PROBLEM DEFINITION AND RESEARCH PROPOSAL

The research process consists of a number of steps. The first step in any research is selecting the topic, which could start from the broad area of interest. There is no set formula for the identification of a topic of research. The best guide is to conduct research on something that interest you. Nevertheless, there could be a variety of sources like: personal experiences, emerging curiosities from the issues being reported in the mass media, developments in the knowledge, solving problems (relating to an organization, a family, education, and economy), and “hot” issues pertaining to every day life.

research methods business mathematics statistics  PROBLEM DEFINITION AND RESEARCH PROPOSAL

Broad area of interest could be ‘labor unions.’ As one could see from the literature, there is a large number of books and perhaps thousands of articles covering various aspects of labor unions. These articles and books have been written by researchers hailing from different subject specialties and using variety of perspectives. Therefore the researcher should narrow down the topic to some specific aspect of labor unions. For example, to what extent do the labor unions protect the rights of female workers?

Techniques for Narrowing a Topic into a Research Question

In order to narrow down the focus of research, try to get the background information from different sources. For example:

1. Examine the literature.

Published articles are an excellent source of ideas for research questions. They are usually at an appropriate level of specificity and suggest research questions that focus on the following:

a. Explore unexpected findings discovered in previous research.

b. Follow suggestions an author gives for future research at the end of an article.

c. Extend an existing explanation or theory to a new topic or setting.

d. Challenge findings or attempt to refute a relationship.

e. Specify the intervening process and consider linking relations.

2. Talk over ideas with others.

a. Ask people who are knowledgeable about the topic for questions about it that they have thought of.

b. Seek out those who hold opinions that differ from yours on the topic and discuss possible research questions with them.

3. Apply to a specific context.

a. Focus the topic onto a specific historical period or time period.

b. Narrow the topic to a specific society or geographic unit.

c. Consider which subgroups or categories of people/units are involved and whether there are differences among them.

4. Define the aim or desired outcome of the study.

a. Will the research question be for an exploratory, explanatory, or descriptive study.

b. Will the study involve applied or basic research?

From the Research Question to Hypotheses

Tentative answers to the research question help in the identification of variables that could be used as explanatory factors for building up the argumentation in the development of propositions relevant to the topic. In our example the factors may be the prospects of membership of female workers of labor unions, actual membership, support of their men folk for membership, participation in the general body meetings, membership of the executive body of labor union, and so on. These very propositions become the basis of testable hypotheses. Similarly, the inventory of the propositions is helpful in developing the theoretical framework for the research project.

Problem Definition

After the interviews and the literature review, the researcher is in a position to narrow down the problem from its original broad base and define the issues of concern more clearly. It is critical that the focus of further research be unambiguously identified and defined. Problem definition or problem statement is a clear, precise, and succinct statement of the question or issue that is to be investigated with the goal of finding an answer or solution. For example the problem could pertain to (1) existing business problems where the manager is looking for a solution,(2) situation that may not pose any current problems but which the manager feels have scope for improvement, (3) areas where some conceptual clarity is needed for better theory building, or (4) situations in which a researcher is trying to answer a research question empirically because of interest in the topic.

Sponsored Researches

So far we have been discussing research project primarily from the perspective that a researcher is likely to carry the study on his/her own initiative. Although such an initiator can be a business manager or Organizational Management trying to arrest some of the issues in the organization, yet the actual researcher may be a hired consultant. In such a situation the researcher has to ascertain the decision maker’s objectives. There might simply be some symptoms, and just like the iceberg principle, the dangerous part of many business problems is neither visible to nor understood by business managers. These symptoms are the management dilemmas which have to be translated into management question and then into research question(s). The management may hire the services of research specialists to do this assignment. As a result the management dilemmas get identified and delineated in the Terms of Reference, and consultants may be engaged to carry out the study. In such situations many of the steps (review of literature, theoretical framework, and hypotheses) that have been discussed earlier may be skipped. Certainly the management takes the research decisions keeping in view the urgency of the study, timing of the study, availability of the information, and more importantly the cost benefit equation of the study.

The Research Proposal

A research proposal is a document that presents a plan for a project to reviewers foe evaluation. It can be a supervised project submitted to instructors as part of an educational degree (e.g. a Master’s thesis or a Ph.D. dissertation) or it can be a research project proposed to a funding agency. Its purpose is to convince reviewers that the researcher is capable of successfully conducting the proposed research project. Reviewers have more confidence that a planned project will be successfully completed if the proposal is well written and organized, and carefully planned.

The proposal is just like a research report, but it is written before the research project begins. A proposal describes the research problem and its importance, and gives a detailed account of the methods that will be used and why they are appropriate.

A proposal for quantitative research has most of the parts of a research report: a title, an abstract, a problem statement, a literature review, a method or design section, and a bibliography. It lacks results, discussion, and conclusions section. The proposal has a plan for data collection and analysis. It frequently includes a schedule of the steps to be undertaken and an estimate of the time required for each step.

For funded projects the researchers need to show a track record of past success in the proposal, especially if they are the going to be the in charge of the project. Proposals usually include curriculum vitae, letters of support from other researchers, and record if past research.

Research Proposal Sections

Introduction

-Background of the study -Objectives -Significance

Research Design

-Data collection technique (survey, experiment, qualitative technique) -Population -Sample -Tool of data collection -Data Gathering -Data processing and analysis

Report writing Budget Time Schedule Team of Researchers

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