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How to Write a Research Proposal: A Step-by-Step Guide

Introduction and Background

The content of the research proposal

This may be your first attempt at the title. It may change as your work progresses. At this stage it should closely mirror the content of your proposal.

What  is  the topic  of your  research,  why the topic  is relevant  and  what  the general aim of your research  is? This is an important  part of the proposal.  It should  tell the reader  why you feel the research that you are planning is worth the effort. This may be expressed in the form of a problem that needs solving or something  that you find exciting  and  has  aroused  your  curiosity.  This  may  be  because  other  researchers have highlighted that there is a research gap in this area of investigation. The reader will be looking  for evidence  here  that  there  is sufficient  interest  from you to ° ustain you over the long months (or years) ahead.

This section is where you will demonstrate your knowledge of the relevant liters ture. A diagram  outlining  the relevant  body  of knowledge  (see  below). You must idl !ntif and critically   evaluate the fundamental theories underpinning the inteded investigation. Moreover,  it will clarify  where  your proposal  fits into the debate i i the literature. You will be expected  to show a clear link between the previous  work that has been done in your field of research interest and the content of your proposal. In short, the literature should be your point of departure.You have to have proper conclusion on literature review.

Literature Review

The  background  section  should  lead  smoothly  into  a  statement  of  your  research question(s) and objectives. These should leave the reader in no doubt as to precisely what it is that your research seeks to achieve. Ideally there should be just one aim of your  research. You should  state  3-5  maximum  research  objectives,  relating  to academic theories, your proposed investigation, your analysis and your conclusions.

Be careful  here  to ensure  that  your objectives  are precisely  written  and will lead to observable  outcomes,  see  the  table  2.3,  e.g.,  ‘to  describe   the  extent  to which  the  effectiveness   criteria  specified   for  the  team  briefing scheme  have  been  met’). Do not fall into  the trap  of stating  general  research aims  that  are  little  more  than  statements of  intent (e.g.  ‘to  discover  the  level  of effectiveness of the team briefing scheme’).

This and the background  sections will be the longest sections  of the proposal. It will detail precisely how you intend to go about achieving  your research objectives. It will also  justify  your  choice  of  method  in the  light  of those  objectives.  These  two  aims may be met by dividing your method section into three parts: research philosophies, research design and data collection and analysis.In  the  part  on  research  philosophies  you  will  explain  which  research  philosophy (positivism,  interpretivism or realism)  you will use.  You will also need to justify your choice mainly by linking it to the nature of your research (e.g. descriptive, exploratory or explanatory).

Literature Review

In  the  part  on  research  design  you  will  explain  where  you  intend  to  carry  out  the research.  If  your  earlier  coverage  has  pointed  out  that  your  research  is  a  single- organisation issue, perhaps a part of a piece of organisational consultancy,  then this will be self-evident.

However, if your research topic is more generic you will wish to explain, for example, which  sector(s)  of  the  economy  you  have  chosen  to  research  and  why  you  chose these sectors. You will also need to explain  the identity of your research population (e.g. managers or trade union officials) and why you chose this population.

This  section  should  also  include  an  explanation  of  the  general  way  in  which  you intend to carry  out the research.  Will it be based,  for  example,  on a questionnaire, interviews, examination  of  secondary  data  or  use  a  combination  of  data  collection techniques? Here again  it  is  essential   to  explain   why  you  have  chosen  your approach.

Your  explanation   should  be  based  on  the  most  effective  way  of  meeting  your research objectives.

The  research  design  section  gives  an  overall  view  of  the  method  chosen  and  the reason for that choice. The data collection section goes into much more detail about how specifically  the data are to be collected. For example,  if you are using a survey strategy you should specify your population and sample size. You should also clarify how the survey  instrument  such  as a questionnaire  will  be distributed  and how the data will be analysed.

If  you  are  using   interviews,   you  should   explain   how   many  interviews   will  be conducted,  their  intended  duration,  whether  they  will  be  audio-recorded, and  how they will be analysed. In short, you should demonstrate to your reader that you have thought carefully about all the issues regarding your method and their relationship to your  research  objectives. However,  it is  normally  not  necessary  in  the  proposal  to include precise  detail of the method  you  will employ,  for example  the content  of an observation schedule or questionnaire questions.

Write out a section that discusses, explores and defines all of the ethical, legal, Adapted  from Saunders ethical. Social and professional issues associated with your project, including how you will consider security issues. If you think an area of this section is not applicable to your project,  you  should  justify  why  this  is the  case. If your  study  involves  people,  briefly describe  what  you  will  consider  in  order  to  ensure  that  your researchb and Procedures. If your study involves secondary data only, you should advise us of any ethical issues or the absence  of any ethical issues. You  will also need to include a statement  about  how  you are going to adhere  to any ethical guidelines  e.g. confidentiality of participants'  data.   Also add that you will use university guidelines to obtain ethics approval before any data is collected.

This  will  help  you  and  your  reader  to  decide  on  the  viability  of  your  research proposal. It be helpful if you divide your research plan into stages. This will give you a clear idea as to what is possible in the given timescale. Experience has shown that however  well  the  researcher's  time is organised  the  whole  process  seems to take longer than anticipated As part of this section of their proposal, many researchers find it useful to produce a schedule  for their research using a Gantt chart.

Developed  by Henry Gantt in 1917, this provides a simple  visual  representation  of  the  tasks  or  activities  that  make  up your research project, each being plotted against  a time line. The time we estimate each  task  will  take  is represented by the  length  of  an  associated  horizontal  bar, whilst the task's start and finish times are represented by its position on the time line. Figure 2.2 (below)  shows a Gantt chart for a student's research  project. As we can see from the first bar on this chart, the student has decided to schedule in two weeks of holiday.  The  first  of these occurs  over  the  Christmas  and  New  Year period,  and the second occurs while her tutor is reading a draft copy of the completed project in April.  We  can  also  see from  the  second  and  fourth  bar  that, like  many  of  our students, she intends  to begin to draft her literature review while she is still reading new articles and books. However, she has also recognised that some activities must be undertaken sequentially. For example, bars 9 and 10 highlight that before she can administer her questionnaire (bar 10) she must complete all the revisions highlighted as necessary by the pilot testing (bar 9). You will also need to create Risk management log using template provided.

gantt chart for a research project

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