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How to Write a Research Project

Your research project should have the following sections:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • List of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Appendices

 

Title Page

Your title page should include the title of your investigation, your name and student number and the date. 

Abstract

The abstract is a short summary of the complete content of your research project (up to 300 words).  It is a challenging but important exercise.  Saunders et al (2009) suggest it should contain four short paragraphs addressing the following questions:

  1. What were my research questions, and why were these important?
  2. How did I go about answering the research questions?
  3. What did I find out in response to my research questions?
  4. What conclusions do I draw regarding my research questions?

List of Contents

Your list of contents should clearly identify where sections are and what pages these start on.  You may also need to include a list of tables and figures. 

The Introduction

Your word count begins here!  Your introductory chapter should provide a clear idea about the central issue of concern in your research and why you thought it was worth studying.  You also need to include a full statement of your research question(s) and research objectives. 

If your research is focused on a specific organisation, it is usual to include some background information on it.   

The Literature Review

Saunders and Lewis (2012, p.33) suggest your literature review ‘provides the base on which you will build your research project’.  The aim of a literature review is to provide a clear and balanced picture of the published literature relevant to your topic.  You should synthesise the literature and extract the key themes and debates.

The Method

This should be a detailed chapter giving the reader sufficient information to make an estimate of the reliability and validity of your methods.  Saunders et al (2009) suggest you ensure you address the following questions where relevant:

Setting

  • What was the research setting?
  • Why did you choose that particular setting?
  • What ethical issues were raised by the study, and how were these addressed?

Participants

  • How many?
  • How were they selected?
  • What were their characteristics?
  • How were refusals/non-returns handled?

Materials

  • What tests/scales/interview or observation schedules/questionnaires were used?
  • How were the resulting data analysed?

Procedures

  • How valid and reliable do you think the procedures were?
  • What instructions were given to participants?
  • How many interviews/observations/questionnaires were there; how long did they last; where did they take place?
  • When was the research carried out?

Results

This is where you present the facts that your research discovered.  You can use tables and graphs to illustrate your results.  This chapter may include verbatim quotes from interviewees.  There are two points to bear in mind when writing your results.  Firstly, the purpose is to present facts – it is not appropriate in this chapter to offer opinions on the facts (this comes in the discussion and conclusions chapters).  Secondly, consider how you present your results.  One of the simplest ways is to return to the research objectives and let these dictate the order you present your results. 

Discussion and Conclusions

It is your discussion that will demonstrate whether you have answered the research question and show the degree of insight that you exhibit in reaching your conclusions.  Saunders et al (2009) urge you to pay attention to your conclusions.  They suggest that this is where you are making judgements rather than reporting facts so this is where your maturity of understanding can shine through.  You need to ask ‘So what?’ for each of your findings and ‘to what extent have I answered my research question(s) and met my research objectives?  Avoid the rehash of the findings trap!  Your word count ends here – 10,000 words! 

References

It is recommended that you keep your references up to date throughout your research project (otherwise this becomes an arduous task at the end!).  You must use the Harvard style of referencing.

Appendices

Appendices should be limited to providing detailed information, particularly results, that are not appropriate for inclusion in the main text.  They provide additional reference material for readers who may wish to verify or further investigate information you have presented in the main text.   

You may be asked to provide audio recordings of interviews/focus groups and any detailed numerical analysis on a datastick/CD.   

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