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BSM 577 Research MethodsResearch Proposal – Assessment GuidelinesThis document provides guidelines for the content, structure and presentation of the research proposal.The document is divided into three sections:1. The purpose and benefits of preparing the research proposal; 2. The content and structure of theresearch proposal; 3. Presentation and style. 4. Topic Content1. The purpose and benefits of preparing the research proposalThe research proposal is the starting point for the Masters dissertation and it discusses the essentialfeatures (e.g. aims and objectives, rationale, previous research, methodology, resources, time plan) of aresearch study that will be conducted in the future (this will be an actual project if you are planning toproceed to the MSc stage or a hypothetical one if you are not).There are three key purposes behind a research proposal:·to present the research problem / issue; ·to relate the proposed research to other “key” research in the field; ·to present a clear rationale and plan (e.g. research methodology, necessary resources) for the proposedresearch.A good research proposal will include descriptions of:·what will be done (i.e. the research problem or specific area for investigation/exploration, aims,objectives) ·why it will be done (rationale and justification critically discussing previous research) ·how it will be done (data collection and analysis methods) ·where it will be done (locations, organisations etc) ·to whom it will be done (research subjects, populations, samples) ·what the benefits of doing it are ·what resources are required (facilities, time, travel, costs) ·ethical issues related to the proposed research ·the time plan for completion of the different stages of the researchWell-prepared proposals can be seen as ‘road maps’, indicating clearly the location from which a journeybegins, the destination to be reached and the route to get there. As with a map, the proposal shouldalso identify any potential obstacles and ways to get round or through them (and contain contingencyplans for dealing with a disaster!). It has been said that the test of a good
2proposal is that it is so clear and detailed that another researcher who has not seen it before should beable to pick it up and do the research without too much questioning. Having a clear framework like thisalso allows for minor adjustments as the research proceeds, without running the risk of losing theoverall sense of direction and cohesion. The proposal becomes a working document which can bereviewed to monitor progress, can be refined as more knowledge is gained, can be adjusted to takeaccount of problems as they arise, and finally can form the basis for the final research report ordissertation. Content and structure Having considered the purpose and general nature of researchproposals, we will now take a closer look at the content and structure of the research proposal you arerequired to produce for this module. The components are listed in broadly the order they would appearin the proposal.2. The content and structure of the research proposalOn submission the Research Proposal should be 4000 words in length (+/-400 words) and should includethe following features: -1. The Provisional Title of your work – representing the research as it stands (although it might not bethe title of any completed dissertation in the future).2. Table of Contents – This should include numbered headings and page numbers. The headings andsubheadings should be numbered with a decimal numerical form (e.g. 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4 / 3.2.1, 3.2.2).The table of contents should also include figures and tables (where appropriate).3. Abstract – a short synopsis of the proposal (300-400 words). An abstract should be considered as abrief summary of the Research Proposal document. In business, it is known as an ‘executive summary’and it allows the reader to grasp the salient points of your research proposal quickly (e.g. brieflysummarise the purpose of the research, the rationale and the methods). The abstract should not includeany quotations or references.4. Introduction to the Research Problem – introducing the research problem within its context. This isusually a short section acting almost like an introduction to the whole proposal, outlining the generalsubject area, the background of the research and specific aspects of the topic to be investigated (e.g.what will be examined). In this section you should also explain briefly your rationale (argument) forconducting the proposed research: why it is important to research this topic? This could be supported byselective evidence of key literature. You will discuss your rationale and the literature in more detail inthe literature review section.
5. Aims and objectives – the aim will express the overall intention of the research while the objectiveswill express the various elements of investigation necessary to achieve this aim. The aims and objectivesfor the research are an outline of exactly what you intend to examine. This is3normally one or two general, overall aims, and with the objectives being the more detailed stepsrequired in order to answer your question or solve your problem. The vital point about this section isthat your objectives should be specific, measurable and achievable. Returning to the road map allegory,how will you know when you’ve got there if you don’t know where you’re going? It is standard to ensurethat your aims and objectives stand out clearly in your Research Proposal, and are easily identified andlocated.6. Literature review and rationale – explaining the rationale (reasons, argument) for undertaking theresearch by relating it to relevant theory, practice and research already existing in the field. This sectionshould be supported by a preliminary survey of the relevant literature which should critically discuss thekey research studies in this area that have helped shape the underlying ideas for the proposed researchand provide justification for the significance of the research problem.How important is the problem? What are the benefits of doing the study? Who will find it useful? Whatis already known by previous research? What gaps exist in our understanding of the research issue onthe basis of existing research? How will the proposed research address these gaps?You are presenting a justification for doing the research. Thus it is essential to critically evaluate previousresearch and relevant theory, rather than just describe it. For example, you may be arguing that there isa significant gap in knowledge, or that this is a new issue for practitioners where there is little known, orthat previous research is out of date. Furthermore, previous research may have been undertaken on alimited scale and you feel it would merit a wider focus; or the results from previous research maysuggest a new or better approach which would yield more applicable results; there may be previousresearch but you feel it would be useful to examine the issue in a different/new/more up-todatecontext.Your argument should be based on the relevant literature which you will incorporate in this sectionoutlining relevant research, theory and practice already existing in the field, reviewed critically,identifying key ideas and sources and relating these to the proposed research. It is also a good practice,especially when there is a lot of theory developed in your area of interest, to indicate what specificapproach/theory/framework you are proposing to use/test/apply as a basis for your research. Ingeneral, the literature review should relate to core recent (or historically significant) work (and youmight need to set yourself a limit on how far back you are able to go – depending on resources, ofcourse). It is not intended to be a detailed review of all relevant literature (save that for the