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Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.

Chapter 2
Formulating and clarifying the research
topic

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.2

Learning outcomes
By the end of this chapter you should be able to:
Generate ideas that will help in the choice of a
suitable research topic;
Identify the attributes of a good research topic;
Turn research ideas into a research project that has
clear research question (s) and objectives;
Draft a research proposal

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.3

Formulating and clarifying your research


topic
The important steps
Identifying the attributes of a good research topic

Generating ideas that help you select a suitable


topic
Turning ideas into clear research questions and
objectives
Writing your research proposal
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.4

Attributes of a good research topic (1)


Capability: is it feasible?
Are you fascinated by the topic?
Do you have the necessary research skills?

Can you complete the project in the time available?


Will the research still be current when you finish?

Do you have sufficient financial and other resources?


Will you be able to gain access to data?
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.5

Attributes of a good research topic (2)


Appropriateness:

is it worthwhile?

Will the examining institute's standards be met?


Does the the topic contain issues with clear links to
theory?
Are the research questions and objectives clearly
stated?
Will the proposed research provide fresh insights into
the topic?
Are the findings likely to be symmetrical?
Does the research topic match your career goals?
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.6

Attributes of a good research topic (3)

And - (if relevant)


Does the topic relate clearly to an idea
you were given possibly by your organisation ?

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.7

Generating research ideas


Useful Techniques
Rational thinking

Creative thinking

Searching the literature

Scanning the media

Brainstorming

Relevance Trees

Exploring past projects

Discussion

Keeping an ideas notebook


Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.8

Rational thinking

Examining your own strengths and interests


Looking at past project titles
Discussion
Searching the literature
Scanning the media

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.9

Creative thinking
Keeping a notebook of ideas
Exploring personal preferences using past
projects
Relevance trees
Brainstorming

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.10

Rational thinking and creative


thinking
These techniques will generate possible
project one of two outcomes:
One or more possible project ideas that you
might undertake;
Absolute panic because nothing in which
you are interested or which seems suitable
has come to mind.
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.11

Examining own strengths and


interests
Having some academic knowledge
Look at those assignments for which you
have received good grade.
You may, as part of your reading, be able to
focus more precisely on the sort of ideas
about which you wish to conduct your
research
There is a need to think about your future
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.12

Looking at past project title


Dissertations;
Theses.
Scan your universitys list of past project titles for
anything that captures your imagination
Scanning actual research projects.
You need to beware. The fact that a project is in your
library is no guarantee of the quality of the
arguments and observations it contains.
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.13

Discussion
Colleagues, friends, university tutors,
practitioner and professional groups

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.14

Searching the literature


As part of your discussions, relevant literature
may also be suggested. Sharp et al, (2002) discuss
types of literature that are of particular use for
generating research ideas. These include:
Article in academic and professional journals;
Reports;
Books.

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.15

Scanning the media


Keeping up to date with items in the news
can be a very rich source of ideas

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.16

Keeping a notebook of ideas


One of the more creative techniques that we
all use is to keep a notebook of ideas. All
this involves is simply noting down any
interesting research ideas as you think of
them and, of equal importance, what
sparked off your thought. You can then
pursue the idea using more rational thinking
technique later.
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.17

Exploring personal preferences


using past project
1. Select six projects that you like
2. For each of these six projects, note down your
first thoughts in response to three questions(if
responses for different projects are the same this
does not matter);
What appeals to you about the project?
What is good about the project?
Why is the project good?
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.18

Exploring personal preferences


using past project
3. Select three projects you do not like.
4. For each of these three projects that you do
not like.
What do you dislike about the project?
What is bad about the project?
Why is the project bad?

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.19

Relevance tree
You start with a broad concept from which you
generate further (usually more specific) topics.
Each of these topics forms a separate branch from
which you can generate further, more detailed sub
branches. As you proceed down the sub branches
more ideas are generated and recorded. These can
then be examined and a number selected and
combined to provide a research idea

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.20

Brainstorming
Define your problem that is, the sorts of ideas you are interested in
as precisely as possible.
Ask for suggestions, relating to the problem
Record all suggestions, observing the following rules:
No suggestion should be criticized or evaluated in any way before all
ideas have been considered;
All suggestions, however wild, should be recorded and considered
As many suggestions as possible should be recorded.
Review all the suggestions and explore what is meant by each.
Analyze the list of suggestions and decide which appeal to to you
most as research ideas why.

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.21

Refining research ideas


Using the Delphi Technique
Conducting a preliminary study
Continually testing out your ideas
Integrating ideas

Refining topics given to you by your organisation

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.22

The Delphi technique


This involves using a group of people who are either
involved or interested in the research idea to generate and
choose a more specific research idea. To use this technique
you need:
1. To brief the members of the group about the research
idea;
2. At the end of the briefing to encourage group members to
seek clarification and more information as appropriate;
3. To ask each member of the group including the originator
of the research ideas based on the idea that has been
described (justification)
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.23

The Delphi technique


1. To collect the research ideas in unedited and nonattributable form and to distribute them to all members of
the group;
2. A second cycle of the process (steps 2 to 4)in which
comment on the research ideas and revise their own
contributions in the light of what others have said;
3. Subsequence cycles of the process until a consensus is
reached . These either follow a similar pattern (steps 2 to
4)in or use discussion. Voting or some other method.

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.24

Writing research questions


Write research questions that are
Consistent with expected standards
Able to produce clear conclusions

At the right level ( not too difficult )


Not too descriptive

Use the Goldilocks Test


Clough and Nutbrown (2002)
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.25

Goldilocks test
Clough and Nutbrown use what they call the Goldilocks test to decide
if research questions are either too big two small too hot or just right/
Too big need significant funding
Too small are likely to be insufficient substance
Too hot maybe so because sensitivities that may be aroused as a result
of doing the research . This may be because of the timing of the
research or the many other reasons that may be upset key people who
have a role to play.
Just right are those just right for investigation at this time by this
research in this setting

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.26

Turning ideas into research projects (1)


Examples of research ideas
and their derived focus questions

Table 2.2 Examples of research ideas and their derived focus research
questions
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.27

Turning ideas into research projects (2)


Useful techniques
Start with a general focus question

Discuss areas of interest with your tutor

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.28

Turning ideas into research projects (3)


Writing clear research objectives
Check your examining bodys preferences for
stated objectives
Use a general focus question to achieve precise
objectives
Saunders et al. (2009)

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.29

Turning ideas into research projects (4)


Include SMART Personal objectives
Specific: What precisely do you hope to achieve from undertaking the
research?

Measurable: What measures will you use to determine whether you


have achieved your objectives?(Secured a career-level first job in
software design)

Achievable: Are the targets you have set for yourself achievable given
all the possible constraints?

Realistic: Given all other demands upon your time, will you have the
time and energy to complete the research on time?

Timely: Will you have time to accomplish all your objectives?


Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.30

The importance of theory


Asking for opinions and gathering facts 'what' questions
(descriptive research)
Using questions that go beyond description and require
analysis 'why' questions
Phillips and Pugh (2005)

In order to:
Explain phenomena

Analyse relationships

Predict outcomes

Compare and generalise

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.31

Theory
A formulation regarding the cause and
effect relationship between two or more
variables, which may or may not have been
tested

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.32

Threefold typology of theories


Grand, middle range and substantive theories

Creswell (2002)
Figure 2.1 Grand, middle-range and substantive theories
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.33

Threefold typology of
theories
Grand theories: Usually thought to be province of natural
scientists . (that will lead to a whole new way of thinking
about management)
Middle range theories: which lack the capacity to change
the way in which we think about the world but are
nonetheless of significance . (some of the theories of
human motivation well known to manager would be in this
category.
Substantive theories : that are restricted to a particular
time, research setting, group or population or problem

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.34

Deductive approach and


inductive approach
This discussion of theory dose assume that a clear
theoretical position is developed prior to the collection of
data (the deductive approach).
This will not always be the case. It may be that your study
is based on the principle of developing theory after data
have been collected (the inductive approach)

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.35

Writing your research proposal


Purposes of the research proposal
To organise your ideas
To convince your audience
To contract with your client (your tutor)
To meet ethical requirements
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.36

Content of your research proposal (1)

Title - likely to change during the process

Background - context within the literature

Research questions and objectives - what you seek


to achieve

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.37

Content of your research proposal (2)

Method - can be in two parts: research design and


data collection
Timescale and Resources - (finance, data access,
equipment)

References -

include some key literature sources

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.38

Evaluating research proposals

How the components of the proposal fit together

Viability of the proposal

Absence of preconceived ideas

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.39

Summary: Chapter 2
The best research topics
Formulate and clarify the topic
Meet the requirements of the examining body
Use a variety of techniques when generating
research ideas
Are focused on clear questions based on relevant
literature
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009

Raja Rub Nawaz Slide 2.40

Summary: Chapter 2
The best research topics
Are theory dependent
Have a proposal containing organised ideas

Tell the reader:


What will be done and why
How it will be achieved
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students, 5th Edition, Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2009