Writing a Good Research Project Synopsis or Proposal
Final year research project is initiated with the development of project proposal. For new researchers and scholars, this is first step to begin the research work. Research proposal is a blueprint of the researcher’s idea. The length of this document ranges between 500 to 1000 words. But we cannot draw any hard and fast rule on this. It is subjective decision depending on the nature of area and level of research activity.
For the undergraduate degree research proposal may requires less than 1000 words. On the other hand, for the PhD level it may extends to the range of 1000 to 3000 words. Whenever student is registered for higher education degree program, research proposal is required during or at the end of the program.
For PhD degree it is sometime required even before the registration and considered as one of the admissions prerequisite. Research proposal is a formal agreement between the institution and researcher on some per-defined terms and conditions. These terms and conditions provide directions and mutual understanding between two parties during research process. There are number of websites and books which explain the details about these areas of mutual consent.
It is pertinent to note that Synopsis and research proposal are used side by side. Synopsis of research, the synopsis of a novel, and the synopsis of a movie etc. are summaries or outlines of researcher’s work. It is always good to write these outlines in advance, but many writers develop synopsis in the end. Proposals on the other hand, has both summary and feasibility. It is better to use the word outlines instead of summary when we write proposals. Another synonym is Abstract. This should be understood as similar to the synopsis but lesser in the length. It is a concise paragraph or a summary of the synopsis. Likewise Synopsis or Abstract should not be confused with the Executive summary. It is more inclined towards business reports. Executive summary is the mini form of the entire report or thesis. This is normally written when we have finished with our work and compiling it into final shape. Executive summary is placed before the content page and after the title. Young researchers must avoid cut and paste from the original document into synopsis or executive summary. There should be a logical flow of ideas developed in the entire document with appropriate transition within each point.
Following are the normal steps which are included in the research proposal at any level. Universities also set some exclusive criterion for their research students. They provide templates or specific format for development of the research proposals.
The very first step is to give the title of the research. Title must include the main determinants or factors which govern the objective of the research project. It should clearly indicate the dependent and main independent variables. It must describe the nature of the research activity. For example; the topic like “Study on the behavior of working mothers in Middle East during family disputes”. Here objective is the “behaviour of working mothers”, and the underlying main factor is the “working women”. Similarly location is also indicated wiz the “Middle East region”. This topic provides sufficient information about the topic and the direction of research. Before paraphrasing the title researcher should list the answers to following question;
· What is the main objective (dependent variable) of the research.
· What are the main factors (explanatory or independent variables) of the research objective.
· How can researcher group all factors into one word.
· What are the time period and the location where research will be executed.
The background of the study
In this step researcher explains the background of the research area by answering questions like;
· What is the broad environment which will be referred during research.
· Is there any historical perspective which might have governed the objective of the research project.
The objective of the study
In this step researcher explains the research objective by answering following questions. The objective of the study should be in line with the background explained in previous step by narrowing the broad perspective view into a concise statement.
· What motivates researcher to investigate on this issue or field.
· How topic of the research project relates to the issue or field.
. Broad problem area to the problem statement (Literature Review)
In this step the researcher explains about the possible literature he would be reviewing.
Here researcher starts writing about the broad problem area and then narrows it down to the precise problem statement. This is to-the- point statement and set the direction of the research activity. Here by using the techniques of literature review-which is the mention of the known theories on the subject, research tries to explore the topic to the extent that it justifies the pursuit for the new (current) research activity. Literature review in the research proposal should not be written as it is written in original thesis. Here researcher can refer to few examples of similar work in the past (but not all), which may relates to his current research objective. In this step, researcher must justify up to some extent that current objective was not taken up seriously in the past by any other researcher, and he/she has done sufficient study to reach this conclusion. In this stage researcher tries to answer following questions;
· From where, researcher should take a start to discover facts in this entire issue.
· How can researcher develop a chain of ideas or proven theories in the past.
· What are main factors (identified so far)-which govern objective of the study.
· How to write a precise statement explaining the problem behind the study.
Formulation of the hypothesis
Out of the theoretical framework researcher develops a series of relationship among variables-called process of theoretical framework, and then summarized the most appropriate relation in the problem statement. These relationships are subject to verification. Because it is researcher’s own point of view, on which he/she has reached after thorough review of the literature and preliminary investigation on the subject. The statements about each relationship is called hypothesis. There may be more than one hypothesis in one research project. For example hypothesis can be:
· Only old people are emotionally attached with products. Or
· Emotional attachment depends on the age of the consumer etc.
Hypothesis set the exact route on which researcher will move forward in order to meet the objectives of research project.
At proposal level researcher is not able to list all possible hypotheses. Therefore he/she is required to frame at least one research hypothesis which he could form out of his existing knowledge.
Scope and limitations
In this step the researcher writes the scope and limitations of the of the research activity by answering following questions;
· What else would benefit from the results derived in this research.
· Who else can be benefited from these findings.
· What researcher would not be able to finish in this research.
· What serious constraints researcher could face during investigation.
Research Methodology (Research Design)
In this step researcher writes the proposed research design which may lead him/her to the completion of the project. Research design is a way to collect real life evidence which may support your argument (hypothesis). Research methodology covers following questions:
· What type of research design is taken up.
· Who are the respondents in data collection.
· What is the sample size.
· Which research instrument will be used in data collection.
· How data would be analyzed.
Time line is a necessary step in research proposal. It explains how serious researcher is in doing research. How deeply he/she has worked out plan to complete the research project. It covers all essential steps spread over the entire timeline. It is like a Gantt chart developed by project managers. Researcher in this stage tries to give the answer to following questions;
· How much time is needed to complete this research.
· How total time will be allocated in different activities to complete the project.
· If anything goes wrong during research, what extra time would be available to handle the project.
Researcher in this stage tries to give the answer to following questions;
· Where this research activity will be undertaken.
· Who would be the respondents.
· How these respondents would be approached.
Cost estimation is another essential information which should be included in research proposal. Some universities do not make it mandatory part of the proposal at lower grades. But as my advice it should be there even it is not required. This will provide an economic viewpoint of the activity. Researcher should be able to chalk down all explicit and implicit costs involved in this report. Explicit costs are those expenses which researcher will be paying during research project. Like traveling cost, stationary cost, library expenses etc. And implicit cost includes all opportunity cost which is measured as the value of the sacrifices researcher is going to bear during the research. For example, the sacrifice of his salary; as researcher would be able to earn, if he spends time on research. Here the researcher is trying to answer following questions;
· What explicit cost is expected during research.
· What implicit cost is expected during research.
· How would the researcher manage those expenses.
· When and where those expenses will incur.