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- PhD Research Proposal – Content and structure - December 26, 2019
The aim of the research proposal is to ensure that the student and supervisor understand and agree to the aim and objectives of the dissertation. It should be no more than 5,000 words +/- 10% in length, excluding attached appendices. Of the total word count, approximately 3,000 words should be the literature review. All content from the introduction up to and including the conclusion is included in the word count.
The objective of the research proposal is to establish whether the dissertation is technically and financially feasible. It is also important to demonstrate commercial awareness within the context of the dissertation. It should include details of the action plan showing how the dissertation is to be undertaken together with planned time scales using a Gantt chart and any difficulties foreseen in obtaining components or specific information, procedures and standards. This requires careful thought. In particular, the student needs to consider in some detail how they will obtain the data required for the analysis. This raises an issue of access to a data set such as an organisation and, if a dissertation is investigating senior management decision making, support from senior management will need to be secured. Similarly, a questionnaire study necessitates thought as to the design, the timing, the cost and the mechanism for managing responses. In short, many dissertations encounter serious difficulties through unrealistic objectives being coupled with an inability to operationalise the idea into a practical research plan.
It is very important that the research proposal is concise, as vagueness will hinder your progress at the start of the dissertation period.
The research proposal consists of, at least, the following elements:
1. The formal title of the dissertation, as agreed with the dissertation supervisor.
2. A clear description of the dissertation aim and SMART objectives, research questions or hypothesis.
3. A dissertation time plan for the work stages, showing anticipated start and finish times for each work stage, and for the overall dissertation in the form of a Gantt chart. Tasks may overlap or run in parallel. Some examples of ‘work stages’ might be: ‘Literature search’ (objectives here might be to find references to previous work on the topic, or might be to learn about the subject, etc.); ‘Design of adequate content and structure of questionnaire’ using different types of questions – open, closed, probe, Likert scale questions, etc.; Actual writing of dissertation; Analysing and evaluating research findings; Writing recommendations etc.
- A very important part of your dissertation is time management, and how well you manage your time is one of the factors used in assessing your dissertation.
- Dissertation plans are not intended to be restrictive. It is part of good dissertation management to recognise when time plans are not being met, and to react appropriately either to bring the dissertation back into the planned timescale or to modify the timescale in the light of new information and ideas, if appropriate.
5. A resources analysis to identify what is required to carry out the dissertation. This will address secondary research in terms of academic books, journals, professional magazines and websites, organisational reports, and government reports and legislation.
6. Using professional risk assessment tools or techniques, it is important to complete a risk and threat assessment for the dissertation. This should be completed as a risk assessment matrix with analysis.
7. Your research proposal must include a signed version of the plagiarism statement.
Relevant sections of the research proposal may be added to the dissertation with adjustments made to meet the dissertation brief. These will include the literature review and evaluated Gantt chart and risk analysis.
DISSERTATION – Proposal Form for PhD
Use this form as guidance to create a comprehensive research proposal
(Word limit: 5,000 +/- 10%).
- Background to proposed topic and reasons of choice
2. Research objectives, dissertation question or hypothesis
3. Literature review, theories and concepts
In the research proposal in the form of an assignment. It is worth 30% of the total marks. You need to have identified, searched and analysed the main theories, concepts and principles, which are relevant and valid for your dissertation topics. It is a good approach to write at least 3,000 words for a literature review in a research proposal.
4. Research methodology
4.1 Primary research
4.2 Secondary research
4.3 Qualitative research
4.4 Quantitative research
You need to write clear and robust intentions and explanations how to use and approach all relevant and valid aspects of primary, secondary, qualitative and quantitative research, including questionnaire content and structure with size, sample, the main questions and possible risks involved. The above should relate directly to your subject and the nature of the research.
5. Problems or opportunities and limitations that might arise
You need to complete a risk analysis using relevant and a valid risk assessment method and solution to possible problems.
6. Time scale and Gantt chart
Appendix 1: Gantt Chart
Appendix 2: Risk assessment matrix Within the main body of the research proposal, these documents must be critically assessed and evaluated in the light of your specific subject, circumstances or other unseen factors