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EAN 603: Child Development in Context

Preparing a Research Plan


Why prepare such a plan?................................................................................................................................................... 1

Sections in a Research plan ................................................................................................................................................. 2


Introduction ....................................................................................................................................................................... 2
Review of related literature ............................................................................................................................................... 2
Purpose statement.............................................................................................................................................................. 2
Method ............................................................................................................................................................................... 2
Participants.................................................................................................................................................................... 2
Measurement................................................................................................................................................................. 3
Procedure ...................................................................................................................................................................... 3

Data analysis ......................................................................................................................................................................... 3

Time schedule........................................................................................................................................................................ 3

References.............................................................................................................................................................................. 3

Why prepare such a plan?


The preparation of a research plan provides a bridge between the logical stages and the
methodological stages of the research process. A research plan is a detailed description of a
proposed study designed to investigate a given problem.
The research plan serves several purposes:
1. It serves to clarify the researcher's thinking about the problem. Having to define concepts,
for example, often reveals inadequate understanding and the need for further reading.
2. It enables evaluation of the proposed study. The plan provides the researcher with insights
into potential difficulties in the study, so that action may be initiated to avoid pitfalls.
Additionally, submission of the research plan to a supervisor enables feedback as to the
feasibility of the study.
3. It provides a blueprint to be followed in conducting the study. Committing ideas to writing
preserves a record of intentions which often proves useful when one is 'in the thick of
things'. It is all too easy to lose the original track after commencing the project.
4. Material incorporated in the research plan provides the backbone for the final research
report. Tenses are usually changed (present or future to past), some new sections are added
(e.g., the Discussion), and elaboration is necessary in others (particularly in the Data
Analysis section), but there is usually a close correspondence between the plan and the
subsequent report. Thus, if one doesn't stick closely to the plan, an almost entirely new
report has to be prepared.

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Sections in a Research plan
This is a suggested guide for the research plan. The nature of the research often dictates other
formats.

Introduction
The introduction conveys to the reader a firm sense of what you are doing and why. It is usual for
the introduction section of a research plan or report to commence with the background to the
present problem. Several general paragraphs are used to provide the context of the problem. It is a
good technique to cite authoritative sources in these early paragraphs to build up an acceptable
frame of reference for the study. This initial section of the introduction identifies the area in which
the problem is to be found, and establishes the significance of the proposed study by pointing out
that the problem has not been fully investigated, or that its study would make a useful contribution.

Review of related literature


Literature is reviewed:
• to expand upon the context and background of the study
• to help further define the problem
• and to provide a basis for the formulation of hypotheses
Articles are not reviewed for their own sake, but to provide a basis for drawing implications for
your own study. You should discuss the literature, not just present an exhaustive historical review.
Various techniques may be employed for organising the literature review. Subheadings may be
used, dealing with each of the major issues or constructs to be investigated. References dealing
with each issue are then cited in separate sections. This technique is recommended whenever the
literature review is lengthy. Subheadings make it easier for the reader to follow the literature
review, and should act as your guide for both the searching and reviewing processes.

Purpose statement
The purpose of the project should be expressed clearly and unambiguously, usually in the form of a
declarative sentence. This section usually includes a brief statement of the problem. One or two
sentences is usually sufficient — 'The purpose of this study is to ...'

Method
The method section tells the reader what you did, and how you did it. It should tell the reader how
the study is to be conducted. A high degree of structure is recommended for the Method section
since this section of the research plan/report contains detailed statements of the actual steps to be
undertaken in the study. The quality of research reports can be affected by authors providing too
little or too much information in the Method section. The basic rule is: include only information
essential to comprehend and replicate the study.

Participants
The number involved; their distinguishing characteristics (e.g., sex, age, level of education). Only
those characteristics considered relevant and important to the study should be described. It is
customary to describe the method of selecting subjects for the sample.

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Measurement
The method section of a research plan describes the measurement and data collection processes to
be used in the study. For example: What questions will be asked in any survey? What specifically
will be observed in any observational study? Include a draft of all questionnaires, questions for
and interview schedule, or observational formats within the Appendices.

Procedure
The procedure section should provide a summary of each step in collecting the data. Details can
include:
• the detail about the steps in which data collection will be undertaken;
• instructions that will be given to participants;
The procedure section should also include any identified assumptions and limitations of the study.
Limitations due to inadequate sample size, or restricted access to participants may affect the quality
of research for students in this unit because of the limited time frame. If this applies, you may need
to include an honest statement of recognition in the procedure section.

Data analysis
In submitting a research plan, you are required to identify the kind of analysis you intend to perform
on the data obtained.The general statement of intended data analysis in the research plan is not
reproduced in the final research report. In the final report, specific attention is given to the exact
procedures used, and the results of the data analysis.

Time schedule
In submitting a research plan, you may also include a time schedule for the study. Again, this
component of the plan does not find its way directly into the final report. The time schedule refers
to the total conduct of the study. It does involve procedural details, but also includes, for example,
time for coding and analysing data, and preparation of the report. For example:

SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES FOR PROPOSED STUDY

DATES
Aug Aug Sept Sept Oct Oct
1. Negotiation with
participants
2. Preparing data
collection procedures
3. Collection of data
4. Data analysis
5. Report preparation

References
The final component of the required research plan is a References section. This will be
incorporated in the final report. Every article cited in the sections of the research plan/report should
be detailed in the References section. Unlike a Bibliography, the References section includes only
those studies cited by you. You are advised to use referencing style of the American Psychological
Association (APA). In this format, references are listed alphabetically without any numbering.