Demonstrate substantial and sustained enhancement to academic knowledge, intellectual and work-related skills

BSOM076: Placement Research Project

Module Guide

Module Description
This module specifies the independent research and related research methods skills training programme offered across Northampton Business School and its constituent fields at taught postgraduate level (level 7). The specification is inevitably a general one to reflect the different types of research project which students may choose to undertake – conceptual, applied or work-related – and also to reflect the contrasting research paradigms that may be followed.

Overall aim for BSOM076
To provide you with the opportunity to:

• Carry out a sustained, independent project of experiential, applied or
work-related research, which synthesises the postgraduate subject knowledge and skills from across the MSc programme and culminates in the writing of a project report of approximately 15,000 words.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

Knowledge and Understanding

a) Undertake a considered and extensive examination of theory, conceptual
frameworks and relevant literature in order to synthesise best practice
with the chosen project approach, outcomes and recommendations (A2,
A4, A7, A8)

b) Use Project Management frameworks, methodologies and applied
practitioner research to demonstrate ROI, VOI or net value to the
business. (A1)

c) Locate, collect, analyse and interpret quantitative and qualitative
information in order to define and solve problems in a selective and
critical manner which challenge and critique accepted wisdom and
methodologies in the chosen research field (A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7)

Subject-specific Skills

d) Critically evaluate, justify and apply relevant research skills and methodologies accurately, in a sustained and detailed manner (B1, B2, B3, B7)

e) Formulate an academically rigorous and practically feasible research proposal using ethical methods, setting out the detailed parameters for the proposed independent research project (B4, B6)

f) Produce and justify a well-defined, evidence-based, analytical, professional and structured narrative account of the project with recommendations for practice improvements discussing the design, conduct and outcomes of the research project. (B6, B7)

Key Skills

g) Manage a prolonged course of independent research and related study in an orderly and effective manner (C4)

h) Demonstrate substantial and sustained enhancement to academic knowledge, intellectual and work-related skills (C4, C5, C6,C7)

i) Critically reflect on own performance in order to improve practice (C1, C2)

j) Make discriminating use of learning and information technology resources for a research project (C6)

Indicative Content
Students will be taught the following topics, through face-to-face workshops supported by online activities
Introduction to work-based learning
Description of work-based learning and research. Exploration of the rationale for work-based research. Consideration of the different positions (researcher/employee) held by those engaged in work-based research. Consideration of any issues that may arise for HEI, employer or learner with respect to work-based learning and research. Negotiation skills.

Ethics and work-based research
Consideration of what is meant by ‘ethical conduct’ in work-based research settings. Ethical issues associated with organisational research in general.

Research methods for work-based learning
Different methodological frameworks for research. Qualitative and quantitative research methods. Defining research questions. Approaches to data collection and analysis. Research planning and management.

Project Management Frameworks
Working within project management frameworks e.g. PRINCE2®; PRINCE2, Agile, APM BOK, formulating appropriate terms of reference with justification, research goals and project scope.

Effective report writing
Understand what makes research reports effective. How to create a research report and its necessary components. Justifying research decisions. Defining ‘critical analysis’ and ‘critical thinking’. Drawing conclusions and making recommendations that recognise organisational constraints.
The module aims to provide a supportive environment for you to develop your academic and individual research capabilities. The programme of online resources and face-to-face workshops and tutorials will provide support in developing a general investigative research project. The workshops will expand the specific discipline.
Consideration will be given to; formulating appropriate terms of reference with justification, research goals and project scope. How to conduct a literature survey, collate, review and evaluate relevant material. Developing skills to select and evaluate appropriate research methods and implement problem solving techniques to evaluate findings within the research scope.
You will develop skills in identifying trends and cross reference primary and secondary data from academic, practitioner and white paper sources to draw appropriate, logically derived conclusions within the project scope.

Research methods training
• Approaches to research and the research process
• Research paradigms
Creating the foundations for your research (often described as a “conceptual framework”)
Sources of data (including documentary and statistical sources)
Qualitative research designs and data collection
Quantitative research designs and data collection
Individual guidance
This part of the module will provide generic support to you in the following areas:
· Alternative approaches to research methodology and methods
· Advanced literature searching using electronic sources
· Analysis of qualitative data, (including reference to Nvivo)
· Analysis of quantitative data, (including reference to SPSS)
The diversity of approaches likely to be followed by your and your peers will be addressed by providing you with access to more specific support, by seminars and / or online.

Dissertation or project report:
The contents of the report expected from you at the end of your independent research journeys are set out here in general terms. These are:
· A justification for undertaking a piece of research
· A review of the relevant literature
· A considered choice of research method(s)
· Presentation and examination of data
· Conclusions pertaining to the aims and objectives of the study.

The structure and content of individual project reports will vary according to the the work-related research project is pursued.

Justification of Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy

The teaching, learning and development strategy will aim to ensure that common issues impacting on all topics of Project Management will be addressed.

Learners will attend workshops that are supported by work-based and blended modes of learning. The interaction opportunities on the VLE (NILE) will enable synchronous and asynchronous interaction between module participants. E-learning activities will be designed in line with the indicative module content described earlier in this document. These activities will be designed to engage you and equip you with the necessary cognitive and critical intellectual skills as well as promote sensitive and ethical behavior in the workplace. They will also provide you with an opportunity to experiment with, and reflect upon, theory and concepts and relate these to your placement / particular work setting. NILE will also provide the opportunity for you to engage in small-group peer support and development.

You will be allocated a member of staff who will act as a placement tutor. Once allocated, the tutor will be the main point of contact for the duration of the placement, providing support, advice and supervision with respect to the assignment.

A staged approach to your engagement and progression with the module is to be followed, reflecting the successive milestones passed during your independent research journey. Formative feedback will be provided. Students will be expected to provide regular evidence of progress by the timely submission of a research proposal and draft sections of the working report.

You are expected to maintain regular contact with your supervisor throughout the period from the latter’s appointment to the submission of the final project report, in order to ensure authenticity of the work.

Teaching, Learning & Assessment Activities Study Hours
Teaching, Learning + assessment activities Study hours
All contact hours: (total)
(please list contact hours separately below) 50
Directed study 20
Activities 30
Independent study hours (total)
(please list guided independent study items below) 380

Project proposal 25
Requirement and Scope of Project 75
Project Portfolio Development 200
Final Project Portfolio 100
Assessment Hours (with detail) ¼ of the module
(this will be included with independent study hours) 150
Project Portfolio Assessment 150
Total 600


Assessment Items Units Weighting Learning Outcomes
DI- Final project report 15 100 a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j
(approximately 15,000)

Assessment Criteria
The assessment criteria will vary according to the modes of research that you pursue and the project that is undertaken as part of the placement. The general criteria below will need to be weighted accordingly for any particular research report:
• The study is justified in terms of academic theory and business or management practice
• Formulate appropriate terms of reference with justification, research goals and project scope
• A clear research framework is provided and clear research questions and/or hypotheses are articulated, linked to the literature in the field of inquiry
• Research methodology and methods appropriate to the research – select and evaluate appropriate research methods and implement problem solving techniques to evaluate findings within the research scope.
• The final business research project report structure follows conventions in the field
• The business research project report contains a logical narrative
• The business research project report contains evidence of significant critical analysis and evaluation
• The presentation of text and data reflects taught postgraduate (level 7) scholarship and rigour

Assignment Submission

You only need to provide a soft copy of your dissertation and this must be submitted through the NILE site by the due date.

If you require a hard copy, by all means do this to keep for yourself.

Research Ethics
It is the responsibility of each inquirer to ensure that inquiry involving human subjects meets high scholarly and ethical standards. The inquirer needs to be honest, thoughtful and complies with professional and disciplinary standards and methodological approaches. During the module we will examine the University of Northampton’s code of ethics: look at the documents related to ethics on the BSOM076 NILE site. Rules on ethics apply even if you are intending to use data from your own workplace or individuals are known to you.

In addition you may consult:-
American Association for the Advancement of Science, US Office of Research Integrity, September (2000), ‘The Role and Activities of Social Scientist in Promoting Research integrity’, US Office of Research Integrity, ( (30 September 2003)
Ess, C. and Association for Internet Research, Ethics Committee (2002),’Ethical decision-making and Internet research,’ – Document, AoIR, ( September 2003).

Research Methods Training
The aim of the research methods training provided by the STRM076 module team will be to prepare you for the dissertation or report and to provide the necessary underpinnings for your research.
We will help you to consider all the stages in the research process and the characteristics of effective business research. This will include:
• Examination of different approaches to research and the strengths and weaknesses of different methods and techniques.
• The relevance of the literature search, analysis and review
• The formulation of a research question(s) and/or hypothesis
• Selecting a research design and using appropriate techniques
• Interpreting results, drawing conclusions and making recommendations

All students must be familiar with the BSOM076 NILE site, as useful information and links can be found here. In particular, students will be able to access the following information:
• Module Guide (this document)
• Detailed student guide to dissertation and report preparation
• Research methods training notes and links to useful websites
• General announcements and updates

Feedback arrangements
Via research methods classes and your dissertation supervisor

Suggested Texts
A great deal of the reading that you will be doing for your research will be on issues that are specific to your own project. This is a highly individual matter, on which your supervisor will advise you during your research project. As you proceed, you will no doubt be preparing a bibliography of relevant materials on your topic, plus references to research methods, and in particular, the research methodology you choose to adopt.
The research methods training course will broadly follow the following text:
Saunders, M., Thornhill, A. and Lewis P (2009), Research Methods for Business Students- Fifth Edition, Pearson Education.
ISBN 13: 9780273716860 & 10: 0273716867

This is a comprehensive introduction to research methods in business for students planning or undertaking a dissertation or extensive research project in business and management.

Additional texts

There are a number of good, additional texts on research in general and management research in particular. These provide an overview of the area and indicate the diverse nature of the field. It is worthwhile exploring a wide range of texts because they may stimulate your thinking and generate ideas for your research approach – as well as preparing you for writing your research proposal. This list offers some general introductory or background reading on research in general and management research in particular. Almost any of these books will provide you with the information and support that you need. Please ask if you are anxious to begin reading on a specific topic! Do not run out of reading.

Bryman, A. (1994) Research Methods and Organization Studies, Routledge, London.
This book is aimed at research students and professionals in organizational studies. It includes a variety of quantitative and qualitative research designs and methods that are systematically appraised for their uses and limitations.
Collis J and Hussey R (2009), Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students, Third Edition, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-9247-5
A good, practically- orientated introduction to research design, methods and techniques for first-time and more experienced researchers.
Cooper, H. (1998) Synthesizing Research: A Guide for Literature Reviews. 3rd ed. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Lauded by thousands of readers for providing researchers with the first practical approach for doing systematic literature reviews, this popular book has been thoroughly updated and revisited to include the latest information on the use of electronic technology and the Internet to conduct literature searches. Expanded discussion of retrieving and coding information from research documents to produce coding sheets; up-dated coverage of report writing that includes APA’s new guidelines and recent practices adopted by research syntheses.
Easterby- Smith, M., Thorpe R. and Low, A. (2001) Management research: An introduction Sage Publications. ISBN 0761972854
This book gives a good general overview of management research. It covers a wide range of topics – from the philosophical underpinnings of research design, to the practicalities of doing a piece of research. It is a good book to start.
Gill, J. and Johnson, P. (eds) (2002), Research Methods for Managers. Sage Publications, London. ISBN 0761940022
Despite the title, it’s not really about methods as such, dealing more with different types of research design. Examples are drawn from business studies, so this book could be useful for students to see how general issues and topics are translated into research on management.
Jankowicz, A.D. (2005) Business Research Projects (4th Ed). London: Thomson ISBN1844800822
Robson, C. (2001), Real World Research, Blackwell, London. ISBN 0631213058
Maylor, H. & Blackmon, K. (2005) Researching Business and Management, Palgrave
A general Introduction to research.
Partington, D., (ed.) (2002) Essential Skills for Management Research Sage Publications. ISBN 0761970088
Based on management research methods course needs and written by expert academics in the field. The authors emphasise the more practical concerns of management researchers, focusing on the detail of developing and applying particular sets of research skills. In addition it provides advice on how to develop a systematic methodology, learn to be a successful writer and acknowledge the individual in the researcher.
Research skills for management studies (Thomas, 2003)
This should mean that all students will be able to access this resource.
Online research course:

Presentation Style of Research Proposal
All research proposals must be presented using the Guidelines as follows:-
Style Guidelines:
Emphasis should be made by printing relevant text in italics and underlining should be avoided in preference to bold
Dates should be written as: 29 May 2001; a decade may be written as: 1990s; pairs of dates may be hyphenated as: 1980-1990.
Text (excluding titles) should be written using 12 points font.
You are to submit all references in Harvard Format.
Please refer to the guidance on the Skills Hub Website for support with Harvard Referencing

Research Methods Programme of Study

Workshop Seminar / Workshop/ Activities
Getting Started with a Research Project
Difference between a dissertation and a research project
Appropriate project approach and title (Intro to Concept Mapping)
Primary Research and Secondary Research
What is a Literature Review and how to search for literature

Research Referencing and Plagiarism Creating a concept map
Introducing the Project Proposal
Library Sources explored
Journal Searches

Project Management Frameworks SMART Research Projects
Reflection on PM Frameworks
Project Planning; understand the framework as it applies to you
Using a placement to support research design

Report Structure Designing a Report
Introduction to the Proposal
Literature Review

Conceptual Frameworks & research project proposal Aims and Objectives overview
Exploring the defence of research
Creating first draft aims and objectives

Project Proposal Creating a conceptual research framework for Project Management (supported by a initial proposal presentation)
Gathering Primary Data, questionnaires and fact finding activities.
Methods and Methodology
Data Analysis

Research Methods Specific one to one support for projects based on proposals
Analysing Data
Creating an Ethical Framework for the research

Student Activity with supervisor Project Proposal Produced; submitted on NILE by agreed date

Appendix 1: Research Explored

This section contains details of specific aspects of the research process and forms part of background work you for you to consider as they complement the lecture slides, seminar sessions and complementary activities. Each of these supplementary activities provide you with specific background reading.

Choosing Your Dissertation Topic and Types of Dissertation

You need to consider the nature and scope of research in general and business research in particular, before going on to discuss how you should complete the assessment for this module and approach your dissertation. The issues covered should include: Overview of the research process; developing a research strategy; how to choose a research topic; formulating your research question / hypothesis; introduction to your research ‘roadmap’ and to the key elements in this journey; different theoretical perspectives and research paradigms; links between paradigms and choice of methodology; what makes a good research proposal; and mapping out a timetable for dissertation research.

Literature and language

An essential aspect of the dissertation is the literature survey; a review of relevant literature that forms the foundation of the work. The material collected should be reviewed and assessed, to submit to the current thinking on the issue. The key part here is to link literature closely to the choice of dissertation topic and to the formation of a good strategy for conducting literature reviews, gathering and analyzing data from a range of published sources. Specifically you should investigate:

 What the leading academic journals are
 What the lead industry magazines are
 What the leading conferences are
 Where the centres of knowledge/excellence in the field are
 Which are the relevant professional institutions
 Which is the lead government department in the field
 Which are the relevant government bodies
 Which other countries in the world have an interest in this field
 Who the national and international leading figures in the field are
 What are the leading web sites in the field.

Research Methodology (strategy) and Research Methods
This considers how the research will be carried out and a specific description of how the data will be collected (in line with the methodology). The methods are an effective and practical element of your dissertation used to present the logical process of an investigation. You need to consider how to sequentially identify and explain the methods and processes used to achieve the objectives defined in the introduction. You need to learn how to justify choice of techniques and relevant application of basic descriptive analysis and strategy recognition that can be used to evaluate the results.

Typical methods used in technology and management related subjects are:

 Surveys
 Statistical/data analysis
 Semi-structured Interviews
 Observation
 Case Studies
 Ethnographic study
 In-depth Interviews
 Focus groups
 Content analysis
 Action research
 Personal reflection
 Participant Observation
 Telephone Surveys
 Online Focus Groups
 Internet surveys

Data Analysis
In conducting research students need to consider basic quantitative data processing, analysis, interpretation and appraisal, making use of descriptive and inferential statistics as the bases for analysis appropriate for their IS dissertation. The nature of qualitative data and the ways in which such data can be obtained should be evaluated. Distinctions should be drawn between types of data and methodologies and their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Conclusions and Refection

Finally, students need to consider the evaluation chapter of their dissertation and how to uses the evidence gathered in the research stage and specifically the results generated during the analysis, to draw logical conclusions. Students need to consider how conclusions can be presented clearly. The identification of the limitations within the investigation and how to derive appropriate recommendations should be made where appropriate.

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