What reviewers will look for?
• How objectives relate to questions,
• How methodologies relate to objectives and
• How design relates to problem
• How objectives relate to expected outcomes.
• There will be other requirements
WHAT WHY & HOW?
S. Ali, Faculty Of Management Sciences, Polytechnic of Namibia
The Research Proposal
Why all the fuss
• You mean I have to do a detailed proposal for
my study before I even begin?.
• But you said things are going to change once I
get into the study!
• YES, but you wouldn’t set off on a long road
trip without a road map and some planning.
• A plan of action
• Procedure for identifying your pathway
• A prerequisite for Research investigation
What is a Proposal?
What Research Is Not
• Research is not information gathering:
– Gathering information from resources such as books or
magazines is not research.
– No contribution to new knowledge.
• Research is not the transportation of facts:
– Merely transporting facts from one resource to another
does not constitute research.
– No contribution to new knowledge although this might
make existing knowledge more accessible.
While both of these are tools used during research, they are
not sufficient for research.
What Research Is
• Research is:
“…the systematic process of collecting
and analyzing information (data) in order
to increase our understanding of the
phenomenon about which we are
concerned or interested.”
1. Title page & table of contents
2. Introduction – Background & Context
3. Statement of the problem
4. Scope of the study
5. Objectives of the study
6. Hypothesis or research questions
7. Literature Review
8. Procedure of the study – Methods to be used
9. Limitation and delimitation of the study
10.Reference List or Bibliography
What Your Research Proposal
Should Include (10-12 pages)
Sample Masters TOC Unisa
• 1. INTRODUCTION 3
• 1.1 The research problem. 4
• 1.2 Rationale or purpose of the study. 4
• 1.3 The objectives of the study. 4
• 1.4 Research question(s).
• 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 5
• 3. PROPOSED METHODOLOGY 6
• 3.1 Research design. 6
• 3.2 Data sources 7
• 3.3 Data collection techniques. 7
• 3.4. Issues of reliability and validity. 8
• 3.5 Sampling techniques. 8
• 3.6 Definitions of key terms, concepts and variables. 9
• 3.7 Data analysis and interpretation. 9
• 3.8 Ethical considerations. 10
• 3.8.1 Confidentiality. 10
• 3.8.2 Informed consent 10
3.8.3 Provision of debriefing, counseling and additional information. 10
• 3.9. Pretest or pilot study. 11
• 4. MY PERSONAL WORK PLAN 12
• LIST OF SOURCES
Background of the problem [10%]
The proposal must provide a well argued context to the topic under study. This should be backed up with
Theoretical framework [25%]
Appropriateness, Relevance and depth of analysis and interpretation
Literature review must be based on topics rather than simply stating what various authors have said/ found. Is it
in context and indicate need for study. Authoritative works have been cited. Recent work (post 2007) must
Statement of the problem [25%]
Linked to literature review
Clarity of the stated and identified problem
With clear flow from study context and Lit Rev.
Statement of objectives for the intended research
Research Question(s) [and hypothesis if any]
Scope and delimitation of the study
How well do the questions address the problem and objective of research
Significance of the proposed study. A clear explanation of why this study is important
Is this study doable (too big/too small)
Research methodology [25%]
Some background to the importance of methodology. Methodology design for research.
Explanation of data collection methods to be used – show link to research questions
Why were these methods chosen, showing evidence from literature that these are appropriate
What variables will be studied / measured and why
Appropriateness & relevance of the likely data collection methods, tools and strategies
Referencing and overall quality of proposal 15%
Adequate and correct in-text referencing (5)
All reference included in Reference List and adherence to house style and Referencing (5)
Quality of presentation (5) 11SALI@Poly 2014
UNAM MBA Proposal - Table of Contents
1. Introduction (2 Pages)
1.1 Orientation of proposed study
1.2 Statement of Problem
1.3 Objective of Study and/or
1.4 Significance of Study
1.5 Limitations of Study
2. Literature Review (3+ pages)
3. Methodology (1+ pages)
3.1 Research Design
3.2 Population (if applicable)
3.4 Research Instruments
3.6 Data Analysis
4. Budget (FOR SPONSORED STUDENTS
5. Research Ethics
So is this the order of our progress?
• But it may depend on how experienced you
are in doing research in the area.
• If you are studying this course we assume you
are starting on your research journey
Developing your IDEA
• The first question for you is:
– What is my area research
• Second question is:
– How familiar are you with this area of research
• Assume you are not familiar
• Problem for you is how do I get myself
Situations to Avoid When Considering
A Research Problem
• Research projects should not be a way of achieving
• A problem whose sole purpose is to compare two sets of
data is not a suitable research problem.
• Calculating a correlation coefficient between two sets of
data to show a relationship between them is not
acceptable as a problem for research.
• Problems that result in a yes or no answer are not
suitable problems for research.
Finding a Legitimate Research Problem
1. Look around you.
2. Read the literature.
3. Seek the advice of experts.
4. Choose a topic that intrigues and
5. Choose a topic that others will find
worthy of attention.
6. Consider feasibility
• What is the current body of knowledge in this
area? Work already done.
• It’s safe to always start with the literature
• Inform you about why this was done
• Alert you about what methods were used in
• Alert you about what variables are important
LR – Solution found? Gaps Identified?
• The available literature is reviewed to determine if
there is already a solution to the problem.
• BUT…times are a changing
– Existing solutions do not always explain new
– The existing solution might require some revision
or even be discarded.
– It may relate to a different environment
– It may relate to a different time or place
• You may discover that the literature review has
yielded a solution to the proposed problem.
– This means that you haven’t really done research.
– Change your topic / area of research
• On the other hand, if the literature review turns up
nothing, then additional research activities are
• Keep in mind that just because you didn’t find a solution today, doesn’t mean that one won’t show up tomorrow. This is one
of the reasons that researchers are always reading and trying to keep up to date with current trends.
EXAMPLE – Find the Gap
• Much of the research relating to indigenous
knowledge has focused on agriculture, land
management ( Olson, 2013; Dweba & Mearns,
2011; Derbile, 2011, David, Braby, Zeidler &
Kandjinga, 2013), bio-diversity (Popova, 2014,
Harvey, 2001; Zerbe, 2002) and more recently on
environment and climate change (Chun, 2014;
Popova, 2014; Gilles, Thomas, Valdivia, & Yucra
(2013); Ani (2013) . However, research is lacking
on the domestic knowledge underlying food
preparation practices which transform crops into
edible meals (Madge, 1994).
It communicates researcher’s
– clarifies the purpose of intended study,
– provides a context for the study
– give its justification and significance
–provides a step by step plan for
conducting the study.
What is a Proposal? REVIEW
Introduction – Background - Context
• Introduction should provide the background
of the research study.
• May include subsections.
• Must be clear.
• Initially you should write as much as possible
and when you are clear in your own mind you
summarise your arguments
Why are you doing this?
• Once you have done the Introduction you
should be able to:
• Explain why you are doing this
• What you are trying to achieve
• This needs to be crafted in a concise form
What to include in CONTEXT
1. Describe the field you will be researching
2. Tell us why this field is important
3. Describe the current (and relevant) "hot topics" in
4. Describe the specific area will you be researching in
5. Tell us how your research will add to the field
(explain why your work is important--does it address
any unanswered questions in this field?)
6. Summarize the current research base in your specific
area of interest and highlight any gaps in the
research that you plan to address with your
Purpose - Objectives
• Action oriented words such as, “to
determine”, “to find out”, “to ascertain”
• Objectives should be attainable, measurable,
achievable and testable.
• Objectives need to be specific in nature.
• Each sub objective should delineate only one
• The purpose states succinctly what the
researcher proposes to investigate.
Justification: Question to address
Have I identified the specific research problem I wish to
Have I indicated what I intend to do about this
Have I put forth an argument as to why this problem is
worthy of investigation?
Have I made my assumption explicit?
Significance of the Study
Significance of the study contains three
paragraphs based on three questions:
• Why the study is important?
• How the study is important?
• For whom the study is important?
Delimit the Research
• Delimitations of the research are
statements about what the researcher is not
going to do.
• What the researcher will not do is to
become involved in data unrelated or
irrelevant to the research problem.
• The researcher must distinguish between
what is and is not relevant to the problem.
• This is an upward moving process
• Start from what data you need to address the
research problem / questions
• Work out how best to acquire this data
• Look at similar studies and justify your
• Tell how you will analyse the data
Problem vs Method
• You should start by identifying all the possible
methods you can use to collect data that will
help address the problem.
• Draw a diagram linking Questions to data
• Methodologies are high-level approaches to
– The individual steps within the methodology might vary
based on the research being performed.
• Two commonly used research methodologies:
• Be mindful of ethics and informed consent.
Quantitative methodology Qualitative methodology
Role of values Value neutral; value-free inquiry Normativism; value-bound
Researcher’s role Detached; passive; separate from
Active; interactive and
Research problem Who – how many?
What – how much?
Literature review Explanatory – what are the
previously identified and
measured variables. Relationship
between variables. Hypothesis
and propositions are developed
Exploratory – what are the
Constructs are messy.
Research issues are
Methodology Description and explanation; e.g. -
survey or experiment
interpretation; e.g. case
study or action research
Source: Summarised from: Sarantakos, 1993, pp.53 & 99; Healy and Perry, 2000.
Methodology must be justified - EG
• The understanding of an individual’s attitudes and
motivations, as well as the complexities of the human or
organizational conditions remain unexplained by
quantitative and statistical means (Hughes, 1990; Creswell,
1994; Hill and Wright, 2001).
• Qualitative research studies tend to acquire data in natural
setting (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994; Creswell, 1998), where
the researcher is the data gathering instrument. The focus
of the outcome is inductive and interpretative (Healy and
Perry, 2000). A range of empirical material is gathered and
studied through case study, personal experience, life story,
interview, observation and other methods to describe and
analyse “ routine and problematic moments and meaning
in individuals’ lives” (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994, p.2).
• Qualitative studies are justified where the
nature of the research question is such that
the topic cannot satisfactorily explain the
motivation or behaviour of individuals without
deeper insights being explored (Creswell,
1998). Furthermore, where the variables are
not easily identifiable and when the emphasis
is on how a particular outcome is produced,
rather than the outcome itself, then a
qualitative approach is more appropriate
Ethical issues - EXAMPLE
• Studies involving interaction with a human sample will
usually have some ethical implications. It is important
to establish trust with the research participants, and
this was achieved by ensuring anonymity and
confidentiality to all respondents; carefully explaining
the research process and how the data were
presented; providing as much information on the
project and it’s aims and objectives without
influencing responses. In some cases an extra degree
of sensitivity was required when conducting focus
group sessions, especially with reference to the card
sort exercise, for example, where participants had a
visual impairment, the card exercise would not have
been appropriate and would have been left out of the
session. (source: AHRB)
• Overall, was the information presented clearly and goal driven or in a very
scattered manner with no apparent direction?
• Was the argument obvious throughout all the sections of the proposal ?
• Was the choice of citations appropriate with respect to the discussed
• Did you describe and explain all the relevant aspects of previous research?
• Did you structure the Method section clearly?
• Will the method, as proposed, be appropriate to deal with the argument
suggested in the introduction?
• Do you see any obvious design flaws?
• Are there any alternatives to study design? What is the justification of your
• Can one person (you) conduct suggested amount of work?
• And finally: is this project exciting?
• The format is often specified by the
institution. If not, select one and consistently
stick to it.
• In-text referencing (see example)
• Reference List vs Bibliography