Research Proposal Thesis major Points and Plan

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CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH HANDBOOK GUIDELINES FOR RESEARCH PROPOSALS AND DISSERTATIONS/THESES SCHOOL OF GRADUATE STUDIES THE COPPERBELT UNIVERSITY CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH HANDBOOK GUIDELINES FOR RESEARCH PROPOSALS AND DISSERTATIONS/THESES Prepared by BIEMBA MALITI, DBA Reviewed by THOMAS K. TAYLOR, DSc ii PREFACE iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Preface iii 1.0 Introduction to Research 1 1.1 Definitions 1 1.2 Dissertation versus Thesis 2 1.3 The Research Proposal 2 1.4 Research Proposal Defense 4 2.0 Research Guidelines 6 2.1 General Requirements 6 2.2 Size /Length 7 2.3 Research Report, Thesis/Dissertation Format 8 2.3.1 Title Page 9 2.3.2 Declaration 9 2.3.3 Dedication 9 2.3.4 Acknowledgements 9 2.3.5 Table of Contents 9 2.3.6 List of Tables 9 2.3.7 List of Figures 9 2.3.8 List of Plates 10 2.3.9 List of Acronyms/Abbreviations 10 2.3.10 Abstract 10 2.3.11 Introduction/Background to the Study 10 2.3.12 Literature Review 12 2.3.13 Theoretical and Conceptual Framework 12 2.3.14 Methodology 13 iv 2.3.15 Data Presentation and Analysis 15 2.3.16 Research Findings 15 2.3.17 Discussion/ Interpretation of Results 16 2.3.18 Conclusion and Recommendations 16 2.3.19 References and Bibliography 16 3.0 Ancillary Material 17 3.1 Abstract or Summary 17 3.2 Lists of Contents 17 3.3 Forewords, Prefaces and Introductions 17 3.4 Acknowledgements 18 3.5 References and Bibliography 18 3.6 Citations 18 3.6.1 List of References 20 3.6.2 Appendices/Attachments 23 4.0 Report Format and Binding 24 4.1 Paper Type 24 4.2 Final Report Binding 24 4.3 Dissertation Report Specifications 25 4.3.1 Title Page 25 Title of Report 25 Author’s Names 25 Purpose of Dissertation 25 Name of School and University 25 Submission Date (Month and Year) 26 4.3.2 Pagination 26 4.3.3 Report Headings 26 Chapter Heading 26 Main Headings 26 Sub Headings 27 Sub-Sub Headings 27 4.3.4 Main Body Text 27 v 4.3.5 Page Setup 27 4.4 Terms and Acronyms 28 4.5 Figures and Tables 28 4.6 Ancillary Materials/Attachments 29 4.6.1 Printouts, Plates, Maps, Figures and Tables 29 4.6.2 Tables 30 4.6.3 Artwork and Drawings 31 5.0 The Final Dissertation/Thesis Research Report 32 5.1 Report Submission 32 5.2 Research Presentation/Defense/Examination 32 5.3 Report Assessment 32 References 34 Appendices 35 vi 1.0 INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH 1.1 Definitions Research is one concept which has several definitions depending upon the needs and interests of the individual concerned. But the following definitions seem to capture the essence of research in terms of the objectives of this Handbook. 1. Research is an organized and systematic way of finding answers to questions. 2. Research is seeking through methodical processes to add to the body of knowledge by the discovery of none trivial facts and insights – it is a foray into the philosophy of knowledge. (Cooper & Schindler, 2006) In both academia and industry/professions, ideas have to be understood, new information has to be accumulated, plans have to be made and discoveries have to come out of the scientific processes. Research therefore is the systematic and scientific vehicle through which both the communication and utilization of the results of research can be done both effectively and efficiently. It requires systematic planning within a structured framework, and hence the need for some guidelines to enable upcoming coming cope with its demands of rigor, critical analysis and synthesis of multitudes of information. While bad research is poorly planned and carried out, good research is that which is guided by the scientific method standards which are the utilization of systematic and empirical methods that produce research which is replicable. This Handbook emphasizes the scientific approach to research since it is both efficient and effective in terms of problem-solving both academically 1 and managerially. Hence it is organized to ensure the conducting of good, relevant and replicable research. 1.2 Dissertation versus Thesis It is very important that the difference between a dissertation and a thesis is made at this stage for students to understand what is required of them. Dissertation: Is a research project that is undertaken at the end of an academic programme of study which comprises taught courses. It partially fulfills the requirement for the award of a degree (bachelors, masters, doctoral) in a given field of study. Thesis: Is a research project that is undertaken at the end of an academic programme of study where taught courses are not a main requirement. It partially fulfills the requirement for the award of a degree (masters and doctoral) in a given field of study. The guidelines in this Handbook are therefore meant for both undergraduate and post- graduate degree dissertations and theses. 1.3 The Research Proposal Upon successful completion of the taught course component of their degree studies, students will be requested to prepare a research proposal on a topic of their choice subject to the conditions in section 2.1 below. The student must obtain the approval of the course coordinator concerning the chosen topic prior to proceeding to the preparation of the proposal. The research proposal stage marks the start of the application of the skills and knowledge the student has acquired during his/her studies, hence it is a very important part of the whole course of study at this level. The dissertation proposal should be 2 – 10 pages long as compared to a thesis proposal which should be 20 – 50 pages long. 2 In general, it is made up of the following components: (see a sample in Appendix 1). Research Proposal Components 1. Research Topic/ Title 2. Research Problem 3. Research Questions 4. Research Objectives/ Interim Hypotheses 5. Scope of the study 6. Interim Literature Review 7. Interim Methodology 8. Programme of Research Activity 1.3.1 Research Topic This is really the title of the study and it should reflect an area of interest to the student which should also possess potential to be researched upon. 1.3.2 Research Problem This should be a brief statement of the problem to which the research would like to come up with solutions or answers and it should be stated very clearly. 1.3.3 Research Questions The research problem is then broken down into a series of questions concerning the relationship between the cause (independent variable) and the effect (dependent variable). 1.3.4 Research Objectives These are the goals which the research is supposed to attain and there can be one general objective and a number of specific objectives which are derived from the former. Interim hypotheses may or may not be included at this very initial stage in the research. 3 1.3.5 Scope of the Study This should indicate what the research covers and what it does not. It is really the range of the study which should adequately deal with the research problem and resolve it. 1.3.6 Interim Literature Review This should briefly touch on some initial important aspects of work previously done on the subject area by other scholars. 1.3.7 Interim Methodology This should also briefly mention the research methods which the student plans to utilize in her/his investigation, e.g., study design (case, cross- sectional, longitudinal, exploratory, etc.), population, sample size and sampling methodology, data collection (variables, measures/instruments, methods) and data analysis techniques. 1.3.8 Programme of Research Activity/ Work Plan This is the work plan for the whole research and, for purposes of efficiency and effectiveness, should preferably be in the form of a Gantt chart as the example in Appendix 2 indicates. 1.4 The Research Proposal Defense The research proposal should be orally defended to a panel of evaluators using MS- PowerPoint presentation. Each student has to orally defend his/her proposal before a panel of experts or lecturers from the School/ Faculty and other Schools of the university. A research proposal defense schedule/order of appearance should be given to each student and it should indicate the following (see Appendix 9): i. The date on which the student is to defend the research. ii. The time and order of appearing of each student iii. The duration of the defense – usually it is 10 minutes student 4 presentation and 5 minutes of questions from the evaluation panel. This depends on the size of the student population scheduled for presentation. The student presentation should be in power-point form hence, students are required to come with both a hard and soft copies of their presentations, usually on a flash disk or other suitable storage media. 5 2.0 RESEARCH GUIDELINES General Requirements Although research is a highly individualized activity which is tailored to suit specific needs, there are some common characteristics of degree student research which include: a) The student can come up with a suitable research topic or the topic may be suggested by a potential supervisor. Lecturers have areas of research interest and therefore it is very important for a student to also consult. b) The research must be completed within a given time period which is 6 to 12 months in this case. c) The research and its findings must be presented in a specified manner or format. d) The dissertation topics may include the following: • Practical business problems. • Practical human resource problems. • Evaluation of business/company performance. • A critical discussion/evaluation of the current state of research in a specific area of study. • Any other topic as may be approved by a panel or Head of Department or Dissertation/ Thesis Coordinator (who will be responsible for managing this kind of student research) or by the Supervisor of the research study. e) The student will be expected to meet the following requirements: • Identity the research problem (s). • Analyze the problem and derive the research questions. • Conduct extensive literature review to determine to what extent existing theory can be of guidance in critical evaluation of the problem (s). • Plan and execute any necessary investigation into the problem (s). 6 • Synthesize the knowledge and skills learned with the results from the field work/ investigation. • Provide practical and viable solution(s) to the problem(s) identified earlier. • Make relevant recommendations from the solutions. • Write logically and clearly while paying particular attention to formal reference requests on research papers and other published sources. • Meet the study deadlines as set by the appropriate department or school. • Submit a bound hard copy of the report as well as a soft copy on a diskette in Microsoft Word on or before the stated date. • Adhering to the specifications as outlined in the following sections of this guideline. Report Size/Length Dissertation The report should have a minimum number of 10,000 words and a maximum number of 18,000 words for a bachelors degree; a minimum number of 15,000 words and a maximum number of 20,000 words for a masters degree; and a minimum number of 25,000 words and a maximum number of 30,000 words for a doctoral degree. The suggested size of the dissertation excludes all the ancillary material, i.e., tables, figures, graphs appendices and any type of attachments. 2.2.2 Thesis This report should have a minimum number of 100,000 words and a maximum number of 150,000 words for a masters degree; and a minimum number of 150,000 words and a maximum number of 200,000 words for a doctoral degree. 7 The suggested size of the thesis report excludes all the ancillary material, i.e., tables, figures, graphs appendices and any type of attachments. Research Report, Thesis/ Dissertation Format The research report comprises of: A. Preliminary Pages (numbered in Roman numerals) as follows: 1. Title page 2. Declaration 3. Dedication (optional) 4. Acknowledgements 5. Table of Contents 6. List of Tables 7. List of Figures 8. List of Acronyms 9. Abstract 10. Main report body 11. Acknowledgements B. The Text Pages (numbered in Arabic numerals) which consist of the Following headings arranged as chapters: a) Introduction or Background to the study b) Literature Review and/or Theoretical Framework c) Theoretical and Conceptual Framework d) Methodology e) Data Preparation and Analysis f) Research Findings/Results g) Discussion of Results and Findings/Interpretation of Results h) Conclusion: Summary i) Recommendations (depending on type of study) j) References and Bibliography k) Appendices 8 The Title Page This is the top page of the report and should include the title of the dissertation, name of the author (student), purpose for which the dissertation has been submitted, the department, school, university and the date (see Appendix 3 for a sample). The Declaration Page This is a statement whose format is indicated in Appendix 5 and this should be adhered to. The Dedication Page This is a statement where students may dedicate their work to whoever they may wish to like family members, loved ones, friends, etc. (see Appendix 6) The Acknowledgements Page This is a statement to acknowledge any assistance received during the course of the research study (see section 3.4 below and Appendix 7) The Table of Contents This is a quick reference guide to the report (see section 3.2 below). List of Tables This is a list of all tables in the report and should be on its own page. List of Figures This is a list of all figures, charts and drawings in the report and should be on its own page. 9 List of Plates This is a list of all the pictures (photographs) included in the report and their respective page numbers. List of Acronyms/ Abbreviations This is a list of all terms/abbreviations used in the report and their long forms. The Abstract This is a summary of the report. It is a concise and focused description and explanation of the issues raised in the entire report. It should not be more than 1½ page long. The Main Content of the Report The main body of the research report comprises several chapters of theory, descriptions, analysis and discussion which should culminate into the formulation of your study’s research questions, hypotheses and logical conclusions and recommendations. The chapters are described next. CHAPTER 1 Back ground to the Study This is the first suggested chapter of the report which introduces and lays the background to the research study. It should include the following parts: 1. Background to the study 2. The Research Problem/ Statement of the Problem 3. The Research Questions 4. Research Aims and Objectives 5. The Scope of the study 6. The Significance of the study 7. The Organization of the rest of the report 10 The research problem should be stated clearly in the form of a statement so as to unambiguously indicate the problem that needs a solution and the following is a suggested one: RESEARCH PROBLEM The high fuel prices on the global markets are causing many non-oil producing country economies to go into a recession but the causes of such oil spikes are still largely unknown. Hence there is a strong need for the factors which are influencing the upward movement in fuel prices to be determined. Research questions should be in question form starting with ‘How’, ‘What’, ‘Which’, ‘When’ and ‘Who’ and ending in a question mark (?). Examples of research questions are: RESEARCH QUESTIONS 1. What could be responsible for the rise in fuel prices on world markets? 2. Why is Zambia economically poor when she is natural resource-rich? 3. How can productivity be increased in the Zambian copper mines? 4. When will the global economy go into a recession? It is recommended that a research study should have one overriding objective which is then broken down into a number of specific objectives. For academic research, a single objective will not normally suffice. For example: RESEARCH OBJECTIVES Main Research Objective: To determine the causes of the endemic poverty in Zambia. Specific Research Objectives: 1. To determine the causes of the poor purchasing power among Zambian households. 2. To determine why Zambians in general are getting poorer every day. 11 3. To identify the ratio of disposable incomes to household requirements in Zambia. 4. To find out why the majority of Zambians do not own titled property. CHAPTER 2 Literature Review This is the second chapter of the report which provides the theoretical basis of the study by comprehensively evaluating what other scholars had already done on the topic or topic area of study, i.e., in more detail than what was covered by the Research Proposal. Hence you should report on what others have already done and discovered concerning your chosen topic. CHAPTER 3 The Theoretical and Conceptual Framework This third chapter provides the interrelationships or linkages between the concepts/constructs of the study. This should result into the development of a conceptual model that tries to address the research problem and research questions and provide the requisite answers. The following is an example of a conceptual model. Firm Firm Actions Profits Training Pickup Dependability Customer Customer Revenues Procedures increases increases perceptions satisfaction Route addresses Customer files Compensation Recognition Fig. 2.1: The BFI Action-Profit Linkage Model (Epstein & Westbrook, 2001). 12 CHAPTER 4 Methodology This fourth chapter explains what the researcher (student) actually did to provide answers to the research questions. It gives details of how the study was actually carried out and ends in the development of the study hypotheses and/or propositions. It should include the following: 1. The Research Design 2. The Research Population 3. Sampling Design and Sample Size 4. Data Collection 5. Data Analysis 6. Hypotheses 7. Study Variables (Independent, Dependent, Control) The research design provides the framework within which a particular research study is conducted; hence it is critical to the success of the whole endeavour. An example of a research design can be as follows: Table 2.1: Framework of the Study RESEARCH PHASE ACTION Study Description Literature Review Model Development Literature Review Research Instrument Questionnaire Design Design Questionnaire Pilot Testing Content Validity Testing Data Collection Hand-deliver Questionnaire Company Interviews Company Records Data Analysis Testing: Reliability; Validity; Hypotheses 13 Hypotheses guide the research and hence it is imperative that they are stated correctly. They should thus be stated in the following manner: The Null Hypothesis. Ho: The age of a customer account does not affect the chance of payment being made to settle the account. The Alternative Hypothesis. H : The age of a customer account affects the chance of payment being A made to settle the account. THE SAMPLE SIZE The following are some of the most common formulas for calculating/ estimating the sample size for the study: (a) Sample Size for Questions Concerning Means 2 n = s / s ? where n = sample size 2 s = sample variance s = population variance ? (b) Sample Size for Questions Concerning Proportions 2 n = pq/ s p where n = sample size pq = measure of sample dispersion used to estimate the population dispersion (instead of standard deviation) s = standard error of the proportion p 14

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