The following report attempts to simulate a research proposal prepared for the client – Aberdeen Business School (ABS), a part of Robert Gordon University. It is written in the style of a research company putting forward proposals to ABS as part of a competitive tendering process. The aim of the report is to outline how to carry out the research in order to satisfy the needs of the client included in the brief. The report identifies the aims and objectives of the research, recommended research process, proposed methodologies (primary and secondary, quantitative and qualitative), the selected sample, costs, timing, outputs and study team. As it is an academic report, each element is supported with theory and justified. Background to the research
Although RGU’s marketing efforst are mostly concentrated around postgraduate students, the undergraduate students play an important role as well. The target market for undergraduates are students between 17 and 25 years old from Scotland, EU member countries or from the rest of UK (considered separately). In terms of the target market for postgraduates, RGU is looking at people aged 24-65, of Scottish, other European (EU members) nationality or from the rest of the UK. The main international markets are India, China and Nigeria. RGU makes effort to attract people looking to enhance their career or change their career’s direction.
2.0 Research Problem
ABS competes with other top Business Schools to attract high calibre, often foreign undergraduate and postgraduate students to its various courses. In order to position these courses effectively ABS needs to understand students’ decision making processes. Further research is required to find out the factors that influenced the decision to study at ABS amongst its students. The impact of demographic profile, geographic location and course studied on these choice factors needs to be examined. ABS’s main competitors need to be identified. (Chisnall 2005) The research will analyse whether ABS promotional tools impacted on the decision to apply to ABS by examining students’ attendance at Robert Gordon University (RGU) events and the promotional materials seen.
2.1 Research Aim
The problem as described by the ABS makes the conducted research focus on two targets. The first one, being potential students creates a need to investigate the factors, that influence the choice of university for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The analysis should include who is the student who takes ABS into consideration and what attracts them to ABS. The second one, the competitors, involves answering the questions such as who they are, how they attract their students, what makes them better or worse than ABS. Based on the brief, the following aim has been established for this research: To analyse factors that influence the decision making process of future ABS full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students. In order to support the outcomes, an examination of The Robert Gordon University Business School competitors, promotional tools, and the relevant choice factors in terms of demographic profile, geographic location and course studied by those already enrolled as ABS students will be carried out.
2.2 Research Objectives
The following objectives have been identified in order to achieve the above aim: – To profile the population of students who chose ABS
– To identify the factors that influence students’ decision making process amongst enrolled undergraduate and postgraduate ABS students – To identify the key competitors of Aberdeen Business School (such as University of Aberdeen, Abertay, Edinburgh Napier and so on). – To identify and evaluate competitors’ promotional tools
– To evaluate the effectiveness of promotional tools implemented by RGU including:
a) events organised by the university: open day, UCAS fair, careers fair,
PG fair and so on
b) other promotional materials and channels: fliers, adverts, social media, press and so on
– To examine demographic profile as a choice factor
– To examine geographical location as a choice factor
– To examine the course content and course options as choice factors
– To examine if the family and friends or the employer affect the students’ choice
– To evaluate the placement opportunity as a key factor
– To examine the “study abroad opportunity” as a choice factor
– To evaluate whether the event experience plays a role in students’ decision making process
The angle of the research requires the usage of both primary and secondary data and will use both – quantitative and qualitative data analysis in order to provide deep understanding of the subject. (Solomon et al 2010) Primary research will add the edge to the secondary research and will help to determine the various factors influencing students’ decision making process in regards to choice of University. (Denscombe 2007) Consequently, this should lead a scope of satisfactory research within the subject area. (Chisnall 2005)
3.1 Primary Data Collection
It has been decided that qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection will be employed to gather information for the study. Combining the above methodologies will allow the author to compare numerical, quantifiable data (quantitative research) with subjective, soft data (qualitative research) that gives rise to an analysis by interpretation. (Walliman 2006) Qualitative Paradigms| Quantitative Paradigms|
Concerned with Understanding | Seeks the Facts / Causes of Social Phenomena| Naturalistic and Uncontrolled Observation | Obstructive and Controlled Measurement| Subjective | Objective|
Close to the Data: the ‘Insider’ Perspective| Removed from the Data: the ‘Outside’ Perspective| Grounded, Discovery-Orientated, Exploratory, Expansionist, Descriptive, Inductive| Ungrounded, Verification-Orientated, Reductionist, Hypothetic-Deductive| Process-Orientated | Outcome-Orientated
Valid: Real, Rich, Deep Data | Reliable: Hard and Replicable Data| Single Case Studies | Multiple Case Studies|
Assumes a Dynamic Reality | Assumes a Stable Reality
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
Source: Adapted from Oakley (1999) as cited within BLAXTER, L., HUGHES, C. and TIGHT, M., 2006. How to research. 3rd ed. Berkshire: Open University Press, p.65.
The rationale for using both types of research in this study is to gather evidence from multiple sources in order to gain a more comprehensive study. (Bryman and Bell 2003)
As one of the main aims of this proposal is to design and carry out a questionnaire survey amongst the undergraduate and postgraduate ABS students, it is vital to understand the rationale of using quantitative methods. Quantitative methodologies derive from secondary sources such as financial reports, closed or structured questionnaire survey, or from the structured scoring or measuring of events and activities. It is the kind of data which lends itself to statistical analysis. By using an online questionnaire the Research Team immediately gains access to each and every single RGU student through its online mailing system.
By targeting such a vast number of students the Research Team maximises the chance of getting a high return in completed questionnaires. (Donohue et al 2007) It is statistically proven that response rates are also much higher in comparison to other forms of questionnaire. (Clough and Nutbrown 2007) There is an infinite number of possible designs of such questionnaires, therefore the choice of a most suitable design should be made based on the objectives and should allow to receive the answers to the questions asked earlier in the report in the most approachable and easy to analyse way.
In order for the research to be complete the information gathered through quantitative methods (questionnaire), should be supported by qualitative data. The qualitative methodology provides a possibility of going into great detail about situation or problem, while quantitative approach is flattened. The analysis of outcomes of qualitative data leads to conclusions based on a wider range of evidence, including subjective opinions, emotions and beliefs. (Patton 2002) With no presets for the answer the collected scope of different opinions if usually wider than when approaching the same problem with quantitative approach, yet it is more difficult to analyse, given the human nature, that encourages to subjective conclusions. (Kolb 2008) This should be avoided at all cost. The Qualitative approach will be accomplished by carrying out semi-structured, informal interviews with RGU students. The number of students at ABS makes conducting a sufficient number of interviews easy and saves both time and money by allowing researchers to collect all data at one location.
3.2 Secondary Data Collection
The client has carried out some background research already. A wide range of studies including literature reviews, case studies statistics have been carried out and have been used elsewhere. (Kolb 2008) This provides clear insight into similar cases around the world, which is beneficial to the client. The large scope of available material suggests the secondary data generally have a pre-established degree of validity and reliability which need not be re-examined by the researcher who is re-using such data. (Zikmund and Babin 2010) As secondary data is easier to collect than primary data, it can be gathered in a shorter period of time and used as a baseline for future primary research. The findings from desk research are used to draw up a draft of primary research plan suggesting what to look for, how similar problems have been approached in the past and what was the outcome.
The researcher acknowledges that the validity and reliability of any previously collected data should be evaluated as its origins may be questionable. (Clough and Nutbrown 2007) In terms of the research for the client, the secondary data available may not be specific enough for the researched problem. The information gathered by ABS should and will be used, however the author acknowledges that available data needs further work including analysis of gathered samples. Available sources provide insight into the choices made by students of institution other than RGU, and although the decision making process may be similar to all or most universities and groups of students in the UK, the environmental factors specific to Aberdeen and ABS should be further examined. (Keillor et al 2001) In depth, RGU students oriented research is advised. 4.0 Population and Sample
The number of full time students enrolled at ABS in the academic year 2012/2013, as provided by the Robert Gordon University authorities, is 2453: Undergraduate students in the number of 1853: Year 1: 476, Year 2: 362, Year 3: 575, Year 4: 422. Postgraduate taught students 583.
In order to achieve reliable data, the sample should consist of at least 10% of the total number of students, which comes down to 245 individuals.
The cost of the research as described above has been broken down and presented in Appendix 2. Cost variances depending on level of expertise and type of job have been taken into consideration. The scope of work has been estimated to 214 man hours spread between Head of Research, Research Supervisor and employees on an assistant positions. The hourly cost of a Head of Research (Research Manager) is £600, Research Supervisor £300 and a Research Assistant is £120 a day. The total of manhours equals 214 and the total cost is £5317. As the research will be carried out mainly online or via face to face discussions, the expenses cost comes down to £168 and is mainly spent for public transport for field workers. The Total amount to be paid is £5485.
As per discussion with the client an invoice for the amount detailed above will be raised and issued within 7 days. The contract will be carried out on a lump sum payment basis. The client agrees to cover additional expenses arising in due course and necessary for the successful completion of the project. Any additional expenses should they arise, will be outlined on an invoice issued after the completion of the project.
The time allowed for the project as suggested by the Research Team is 1,5 months. Within this time frame the Research Team agrees to conduct the following stages in a timely manner (as detailed in a table below): 1. Prepare Proposal, 2. Complete Literature Review, 3. Complete Fieldwork, 4. Complete Analysis, 5. Finalise and present the Report.
7.0 Study Team and Relevant Experience
The study team involves a Marketing Manager (Head of Research) and a team of Researchers. The MM has extensive research and managerial experience. He will supervise the process and the team of researchers, carry out the final analysis and present the outcomes to the client. The team of Researchers consists of 3 skilled marketing graduates, who will carry out the fieldwork activities and will prepare introductory analysis of the data gathered in the field as well as online.
The report has been prepared in the form of a research proposal for the Aberdeen Business School. It is an entrance to a research project , which based on the client’s brief will allow the client to identify and analyse the factors that influence the decision making process of full time undergraduate and postgraduate students who are facing a choice of university. As explained within the body of the report, the work will be delivered within 1,5 months and will be carried out by a team of researchers consisting of Marketing Manager and 3 graduate Researchers. The project involves primary (using both quantitative and qualitative methods) and secondary data collection. (Solomon et al 2010) The influence on students by the key choice factors will be examined by carrying out semi-structured, informal interviews amongst students of RGU and by collecting data through a questionnaire. A face to face interview and online questionnaires distribution are advised to minimise the costs and maximise the effectiveness of the research. (Dawson 2007) The cost of the service equals £5317 + £168=£5485 (unless further unexpected costs occur).
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