Welcome to the Research Methods Module. My name is Steve Armstrong and it is my pleasure to be working with you on this important unit of study in a little under two weeks’ time. I have supervised numerous dissertations and theses over recent years at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level, and most of those students who began their work early and established a clear framework for their research did extremely well despite the fact that it was perhaps the longest and most difficult task to be undertaken during the course of their studies. My own experience of research methods began when I embarked on a similar journey to yours, studying for a Master’s degree on a part time basis from 1989 – 1992 whilst working as an R&D Manager in the electronics industry. Since then I have also experienced the pleasures of conducting a PhD by research, again on a part time basis, into aspects of Organisational Behaviour. In terms of the philosophical traditions of research, my Master’s dissertation adopted a phenomenological approach using inductive inquiry, and my PhD thesis adopted a positivist approach using deductive inquiry. A part of my mission is to ensure that you are clear about these two philosophical/theoretical standpoints with regard to your own research. I hope to achieve this in a clear and practical way without confusing the issues by expounding the philosophical thinking and jargon, which all too often surrounds research of this nature in the social sciences.
The opportunity to conduct research of the type some of you will be doing is potentially very challenging and rewarding and it will almost certainly involve you in a process that you have not experienced before. It will provide you with an opportunity to do assessed work that demands individual research, analysis of problems and synthesis and evaluation of potential solutions. It will also provide you with an opportunity to produce something that can be of benefit to your world of work, whilst at the same time integrating many of the subjects covered during your course of study. My task is to help facilitate this, by exploring with you the world of research methodology. I will support you in developing an appropriate research topic and inform you of the academic and practical requirements of the dissertation. I will endeavour to ensure that you are able to understand and evaluate different approaches to research by exploring the diversity of techniques at a conceptual level. More importantly, I will try to ensure that each one of you who chooses to progress to Masters-level of study develops a proposal that results in a dissertation, which has both academic and practical significance to your studies and to your careers respectively.
However, our time is limited and I will therefore be making demands on you prior to my teaching. This is in order to maximise the use of our time and to try to ensure that we develop dissertation proposals that have a high probability of being approved the first time around. The work I would like you to undertake prior to my arrival is as follows:
Full name of student:
Title of Dissertation:
This should give a clear indication of content and approach. I suggest between 1 and 3 lines of text.
Introduction and Context/Background of your research:
A general introductory section is required including the nature, contribution and purpose of your research. This may lead to the statement of two or three specific aims that are to be achieved, or research questions that are to be addressed. These should be investigative aims and therefore problem-based rather than solution-based.
Initial Literature Review – including concepts and theories:
This is one of the most important parts of the proposal, as it should place the work intended in relevant theoretical contexts. No investigation starts from scratch, so it is not sufficient to say, “there has been little work done in this area before ……”
You will need to undertake a literature review using the internet and research databases located through the University of Lincoln’s library page and your discussions should be properly referenced using the Harvard referencing standard. Research focused questions (or hypotheses) need to be systematically developed from the literature review and also from the problem/issue that is being addressed within the workplace. The areas of literature that you focus on will clearly be determined by the nature of your chosen topic.
This section will detail the way in which the aims of the investigation are to be achieved. This discussion will include your proposed philosophical orientation regarding acquiring knowledge for your research and key assumptions as well as the detail of your chosen methods of data collection and analyses (i.e. qualitative v quantitative) plus population and sampling issues.
Action Plan of Work:
In such a large individual undertaking as a Masters-level dissertation, a lack of systematic planning is likely to be at the heart of many difficulties. In this section, you should explain the practical way in which the project is to be carried out. It is recommended that you produce a schedule of the major work elements that must be completed for the research dissertation (e.g. Literature review; Research Design/Methodology, distribution and collection of questionnaires; conduct interviews; transcribe interview data; data analysis; relate results to current theory; write first draft; proof read and corrections; binding and final submission). Attach start and end dates for each activity. This information can be presented in a table and/or on a Gantt chart if you wish.
Issues of ethics and access to data:
Include a brief discussion of any ethical issues that you foresee in carrying out your research.
A full reference list of all literature cited within the proposal should be provided using the standard Harvard referencing system.
I recommend that you restrict this initial draft proposal to 1 page maximum. I will be happy to stay behind after classes and discuss your ideas presented in the draft proposal on an individual basis. Should you wish to share your ideas and obtain feedback from others in the classroom, you are encouraged to prepare a short power-point presentation for delivery to the rest of the class in order to share your ideas and obtain wider feedback. Your presentation should last a maximum of 15 minutes.
To help with these early stages of developing a research proposal, you will find it useful to discuss possible research topics with people in your workplace beforehand, and also with other people on your course. The aims of this particular task are:
I would stress that you are not being asked to provide a definitive proposal at this stage, and what you bring to class will not be formally assessed. However, beginning the thought process early in the ways described will form an invaluable part of the overall development of your final proposal.
Our two and a half days together will be a mixture of student led sessions, experiential activities and lectures. Through these, we will explore your ideas, discuss various concepts and examine issues related to your pre-reading. It is anticipated this will facilitate a better understanding of the theory underpinning research methodology in the social sciences. I am confident that you will benefit from the course and that it can provide insights that will be beneficial to your professional careers, as well as your academic studies.
Remember, investing time in the early stages of your proposal is a very worthwhile commitment, and serves as a useful filtering and focusing exercise. Preliminary work of this nature will almost certainly pay dividends in the later stages of your research.
Method of Assessment for the Module:
The main piece of assessment required for this module is:
“This will be assessed with a core assessment with a Word limit of 3,500 words (80%) which will comprise of a research proposal based on the student choosing an area of inquiry relevant to any, or a combination of the modules on the programme of study.”
The format for the assignment will be the same as that shown above for the draft dissertation proposal. The lecturer for this module will mark your proposals and the programme root-leader will then second-mark the work.
I am very much looking forward to working with you all in early February.Order Now