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Research Supervision For Supervisors and their Students Dan Remenyi PhD Arthur Money PhD

This extract consists of the contents pages and the preface only. The book can be purchased from: http://www.academic-bookshop.com

Academic Conferences Ltd


First Edition 2004, Third Printing, 2010

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form (including photocopying or storing in any medium by electronic means and whether or not transiently or incidentally to some other use of this publication) without the written permission of the copyright holder except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of a licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, England W1P 0LP. Applications for the copyright holder’s written permission to reproduce any part of this publication should be addressed to the publishers.

ISBN: 0-9547096-0-8

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Contents Contents............................................................................................ iii Preface.............................................................................................. xi Who will benefit from reading this book? ............................................xiii Acknowledgements .......................................................................... xiv How to use this book ....................................................................... xiv About the Authors............................................................................. xv Part One .......................................................................................1 Chapter 1: Research degrees and supervision ............................1 1.1 The range of research degrees ...................................................2 1.2 The need for supervisors ............................................................3 1.3 Why supervise?..........................................................................4 Chapter 2: Getting ready to supervise.........................................7 2.1 Code of practice.........................................................................8 2.2 Are you likely to make a good supervisor? ...................................8 2.2.1 Self-test scores and their implications ...................................9 2.3 Key issues for good supervision ................................................ 12 2.3.1 The standards required by the institution ............................ 12 2.3.2 The house rules and how they are implemented .................. 12 2.3.3 The requirements of the ethics committee........................... 13 2.3.4 How to access resources .................................................... 13 2.4 Training for the supervisor........................................................ 14 2.5 The principal or main supervisor ............................................... 14 2.6 Political issues.......................................................................... 14 Useful websites and books ............................................................. 15 Chapter 3: The supervisor and the dean of research.................17 3.1 The stakeholders ..................................................................... 18 3.2 The role of the dean of research ............................................... 18 3.2.1 Responsibilities of the Dean’s Office .................................... 19 3.3 When there is a need to change supervisor ............................... 19 3.4 The awarding of the degrees .................................................... 20 Chapter 4: Accepting a student .................................................21 4.1 Selecting research students ...................................................... 22 4.2 Getting to know the prospective student ................................... 22 4.3 Accepting only students who can succeed ................................. 23 4.4 Weak students can be difficult .................................................. 23 4.5 The question of chemistry ........................................................ 23 4.6 Problems between supervisor and student ................................. 23 4.7 The pastoral/counselling role .................................................... 24 4.8 Written language ..................................................................... 24 4.9 Student funding ....................................................................... 24 4.10 Self test for would be research student.................................... 25 iii


Research Supervision for Supervisors and their Students

Part Two.....................................................................................27 Chapter 5: The research degree process ...................................27 5.1 The research degree process .................................................... 28 5.2 Find a suitable university .......................................................... 28 5.3 Getting on-board...................................................................... 28 5.4 Finding out where things are .................................................... 29 5.5 Starting the search for a research question................................ 29 5.6 Meeting the other research candidates ...................................... 29 5.7 Finding a supervisor or supervisors ........................................... 29 5.8 Research proposal.................................................................... 30 5.9 Identifying quantitative and/or qualitative skills ......................... 30 5.10 The research protocol............................................................. 30 5.11 Additional courses or skills ...................................................... 30 5.12 Building a personal network .................................................... 31 5.13 Scheduling work delivery ........................................................ 31 5.14 Feedback or progress reports.................................................. 31 5.15 Dissertation submission requirements...................................... 31 5.16 Production of the physical dissertation..................................... 31 5.17 Submission of the dissertation................................................. 32 5.18 Appointment of examiners ...................................................... 32 5.19 Examination including viva voce .............................................. 32 5.20 Revision and amendments ...................................................... 32 5.21 Graduation............................................................................. 32 Useful websites ............................................................................. 32 Chapter 6: Rules of engagement ...............................................33 6.1 Working with the research candidate......................................... 34 6.2 Two or more supervisors .......................................................... 34 6.3 Arrangements for meeting and working with your student .......... 34 6.4 Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) .............................................. 37 6.5 Knowledge in the public domain................................................ 38 6.6 Commercially sponsored research ............................................. 38 Useful websites ............................................................................. 39 Part Three ..................................................................................41 Chapter 7: The research proposal..............................................41 7.1 A research proposal ................................................................. 41 7.2 The importance of the research proposal................................... 42 7.3 Issues addressed by the research proposal ................................ 43 7.4 The dimensions of the research proposal................................... 43 7.5 Using the research proposal to manage the project.................... 44 7.6 Understanding the issues.......................................................... 44 Useful websites ............................................................................. 44 Chapter 8: Choosing a research question ..................................47 8.1 The challenge of a suitable research question ............................ 48 8.2 The research degree candidate’s strengths ................................ 48 8.3 Brainstorm alternatives............................................................. 48 iv


Research Supervision: Contents

8.4 Several iterations of research question development .................. 49 8.5 What are the subsidiary research questions? ............................. 50 8.6 An example research question .................................................. 51 8.7 After the research question....................................................... 53 8.8 The research question as a strategic issue ................................. 53 8.9 The acid test for the research question...................................... 54 Useful websites ............................................................................. 55 Chapter 9: Choosing a research strategy ..................................57 9.1 Research strategies available .................................................... 58 9.2 Theoretical research................................................................. 58 9.3 Empirical research.................................................................... 59 9.4 Types of Empirical research ...................................................... 60 9.5 Defining a research strategy ..................................................... 60 9.6 The positivistic or quantitative approach.................................... 61 9.7 The interpretivist or qualitative approach................................... 62 9.8 Factors influencing the choice of research strategy .................... 63 9.8.1 The research problem or question....................................... 64 9.8.2 Skills and attitude of the researcher .................................... 64 9.8.3 Funds available.................................................................. 65 9.8.4 Time allocated for the degree ............................................. 65 9.9 Critical research ....................................................................... 65 9.10 The risk profile of a research degree ....................................... 66 Useful books and websites ............................................................. 67 Chapter 10: Choosing a research tactic.....................................69 10.1 The research tactic................................................................. 70 10.2 Action research ...................................................................... 71 10.3 Case studies .......................................................................... 72 10.4 Ethnography .......................................................................... 74 10.5 Field experiments ................................................................... 74 10.6 Focus groups ......................................................................... 75 10.7 Forecasting ............................................................................ 75 10.8 Futures research .................................................................... 76 10.9 Game or role-playing .............................................................. 76 10.10 In-depth surveys (interviewing)............................................. 76 10.11 Laboratory experiments ........................................................ 77 10.12 Large-scale surveys ............................................................. 77 10.13 Participant–observer approach .............................................. 78 10.14 Scenario research ................................................................. 78 10.15 Summary ............................................................................. 79 Useful books ................................................................................. 79 Chapter 11: The research protocol ............................................81 11.1 Defining the research protocol ................................................ 82 11.2 An overview of the research project ........................................ 83 11.3 Field procedures..................................................................... 83 11.4 Evidence collection process..................................................... 84 v


Research Supervision for Supervisors and their Students

11.5 Analytical procedures ............................................................. 86 11.6 Presenting the findings ........................................................... 87 11.7 A time based plan and costs ................................................... 88 11.8 Ethics .................................................................................... 88 Useful Websites ............................................................................. 88 Chapter 12: The first steps ........................................................89 12.1 The first steps........................................................................ 90 12.2 Induction programme............................................................. 90 12.3 Eating an elephant or climbing Mount Everest.......................... 91 12.4 The Research Concept Note.................................................... 92 Useful Websites ............................................................................. 93 Part Four ....................................................................................95 Chapter 13: Relevance, rigour and originality...........................95 13.1 The relevance and rigour conundrum ...................................... 96 13.2 The stakeholders and their expectations .................................. 96 13.3 Defining relevance ................................................................. 96 13.4 Defining rigour ....................................................................... 97 13.5 Value-in-use is not enough ..................................................... 98 13.6 The antithesis of rigour – the anything goes principle ............... 99 13.7 Originality.............................................................................. 99 Useful websites and books ........................................................... 100 Chapter 14: When is a dissertation ready?..............................103 14.1 Defining the standard of a degree ......................................... 104 14.2 Examine in two parts............................................................ 104 14.3 Independent research .......................................................... 105 14.4 When has enough work been done?...................................... 106 14.5 Peer reviewing – the republic of scholars ............................... 106 14.6 Goodwill of examiners .......................................................... 107 14.7 Degree dissertations need to be targeted at requirements ...... 107 14.8 Time is an important issue .................................................... 109 14.9 An entry to more research opportunities ................................ 109 Useful publications and websites .................................................. 109 Chapter 15: Helping the student to submit .............................111 15.1 Getting ready to submit ........................................................ 112 15.2 Writing up ........................................................................... 112 15.3 Evidence of scholarship ........................................................ 113 15.4 Content and structure of the dissertation ............................... 114 Useful Website ............................................................................ 115 Chapter 16: Evaluating the research .......................................117 16.1 How is the dissertation evaluated? ........................................ 118 16.2 The traditional Masters Degree by dissertation ....................... 118 16.3 Course work and the Masters Degree .................................... 119 16.4 A Holistic evaluation approach .............................................. 120 16.5 Research report - Course Work Masters Degree ..................... 120 16.6 Evaluating a Masters Degree by dissertation .......................... 121 vi


Research Supervision: Contents

16.7 Details that examiners inspect closely.................................... 122 16.7.1 Introduction to the subject ............................................. 122 16.7.2 Literature review............................................................ 122 16.7.3 Research questions ........................................................ 123 16.7.4 Methodology.................................................................. 123 16.7.5 Data or evidence collection and analysis .......................... 124 16.7.6 Interpretation of the research findings ............................ 124 16.7.7 Summary and conclusion of the dissertation .................... 125 16.7.8 The Limitations of the research....................................... 125 16.8 Management guidelines or recommendations......................... 126 16.9 The grading of research degrees ........................................... 126 16.10 A Checklist ......................................................................... 126 16.11 Some problems encountered by examiners .......................... 127 16.12 Summary ........................................................................... 127 Useful websites and books ........................................................... 128 Part Five...................................................................................129 Chapter 17: The choice of examiner/s ....................................129 17.1 The research examination process ........................................ 130 17.2 Appointing examiners ........................................................... 130 17.3 A pre-viva report .................................................................. 131 Chapter 18: The viva voce .......................................................133 18.1 Preparing for the viva ........................................................... 134 18.2 The examining committee..................................................... 134 18.3 The outcome of a viva .......................................................... 135 18.4 The viva process .................................................................. 136 18.5 Tone of the viva ................................................................... 136 18.6 Central issues to be raised at the viva ................................... 137 18.7 A contribution to the body of theoretical knowledge ............... 138 18.8 When to announce the results of the viva .............................. 138 18.9 The examiners report ........................................................... 139 Useful books and websites ........................................................... 139 Chapter 19: Making post-viva changes ...................................141 19.1 Re-working and/or changes .................................................. 142 19.2 Minor and major revisions..................................................... 142 19.3 Who assesses the changes? .................................................. 143 19.4 When the student feels unfairly treated ................................. 143 Part Six ....................................................................................145 Chapter 20: Ethics of research.................................................145 20.1 Ethical considerations underpins research .............................. 146 20.2 Research and trust ............................................................... 147 20.3 Handling students who break the code .................................. 147 20.4 Some central ethical issues ................................................... 148 20.5 What should be researched? ................................................. 148 20.6 How the research should be conducted ................................. 149 20.7 Evidence collection ............................................................... 149 vii


Research Supervision for Supervisors and their Students

20.8 Openness with the informants............................................... 149 20.9 The integrity of the evidence ................................................ 150 20.10 Processing the evidence...................................................... 151 20.11 Using the findings .............................................................. 152 20.12 Funding the research .......................................................... 153 20.13 Performance of the work .................................................... 153 20.13.1 Plagiarism.................................................................... 153 20.13.2 The theft of ideas......................................................... 154 20.13.3 Fudging references....................................................... 155 20.13.4 Measuring-instrument construction................................ 155 20.13.5 Choosing a sample ....................................................... 156 20.13.6 Assistance from others ................................................. 156 20.13.7 Misrepresentation of work done .................................... 157 20.14 Responsibility to the greater community .............................. 158 20.15 Discovery of unacceptable practices .................................... 158 20.15.1 Unlawful or illegal conduct ............................................ 158 20.15.2 Unsatisfactory practises that endanger staff................... 158 20.16 Summary ........................................................................... 159 Useful books and websites ........................................................... 161 Part Seven................................................................................163 Chapter 21: Helping the student to publish ............................163 21.1 The pros and cons of student papers..................................... 164 21.2 The first academic paper ...................................................... 164 21.3 Why writing publishable papers is a problem.......................... 165 21.3.1 Not understanding what is required................................. 165 21.3.2 Fear of failure ................................................................ 166 21.3.3 Lack of commitment to the need to publish ..................... 167 21.3.4 Lack of support from the institution or supervisor ............ 167 21.3.5 Poor personal motivation ................................................ 167 21.4 Factors that contribute to failure to publish............................ 168 21.5 How to produce a publishable academic paper....................... 168 21.5.1 Select a suitable topic area ............................................. 168 21.5.2 Use the literature ........................................................... 169 21.5.3 Choose a methodology ................................................... 170 21.5.4 Formalise a research question......................................... 171 21.5.5 Collect evidence ............................................................. 171 21.5.6 Analyse the evidence...................................................... 171 21.5.7 Write the paper ............................................................. 171 21.6 Advice from editors .............................................................. 172 21.6.1 Fundamentals ................................................................ 173 21.6.2 Relevance, rigour and impact.......................................... 173 21.6.3 Writing style .................................................................. 174 21.6.4 Choose the prospective journal carefully.......................... 174 21.6.5 Instructions to authors ................................................... 175 21.7 Perseverance required .......................................................... 175 viii


Research Supervision: Contents

Useful publication ........................................................................ 175 Chapter 22: Other matters ......................................................177 22.1 Integrating students into the academic community ................ 178 22.2 Employment issues............................................................... 178 22.3 Survival guide for supervisors ............................................... 179 Appendix 1: Additional useful websites ..................................181 Appendix 2: Readings and references .....................................184 Appendix 3: The Doctorate versus the Masters.......................188 Appendix 4: The Internet and the Web ...................................189 Appendix 5: A research proposal and protocol........................190 Appendix 6: Tasks or activities for a part-time doctorate.......206 Appendix 7: Examples of Examiners Reports ..........................211 First Examiners Report – Long Version .......................................... 211 Second Examiners Report – Short Version ..................................... 214 Appendix 8: A Final Word or a Final Fable ...............................216 Index........................................................................................219

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Research Supervision for Supervisors and their Students

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Research Supervision: Preface

Preface Research should be fun rather than a grind and one should believe in its relevance and value Keen, P. (1980), ‘MIS Research: Reference disciplines and a cumulative tradition’, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information Systems, Philadelphia, PA, December 8-10, pp. 9-18.

There is little doubt that educational expectations have been changing. More people want to have a univers ity degree and our society has been encouraging this trend. In fact talk of the knowledge society and its need for expertise has encouraged many people to follow advanced studies. This has resulted in more and more individuals attending university and a resulting increase in graduates. As the number of first -degree graduates has increased the demand for Masters degree s has also been on the increase. More and more universities have begun to take mature individuals without a first Bachelor’s degree onto Masters programmes. The result of this trend has been that having a Masters degree is nowhere near as special as it used to be. Although these degrees, which are normally offered by course work, are available in a wide range of subject areas the most popular by far is the Masters of Business Administration (MBA). This in turn has lead to a major increase in the demand for doctoral degree s in business with the establishment in several universities of the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree. The number of individuals studying for MBA and DBA degrees has lead to a substantial increase in the demand for research supervisors. Unfortunately the quality of the supervision and supervisors has been mixed and this has sometim es lead to problems for both degree candidates and universities in that the completion rate is often not as good as it should be. With a few noticeable exceptions universities have generally not paid as much attention to the quality of research supervision as they should have. It has been assumed that researchers would largely look after themselves. In general Deans of Research or Chairpersons of Advanced Degrees Committees have taken the view that if there have been no complaints, the pr ovision made for supervision must be adequate. It has been the no news is good news philosophy. This has been compounded by the fact that there has not been a tradition of reviewing the competence or effectiveness of research supervisors. Supervision has been seen as a sort of additional activity which has generally not been

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Research Supervision for Supervisors and their Students

included in the three common requirements for university work, i.e. teaching, research and administration. This book has been written as a response to the need to improve the standard of supervision of research degrees in universities. In general the quality of research degree supervision is not good. Until recently there have been few courses on the subject of supervision and little published in this area. There has be en no comprehensive textbook available covering the key issues involved in research degree supervision. As mentioned this lack of quality in supervision is evidenced by the poor completion rate and by the fact that dissertations often only just meet minimum requirements or standards. However, funding bodies and Higher Education Authorities have become conscious of the need for better standards of supervision. Furthermore students who have not been appropriately supervised have been known to threaten litigation. There is now a much greater appreciation of the need for sound research supervision processes to be in place, which helps to ensure the quality of the educational experience as well as the standard of the output. This book will make a contribution to improving the standard of research supervision. It is primarily intended for research supervisors, both experienced and as yet inexperienced. But supervision works best as a co-operative exercise, so this book should also be of use to prospective research students. Dan Remenyi PhD dan.remenyi@tcd.ie March 2004

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Research Supervision for Supervisors and their Students  

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Research Supervision for Supervisors and their Students  

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