Research Development Project (RDP)

Introduction

Doctoral education involves a long road toward independent, high-quality research. The Research Development Project (RDP) has been designed as a vehicle for you to (a) develop and refine your research interests and (b) begin to think about what high-quality research would entail in that particular area.

The RDP will be completed in 6 steps.

  • Step 1 Interest Statement (5%)
  • Step 2 Logic Model (5%)
  • Step 3 Annotated Bibliography (10%)
  • Step 4 Draft Research Proposal (25%)
  • Step 5 Peer Review (20%)
  • Step 6 Respond to Reviewers (15%), and Final Proposal (20%)

Step #1 – Interest Statement

The freedom to study anything that interests you can feel both exhilarating and frustrating. More than any previous educational experience, doctoral study allows you to study whatever you want to study but it can be very difficult to choose among your many interests. After all, there are so many choices and so little time!

Length: One paragraph, ~125 words, double-spaced, 12 point font.

How to Turn in: Put your Interest Statement in the following: Google Drive Folder (you must use your @msu.edu email address to access). Please drop/save your file as Lastname_Interest (e.g. Terry_Interest)

For Step #1, write a brief statement of your research interests. If your goal statement included in your doctoral application is still the best statement of your research interest, then you don’t need to change it. Just copy it. If you have things to add to what you wrote in your doctoral application, do so now. For inspiration about what a statement of research interests might look like, consider browsing the college of education faculty and their statements of interest.

Step #2 – Logic Model

Length: One page, double-spaced, 12 point font

Logic Model Limitations: One page, no more than three variables

How to Turn in: Put in on your online portfolio. If your portfolio is not yet ready, put it in the linked Google Drive Folder. Save as follows “LASTNAME_Logic”

As a researcher begins to conceptualize a question to explore, some researchers lose themselves in the complexity of their phenomenon of interest. Others find themselves overlooking important variables and thus oversimplifying the problem. Either way – i.e., too much complexity or too much simplicity – can result in a failure to collect data on important aspects of a problem.

Recognizing this dilemma, your RDP in this class has been constrained in the hope of enabling more organized and focused thinking. Ultimately, a research question must be specific enough to direct a scholar to what is necessary to find an answer to it.

One tool researchers use for identifying their appropriate research question is a logic model. Further explanations of a logic model can be found in Remler and Van Ryzin (2011) on pp. 38-52.

In this first step of your proposal process, we ask that you begin sketching out a delimited portion of your research interest. Create this logic model in Word or Google Docs using the flowchart tools (see pp.44-47 in Remler & Van Ryzin for more specific explanation) and remember, your model is limited to three variables. Then, write a description of your logic model, the problem it exemplifies, what you hope to learn about the model through research, and finally, what you believe this new knowledge will accomplish (e.g., contributing to knowledge, changing practice, influencing policy, etc.).

Step #3 – Annotated Bibliography

Length: Eight 1-page Research Reports, double-spaced, 12 point font (~300 words)

How to Turn in: Put in on your online portfolio. If your portfolio is not yet ready, put it in the appropriate dropbox folder (below).

The Annotated Bibliography of research related to your logic model and research question(s) will include at least 8 Research Reports. We say “at least,” as it is very likely that you will want to review more research. As described elsewhere, Research Reports summarize primary reports of empirical research – that is, research where authors have gathered and analyzed data and drawn inferences from that data.

Step #4 – Draft Proposal

  • Length: 10-12 pages, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font.
  • How to Turn in: You can submit your RDP Draft to the Google Drive dropbox here. Save as follows “Lastname_Draft”
  • NOTE: The due date for your draft proposal is NOT flexible, as your paper will be sent to two peers for anonymous review.

Proposal Organization

Your proposal should be organized as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Method
  3. Limitations and Delimitations
  4. Summary and Significance

Introduction (Pages 1-7)

  1. Research problem and its importance (Pages 1-2). Page 1(-ish) is simply Proposal Step #1. To review, Step #1 should provide an overview of your project based on your logic model and state why the problem deserves new research (i.e., Why is your research needed?). Step #1 also details how your study contributes to relevant theory and/or prior research. Conclude the statement of the problem in the introduction with a brief but formal statement of the purpose of the research that summarizes the material preceding it.
  2. Relevant theory and research (Pages 2-4). Tie your study to relevant theory and prior research. HOWEVER, do not feel compelled to include an exhaustive historical account, but emphasize pertinent findings, relevant methodological issues, and major conclusions. Your goal in this part is to provide rationale behind your logic model through prior research and theories.
  3. Hypotheses or specific research questions (Pages 4-6). State your hypotheses or specific question and your approach to solving the problem. The relevant theory and prior research you summarized should support and be logically connected to your hypotheses.

Method (Pages 7-10)

  1. Sample: Participant characteristics, sample size, and sampling procedures. Specify what sample size is adequate for your study. You will describe the sample’s major demographic characteristics and other important topic-specific characteristics you need. You should also give the appropriate size of the sample and number of individuals in each condition, if separate conditions will be used. Finally, you need to think about sampling procedures for selecting participants, including sampling method, settings and location where data will be collected, and whether participants will be compensated.
  2. Measures and covariates (optional). Provide definitions of all outcome measures and covariates. Describe the methods for data collection (e.g., written questionnaires, interviews, observations) and provide information on instruments you will use, including their metric properties and evidence of validity.
  3. Research design. Provide sufficient description of the research design. For example, will subjects be placed into conditions manipulated, or will they be observed naturalistically? If multiple conditions will be created, how will participants be assigned to conditions, through random assignment or some other selection mechanism?
  4. Procedures or experimental manipulations or intervention. Include specific study procedures to allow the reader to fully comprehend the complexity of the study. For instance, if interventions or experimental manipulations will be used in your study, describe the details of the interventions or manipulations intended for each study condition, including control groups (if any), and describe how and when interventions will be administered.

Limitations and Delimitations (Pages 10-11)

A limitation identifies potential weaknesses of the study. Think about your analysis, the nature of self-report, your instruments, the sample. Think about threats to internal validity that may have been impossible to avoid or minimize.

A delimitation addresses how a study will be narrowed in scope–how it is bounded. This is the place to explain the things that you are not doing and why you have chosen not to do them–the literature you will not review (and why not), the population you are not studying (and why not), the methodological procedures you will not use (and why you will not use them). Limit your discussion of delimitations to the things that a reader might reasonably expect you to do but that you, for clearly explained reasons, have decided not to do.

Summary and Significance of the Study (Pages 11-12)

Indicate how your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the area under investigation. Most studies have two potential audiences: practitioners and professional peers. Statements relating the research to both groups are in order. Think about implications–how results of the study may affect scholarly research, theory, practice, educational interventions, curricula, counseling, policy.

When thinking about the significance of your study, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What will results mean to the theoretical framework that framed the study?
  • What suggestions for subsequent research arise from the findings?
  • What will the results mean to the practicing educator?
  • Will results influence programs, methods, and/or interventions?
  • Will results contribute to the solution of educational problems?
  • Will results influence educational policy decisions?
  • What will be improved or changed as a result of the proposed research?
  • How will results of the study be implemented, and what innovations will come about?

Additional Information

  • Much of this description is based on Pajares’ description of a dissertation proposal: here
  • You may also find this article by Daryl Bem helpful: Writing the Empirical Article

Step #5 – Peer Review

  • Length: Two 1-3 page reviews. Please do not put your name on these reviews!
  • How to Turn in: Please email a Word docx for EACH review to Cary. Save as follows with your last name followed by the paper ID: “Lastname_21934.docx”

Why peer review?

  1. First, reviewing peer’s work provides an opportunity to practice and improve your written critical review of research by considering a study’s scientific merit, design, interpretation, and significance.
  2. Second, peer review can improve writing by allowing you to see how others perceive your work.

To structure your review, be sure to address the following points:

  1. The research problem and its importance.
  2. How effectively does the author tie the study to relevant theory and prior research?
  3. The clarity and appropriateness of the research questions or hypotheses.
  4. Alignment: The appropriateness and adequacy of the study’s design in relation to the research questions or hypotheses.
  5. Alignment: The adequacy of the study’s sampling methods (e.g., choice of participants) and their implications for generalizability.
  6. Alignment: The adequacy of the study’s procedures and materials (e.g., interventions, interview protocols, data collection procedures).
  7. (IF INCLUDED) Alignment: The appropriateness and quality (e.g., reliability, validity) of the measures used.
  8. The limitations and delimitations of the study.
  9. The significance of the study.

Critiquing the Research Problem

When evaluating a research problem, begin by explaining your understanding of the major concepts and the relationship between them.

Don’t confuse the rationale for a study and the research problem. A rationale provides the reason for a study and should be evaluated based on how well the author makes the case for the need and importance of their research.

To evaluate the research problem, you might comment on

  • The clarity of the author’s conceptual definitions.
  • The adequacy of the model for explaining the phenomenon.
  • The important factors or concepts that were not included by the author.
  • Alignment between the author’s conceptual definitions and how these factors will actually be studied in the research proposal.

More review, less summary

The purpose of a review is not to summarize the article. Instead, when you report details from the article, only do so to the extent necessary for making your review point.

Explain the vital significance of your review point

Just because you find something that the author should have or should not have done, does not make it a valid review point. The importance of a review point is the degree to which it relates directly to the main idea or purpose of the study. Thus, your review should always explain how the point you’re making is vital to the central idea and purpose of the study.

In sum, good reviews have the following qualities:

  1. Specific: Refers to something specific that the author wrote.
  2. Incisive: Makes the review point clearly and directly. You may not be able to discuss all points you want to make. Pick the most important ones.
  3. Significant: Explains how this point relates to something significant in this study.
  4. Helpful: Suggests a feasible way that the author could respond to your review point.
  5. Critical, not descriptive: The reader of your review is the author or someone else familiar with the article. Therefore, do not waste their time describing what is already written in the article. State only enough that the reader knows what your review point is referring to. Spend 80% of your writing on the review point, 20% describing what the article says.

To give you a sense of how involved (and time-consuming) the review process can be, the links below detail three rounds of review for the article:

Sample “Real-life” Review Letters

As you look at the reviewers’ comments, note how much thought and time goes into their reviews. Note which points you consider easier to understand than others. Note the use of tone and consider how you want to come across as a reader.

Step #6 – Revise and Respond

Revise your RDP

How to Turn in:

  • Final Proposal: Put BOTH a final pdf copy of your final proposal on your online portfolio AND email Cary a Word.docx copy. Save as follows “Lastname_RDPFinal”
  • Response to Reviewers: Email your response letter to your reviewers to Cary in one document. Save as follows “Lastname_Response”
  • (see additional details below).

Respond to Your Reviewers

When you respond to reviewers, your want to convince them that you have thought deeply about their concerns and suggestions and revised your manuscript accordingly. You do this by writing a “response letter.”

Remember, reviewers help an editor to decide whether your manuscript will be published or not, so your goal is to satisfy their concerns or provide a compelling argument about why their concerns are no valid so that they will ultimately recommend that your manuscript be “Accepted” for publication.

Writing a response letter:

  • In one letter, report your revisions by adding all of the comments you’ve received, and your response to each comment. Organize your responses according to the reviewers’ comments.
  • Email your response letter as a Word docx to Cary, who will then forward an anonymous version of your letter to your reviewers.

Sample “Real-life” Response Letters

Below are links to the actual response-to-reviewers letters for Roseth, Missall, and McConnell (2012). Once again, note how much thought and time goes into the response to each reviewer’s points, and how every effort is made to make it easy for the reviewers to understand how their concerns were addressed and, if applicable, where to find evidence of those changes in the revised manuscript.