Research Proposal | Procedures of Research Proposal Research Proposal | Procedures of Research Proposal

Research Proposal | Procedures of Research Proposal

research-proposal

Research Proposal

A research proposal is also known as a work plan, prospectus, outline, statement of intent, or draft plan. The proposal tells us what, why, how, where, and to whom the research will be done. It must also show the benefit of doing the search. Many beginning researchers view the proposal as unnecessary work. In actuality, the more inexperienced a researcher is, the more important it is to have a well-planned and adequately documented proposal. The research proposal is essentially a road map, showing clearly the location from which a journey begins, the destinations to be reached, and the method of getting there.

The preparation of a research proposal is an important step in the research process. Many institutions require that a proposal be submitted before any project is approved. The proposal is comparable to the blueprint that the architect prepares before the bids are let and the building commences. The initial draft proposal is subject to modification in the light of the analysis by the student and his or her thesis advisor. Because good research must be carefully planned and systematically carried out, procedures that are improvised from step to step will not suffice. A worthwhile research project is likely to result only from a well-designed proposal.

This format is by no means the only way to structure a proposal but is a fairly standard and generally understood format and one which lends itself particularly well to communicating the design of a qualitative study. However, every university and funding source has its own requirements and preferences regarding proposal structure, and these must take precedence.

Procedures of Research Proposal

1. Abstract

Not all proposal will require an abstract (executive summary), but if you need to have one, this is the place to provide an overview (a capsule version of the full proposal) and "road map," not just of the study itself, but of the argument of your proposal. Your abstract should present in summary form the actual argument for your research, not simply provides placeholders that will later be filled in with real content. Abstract rarely exceeds half a page and frequently is limited to 150-200 words.

2. Introduction

The introduction (background) to your proposal "sets the stage for your research, explaining ... what you want to do and why". It should clearly present the purposes of your study and give a general overview of your main research questions and of the kind of study you are proposing. (A full presentation of your research questions is often better reserved until after the context section when the theoretical grounding of the questions will be clearer, but this is not an absolute rule.) It should also explain the structure of the proposal itself if this could be confusing. The introduction should normally be fairly short, about two or three double-spaced pages.

3. Statement of the problem

This section sets up the rest of the paper. It should contain a clear statement of the problem and why it is of general interest and importance. This may be demonstrated by relating the problem briefly to the theoretical context of the study or by pointing to its social and practical significance. This is often a declarative statement but maybe in question form. This attempt to focus on a stated goal gives direction to the research process. It must be limited enough in scope to make a definite conclusion possible. The major statement may be followed by minor statements.

4. Objective of the study

This module addresses the purpose of the investigation. It is here that you lay out exactly what is being planned by the proposed research. In a descriptive study, the objectives can be stated as the research question. Recall that the research question can be further broken down into investigative questions. If the proposal is for a causal study, then the objectives can be restated as a hypothesis.

Setting the objective, this covers:
1) why we need an objective
2) how to set the objective
3) making the objective specific
4) agreeing to the objective

The objective we need will take the form of a single sentence which expresses clearly what we intend the research to achieve.

5. Rationale (justification)

Another way of putting the points made above is that a proposal is an argument for your study. It needs to explain the logic behind the proposed study, rather than simply describe or summarize the study, and to do so in a way that non-specialist will understand. (It should not, however, attempt to defend your anticipated conclusions: doing so is almost certain to raise serious questions about your own biases.) Each piece of your proposal should be a clear answer to a salient question about your study.

6. Literature review

The literature review section examines recent (or historically significant) research studies, company data, or industry reports that act as a basis for the proposed study. Being your discussion of the related literature and relevant secondary data from a comprehensive perspective, moving to more specific studies that are associated with your problem. If the problem has a historical background, begin with the earliest references.

The literature review must make clear the theoretical context of the problem under investigation and how others have studied it. The idea is to cite relevant literature in the process of presenting the underlying theoretical and methodological rationale for the research. This means citing key studies and emphasizing major findings rather than trying to report every study ever done on the problem or providing unnecessary detail.

7. Importance

In this section, you describe explicit benefits that will accrue from your study. The importance of "doing the study now" should be emphasized. Usually, this section is not more than a few paragraphs. If you find it difficult to write, then you have probably not adequately clarified the management dilemma. Return to the analysis of the problem and ensure, through additional discussions with your sponsor or your research team or by a reexamination of the literature, that you have captured the essence of the problem.

8. Research questions

The research questions section, in addition to stating your questions, should clarify two key points, if the answers to these are not obvious. First, it should explain how your questions relate to prior research and theory, to your own experience and exploratory research, and to your purposes. Second, it should clarify the overall focus of your questions; how they form a coherent whole rather than being a random collection of queries about your topic. Generally, a small number of clearly focused questions are far better than a larger number of questions that attempt to "cover the water-front" on your topic. If you have more than two or three major questions, you need to think about whether some of these are best seen as sub-questions of a broader question, or if your study is in fact attempting to do too much.

9. Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a tentative statement about something of which the validity is usually unknown. Hence, hypotheses help a researcher to support or refute the validity of a belief. The primary function of hypotheses is to test and suggest theories and describe the existing situations. It is appropriate here to formulate a major hypothesis and possibly several minor hypotheses. This approach further clarifies the nature of the problem and the logic underlying the investigation and gives direction to the data-gathering process.

The research hypothesis is a tentative answer to a question. It is an educated guess or hunch, generally based upon prior research and/ or theory, to be subjected to the process of verification. The gathering of data and the logical analysis of data relationships provide a method of confirming or disconfirming the hypothesis by deducing its consequences.

A hypothesis is a conjectural statement of the relation between two or more variables. It is always in a declarative sentence form and relates, either generally or specifically, variables to variables. In other words, a hypothesis is a tentative generalization, the validity of which has to be tested. In its initial stage, a hypothesis may be an imagined idea or a guess, depending upon previously accumulated knowledge. The hypothesis is a proposition, which can be put to test to determine its validity.

10. Research methods

This section should state clearly and accurately how the study was done, providing enough information to permit replication by others. The following subtopics may help to accomplish this objective.

Design: First you must tell what type of study this is: experiment, survey, field research, or available data analysis. The particular approach determines the primary design and procedural issues that must be addressed:

(a) in the case of experiments, the key issues will include the type of experimental design and the procedures of its implementation;
(b) in surveys, the type of survey instrument, its length, and the sampling design;
(c) in field research, the nature of the setting(s) and the researcher's relationship to informants.

Subjects: This section should make clear who participated in the study, how many cases were sampled, how they were selected, and whom or what they represent. It is necessary to discuss sampling procedures as well as the generalizability of data.

Measurement: Here operational definitions are described. No matter what approach was used, the researcher should clarify how observations were translated into variables and concepts. In an experiment, this means specifying the procedures for manipulating the independent variable and measuring the dependent variable. The survey should include the specific questions that were asked as measures of each variable in the theoretical model. Infield research, this means noting the kinds of observations that were made.

Procedures:
This section, which may be a part of the description of sampling and measurement, presents a summary of the various steps in the conduct of the research. This is especially important in experiments and field research. Experiments should include a step-by-step account of the study from the subject's point of view. Field researchers should give a chronological account of the research, telling how they selected and gained entry into the setting, how they met and developed relationships with informants, and how long they were in the setting. In fact, the research report of the field researcher often follows a narrative, either from the researcher's or informant's point of view, which begins with a discussion of these methodology issues.

11. Conclusions

This is where you pull together what you've said in the previous sections, remind your readers of the purposes of the study and what it will contribute, and discuss its potential relevance and implications for the broader field(s) that it is situated in. This section should answer any "so what?" questions that might arise in reading the proposal. It is normally fairly short a page or two at most.

12. Limitations

All research problems and designs have limitations due to errors of logic, measurement, and omission. This is understood by anyone with research experience but is still advisable to include a brief recognition and explanation of the limitations inherent in your study. Sometimes, limitations are related to the availability and reliability of data or model design. But this is a way to "keep yourself honest" and to demonstrate problems, being aware of both the strong points, which you educate in the previous section and the weaknesses. Do not "cut your own throat" by sounding too apologetic. Be brief only dwelling on those errors, which seem to be of some magnitude.


13. Time schedule:

Your schedule should include the major phases of the project, their timetables, and the milestones that signify completion of a phase. For example, major phases maybe:

(1) exploratory interviews,
(2) final research proposal,
(3) questionnaire revision,
(4) field interviews,
(5) editing and coding,
(6) data analysis, and
(7) report generation. Each of these phases should have an estimated time schedule and people assigned to the work.

It may be helpful to you and your sponsor if you chart your schedule. You can use a Gantt chart. Alternatively, if the project is large and complex, a critical path method (CPM) of scheduling may be included.

14. Budget

Typically, the budget should be no more than one to two pages. The budget statement in an internal research proposal is based on employee and overhead costs. The budget presented by an external research organization is not just the wages or salaries of its employees but the person-hour price that the contracting firm charges.

This should include an estimate of the expected cost of the project under various major categories like salary, printing and stationery, postage, travel expenses, computation, secretarial and typing, etc. The term budget here may be split into three aspects:
 
(a) financial,
(b) manpower, and
(c) time.

So it is expedient to show clearly the required for the envisaged research. Tentative manpower, financial and time budget could be expressed in a chart or table form.

15. Appendixes

A research proposal completes with an appendix. An appendix should include a list of all materials that are to be used in the study. Among other things, it may include a copy of the test or scale used, a list of stimulus materials and apparatuses, a copy of instructions to be given to the subjects and soon.

16. References/Bibliography

The reference section should include the names of the authors along with their details of the publication of their research work. Some sort of bibliography must be included. Although the usual practice is to list only works cited in the body of the report, uncited works that were important in the development of the study may also be included. The format of the references varies slightly from one discipline to another. If none is specified, a standard style manual will provide the details necessary to prepare the bibliography.

The reference section of the manuscript begins a new page with the label "References," centered or aligns left. References consist of all documents, including journal articles, books, chapters, technical reports, computer programs, and unpublished works that are mentioned in the test of the manuscript. A reference section should not be confused with a bibliography: a bibliography contains everything that would be in the reference section plus other publications that are useful but were not cited in the manuscript.

The preparation of a research proposal is an important step in the research process. Many institutions require that a proposal be submitted before any project is approved. The proposal is comparable to the blueprint that the architect prepares before the bids are let and the building commences. The initial draft proposal is subject to modification in the light of the analysis by the student and his or her thesis advisor. Because good research must be carefully planned and systematically carried out, procedures that are improvised from step to step will not suffice. A worthwhile research project is likely to result only from a well-designed proposal.

This format is by no means the only way to structure a proposal but is a fairly standard and generally understood format and one which lends itself particularly well to communicating the design of a qualitative study. However, every university and funding source has its own requirements and preferences regarding proposal structure, and these must take precedence.

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