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Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR): Guide 2.0

Year of publication 2020

Working group: Minna Valtonen, Elsa Keskitalo, Anna Liisa Karjalainen, Marianne Nylund, Titta Riihimäki ja Olli Vesterinen

THESIS PROPOSAL

 

The next step after successfully presenting an idea for a final thesis in the final seminar is to write the thesis proposal.  The proposal serves as the foundation for the whole process of preparing a final thesis. An approved proposal is required for making contracts or applying for a research permit. Writing a proposal makes the writer consider how and on what basis they are preparing the thesis. The proposal is also important for providing thesis guidance from thesis supervisors. 

There are many ways to prepare a thesis, which is why themes are prioritised in different ways in each individual proposal. The following is a description of a basic structure for both research-based and development-based theses.

Thesis proposals are usually around 10 pages in length. The main goal is to present the subject matter and motivation of the thesis, and to explain why the final thesis is current and necessary. In addition, the proposal must include descriptions of thesis partners and the target group of the thesis, present previous studies related to the subject and define key concepts. It must also include a description of the research methods to be used. A schedule proposal and an assessment of any related ethical challenges must also be included. 

1. Preparing a thesis proposal for a thesis focusing on research

The proposal should comprise the following sections. The headlines in bold below can be used as headlines in the thesis as well.

Introduction

The introduction should be concise and around one page in length. Its purpose is to introduce the subject matter to the reader, and its contents should advance from general matters to more detailed ones. The introduction should include

  • the subject matter of the thesis, why it is current and grounds for choosing the subject,
  • a short description of the purpose and aim of the thesis,
  • the possible connection of the thesis to other, larger research projects, and
  • partners and research environment.

Theoretical framework and key concepts

The theoretical framework of the thesis consists of existing theories and research information and other verified information and background material related to professional practices. Introducing the theoretical background and key concepts is usually sectioned into two to four subsections. The headlines of the subsections must reflect the content of the subsection, and the content must be based on previous literature. The subsections must

  • include descriptions and definitions of the key concepts of the thesis,
  • discuss existing research information, and
  • connect the thesis to previous information and provide grounds for the chosen focus and other choices.

Purpose and aim of the thesis

The description of the purpose and aim of the thesis is usually presented as one section without subsections. The section should include descriptions of

  • the purpose of the thesis: a general explanation on the planned research topic.
  • the aim of the thesis: what benefit the thesis is planned to produce and how the information produced will further develop working life practices.
  • the research questions, usually 1–3 questions: what problem or concrete challenges the research aims to answer.

Research environment and partners

Descriptions of the research environment and thesis partners can be included as their own subsection. However, sometimes it is better to include them in the description of the implementation of the research, i.e. the section describing the research method, data collection and the analysis methods. In both cases this section should include

  • a description of the research environment, and
  • a description of how the working life partners or other partners will participate in the research.

Research method, data collection and analysis methods

This section should describe how the research data will be collected and how it will be processed and analysed.  Literature on research methods should made use of in this section. The section must include descriptions of

  • the used methodology: is the research a survey, an evaluation study or an action research?
  • the data collection methods: is the research data collected with interviews, questionnaires or with participatory methods? A planned structure of the interview or questionnaire should be appended to the proposal.
  • how, when and with whom the data will be collected.
  • how the research data will be processed: e.g. how data collected with interviews is processed for analysis.
  • analysis methods to be used.
  • ethical questions related to the collection, processing and analysis of the research data.

Questions related to the ethics and reliability of the research

The ethical challenges related to the collection and processing of the research data will most likely have been briefly discussed in the descriptions of data collection, processing and analysis methods. The purpose of this chapter is to further specify

  • the ethical questions related to the implementation of the study: for example, what is the researcher’s position in relation to the phenomenon being studied, or what kind of ethical questions arise in relation to the selected target group or research methods?
  • matters that could affect the reliability of the study.

Thesis schedule

The descriptions of data collection and research methods most likely also include a brief mention the schedule of the thesis. The purpose of this section is to provide an even more detailed schedule for the implementation of the research up to its finalisation. The planned schedule can also be presented as a table or a diagram. The schedule should include

  • a plan on the schedule of the different stages of the study: at what point will the section of theoretical framework be finalised and when the data will be collected?
  • a plan on reporting, publishing and utilising the results of the thesis.

Reference list

The reference list must be drafted according to Diak’s guidelines.

Appendices

Interview questions, themes of a semi-structured interview, questionnaire questions or cover letters, for example, should be appended to the thesis.

2. Preparing a thesis proposal for a thesis focusing on development

Thesis focusing on development is usually conducted as development projects or product development projects. The proposal should comprise the following sections. The following bolded headlines can be used as the structure of the thesis.

Introduction

The introduction should be concise and around one page in length.  Its purpose is to introduce the subject matter to the reader and contents should advance from general matters to more detailed ones. The introduction should include

  • the subject matter of the thesis, why it is current and grounds for choosing the subject,
  • a short description of the purpose and aim of the thesis,
  • the possible connection of the thesis to other, larger development projects, and
  • partners and operating environment.

 

Starting points of the thesis, implementation environment, partners and the purpose and aim of the thesis

If a thesis is implemented as a development project or product development project, it is important to provide a description of the starting point and the development target. The section describing these can include subsections. The subsections should include descriptions of

  • the purpose of the development project or product development: a general description of what will be done.
  • the aim of the development project or product development: what benefit the development project or product development will bring, or how the things developed during the research can be utilised in working life.
  • the previous studies related to the development project or product development and the starting points of the development work and the targets of the development.
  • the operating environment of the study, its partners and target groups.
  • how the development project or product development project is connected to the development of businesses or other operators within the operating environment.

 

The key concepts of the thesis and methods used

Presenting the key concepts of the thesis should be based on existing theoretical and research information and other verified information and background material related to professional practices. Introducing the key concepts is usually sectioned into two to four subsections. The headlines of the subsections must reflect the content of the subsection, and the content must be based on previous literature. They should present

  • research information and the key concepts related to the development project or product development project,
  • other projects and previous studies related to the subject matter, and
  • methods used in the development work.

Process description for the development project or product development project

The process description is a central aspect of a thesis focusing on development. Preliminary ideas on how the development project or product development will advance, and how and at what point of the project the development work can be assessed and how the assessment will be implemented. Process charts or tables can be used to support the process description.  The process description should include

  • a schedule for the practical implementation: what operating and working methods will be used and how different methods of development will be applied?
  • a plan for the schedule.
  • a plan on how the implementation will be assessed: e.g. how will the product be tested and how will feedback be collected from those participating in the project activities?
  • a plan for and an estimate of the required resources: how will work be divided, what size of a budget will be required for the project and what equipment and supplies will be needed in the development work?
  • an assessment on the risks related to the development project or product development.
  • a plan on reporting, publishing and utilising the results of the thesis.

Questions related to the ethics and reliability of the research

Ethical questions will most likely already have been discussed in the earlier sections of the thesis proposal. This section should further discuss

  • the ethical challenges related to the thesis, and
  • questions related to reliability and sustainability

Reference list

The reference list must be drafted according to Diak’s guidelines.

Appendices

Cover letters, for example, should be appended to the proposal.

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