By Kevin G. Smith
The Research Proposal
Theological Research Seminar
THE PROPOSAL
What are the fundamentals of a quality research proposal?
• A research proposal “is a document that outlines how you
propose to undertake your research studies” (Mouton
2001:44).
•...
• ‘The greatest value of the research proposal is that it keeps
the research project on course’ (114).
– It prevents time-...
• Carelessness: students fail to edit their proposal with
care, so it contains many sloppy errors.
• Ignorance: inexperien...
Problem
•The ‘what’
•Topic
•Aims
Plan
•The ‘how’
•Type
•Approach
What does a proposal contain?
• Main problem
• Key questions
• Hypotheses
Statement
• Delimitations of the study
• Definitions and presuppositions
• Pre...
• Type of study
• Structure
• Timeframe
Design
• Data
• Tools
• Steps
Methodology
• Annotated reading listBibliography
The...
Take care with the preparation of your research
proposal. Based on the proposal, your professor will
make a decision as to...
• Do not make any errors on the title page.
• Check the grammar and spelling carefully.
• Ensure your proposal conforms to...
THE PROBLEM
How does one develop a research idea into a research
problem?
5. Fleshing out
of the problem
1. Provisional
research idea
2. Preliminary
literature
review
3. Precise
statement of
the p...
1. Research idea
• The research idea must be something of interest to you; the
interest must be intrinsic, not just extrin...
• A preliminary literature review scans academic writings
related to your topic to see what has been done and what
questio...
2. Literature review
Summaries
Abstracts
Reviews
Listings
Bibliographies
Online stores
Articles
Journals
Chapters
Whole
Se...
You must read until you
• know all the key contributors and their contributions;
• understand the major schools of thought...
2. Literature Review
Insufficient or inadequate reading is one of the most
common causes of substandard research proposals...
• State the main research problem in a single sentence!
• The form may be as a statement, question, or objective.
• The st...
3. Main problem
Single sentence
If you cannot state the main
problem in one sentence, it is
not yet sufficiently clear in
...
Key
question
3
Key
question
2
Key
question
1
Main
problem
4. Key questions
Since the main problem is too large to treat as...
How should churches in Swaziland minister to
polygamous families which join the church?
1.
What cultural
practices related...
Main problem
• Question 1
• Question 2
• Question 3
Thesis title
• Chapter 2
• Chapter 3
• Chapter 4
4. Key questions
Ther...
• Uncommon technical
terms
• Terms with diverse
meanings
• Nuanced terms in your
study
• Terms from other
disciplines (e.g...
5. Flesh out proposal
Delimitations Presuppositions
• What you will not study, that
is, what you will exclude.
• Make the ...
• Theoretical value: Describe how the proposed research
promises to contribute to the current state of theological
knowled...
THE RESEARCH PLAN
The Research Plan
The plan needs to be thorough, describing every step the
researcher intends to take in solving the problem. Many
research ...
Research Design
• The research design is the general approach you will
use to solve your research problem.
• What kind of ...
• Type
– What type of data will I need to solve my problem?
– Therefore, what type of study should I conduct?
• Logic
– Ho...
• Timeframes
– You need to assign due dates for each section.
– The due dates become a contract with your supervisor.
• Gu...
Research Methodology
Methodologies
Research methodologies are
proven ways of solving
certain problems. They are
like tools...
Methodologies • Dialogical
• Comparative
• Complementary
• Epistemological
• Polemical
• Analytical
• Synthetic
Methodolog...
Methodologies • Textual criticism
• Historical criticism
• Lexical analysis
• Syntactical analysis
• Discourage analysis
•...
Methodologies • Questionnaire
• Survey
• Interview
• Case Study
• Focus Group
• Participant Observation
Methodologies
used...
Research Methodology
Your Methodology
Take each step in the
process and describe
exactly how you plan
to do it.
The Main C...
• We ask for an annotated bibliography at the end of the
research proposal.
• You should not simply list books; you should...
The common mistakes with the bibliography
• out-dated works
• popular works
• irrelevant works
• general works
Bibliography
Bibliography
A word of advice—start compiling your thesis
bibliography from day one! Each time you consult a
book or an ar...
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06 Research Proposal

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06 Research Proposal

  1. 1. By Kevin G. Smith The Research Proposal Theological Research Seminar
  2. 2. THE PROPOSAL What are the fundamentals of a quality research proposal?
  3. 3. • A research proposal “is a document that outlines how you propose to undertake your research studies” (Mouton 2001:44). • The research proposal outlines what you will research and how you will research it. The ‘what’ part is called the problem; the ‘how’ part we call the plan. • Once approved, the research proposal serves as a kind of contract between the student and the supervisor. What is a research proposal?
  4. 4. • ‘The greatest value of the research proposal is that it keeps the research project on course’ (114). – It prevents time-consuming rabbit-trails. – It dramatically reduces the amount of reading you will do. – It protects you against gathering unnecessary data. • ‘In short, prepare a good proposal and your research will flow; prepare a poor one, and it will flop’ (115). Why is the proposal important?
  5. 5. • Carelessness: students fail to edit their proposal with care, so it contains many sloppy errors. • Ignorance: inexperienced researchers fail to understand the nature of a research proposal. • Over-eagerness: in their haste to get on with the real work, students slap together a poorly conceived proposal. Why so many bad proposals?
  6. 6. Problem •The ‘what’ •Topic •Aims Plan •The ‘how’ •Type •Approach What does a proposal contain?
  7. 7. • Main problem • Key questions • Hypotheses Statement • Delimitations of the study • Definitions and presuppositions • Preliminary literature review Elucidation • The theological value • The practical valueValue The ‘problem’ section
  8. 8. • Type of study • Structure • Timeframe Design • Data • Tools • Steps Methodology • Annotated reading listBibliography The ‘plan’ section
  9. 9. Take care with the preparation of your research proposal. Based on the proposal, your professor will make a decision as to whether you are capable of conducting serious research. Your proposal needs to make a positive impression. Sloppiness in the presentation of your proposal sends the wrong message. No professor looks forward to working with a lazy, careless student. Preparing the proposal
  10. 10. • Do not make any errors on the title page. • Check the grammar and spelling carefully. • Ensure your proposal conforms to institutional requirements. • Keep your language modest and precise. Preparing the presentation
  11. 11. THE PROBLEM How does one develop a research idea into a research problem?
  12. 12. 5. Fleshing out of the problem 1. Provisional research idea 2. Preliminary literature review 3. Precise statement of the problem 4. Identifica- tion of the key questions
  13. 13. 1. Research idea • The research idea must be something of interest to you; the interest must be intrinsic, not just extrinsic. • The research idea may emerge from a real-life problem. This is common in practical theology. • The research idea may come out of the current state of research in a particular field. • The research idea is not a research problem. It may have the seed of a suitable research problem.
  14. 14. • A preliminary literature review scans academic writings related to your topic to see what has been done and what questions remain unanswered (or unasked). • A preliminary literature review will alert you to current trends in your field of interest. • A preliminary literature review will help you to delimit your study to ensure that it is doable. • A preliminary literature review may alert you to the fact that your research idea is not doable. 2. Literature review
  15. 15. 2. Literature review Summaries Abstracts Reviews Listings Bibliographies Online stores Articles Journals Chapters Whole Seminal books Theses
  16. 16. You must read until you • know all the key contributors and their contributions; • understand the major schools of thought on your topic, and what separates them (e.g. beliefs, methods); • understand the research methods employed in your field; • have a good sense of what has been done, and where there are gaps in the current state of research; and • reach saturation point: when you are no longer finding anything new, it is a good indication that you have read enough.
  17. 17. 2. Literature Review Insufficient or inadequate reading is one of the most common causes of substandard research proposals. Students often rush to compile a proposal within an adequate reading programme. Some universities require an extended reading programme before a candidate may even commence work on the research proposal. Moral of the story: read, read, and read some more.
  18. 18. • State the main research problem in a single sentence! • The form may be as a statement, question, or objective. • The statement must be simple and precise. • The statement should have a subject and a complement. • The problem should not permit a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. • The question should not be a pretext for a crusade. 3. Main problem
  19. 19. 3. Main problem Single sentence If you cannot state the main problem in one sentence, it is not yet sufficiently clear in your own mind! You must be able to state it in one sentence that contains all the key elements, and points to the links between them. Problem or pretext You are looking for a research problem. While you should be interested in your topic, you also need to be objective. If you feel too strongly about the topic or you already “know” the answers, you cannot research it!
  20. 20. Key question 3 Key question 2 Key question 1 Main problem 4. Key questions Since the main problem is too large to treat as a whole, it is broken down into 2-6 key questions in such a way that the sum of the key questions equals the main problem. That is, if you answer all the key questions, you will have solved the main problem.
  21. 21. How should churches in Swaziland minister to polygamous families which join the church? 1. What cultural practices related to polygamy pose pastoral challenges to the churches? 2. How do the churches currently handle these pastoral challenges? 3. What biblical principles should pastors bear in mind as they minister to polygamous families? 4. What practical steps do churches need to take to enhance their ministry to polygamous families?
  22. 22. Main problem • Question 1 • Question 2 • Question 3 Thesis title • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 4. Key questions There is a direct correlation between the main problem and the thesis title, and between the key questions and the chapters in the thesis body. Typically, the each key question governs a major chapter.
  23. 23. • Uncommon technical terms • Terms with diverse meanings • Nuanced terms in your study • Terms from other disciplines (e.g., medical) 5. Flesh out proposal Definitions
  24. 24. 5. Flesh out proposal Delimitations Presuppositions • What you will not study, that is, what you will exclude. • Make the study doable by reducing its scope. • They may be canonical, geographical, historical , cultural, ecclesiastical, or conceptual. • The ‘givens’ which under-gird your thinking and approach • Conclusions of previous research on which you are building • Biblical, theological, or ecclesiastical biases which may influence your objectivity
  25. 25. • Theoretical value: Describe how the proposed research promises to contribute to the current state of theological knowledge, and why its findings should be valuable. • Practical value: Briefly describe the present realities and how the proposed research may help to address them. – Who should benefit? – Why should they benefit? – How should they benefit? Fleshing out the proposal
  26. 26. THE RESEARCH PLAN The Research Plan
  27. 27. The plan needs to be thorough, describing every step the researcher intends to take in solving the problem. Many research proposals fail dismally here. They set out the plan in such vague, general terms that one really has no idea exactly how the candidate intends to solve the problem. The research plan should be presented in such detail and with such clarity a different researcher, simply by studying the proposal, could duplicate the study. Weak area in proposals
  28. 28. Research Design • The research design is the general approach you will use to solve your research problem. • What kind of research must I undertake to solve the problem, to achieve the objective? • The type and existence of the data you need to solve the problem determine the design. • Is there an existing research model that would serve my purposes well?
  29. 29. • Type – What type of data will I need to solve my problem? – Therefore, what type of study should I conduct? • Logic – How will the logic of the study unfold? – Which model seems most appropriate for the study? – How do I need to customize it for my study? Research Design
  30. 30. • Timeframes – You need to assign due dates for each section. – The due dates become a contract with your supervisor. • Guidelines for timeframes – Full-time: MTh = 1-1½ years; PhD = 2-3 years – Part time: MTh = 2-3 years; PhD = 4-5 years Research Design
  31. 31. Research Methodology Methodologies Research methodologies are proven ways of solving certain problems. They are like tools in a toolbox. An expert researcher has mastered the art of knowing when and how to employ each tool to solve problems. Methodology Your methodology is a description of the steps you will take to solve your particular problem. Drawing from your toolkit of methodologies, you will select and use appropriate tools for each step.
  32. 32. Methodologies • Dialogical • Comparative • Complementary • Epistemological • Polemical • Analytical • Synthetic Methodologies used primarily in conceptual argumentation
  33. 33. Methodologies • Textual criticism • Historical criticism • Lexical analysis • Syntactical analysis • Discourage analysis • Source criticism • Form criticism • Redaction criticism Methodologies used primarily in biblical exegesis
  34. 34. Methodologies • Questionnaire • Survey • Interview • Case Study • Focus Group • Participant Observation Methodologies used primarily in field research
  35. 35. Research Methodology Your Methodology Take each step in the process and describe exactly how you plan to do it. The Main Components • Methods: What methods will I use for this component? • Materials: What materials will I use for this component?
  36. 36. • We ask for an annotated bibliography at the end of the research proposal. • You should not simply list books; you should know what is in them and why they are relevant. • Only include scholarly sources which are directly relevant to your research topic. • How many? BTh: 10-15, MTh: 20-25, PhD: 30-40. It may vary slightly according to topic. Bibliography
  37. 37. The common mistakes with the bibliography • out-dated works • popular works • irrelevant works • general works Bibliography
  38. 38. Bibliography A word of advice—start compiling your thesis bibliography from day one! Each time you consult a book or an article, add it to your bibliography. Writing the bibliography is frustrating at the best of times, but if you leave it to the end of the process, it can be almost impossible. We recommend that you open a file on your computer called ‘Bibliography’ and update it every time you find a new source.

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