Content Issues in Students’ Research Proposals
AbstractThe purpose of this contextualized study is to explore typical content issues in master’s degree students’ research proposals. Comments in collated reviewer forms for twenty proposals referred back for corrections by a school research committee were analyzed, clustered into themes and interpreted. Seven themes were identified, namely: logical continuity, superficiality, justification of choices, subjectivity, and research proposal sections, foundational methodological knowledge, and technicalities. The findings demonstrate students’ lack of in-depth understanding of the elements of a research proposal and how they ‘hang together’, and that they fail to appreciate the important of staying focused on a central research question. They are also unable to apply textbook knowledge to ‘flesh out’ the proposal. Lastly, they exhibit an unscientific mindset. Based on the findings it is recommended that research proposal writing guidelines should include clear and comprehensive examples of proposal elements. However, guidelines alone do not provide enough information to steer students in the right direction. They should also participate in “nitty-gritty” proposal writing assignments. In addition, scaffolding as well as proposal sampling should be used to develop their research proposal writing skills.
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