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Postgraduate Research

This page provides broad guidelines to master's and doctoral students on how to find an appropriate research topic and prepare a research proposal. The information outlined here serve as an initial guideline only. Please consult with your study leader for detailed guidance.

Step 1:

Obtain a copy of the book by Mouton mentioned below and read it from cover to cover. Pay particular attention to the different forms of research mentioned in Chapter 10.

Mouton, J. 2001. How to succeed in your Master’s and Doctoral studies: A South African guide and resource book . Pretoria: Van Schaik. (ISBN 0-627-02484-X)

Also study the following important background documents in the sequence indicated:

Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open and print these documents.

1.Guidelines on referencing in academic documents (.pdf)
One can easily implement the abovementioned referencing guidelines through the “Citations & Bibliography” function built into the “References” tab of MS Word 2007/2010. The Referencing.zip archive file below contains instructions and the necessary files to implement the referencing guidelines in MS Word 2007/2010. Download the .zip archive file, extract the 3 files it contains and then following the instructions to implement the referencing guidelines in MS Word 2007/2010.

Referencing.zip (click right on the file link and choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.)

2. Academic writing style for master’s dissertations and doctoral theses (.pdf)

3. Guidelines on writing a first quantitative academic article (.pdf)

4. Proposed structure of a Master's dissertation and Doctoral thesis (.pdf)

5. Summers, J.O. 2001. Guidelines for conducting research and publishing in Marketing: From conceptualization through the review process. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 29(4):405-415. (.pdf)

6. Smith, D.C. 2003. The Importance and Challenge of Being Interesting. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 31(3):319-322. (.pdf)

7. A structured approach to presenting theses: Notes for students and their supervisors (.pdf)

Step 2:

Sources of possible research topics:

  • Scan the latest issues of leading academic journals in your field of study using the electronic databases on the [email protected] web page (Note: You have to be a registered student to gain access to these databases).
  • Address a practical business problem, BUT make sure that: it will still be a relevant problem 6-12 months from now; it will enable you to add something new academically; the firm / sponsor will support your research for the full duration of your studies.
  • Talk to your study leader about possible ideas.

Master's students are advised to replicate and extend on existing research. The following articles can be used as guidance in replication research.

Berthon, P., Pitt, L., Ewing, M., & Carr, C.L. 2002. Potential Research Space in MIS: A Framework for Envisioning and Evaluating Research Replication, Extension, and Generation. Information Systems Research. 13(4):416-427.

Hunter, J.E. 2001. Re-inquiries: The desperate need for replications. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(June): 149-158.

Easley, R.W., Madden, C.S. & Dunn, M.G. 2000. Conducting Marketing Science: The Role of Replication in the Research Process. Journal of Business Science, 48:83-92

Step 3:

Compile a 3-5-page document in which you outline your tentative research idea. This document should be regarded as a first discussion document on your research topic and is not a complete research proposal. Include the following:

  • A tentative title for your thesis / dissertation;
  • a tentative problem statement and research objectives;
  • a brief explanation of the scope of the proposed study: description of the context (i.e. industry, geographic area) in which the study will be conducted; units of analysis (i.e. people or organizations to be investigated);
  • a brief review of the most recent literature on your topic (3-5 recent sources);
  • a brief indication of the methodology that you will be using (refer to Chapter 10 in Mouton).

Step 4:

Compile a comprehensive research proposal based on the following template (.doc). The template may have to be adapted to reflect the specific type of research that you will be conducting.

Students who require a very basic overview of research methodology are advised to read:

Kumar, R. 1999. Research Methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners . London: Sage.

More advanced research methodology texts are available in the UP library:

Step 5:

Have a look at previous master's and doctoral studies completed in our Department.

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