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Your research proposal

A good research proposal is one of the most important aspects of your application to the Executive  DBA Programme. When writing a research proposal, you need to demonstrate that you have gone beyond generally thinking about an issue to the stage where you can begin to systematically and rigorously investigate it.We would normally expect you proposal to be a minimum of 1,200 words and a maximum of 2,500 words in length (excluding references).  A good research proposal will answer the following questions and include the following elements:


Succinctly and up front why is this research important and why is it of particular interest to me? 

This should form part of your introductory statement and allows you the opportunity to link the research topic to your background and experience. 

Dr Andrew Farrell, Lecturer in Marketing at Aston Business School, talks about what makes a good research proposal.

What is the previous research?

In 2 or 3 pages explain what the most cited research papers are, how they contribute to theory. Which of these theories are you looking to build on and why? Cited papers should be chosen carefully avoid web references. How do these papers relate to each other (use of a diagram or mind map to illustrate linkages may help make good use of space).

What is your specific research question or questions (2 or 3 only)? How do these contribute to the literature, why are they interesting?  

Where do you see your contribution to the existing knowledge on this topic?

Which method will you employ? 

Why this method what others have you considered? Your method should be sound and practical i.e. straightforward to implement such as taking an established method from previous research and using it or building upon it.

Why this industrial setting? 

is this because of knowledge, experience, access to data?

Timeframe

Use of a Gantt chart is often a good way of illustrating how your time will be apportioned.

In terms of prior reading the key to good research is often a mix of insight gained from practical experience and a sound knowledge of the literature. The former hopefully you have gained from your previous work for the latter please see:

Doing a Literature Review by Chris Hart (Sage, 1998) – particularly the first 5 chapters.

What to Avoid

All too often what would be a strong application to the Executive DBA programme is let down by a weak proposal.  Some common weaknesses, and things that should be avoided, are:

  • Submitting a research proposal in a discipline that does not fall under any of ABS's Academic Group subject areas

  • Vague research proposals which are not grounded in the extant literature.

  • Poor referencing.

  • Failure to articulate the added value or potential contributions of the intended study. 

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research