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Researching and Writing Dissertations


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Title: Researching and Writing Dissertations

Researching and Writing Dissertations
Researching and Writing Dissertations
  • The Research Proposal
  • WEEK 4

  • Recommended text
  • Researching and Writing Dissertations
  • Horn, R
  • CIPD London
  • 2nd Edition, 2012
  • ISBN 978 184398 302 6
  • Chapter 4 The Research Proposal, page 45.

Lecture outline
  • The purpose of the research proposal.
  • The importance of the research proposal.
  • The headline contents of a research proposal.
  • Expressing your research as
  • aims,
  • research questions, and
  • hypotheses.
  • Setting out the stages of your research.

Learning objectives
  • Understand the nature and importance of the
    research proposal.
  • Understand the content of the research proposal.
  • Understand the important issues connected to the

The proposal
  • The research proposal is the key gateway
    document to your dissertation. It sets out the
    main details of how your research will be
  • In many universities the dissertation cannot be
    progressed until a supervisor has been allocated
    and the research proposal agreed between student
    and supervisor.
  • It is also a key document in formulating and
    crystallising your topic ideas into a do-able

The purpose of the research proposal
  • Organising and developing your topic ideas.
  • Testing the scope of the research.
  • Identifying an appropriate supervisor.
  • Convincing other people of the merit of your
  • Initiating the research process.
  • Gaining support and early access rights.
  • A foundation for developing your research.

The content of the research proposal
  • 1 Title.
  • 2 Background to the research.
  • 3 The research problem.
  • 4 The objectives of the research.
  • 5 Literature.
  • 6 Methodology.
  • 7 Ethical issues.
  • 8 Access issues.
  • 9 Time-scale.
  • 10 Bibliography.

The research problem
Aim statement An aim statement is a common way to
express the research problem. It is to give an
example normally of the form The aim of
this research is to investigate absence at SEDO
The research problem
  • Aim statement
  • Note that this is still a fairly loose statement
    of aim. This aim can be tightened by further
    specifying the following
  • The place of research.
  • The guiding theory for the research.
  • The type of study quantitative or qualitative.
  • The method for example, a comparative study, a
    case study, etc.

The research problem
Aim statement The aim above could now become A
qualitative case investigation of absence at SEDO
Ltd, using Steers and Rhodes (1978) notion of the
ability to attend. Using an aim statement to
specify a research problem works well when the
research is of a broad, exploratory or
investigative nature.
The research problem
Research questions Using research questions is a
more specific way to state the research problem.
The normal arrangement is to list a number of
questions that the research will answer, such
as RQ(1) What are the current attendance
levels at SEDO Ltd? RQ(2) What is the pattern
of absence for individual employees (using the
Bradford factor to measure this absence)?
The research problem
Research questions RQ(3) What aspects of the
work design is affecting absence at SEDO
Ltd? RQ(4) What are the employee issues around
ability to attend? RQ(5) What aspects are
reported that lie outside the Steers and Rhodes
(1978) absence model? Using this method
expresses your research problem in a much
tighter manner from the start, and is suitable
where you have a clear set of issues arising from
the literature that addresses the research
The research problem
Hypotheses The research problem can also be
specified using a set of testable hypotheses a
set of logical, reasonable, tentative
explanations of the subject under investigation.
It is normal to reject the null hypothesis
(H0) before testing alternative hypotheses. The
null hypothesis states that the two variables
under consideration occurred solely by chance.
If the null hypothesis is rejected, alternative
hypotheses may be developed.
The research problem
Hypotheses Continuing with our example of absence
management, the following hypotheses can be
tested (Burton, Lee and Holtom, 2002) Hypothesis
1 Ability to attend will be positively related
to the frequency of absenteeism that is
attributed to family issues. Hypothesis 2
Ability to attend will be positively related to
the frequency of absenteeism that is attributed
to transportation problems.
The research problem
Hypotheses Hypothesis 3a Motivation to attend
will be negatively related to the frequency of
absenteeism that is attributed to
illness. Hypothesis 3b Ability to attend will be
positively related to the frequency of
absenteeism that is attributed to
illness. Hypothesis 4 Motivation to attend will
be negatively related to the frequency of
absenteeism that results in a failure to notify
the organisation.
The research problem
Hypotheses Note Hypothesis 3 is split into a)
and b), which test the relationship to that
factor, a) testing the negative relation and b)
testing the positive relation.
The research problem
Hypotheses Hypotheses are never proved or
disproved. In a research study it is normal to
either support or reject a hypothesis. For a
hypothesis to be rejected would commonly lead to
the substitution of a new hypothesis that is then
either supported or rejected.
The research problem
Hypotheses If a hypothesis is supported by the
data in your study, it may later be supported by
further studies. Eventually, a hypothesis that is
well supported from multiple sources will be
developed into a well-grounded theory. It could
be that your research is testing, in a different
context, hypotheses from earlier research studies.
The objectives of the research
Once the aim of the research has been clearly
stated, the next section in the proposal deals
with the detail of how the aim is to be achieved.
The objectives are normally expressed as a set of
closely specified statements that would enable
the aim to be achieved.
The objectives of the research
The objectives are likely to be the milestones
of the research as it progresses, and for a
typical dissertation may look like
this Objective 1 Critically review the
literature and development of one guiding
theory. Objective 2 Develop and pilot the
methodology, consistent with the theoretical
framework adopted in objective 1.
The objectives of the research
Objective 3 Clarify and define the population
for the study, and select the sample. Objective 4
Distribute the questionnaires and follow up
with a telephone enquiry for maximum
response. Objective 5 Analyse the data and
present the findings. Objective 6 Make
recommendations to improve management practice.
At the proposal stage the literature review is
likely to be a list of possible sources related
to the research problem. Even at this stage it is
important to be critical and evaluative. The
sources must be closely related to the research
you intend to carry out.
Most literature reviews in a research proposal
for business topics contain the following 1 A
critical explanation of three or four main
theories that could guide the research. 2 An
overview of two or three professional body
websites related to the research topic.
3 Ten to fifteen journal articles relating to the
research. These may serve a number of different
uses empirical articles related to the
research problem, articles that critique or
extend the main theories, explanation and
critique of methods and their use, or articles
containing data analysis techniques likely to be
used in the research. 4 Secondary data sources
related to your research study for example,
ESRC Labour Force Survey.
Ethical issues
All research has ethical implications and in this
section some thought should be given to the
ethical issues of your research. In some areas
of research such as research involving
children, medical research, or psychological
research there are formal procedures to be
followed, and ethical approval is required from
an ethics committee.
Ethical issues
If you think your research will address one of
these areas or will include any human- or
animal-based research data that may cause harm,
you must indicate this clearly in the research
Ethical issues
  • If your research does not require formal
    approval, your proposal should address the
    following questions
  • How will the research be designed and undertaken
    to ensure integrity and quality?
  • How will research participants be informed about
    the purpose, methods and intended possible uses
    of the research?

Ethical issues
  • Continues
  • How will possible risks of participating in the
    research be considered?
  • How will you ensure the confidentiality of the
    information supplied by participants, and how
    will you assess the need for anonymity?
  • How will you ensure that participants engage with
    your research voluntarily and without coercion?

Preparation activity for next week
Completing on time Prepare one slide of
PowerPoint presentation setting out 1. The
stages of your research and how long they are
likely to take to complete.
Work alone
  • The research proposal is the gateway to your
  • Develop a clear set of aims and objectives.
  • If your research warrants it use research
    questions and/or hypotheses.
  • Consider the ethical implications of your
  • Ensure your proposal contains all the sections
    discussed today.

Next Week
  • Completing on time.
  • How long your dissertation will take to complete.
  • How the project life cycle can help you to be
  • What work breakdown structures are, and how you
    can use them to manage the dissertation.
  • How to develop and use Gantt charts.
  • How to manage bibliographical data.
  • What the main barriers are to completing on time.

Researching and Writing Dissertations
The End