Assignment 3:
3.1 Research conceptual framework (up to 5,000 words)

A conceptual framework is defined by Miles and Huberman (1994) as: “explains either graphically, or in narrative form, the main things to be studied – the key factors, concepts or variables …. and the presumed relationship among them”. 

Not all research projects necessarily lead to a conceptual framework. If you have already carried out the literature review to the standards required at the PhD level, you will have already a deep understanding of the research issues and concepts associated with your research project.

Research planning requires a good understanding of how the research concepts being investigated are linked. Also, you must be able to explain the relationships between the concepts associated with your investigation. Probably, you are already aware that you need to follow logical research processes to generate the necessary information to support your investigation.

The literature review assists you to develop your topic knowledge on what to do. The frameworks help you to explain the why and how aspects of your research. It is also a very important tool to use to filter research questions, variables and methodologies. To do so, you need to clearly understand how the elements of your research are mapped together on a sound theoretical scientific base. Thus, the necessity of a research framework to guide the direction of your thesis study.

Creating your research conceptual framework:
Essentially, the framework provides you with the structure and content for the investigation based on the literature and to certain extent in-depth knowledge of a student and his DOS. Developing research conceptual frameworks is an iterative process. The concepts and variables incorporated in the framework should be derived from the literature. These should capture the underlying principles of the theories you want to investigate. The background studies (carried out in part one of this assignment) should help you to understanding the theories that describe relationships between your conceptual framework variables of interest. To create your research framework, you need consider:
• The research background to define concepts and their relationship. You also need to investigate how past researchers have framed similar research problems;
• Identify the key elements (e.g., independent and dependent variables) of your research;
• Represent the framework in the form of flow charts, mind maps, tree diagrams, mathematical equations, etc;
• Scientifically explain the association between the elements of your framework

If the framework is developed based on a solid background this help you to define and refine your thesis objectives, research questions, propositions, hypotheses and the methodology you need to deploy to investigate them.

This will depend on the nature of your investigation. It is most likely that you will end up with a chapter documenting the relationships and links between the key elements of your research. This will help to define your research instruments, which are the next logical step in the development of your research study.

You must work closely your DoS and academics in your field of research to identify, develop, review and refine your research framework.

3.2 Research methodology (up to 5,000 words)

You need to justify the validity and robustness of the scientific methods you are planning to deploy to achieve your research aims and objectives. Precisely how you will approach this issue will depend on your selected research problem (and also the field of research) that you are investigating. Thus, you need to discuss with your DOS the range of possible methodologies.

Broadly speaking, in this section you must justify the scientific and philosophical theories that underpin the process and methods you are planning to choose to collect and analyse/model data to answer your research questions.

For example: are you using qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods? Is the research theoretical or empirical? Does it develop new theory or find new applications of existing theory?

The output from this exercise will form the bulk of your methodology chapter in your thesis

What research tradition are you going to be working in; and remember, you may be drawing on more than one field of research. You need to consider all the relevant intellectual traditions, theories, and types of analysis for your research.

You may use the following to help you to justify your research approach.
• Investigating an issue or problem?
• Applying a theory/theories or model/models?
• Developing simulation models
• Testing a specific hypothesis?
• Investigating a policy formation, methodology, approach or its implementation?
• Gathering existing research to revise, modify, or expand an existing theory or model?
• What relevant research methods exist to choose from?
• Why have you chosen the one you have?
• Why are the others not appropriate?

The answer to the above list of inquiries in conjunction with the literature review from Term 1 will help you to develop strategies for designing and implementing your research. This is the most important of part of your research methodology chapter. You need to assure the examiners that the methods and tools you used to deploy you study, analyse and interpret your results are valid and reliable.

Ethical Considerations
You should demonstrate an awareness of the ethical and micro-political implications of working as a researcher and discuss how your own values and perspectives may influence your research approach and design. Use the ethics guidelines material from the core textbooks provided in RM1. Include in an Appendix the relevant ethical approval documents, e.g. letter of verification that the study has been submitted to the University’s Institutional Review Board/Ethics Committee for review regarding research with human subjects.

• What are the boundaries of your research project?
• What topics are you not researching?
• What aspects are you not covering?
• What subject groups are you not including?
• What locations or sites are you not investigating?
• What contextual factors are you not covering?
• What causal factors are you not including?
• What time period(s) are you not covering?

The output from this exercise will form the bulk of your methodology chapter in your thesis

Research future plans
You are to work closely with your DOS to produce a draft work plan for the remaining period of your research project. The plan should describe, including the timeline, all of the following tasks:
1. Data collection
2. Data analysis
3. Writing up
4. Dissemination
5. Resources/support may need for data collection and analysis
6. Risk for not completing the above tasks

The overriding assessment criterion for your work is its suitability for incorporating in the final doctoral thesis.  Thus, before submitting your work please check with your DOS that he/she is satisfied that the draft content you write achieves the standard for the PhD level and can be incorporated into your final thesis.

Assessment     Indicative Criteria    Yes    Partiality     No
3    Literature Review     in-depth and critical review of literature – gap identification in existing knowledge – relevance of literature to the research aims objectives and questions

4    Theoretical Understanding of the research conceptual framework    Comprehensive understanding of theoretical background of their research – clear statement of assumptions and limitations of study

5    Methodology/Numerical/Experimental/modelling Formulation IF Applicable     systematic description of methodology, numerical and experimental methodology – discussion of significance, sample size, population and experimental problems

6    Research gap or novelty     Systematic demonstration of the novelty and relevance of the proposed research through scientific understanding of the subject area

7    Future  research plans     Realistic plan for further work and risk of completion

8    Technical Writing     Appropriate structure of content

9    Overall Comments     Overall impression about the quality of the report

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