Research Methods and Research Management
1) Title – brief, self-explanatory. It is a good idea to clearly identify the topic as a main heading and then say what kind of study it is, whether an evaluation, a case study, a comparative study or a review of the literature. You might want to present your title as a form of question to be answered.
2) Summary – the summary should be two/three paragraphs long. You should begin with a definition of key terms and give some background to the topic area. You should highlight key academic references (particularly seminal studies) and its relevance to key policy changes and/or key debates in criminology and related disciplines. You should establish the gap in existing knowledge and the interest, importance and relevance of the chosen topic to your wider field of study. Finally, make clear what kind of study you are going to conduct and briefly state the methodology you intend to use. Think of the summary as an abstract for an article – it summarises your whole proposal. An amended version of this – with your key findings – will form the basis for the abstract to your final dissertation. (One side of A4 maximum.)
3) Aims – clear and succinct. Each aim should be no more than a sentence and in a sentence format. Stick to one or two aims only. The aim should begin with words such as ‘to critically examine’, ‘to critically evaluate’, ‘to critically explore’, and so on.
4) Objectives – clear and succinct. Each objective should be no more than a sentence. You can have a number of objectives that will help you fulfil your aim(s).
5) Why is this research worth doing? – begin this section with a short background to the topic area. You need to establish the gaps in existing knowledge and link it with the importance/timeliness/relevance of your proposed research area (for example, link it to key policy changes or political and popular concerns). There may be a relative lack of research on the issue. Add a sentence or two as to the benefits of your study (for example, who may benefit from it and how). Also, will it advance knowledge? Are there any potential practical applications?
6) Previous work – you can draw on the findings from your literature review assignment here. However this section only highlights what you have learned from your review – it does not simply reproduce a section of it. The purpose of this part of the proposal is to make the case for your research project with the backing of what is already known and by identifying under-researched areas, or even gaps in the research literature. Once you have completed the review take the time to link it to the aim of your study (two sides of A4 maximum).
7) Theory – what theoretical perspectives have been taken on your topic? What is your starting point on this? This could be included within your literature review. You may wish to focus more on the theory to do with the research topic or theory as it relates to how you go about your research. In the latter case, theory could be included with the design and methods section.
8) Design and methods – clearly specify what type of research design you propose, as well as any specific method(s) of data collection. If you are doing literature-based research specify clearly how you will go about your search and differentiate between reviewing other research and documentary analysis. Spend time detailing what you intend to do. This will help your supervisor understand what you wish to accomplish with the study.
9) Ethics – go through the ethical issues outlined in chapter three as a reminder of what you need to consider. Apply these ideas to the chosen project.
10) Timetable – specify month and year(s) and hours/days available for the research. One side of A4 maximum – a table or diagram is fine. (I have about 6 months).
11) Resources with costs – some research may cost very little apart from your time but remember to include postage and phone calls as well as travel. You may need to travel to use a specialist library or buy books and so on. (Half a side A4 is enough – a table itemising any resources needed.)