an “action plan” for your proposed piece of research

A research proposal is an “action plan” for your proposed piece of research. It is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research. It sets out the central issues or questions that you intend to address in a study, and demonstrates the originality of your proposed research. It outlines the research topic you are interested in, referring to the current state of knowledge and any recent debates on the topic, and describes how you intend to carry out your research. This proposal is most likely to be a preparatory document for your dissertation module.

Your proposal should contain the following sections (approximate suggested length in brackets):

  1. Title
  2. Abstract (~ 200 words)
  3. Introduction/Background statement (approx. 5 – 10% length)
  4. Aims and objectives OR research question(s) (approx. 5% length)
  5. Literature Review (approx. 30% length)
  6. Research Methodology (approx. 20-30% length)
  7. Business and/or managerial implications of your research (approx. 5% length)
  8. Limitations of the proposed study (approx. 5% length)
  9. Ethical issues and considerations (approx. 5% length)
  10. Conclusions (approx. 5-10% length)
  11. Research timetable/schedule (approx. 5% length)
  12. References

Your proposal should be at least 2000 words in length and no more than 2600 words. The title, abstract, reference list and research timetable/schedule are not included in the word count but in-text citations are. No appendices should be included.

  1. Title

Is your title focused, e.g. in terms of a specific area, literature, timespan?

Does your title point your study at specific bodies of academic literature that already exist – e.g. consumer behaviour, strategy, digital consumerism, tourism development, financial derivatives etc?

  1. Abstract (approx. 200 words)

Remember – an abstract is not an introduction.

Does your abstract provide a self-contained overview of your entire proposed work? (Look at examples in journal articles)

  1. Introduction/Background statement (approx. 5 – 10% length)

The introduction sets the context for your proposed research study and should aim to capture the reader’s interest. It introduces the topic and presents an overview of why the topic is interesting, relevant and worth exploring.

Does your introduction open ‘a window’ on your work? Does it ‘set the scene’?

Does it start with a broad statement…. and lead to the focal problem/ research question?

Think about the role of an introduction… does it entice, stimulate interest, inform?

What literatures you are planning to use?

Are there terms or concepts that need defining? This is where you might include them.

  1. Aims and objectives OR research question(s) (approx. 5% length)

You may state research aims and objectives, or research questions.

What is your overarching research question?

Do your aims connect to your objectives?

Remember – one or two aims only – ideally one for clarity.

Remember – employ a couple of objectives – ideally up to three; you do not want too many avenues to pursue.

Do your aims and objectives ‘unpack’ and explain your title?

  1. Literature Review (approx. 30% length)

The literature review develops broad ideas of what is already known in a field, and what questions are still unanswered. It will highlight any theories that may exist to support developing hypotheses and can help narrow the problem for investigation. This process also helps you to be sure that your investigation is not just “reinventing the wheel.” A discussion of the present understanding and/or state of knowledge concerning the problem or issue sets the context for your investigation. At Masters level, the literature review should be analytical and summative, covering topics, methodological issues and research techniques.

Are you clear what you understand by ‘a literature’?

In relation to which specific ‘literatures’ or subject/topic areas is your work positioned?

Does your work use one or a number of literatures?

Does your work fall between literatures? … (And therefore must draw on a number of literatures in order to make sense of your chosen area?)

Is there apparently no literature on your chosen topic? …perhaps rephrase/rethink your topic?

Does what you have written respond to your Title, RQs and aims and objectives? Is there something you have under-worked or overlooked?

  1. Research Methodology (approx. 20-30% length)

The Research Methodology section should contain the following sub-headings:

  • Research approach
  • Research design and strategy
  • Approach to data collection and analysis of findings

A research proposal’s methodology outlines the strategy for conducting an investigation in order to answer a research question. In this section you will briefly review different approaches, designs, procedures, and methods for investigating your area of research. You will describe your research design and the specific tools that will be used to help you to meet your research goals. Regardless of research design and choice of research methods chosen, it should be realistic and feasible, and be formulated with time and resource constraints in mind.

What is your overall methodology?

Are you using an inductive or deductive approach? Have you discussed the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen method and how you will work with them?

What will be the role of quantitative and/or qualitative data in your work?

What methods have you chosen within your methodology?

Why have you chosen it? Why is it appropriate for your study?

How will you go about collecting your data? Who? How many? How and Why? When and Where?

How will you go about analysing your findings? Are there any specific techniques or software that you might use?

  1. Business and/or managerial implications of your research (approx. 5% length)

What are the business and/or managerial implications of your proposed research? Why would businesses/ managers/ society find your research interesting/ worthwhile?

  1. Limitations of the proposed study (approx. 5% length)

Are there any limits with regards to your proposed instruments, sample, time and resource constraints?

Are there any issues with regards to access that you need to consider/ acknowledge?

  1. Ethical issues and considerations (approx. 5% length)

What are the ethical issues that arise with your proposal in relation to you, your respondents and others? What measures will you take to deal with them? Have you identified an appropriate code of ethics that you will adhere to?

  1. Conclusions (approx. 5-10% length)

Your conclusion should not include the introduction of any new material or ideas.

Does your conclusion….

– Summarise the argument and key points you have made?

– Present its points in a punchy manner using the technical terms and concepts you have discussed in your argument?

Remember – your conclusion is about the proposal!!

  1. Research timetable/schedule (approx. 5% length)

You should provide a realistic timetable/ schedule outlining all the key stages in the dissertation process and the time you would allocate to each task. This can be presented in the form of a Gantt chart or table.

Have you identified all the key tasks that you will need to undertake in your dissertation?

Is a realistic amount of time allocated to each phase of your work?

To what extent will various stages of the work overlap with each other?

  1. References

A reference list should be provided at the end of your proposal and should include all the material cited in the main text. It should be presented using the Harvard System of referencing. There should be 15 sources of references list.

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