Assessment task: Written Report
Your assessment is divided into 2 parts. Your first task is to give a presentation of your project abstract in class. Followed by the formative feedback you will then submit a fully written project via Turnitin. Please see the breakdown of Task 1 and Task 2 for further details.
Task 1: Presentation of Abstract. You are required to formulate a research Project topic within business/management disciplines for investigation. In your presentation you need to identify your:
1) Project title
2) Research Importance/significance
3) Research Aim
4) Research question(s)
5) Intended methodology
6) Key words
Task 2: Full written MBA Project
On the basis of your Project Abstract (Task 1) you are then required to develop a complete MBA Project report.
Date/time/method of submission: TBC
Word count or equivalent: 15,000
Below you will find the marking criteria for the international marketing project report. The marking criteria are stated as questions and are very detailed so as to offer clear guidelines for the students as to what we are looking for in each section.
|Literature Review||25 marks|
|Analysis and discussion of findings||25 marks|
|Conclusion and recommendations||10 marks|
|Overall coherence and presentation||5 marks|
Guidance on the preparation of the Research Project
Whilst the structure of International Marketing Project may vary according to the nature of the subject matter, the following represents a typical structure of a Research Report which you may find useful to consider. A typical structure is likely to consist of the following chapters:
You should also provide a brief to preface the Research Report.
In selecting a topic for your Research Report, it is important that you first assess its viability as a project. Some questions you might wish to consider are:
* Does it fall within the field of Business or closely-related fields such as project management i.e. relate to managing projects or resources?
* Is the topic of personal interest?
* Does it provide opportunities for career development?
* Is the topic seen as a problem or issue by the organisation and will the organisation be supportive?
* Where appropriate, does the organisation keep records and in an accessible form where such data are central to the research?
* Is the organisation willing to provide access to relevant documents, records or people to whom you may wish to speak?
* Does a significant literature exist in the selected field?
* Could the topic (or aspects of it) be seen as ‘sensitive’?
A typical framework of a Research Report designed to meet the University’s requirements is as follows:
This need not be long (say around 3 pages, confirm with your supervisor), but it performs a number of important functions regarding the Report as a whole.
Introduction should cover the following:
* Clear statement of aims for the research
* Brief but relevant data about the organisational context (further detail can go into the Appendices), with the business rationale for selecting the topic (i.e. the need for the investigation) ‘thoroughly critiqued’
* A set of clear research questions (commencing why?, what?, etc.) or research objectives (commencing with an active verb e.g. ‘to investigate’ or ‘to evaluate’, etc.); the number of these is likely to be in the range of 3 to 4; hypotheses may alternatively be used, but are not mandatory
* An overview of the theoretical/conceptual framework and primary research methods to be used (a more detailed discussion will appear in the Methodology chapter)
*A summary of the overall structure to be employed in the report.
The specification of your research questions/objectives is particularly critical. You may initially select these on the basis of your perceptions of the organisational issues. These initial perceptions may, however, change once you have completed your Literature Review and you may wish to revisit and refine your research questions/objectives as part of an iterative and reflexive process that synthesises concepts and practice. The specification of research questions/objectives is also important because they ‘drive’ and give coherence to the remainder of your report. Each research question/objective should be specifically addressed in your Literature Review, possibly by incorporating the themes in sub-headings. How you plan to research empirically your research questions/objectives will also feature in your Methodology chapter. Each of your research questions/objectives will also form the basis of your Research chapter, will be revisited in your Conclusions and addressed in your Recommendations.
The usual practice in most research projects is to commence with a literature review: this is known as a ‘deductive’ approach in which the researcher uses theories, concepts, etc. to structure their primary research. It is also possible to adopt an ‘inductive’ approach which reverses this process ie primary data are gathered first and then the literature is used to contextualise and integrate the results of the primary research. The latter approach is less frequently used in management research and carries considerable challenges for the researcher: you are strongly advised to discuss the latter option with your supervisor if you are considering adopting this approach.
The starting point for investigating an issue is to carry out a review of the literature relevant to the topic in hand. This implies that the organisation and the issues specific to it are left to one side and a chapter is presented which consists purely of the findings of an exploration of the relevant published material (e.g. books, articles, databases) relating to the topic. It is therefore highly unlikely that your organisation will even be mentioned in this chapter, except possibly in the introduction to the chapter which might usefully explain the purpose of the literature review for your research. One of the main purposes of the literature review is to address specifically each of your research questions and identify what the literature says about them. Thus, it is a highly focused review and not a summary of everything that the literature has to say generally about a topic area. Your literature review should be structured around your research questions, using each as a sub-heading.
Some of the broad aims of the literature review may be summarised as follows:
Students sometimes ask how many literature sources should be referred to in a Management Research Report. There is no definitive answer to this, since it will depend (amongst other things) on how extensive the literature is in a given field. However, a minimum number of is likely to be in the range of 20-30 in order to do some justice to the literature in your chosen subject area, but a more thorough exploration of the literature in a high quality Management Research Report might refer to over 30.
Methodology is defined by Jankowicz (2005: 387) as “the analysis of and rationale for the particular [research] method(s) used in a project”.
The writing of the methodology chapter requires you to read relevant texts on business and social science research methods, weigh and discuss what is contained in these sources about alternative research methods and apply these to the decisions made about your selected methods, their strengths and weaknesses and why certain methods were selected and others rejected, thus providing a rationale for the methods used.
The methodology chapter is likely to include discussion of the following:
(1) Research philosophy; ontology and epistemology; alternative philosophies e.g. qualitative/quantitative, positivist/phenomenological or interpretive; a rationale for methods selected (as noted above)
(2) Research design and its validation e.g. issues in questionnaire design or semi-structured interviewing in theory and in practice and how these issues were addressed; a validation of each question asked, usually by reference to a cited source which has already been discussed in the literature review.
(3) Sampling: information about the sample, and sample size, how was it selected, what roles did respondents have, why were these included, was the sample representative in some way, how many respondents and non-respondents and any implications of the latter, integrating references to the literature and research practice?
(4) Ethics: A discussion of research ethics by reference to the methodology literature and how ethical principles were incorporated into practice.
(5) Limitations: Any concluding comments on weaknesses found in the methods used and their implications.
The criteria for assessing your primary/secondary research chapter are set out in the marking guidelines.
A good primary research chapter is likely to:
It is important to note that conclusions precede recommendations, not the other way round. The conclusions should specifically address each of your research questions/objectives, providing a summary analysis of what has been found out from the primary/secondary research, with integrated reflections on how the findings either compliment or differ from those reported in the literature. Conclusions also provide a logical bridge between the body of the report and any recommendations. It is important to note that conclusions (and recommendations) should not contain any material or ideas, either from the literature or primary research, which have not already been presented in the body of the report. If you find it necessary to raise something of significance in your conclusions not already discussed in the body, then the body of the report needs adjusting to take account of this: no ideas should appear ‘out of the blue’ at this stage of your report. Your conclusions need not be long, but they should do justice to all the important points raised in the body of the report.
Research Reports should finish with recommendations for action. Ensure they are clear, precise, and pragmatic, with, at minimum some cost implications.
Recommendations need to address all the issues identified in the conclusions, unless they are thought to be impractical or unfeasible in the current organisational context (and if this is the case, this needs to be stated, since it may represent a limitation to what might ideally be achievable). Logically, the recommendations should address the research questions/objectives that have been the drivers of the report as a whole. Recommendations should contain a clear action plan, stating what should be done, in what timescale (if appropriate) and, if further investigation is thought necessary, this should be explicitly stated. Recommendations should contain some cost and, ideally, some estimates of potential cost benefits (although it is recognised that the latter may not always be possible). In many organisations, uncosted proposals are unlikely to be acceptable. It is also important to note that recommendations never appear ‘out of the blue’. Only issues specifically addressed, and data specifically generated in the primary research and summarised in the conclusions can legitimately appear in the recommendations.
This shoulappear after the recommendations and before, not after, the appendices (if there are any). It should contain all the published sources referred to in the report, no more and no less. It should not consist of a list of sources of reading which you have picked up during the course of the project which you may have browsed but have not actually referred to specifically in your report. Following the ‘Harvard’ convention, referred to earlier, your references to books consulted should ideally be presented in alphabetical order by author or first author surname as follows:
Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2012), Research Methods for Business Students, 6th ed, Harlow, FT Prentice Hall.
The convention, therefore, is author(s) name(s), date of publication in brackets, title of publication underlined, place of publication and publisher name.
If you have quoted from an authored chapter in a book of edited readings, the convention is as follows:
Wilkinson, S. (2003), ‘Focus groups’, in JA Smith, ed., Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods, London, Sage, pp. 184-204
In this case, the named chapter author comes first, then date of publication, then chapter title in inverted commas, then name of editor of the book of readings, book title underlined, place and name of publisher If known).
If you have quoted from an article, the convention is slightly different eg
Fletcher, C. and Williams, R. (1992), ‘The route to performance management’, Personnel Management, October, pp. 42-44
Here, the article title is put in inverted commas, the journal title is underlined, the date (e.g. month or volume or edition number) is quoted and the page numbers (if known).
These are not, of course, compulsory, but will often be appropriate in Research Reports. The question that students often ask is what should go into appendices and what should go into the body of the report. As a general rule, the appendices should contain detailed documents or tables which, if placed in the body of the report, would have the effect of breaking up the logical structure and flow of the discussion. Examples include copies of company policy documents or lengthy or detailed statistical tables. In the case of the latter, it may need to be decided which data tables belong in the body of the report and which in the appendices. There is no absolute rule about this, but where statistics arising out of your findings are central to your discussion in the body of the report, tables may belong there provided that they are not long and complex. Alternatively, you may use the body of the report to summarise the main findings and cross-refer the reader to detailed tables in the Appendices. Whichever of these is chosen, it is important that your statistical findings are discussed somewhere in the body and are not just consigned to Appendices where they may not be read by a busy manager and their impact will be lost. All Appendices must be relevant to the discussion in the report and all must be cross-referred to and explained in the report. If they are not relevant, do not include them.
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