Monday June 6, 2016
Many of our CIPR PR Diploma students are on the home straight working on their final assignment - the personal research project. So, following on from my recent blog about what makes a great PR planning assignment here is what I think makes a great diploma research project.
- Structure: Follow the structure in the brief: intro, literature review, methodology, discussion and findings, conclusion, list of references. Sounds obvious but I have seen some go off track. In terms of word count for each section, as a guide, I would think in terms of 500 for the intro, 2000 for the literature review, 1000 for methodology, 1250 for findings and analysis and 1250 for conclusions and recommendations.
- Topic: Pick a topic you are interested in, it will help sustain you. It should be original and that is easier than it sounds – for example, setting your research in a specific sector can make it original, or finding out if theory from a while back still works today.
- Tutor: Listen to your project tutor and take their advice on board. If you don’t get what they mean go back and ask – he or she is there to help. He or she can’t tell you what to do but can guide you and really the key is to be able to justify what you have done by reference back to the literature.
- Introduction: set the scene, hook the reader in, why does this matter? State the purpose of the research up top. This sounds obvious, but make sure your title, the purpose and what you actually do matches! If you change tack along the way remember to go back and amend these.
- Literature review: this is there to inform your research. Read widely but be focussed on your research question. Identify the gap that your research is going to fill. The conclusion of this chapter should explain what that gap is.
- Methodology: qualitative or quantitative or a mix of both? Decide, then explain it and justify your choice. Show you know the limitations of your methodology – all methodologies have them. Add quotes from some of the books on research methodology. Next, its method. Decide how you are going to do your research then explain, justify and acknowledge limitations. Make sure your method matches your methodology, i.e. don’t say you are going qualitative and then say you are doing a survey: #fail. Next it’s sampling. Who are you going to interview/survey/invite to a focus group and why? Pick a sampling strategy, explain and justify. How are you going to analyse your data? Any ethical considerations? Any reflections on how you did your research?
- For a small scale study like this, 30 responses to a survey are acceptable. If doing interviews then 3 - 6 is fine. This is based on the fact that you only have about three months to do it so we need to pragmatic!
- Discussion and findings: does what it says on the tin really. What did you find out? Include some quotes if you did qualitative, you can add graphs if you did quantitative but you need to make the analysis robust, for example look for patterns, code interviews for themes. Make sure what you claim really is backed up by your research. I have read some projects that make claims which really don’t match the questions that were asked in the survey or the interview guide.
- Conclusion: a good powerful conclusion is what we want. This isn’t the place for new findings and ideas, it should wrap up what you have found. A good conclusion moves PR theory on – show you have found something new. But don’t worry if you didn’t – finding out that nothing has changed is just as valuable! Make recommendations for both practice and future research.
- Appendices – here you can evidence your research with a copy of your questionnaire or interview guide and a sample of the data that you collected – for example an interview transcript.
Finally, think about how else you could use it – can you re-work it and present it at work to inform your practice? Is there a blog in it? We are always looking for great topics as are many others. You’ve put a lot of work in to it – shout about it!
Understanding research is becoming ever more important for communication practitioners and completing this assignment will give you a great feel for what good research should look like.