RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND AIMS These are explicitly stated near the beginning of the proposal so that the readers know exactly what you are proposing to do and can read the document with this in mind. There should be no mystery or confusion in the mind of readers. Remember, the research questions and aims need to be fully justified so that the question: Why should we care about this issue?, is answered. Some proposals also require a separate statement of significance, but even if this is not required. your literature review and/or background discussion should contribute to the justification. You may find it useful to be clear about the importance of your project, using wording such as ‘This research is significant because
LITERATURE REVIEW AND/OR BACKGROUND TO THE ISSUE o CLov, Punch (2000: 43-4) suggests three questions when determining the scdesblhe literature review 1 What literature is relevant to the project? 2 What is the relationship of the literature to the proposed study? 3 How will the literature be used in the proposal? Ideally, your discussion will make clear how the questions, problems, and methods arise out of the literature.
METHODOLOGY AND CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK A proposal includes a statement of your methodology and theoretical and conceptual framework, and hots these are related. They should be justified. rather than merely stated. but any justification needs to be brief and written in plain English. A word on your statement of methodology: this is not the time to develop an extended response to methodological debates. Rather. the aim of this section is to make your starting point clear, so that the reader can judge how your initial stance shapes your project.
METHODS Provide a lot of detail in your methods discussion. Do more than state. for example, that you are doing semistructured indepth interviews or bivariate analysis. Be specific on how the methods will be used in this particular piece of research. Be clear about your sample and recruitment processes. conceptualisation, operationalisation, variables and measurement (where relevant), instruments and data collection processes, and analysis. Remember that all projects have their limitations, so it is best to present an informed discussion about what you can and cannot do with your sample and methods. Qualitative proposals often involve evolving procedures, questions, theories, operationalisation, and conceptualisation as themes emerge through the data. This is acceptable when it is part of the logic of the research design (rather than evidently arising through sloppy thinking and planning). In these instances, it is important to explain the basis of the flexibility and how decisions will be made as the study evolves.
ETHICS Institutions will often ask that you acknowledge ethical implications of the research. Some projects may give rise to difficult ethical issues. which does not mean they will be rejected out of hand. Rather, the researcher should be open about potential issues and their strategies for dealing with them. This clarity shows that you have thought seriously about the issues and ways of protecting participants in the research. Trying to hide ethical challenges by failing to acknowledge them is likely to be read as a lack of understanding and competence to undertake the research.
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