Alternatively, take a look at the FAQs below to find the advice you need.
- I can't seem to get started because I'm totally confused over what research is all about and what I'm expected to do.
- I'm ready to get started, but I'm worried about how I will manage my research project
- I can't find articles and other publications on my research topic and I can't write the literature review.
- I'm planning to collect qualitative research data, but I don't know when to start the analysis.
- I can't decide how to analyse the data I've collected.
- HELP! I have left my writing up until the last minute and I now have nowhere near enough time to do it properly!
I can't seem to get started because I'm totally confused over what research is all about and what I'm expected to do.Before you can start your research, you will find it useful to gain an understanding of what business research entails by implementing the following plan of action:
- Start with the basics and read about the nature and purpose of research, focusing on the definitions of research and the different types of research (see Chapter 1).
- Identify a research topic (see Chapter 2)
- Identify a research problem or issue to investigate (see Chapters 5)
- Design the project (see Chapters 3,4, and 6)
- Collect the data (see Chapters 7 and/or 9 and/or 10)
- Analyse the data (see Chapters 8, and/or 11 and/or 12)
- Write up the research (see Chapter 13).
- Find out when you will have to submit your dissertation or thesis.
- Read about the research process, set yourself a timetable for each stage (some will overlap) and agree it with your supervisor (see Chapter 1).
- To ensure that your time is spent efficiently, you must use your knowledge, skills and personal qualities to manage the process of the research (see Chapter 2).
If you are unable to identify a suitable topic and/or a research problem or issue to investigate (or you have to abandon your choice because it was not feasible), you should take the following steps:top
- Try techniques such as brainstorming, analogy, mind mapping, morphological analysis and relevance trees to generate a research topic that is relevant to your degree (see Chapter 2).
- Consider issues such as your skills, potential costs, access to data and ethics (see Chapter 2).
- Arrange to meet your supervisor to discuss your ideas (see Chapter 1).
- Once you have identified a research topic, conduct a literature search to identify gaps and deficiencies that suggest a specific research problem or issue to investigate (see Chapter 5).
The research proposal is going to be your detailed research plan, but you have to carry out some preliminary investigations before you can write it. Your preliminary plan of action should be as follows:top
- Carry out a literature search using key words related to your research topic to find the most important academic articles and other publications on this topic (see Chapter 5).
- Identify a research problem or issue to investigate and conduct a focused search to find the key articles and other publications (see Chapter 5).
- Write a preliminary review of this literature for your research proposal that leads the reader to the research question(s) your study will address (see Chapter 5).
- Make a decision on the appropriate method(s) for collecting the data (see Chapters 7 and/or 9 and/or 10) and analysing them (see Chapters 8, and/or 11 and/or 12). Describe and justify your choices in the methodology section of your proposal (see Chapter 6).
If a theoretical framework is appropriate under your research paradigm, you should take the following steps:top
- Ensure that you have clearly specified the purpose of the research (see Chapter 6) and that you have conducted a literature search (see Chapter 5).
- You should then be able to identify the theories and models used by other researchers studying the same or similar issues, and develop a theoretical framework (see Chapter 6).
- You can then define the unit of analysis and construct the hypotheses you will test, which are the propositions you will investigate to answer your research questions (see Chapter 6).
If you are worried about how to write your research proposal, you should implement the following plan:top
- Start by looking at the indicative structure of a research proposal and read about what is usually contained in each section (see Chapter 6).
- Your preliminary review of the literature forms a major part of your research proposal. It focuses on the most influential articles and other publications in the literature and should lead the reader to the research question(s) your study will address (see Chapter 5).
- You must mention how you will solve any problems relating to covering costs, gaining access to data and issues concerning ethics (see Chapter 2).
- Identify a research problem or issue to investigate and conduct a focused search to find the key articles and other publications (see Chapter 5).
- Write a preliminary review of this literature (see Chapter 5) for your research proposal that leads to your research question(s).
- Make a decision on the appropriate method(s) for collecting the data (see Chapters 7 and/or 9 and/or 10) and analysing them (see Chapters 8 and/or 11 and/or 12). In the methodology section of your proposal, describe and justify your methodology and methods, commenting on ethical issues and the limitations of your research design.
- Conclude with remarks about the expected outcomes of the research (related to the purpose) and a timetable for completing the various stages (see Chapter 6).
Deciding which methodology to use is made easier when you realize that your choice is limited by a number of factors. Your action plan should be as follows:top
- Start by considering the constraints placed by the research problem or issue your study will address (see Chapter 6) and your research paradigm (see Chapter 3).
- Identify which methodologies are usually associated with your research paradigm (see Chapter 4).
- Consider whether triangulation is appropriate and/or feasible (see Chapter 4).
I can't find articles and other publications on my research topic and I can't write the literature review.Planning is the key to an efficient and successful literature search and a critical review of the relevant literature. We advise you to adopt the following strategy:
- Before you begin your search, you need to define your terms and determine the scope of your research (see Chapter 5).
- Then you should start a systematic search (see Chapter 5).
- You must be certain to record the references (see Chapter 5) and avoid plagiarism when writing your literature review (see Chapters 5 and 13).
- You should take an analytical approach to reviewing the literature rather than writing a descriptive list of items you have read (see Chapter 5). By pointing out the gaps and deficiencies in the literature, you will be able to lead the reader to the research question(s) your study will address.
Deciding which data collection method to use is made easier when you realize that your choice is limited.top
- Start by considering the nature of the research problem or issue your study will address (see Chapter 5) and any access to data that will be needed.
- Then consider your research paradigm (see Chapter 3) and your methodology (see Chapter 4).
- This should enable you to select appropriate methods for collecting the data (see Chapters 7 and/or 9 and/or 10). You must make this choice in the context of the methods you plan to use to analyse the data (see Chapters 8 and/or 11 and/or 12).
- As you collect the research data, you need to be clear about your choice of methodology (see Chapter 4) and issues relating to reliability and validity (Chapters 3, 8 and 9).
- You need to ensure that your methods for capturing primary data (using equipment such as a camera, video or audio recorder) are supported by notes taken at the time (see Chapter 7 and 9).
- If you are collecting secondary research data, you need to ensure that you have followed a systematic method (see Chapter 9).
- While you are collecting the qualitative data, use methods for reducing the amount of material data by restructuring or detextualizing the data (see Chapter 8).
- The first step is to consider whether you have designed your study under a positivist or an interpretive paradigm (see Chapters 3 and 4).
- If you are a positivist, you want your research data to be in numerical form so that you can use statistical methods of analysis (see Chapters 11 and 12). You may first need to quantify any qualitative data (see Chapter 10).
- All positivists will conduct an exploratory analysis of their data using descriptive statistics (see Chapter 11). However, postgraduate and doctoral students will need to go on to use inferential statistics (see Chapter 12).
- Depending on their philosophical assumptions, interpretivists who have collected qualitative data can use either quantifying methods or non-quantifying methods for analysing their research data (see Chapter 8).
If you are uncertain about how to structure your dissertation or thesis, the following plan of action should help:top
- Adopt or adapt the indicative structure that shows the main chapters in a research report (see Chapter 13).
- Read about what needs to be included in each chapter and add names for the main sections within each chapter (see Chapter 13). Remember that each chapter will need to have some kind of introduction and a conclusion section that will help provide links between chapters.
- Based on the indicative proportion of the whole report that each chapter represents, allocate an approximate number of words to each of your chapters (see Chapter 13).
- The last step is to decide what form any tabular or diagrammatic summaries of your results/findings will take (see Chapters 10–13).
If you have followed the guidance in this book, you will have decided on the main structure of your dissertation or thesis at an early stage and will have used the sections in your proposal as the basis of some of the chapters. You will have added further draft material as you embarked on different stages in the research. You should now adopt the following plan of action:top
- You will need to draw up a plan and give some thought to the overall design of the report (see Chapter 13).
- You will then be in a position to finalize your literature review, methodology and analysis. Once you have drafted your conclusions chapter, develop the introductory section you wrote for your proposal as the first chapter in your dissertation. Then check all chapters to ensure that you use the same terms and wording every time you mention the purpose of the research and the research questions.
- As you write, add the bibliographic references for all the sources you cite. It is essential to follow the referencing system recommended on your course and avoid plagiarism (see Chapters 5 and 13).
- If you have run out of time, use our eleventh-hour strategies at the end of this chapter.
Make sure you are having regular, balanced meals and drinking enough liquid to stop you becoming dehydrated. All this helps your brain process information efficiently. Take a short break (a 20-minute walk is ideal) to give your mind a rest and relieve the aches and pains of spending hours at the computer. Even though you may be feeling weary, do something aerobic during the break as it will increase your sense of well-being in general and improve your circulation. In addition, try the following tips:top
- Stop trying to write the particular section that is proving to be problematic and turn to a different part of your report.
- Alternatively, start a totally different task, such as checking your references, preparing tables and diagrams, running the spelling and grammar check or improving your writing by looking up synonyms.
- Try to find a way round the impasse you are experiencing with the problematic section by generating a mind map or other diagram to help structure your thoughts. Alternatively, reflect on what you have written in that section so far and draw up a list of its strengths and weaknesses. You can also do this by making an audio recording of your thoughts and reviewing them.
- Have a brainstorming session with your supervisor or a fellow student.
- Sometimes a good moan to a sympathetic member of the family or a friend is enough to clear the tension and clarify your thoughts.
Apart from the advice that you should always do your best, the following suggestions should help:top
- The most important source of guidance on standards is the handbook or other source of information provided by your institution.
- You can discuss these criteria with your supervisor (see Chapter 1), who provides feedback in the form of comments on your proposal and draft chapters (see Chapters 6 and 13).
- There are a number of general characteristics of a good research project (see Chapter 1) and indicative assessment criteria that will give you an idea of what is expected at different degree levels (see Chapter 13).
HELP! I have left my writing up until the last minute and I now have nowhere near enough time to do it properly!If you have left all or most of the writing up until the eleventh hour, you will be feeling very worried indeed. The submission date is looming and you have little to show for the work you have done. If this applies to you, we suggest the following strategy:
- Decide on a structure of chapters and main sections within each chapter, but do not take too long over it; no more than half a day, even for a doctoral thesis. Use the sample structures given in Chapter 13 and put in as many of the subsections as you can. Work out the approximate word count you are aiming for with each chapter.
- On your computer, open a document for each chapter and name it. Set up the page layout to the required size, margins, pagination, font, line spacing and so on. Type in the number and name of the chapter and the number and heading for each main section within the chapter.
- Now aim for volume. Do not worry unduly about grammar, punctuation or references. You must get as many words down as possible in each of the chapters. Leave the introductory chapter and concentrate on those sections you know well. You should find that the act of writing one part will spark off other aspects which you want to include. This will entail switching from chapter to chapter. In your hurry, you may put things in the wrong places, but that does not matter.
- When you have written approximately two-thirds of your target word count, stop and print each chapter. This will use up a lot of paper, but you are in a crisis situation and cost must come second to speed now. Put your printout in a ring binder file, using dividers to separate the chapters.
- Read all the chapters, marking any changes on the hard copy in a bright colour as you go, adding text wherever possible as well as references and quotations from other authors. Now make these corrections and additions to the computer files and open a new file for the references/bibliography. You should find that you are now within 10% to 15% of your target number of words.
- Print two copies and persuade a friend or member of the family to read through one and mark down any comments. We imagine that you have missed the deadline to submit draft material to your supervisor and you have been told that you must simply hand in your work by the due date for submission.
- Meanwhile, collect all your articles and other literature together and skim through them looking for quotations, illustrations or other items you can fit into your thesis. As you have just read it, it should be easy to spot relevant items. Write each item on a separate piece of paper and insert them into your ring binder containing your copy of your latest printout.
- When you receive your friend's comments, systematically work through your own and your friend's suggestions on your computer files, one chapter at a time, in order. Make sure you have cited your sources and included all the details in your list of references. Use the spelling and grammar check. As you finish each chapter print it off and read it.
- Make any final changes and draw up the preliminary pages. Print the required number of copies for binding.
- Give everyone who helped you a treat, but make sure you are never tempted to procrastinate again!