How Business Research helps in Decision making

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Introduction to Business Research 1 The Research Proposal Dr William Wallace Professor Patrick O’Farrell IR-A3 1/2012 (1017) Module 1 Introduction Contents 1.1  Introduction ........................................................................................................ 1/1  1.2  Ten Questions on the Research Stage of the DBA Programme ................... 1/2  1.3  The EBS DBA Introduction to Business Research Courses Process Model . 1/4  1.4  The EBS DBA Research Process ...................................................................... 1/8  1.5  The EBS DBA Thesis ....................................................................................... 1/11  1.6  The People Involved in Supervision and Assessment ................................... 1/21  1.7  The Introduction to Business Research Courses .......................................... 1/25  1.8  Some Important Issues to Remember ........................................................... 1/27  Learning Summary ...................................................................................................... 1/30  Review Questions......................................................................................................... 1/37  Learning Objectives By the time the candidate has completed this module, he or she should understand:  the structure of the EBS DBA Introduction to Business Research courses;  the relationship between the courses;  the aims and objectives of the research stage of the EBS DBA programme;  the structure of the research stage of the EBS DBA programme;  the basic concept of a doctoral thesis and what this entails;  the stages in the development of a doctoral thesis;  the roles of the people involved in mentoring, supervision and examination;  some important underlying concepts. 1.1 Introduction This module introduces the Introduction to Business Research course texts, with particular emphasis on Introduction to Business Research 1. In doing so, it also introduces the research stage of the Edinburgh Business School (EBS) Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) as a whole. It describes how the three Introduction to Business Research courses form the foundation of the research stage, and explains the philosophy and structure of the research stage and the mechanics of the mentored and supervised phases within the research stage. It describes the structure of the main documents that have to be prepared and submitted for review during the research stage, including the research proposal, the literature review submission and the thesis. The EBS DBA programme comprises a courses stage and a research stage. Candidates are required to complete the courses stage before progressing to the research stage, and both 1/1 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction stages have to be successfully completed for the candidate to be eligible for the award of the degree of DBA. The courses stage comprises courses that prepare the candidate for the research stage. The courses stage usually comprises the three Introduction to Business Research courses. In some cases, however, the courses stage may involve additional courses. For example, where there is a mismatch between a candidate’s existing qualifications and his or her chosen area of specialisation, one or more additional courses may be prescribed. In such cases, the precise composition of the courses stage depends on the candidate’s qualifications and experience. All candidates, except those with existing doctoral degrees, study the three Introduction to Business Research courses. Most EBS DBA candidates have little or no research experience when they enter the programme because most hold MBA and/or MSc degrees that contain no applied research. It is necessary, therefore, to develop basic research skills before the candidate progresses to the research stage. The Introduction to Business Research courses develop generic knowledge and understanding of how to design and implement applied business research. Introduction to Business Research 1 establishes the research foundation. It introduces the concept of applied business research and develops an understanding of how research ideas can be identified, developed and worked up into a formal research proposal that can be critically evaluated to determine the viability of what is proposed. On completion of Introduction to Business Research 1, the candidate will be equipped to design and write a fully structured and coherent research proposal that describes what the research is about, what it is designed to achieve and how it is to be executed to a standard that convinces the DBA Research Committee that the proposed research is viable. The DBA Research Committee is a panel of applied research experts who critically review the research proposal in great detail and identify any areas of ambiguity or weakness so these can be corrected before the candidate proceeds to the next stage. It is, of course, imperative that any weaknesses in the research proposal are identified and corrected before the candidate moves on to implement the research. 1.2 Ten Questions on the Research Stage of the DBA Programme 1.2.1 Introduction A good way to achieve an overview of the DBA research stage is to consider 10 frequently asked questions. The various terms and processes discussed in the questions and answers are all developed in more detail later in this module. 1.2.2 Ten Questions What is the point of having a research stage? The EBS DBA is a doctoral degree that is equivalent to a Heriot-Watt University PhD and, therefore, is examined in the same way and to the same standard. Under Heriot-Watt University regulations PhD and DBA degrees must contribute to the knowledge base in the relevant subject area. The research stage allows the candidate to either discover new facts or 1/2 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction demonstrate sufficient high-level critical reasoning to make a contribution to the knowledge base. What is the output of the research stage? The output is a doctoral thesis that is put forward for examination. The thesis is developed through a series of stages and conforms to a specified structure. The candidate writes up his or her research as a thesis and then presents it to examiners and defends it against critical review. If accepted, and after any corrections are made, the thesis is stored in the university library and in national libraries. As a doctoral thesis, it contributes to the knowledge base in the relevant subject area. What do I have to do to complete the research stage? 6. Complete the courses phase. The candidate completes the courses required to provide the knowledge base and the Introduction to Business Research courses. Once all courses and examinations have been completed, the candidate is assigned a mentor and progresses to the mentored stage. 7. Complete the mentored phase. The candidate works with the mentor to produce a research proposal that is then submitted for formal review by the DBA Research Committee. The research proposal may be accepted or rejected. Once it has been accepted, the candidate progresses to the supervised stage. 8. Complete the supervised phase. The candidate works with the supervisor to design and implement the research and write up the thesis. The thesis usually comprises two ele- ments: Element 1: the literature review submission, which comprises the introduction, literature review, literature synthesis, pilot study report and outline methodology chapters. Element 2: the final thesis, which includes the literature review submission (see above) plus the data collection and analysis, and results and conclusions. 9. Present the thesis and defend it before examiners. This usually comprises a verbal (or viva voce) presentation before examiners appointed by the university. What is a research proposal and why do I need to do one? A research proposal is a formal document that sets out exactly what is intended to be achieved in the research and how it is to be done. The research proposal is considered by the DBA Research Committee, and the candidate can proceed only when the Committee is convinced of the viability of the research proposal. What is a mentor and why do I need one? The mentor is a member of EBS faculty. He or she will guide the candidate as the candidate develops the research proposal. The mentor is necessary because most EBS DBA candidates have little or no research experience and, consequently, need some expert help in writing the research proposal and developing the necessary research skills to be ready to work with a supervisor. The mentor provides generic advice on the proposal and prepares the candidate to work with a supervisor. 1/3 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction When do I get a supervisor? Candidates are appointed a supervisor as soon as possible after they produce a viable research proposal that is accepted by the DBA Research Committee. What is a literature review submission and why do I need to do one? The literature review submission is a formal document that comprises a series of draft chapters that will go on to form part of the final thesis. A typical literature review submis- sion comprises an introduction chapter, a series of literature review chapters, a literature review synthesis, a statement of research aims and objectives and a section on methodology. The candidate can only proceed to the final stage of the research when the Research Committee is convinced of its continued viability. How big is the final thesis? The final DBA thesis is normally around 45 000 to 50 000 words including references and appendices. This compares to a typical PhD thesis that is usually not less than 45 000 words and not more than 80 000 words. Under University regulations doctoral theses (DBA and PhD) shall not normally exceed 80 000 words and shall not normally exceed 400 pages in length including appendices. If a DBA thesis is likely to exceed 80 000 words or 400 pages including references and appen- dices, a case has to be made to the University prior to submission. How long will it take me to finish the research stage? The time required to complete the research stage depends on numerous variables, including the nature of the research, access to data and the time available to the candidate. As a rough guide an ‘average’ candidate with a demanding job and family commitments might expect to complete the research stage in three to four years. A candidate with no work or family commitments might be able to complete the research stage in two to three years. How is the research stage examined, and when do I get my DBA? The research stage is examined via thesis and oral examination by internal and external examiners. Once any required corrections have been made to the satisfaction of the examiners, the candidate is recommended for the award of the degree of DBA and the degree is conferred at the next congregation. 1.3 The EBS DBA Introduction to Business Research Courses Process Model 1.3.1 Introduction The underlying rationale and fit between the three Introduction to Business Research courses is shown in the process model. A process model is a diagrammatic representation of a sequential process split up into its individual components and sub-components. The sequence is as shown below. 1/4 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction  Introduction to Business Research 1 explains the principles of research and how to prepare a viable research proposal.  Introduction to Business Research 2 explains how to design and conduct a review of the existing knowledge base and literature so that the proposed research can be located within the context of what is already known.  Introduction to Business Research 3 explains how to develop a research method that is both reliable and replicable, and how to collect and analyse data and present findings. This sequence of progression matches that encountered in most academic and industrial research programmes. For example, a product developer working for a mobile phone manufac- turer might be interested in developing a new type of handset that uses some kind of innovative touchscreen technology. The company has to be careful how it invests in the research and development of new products as the time and cost implications are considerable and the economic viability of the proposed new product can quickly change in a dynamic market. The first step is to develop a presentation for review and (hopefully) approval by senior management. The presentation has to contain sufficient information for senior management to make an informed analysis and decision on the technological and financial viability of the proposed new product. It must, however, contain only relevant information. There is no point in including irrelevant content as this will slow the evaluation process down without adding value. In developing the proposal the product developer would identify the gap in the market, substantiate the case using market research results and support this with an indicative business case. The business case would detail likely development and production costs, research and development time estimates, time to market, etc. This presentation is effectively a research proposal (Introduction to Business Research 1). Its purpose is to make a sufficiently strong case to convince senior management to commit to taking the development proposal to the next stage. If the research proposal is accepted, it does not mean the product will go on to be developed for full production or that the eventual produce will be a commercial success. Acceptance of the research proposal simply means that senior management think it has potential and are willing to allow more time and money to be committed to it so it can be developed in more detail at the next stage. The next stage might be to develop the research proposal further by conducting a de- tailed analysis of the existing knowledge base on the proposed new product. The product developer might review a wide range of company and external information on touchscreen technology. This is effectively a literature review (Introduction to Business Research 2) as it is a wide-ranging and critical review of all that is known about what is likely to be involved in developing the proposed new product. If approved, the next stage will be to put together a detailed research method for devel- oping the new product. The researcher will be required to develop a clear and reliable research method that can be evaluated before the company commits to it. The research method will have to say exactly how the research is to be carried out, what the phases of new product development will be, what evaluation milestones or stages there will be, when the prototypes will be ready, how they will be evaluated, and so on. This process approximates to the research methodology (Introduction to Business Research 3). This example of the early stages of new product development is illustrative of the general progression outlined in Introduction to Business Research 1, 2 and 3. The Introduction to Business Research texts work both individually and as part of a suite. Individually they describe and develop parts of the overall process. Collectively they describe and develop the process of research from first principles to detailed implementation. 1/5 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction Inception and framing Research Initial Preliminary Feasibility Business brief concept analysis study framing Context IBR1 Contextual Research Business Constraints Limitations framework philosophy application Research proposal Research Business Aims and Scope and proposal Programme justification objectives assumptions Literature review Literature Systematic study and critique of relevant literature. review Detailed review of business applications Literature synthesis and theory formulation Initial Literature Synthesis Foundation of Synthesis theory initial theory summary summary IBR2 Pilot study and theory development Initial theory Pilot study Theory Pilot study Business Pilot study evaluation design development evaluation alignment Hypothesis or testable proposal Research Business Theory Operational Research hypotheses calibration disintegration hypotheses hypotheses Research method Research Identification Literature method Evaluation Selection of alternatives review Data collection and analysis Data Data Data Analysis Proving processing evaluation collection analysis Results Accept hypothesis Evaluation Literature Research of results reevaluation IBR3 results Validation study Reject hypothesis Literature reappraisal and theory development Final re- Theory Final theory Results Literature evaluation reevaluation reevaluation development reevaluation Conclusions and business contribution Final Generation of Suggested Business Suggestions for conclusions conclusions contribution contribution future research Figure 1.1 The full Introduction to Business Research process model 1/6 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction Inception and framing Research Initial Preliminary Feasibility Business brief concept analysis study framing Context Contextual IBR1 Research Business Constraints Limitations framework philosophy application Research proposal Research Aims and Scope and Business proposal Programme objectives assumptions justification Figure 1.2 Introduction to Business Research 1 sub-process model 1.3.2 The EBS DBA IBR 1–3 Process Model The full process model for the Introduction to Business Research courses is shown in Figure 1.1. The sub-process model relevant to Introduction to Business Research 1 is shown in Figure 1.2. In Introduction to Business Research 1 the candidate is provided with the information required to generate the research proposal. Inception and Framing The candidate develops an initial concept, which may be suitable for further development, and then carries out a preliminary analysis in order to evaluate the concept. In some cases it may be necessary to perform a formal feasibility study, in which the time required, resources available, deliverables and other practicalities are considered. Context A research philosophy or paradigm is selected for the proposed research. The candidate may choose to base the research on a quantitative approach or on a qualitative approach or a combination of both. The candidate considers time, cost or other constraints and factors that could limit the outcomes of the research. The final stage is to develop a clear applied business application for the research so that it is anchored in a real business context. Research Proposal The research proposal is the outcome of the framing and context sub-processes. It is a formal statement of the candidate’s research intent in a standardised form that is evaluated by the EBS DBA Research Committee. It is either accepted or rejected depending on its viability and potential. The EBS DBA Research Committee is a panel of EBS and external faculty members who review and critically evaluate each individual research proposal and recommend acceptance or rejection. The DBA Research Committee must be convinced the research proposal is sufficiently robust and viable before allowing the candidate to progress to the next stage, when a supervisor is appointed. The format and presentation of the research proposal is discussed in detail in Module 6. The research proposal has three main components that must be borne in mind at all times: 1/7 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction 1. Identify the research question, i.e. what is to be found out; 2. Describe how the data will be collected; 3. Show how the data will be analysed. 1.4 The EBS DBA Research Process 1.4.1 Introduction The aim of the EBS DBA programme is to produce applied business research profession- als who can use their doctoral-level skills to real effect at senior executive level in a business environment. This differs from the typical aim of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, which is to produce professional researchers who use their research skills with less direct application and more emphasis on theoretical and academic application. The structure of the DBA differs from most PhD programmes in that it is composed of a courses stage and a research stage. A traditional PhD programme comprises little or no courses element, and the candidate focuses entirely on the research element. This is because candidates typically enrol on a PhD programme after completing a first degree and MSc. Some universities run overlapping PhD and MSc programmes, where PhD students are required to pursue a relevant MSc as part of the first year or first two years of the research programme. The structure of the courses stage varies depending on the existing qualifications of the candidate. All candidates are required to complete Introduction to Business Research 1, 2 and 3 in sequence. Many candidates are required to complete additional subject-specific courses in addition to the Introduction to Business Research courses. By the time the candidate has complet- ed the course stage, he or she has demonstrated a command of both the subject-specific and research-oriented skills necessary to prepare him or her for doctoral research, i.e. a basic working knowledge of how to prepare a viable research proposal, literature review and research methodology, and of how to write up the research in the form of a structured examinable thesis. This does not, of course, guarantee that the subsequent research will be successful. 1.4.2 The Concept of the Knowledge Base Doctoral level research means research that contributes to the knowledge base in the chosen research area. Knowledge base means all published information in the research area. Published information includes everything from website articles to peer-reviewed research journal articles. For example, if a candidate performs a literature search in the field of strategic risk inter- dependency, he or she might identify 10 000 published pieces of work ranging from PhD theses to newspaper articles. This is the literature base. The literature base is not the same as the knowledge base. For example, the literature base may contain two publications that say different things, and there may be two corresponding schools of thought within the knowledge base. In addition some published texts are more significant than others. For example, a published research paper in a top-ranking refereed research journal carries more knowledge-base and research significance than an unsubstantiated newspaper article. Both, however, represent part of the literature base. 1/8 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction The knowledge base is all the knowledge generated by and contained within the literature base, including all current theories, schools of thought, original ideas under development, etc. In doctoral-level research, the candidate is required to add to this knowledge base. There are two widely recognised ways in which this can be done. The first is by the discovery of new facts. For example, a researcher might prove a causal relationship between two variables where no such relationship had been shown to exist before. The second is by independent critical reasoning. For example, a researcher might demonstrate a new application for a known tool or model by applying it to a specific case. It should be noted that the size of the knowledge or literature base in the chosen research area is very important. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with large and small literature bases. If the literature base is small, the candidate has plenty of scope for selecting a specific area that has not been researched before and it is easier to address the issue of originality. On the other hand, there is less literature on which to base the candi- date’s proposed research. There are fewer references that can be cited in substantiation of the proposed research design. In addition, the fact that there are few publications in an area may be a clear warning that the candidate should be wary of that area. In the case of a subject with a large literature base, the candidate may have more of a problem in defining an area where an original contribution can be made, but a large literature base means there is plenty of existing research upon which the proposed research can be based and is also indicative of the area itself being viable for research. In other words, it is best to choose an area with a large literature base. An area with little or no literature base is likely to be non-viable. One of the first things the mentor will ask the candidate to demonstrate is that there is a viable literature base in the chosen research area. The DBA Research Committee is likely to accept a research proposal for research in an area with a non-viable literature base only if the candidate is able to make a sufficiently strong and convincing case in support. 1.4.3 The Concept of the Doctoral Thesis In order to complete the research phase and graduate with the degree of DBA, the candidate must design and implement the research programme and then write up an account of the research and the contribution to the knowledge base in a doctoral thesis. He or she must then defend the thesis before examiners. There are numerous definitions of the word ‘thesis’ (pronounced thee-siss). Some examples are listed below.  A lengthy academic paper: a research dissertation based on original research, especially as part of the work towards a higher academic degree.  A proposition: especially one used as an argument or as the basis for an argument.  A statement: especially an unproved statement that serves as a premise in an argument. Physically, the doctoral thesis is a bound volume written by the candidate and submitted to the university. Successful theses are retained by the University and are stored in the University library. A copy is also retained by the UK National Library. The thesis is a permanent piece of work that is released into the public domain and is testament to the work of the candidate. Some EBS DBA candidates, depending on their existing qualifications, may be familiar with the idea of a thesis and may have produced one as part of their earlier studies. In most 1/9 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction MBA courses there is no requirement for a separate research thesis and there is often little or no direct research in the syllabus. Some Master’s degrees such as Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Philosophy (MPhil) require the preparation of a formal dissertation as a standard component of the course of study. Most MSc courses comprise a taught element and a research element. In most cases, therefore, the dissertation is completed in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree. In most full-time MSc courses the student effort hours required for the dissertation are about equal to the total student effort hours required for the completion of the taught courses. In most MPhil courses, the dissertation or thesis is normally completed in fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree, and there is no taught element. Some universities offer MPhil courses as being effectively an MSc by pure research. In other cases doctoral candidates may be initially required to register for an MPhil and then transfer to full PhD registration upon successful completion of the first year. In some cases, the research that has been developed in this time may not be of an acceptable standard, and the doctoral candidate remains registered for an MPhil and eventually is awarded the degree of MPhil for research. A doctoral thesis, whether PhD or DBA, is different from both the MSc dissertation and the MPhil thesis. The basic structure may be the same, but the level of rigour and standard of outcome is highest in the case of the doctoral thesis. It is possible to complete an MSc dissertation or MPhil thesis successfully without demonstrating the discovery of new facts or making a contribution to the knowledge base. For example, it may be possible for a candidate to receive an MPhil degree without conducting any original research. The research could, for example, be restricted to a critical analysis of an extensive literature review in order to show patterns or trends in what the literature is suggesting. A doctoral thesis must both contribute to the knowledge base and be original work. Most theses are structured using a number of common elements. These elements may sometimes be referred to by different names, but they generally contain the same basic components and contribute to the development of the thesis in more or less the same way. The starting point in the development of a thesis is the production of a research proposal. Once approved, the research proposal acts as the foundation of the research that follows, and each section of the research proposal is developed in more detail as the final draft thesis is produced. The next stage is development of a critical literature review that demonstrates the candidate has developed a detailed knowledge and understanding of the relevant literature and knowledge base. Having developed this knowledge and understanding, the candidate develops a research problem or question. This is a simple expression of what the research is trying to achieve. The question is then used as the basis for developing a research aim and a series of research objectives. The aim expresses what the research is trying to determine, while the objectives express the measurable components of the aim. In many cases the candidate develops a testable theory or hypothesis that is developed directly from the literature review. The development of the theory or hypothesis often takes place after a pilot study in which the ideas suggested by the literature are investigated in a preliminary manner. In order to test the theory or hypothesis, the candidate has to develop a research method, which is the process used to collect and analyse data. The results are then processed and collated to produce conclusions. The stages in the development of any thesis (discussed in more detail in later modules and also in Introduction to Business Research 2 and 3) can be summarised as follows. 1/10 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction  The development of a research proposal: where the candidate defines in detail what the research is intended to achieve and how it is going to be achieved.  The development of a literature review: where the candidate demonstrates that he or she is familiar with the relevant published literature.  The development of a research question, theory or hypothesis: where the candidate develops his or her own testable research question, theory or hypothesis based on the literature review.  The development of a research method: where the candidate produces a reliable method for the collection and analysis of research data.  Data collection and analysis: where the candidate uses the research method to collect and analyse research data.  The generation of results and conclusions: where the candidate uses the research method and data collected to generate results and conclusions. The completed thesis is written by the candidate and presented for examination. As with virtually all US and EU doctoral theses, the DBA is assessed at a viva voce or oral examina- tion. The candidate presents the thesis before an internal (Heriot-Watt University) and an external (non-Heriot-Watt University) examiner. The examiners have to satisfy themselves on a number of key issues including the following:  that the thesis is the candidate’s own work;  whether or not the thesis outcomes form a contribution to knowledge of the subject;  whether or not the thesis affords evidence of originality;  whether or not the originality element is supported by the discovery of new facts;  whether or not the originality element is supported by the exercise of independent critical power;  the extent to which the candidate understands the complexities involved. These issues are discussed in more detail in subsequent modules. The examination concludes with a recommendation from the examiners, who may award the degree of DBA or recommend the award of the degree subject to minor or major alterations. In extreme cases a thesis may be failed and no resubmission allowed. The most frequent outcome is that minor alterations are required. It should now be clear that a doctoral thesis is a considerable undertaking and represents a major challenge. The challenge presented by the thesis in the research stage is different from that presented by the examinations in the courses stage. The candidate will be required to develop entirely different and new points of view and approaches if the research stage is to be successfully completed. 1.5 The EBS DBA Thesis 1.5.1 Introduction The EBS DBA thesis is a doctoral thesis and contains the same level of rigour as a Heriot- Watt PhD. Both are examined using the same system of examiners, and both require candidates to develop the same level of research ability. Both are required to make a contribution to the knowledge base. 1/11 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction Candidates should refer to the University Regulations for confirmation of current thesis requirements. Some major considerations are considered below. 1.5.2 Thesis Size and Originality Candidates normally aim to produce a final thesis of around 45 000 to 50 000 words including references and appendices. This target size is lower than the university requirement for a PhD thesis, which is 45 000 to 80 000 words. Although the EBS DBA thesis typically contains fewer words than a PhD thesis, the requirements for contribution to the knowledge base are no less demanding. All parts of the thesis must be the candidate’s own work. Candidates must ensure that they comply in all respects with current University guidelines on the issue of plagiarism. The candidate is required to sign a declaration that he or she has read the University guidelines on plagiarism and that the thesis complies in all respects with these guidelines. The DBA Research Committee carries out a plagiarism check and reviews the draft literature review and methodology sections of the thesis before allowing the candidate to proceed to the main study (data collection, analysis, results and conclusions). The final thesis is approved by the Research Committee before submission for examination. 1.5.3 Thesis Contribution University regulations require that the EBS DBA thesis or dissertation: … shall form a contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality, shown either by the discovery of new facts or by the exercise of independent critical power. This requirement is very important and is broken down into its components below. The thesis shall:  form a contribution to the knowledge of the subject; and  afford evidence of originality by  the discovery of new facts; or  the exercise of independent critical power. Consider each of these components separately.  Forming a contribution to the knowledge of the subject. The DBA thesis must contribute to the relevant knowledge base as defined by the relevant publications. This requirement is one of the main reasons why a detailed literature review is central to the thesis: in order to demonstrate that he or she has made a contribution to the knowledge base, the candidate must first define the knowledge base itself through the literature review. This requirement could be interpreted as the production of a piece of knowledge that has not been published before. The contribution itself could be large or small. An example of large-scale contribution is the 1996 discovery of the link between Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans in the UK. This finding proved for the first time that prions (a form of protein) could cross the species divide between cattle and human beings. Most research produces a more modest contribution. As a result the knowledge base widens slowly as each individual researcher extends it at the margin. 1/12 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction In a business context a typical contribution could be to show that there is a link between the competency profile of two merging organisations and the short-term success of the merger. The competency profile could be defined as the range and levels of individual competencies at senior management level. It is important to keep the research focused, and it is advisable to define a relatively limited data set where possible: for example, the research might be restricted to the senior management levels within the sample organisa- tions. The candidate might then establish a method for defining the competency profile of the two merging organisations. This could involve the development of a competency matrix where senior management competencies are portrayed in terms of range and level. When the profiles of the two organisations are transposed, the analysis may reveal over- laps in some areas and deficiencies in others. The candidate might then show in a detailed case study that, the better the fit between the profiles, the higher the short-term success of the merger. The ‘success’ could be defined by several measures, including increased shareholder value, integration speed, merger cost and so on. The candidate might then develop results and attempt to validate them by conducting smaller cross- sectional studies across a range of similar organisational types. The outcome may be a statistical analysis showing that, the better the competency profile fit, the more successful the merger, in a manner that is statistically significant. The research should be designed in such a way that it produces a contribution to the knowledge base regardless of the actual results. For example, a researcher might analyse a large sample and conclude that there is strong evidence for a causal link between varia- bles A and B. Another researcher might conduct similar research and find there is no evidence of a causal link between B and C. Both researchers can use the results to con- tribute to the knowledge base. It is just as valid a contribution to demonstrate no association as it is to demonstrate association. Another example could relate to cultural differences. For example, a prediction model might be developed in the US and applied and tested over a long period with the result that it is regarded as reliable for use in the US. A researcher might then try to apply the same model in Western Europe. The US-applicable tool may or may not work in the same way in Western Europe. The researcher could make a contribution by showing that the tool (a) works the same in Western Europe, (b) works differently in Western Europe or (c) does not work at all in Western Europe. Any of these three outcomes would make a contribution to the knowledge base.  Affording evidence of originality. This overlaps with the preceding component. The contribution made to the knowledge of the subject thesis has to be original. Replicating existing research results (known as corroboration) can strengthen results but does not in- volve original thinking. It is not always possible to be truly original, and the examiners make a trade-off between the quality of the other aspects of the thesis and originality.  Evidenced by the discovery of new facts. This is similar to the requirement for originality and for the results to make a contribution to the knowledge of a particular subject. The discovery of new facts is, by definition, originality. As in the case of original- ity, the examiners make a trade-off between reinforcement of existing facts and the other aspects of the thesis.  Evidenced by the exercise of independent critical power. This is likely to be the most important to many DBA candidates. Consider some possible definitions of the words independent, critical and power. 1/13 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction  Independent: not influenced or controlled in any way by other events, people or things.  Critical: giving opinions or judgements.  Power: a natural skill or ability to do something. ‘Independent’ in a research context means not influenced or not controlled. This comes back to the requirement for originality and original work. In the same context ‘critical’ means being able to offer opinions or judgements on both the literature and the research find- ings. ‘Power’ refers to the ability to offer these independent and uncontrolled judgements. This sentence of the regulation is very important because it is likely to be the approach that a significant proportion of DBA theses adopt. A candidate can evidence originality by developing independent opinions or judgements about, for example, a real business case; this forms a contribution to the knowledge base. 1.5.4 Thesis Development Stages The EBS DBA thesis development stages are discussed in more detail in this course and in Introduction to Business Research 2 and 3. The purpose of this introductory section is to provide a basic overview as a foundation for the development of a more detailed understanding as the candidate progresses through the research courses. The EBS DBA is structured to contain a number of distinct progression milestones. These are summarised below:  Milestone 1: entry to the programme.  Milestone 2: completion of the courses stage.  Milestone 3: working with the mentor to complete the research proposal.  Milestone 4: working with the supervisor to complete the literature review submission (comprising literature review, literature synthesis, research methodology, etc.).  Milestone 5: working with the supervisor to complete the thesis and successful viva voce. Milestones 3 to 5 are relevant to the research stage. They effectively define three distinct elements in the development of the research. These stages are listed below.  Stage 1: the research proposal.  Stage 2: the literature review, synthesis, research hypothesis and design of the research method.  Stage 3: implementing the research method, data collection, analysis, results and write-up. These stages are reflected in the content of the DBA core courses Introduction to Business Research 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The contents of the three Introduction to Business Research courses are discussed in more detail later in this module. Introduction to Business Research 1 defines the research knowledge and understanding necessary to progress through stage 1 (the research proposal) and past milestone 3. Introduction to Business Research 2 defines the corresponding skills required to progress through stage 2 (the literature review submission) and past milestone 4. Introduction to Business Research 3 defines the corresponding skills necessary to progress through stage 3 (the research method) and past milestone 5. Stage 1: The Research Proposal (the Mentored Stage) Note: Candidates should refer to subsequent sections of the Introduction to Business Research course texts for further details on the roles and responsibilities of the mentor. This section is intended to give a broad overview only. 1/14 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction In stage 1 candidates complete the Introduction to Business Research 1 course and work with an EBS mentor to develop a research proposal. The research proposal is then submitted to the EBS Research Committee for consideration. If the research proposal is rejected, it will be returned to the candidate with a review or further works required. The candidate must continue to develop the research proposal until a standard is achieved where it is accepted by the EBS Research Committee. In developing the research proposal, the candidate is offered guidance by a mentor. The mentor is not empowered to give direction. He or she is empowered only to read the research proposal as it develops and offer guidance and advice. The fact that the mentor has read a completed research proposal does not imply that the research proposal may not be subsequently rejected by the EBS Research Committee. The mentoring role is generic because the mentor might not be (and does not need to be) an expert in the specific research focus chosen by the candidate. The mentor provides advice on all aspects of the research proposal from finding and reviewing literature and developing a background literature review to developing research aims and objectives, methodology options, etc. EBS also offers specialist pre-mentoring or supplementary mentors in a selection of popular research specialisms including finance, human resource management, strategic planning and marketing. Specialists are available to offer subject-specific advice either before or after a mentor is appointed. For example, the generic mentor may be mentoring a research proposal based on some aspect of applied financial management. The mentor may feel competent to offer help and advice on all aspects of the research proposal with the exception of one area that is highly specific to some aspect of applied financial management. In such cases the mentor can call in the services of the subject-specific supplementary mentor to offer subject-specific advice as a supplement to the mentor’s generic advice. The mentor works with the candidate until there is agreement that the research proposal is ready to be submitted for formal review by the DBA Research Committee. But, even if the research proposal is accepted by the EBS Research Committee, this does not mean that it will necessarily be developed into a successful thesis. Acceptance simply means that the Research Committee feels that the research proposal shows sufficient potential and promise to be worth developing to the next stage. Stage 2: The Literature Review and Research Method Note: Candidates should refer to subsequent sections of the Introduction to Business Research course texts for further details on the roles and responsibilities of the supervisor. This section is intended to give a broad overview only. Once the research proposal is accepted, and provided the taught stage has been success- fully completed, the candidate is matched with a supervisor. Every effort will be made to match students with a supervisor who has related research interests and (if possible) is located in the same country or continent. In stage 2 the candidate develops a literature review submission, comprising a literature review, literature synthesis, research question, theory or hypothesis, and a research method. As with the research proposal, the literature review submission must be developed to a standard that is accepted by the EBS Research Committee. If the literature review submis- sion is not acceptable, it will be returned to the candidate with an indication of the review or further works required. With the assistance of the supervisor, the candidate must then 1/15 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction continue to develop the literature synthesis until a standard is achieved where the document is accepted by the EBS Research Committee. The candidate can resubmit the literature review submission a maximum of two times. If the document is rejected for a third time, the candidate would normally be required to withdraw from the DBA programme. Stage 3: Research Method Implementation, Data Collection, Analysis, Results and Write-Up In stage 3 the candidate is required to implement the research method designed in stage 2. This usually involves carrying out some kind of data collection and analysis. For example, the candidate might conduct a series of interviews and use the responses to provide data that is then processed and used as the basis for testing one or more stated hypotheses. The method of analysis could be based on quantitative (numerical) analysis, qualitative (alphanu- meric) analysis or, ideally, on a combination of the two approaches. The research method must be scientifically credible and ideally should be capable of replication. The analysis must be logical, investigate the data in the way intended and generate a clear set of research results. In most cases the results will consist of a comparison between the actual results and what was proposed by the hypothesis. The candidate must also offer a clear set of conclu- sions and suggestions for further research. The final thesis is then formally submitted for examination when the supervisor considers that the document is to an acceptable standard. Assessment is by formal viva voce examination comprising the candidate, internal exam- iner, external examiner and supervisor. There is no guarantee that the internal and external examiner will pass the final thesis. Success depends on the extent to which the examiners consider that the research aims and objectives are achieved and the way in which this is carried out. 1.5.5 The Structure of the Thesis The recommended structure of the EBS DBA thesis is discussed in more detail in this course and in Introduction to Business Research 2 and 3. The purpose of this introductory section is to provide an overview that acts as a foundation for the development of a more detailed understanding as the candidate progresses through the research courses. There is no single international standard generic framework for a doctoral thesis. The format and balance between sections varies depending on the research area under considera- tion. The candidate can elect to structure the thesis in more or less any way that he or she thinks fit. The supervisor will, however, almost certainly suggest a format that includes the following sequence.  Preliminaries.  Introduction.  Literature review.  Research question, theory or hypothesis.  Research method development.  Data collection and analysis.  Conclusion In an ‘average’ doctoral thesis, the possible chapter headings might be as discussed below. Please note that the word count figures are indicative only. The word count for each section could be higher or lower than those suggested below, and the candidate should not feel constrained by the figures shown. 1/16 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction  Preliminaries. This section includes the title page, acknowledgements, list of contents, list of figures and tables, and list of appendices. The preliminaries section includes an abstract that provides a summary of the research, including the primary findings. Ab- stracts are used by other researchers when they are conducting literature reviews. Abstracts should be no longer than a few hundred words, and should be worded so that another researcher can obtain a ‘flavour’ of what is included in the thesis by reading the content of the abstract and nothing else. There is a required format of the layout of the title page and the sequence of acknowledgement, table of contents, list of figures, etc. This format is defined in the separate summary provided in the handbook.  Introduction. The introduction section should typically be 1000–2000 words long. It should contain a brief summary of the main aims and objectives of the research, together with a summary of any assumptions and limitations that apply. The introduction should also clearly establish the scope of the research, and should identify any areas that have been omitted, with justifications. A reader should be able to develop a reasonably clear picture of the research areas simply by reading the introduction. It is natural to assume that the introduction chapter should be written first. In fact doc- toral research is highly fluid, and there may be several modifications to the development of the research that take the development away from what was originally planned. As a result the introduction chapter is often one of the last parts of the thesis to be written. Modifications and minor changes in direction are permissible, but the supervisor will almost always recommend against any major changes in aims and objectives as the re- search progresses. It is very important that the initial aims and objectives are carefully researched and thought through because the aims and objectives are central to the direc- tion of the development of the research. If they are subsequently changed, the research already conducted may be aborted, and valuable time could be lost. The EBS Research Committee also looks out for any divergence in original aims and objectives as the pro- gress reports are submitted. The Committee will request a justification for a report that contains evidence of a significant shift in aims and objectives.  Literature review. A literature review can comprise one or more chapters, and the layout and content of the chapters reflect the content of the thesis title. For example, a thesis might have the following title: An investigation into the effectiveness of contemporary strategic planning imple- mentation systems in the integration systems of large-scale merger and acquisition implementation processes in the UK financial sector. This title includes the following important components:  the effectiveness of contemporary strategic planning implementation systems;  integration systems;  large-scale merger and acquisition implementation processes;  the UK financial sector. The sample title suggests that the structure of the literature review should be four chap- ters as listed above. Each chapter should survey the literature in each of these areas, and, although each chapter addresses a different subject area within the title, it is important that the chapters are linked. The objective of the literature review is to demonstrate an understanding of the existing research knowledge base. The existing research base is likely to cross title subject barriers, and it is important that the literature review also does this. The literature review also acts as the basis for the research question, theory or hy- 1/17 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School Module 1 / Introduction pothesis. It is important to show that this question, theory or hypothesis has been devel- oped by the analysis of the literature, rather than having been ‘thought up’ by the candidate. Linkage between literature review chapters can be achieved in a number of ways. The most obvious way is to end each chapter with a brief summary and overview of the subsequent chapter, explaining how it relates to the current chapter. In the example above, the Chapter 1 summary could include a section on how integration is an essential component of strategic planning implementation systems in mergers. Companies merge in order to fulfil strategic objectives. The success of the merger, and therefore its contri- bution to the achievement of the strategic objectives, is a function of how well the various stages of each company can actually be integrated. The wording should be ap- propriate to the link between these two areas. Another way to achieve linkage is to cross-reference. This approach can be used increas- ingly as the literature review develops. Themes and areas developed in one literature review chapter can be raised again in a subsequent chapter and developed further in the context of the subject matter. For example, a point on strategic planning integration linking the first two review chapters could be raised and developed further in the mer- gers and acquisition chapter. The use of cross-referencing, especially if it is focused and related, can greatly assist in the development of a strong central theme running through- out the literature review and linking the various chapters. Ideally, this should evolve naturally from the literature review, including a combination of published facts and the candidate’s own deductions and observations, building up in a logical progression to- wards the eventual research question, theory or hypothesis. Sometimes studies arrive at different conclusions. The candidate must be able to evaluate the studies in terms of their validity and statistical significance in order to assess their contribution to the research issue. While the literature review may run to several chapters, it must not be so large that it cannot be contained within the standard word limits that apply for a DBA thesis. As outlined above, the normal size of the EBS DBA thesis is around 45 000–50 000 words (about 200 pages). This word count range includes the introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis, results and conclusions, etc. In many cases the literature review and synthesis make up about half the final DBA thesis, depending on the size of the existing literature base, so an average literature review and synthesis might be 10 000– 15 000 words. In cases where the existing relevant literature base is small, it could be considerably less.  Literature synthesis and generation of hypotheses. It is not sufficient simply to review and accept what other researchers have published. It is necessary to include criti- cal analysis. The candidate must demonstrate understanding of the literature, using his or her own reasoning and deductive skills to evaluate critically both individual and collective publications. At this point it is worth recalling University regulation 8.11, which calls for original work evidenced by the exercise of independent critical power. In the literature review the candidate should demonstrate an ability to compare sometimes contradictory theo- ries or concepts and justify any decision as to their validity. This concept is discussed in more detail in Introduction to Business Research 2. This chapter synthesises the literature. ‘Synthesis’ means identifying the main themes in the literature, combining them into cohesive logical progression and identifying the cur- rent state of the art. Synthesis is essential because the chapters suggested by the thesis title typically cover different disciplines. The key to a successful literature review is to 1/18 Edinburgh Business School Introduction to Business Research 1 Module 1 / Introduction become familiar with each of the literature areas, summarise each one and then draw out the connections between them in the synthesis chapter. The synthesis is used as the basis for the generation of a research theory, question and hypothesis. The outcome of the literature review and synthesis is a theory, research question and hypothesis suitable for testing and analysis. The linkage between the literature synthesis, the critical evaluation of the primary emergent points from the literature and the devel- opment of the theory, research question and hypothesis should be clear and logical.  Pilot study and theory/hypothesis and refinement. The pilot study is not always necessary, but it is advisable to carry it out where appropriate. It is often advisable to test the research theory or hypothesis with a pilot study before embarking on the full re- search analysis. A pilot study, as the name suggests, is a short testing study used to act as a pilot for the main study that is to follow. The pilot study could include a relatively small sample size and focus on one or more of the numerous central areas of the primary research hypotheses. If the main study is designed to be based on questionnaires and interviews carried out with 50 companies, the pilot study might include three or four such companies in a preliminary evaluation. The main purpose of the pilot study is to test the reliability of the chosen research method. The pilot study fits into the stages of developing a formal theory, research question and the hypothesis, as below. These stages are discussed in more detail in Module 3. 1. Literature review. 2. Literature synthesis. 3. Basic theory. 4. Pilot study. 5. Pilot study outcomes. 6. Synthesis of the pilot study outcomes and the literature synthesis. 7. Formal theory. 8. Research question. 9. Research aims and objectives. 10. Research hypotheses. 11. Operational hypotheses. Having completed the literature review and synthesis, the candidate develops the basic theory. The candidate then designs and implements a pilot study in order to evaluate this basic theory and the methodology to be used in the main study. The pilot study generates results that are synthesised with the results of the literature synthesis in order to evaluate the compatibility between what the pilot study indicates and what the literature synthesis indicates. Depending on the compatibility between these new elements, the basic theory is adopted or developed to become the formal theory. The formal theory is then ex- pressed in terms of a research question. The research programme is then developed around this question and is expressed in terms of formal aims and objectives. These are then expressed in terms of research and operational hypotheses. This approach is con- sidered in more detail and with examples in Module 3. In many cases the pilot study (if properly designed and implemented) can suggest new areas of interest extending beyond what is supported in the literature.  Research method. After refining the research hypothesis or theory through the results of the pilot study, the next stage is to design a suitable research method. The research method is essentially the same as a recipe for baking a cake. The various ingredients and actions are written down so that anybody reading the recipe can bake the desired cake provided they follow the instructions. In theory, if every cook uses the same recipe, and 1/19 Introduction to Business Research 1 Edinburgh Business School

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