CONNECTING THE PROPOSAL TO THE
Dr. Mark H. Rossman - This material was adapted freely from Chapter five of: Rossman, M.H. (1995). Negotiating Graduate School: A Guide for Graduate Students. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publishing Company.
About eighty-five percent of the dissertations I have seen use the five chapter
format as follows:
Chapter One - The Problem
Chapter Two - The Literature Review
Chapter Three - Methodology
Chapter Four - Presentation and Analysis of the Data
Chapter Five - Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations.
Sharan Merriam and Edwin Simpson in A Guide to Research for Teachers and Trainers
of Adults (2nd. Edition) developed a very helpful outline of a typical proposal
that can be used as a guide for both the proposal and the first three chapters
of the final report. The outline is produced here:
A. Introduction and Problem (Chapter 1 of dissertation)
Introduction to the Study
Background of the problem
Statement of the problem (what is the problem, the area of concern?)
Purpose of the study (specific purposes and/or objectives)
Rationale of theoretical basis for the study
Hypothesis or questions to be answered
Importance or significance of the study
Definition of terms (operational definitions)
Assumptions and limitations of the study
Organization of the remainder of the study
B. Review of the literature (Chapter 2)
Introduction and organizational structure of the chapter
An abbreviated review of pertinent literature, grouped around major topics and themes.
C. Methodology (Chapter 3)
Introduction (reviewing purpose of the study)
Description of the methodology to be used (e.g., experimental, Case Study, historical)
Design of the study (operationalize variables)
Sample and population or source of data
Data Collection and other procedures
Data analysis (how you expect to analyze the data once it is collected).
It is helpful to think of the proposal in relation to the first three chapters
of the completed study. Keep in mind that the final thesis or dissertation is
always written in the past tense. In the proposal, you are proposing to do something
in the future. Therefore, the proposal needs to be written in the future tense.
As most proposals contain three chapters, it is not unusual that with tense
changes from future to past and other slight modifications, the proposal will
become the first three chapters of the final study.
The purpose of the proposal is to describe in some detail the topic or problem (chapter one), relevant literature (chapter two) and methodology (chapter three) of your proposed study. Think of the proposal as analogous to a blueprint and the building of a house. The blueprint describes the building and provides a fairly good idea of what the house will look like when it is built. It allows you to confer with others and make changes prior to actually beginning the construction. So it is with the proposal. The proposal allows you to conceptualize the topic, organize the literature around the main ideas of your topic, discuss the proposed methodology for responding to the topic and consult with your committee prior to conducting the study.
With the exception of tense changes and other minor modifications that will be presented later in this paper, Chapter one of the proposal and the completed study are pretty much the same. Both fully describe the problem or topic of your study. This can usually be done in about 10-12 double spaced pages. The "introduction" and "background" sections provide the reader with an overview of the topic or problem. It should be fairly brief (2-3 pages) yet complete enough to give the reader a clear idea of the your concept. It should include a sufficient number of major references but not everything that has been said on the topic. The bulk of the literature review is presented in chapter 2. These sections are intended to introduce the reader to the topic and should not be overwhelming.
For example, let's assume you are interested in the general topic of child care in industry. After thinking about this topic, talking about it with friends, colleagues, family, and faculty, you decide that you want to know if the needs of the child care program in your company (the XYZ company) are adequate, assess the effectiveness of the program and see if perceptions of labor and management regarding the needs and program effectiveness are different. In the introduction section, it is entirely appropriate to introduce the reader to the topic by discussing how the family has changed in the past two or three generations and how this has impacted business. You could also cite a few authorities who have written on this subject or quote statistics to support your ideas that effective child care programs have impacted businesses and industry. After a page or two of this type of general introductory material, the reader should have a sense of the general nature of the problem you are concerned with.
You would then provide a bit more definite background information regarding child care as it relates to industry. Perhaps you might quote two or three sources that support a specific theme or idea regarding child care and industry. Again, this is not intended to be all-inclusive but should show that this is a topic that has been with us for some time. Once you have provided this brief overview, it should be summed up in a very brief (1-2 paragraphs) section referred to as the "statement of the problem". This is a succinct recap and summary of the topic you propose to study. It should end with a completion of the following sentence:
Therefore, the topic (or problem) to which this study is directed is . . .
You have now provided your reader with an understanding of the topic of your
study. The last sentence in the "statement of the problem" section should provide
the reader with a clear and unambiguous statement regarding the nature of the
problem or topic you propose to study.
Continuing with our child care example, once you have provided introductory and general background information, the "statement of the problem" section should provide a very brief summary and might end with this sentence: Therefore, the topic of this study is to determine and compare perceptions of the needs and the effectiveness of the child care program at XYZ corporation as determined by labor and management of the XYZ corporation.
Now that you have introduced your topic, provided background information and succinctly stated the problem, your proposal needs to spell out the purposes and/or objectives as they relate to the topic or problem. This is provided in the "purpose of the study" section. What part or parts of the topic specifically interest you? This section provides a clearer definition of what you are concerned with related to the problem. It also is fairly brief (1-2 pages) and provides a series of specific objectives or purposes that serve to focus your study. They can be presented as a list or in a narrative fashion. This section further clarifies your interest in the topic.
An example might be as follows:
The specific objectives of this study are:
1) to determine the child care needs of XYZ corporation as perceived by labor and management;
2) to determine the effectiveness of the child care program in XYZ corporation as perceived by labor and management;
and 3) to compare perceptions of labor and management of the child care needs and the effectiveness of the child program care of XYZ corporation.
Your chapter now includes a brief description of the problem and the specific
concerns you are proposing to study. Next you need to discuss the rationale
or theoretical basis for your study. This section may also be referred to as
the Theoretical Framework or Conceptual Framework section. Its basic purpose
is to develop an understanding of how the problem relates to a unified explanation
of related ideas. It further refines the topic and is where you'll find a summary
of the major theories or research supporting, clarifying, refuting or driving
your notion that perceptions of labor and management frequently differ and may
often lead to different results. It may also include references to similar studies
in related areas and provide a rationale that perceptions are different between
labor and management. This section is elaborated on in the literature review
The theoretical framework is one of the most difficult and controversial sections to develop, but one that needs to be in the proposal as well as the dissertation. It is difficult because it depends on agreement by you and your committee on the value and place of theory in the research process. As it is almost impossible to clearly define theory, it is not difficult to see why this section is so hard to develop let alone get committee agreement on its relationship to your dissertation.
When developing this section, remember that the place of theory in your study depends upon what is known about your particular topic. When dealing with the general topic of motivation, for example, much research is available that has been synthesized, directed or guided by theory. However, much less research has been conducted on adult motivation. Therefore, there are many fewer theories to connect with this topic. You have to decide, and ultimately get your committee to agree, that you are either testing a well-developed theory, clarifying, refining or adding to a tentative theory, or seeking to develop a new theory.
When looking at the place of theory in our illustrative child care scenario, you would review theories relating to needs assessment, perception, and evaluation and determine how they relate to your topic.
The "hypotheses or questions to be answered" section is the next stage in the problem identification, definition and clarification process. Whether your study will have hypotheses or questions to be answered depends on the type of study you are conducting. Broadly stated, research questions generally guide past and present oriented, descriptive, comparative and/or evaluative studies such as case studies, historical studies and simple correlational studies. Hypotheses are generally used in future oriented, quantitative studies such as single or multiple group experiments.
Questions are frequently posed when you are working in areas that are relatively new and in which a great deal of prior research has not been conducted. Questions serve to guide the research and provide a skeletal outline for presenting the data. When working in areas in which significant research has been done, it is more likely that hypotheses will be included as an hypothesis provides greater precision and predictive power. Similar to research questions, hypotheses also provide a basic outline for presenting your data.
It is common for a research study to contain both questions and hypotheses. In our example, hypotheses would probably be used because a great deal of research has been done and theories produced in the areas of child care needs and perceptual differences related to needs. The hypotheses (usually stated in the "null" form) might be:
1) There are no differences in the child care needs in XYZ corporation as perceived by labor and management.
2) There are no differences in the effectiveness of the child care program in XYZ corporation as perceived by labor and management.
The "importance or significance of the study" section asks you to look at why
you are doing the study. Why is it important? To whom is it important? How will
the results of this study impact not only the XYZ corporation but other corporations
in your locality with child care programs? What about other corporations in
other parts of the state, region or country? If you can't answer this question
from a variety of perspectives, a very basic question must be asked of you -
why are you doing this study?
Within the "definition of terms" section, you need to operationally define major words or terms that you are using in your study. This section is included to aid the reader in understanding how you are using specific terms. You should not define every common term associated with child care programs in industry or with the research methodology you are proposing. You need only define uncommon terms or common ones you are using in uncommon or unconventional ways.
For example, the child care program in XYZ corporation may be set up only for "latch key" children. As there is no commonly accepted definition for this term, you need to define this term as applied to your study. If you decide to use a variation of an accepted research methodology, this should be included as well.
Words or terms needing definitions are most often found in the title of your study, and in the purposes, objectives, rational, hypotheses and research questions sections. They should be briefly defined in chapter one and may be elaborated on in the literature review section found in chapter two.
In the XYZ corporation example, the following terms should be defined:
child care program in XYZ corporation
The purpose of the "assumptions and limitations" section of the proposal is
difficult to clearly discuss because there is no general consensus regarding
its function or what needs to be included. As always, once you have determined
the assumptions and limitations you feel are appropriate to your study, discuss
them with your committee chair and committee members and come to an agreement
regarding how this section relates to your study.
Generally speaking, a section discussing the major assumptions underlying the study are required by most graduate schools. You need to determine what is a major assumption and what isn't. Discuss this with your committee.
There are many levels of assumptions that come into play in each and every study. Assumptions may relate to the population or sample that you are using in your study or may be concerned with subtle differences regarding cultures or societies. They may relate to age, sex or other demographic variables among your study population. Assumptions may relate to the measures or to other aspects of the research design and methodology i.e., it is assumed that the personality test developed for the study is valid and adequately measures the personality characteristics that are central to your study. You need to make the initial decisions about the importance of the assumptions and whether they need to be included in this section. Follow this up with a discussion with your committee.
Limitations provide another way to further clarify, quantify, delimit, or define certain aspects of the problem or topic that cannot easily be included in any of the sections discussed so far. The intent of this section is to give special emphasis or to further clarify limiting factors that have not been discussed before.
Let's take another look at the child care program of the XYZ corporation. In this program, let's say the "latch key" kids make up 85% of the children in the program. While this may have been discussed before, it should be mentioned here as a limitation as it possibly impacts the generalizability or application of your results to other child care programs in similar companies.
The "organization of the remainder of the study" section is designed to tell the reader what to expect in the remaining chapters. One way to think of this section is that it prepares the reader for what will come in the rest of the study. Some graduate programs want this in the proposal but not in the final report. This section could be a paragraph as follows:
Chapter two will discuss the appropriate literature related to the problem just described. Chapter three will describe and discuss the research methodology selected to respond to the problem. Chapter four will present and analyze the data collected using the methodology described in chapter three. The study will conclude with chapter five which is a summary and conclusions drawn from the data presented in chapter four, and will conclude with recommendations drawn from the data in this study and will present recommendations for future research.
Chapter two of the proposal and the final report is the literature review.
In the proposal it is frequently a brief review of pertinent literature grouped
around major themes or topics. The literature review includes books, articles,
interviews or other print or non-print sources of opinion, fact, or empirical
data. The purpose of the literature review is to demonstrate that you are as
current as anyone about what has been done as it relates to your topic. A well
done literature review can establish you as an expert. At the very least, it
should establish that you know a lot about your topic and have a good working
knowledge of direct and indirectly related literature.
The literature review should accomplish at least the following five purposes:
1) to place the topic in an historical context;
2) to provide for the assessment of previous studies relating to the topic;
3) to justify selection of the topic;
4) to assist in the selection of research design and methodological procedures;
and, 5) to provide a theoretical framework.
Let's look at these purposes more closely.
It is fairly safe to say that no topic exists in isolation. When faced with making sense out of reams of computer generated abstracts of literature relating to your topic, you may wish this were true, but it isn't. When writing about your topic, you need to establish where it fits in relation to other current and past studies. What aspects of the problem have been studied? When were the studies completed? What problems have been encountered? How have they been resolved? Looking at the historical context will also help you to establish how your study is different from other studies and will help establish your credibility.
The literature review also provides an assessment of previous studies as they relate to your topic. How reliable is the data and the analysis? How sound are the recommendations? On what criteria is the cited literature relevant to your topic? The five "W's" of journalism (who, what, where, when and why) provide a way to look at this.
When looking at the "who" aspect, consider the reputation of the author. How well known is this person? How many books, chapters, articles, etc. has this person published? How prestigious are the journals or publishers of this person's work?
Another dimension of the "who" is to consider the population comprising the focus of the research. How were they sampled and what was the extent of the sampling. How does the "who" of this literature relate to your study?
Assess the literature in terms of "what" has been done as well as "what" are the results of that research. How can you use this literature? How does this relate to your proposed topic?
When looking at the "where", most literature reflects at least one of the following four perspectives: local, regional, national and international. You need to review literature from the most relevant perspective(s). For example, if you were considering a topic relating to industrial psychology, looking at regional differences might be considered irrelevant as people learn through the same basic psychological processes in California as they do in New York. However, if your study is concerned with differences in attitudes, it is impossible to assume that the opinions of individuals in the West are the same as those in the East. The key is to know your topic and to review the literature accordingly.
The same logic can be applied to reviewing literature with a local, national or international flavor.
The purpose of reviewing literature from a "when" perspective is to determine the currency of the material. Research often runs in cycles. There are times when a great deal of research is done on a particular subject. Interest subsides. Then, for no apparent reason, it picks up again. Be sure you know if the particular literature you are reviewing is in a cycle. If so, you need to know where the piece you are reviewing is in relation to that cycle.
There are several other reasons for needing to know when the research was done. It will help you to determine how far back you need to go to establish the historical basis for the research. It will help you to determine if the research interest in this topic has waned. If this is so, a good question to ask yourself is, "Why am I interested in it"? Knowing when the study was done will also help you to determine if replicability is needed or warranted. Would a study completed in 1950 have the same results if completed on the same population today?
The last of the five "W's" (why) relates to the third purpose for doing a literature review - to justify the selection of the topic. You need to ask why was the study done? What problem was the researcher looking at? How does this problem relate to your study?
The fourth purpose of the literature review is to aid in the selection of the research design and methodological procedures. Reviewing the literature to determine what approaches have been used before as well as their successes and failures, can save you much in terms of time, effort and money. Familiarity with other procedures can provide you with a base from which you can select, modify and innovate new designs useful in developing your own proposal or study. You are fortunate and will save time if your review locates a research design or an evaluation instrument that parallels the assessment you are thinking about doing with the XYZ corporation.
Another word of caution is necessary here. Check to see if the material you have found is copyrighted. If the questionnaire or instrument you want to use is copyrighted, you will need to ask permission of the copyright holder prior to using it. This may involve the payment of a fee. In many cases, the copyright holder will grant permission to use the instrument free of charge. This is particularly true when the material is from a recently completed thesis or dissertation. Fellow students are quick to realize what you are going through and are thrilled and flattered that someone thinks enough of their work to ask permission to use it.
Generally, you will not need permission to use a research design because it is unlikely that you will exactly duplicate every aspect of the copyrighted study. More than likely, you will be changing some or all of the variables to reflect the uniqueness of your study. The copyright only prevents exact duplication.
If you are unsure whether or not to ask permission of the copyright holder, a good rule is to act on the side of caution and ask permission. Check this out with your committee chair as well.
The fifth purpose of the literature review relates to the theoretical framework which was discussed earlier in this chapter. Within the literature review chapter of the proposal, the material may have been summarized or briefly presented. In the final report, the literature review provides a strong theoretical framework for the study. For example, how do the different theories regarding evaluation or perception relate to the XYZ corporation? On what basis did you reject certain theories as being irrelevant? It is in this section that you provide the reader with an increased understanding of what is known of the theoretical underpinnings as they relate to your study. In other words, what theory or theories are driving your study and how will they provide the basis for interpreting your data and stating the implications of your findings?
A literature review that is logically organized, places your topic in an historical context, presents a critical examination of the strengths and lesser strengths of related research designs, methodologies and theories of related studies, will strengthen your claim that your topic is important and worthy of a research study at the master's or doctoral level. It will help you to justify the time and effort that you will be spending in its completion. A carefully thought out and well designed chapter two will also avoid a "so what, who cares?" response from your chair and your committee.
You are now ready for Chapter three - Methodology. In this chapter you are expected to describe the design of the study and how it will respond to the problem you have so carefully articulated in chapter one and supported with a thorough literature review in chapter two. This chapter clarifies each step of the research plan to respond to the topic clearly summarized in the statement of the problem section of chapter one. This chapter can be 10-12 pages in length.
Chapter three begins with a brief introduction reviewing the purpose of the study. This helps you and the reader to focus on the topic. In this section describe the purpose using the identical wording you used to describe the purpose in chapter one. While you may have been taught that paraphrasing makes for more interesting reading, you are not writing a novel. Exact repetition avoids any possibility of misleading the reader by subtlety changing the meaning through the use of similar wording.
You then need to describe the methodology responding to the topic. This means that you briefly describe the type of methodology you have selected to use (i.e., experimental, descriptive, historical, ex post-facto, etc.) and any variations of the methodology (ie; a modification of the Delphi technique or a quasi-experimental design).
It is important to remember that the nature of the problem determines the type of research that is best to use in a study. All too often, a researcher is familiar with a certain type of design and is determined to use that design regardless of the problem. This is like putting the cart before the horse. An experimental design is used basically to test causal relationships between two or more variables concerned with "what will be" rather than "what is". This type of design, while neat and tidy, can't be used to obtain facts or to make judgments about existing situations and would not be a suitable design to use in the XYZ company study. A descriptive study would be more appropriate.
The next step in this chapter is the "design of the study" in which you describe how the variables will be or were operationalized. This section is generally rather brief. For an historical study, this section could discuss how the primary and secondary sources used were identified and/or obtained.
In a simple experimental design, the operationalization of variables such as the control and experimental groups as well as the treatment would be discussed. In the descriptive methodology most likely used in the XYZ company study, you would need to discuss what surveys were conducted, how, where and when interviews were conducted, the nature of the direct observations that may have been made, etc.
Next comes a discussion of the "sample and population or source of data". The population to be studied will depend largely on the population to which the results are to be generalized. In the XYZ study, the population is the XYZ labor and management force. The population for this study would, naturally, be drawn from the company. Ideally, the population would be the entire labor and management force, but if the population is too large or it is otherwise impossible to obtain results from the entire population, a sample will need to be used since a properly selected sample can provide meaningful information about the entire population.
In addition to discussing the population or sample used in the study, this section may discuss other appropriate sources of data such as that obtained through various measures such as counting absences, new enrollments, observing various phenomena, conducting content analyses (the systemic analysis of communications), and objective testing.
"Instrumentation" is the next section in chapter three. The purpose of instruments is to gather data. All instruments used in the study are discussed here. The choice of instruments selected to obtain the data is made after the methodology has been determined. These instruments may be verbal (i.e., structured interview forms used by an interviewer), paper and pencil (i.e., a written questionnaire) or more sophisticated electronic tests such as polygraph tests. Regardless of the type of instrument used, it needs to be discussed in this section.
Quite possibly the literature reviewed in chapter two will have identified instruments appropriate for use in your study. Your initial task is to determine if the instruments are reliable (i.e., are they accurate, stable and will they repeatedly produce the same type of data?) and valid (i.e., to what extent does the instrument measure what it purports to measure?). You then need to decide if the instrument(s) can be used to respond to the specific purposes of the study. Appropriate instruments for the XYZ study would be needs assessment instruments and ones that measure perception and effectiveness. Ideally, you might find such instruments that have been used in child care studies related to industry.
If you determine that the instruments you have found are not appropriate for your purposes, you will need to develop your own. As any research text will point out, this is not an easy process. This requires a great deal of additional time and effort in researching possible test items, constructing and revising questionnaires, validation and reliability studies, and pilot testing before you can safely say you have developed an instrument that is valid and reliable for your study.
A superb resource for any researcher are the Yearbooks published by Oscar Buros. Within these various volumes, which have been published on an irregular basis since 1938, are excellent reviews of published tests and instruments of all sorts. They are accompanied by extensive bibliographies of research related to the use of the instrument. For obvious reasons, these volumes are a gold mine for any researcher and should be consulted when seeking information about available and appropriate instruments.
A discussion of the "data collection procedures and techniques" is the next to the last section that is included in chapter three. Within this section the various procedures and techniques used in the study are presented. Procedures generally describe the way in which the data were gathered. Techniques refer to the ways in which the data were recorded.
As research follows a logical pattern, the research method selected for the study determines how the data will be collected. Data collection is usually obtained in one of three ways: asking questions, observation, or testing. If the study is designed to identify causal relationships between two or more variables, for example, the data collection procedures would involve gathering quantifiable data from test scores, observations, ratings or measurements. In the XYZ company study, which is descriptive in nature, the data gathering procedures could involve the use of interviews, document analysis, comparisons, correlational studies and/or evaluations.
Your plan for "data analysis" is the concluding section in this chapter. Once you have discussed the procedures and techniques you will use to collect the data, you need to discuss the data analysis plan for your study. The purpose of this section is to demonstrate how your data analysis plan of action provides data directly responsive to the research questions or hypotheses. Few things are more frustrating to the researcher than to realize after the fact that the data needed to test a specific hypothesis or research question is not available or was gathered in a manner not permitting use of a particular statistical procedure. You can't go back and recollect the data. For this reason, it is essential that your data analysis plan be well thought out, clearly connected to the problem statement, the purposes of the study, the research questions and/or the hypotheses.
When appropriate, this section also discusses the descriptive and inferential statistical procedures that were used, how they were treated, and how the level of statistical significance used to guide the analysis was determined.
As has been mentioned, it is common for the content of the first three chapters to change from the time the proposal is approved to the time the final report is written. At the proposal stage, you have not conducted the study. The proposal is your best educated guess about the problem, the related literature and the methodology.
In a well designed study, chapter one of the proposal remains basically the same in the final report with the exception of tense changes from the future to the past.
Chapter two may change in the final report to include additional literature reflecting unexpected or unanticipated results from the data analysis. For example, let's assume that in the XYZ company study, the data revealed a much greater difference in the perception of the effectiveness of the child care program by female managers than the research would lead you to expect. When preparing the final report, it makes good sense to include any additional research that might help to explain this. A more extensive literature search, using different descriptors, may reveal other studies with similar results. This additional literature is included in the final report as it provides a basis for analyzing and interpreting your data.
If it was well designed, the methodology chapter of the proposal will have provided a fairly complete outline for the conduct of the study. Excepting the change of tense as well as a few other changes to reflect exactly what happened as opposed to what was predicted to happen, chapter three in the final report will look very similar to chapter three of the proposal.
Chapter four is the presentation and analysis of the data. In the proposal, this chapter was only very briefly mentioned in the last section of chapter one. The contents could not be discussed as the study had not been done. There was no way of knowing what the data would look like, what trends might possibly emerge, how the research questions would be answered or if the hypotheses would be rejected.
In this chapter, the researcher presents the findings of the study. The purpose of this chapter is to report the data in such a way that the reader will be able to draw independent conclusions from the data. As there are considerable differences of opinion regarding the format of this chapter, it is once again suggested that you consult with your committee prior to writing the results of your study.
The findings are usually reported in a narrative supplemented with charts, figures, graphs, numbers, etc. They may be grouped and presented in sections responsive to the research questions or hypotheses. Regardless of how they are presented, all relevant data derived from the study should be reported in an objective, non-evaluative way, free from author bias or editorializing. This preserves the integrity of data presentation and allows the reader to independently interpret the data and draw conclusions. It also helps you to separate fact from feelings. While you may be surprised, shocked, disappointed, depressed or have any of a number of emotional reactions to the data, you can only report your data as it has been gathered, not your reactions to it. If twenty three percent of the population indicated something in a certain way and for some reason this surprises you, it is reported factually (ie; "Twenty three percent of the population indicated . . ."). Words or comments expressing your feelings (i.e., " Only twenty three percent of the population indicated . . ." or "Isn't it surprising that twenty three percent of the population indicated . . .") have no place in this section of the chapter. This section can be characterized by thinking of Sgt. Joe Friday, from the old Dragnet television series, saying "Just the facts, please. Just the facts!"
Generally, the factual presentation of the data is kept separate from the inferences, interpretations or other analytical treatment of the data. In some instances, data presentation and analysis are integrated throughout the chapter. The format of this chapter depends to a large extent on the nature of the data and the topic or problem of the study. If it is important for the reader to have all the data before conclusions can be drawn, then all the data is presented in one section followed by a section presenting your analysis or interpretation.
Chapter five is for the summary, conclusions and recommendations. The chapter begins with a summary of the entire study. It is a brief recap of the problem, the major themes upon which the literature review was developed, the methodology, and the findings. This serves to refocus the reader on the topic of the study.
If conclusions were not drawn in chapter four, they are drawn here. The conclusions are one of the most important parts of the study since they clearly provide answers to the research questions or clearly accept or reject the hypotheses. It is essential that the findings and conclusions are tied to the theoretical framework you labored over in chapter one and elaborated on in chapter two. If you did draw conclusions in chapter four, you need to succinctly summarize and restate the conclusions in this section. Within this section you may also include any additional insights or inspirations that you may have fleshed out from the analysis.
The chapter ends with recommendations. There are usually two types of recommendations; those drawn directly from and supported by the data presented in your study (i.e., suggestions for changing policy, creating new programs or implementing other findings relative to the XYZ corporation) and those peripherally related (i.e., suggestions for future research).
Implementation of recommendations directly related to your data may have an immediate impact on the problem or topic of your study. Recommendations relating to future research may complete the research cycle and serve to assist another researcher in responding to a similarly related problem or topic.
The dissertation ends with the reference and appendix section. The style guide that you have been using will provide the format for these sections. Essentially, the references provide the reader with a bibliography of sources used in your study. The sources may have been directly quoted and so indicated in the text or they may have provided background information that contributed to the development of the topic or methodology. Appendices include material such as earlier versions of questionnaires, cover letters requesting populations to participate in the study, interview guides, results of pilot studies, or graphs, charts, tables, and the like that provide more detailed information than that which is included in the text.
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