What is a graduation project?
It is an academic research project that focuses on answering questions and offering potential solutions to significant problems encountered by our stakeholders in their work environments. It would involve an investigation into a major challenge faced by one or more of these stakeholder groups. The goal of this research would be to better understand the phenomenon, offer new insight about its occurrence, and suggest actions that may help to alleviate the problem. A thesis will probably be unlike any other project you have completed because of the level of scholarship, analysis, structure, objectivity, thoroughness, length, and originality required in a well-designed and executed thesis project.
What habits and actions will enable success?
1. Visioning – Once you decide to complete a thesis project after preliminary discussion with your advisor, take some time to think about what you would like your finished project to look like. Read through several recently completed undergraduate thesis projects in the department, and form some general ideas about your topic, approach, and final product. Think about what might cause you to be delayed, or even unsuccessful, or how you will counter those possibilities.
2. Organization – workplace, workspace, calendar, materials, ideas, records, meetings, files – if you find that the level of organization in any these aspects is lacking, make the changes needed to enable your success.
3. Timeline – Develop a written timeline for completion. Your advisor can help you identify the key steps/milestones and the amount of time you should allocate for each. Then work backwards from the thesis submission deadlines to develop your timeline.
4. Effort – Designing and completing the thesis project will be challenging in the midst of your other academic and student activities. However, if you don’t give the project the time and effort it requires, you will miss your deadlines and/or be disappointed in the quality of the end product.
5. Barriers to success – As you begin your thesis planning and throughout the project, honestly identify those factors that are preventing you from doing your best work and take the actions needed to reduce or eliminate each of those barriers.
6. Daily focus and energy – Momentum is a critical element of completing a high quality thesis project. If you do not make a daily investment, even if for only 30 minutes, to address the next actions in your thesis project, you run the risk of trying to recapture thoughts and conversations and missing key milestones along the way. Reading, thinking, discussing, planning, and writing should become routine actions for generating and maintaining momentum in your thesis project. If you find that days or even weeks have passed without much thought or action on your thesis project, identify what’s preventing you from giving your thesis the time and effort it needs and address accordingly.
How should I work with my advisor in planning, conducting, and writing my graduation project?
The graduation project is a joint effort between you and your advisor, but in reality, it is YOUR project. Take the initiative to schedule meetings, plan discussion topics and questions for the meetings, and make notes about what was decided at each meeting and your next actions. Schedule regular (weekly) meetings with your advisor as you plan, conduct, and write your thesis. Give your advisor ample time to read drafts of your work.
How do I decide on my research problem?
• Your thesis research should address a known, real problem experienced by a stakeholder group in our discipline. Your project will be designed and conducted in an attempt to help resolve the identified problem.
• Thus, your research problem can be drawn from your personal experiences and observations, from others’ observations and opinions, or from previous research. The problem you choose to research should be related to a significant or major problem experienced by stakeholders, as generally viewed by experts in the profession.
• A key question to ask as you and your advisor discuss potential thesis projects is, “Who needs and could benefit from this research?” The second fundamental question to ask when identifying your research topic and interpreting the results is, “So what?” That is, of what value will/is the research, to whom, and why? Your study should attempt to inform or solve a problem in the field (that is, one faced by stakeholders on a recurring basis) or help solve a puzzling situation that calls for action but has no clear solution. Try to go beyond merely describing a situation or population and design your study so it has the potential to provide solutions for a defined stakeholder group to use.
Research Problem: 5 Ways to Formulate the Research Problem.
1. Specify the Research Objectives: A clear statement of objectives will help you develop effective research.
It will help the decision makers evaluate your project. It’s critical that you have manageable objectives. (Two or three clear goals will help to keep your research project focused and relevant.)
2. Review the Environment or Context of the Research Problem
As a marketing researcher, you must work closely with your team. This will help you determine whether the findings of your project will produce enough information to be worth the cost.
In order to do this, you have to identify the environmental variables that will affect the research project.
3. Explore the Nature of the Problem
Research problems range from simple to complex, depending on the number of variables and the nature of their relationship.
If you understand the nature of the problem as a researcher, you will be able to better develop a solution for the problem.
To help you understand all dimensions, you might want to consider focus groups of consumers, sales people, managers, or professionals to provide what is sometimes much needed insight.
4. Define the Variable Relationships
Marketing plans often focus on creating a sequence of behaviors that occur over time, as in the adoption of a new package design, or the introduction of a new product.
Such programs create a commitment to follow some behavioral pattern in the future.
Studying such a process involves:
• Determining which variables affect the solution to the problem.
• Determining the degree to which each variable can be controlled.
• Determining the functional relationships between the variables and which variables are critical to the solution of the problem.
During the problem formulation stage, you will want to generate and consider as many courses of action and variable relationships as possible.
5. The Consequences of Alternative Courses of Action
There are always consequences to any course of action. Anticipating and communicating the possible outcomes of various courses of action is a primary responsibility in the research process.
What constitutes plagiarism?
• A major ethical standard in research focuses on appropriately recognizing and crediting the work of others who have contributed to the body of knowledge in a given area. Plagiarism is simply using someone else’s ideas or wording without giving due credit.
• When you present an idea in your thesis project that originated from another source (written or spoken), even if you modified the wording or parts of the idea, credit to the original source should be given. The thesis is a scholarly work, and as such, extensive citation from the literature is expected. As you make notes from a source, indicate clearly whether your notes are a direct quote or a paraphrased interpretation. If direct quotes are used, the page number is required for a complete citation. Plagiarism software is widely available and routinely used by professors and journal editors.
What are the elements of my research proposal and completed project?
Undergraduate thesis projects mirror master’s thesis projects but the scope of the study and final product are usually scaled down considerably. Our discipline typically uses a five-chapter approach for theses as shown on the following page. Check with your advisor for additional points. Typical page lengths (double spaced) are shown in parentheses.
1. Cover Page
2. Table of Contents
3. Abstract (150-250 words) :• Provides a summary of the overall study. The format for the abstract usually follows these areas. Please note that you do not label the sections (purpose, methods, etc.), but you include the sentences as described below:
4. Purpose: “The purpose of this study….” (one sentence).
5. Methods: Usually one to two sentences on how this study was conducted and who the sample or population was.
6. Results: Usually two to three brief sentences on the major findings from the study.
7. Conclusion: One to two sentences on the major implications or ramifications from the study.
Chapter 1 – Introduction (2-4 pages)
Provides the background and setting needed to put the problem in proper context and justifies the need for the study.
Contains facts, trends, and points of view (opinions) as drawn from the professional literature in agricultural education and communication and relevant areas. The presentation of these key points should flow from general trends and concerns to the specific problem/challenge that you will address in your thesis research.
Provides a logical lead-in to a clear statement of the problem, which is followed by the purpose of the study and the research objectives that you will pursue.
Chapter 1 also includes a list of any assumptions and limitations, as well as a section (Significance of the Study) that explains what groups could potentially benefit from the study and how/why.
Chapter 2 – Review of Literature (4-6 pages)
Presents the results of previous research related to your study topic, organized by the key variables in your study. A conceptual model showing the relationships among variables related to your research problem can also be included.
For survey research or other quantitative study, Chapter 2 indicates the theory upon which the study is based. Qualitative studies usually build theory rather than apply or test theory. Thus, in these studies less attention is given to theory in Chapter 2.
Provides the rationale for hypotheses (if stated).
Chapter 3 – Procedures or Methodology (2-4 pages)
Describes in detail the step-by-step procedures used in collecting and analyzing data.
Possible sections of Chapter 3 include research design, subject selection, instrumentation, data collection, data analysis, chapter summary and others. Talk with your advisor about adjustments in this chapter if you are undertaking a qualitative study.
Chapter 4 – Findings (page length varies based on study, usually 4-7 pages)
Reports all results obtained, including appropriate statistics and descriptions of data.
Includes facts only – what was found with explanation, but not interpretation or conjecture by the researcher.
Is organized and written around objectives of the study (research questions or hypotheses).
Chapter 5 – Summary and Conclusion (typically 3-5 pages)
Briefly summarizes intent, procedures, and findings of study.
States conclusions based upon findings (first point in paper where the researcher is allowed to include his or her own interpretations).
Describes how findings support or refute related studies (Implications for Current Knowledge).
Describes implications of findings for those groups affected by the program/findings (Implications for Practice).
Includes recommendations for practice based upon findings and conclusions.
Includes recommendations for further research.
Includes copies of all correspondence, instrumentation, and other written communication used in carrying out the research.
Includes special lists (i.e., expert panel members, etc.).
Includes complete bibliographic information for all references cited in the text (use accepted style manual, such as APA).