A research proposal sets out the broad topic you would like to research (substance), what the research would set out to achieve (aims and objectives), how you would go about researching it (methodology), how you would undertake it within the time available (outline plan) and what the results might be in relation to knowledge and understanding in the subject (potential outcomes).
“The introduction is the part of the paper that provides readers with the background information for the research reported in the paper. Its purpose is to establish a framework for the research, so that readers can understand how it is related to other research” (Wilkinson, 1991, p. 96).
Taken from Umbach, P. D. (in press). The contribution of faculty of color to undergraduate education. Research in Higher Education.
At the same time that the United States is becoming more diverse, colleges and universities find they must defend themselves against attacks on affirmative action. In response to lawsuits brought against affirmative action in college admissions, many have argued that diversity is a ‘‘compelling interest’’ in that it enhances higher education through the benefits it brings to individual students (Astone and Nunez-Wormack, 1990; Duster, 1993; Hurtado et al., 1998; Liu, 1998; Smith and Associates, 1997; Tierney, 1993). In a climate where affirmative action is under increased scrutiny, it is important that researchers extend this line of inquiry to all levels of higher education. One avenue that is beginning to emerge is the positive impact that diverse faculty have on student experiences.
Taken from Umbach, P. D. & Kuh, G. D. (in press). Student experiences with diversity at liberal arts colleges: another claim for distinctiveness. The Journal Higher Education.
Hu and Kuh (2003) found that students in private institutions more frequently interacted with students from different backgrounds and that students at large doctoral-extensive universities and liberal arts colleges had more experiences with diversity than their counterparts at other types of institutions. It is not surprising that students at large universities would have more exposure to diversity, given that these institutions typically enroll more students from different racial, ethnic and cultural groups. Somewhat unexpected is that students at smaller liberal arts colleges would report equally frequent experiences with diversity. Historically, small liberal arts colleges have claimed to have distinctive missions, especially when compared with large public universities (Clark, 1970; Kuh, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 1991; Townsend, Newell, & Wiese, 1992). But they also tend to be located in rural and less racially diverse locations. Even so, it appears that a distinctive dimension of contemporary liberal arts colleges is their ability to expose students to diversity in educationally purposeful ways. How they do this is not clear.
Through a historical/legal analysis of the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) clause of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) amendments of 1997 (PL 105-17), and its intersection with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), I will compare the intent of the mandate to its actual practice in a five-month case study of a junior high art class. A theoretical frame consisting of values of equality, liberty, and efficiency guide data collection, analyses, and interpretation of the relationships and disparities that exist between the legal statute's intent and its actual practice.
“ I wish young people in my community were more aware of the dangers of drugs and had some place to go after school and on weekends that offered beneficial recreation to keep them feeling energetic and good about themselves which, when combined may decrease the use of drugs amongst them and their peers." My new problem statement will help me come up with solutions that address the root of the cause not just the symptoms.
The OBJECTIVES of a research project summaries what is to be achieved by the study.
Objectives should be closely related to the statement of the problem. For example, if the problem identified is low utilization of child welfare clinics, the general objective of the study could be to identify the reasons for this low utilization, in order to find solutions.
The general objective of a study states what researchers expect to achieve by the study in general terms.
It is possible (and advisable) to break down a general objective into smaller, logically connected parts. These are normally referred to as specific objectives.
Specific objectives should systematically address the various aspects of the problem as defined under ‘Statement of the Problem’ and the key factors that are assumed to influence or cause the problem. They should specify what you will do in your study, where and for what purpose .
A study into the cost and quality of home-based care for HIV/AIDS patients and their communities in Zimbabwe, developed at an HSR workshop, for example, had as its general objective:
To explore to what extent community home-based care (CHBC) projects in Zimbabwe provide adequate, affordable and sustainable care of good quality to people with HIV/AIDS, and to identify ways in which these services can be improved.
It was split up in the following specific objectives:
To identify the full range of economic, psychosocial, health/nursing care and other needs of patients and their families affected by AIDS.
To determine the extent to which formal and informal support systems address these needs from the viewpoint of service providers as well as patients.
To determine the economic costs of CHBC to the patient and family as well as to the formal CHBC programmes themselves.
To relate the calculated costs to the quality of care provided to the patient by the family and to the family/patient by the CHBC programme.
To determine how improved CHBC and informal support networks can contribute to the needs of persons with AIDS and other chronically and terminally ill patients.
To use the findings to make recommendations on the improvement of CHBC to home care providers, donors and other concerned organisations, including government .
Based on your experience with the study problem, it might be possible to develop explanations for the problem, which can then be tested. If so, you can formulate hypotheses in addition to the study objectives.
A HYPOTHESIS is a prediction of a relationship between one or more factors and the problem under study that can be tested.
a hypothesis represents a declarative statement of the relations between two or more variables (Kerlinger, 1979; Krathwohl, 1988).
Indicate how your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the area under investigation. Note that such refinements, revisions, or extensions may have either substantive, theoretical, or methodological significance. Think pragmatically (i.e., cash value).
This can be a difficult section to write. Think about implications— how results of the study may affect scholarly research, theory, practice, educational interventions, curricula, counseling, policy.
A limitation identifies potential weaknesses of the study. Think about your analysis, the nature of self-report, your instruments, the sample. Think about threats to internal validity that may have been impossible to avoid or minimize—explain .
A delimitation addresses how a study will be narrowed in scope, that is, how it is bounded. This is the place to explain the things that you are not doing and why you have chosen not to do them—the literature you will not review (and why not), the population you are not studying (and why not), the methodological procedures you will not use (and why you will not use them). Limit your delimitations to the things that a reader might reasonably expect you to do but that you, for clearly explained reasons, have decided not to do.
An operational definition is a demonstration of a process – such as a variable , term , or object – in terms of the specific process or set of validation tests used to determine its presence and quantity.
This section provides operational definition of terms that are unusual or unfamiliar. It identifies precisely the names of concepts, tests, or participants introduced in the Statement of the Problem and employed in the Hypotheses
Properties described in this manner must be sufficiently accessible, so that persons other than the definer may independently measure or test for them at will
“ The review of the literature provides the background and context for the research problem. It should establish the need for the research and indicate that the writer is knowledgeable about the area” (Wiersma, 1995, p. 406).
The literature review accomplishes several important things.
It shares with the reader the results of other studies that are closely related to the study being reported (Fraenkel & Wallen, 1990).
It relates a study to the larger, ongoing dialogue in the literature about a topic, filling in gaps and extending prior studies (Marshall & Rossman, 1989).
It provides a framework for establishing the importance of the study, as well as a benchmark for comparing the results of a study with other findings.
It “frames” the problem earlier identified.
In a proposal, the literature review is generally brief and to the point. Be judicious in your choice of exemplars—the literature selected should be pertinent and relevant (APA, 2001). Select and reference only the more appropriate citations. Make key points clearly and succinctly.
Design – a description of the approach to be used to reach objectives.
Clearly indicate the methods of data collection either within a quantitative or qualitative methodology; as well as the techniques for data collection, e.g. questionnaires, and measurement (the validation of the techniques). Indicate whether field workers will be used to collect data and whether computer programmes will be employed to analyse the data.
Outline the general plan for collecting the data. This may include survey administration procedures, interview or observation procedures. Include an explicit statement covering the field controls to be employed. If appropriate, discuss how you obtained entré .
Specify the procedures you will use, and label them accurately (e.g., ANOVA, MANCOVA, HLM, ethnography, case study, grounded theory). If coding procedures are to be used, describe in reasonable detail. If you triangulated, carefully explain how you went about it. Communicate your precise intentions and reasons for these intentions to the reader. This helps you and the reader evaluate the choices you made and procedures you followed.
Indicate briefly any analytic tools you will have available and expect to use (e.g., Ethnograph, NUDIST, AQUAD, SAS, SPSS, SYSTAT).
Provide a well thought-out rationale for your decision to use the design, methodology, and analyses you have selected.
This section indicates exactly what will be done, the sequence of the various activities, and the products of deliverables that will be prepared. Specify the tasks, deliverables, and schedule in some detail, although there is usually some latitude for offerers.
In preparing grant proposals, there is more freedom to define the tasks. In both cases, it is important that the proposed task structure includes all of the activities necessary for completing the project.
Planning a viable schedule for carrying out the tasks is often as important as developing a comprehensive list of tasks.