MCom Research Study Proposal

It is crucial that the research proposal is clear and well-planned if effort is not to be misdirected. A great deal of planning must go into your research project; possibly as much as 50 percent of the total time you spend on your thesis will be taken up by planning. The research proposal is designed to enhance your skills in the following areas:

  • Formulation of a research question.
  • Identification of a “gap” in the research literature.
  • Formulation of a set of hypotheses.
  • Preparation of a literature review pertinent to the hypotheses.
  • Choice of a methodology that is appropriate to an examination of the hypotheses.
  • Choice of techniques that are appropriate to an examination of the hypotheses.
  • Description and justification of the chosen methodology and analyses.
  • Organisation and presentation of material into a logical, clear, convincing statement of the proposed research.

The process of preparation of your research proposal should be iterative. Your proposal should be subjected to constant revision as a result of constructive comment and criticism. You should actively seek out expert opinion on your proposal; it is far better to develop a viable research project at the outset than commence with a research project that proves to be unrealistic after a great deal of time and effort has been put into it. You should continue with your literature study, discussions with experts and/or exploratory work until you are absolutely sure about your research problem and have a proposal which constitutes a clear, crisp definition of the research project.

The research proposal should contain a brief but clear statement of exactly what you want to do and how you propose to do it. Do not expect your supervisor and other advisers to consult any other document to obtain a clear idea of your research project. The research proposal should basically consist of the following areas:

I Summary

This summarises what the research project is to do and how it is to do it.

II Introduction

A brief introduction to the research project is provided leading up to a brief statement of the problem, hypothesis or question.

III Significant prior research

A comprehensive summary of all major sources of information leads to an expanded statement of current problem, hypothesis or question. This summary should be pertinent to the current problem, hypothesis or question and not merely an undirected literature summary. What is known about the research question from the prior literature? What is not known and why?

IV Research objective, stated clearly, preferably in the form of a question.

V Research approach or methodology

Your research approach should be as explicit as possible. Major questions yet to be decided should be listed. Your proposal should include:

  • Theoretical framework: What theory is driving your research?
  • Research Design: What type of approach do you propose and why is it appropriate?
  • Sample: What population (of persons, departments, organisations, economies, societies) do you intend to study? Why? What type of sampling procedure do you propose? Why?
  • Procedure: How will data be collected?
  • Measurement of Variables: How will you measure each variable in the study, and why did you choose to use that measurement procedure? What evidence can you provide regarding the validity and the reliability of all measures?
  • Data Analysis: What analysis will you use to examine each hypothesis? Why? (Include shells of Tables and Figures (no data) where appropriate.)

VI Importance of the research

Addresses the question of whether or not the research is important or significant enough to justify doing.

VII Limitation and key assumptions

Defines the limits of the thesis work. It is common for students to try to do too much: this section is thus useful for defining how much you will undertake and the key assumptions you will make.

VIII Contribution to knowledge

State the way(s) in which your work will make a contribution to knowledge. How is the proposed study unique? In what way will it go beyond existing research? How will it advance knowledge and contribute to the literature?

IX Proposed thesis chapters

Describe each chapter in terms of its major headings or by a short paragraph describing what will be covered in that chapter. For example:

  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Prior Research - leading up to statement of research problem
  • Research methodology
  • Research results
  • Conclusions
  • References

X Research plan

Prepare a chart that shows when you plan to complete key components. (See Planning your research).

XI References

Provide a full set of supporting, references.

Research Proposals: A Check-list

Ask yourself about your own proposal:

  • Does it show imagination and intellectual craftsmanship?
  • Is the problem clearly stated?
  • Are hypotheses clear, unambiguous and testable?
  • If no hypotheses, are objectives clearly stated; can they be accomplished?
  • Is the problem too large in scope?
  • Is the methodology feasible?
  • Can the data be collected?
  • How will the data by analysed?
  • Will the analysis allow the acceptance or rejection of the hypotheses?
  • Is the population from which the sample is to be drawn receptive to the research?
  • What might the results of the analysis look like?
  • What would be the consequences of the following: Experiment fails? Data (for each major item) not available? Analysis inconclusive?
  • Can major research activities be listed?
  • Can a time estimate be attached to each major activity?
  • Is the thesis trying to do too much? If yes: What would make the project more manageable?