Posted: August 17th, 2015
Assignment 3: Final research proposal
The aim of Assignment 3 is to draw upon the concepts and processes you have learned about throughout the course of the unit, and devise a detailed research proposal. This assignment builds upon the research concept you submitted as Assignment 1 and also the methodological insights you gained through Assignment 2.
In some instances, students studying certain Masters programs at SCU may actually implement their proposal as a real-life research project in a subsequent, capstone unit. For those students, it is important to take this assignment very seriously as it is an opportunity for you to receive constructive feedback on your ideas and proposed methodology from your lecturer, before putting it to work in the field later on. For other students, this assignment will be an exercise in consolidating and crystallising the material learnt in BUS00913.
Your research proposal must address the following headings (using these items as section headings):
Clear title of project (15 word maximum). Try to capture the essence of your project.
1. Introduction to the research proposal (approx. 400 words)
1.1 Background information: This section will include information regarded as important contextual background to the proposed study. This is where to place information about the economy, the local tourism industries, tourism trends, attractions, hotels studied etc. Only include information which you regard as important background for your project. Be sure to acknowledge your information sources by referencing them. You might find yourself referencing “applied literature” – news articles, websites etc. more often than academic literature in this section. This is perfectly acceptable here.
1.2 Research aim statement: As per Assignment 1, but refined according to the feedback provided by your lecturer.
1.3 Research objectives: As per Assignment 1, but refined according to the feedback provided by your lecturer. These should leave the reader in no doubt as to what exactly it is you are going to do. These can take the form of goals, or questions, or if a quantitative project, hypotheses. Choose one form and do not attempt all three formats. Present as numbered points. This is where you break down the research aim statement into answerable “bits”.
1.4 Significance of the Research: In around one paragraph, explain why the research issue you propose is important/deserves to be investigated. Does it investigate an area that has only attracted limited scholarly attention before (a ‘gap’ in the literature)? Does it respond to previous authors’ calls for future research into a certain phenomenon? Will the research assist in solving some sort of applied (organisational) problem? Does your research apply a method or theory in a new context? Be explicit, and ideally support your argument with some supporting references.
1.5 Delimitations: Delimitations are boundaries put around a study that are controllable by the researcher. Here, a specific outline of the geographic and demographic delimitations is required (e.g., a study might be delimited to females aged 18–30 years residing in Singapore).
2. Literature review (approx. 1000 words)
Academic journal articles and textbooks should constitute the majority of your references. The review should follow an “inverted pyramid” structure, in which you start by addressing concepts broadly relating to your study, then gradually narrowing down to the specific concepts related to your study.
The literature review should be structured as follows:
Introduction: Provide a very brief introduction to your literature review by explaining how the literature review is structured. The structure outlined here should reflect the “inverted pyramid” structure.
Main body of the literature review: A literature review is structured similar to an essay – it has an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. The main body is where you provide your critical account of the literature you have read.
The main body should be sub-divided using appropriately labelled sub-headings, and the order of the sub-headings should follow the “inverted pyramid” style – working from the broad to the specific. At the beginning of each sub-section, you should briefly introduce the concepts being reviewed and give a brief rationale as to why this body of literature is being reviewed. This should be done by linking the concept(s) with your research objectives. At the end of each sub-section you should round that sub-section off with a very brief summary, and then link through to the next sub-section. That is, there should be good flow throughout the writing.
The literature reviewed should predominately be academic literature. This constitutes articles published in peer reviewed journals; scholarly textbooks; conference proceedings; and research theses. Websites, newspaper articles and other applied literature should be referred to only sparingly.
The hallmark of a good researcher is the ability to think critically. Therefore, you should look not only to summarise the literature you have read, but also critique it. Look for opportunities to make critical comments, e.g.:
• Was a non-random sample used?
• Is a study applicable to only one cultural context?
• Can you see any shortcomings in the theories you have read about?
• Do studies addressing a similar phenomenon agree or disagree with each other?
Do not make critical comments just for the sake of it though. Any critical comments made must be logically argued.
Because this is an account of a body of literature, most paragraphs in the main body will contain at least one reference. Most paragraphs will contain multiple references. Ensure that your in-text citations adhere to the prescribed style guide. Direct quotes must be contained within quotation marks and a page number given. This is a Masters level course. There is no excuse for poor referencing.
Conclusion: Provide a one-paragraph summary of the literature review. Re-emphasise the key points emerging from the literature review. Most importantly, explicitly state where there is a gap in the extant literature that your own study is likely to contribute towards filling.
3. Research paradigm and role of theory (approx. 400 words)
3.1 Research paradigm: Identify which paradigm your research will be informed by. If utilising mixed methods (a mix of quantitative and qualitative in the same study) then the research may be informed by more than one paradigm. You should discuss and justify your paradigm choice in light of your research aim and objectives, and refer specifically to the ontological and epistemological conditions surrounding your project. One to two paragraphs is sufficient.
3.2 Theoretical underpinning: A discernible difference between applied (consultancy) research and academic research is the application of theory in examining a phenomenon. Here you are required to declare whether your project seeks to test theory (deductive) or generate theory (inductive).
You should also identify the key theoretical concepts underpinning your research project. In quantitative research, this is often called a “conceptual framework” and may be presented as a conceptual diagram which defines the theoretical concepts employed in your study and showing the hypothesised relationships between those concepts which will be tested. If a diagram is presented, it is not sufficient to leave it to stand alone, some interpretation/explanation of the diagram must be provided. In particular, provide a definition of each concept, preferably from the scholarly literature.
For a qualitative project, conceptual diagrams are generally not applicable as these studies do not seek to test theory, but instead inductively generate it. What is needed is explanation/definition of the theoretical concepts that are embedded within the study. For example, if a study seeks to qualitatively explore the concept of organisational commitment in 5 star hotels, then explanation of “organisational commitment” as a theoretical concept is needed. Use the scholarly literature to guide your explanation/definition.
4. Research design (approx. 500 words)
4.1 Methodology: Explain and justify your choice of methodology. Have you chosen a quantitative approach or a qualitative approach? Or a combination of both (mixed methods)? Have you elected to collect primary data or secondary data? Explain your choices here, and justify them in light of your research aim and objectives. One paragraph is sufficient.
4.2 Nature of the research: Describe and justify the nature of your research. I.e., is it exploratory, descriptive, explanatory etc., or a combination? One paragraph is sufficient.
4.3 Research strategy: Explain and justify your research strategy. I.e., have you chosen an experiment, a survey, a case study, ethnography, or a combination? You should explain your strategy in reasonable detail – not merely identify a strategy. For example, if you have chosen a case study approach – what will be the context of the case study? How will you gain access to the organisation, and what will the procedures be? At least two paragraphs will be necessary, but depending on the complexity of individual studies, additional detail may be needed.
However, it is not necessary in this section to discuss specific data collection methods and their associated procedures; that comes in the next section. Section 4.3 is only concerned with the strategy for undertaking your research.
5. Data collection (approx. 500 words)
5.1 Data required: What sort of information do you require to provide the answer to fulfil your research objectives? Similar to Assignment 1, do you require quantitative data collected from hotel managers in Sydney? Do you require qualitative data from international flight attendants? What is the nature of the information you require?
Justify why you have identified this type of information in light of your research aim and objectives. You may revise what you submitted for this section in Assignment 1. One paragraph is sufficient. Be as specific as possible.
5.2 Data sources: Where, or with whom, is this data located?
5.3 Data collection methods and instrumentation: Explain and justify the method(s) you have chosen to collect your data. Be sure the method(s) you select are appropriate with the paradigm informing your research (e.g., in-depth interviews would be inappropriate for a positivistic study testing for relationships between variables).
The reader should know exactly how you intend to carry out the project. Give specific detail and be sure to justify your choices by supporting them with appropriate research methodology literature (i.e., references). At least a few paragraphs will be needed to adequately address this section. Quantitative studies inherently require more detail than qualitative studies because of the need to describe instrumentation design.
Quantitative studies: Describe how your data collection instrument (questionnaire) was designed. Explain and justify the types of questions and measurement scales utilised. If you have adapted scales to measure certain concepts, explain which previous study (or studies) these were adapted from. Explain how the questionnaire will be administered (street intercept, internet, telephone etc.)
A copy of the data collection instrument must be included as an appendix. You may also find it useful to cross-reference between parts of the questionnaire when describing/justifying your instrumentation.
Qualitative studies: Describe and justify the method(s) used to collect your data. For example, if in-depth interviews are to be conducted, will these be semi-structured or unstructured? Are the interviews to be conducted face-to-face, over the phone, or via email? What are the benefits and pitfalls of such approaches? Importantly, give a list of possible interview questions and discuss how these contribute to fulfilling the research objectives.
Studies collecting secondary data: Describe and justify where the secondary data will be obtained from. What will be your procedures for collecting and cataloguing that data?
6. Sampling (approx. 300 words)
Describe and justify your sampling procedures. There are three aspects that need consideration:
• Probability or non-probability sampling: Briefly explain and justify whether your study adopts probability or non-probability sampling. Be sure that the approach you adopt is consistent with your research paradigm. For example, probability sampling is generally not associated with qualitative research.
• Sampling strategy: Identify and justify the strategy (or strategies) you will use to select your sample; i.e., are you utilising stratified sampling, purposive sampling, or simple random sampling? Explain in a practical sense how this strategy will be put to work in the field.
• Sample size: Explain and justify how big you anticipate your sample will need to be.
For studies undertaking archival analysis or collecting secondary data, some of the above considerations may not be relevant. Instead, focus on explaining how you will select material for inclusion in your study. What criteria will you put in place to guide such decisions?
7. Data analysis methods (approx. 500 words)
Once you have collected your data, how will you organise and present it in order to be able to draw conclusions, and make recommendations? Describe and justify your data analysis strategy. The way you address data analysis will depend on whether your study takes a quantitative or qualitative approach.
Quantitative studies: Initially, describe how the data will be prepared for analysis (e.g., coding of variables and responses in preparation for entry into computer-based data analysis software). Then, give specific detail about the procedures and statistical techniques that will be used to fulfil the research objectives. For example, if you will be testing to see whether variable X is related to variable Y, will Pearson’s correlation be used? You may find it useful to cross-reference between questions on your questionnaire and your description of the analysis procedures.
Qualitative studies: Explain and justify the procedure you will use to organise your data and draw conclusions from it. In qualitative research, data analysis almost universally involves adopting some sort of process to “code” data and draw meaning from it. You will need to consult the methodological literature and identify a coding procedure that best suits your application. Justify your selection of this procedure, and explain in a practical sense how it will be applied to the data you collect.
Studies collecting secondary data: Even though these studies will collect secondary as opposed to primary data, most will still adopt either a quantitative or qualitative approach. Therefore, look to address the elements described above, depending on whether your study takes a quantitative or qualitative approach.
8. Ethical considerations (approx. 300 words)
What are the main human ethics issues which will need to be considered in your project? Be sure to relate these to established principles of ethical research (e.g., freedom of participation, respect for participants, informed consent, data security etc.). Be sure to explain how you will address these issues in a practical sense (e.g., what will you do to ensure privacy and anonymity of participants is protected? How will you obtain informed consent from them?). If applicable, an information sheet addressing ethical aspects of the research should be included as an appendix.
9. Methodological limitations (approx. 200 words)
Consider issues that are beyond your control as the researcher that might affect your results. For example, size of sample or limited timeframe for data collection, etc. may come into play here.
All references cited in your text should appear in alphabetical order in Harvard UQ style. No references uncited in the text should appear. The majority of your reference list entries should be from academic journals.
In all sections, all work which is not your own work should be referenced in-text as author(s) and date (including internet references) which are then cited fully in your list of references. All pages except in the Results section, are likely to have at least a couple of references. Your Background, Proposed Research Methods sections and especially Literature Review will have many references. If you are using the exact words from a reference, they should be shown in quotation marks for quotes less than 40 words. For quotes longer than 40 words, the quote should be placed on a new line and indented from the left.
This is where additional information which might be useful to the reader, but which would disrupt the flow of your main text, is placed. Your data collection instrument (questionnaire) should appear here as an appendix, if a quantitative study. An information sheet addressing ethical aspects of the research would also be a useful inclusion, if applicable. Note, appendices are not counted in the word count for the assignment.
Marking criteria for Assignment 3
In addition to judging the quality of each component of your Research Proposal outlined above, the following will also be considered when your assignment is being marked:
• Clarity of expression – This refers to your ability to write grammatically correct sentences, develop logical paragraph structures and use the most appropriate words. Be concise – don’t take 20 words to say what could be said just as well in two!
• Accuracy – This refers to accurate spelling and the absence of typographical errors. Please proofread your work and use a dictionary or thesaurus where necessary.
• Correct referencing – All sources of information and ideas must be acknowledged in full. There are numerous publications which provide guidelines for correct referencing using the Harvard style (refer to the MySCU site).
• Logical sequencing – This refers to your ability to structure your assignment in the way that best develops your argument or makes your point. Always plan your writing so that what you want to say is tied together in a logical manner.
• Independent expression of ideas – The written assessment items for this unit give you plenty of scope for using your own background, education, research and other sources and to use the material presented in this unit in a resourceful and innovative way. Remember to always acknowledge and reference the ideas of others.
The following table summarises the weightings apportioned to each section of Assignment 3. Note that marks total to 100% and will be scaled back to a mark out of 60, commensurate with the weighting of this assignment.
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