Groundwater Mick has worked in the capacity of a Senior Hydrogeologist in government, private consulting and the mining industry which has given him a well-rounded perspective of the water industry as well as the challenges faced by the different stakeholders.
What makes a strong research proposal? Why should we care about research design? Your dissertation will form a large part of your degree, and it is important that it is correctly put together.
No matter what you go on to do in your later career, being able to put together a proposal, argue its merits, and design a project, will be valuable skills that you are likely to rely on.
PhD students should consider research design early in their first year. The way that you design and plan your research will have significant implications for the success of your project.
Although you will probably write the introduction to your thesis last, a well-designed research project should first work through these steps right from the start.
You may also be writing small grant proposals for awards and fellowships to attend conferences or pay for fieldwork. Nowadays, grant writing is a significant part of my job, and I spend a lot of time writing applications for money.
So, good research design is important and a vital part of your skills toolbox, and a few successful small grants on your CV is a must for anyone considering an academic career. The scientific methodology that you use underpins your entire project, and flawed assumptions or a flawed methodology will result in a questionable integrity of your results.
Poor scientific methodology can also mean that you are liable to have biased results. There are varied definitions, and they include: Good proposals will have a unique question or a new method, and the methods and study area will be appropriate.
Project difficulty versus time spent. For a PhD or Post-doc student, projects in the upper right not too much time, but large gain in knowledge are best.
For an undergraduate or MSc dissertation, projects in the bottom right are best. But no one wants projects in the bottom right — little gain in knowledge but very difficult. Where does your project fit?
It is very important that you consider, as a starting point, whether your research is achievable. Research projects can provide us with varying amounts of information, and vary in size from small to large projects.
Different problems are suitable for people to tackle at different stages of their careers cf. Is your project of a suitable difficulty for you to tackle, and does to add enough to our body of knowledge? The best proposals are appropriate to the career stage and time available of the person concerned.
They are concise, clear and complete — not asking to do too much. They have a strong rationale and a wider justification, with a Big Question clearly situated within this.
Finally, the best proposals are novel, but not too novel. Whether you are writing a proposal or a thesis or dissertation, you should follow these steps for good research design. Follow these steps for good research design, and for writing a good grant application or introduction to your dissertation or thesis.
Of course, I have only covered this topic briefly here; there are many further resources that you can look at that discuss research design in more detail. It goes without saying that your teacher or supervisor is the real expert here and they should be consulted at every step of the way.GRAHAM WHITE, CHAIR.
Graham White is a biologist and a consultant ecologist who was elected to serve as the Board Chair in March He majored in Zoology and Botany for a BSc from UWI and an MSc in Ecology from the University College of North Wales Bangor.
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