Norbert Boruett-Innovating in Medical Education

Research Proposal

As a requirement for your award of degree, you will be required to undertake a research proposal. I have a adopted a format from -Dr. Larry Miller from The Ohio State University. Follow the format and customize to fit your proposal. This assignment will constitute 30% of your semester mark. More importantly, it will guide you in your studies. In addition, since it is in a public domain, you will get feedback. Please write on the area below. Herein the format:




Lesson Objectives


The student will be able to:


  1. List and describe the chapters and subsections of a research proposal and a research report and their proper order.


  1. Describe the characteristics of an appropriate proposal title.


  1. Compare and contrast the styles appropriate for (1) a dissertation or thesis, (2) a research proposal, (3) a research report, (4) a professional paper, and (5) a journal article.


  1. Distinguish (compare and contrast) between assumptions, limitations and hypotheses.





Cover Page

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Introduction

       (Need for the Study, Justification)

       Problem Statement

Objectives/Research Questions/Hypotheses

Definition of Terms

Limitations of the Study

Basic Assumptions

Chapter 2 – Review of Literature

       (Can have sections deemed necessary)

Chapter 3 – Procedures

Research Design

Subject Selection

Outcome Measures

Conditions of Testing


Data Analysis



** Chapter 4 presentation should follow the same sequence and topics as that presented in Chapter 3. **

Chapter 4 – Results

Findings Relative to problem

Summary of Data

Tests of Significance

Chapter 5 – Discussion







Cover Page


       Follow the style prescribed by the style manual suggested by the university, department or adviser.


       Title –    Should contain key words or phrases to give a clear and concise description of the scope and nature of the report, and key words should allow bibliographers to index the study in proper categories (Van Dalen, 1979:406).

                   –      Indicate major variables

                   –      Indicate nature of research

                          *    descriptive

                          *    correlational

                          *    experimental

                   –      Indicate target population

                   –      Avoid words like:

                               “A Study of……..”

                               “An Investigation of ……..”

                               “A Survey of ……..”

                   –      Example dissertation title:

                               “A Process for Determining Vocational Competencies for the Performance of Essential Activities for the Sales Function by Sales Personnel in the Feed Industry and the Loci in Which the Competencies Could Be Taught.”

                          Journal article title for the above:

                               “What Does It Take To Sell Feed?”


Table of Contents


       Follow appropriate style

       Gives bird’s-eye view of dissertation or thesis

       Not “generally” provided in reports, papers or articles


Chapter 1 – Introduction


       Background and Setting


       –      Provide reader with necessary background and setting to put the problem in proper context.

       –      Lets the reader see the basis for the study.

       –      Justifies and convinces the reader that the study is needed.

       –      Be factual–statements, opinions and points of view should be documented.

       –      Provide a logical lead-in to a clear and concise statement of the problem.

       –      Your “sales pitch.”

       –      In a proposal for funding, address capabilities and capacity of individuals and agency/institution in this section.


       Statement of the Problem


       Characteristics of properly stated problems will be discussed; see notes.  Clearly describe the problem to be researched.


       Objectives of the Study


       –      See notes on “Objectives and Hypothesis” for details

       –      Best located after the statement of the problem in descriptive research

       –      Indicates the data to be collected

       –      Make clear the direct connection between specific objectives and hypotheses and related literature and theory

       –      Controversial as to whether or not null hypotheses go here or in Chapter 4.  Rely upon wishes of adviser and committee, if a thesis or dissertation.

       –      If a study is descriptive, objectives or research questions can be used here.

       –      If the study is ex post facto or experimental, hypotheses must be used.


       Definition of Terms


       –      Define terms in the context where they will be used – provide operational definitions as well as constitutive definitions.

       –      Include a list of definitions for terms and concepts that have significant meaning for the study.

       –      Constructed in listing form – like a dictionary, not prose form

       –      Do not define generally understood concepts, principles and concerns, e.g., vocational education, secondary education, adult education.

       –      Much of the specific information about the terms will be presented in other appropriate sections of the proposal


       Limitations of the Study


       –      Summarize limitations brought about by the procedures of the study

       –      Describe the procedural limitations in detail in the appropriate section; just summarize here


       Basic Assumptions


       –      Do not make assumptions about procedures (or hypotheses)

       –      Accepted without thought of immediate proof

       –      Propositions for which no information can be made available within the scope of the study

       –      Are axiomatic in that they are propositions that virtually every reasonable person is ready to adopt but which cannot be proven.

       –      Type of assumption most commonly stated explicitly is one that is limited in its nature and serves to hold the size or scope of an investigation within its prescribed boundaries (puts parameters around the study), e.g., study will deal with secondary students not post-secondary

       –      Usually made when the argument rests on a priori reasoning, but can be made on basis of present knowledge on research which is as yet incomplete (Specific qualifications must be made in the conclusions of the research report in which assumptions are made.)

       –      Ought to be clearly stated

       –      Protects researcher, e.g., keeps someone from saying, “Oh, I thought you were studying XYZ, too.”

       –      Assumptions are not hypotheses

       –      Hypotheses are propositions to be investigated and are the very subject of the problem; so, do not make assumptions about them.


       Significance of the Problem


       –      These arguments can be presented in the “Background and Setting” section.  This does not need to be a special section.

       –      Knowledge relating to the theory that …….

       –      New products, e.g., instrument,  instructional material, etc.

       –      Who (what individuals or groups) can use this new knowledge or information yielded by the research to change or improve the present situation?  How will the study contribute to the improvement of the profession?

       –      Indicate how the results can be generalized beyond the bounds of study

       –      Can use the arguments of others (expert opinion) who call for an investigation of the problem (properly documented, of course).

       –      Can use conflict in findings of related research as justification for the study.  Be sure it is documented in Review of Literature.

       –      Use if, then (hypothetical-deductive) logic


Chapter 2 – Review of Literature


  1. Provides tentative solutions to the problem or tentative answers to the questions.  (Could be publishable)


  1. Indicates the theory on which the study is based; critique and weigh studies as theory is built.  (Teeter-totter example)


  1. Provides the rationale for the hypotheses and variables therein


  1. Organized and written in reference to the specific objectives of the study


  1. Proposals generally do not include as a complete review as does the report.


  1. Consists of two phases


  1. Problem exploration – definition stage

                   *      Conducted before proposal preparation to identify problem

                   *      Provides dimensions and limits of the problem area

                   *      Defines extent to which solution or answer is already known

                   *      Helps discern “What do we know the least about?”

                   *      Identifies possible procedures (design, instruments; analyses) for conducting the study


  1. Proposal Writing – See A-E above


  1. Reporting Related Literature will follow in the course


Chapter 3 – Procedures


       (Some writers call this chapter “Methodology”)


       REPLICATION is the key word to keep in mind when writing this chapter.  Researchers must provide accurate, detailed descriptions of how the research was done so it could be replicated (redone) by others.  You should provide explanations that will enable the reader to reproduce the exact conditions of the original study.  A rather extensive explanation should be provided so that readers understand why and how you are going to do the research (in a final report).  Your procedures should answer questions or test hypotheses as efficiently, economically and validly as possible.




       The sections of research design, subject selection, outcome measures, conditions of testing, treatments and data analyses will encompass most methodological activities that need to be described.  Each section will be described separately.


       Research Design


       Describe the type of research to be conducted, i.e., survey, ex post facto, quasi-experimental, etc.  This section is utilized to describe how you will set up your study to observe the hypothesized relationship.  Describe the steps you will take to address the hypotheses in operational terms.


       Describe what intervening variables might affect the dependent variable(s) other than the independent variable, i.e.:

       –      Analyze the internal validity of the study (discussed later in the course)

       –      Also, discuss threats to external validity (discussed later in the course)

       –      Describe how your study will measure or control these threats given the “Limitations of the Study.”


       The description of the design for descriptive studies is generally easy to describe, while the validity is not.  Describe non-respondent follow-up procedures and procedures to compare respondents with non-respondents.


       A study may involve more than one purpose.  Clearly indicate which design is to address each objective.


       The description of the research design for correlational or ex post facto research is easy to describe, but particular attention must be directed to alternative or rival explanations (intervening variables).


       The research design for experimental and quasi-experimental research is often quoted directly from Campbell and Stanley (or others) and analyzed by their threats to validity.


       What experimental controls were utilized?


       Schematic (graphic) diagrams often aid in understanding the design.  Define the symbols you use.


       Subject Selection


       The population to be studied is first identified and how a sampling fame (list of elements in the population) will be developed.  Is there frame error?  Explain why this population is appropriate for this study.  Note any discrepancies between e experimentally accessible population and the target population.


       The sampling procedure is described.  Relate how the sample was selected and your reasons for selecting any stratifying variables, if they were employed.  Describe the sampling plan.


       Describe the size of the sample, and how it was determined and the rationale for the size.  Sampling units should be identified.


       Data describing the characteristics of the subjects that are relevant to the study should be provided; and, if available, data from the population to enable the reader to judge the representativeness of the sample.


       Describe what will be done with subjects that decline to participate, drop out, or do not participate in all parts of the study.  What will be done about non-respondents?  What will be done about non-residents?  What will be done about incomplete questionnaires or ones with obvious response sets, lying, cheating or unanswered items?  All affect the population to whom one can generalize the results, i.e., the external validity of the study.


       Outcome Measures


       Measurement of the dependent variable(s) is one key to your study.  Instruments are operational definitive for variables.  Techniques or instruments used to measure the dependent variable(s), outcome, must be carefully described in terms of:


  1. Validity – Does the instrument or technique measure what it purports to measure with this group?


  1. Reliability – Whatever the instrument or technique measures does it do so consistently with this group?


  1. Suitability – Utility must be high for subjects to whom administered.


       If well-known instruments are used, one can generally briefly describe them, and their reliability and validity, and refer the reader through citation to references where more thorough detailed discussions can be found.


       If the researcher is developing the instrumentation, then validity and reliability must be established.  The instrument should be pilot and/or field tested.  The researcher should describe how this was done.  A field test can locate potential suitability problem areas.  Appendix copies of the instruments to the proposal.


       The Review of Literature can be utilized to verify the concepts/theory under study and the scope of the measurement methods to assess the concepts.  This section should establish the operational link between these concepts/theory and the measurement.


       If you use interviewers or observers, how were they trained?  What were their inter-rater and intra-rater reliabilities?


       Conditions of Testing


       Describe when, where and under what conditions the data were gathered, the number of times and order in which instruments were used, and the time allotted for the data collection.


       Describe the verbal and written directions provided to the subjects.  Were incentives used to encourage response?


       Be specific!  When you describe when, taking a test after lunch, after another test, etc., may explain variance more than the quarter or date.


       During the actual data gathering, testing, monitor events so they can be explained to the reader.


       If instruments are potentially reactive, what precautions will be taken to minimize this threat.




       How were the independent variables administered?  What was done to the subjects?  Describe all levels so that they are replicable.  Were any methods employed and abandoned because they were valueless?


       Kerlinger describes maximizing the differences between the levels of the independent variable.  A typical shortcoming is comparing a “new” methods with a “traditional” or “conventional” method of doing something, and the researcher describes at length the “new” method but not the “traditional” method.  How, really, are they different?


       If attribute variables are used in the design, identify them and the number of levels of each and briefly describe the rationale for the selection of the attribute variables (more thorough explanation should be in the “Review”).


Data Analysis


       Statistical techniques are tools selected because of your design, not vice versa.


       Descriptive and inferential analyses are provided to address each facet of the hypothesis, null hypothesis, objective or problem.  Have foresight!  What is the easiest way to collect, code and analyze your data?


       Why were these methods of analysis employed?  Why was this level of significance selected?


       For each statistical method used, present evidence indicating that the basic assumption underlying its use have been met.  For example, a Pearson Product Moment Correlation (r) assumes both linearity and homoscedasticity, so you would always need to construct a scatterplot whenever you use r to show these assumptions are met.  Statistics courses provide you with these skills and understandings.


       Remember, select statistics that answer the question(s) involved with the study.  They serve research, not dominate it.  Nothing is gained in using complicated statistics that happen to be in “vogue” if simple ones will do just as well.  Specify what analysis will be used for each objective.


       The proposer may find it beneficial to provide, as an appendix, sample skeletons of the tables and figures that will appear in Chapter 4 as a result of the analysis.  Proposal readers, committee members, etc., often find this beneficial in conceptualizing what will be produced by these analysis techniques.


       Proposals submitted for Agr Educ 885 do not have to have the Data Analysis section complete.  Agr Educ 887 will approach this topic in more detail.


This work is taken from Agr. Educ. 885 class notes provided and written by Dr. Larry Miller, The Ohio State University.


September 20, 2000






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