Introduction This document
provides guidelines for preparing a research synopsis (and indirectly of the
final report of your work that will be presented at the end of your research
program). The research synopsis is the plan for your research project. It
provides the rationale for the research, the research objectives, the proposed
methods for data collection and recording formats and/or questionnaires and
interview guides. The synopsis is based on the information provided by the
supervisor(s) and by secondary sources of information. In the final report you
will present the results of your data collection and elaboration, with the
discussion and the conclusion. The full synopsis should be maximum 3-4,000
words, excluding appendices.
This should be brief and self-explanatory. It
should relate directly to the main objective of the proposed research. A more specific
and descriptive sub-title can be added if necessary, for example to indicate
the main methodology that will be applied. The title of the final report can be
different from the working title of the synopsis.
The abstract should briefly state
the problem, the main objective(s), the theories/conceptual framework used (if
relevant), and the method(s). The abstract alone should give the reader a clear
idea about the research in no more than 150 words.
Here you should introduce the main problem,
set it into context and introduce the particular niche within the main subject
area that you will work with. For example, the main subject area could be
deforestation and the Introduction would then briefly argue why it is relevant
to be concerned with deforestation – to whom it is a problem and why. The niche
could be the role of small-scale farmers in deforestation processes in mountain
areas. Justification for the niche should also be included in the Introduction.
In this section you present details regarding
the research problem. You should present documentation of the existence of the
problem, how it is manifested, who it affects and involves, what roles and
interests the involved actors have, the historical background to the problem
(including what has lead to the actual situation), and the problem’s complexity
(what it consists of and what it is a part of) (Dahl et al., 1999). The problem
analysis is based on a critical review of scientific literature: the theories
typically used to frame research on the subject area, knowledge available and
research methods used with what degree of success.
These should be identified on the
basis of the problem analysis. That means, after reading the problem analysis
it should be immediately clear that the choice of objectives is relevant and
justified. The objectives should focus on concepts and problems mentioned in
the problem analysis Each research proposal should contain one overall objective
describing the general contribution that the research project makes to the
subject area as well as one or more specific objectives focusing on discrete
tasks that will be achieved during the research. The overall objective may be
something that the study will contribute towards but not solve/finish; the
overall objective should not be a compilation of the specific objectives.
These are predictions of the
outcomes from the study. It is useful at the outset to specify the hypotheses
in terms of the assumed relations between variables so as to clarify the
position and pre-understanding of the researcher. If statistical tests are to
be conducted formulation of hypotheses is a crucial element of the research
design. Hypotheses can be derived from theory, experience or knowledge
concerning contextual factors. In purely quantitative, deductive research
hypotheses are tested statistically, whereas in qualitative, inductive research
hypotheses are not formulated. In the Joint Summer Module you are unlikely to
conduct purely qualitative research (although qualitative elements may be
included), and so hypotheses are relevant.
Although the specific or
immediate objectives may be quite narrow, they could probably imply much more
data collection and analysis than possible for a thesis. To demonstrate a good
overview of the general subject area it should be specified what aspects will
not be addressed and how this will limit conclusions. It is important to not
(only) mention that due to time constraints a limited number of
observations/measurements/interviews will be conducted. Rather, the aim here is
on topical limitations. Methodological limitations can be put in the methods
A research project follows an
overall methodology to make conclusions in relation to the overall objective.
Some types are experiments, surveys, models and case studies. Within a given
research methodology several data collection methods can be relevant, and both
quantitative and qualitative methods may be used in the same study. You should
specify what research methodology is chosen to fulfil the research objectives
(see Appendix A). A description of the methodology used does not mean a
reproduction of standard textbook definitions, in stead, references should be
This section presents the
analysed data, preferably in tables and charts. It is a good idea to organise
the results logically, for example by first presenting background information
like demographics and then continue with in a sequence reflecting the specific
objectives. All tables and figure must be numbered and referred to in the text.
Table headings go above the table, figure headings go below the figure.
Traditionally, you do not discuss the results in this section. That means, you
do not explain why a specific number is an outlier, or why few people answered
a specific question – you leave to the Discussion.
Here you discuss what the results
mean in relation to the objectives. You also discuss the influence of the
chosen methods on the results and what methodological problems may have been
faced. Finally, you compare your own results with those of other studies to
identify whether your study is in accordance or at odds with previous
scientific studies. If the latter is the case this warrants special
Start by clearly stating the main
finding of the research. Then go on to outline the implications of the
findings. How important is your contribution to the understanding that is
currently held on the subject area and niche? What future studies could be
recommended (don’t overdo the last point).
When you cite literature there
are standards to be followed for in-text citations and the format of the
reference list. You should use the Harvard referencing system, meaning that
in-text citations consist of author name(s) and publication year, for example:
Swanson, 2005. Literature can be used passively, in which case the author
name(s) and publication year are put in brackets: The moon is made from cheese
(Silverbrandt, 1935). When the author name is used actively only the
publication year is put in brackets: Silverbrandt (1935) argued that the moon
is made from cheese. When an article is written by two authors the in-text
citation is (Oldfield and Morse, 2009) or (Oldfield & Morse, 2007). The
coma before publication year can be omitted – but then it should always be omitted.
A very crucial point is to decide which of several possible formats to use and
then to follow it consistently.