewing the literature, you should communicate an awareness of thequality of the evidence on which an author draws and of the methodologicalissuesposed bythewayinwhichthat evidencehasbeengathered.
  • You should give a sense of how the literature has developed and identify somedifferent themes or schools of thought in the literature (but do not try to give anexhaustive review but contrasting at least two different approaches will help youtodemonstrateyourcriticalthinkingskills.
  • Most importantly, you should be critical and evaluative.Do not just describethe literature you survey but explain why the authors have arrived at theconclusions they have. State whether you consider the authors have achievedtheir aims. Explain any weaknesses you feel there are in specific articles or books.It is better to evaluate critically fewer references rather than cite many referenceswithlittle criticalappraisal.
  • You should give some indication of the wider significance of your proposedresearch – what are the wider implications of what you have found both for theacademic literature (whose approaches/viewpoints/hypotheses do your findingssupport?) and for practice (e.g. should people in organizations do thingsdifferentlyasaresult?).
  • Observe the usual requirements for good presentation – be grammatical, usepunctuation marks correctly, try to avoid jargon etc. You should use headings andsub-headingsto organiseyour materialand guidethereaderthroughthetext.

 

FormalRequirements

The report should be no more than 3000 words in length (excluding thebibliography),witha10%upperlimitandshouldbeorganisedas indicatedabove.

 

The report should be double-spaced, well presented and structured. Appendices,whicharenotassessed,shouldonlybeusedwhenjudgedtobestrictlynecessarytothe understanding of the project. You should use the Harvard system of referencesandallreferencesshouldbeincluded inaproperly presented bibliography.

 

Markingdescriptors

Please note that the first three headings have a weighting of 22.5% and the lastheading,Presentation,hasaweightingof10%.

 

80-100

Researchproblem(formulatingresearchproblemsandquestions,justifyingresearchproblemsandquestions,analysisofproblemsnotjustdescription)

Exemplary identification and definition of a very relevant research problem, pressingsignificance of problem argued with considerable rigour, highly insightful analysis ofthe problem, outstanding problem expression tightly articulated with preciseresearchquestionswhich areveryclearlyoperationalizable.

 

Literaturereview(analysis,synthesis,criticalthinking,assessingevidentialclaims)Very focussed literature review closely related to the research questions/objectives,key perspectives and concepts in the literature identified and expressed with greatclarity, very acute awareness of the quality of evidence underlying the researchreviewed,thereviewargumentstronglylinkedinto theresearch design.

 

Researchdesign(synthesis,applyinganalyticalframeworks,methodologicalunderstandingandselectionofappropriatemethod(s),planningactivities)

Research design explained with great clarity and concision, very convincing rationalefor the proposed research method(s) and how the method(s) relate to the researchquestions/objectives, outstanding description of the suggested method(s) and criticalreflectionon theresearch limitationsoftheproposal.

 

Presentation(writingexpression,formatting,structuringpaper,useofheadings,understandingofacademicreferencingconventions)

Exceptionally well-organised presentation, headings and sub-headings preciselyreflect the argument and used highly effectively to guide the reader through the text,strongwritingstyle, references well-organisedand matchedwithtext.

 

70-79

Researchproblem(formulatingresearchproblemsandquestions,justifyingresearchproblemsandquestions,analysisofproblemsnotjustdescription)

Very good identification and definition of a relevant research problem, significance ofproblem rigorously argued, insightful analysis of the problem, very good problemexpression articulated with precise research questions or objectives which are clearlyoperationalizable.

 

Literaturereview(analysis,synthesis,criticalthinking,assessingevidentialclaims)Focussed literature review closely articulated with the problem and researchquestions, key perspectives and concepts in the literature identified and clearlyexpressed, strong awareness of the quality of evidence underlying the researchreviewed,thereviewargumenteffectivelyarticulatedwith theresearchdesign

 

Researchdesign(synthesis,applyinganalyticalframeworks,methodologicalunderstandingandselectionofappropriatemethod(s),planningactivities)Research design expressed with considerable clarity and concision, very convincingrationale for the proposed research method(s) and how they relate to the researchquestions/objectives, very good analytical description of the proposed method(s)andcriticalreflectionon theresearch limitations.

 

Presentation(writingexpression,formatting,structuringpaper,useofheadings,understandingofacademicreferencingconventions)

Very well-organised presentation, headings and sub-headings reflect the argumentwell and used very effectively to guide the reader through the text, good writingstyle,referenceswell-organised andmatchedwithtext.

 

60-69

Researchproblem(formulatingresearchproblemsandquestions,justifyingresearchproblemsandquestions,analysisofproblemsnotjustdescription)

Good identification and definition of a relevant research problem, the significance ofproblem quite well argued, good analytical insights into the problem, good problemexpression which articulates with research questions or objectives which areoperationalizable.

 

Literaturereview(analysis,synthesis,criticalthinking,assessingevidentialclaims)Focussed literature review articulated to the problem and research questions, somekeyperspectivesandconceptsintheliteratureidentifiedand fairlyclearlyexpressed,some awareness of the quality of evidence underlying the research reviewed, thereviewargument linked to theresearch design

 

Researchdesign(synthesis,applyinganalyticalframeworks,methodologicalunderstandingandselectionofappropriatemethod(s),planningactivities)

Research design expressed with reasonable clarity and concision, provides a rationalefor the proposed research method(s) relating them to the researchquestions/objectives, analytical description of the proposed method(s) and somementionoftheresearchlimitations.

 

Presentation(writingexpression,formatting,structuringpaper,useofheadings,understandingofacademicreferencingconventions)

 

Well-organised presentation, headings and sub-headings used quite well, reflect theargument and help the reader, good writing style, references well-organised andmatchedwithtext.

 

50-59

Researchproblem(formulatingresearchproblemsandquestions,justifyingresearchproblemsandquestions,analysisofproblemsnotjustdescription)

Provides a research problem but could be more clearly identified and defined, itssignificance is not argued strongly, descriptive account of problem (tending to treatit as a topic rather than a problem), problem weakly articulated with the researchquestionsor objectiveswhichareweaklyoperationalizable.

 

Literaturereview(analysis,synthesis,criticalthinking,assessingevidentialclaims)Literature review has some relationship to the problem and research questions butcould be clearer, descriptive rather than critical review of the literature, the reviewexpressed satisfactorily, quite limited awareness of the quality of evidence underlyingthe research reviewed, the review argument could be more effectively linked into theresearchdesign

 

Researchdesign(synthesis,applyinganalyticalframeworks,methodologicalunderstandingandselectionofappropriatemethod(s),planningactivities)Research design expressed with limited clarity and concision, the rationale for theproposedresearchmethod(s)isquite weak,relatingthemto theresearch

questions/objectives, description of the suggested method(s) and no mention of theresearchlimitations.

 

Presentation(writingexpression,formatting,structuringpaper,useofheadings,understandingofacademicreferencingconventions)

Satisfactory level of organisation in the presentation, headings and sub-headingscould be used more effectively, the argument is not strongly reflected and not easilyclear to the reader, writing style satisfactory, the organisation and matching ofreferencesandtextsweak.

 

49-40(fail)

Research problem (formulating research problems and questions, justifying researchproblemsandquestions,analysisofproblemsnotjustdescription)

Lacks any analysis of a research problem, resembling an essay written on a topic butnot centred around a problem, significance very poorly argued, descriptive account,researchquestionsor objectivesareabsentortoogeneral tobeoperationalised.

 

Literaturereview(analysis,synthesis,criticalthinking,assessingevidentialclaims)Literature review resembling a list not a critical argument, not synthesised with the‘problem’section,very descriptiveandlimitedreviewoftheliteratureandexpressed

 

poorly, shows no awareness of questions about the quality of evidence underlyingany research studies reviewed, no argument in the review and not linked into theresearchdesign.

 

Researchdesign(synthesis,applyinganalyticalframeworks,methodologicalunderstandingandselectionofappropriatemethod(s),planningactivities)Research design unclear or just stated in very general terms, no rationale for theproposed research method(s), little or no relationship to the researchquestions/objectives, mention of method(s) and no mention of the researchlimitations.

 

Presentation(writingexpression,formatting,structuringpaper,useofheadings,understandingofacademicreferencingconventions)

Poorly organised, headings and sub-headings not used or used confusingly, theargument is fragmented and unclear to the reader, writing style has some seriousweaknesses,theorganisationandmatchingofreferencesandtextsisveryweak.

 

40andbelow(poorfail)

Researchproblem(formulatingresearchproblemsandquestions,justifyingresearchproblemsandquestions,analysisofproblemsnotjustdescription)

Lacks a research problem, fails to even identify a clear topic, significance assumedandnotargued, verydescriptiveandno researchquestionsorobjectives.

 

Literaturereview(analysis,synthesis,criticalthinking,assessingevidentialclaims)Literature review absent or limited to a very few items, most of which are not fromthe recognised academic literature, only slight relationship with the ‘problem’section, what little literature is very poorly expressed, fails to deal with questions ofevidenceand not relatedto the research design.

 

Researchdesign(synthesis,applyinganalyticalframeworks,methodologicalunderstandingandselectionofappropriatemethod(s),planningactivities)

Research design absent or described in general terms, no rationale for the proposedresearch method(s), no relationship to the research questions/objectives, mention ofmethod(s) and no mention of the research limitations.Fails to understand basicprinciplesofresearchdesign.

 

Presentation(writingexpression,formatting,structuringpaper,useofheadings,understandingofacademicreferencingconventions)

Poorly organised, headings and sub-headings not used or used confusingly, theargument is fragmented and unclear to the reader, writing style has seriousweaknesses,theorganisationandmatchingofreferencesandtextsconfused.

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