Project proposal brief

Main objective

 

Why do we ask you to write a Proposal?

 

This document has two purposes.  One, to provide you with a description of what a Proposal is, and the requirements related to this.  Two, a helpful checklist for you to use when writing the Proposal.  We ask you to write a Proposal because it is the first step towards writing ‘the real thing’, that is, your Final Year Project Report.  The Proposal is not assessed / does not get a mark/grade, but the Project Report, ‘the real thing’, does.  In the Project Report, as per the learning outcomes, your work needs to have shown how you have “draw[n] on the literature in the field, analyse[d] and interpret[ed] research evidence of a discipline-specific phenomenon in order to identify a suitable research problem/issue or opportunity to explore”, that you have “identified a suitable research problem/issue or opportunity, design[ed] and implement[ed] a research investigation/study, use[d] suitable research methods, appropriately justified, and report[ed] efficiently and effectively on the findings, conclusions and (where appropriate) proposals for appropriate action thereof”.  Your work needs also to have demonstrated “that the requirements of responsible ethical behaviour in research [were] suitably taken into account”.

 

 

 

What is a Proposal?  The Proposal is ‘the story so far’.  It is a kind of ‘this is an outline / sketch of what the problem / issue or opportunity is, and how it is going to be looked at / tackled’.  As you will have done little research on the literature in the field (the subject matter, what some call ‘the topic’), there will only be a brief outline of the literature.  And, it will likely not be possible to say, with precision, what the problem / issue or opportunity actually is at this point.  It will be helpful to bear in mind a term / concept from business and management, but which is eminently appropriate when talking about/doing a Final Year Project, the aims will have to be SMART, that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound.  As you will not have collected any data, you will not have any results, either, at the Proposal stage, to talk about.  No results means no conclusions.  In short, the Proposal is an outline/sketch of what the problem/issue or opportunity is (or might be), and how it is (or might be) going to be looked at/tackled.  And, some suggestions as to what data you might collect, and how.  Note the word ‘might’.

 

Later on, you will have read the literature, will know it well and will have written an overview of it.  The problem / issue that you are going to tackle will then be ‘firmed up’.  And, then, you will be able to collect the data, analyse the results, and draw your conclusions.  Or, you will have completely changed your mind about what you want to look at and will abandon what you wrote in the Proposal entirely.  Whilst not ideal (for you), you can do this, if you wish.  As this Proposal is only a ‘what will help you to think about what you are doing’ and will, after you have written it, be filed away in your filing cabinet, so to speak.  There are no hard and fast ‘rules’ about when these activities have to be done, or by when they need to be completed.  It depends in part on the Project, and in part on how you choose to work.  But, one thing is for sure; you need to get the whole ‘story’ written up by the deadline for submission of the Final Year Project Report!

 

Note that it is a Proposal.  The word ‘proposal’ does not mean ‘something set in stone, never to be changed’.  It is pretty much guaranteed that the shape/direction of your piece of research/project will change!  Why?  Because research is like that!  When we mark the Project Report will we look back to the Proposal?  Of course not.  Why not?  Because it will have little if any similarity to the Project Report (the piece of research will have changed).  We ask you to write a Proposal because long experience tells us that if we do not, some students start their Project far, far too late (and then fail to submit anything at all).  Asking you to write a Proposal is a way to ensure that you start from day one.  Like all tasks, ‘the beginning’ is often the most difficult bit, and so the earlier you/we make a start, the easier it will be.

 

 

Is the Proposal given a mark?

 

The Proposal is not marked / given a mark.  But, in order to provide suitable feedback to you, below is a grid / scheme which allows you to see how near (or how far) you are away from turning this Proposal into a description of something which has used the literature in order to “analyse and interpret research evidence of a discipline-specific phenomenon in order to identify a suitable research problem/issue or opportunity to explore”.  And, that you have in place a reasonable plan of action as to when you are going to do each activity/achieve each milestone along the way.

 

 

 

 

If I do not submit my Proposal by the deadline, can I submit it later/get an extension?

 

No.  This is because it does not get a mark.  So, it is not ‘a normal piece of coursework’.  Only ‘normal pieces of coursework’ (ones that get a mark) are subject to the University’s rules and regulations re late submission/extensions.  What will happen if you do not submit your Proposal by the deadline?  You are entitled to discuss your work (your Project) with your seminar leader.  The seminar leader will not look at ‘your Proposal’.  This does not matter at all.  As per this document, and also the guidance notes, “the Proposal is ‘the story so far’.  It is a kind of ‘this is an outline / sketch of what the problem/issue or opportunity is, and how it is going to be looked at / tackled’”.  Whether your work, your Project, is organised to look like ‘a Proposal’ or instead organised to look like ‘an overview of your work so far’ makes no difference at all.  We, seminar leaders, just want to see ‘your work’ (in any format, organised in any way that you like).

 

 

Description

 

What should be in the Proposal itself?

 

This Proposal must be no longer than 1500 words excluding the project plan and the references.  As an indication, the title of the Proposal should reflect the intended focus of the project.  However, the title is the least (the least) important part of any piece of research, including any Proposal, so do not spend more than ten seconds coming up with one.  It is a title which, in any case, you will likely change, for your Report.  You should be proactive in the development of your Proposal and the role of the seminar leader is to help you shape your ideas.  Your Proposal will likely (‘likely’ does not mean ‘must’) include the following.

 

  1. Introduction / research background: Present the problem which your research aims to address, explaining its academic and industrial/business context in general terms.
  2. Review of existing work / literature: Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of work in the subject area by synthesising at least 5 academic references (10-15 is standard, normal) of relevance to your work using the Harvard style of referencing. Bring to bear not only existing concepts but also emerging themes and applications from the ‘real world’.
  3. Research methodology: It is unlikely that, at this stage, you will have much if any idea of this, but if you do, this should include information on the general methodological approach you intend to adopt, and techniques to be used for data collection and analysis.
  4. Data collection: An indication of where and how you will be able to gather and conduct research on your subject matter and the manner by which you will gain access to relevant stakeholders or data.
  5. Timetable / Project Plan: Describe the tasks you need to conduct in order to complete the Project, identifying major milestones by which you will monitor the progress of your Project (eg, completion of literature review, completion of data collection). This can be illustrated by a simple diagrammatic work plan (GANNT chart) or similar.  The work plan is not included in the word limit of the Proposal and represents a one-page ‘appendix’ to this.

 

 

What input will my seminar leader have to my Proposal?

 

Please note that seminar leaders do not read your Proposal before you submit it; the learning outcomes of the module require that you make your own judgements about whether your Proposal meets the necessary requirements.  You will, however, have plenty of opportunity to discuss Proposals during the seminars.

 

 

What feedback will I get from my seminar leader on my Proposal?

 

Your seminar leader will give you useful feedback on your Proposal via verbal feedback during seminars.  It is for you to request such feedback.  It is not the role of the seminar leader to contact the student whose Proposal has not been submitted by the deadline and to tell that student ‘your Proposal was not submitted but if you want feedback, then please book an appointment to see me’.  The responsibility rests with you.

 

 

A checklist of what we, seminar leaders, are looking for in your Proposal (which will help you to move forward with your Project)

 

Title/cover page.  There is a working title.  Your student ID number is on it.  The word count is on it.  The date is on it.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
The title/cover page is entirely fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
The title/cover page is pretty much fit for purpose (only very minor change is needed). *
The title/cover page is reasonably fit for purpose (some change is needed). *
The title/cover page is either missing or not fit for purpose (much needs to be changed). *

 

Table of contents page.  There is a table of contents on a separate page.  This has headings, sub-headings and page numbers.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
The table of contents page is entirely fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
The table of contents page is pretty much OK (only very minor change is needed). *
The table of contents page is reasonably OK (some change is needed). *
The table of contents page is either missing or not OK (much needs to be changed). *

 

 

Word count.  There is a 1500 word limit.  It begins from the first word of the title to the last word of, well, whatever the last word is (this is normally the last word of the last reference).  This word limit excludes the Project plan/schedule of activities.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
The word limit is appropriate (it has not been exceeded). *
The word limit is not appropriate (it has either been exceeded by a lot or is far too short). *
The word limit is not appropriate (it has either been exceeded a bit or is a bit too short). *
No attention seems to have been paid to the issue of a ‘limit’. *

 

 

Literature in the field (the subject matter, which some might call ‘the topic’), in terms of how much, and its appropriateness.  The literature is plentiful.  The literature is wholly appropriate.  The literature, where it needs to be, is recent.  A review of the literature that likely covers 12– 15 references from reputable sources.  A reasonable balance between academic journals, books and other materials.  The identification of some theories/models/frameworks/key concepts from these sources which are particularly relevant.  If not presented in the Proposal, an indication of any other areas of research that you will shortly be looking at.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
The literature is fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
The literature is fit for purpose on the whole (only very minor change is needed to improve this). *
The literature is reasonable (it would benefit from quite a bit of improvement, *
however).  
The literature is not fit for purpose (much needs to be done to improve this). *
This is so far off the mark that ‘remedial action’ needs to be taken if this is going to turn itself into what is required for a Project (you should arrange a one-to-one meeting with your seminar leader/tutor in order to discuss what needs to be done). *

 

 

Literature in the field (the subject matter), in terms of background, overview, motivation.  The background (eg, industry/sector) is explained.  There is some justification as to why there is a need for research into this.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
This is entirely fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
This is pretty much fit for purpose (only very minor change is needed to improve this). *
This is reasonable (it would benefit from quite a bit of improvement, however). *
This is quite a way off what is expected/required (much needs to be changed). *
This is so far off the mark that ‘remedial action’ needs to be taken if this is going to turn itself into what is required for a Project (you should arrange a one-to-one meeting with your seminar leader in order to discuss what needs to be done). *

 

 

Literature in the field (the subject matter), in terms of argument, analysis, criticality.  The discussion draws on an interpretation and understanding of the literature.  Claims are made.  These claims are supported by the literature.  The analysis demonstrates insight into the aspect(s) of business/management that have been chosen to be explored.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
This is entirely fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
This is pretty much fit for purpose (only very minor change is needed to improve this). *
This is reasonable (it would benefit from quite a bit of improvement, however). *
This is This is quite a way off what is expected/required (much needs to be changed). *
This is so far off the mark that ‘remedial action’ needs to be taken if this is going to turn itself into what is required for a Project (you should arrange a one-to-one meeting with your seminar leader in order to discuss what needs to be done). *
Citing/referencing.  The citations and references.  The Harvard Referencing System is used (eg, Jobber 2007).  The list of references is correctly presented (ie, alphabetically ordered by author).  The list of references is not divided up by type (eg, journals, books, other).  It is not called a bibliography.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
The citations/references are 100% accurate (no further change is needed). *
The citations/references are reasonably accurate (only very minor change is needed). *
The citations/references are reasonable (but need quite a bit of improvement). *
The citations/references are either missing or far from OK (much needs to be changed). *

 

 

A suitable research problem/issue or opportunity to explore.  A ‘story’ which identifies, from the literature, a suitable research problem/issue or opportunity to explore.  A ‘story’ which leads seamlessly from ‘the literature’ to ‘the research problem/issue or opportunity to explore’.  There is an aim/aims and/or objectives.  These are expressed as questions or hypotheses or propositions (or however “a … research problem/issue or opportunity” is termed).  This/these are suitably SMART.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
This is entirely fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
This is pretty much fit for purpose (only very minor change is needed). *
This is reasonably fit for purpose (some changes are needed). *
This is quite a way off what is expected/required (much needs to be changed). *
This is so far off the mark that ‘remedial action’ needs to be taken if this is going to turn itself into what is required for a Project (you should arrange a one-to-one meeting with your seminar leader/tutor in order to discuss what needs to be done). *
As this is a Proposal, there is, at this stage, only a hint of any aim/aims and/or objectives.  There are as yet no questions or hypotheses (or however “a … research problem/issue or opportunity” is termed), either SMART or otherwise.  That these are not present is in no way ‘bad’ (each student works at their own, individual pace and there is no ‘right time’ to have done x or y activity).  But, that these are not present means that there is some catching up needed. *

 

Research methodology/methods.  An understanding of research methods more generally.  An argument is made for the instrument(s)/tool(s) to be used to gather the data.  How the literature in the field (the subject matter) informed its/their design.  Justification is provided as to why that/those selected have been chosen (and why others have not).  A description of the data collection process, including consideration of the ethical issues involved (eg, commercial confidentiality, informed consent).  How the data/results will be analysed.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
This is entirely fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
This is pretty much fit for purpose (only very minor change is needed). *
This is reasonably fit for purpose (some changes are needed). *
This is quite a way off what is expected/required (much needs to be changed). *
This is so far off the mark that ‘remedial action’ needs to be taken if this is going to turn itself into what is required for a Project (you should arrange a one-to-one meeting with your seminar leader/tutor in order to discuss what needs to be done). *
As this is a Proposal, there is, at this stage, only a hint of any research methodology/methods.  That these are not present is in no way ‘bad’ (each student works at their own, individual pace and there is no ‘right time’ to have done x or y activity). *

 

 

Research methodology/methods; industrial or commercial contacts.  If relevant (this will likely apply to only a few Projects), an indication of where and how data will be gathered.  How access will be gained to either stakeholders or data.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
This is entirely fit for purpose (no further change is needed). *
This has been fully taken into account (there appears to be no issues of concern here). *
This has been taken into account, but there may be one or two issues of concern here. *
This has been taken into account, but there are some major issues of concern here. *
This is so far off the mark that ‘remedial action’ needs to be taken if this is going to turn itself into what is required for a Project (you should arrange a one-to-one meeting with your seminar leader in order to discuss what needs to be done). *
Professional presentation, accuracy of citations/references, accuracy of language.  Professionally presented, adhering to requirements described in the study guide/other documentation.  Citations/references are 100% correct.  Graphs, charts, illustrations and/or tables, if included, are appropriate (there are titles and sources included).  No errors at sentence level (no spelling mistakes, no grammatical and/or other errors).  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
This meets every criteria in all respects (no further change is needed). *
This meets most criteria (only very minor change is needed). *
This meets few criteria (this aspect needs quite a bit of improvement). *
This is quite a way off what is expected/required (much needs to be changed). *

 

 

Professional presentation, writing style, ‘voice’, organisation, structure, communicative ability, ‘story telling’.  Suitably formal tone/language (eg use of ‘do not’ rather than ‘don’t).  ‘Voice’ of author is evident (rather than looking like a collection of texts taken from ‘the literature’).  Organisation at structural level (paragraphs, sections) is appropriate (there is suitable flow).  The ‘story’ is well told.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
This meets every criteria in all respects (no further change is needed). *
This meets most criteria (only very minor change is needed). *
This meets few criteria (this aspect needs quite a bit of improvement). *
This is quite a way off what is expected/required (much needs to be changed). *

 

 

Project plan, timetable of activities.  Activities and key deadlines are detailed on a weekly basis.  There is a realistic timetable (eg, periods needed for literature review, collecting data, analysis of results, writing the concluding chapter).  Major milestones are identified.  This might be illustrated by a simple diagrammatic work plan (GANTT chart) or similar.  Just a reminder; this is not included in the word limit.  Our thoughts on it will be one of these:
It all looks sensible, realistic, do-able (no further change is needed). *
It all looks reasonably sensible, realistic, do-able (some further change is needed, though). *
It does not look sensible, realistic, do-able (some major change is needed). *
This is either not fit for purpose (much needs to be changed) or is missing. *

 

Submission instructions

 

Coursework must be submitted electronically via the University’s WiseFlow system.  The required file format for this report is a Word document, then a pdf version of this.  Your student ID number must be used as the file name (e.g. 0123456.docx).  You must ensure that you upload your file in the correct format and use the College’s electronic coursework coversheet.

 

If you do not submit your Proposal by the deadline, you are not permitted to submit it at a later date.  This is because it is a non-assessed piece of coursework/it is not given a mark, and so the normal rules and regulations do not apply when it comes to late coursework (these rules and regulations apply only to coursework which is assessed).  However, as the guidance notes explain, you will not be disadvantaged if, for reasons beyond your control, you have not been able to submit it by the deadline.  You will have the opportunity to discuss your work with your seminar leader during a seminar or office hour (it is ‘your work’ and not ‘the Proposal’ which is important here).

 

 

Marking scheme

 

There is no marking scheme (this Proposal does not get a mark).