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Guidance Notes for Completing the Research Proposal (please use the template uploaded for the order and follow the instructions below)
The following notes have been compiled to act as a guide. Each section below refers directly to the sections on the research proposal and highlights what minimum information is required.
1. Title of proposed research project
The title of the research project needs to be clear and succinct giving an idea to the reader exactly what the project involves. A title to a study should not contain any acronyms but all words should be explained in full (then abbreviated).
2. Project summary
Provide a short overview of the research study, such as:the aims, research question/s, what you are intending to do, who will it involve? How do you hope to achieve the aims?
3. Project objectives (between 3-5 clear bullet points)
Summarise the main objectives or outcomes expected of the research study.
To generate an understanding of certain issues…
To evaluate a particular phenomenon or service
To highlight the differences between
To describe/understand the experiences of
To measure the difference between X and Y
To improve knowledge regarding
4. What is the rationale which led to the study?
Providing a rationale for the study refers to the presentation of a clear comprehensive summary of background research/literature which has informed the development of your study. In this section you need to generate an argument as to what has been done, what we already know about the topic being researched, what the gaps are in the research knowledge and why your study is of particular importance. Please complete this in language comprehensible to a lay person and avoid specific scientific terminology. All research publications need to be clearly referenced and a full list of references provided in section 13 (the reference list is not included in the word count).
5. Research Methodology
This section provides a summary of the methods you are going to use to perform the research study, the approach which you will take. Briefly describe the following:
– Identify the research methodology you have adopted, such as epidemiology, phenomenology, cross-sectional study, whatever you choose make sure it is clear to the reader why this method is important. Ensure you have defined your inclusion and exclusion criteria.
– Clearly identify a recruitment plan and describe any supporting material which will be used to attract research participants (posters, social media campaign, etc). Where and how will the participants be recruited, using what method? How will research participants communicate that they are interested in being involved? Please also stipulate the age group you plan to recruit and justify why you are using a particular age group.
In the majority of research studies research participants should be recruited voluntarily by advert or poster, although be aware this can be a slow process. If you are contacting participants directly by letter then you need to describe where you will get their names and addresses from. Ideally you should not be given a list of names to contact as this information is confidential to the target organisation/participant. It is best that letters are distributed by a third party who is privy to this information and ask participants to reply directly to you providing their own contact details. If you wish to recruit a certain cohort of students undertaking a specific course then you need to have recruitment letters and information sheets distributed by the programme leader in advance to when you want to undertake data collection to give participants time to consider whether to be involved. Organisational agreement will need to be sought from the Programme Leader for permission to recruit participants during class time and once received contact the Module Leader/Lecturer out of courtesy. Please do not approach people directly or use a global email to recruit your participants.
It is essential that you assure research participants that their involvement will be confidential (where at all possible). This means that no other person should know that they are involved in your research study unless they themselves choose to disclose this fact. If you are recruiting participants to a group interview you need to confirm that all group participants agree to keep the identity of other members of the group confidential.
An ethical requirement with respect to recruiting participants for research is that they are fully informed of what the study entails, what their participation will involve, how long the study will take, what difference it will make to them. Once a person understands the research study and their involvement then they can make an informed decision about whether to get involved and provide informed consent (agreement to be involved having been told all the facts about the study).
In this section you need to describe the process by which you are going to ensure a research participant provides informed consent. This must include providing the patient/service user with an information sheet in clear, easy to understand format (you do NOT need to provide the information sheet with the assignment).Whilst wherever possible a minimum of 24 hours should be given between the potential participants being given the information and signing the consent form (we appreciate that this not always possible but it is good practice as it gives individuals the option to consider if they wish to participate). In cases where the applicant thinks this may be a problem, please declare it on the application giving sound reasoning for your decision (you need to make clear the time a person will be given to consider their involvement.) You should make it clear who will see the research data you collect and the results, i.e. you and your supervisor.
Once a research participant has decided to be involved in the research study informed consent must be obtained. Whenever possible you should seek to obtain written consent from research participant.Where written consent is not appropriate and/or available please give a coherent rationale as to why this is the case and also an explanation of how you will ensure and record informed consent. For survey research where questionnaires are posted to participants it is appropriate to presume participants consent to being involved in the research by returning a completed questionnaire, so written consent is not required.
It is equally as important that the research participant understands that they can withdraw from a research study at any time without any consequences, even after data has been collected they can ask for their data not to be included and subsequently destroyed. This is stipulated on the written consent form and information sheet but you need to mention it in your description of how informed consent is to be obtained.
It is essential that a person who is being approached to be involved in a research study is considered mentally competent to provide informed consent. This is particularly pertinent to social work research. Where this is in question further safeguards need to be described and an argument presented as to why it is important for these people to be involved in the study.
– What method are you using to gather data, data collection tools, interview guides, questionnaires etc.
– Explain how the data will be analysed for example using quantitative data packaged such as SPSS, what statistical tests will be applied and/or using qualitative techniques such as thematic, content, explanation building analysis.
Please provide an indication of the project duration or project schedule in your research strategy or as an appendix.
6. Number of participants to be recruited and rationale for sample size
For quantitative studies the number of participants should be sufficient to produce meaningful results. Often a power calculation will ensure appropriate numbers.
You need to provide a clear rationale why you chose the size of sample for your study. Identify whether a power calculation was performed/appropriate and how this was determined. Large samples may be unfeasible, but the rationale as to how you determined the size of your study sample needs to be explained and what problems a small sample may have on the study findings acknowledged. One method of determining a sample size could be to use similar numbers recruited within previous work/studies that have been shown to be appropriate to substantiate the study findings.
7. Organisational agreement for the research study to take place
It is recommended that the applicant consider how they will obtain agreement and what strategies they will develop to enable this. For example, it is acceptable to approach organisations to seek advice about the process of gaining approval and provisional support for the study. The strategy ensures that the organisation is receptive to the applicants project and would be in principle, willing to approve the project once college ethical approval has been obtained.
8. Code of ethical conduct/Governance Framework
Researchers should attempt to follow a Code of ethical conduct that is Profession specific. Research within the NHS should be governed by the Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care.
9. Data protection issues
Protecting sensitive data needs to be considered and how you can ensure participants data remains confidential, such as the names/contact details of research participants and/or personal information disclosed within a research study. You need to describe the methods you will use to achieve this, the committee recommends that:
All research participants will be provided with a research code, known only to the researcher to ensure that their identity remains anonymous and confidential
Names and contact details of research participants should be stored on a password protected computer (consider the use of UoS shared drives), accessed only by the researcher and others as appropriate.
All data collected such as questionnaires, interview recordings, transcripts, should be anonymous and coded, hard paper copies of data, including consent forms should be stored in a locked filing cabinet within a locked room, accessed only by the researcher
Data stored electronically must be on a password protected computer, accessed only by the researcher. It is recommended that information is stored on a network drive which is password protected, preferably the F drive or other shared drive.
All data transported on computer discs, CDs and USB memory sticks should be anonymous identified only by a code and encrypted to protect against loss.
All publications of data should be written in a way so as to disguise the identity of the research participants involved. Data should not be used which can identify an individual unless prior consent has been obtained from the individual involved.
Data should be stored and archived for a minimum of 3 years,after the graduate award has been made, to allow verification of data from external sources if necessary, or longer if used for further research.
Data sharing to allow secondary analysis of a different member of the original research team should be consented for. The data must be fully anonymised in order for this to happen.
10. Other ethical issues to consider
There are a number of other ethical issues that you need to consider and explain in this section if they are relevant to your study. How each of these issues is mitigated for so that risk of harm or discomfort is reduced should be described. This should be considered for the participant and the researcher.
Language Barriers Participants must be able to understand the study. It is unethical to exclude participants who do not speak English as their first language unless your study is particularly focusing on English speaking individuals. Therefore you must identify whether non-English speaking people could be part of your sample and what steps you will take to make sure they can participate in the study, understand the information provided and be able to provide informed consent.
Minority Groups it is important to ensure that minority groups are considered and where appropriate equally represented within a research study sample. You need to identify how you will make sure that your sample is representative of the wider population, that there are sufficient numbers of minority group participants to ensure that findings can fully represent a particular group. This may involve participants who are blind/deaf and it is important to clearly explain the methods taken to involve all participants, ensure they are adequately informed.
Addressing Sensitive Issues The researcher needs to demonstrate that they are aware that when participants recollect/describe bad experiences, discuss sensitive information/feelings, that this could impact negatively upon the research participant. A clear explanation should be provided which describes how this impact will be minimised or prevented. Using a sensitive interview approach, stopping interviewing if participant distressed, providing contact details of an appropriate support service to refer/recommend to the participant to discuss issues further with a professional.
Failure to consider ethical issues adequately will result in a poor proposal and will be reflected in the mark given.
Provide a Full list of references which support the arguments and rationale. This is not included in the word count.
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