This course requires students to submit a report on their own chosen project. The subject guide gives a great deal of general advice on choice of topic, structure and presentation.
Reminder: Your report must include a Topic Area Proposal and a Project Specification as the first two appendices (see Chapter 2 of the subject guide for more details).
To submit the coursework online, visit the course IS3159 Research project in digital innovation on the VLE and follow the instructions provided earlier in this document. You are required to submit your project report and a project summary form.
You are reminded that, for this subject, the Examiners are looking for evidence that you have undertaken a research-oriented project with direct relevance to the field of information systems, and which draws upon that field’s literature. This may be achieved in a number of ways: for example, with a purely theoretical project, with a case study, through policy-oriented work or by some applied work within an organisational setting.
However, in each case the Examiners expect to see evidence of links between your work and the literature of information systems and debates within the field. This can only be satisfactorily demonstrated by careful use
Completing and submitting coursework and projects
The length of the report should not exceed 1,500 words. You should also include an executive summary at the beginning of no more than one side of A4. Please also include a table of contents. The executive summary and
of relevant literature and by providing a full bibliography. Projects without a full bibliography will lose marks.
Completing and submitting coursework and projects
You need to pay careful attention to your writing to ensure that you communicate the work you have done and the level of understanding
you have achieved. That will take time. Please also be sure to work within the overall project word-count limit set out in the subject guide. Overlong or rambling projects do not impress Examiners.
Bryman, A. and E. Bell Business research methods. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) 4th edition. Chapter 4.
Robson, C. and K. McCartan Real world research. (London: John Wiley & Sons, 2015) 4th edition. Chapter 3.
Cornford, T. and S. Smithson Project research in information systems: A student’s guide. (London: Palgrave, 2005) 2nd edition. Chapter 3.
As we emphasised in Chapter 1, you are writing a research project and not a textbook. Research projects are tightly focused and read by researchers (and your Examiners) while textbooks are much broader and provide introductory material to undergraduates. The most effective way to achieve this focus is through formulating one or more research questions and then aiming your research at providing answers to those questions. The more specific the research question, the easier it is to remain clearly focused.
For some types of research, the research question is very clear and indeed may come first in your thinking. For example, you may be interested in how people make the choice between using email, instant messaging, telephone calls or text messages in various work-place contexts. Such an interest presents itself almost directly as a question – what factors influence the choice of electronic media? In other cases, the broader topic area or an available case study site may come first, but without an obvious or well-formed question. In such a case, you need to appreciate that you cannot just rely on the research situation revealing some interesting ideas or that some research theme will just turn up. Rather, you need to work to identify a clear theme to pursue which can be expressed as a clear research question.
For example, a student may have the opportunity to study the implementation of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) package in the shipping department of a trading company. This may be a great opportunity but an opportunity for what? Is the focus to be on practices of implementation, on user resistance, on approaches to training, on effects on inter departmental coordination, or on the roles of consultants vs in-house technical staff? There could be twenty more possibilities of a focus for such a study – but you need to identify just 1 (or at most 2), and make sure that your subsequent work remains targeted at offering some kind of an answer to the identified question.
To develop the first option mentioned above, the research question may end up as something like:
To what extent and in what balance is the work of implementing large and comprehensive software systems a responsibility of their users or of the technical specialists?
Note that this research question is deliberately more general than the specific case study site. We want a research question that is of broader interest and relevance to the digital innovation field, rather than too narrow and specific to one particular context. In the end the readers of your report want to be given some general insight into digital innovation issues, albeit based on your detailed study of one situation.
It is always necessary to spend a little time on formulating and refining your question (or questions) – this certainly will help you write the introduction chapter of your final report where you establish the exact aims of your research. The research question should also return strongly in the final part of your report where you summarise the answers you have found.
Research questions usually start with a ‘question’ word: What? How? Who? Which? Where? Why? (this one can be tricky in a social situation where there may be many causes and effects). Research questions always end with a ‘?’ Furthermore, you should normally avoid the future tense, as we have argued above, you cannot research the future, you can merely speculate.
In addition, research questions often comprise of a main question and a number of sub-questions. For example, the main research question might be:
What are the constraints in the adoption of cloud-based ERP by small businesses in the insurance industry in China?
Potential sub-questions could be:
Are they resource-based, skill-based, technological or institutional?
Which are the most serious constraints?
Where are the constraints located? (staff, management, customers, suppliers)
How are the constraints being overcome?
Are there alternatives to cloud-based ERP for small insurance companies in China?
Finally, it should be noted that research questions are not ‘set in stone’. Indeed, in the early stages of your research, we would encourage you to revisit and refine your research questions as you learn more about the topic area through carrying out your literature review.
Once students reach this stage, then often the research questions do not change. However, you may find something completely unexpected once you start carrying out your data collection that causes you to change the direction of your project. In this case it is not just permissible but recommended to change your research question to fit the new situation in which you find yourself. However, this should only be done after careful consideration.
The Topic Area Proposal must be included in your final report as Appendix 1. The exact format that you use to prepare it is not set down, but you will find a recommended format in Appendix 1 of this guide as well as a Word template of the same form on the VLE.
So far, we have mostly focused on choosing a topic area or finding an opportunity to do a project. From there you need to move on to plan the specific project that you are going to undertake and the activities that it will require. You have only a limited time to work on your project, and it is important that you set out on a path that will allow you to produce a good result within the time available. This means that you will have to narrow down your interest from a topic area to a specific project with a clearly understood underlying research question, a set of research objectives and a specific method or approach to satisfy that question and objectives.
In doing this, you need to be certain that you are defining a real problem or studying a real issue and that you can learn enough about it, analyse it properly and write it up convincingly in the short time allowed. The single most common cause of problems with projects comes from trying to tackle a too large, complex or ill-defined topic. When you are able to specify your project in terms of a clear research question and six or so concrete objectives, each with associated activities and clear deliverables, you have probably narrowed it down enough. This is the purpose of the Project Specification.
This specification should contain a refined title for your work, a statement of the particular research question(s) you pose, the objectives of your work, the principal activities envisaged and the resulting deliverables.
This document should be dated and become a part of the project report as shown in Appendix 2 of this guide. As with the Topic Area Proposal, if the project objectives are revised substantially as the project progresses then include the revised version too or explain why things changed. The idea of a Project Specification in terms of a limited set of objectives, activities needed to reach those objectives, and the form of the final deliverable from each objective are discussed in Cornford and Smithson (2006) in Chapter 3.
Having chosen a topic area and a researchable question within that area, you then need to develop a more detailed specification of the work you need to undertake to complete this assignment. This is what we call a Project Specification. This is intended to be a live document that you revise and develop over time as you work on the project and prepare the final report.
The final version of the Project Specification must be included in your final report as Appendix 2. For this document (unlike the Topic Area Proposal) the format is fixed and you must prepare a final version in the given format to be included in your project report. You will find a blank form in Appendix 1 of this guide as well as a Word template download of the form on the VLE.
Of course, you will not be able to complete all parts of this specification form in the early days or weeks of your project. But by the time you have worked through this guide and considered the various issues addressed here, you should be able to complete almost all sections. Only at the end will you be able to complete Section 8, asking for ‘Personal Reflections’.
Thus, we strongly recommend that you start out early on with a draft version of the Project Specification, and that you update and develop it as your work progresses.
A good project generally includes:
a well-structured and balanced presentation of theory, data and analysis
a real relation with concerns of the world
consideration of methodology and relevant literature, building on the work of others (but not plagiarism!)
a clear presentation of empirical material
an analysis based on well-formed arguments
justified actions and arguments
the telling of a good story
a relevant conclusion and self-reflection
a well-presented set of references with full bibliographic information.
Individual Report – 8,000 to 10,000 words ( 10,001 excluding reference list and appendices)
Develop and apply knowledge in a particular area of digital innovation
The scope of the project can range from a theoretical investigation of some aspect of digital systems, to more practical analysis work or study of innovation and digital systems in use.
Focus on the application and use of digital technologies within social and organisational contexts.
Identify the broad outline of the field of information systems and identify a number of key research areas within the constraints of the unit
Select a study topic within the field of information systems and relate it to broader themes and debates within the field
Locate and review materials within the specific areas of interest, going beyond standard textbooks and including academic research literature
Design a research project, assess the resources and skills required to undertake it and prepare a plan
• Complete and submit an evaluation form
• provides an account of the development of the main elements of students’ work
• critical reflection on what has been achieved and what lessons have been learned
• Submit a final project report of between 8000 and 10000 words on which their assessment will be principally based.
So basically the report needs to be 8000-10000 words, 75-100 word introduction, and a literature review.