Friday, August 30, 2013

How to Write A Dissertation Proposal – A Statistician’s Viewpoint

By Steve Creech | January 22, 2011
1) It starts with personal interest in a “general topic” within your area of specialization. Most likely this topic is something you are familiar with from personal or professional experience.
2) Conduct some preliminary literature review to insure the general topic you have in mind has not already been thoroughly researched and published (i.e. don’t reinvent the wheel).
3) Once you have identified a general topic and you have done enough literature review to know you are not reinventing the wheel, hire a statistician to help with the statistical aspects of your proposal.
Aside: I charge on a fixed price basis. Whether you get me on-board from day one, or after attempting to get your entire proposal accepted, only to have it rejected one or more times, the price is the same. It is almost always “more” work for me to help a doctoral student that has gotten very far into the proposal than to help a doctoral student that is just starting out. The sooner you start working with a statistical consultant, the smoother things will go for you. With my services, since it is the same price, why not get me on-board early?
4) Consult with the statistician about your topic and share your ideas about what sort of data you want to collect (e.g. maybe you have a particular survey in mind, or an archived data set). The statistician can advise you on methodological considerations relating to your planned approach. Most likely the statistician will point out a variety of options, each of which has pros and cons, and the choices you make have implications for your problem statement, purpose of the study, research questions, instrumentation, population and more.
5) After the consultation with the statistician, you should have a rough draft of your problem statement, purpose of the study, research questions, independent and dependent variables, research questions, instrumentation, population and data collection strategy.
Aside: I almost always send a rough draft of that information after the first collaborative phone consultation. Then, within a matter of 7 days or less, I will have completed all of the statistical considerations for your proposal (e.g. data analysis plan, sample size justification).
6) Once you receive the write-up of the statistical considerations from the statistician (just a cleaned up, technically written documentation of what we collaborated on during the initial consultation), then it is just a matter of incorporating that information into the current draft of your proposal.
7) Actually writing the proposal from this point on is largely an organizational challenge. I believe you should use the following process to “construct” the proposal:
1. Start with a blank Word Document.
2. Insert the title on page 1
3. Copy the Table of Contents from the rubric onto pages 2 through however many pages it takes.
4. On the very next page, insert the chapter heading (e.g. CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION), and underneath that, insert each of the section headings that go in that chapter. Make sure the section headings match the rubric. Don’t add additional headings, don’t leave any out, and don’t change the order.
5. Repeat step four for chapters 2 (Literature review) and 3 (Methodology).
6. Make a copy of the document you just created and save it as something like “Disseration Proposal Shell”.
7. Using a copy of the “Shell” from step 6, start with chapter 1. Skim through the sub-headings and pick the one you feel the most confident in, the one you think you could write off the top of your head (i.e. the low hanging fruit).
8. Write as little as you possibly can in that section, while capturing all of the main points that you think should be in that section. Try to keep it to one paragraph or less if possible.
9. Pick the next section in chapter 1 that you feel most comfortable with and repeat step 8.
10. Continue steps 8 and 9 until you get stuck. If you are stuck, if it has anything to do with statistics, consult with your statistician for advice. If it is a subject matter issue, maybe you need to stop and do more literature review.
11. Follow steps 8-10 until you have 1 paragraph or less written in every section of chapter 1. You might find that while doing this, you can fill in some of the sections in chapters 2 and 3. Go ahead and do that also. After all, you should have the research questions, hypotheses, data analysis plan, power analysis and other statistical considerations from your statistician by this point, and that all goes in chapter 3.
12. Once you have written 1 paragraph or less in every section of chapters 1, 2 and 3, stop and save a copy. That is your “bird’s eye view” of the entire proposal.
13. Work on cleaning up the “Bird’s Eye View” of your proposal until it flows naturally, with smooth transitions from one section to the next.
14. Review each section again and ask yourself, did I “mention each core idea” that needs to go into this section (check the rubric for what should be there)? If you missed an idea, add it. Do this for all of the sections and save this as Bird’s Eye View Revision 1.
15. Run the Bird’s Eye View draft past your statistician. He or she should be able to tell you if there are any inconsistencies with what you wrote, and the statistical aspects of your study. The statistician should also be able to give you critical input about how to make the paper flow logically.
16. Now that you have this Bird’s eye view of the proposal finished, it is just a matter of “fleshing out” each section. What I would do is take each main “idea” within each section, determine how long I want that section to be, and then decide how much I want to expand on each main idea until that section is the desired length.
17. At this point you should have a well organized and nearly complete dissertation proposal. Read through it carefully, correct as many grammar and punctuation mistakes as possible and try to make the transitions from one section to the next as smooth as possible. Then, submit that draft to your statistician for another review.
18. The statistician will likely recommend a number of revisions to help organize the proposal and to insure what you wrote is consistent with the statistical aspects of the study. Work with the statistician back and forth until there are no further revisions from the statistician’s perspective.
19. Submit the proposal to your mentor. The mentor will likely have several comments, questions and suggested revisions. Share those comments with your statistician. You want to make sure you understand any comments and questions that relate to the statistical aspects of your study. Work with your statistician to develop responses to the reviewer’s comments.
Aside: Just because the mentor suggested a revision doesn’t mean you should make that revision. Remember, you probably know 10 times more about your study than your mentor does at this point. You have probably spent several weeks if not months of intensive work on just this one study, whereas your mentor has to teach and probably mentor several other doctoral students as well.
20. Once you have developed a response to every comment from the mentor, making revisions where you and your statistician felt they were appropriate, send the revised draft back to the mentor.
21. Repeat steps 19 and 20 until the mentor has no further comments and passes it on to the other committee members.
22. Repeat steps 19-21 for the other committee members until they are satisfied and they submit the proposal to the ARB, IRB, external reviewer or whatever the next step is at your university.
23. By this point, you should be very close to having an accepted proposal.

Sample of an academic essay

Social, Legal and Professional Aspects of Computing

Content of the essay

Section 1:  An analysis of ethical aspects of the case
Brief summary
Stakeholders and main ethical issue
Total Web Solutions Ltd, MySpace Inc , Public, Internet service providers, Company (and patent) registrar, Social web sites, British Computer Society, Legal Associations, Courts of Law
Ethical analysis of stakeholders
      Teleological theories (egoism, utilitarianism, altruism)
      Kant’s first and second imperatives
      Buddhist axiology
Section 2: Reflective analysis
Lessons learnt from the module
Matters associated with social, ethical, professional and legal aspects, An awareness of risks and inculcating of a safe culture, Reflection, SWOT analysis, academic writing
Using the knowledge for future personal development planning
Good citizenship, High quality social relationships, Moral responsibility, Risk free and safe home environment, healthy life, economic life
Use of the knowledge for future career development
Frequent referencing, Reflection and journal writing, Verbal communication Advanced analysis of ethics, Risk awareness and safety culture, SWOT analysis, Writing up academic essays




This essay consists of two sections. The first section deals with an analysis of ethical aspects of MySpace, Inc v Total Web Solutions Ltd. The first sub-section of the first section commences with brief summary of the case, secondly identifies the primary and secondary stakeholders. Moreover, thereafter the normative analyses of stakeholders’ acts are presented based on teleological, deontological, and Kantian principles. The second section deals with reflective analysis based on the learning of social, legal and professional aspects of computing, which begins to present what the writer has learnt from the course module. Thereafter it presents the ways and means of using knowledge gained in future personal development planning. The third that is the last sub-section of the second section indicates the ways and means of using learnt knowledge for the writer’s career development.

Section 1: An analysis of the ethical aspects of the case
Total Web Solutions Ltd (TWS) established in 1995 and registered its domain name in 1997. Six years after the domain name registration MySpace, Inc was founded. In the next year, TWS changed the use of its domain name in order to take the advantage of the popularity of the social networking site. MySpace, Inc. issues a complain under the DRS in 2007.

Prior to the identification, it is important to the overview the definitions of stakeholders. Evan and Freeman (2005, p.80) define stakeholders as any group or individuals who can affect or be affected by the cooperation. Harrison (2005, p.33) considers other organizations in the business environment and further says the stakeholders are the individuals, groups or other organizations. Examples for stakeholders are given by Murry (1997, p.16), Harrison (2005, p.34) and Des Jardins (2009, p.67) which include common things as well as specific things which leads to prepare a new array of examples. Murry (1997, p.16) presents examples for stakeholders in graphical form and which includes shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, partners, natural environment, local community (and very many more)  in an organization. Harrison (2005, pp.33-4) provides eleven categories of  stakeholders which includes employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, other suppliers of capital, local communities, government, pressure groups, competitors, trade unions and professional institutes. The public is identified as a stakeholder by Des Jardins (2009, p.67), as they are benefitted at the expense of suppliers, customers, and local communities. In a business environment most affected or be affected are known as primary stakeholders where as the rest is commonly known as secondary stakeholders. Since Total Web Solutions (TWS) and MySpace Inc create the scenario and are competitors hence both they are primary stakeholders. The public becomes the customers in this case, therefore they too are stakeholders, and are the most important to become the primary stakeholders. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Company (and patent) Registrar and Social Networks are suppliers as such they provide the services needed for proper functioning, hence they are also stakeholders, whereas the case and the consequences concerned they are not involved, thus they become secondary stakeholders. The issue is the importance of professional associations, accordingly the British Computer Society (BCS) and legal associations, who deals with intellectual properties, but in decision, making their contribution is less becomes secondary stakeholders. The jurisdiction is executed by the courts of law, probably making a new law, is very decisive so that becomes a primary stakeholder. Before the overview of relevance theories for ethical analysis, now it is time to state that the main issue is violation of copyright laws.

The normative ethical analysis of TWS is done selecting the appropriate theories namely teleology and deontology and Kantians. Egoism and utilitarianism are the theories considered under the teleology which is also known as consequentialist (Holland, 2010 and Premasiri, 1998, p.76) hold that choices, acts, and intentions are to be morally assessed solely by the states of affairs they bring about (Johnson, 2001, p.36). Further teleology specifies the states of affairs that are intrinsically good or favourable for the person responsible for the affair (Des Jardins, 2009, p.87). Thereafter teleology in a position to assert that whatever the choices increase the good, that is bring about more of it are morally right to make and execute. Cambridge dictionary (1996, p.444) meaning for egoism is self-interest is more important than other people are. Harrison (2005, p.63) says egoism involves the decision-making entirely on self-interest in optimizing the personal consequences of action. The TWS, a legal personality acts in society in general to maximize their profit. Hence, the ethical evaluation of TWS can consider under egoism. Utilitarian favours the society to gain the maximum amount of good on it (Des Jardins 2009, p.30; Johnson, 2001, p.32 and Premasiri, 1998, p.110). In the modern society TWS provides a very essential service, therefore the acts of TWS can consider using utilitarianism. TWS has introduced number of links from August 2005, to generate revenue for them. That means it has taken the advantage of considering many links as a means but not an end. This is unethical according to Kant’s second formulation (Johnson, 2001, p.44; Dhammananda, 2004, p.70 and Kalansooriya, 2002, p.301). Hence, the act of TWS can examine using Kant’s second categorical imperative too.

The normative ethical analysis of MySpace, Inc is done selecting the appropriate theories namely teleology, deontology, and Kantianism. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are the theories considered under teleology. Kant’s first and the second categorical imperatives are considered under the Kantian principles. The objectives of MySpace, Inc may differ from TWS, but the consequences are the same as TWS. That is the existence as a successful business organization in society. Hence MySpace, Inc too should also be considered under the egoism, as the argument provided for TWS is equally applied here. The fact discussed already under the utilitarianism of TWS also equally applies for the MySpace, Inc since it is also a legal personality in the business environment. Hence, the acts of MySpace, Inc can be analysed using utilitarianism. Dhammananda (2004, p.81) says that altruism is do the good  as it is good without considering benefits to the actor, what is possible in the future. MySpace, Inc has adopted legal measures, it is costly, but provides an example for the business people in the IT industry. Hence, there is a possibility of analyzing the acts of MySpace Inc using altruism. De George (2003, p.211) reports exactly similar case that is a court judgment James Strickland, known as “Strick”, registered the domain name “” in 1995. In 1997, the Strick Corporation founded, which owns the trademark “Strick”, sued for use of its trademark, but the court ruled that Strickland was not cyber squatting, did not seek to sell its domain name for a profit, and had a legitimate first claim to register that domain. As this considers breaking up courts given decisions that is known as court made laws, it should be considered under deontology. Pierce (nd, in Holt and Newton, 2004, p.67) further explains that in case of problems with domain names and trademarks domain names are generally allocated to the first person to register, although there are special arrangements to trademark owner to have priority. Pierce further states that if somebody has already registered the name that the other party is seeking to register, that party will only be able to appose the registration in limited circumstances. The judgment criterion here is the good faith so that, it is regarding will should consider under Kant’s first categorical imperative (Kalansooriya, 2002, p.301; Bowie, 1999, pp.17-8; Premasiri, 1998, p.102 and et. al.). The domain name is already registered and its owner is TWS since 1997. Nevertheless, the company became after further six years (2003) takes legal action as a means to achieve their objective of getting the ownership of domain name registered by TWS. Accordingly, the morality of means and ends described in Kant’s second formula in the early discussion the action of MySpace, Inc can be considered under the Kant’s second formulation too.

The normative ethical analysis of public has done selection with utilitarianism and deontology. Public are the consumers of services provided by both TWS and MySpace, Inc. The consequences of both companies affect the welfare of public not only in quality but also in numbers. Hence, Utilitarianism is very appropriate to analyze the scenario since public are primary stakeholders in the case. Consumers have rights to know how the business organizations are doing in society, as it is right preserved in the summary of rights and remedies of Supply of Goods and Services Act (c3, 1982), deontology is also very relevant for the scenario concerning public.

The normative ethical analysis of ISPs has done selecting altruism, egoism, deontology, and Kant’s second categorical imperative. Premasiri (1998, pp.77-81) says that an act such as natural, done by an animal, done by under age person or a person with developmental problems are immune from the teleological analysis.  According to Premasiri (1998) to analyze, using teleology there should be an intention on the awareness of the consequences of the act that is performed. In this case, ISPs have no intention whether it is good or bad, useful or useless, because their duty is to provide service to the domain owners and public (Johnson, 2001, p.192). Hence, how ISPs are ethical could not be examined using teleological theories. However, there is a contradictory view too. Altruism is a teleological theory (Holland, 2010 and Dhammananda, 2004, p.81), which is strictly is not self-interested, but includes in its goal, the interest of only others. ISPs provide a service for others thus, it could be considered in altruism. Harrison (2005, p.68) says any act, no matter how altruistic it might seem, is actually motivated by the same selfish desire of the agent such as desire for reward, avoidance of guilt, personal happiness and so forth. Hence, the acts of ISPs are not only altruistic but also psychological egoistic. Hence, ISPs can be considered under altruism and egoism. In any state (Great Britain or Sri Lanka) ISPs have legal personality and facilitate rapid communication across vast distances, bringing together user requirements. Providing a service is a duty for them. Harrison (2005, p.36) says that legally defined duties, obligations should be considered within a deontological framework, since ISPs have legally defined duties, ISPs should consider under the deontological theories. The works of ISPs can analyses using Kantian principles too, because one could argue that ISPs have pure intention (will) of providing a service than go deep into legal matters concerning ownership. One could argue that they provide the service because it is a common good for the modern society. Hence, ISPs act can be considered using Kant first formulation.

The normative ethical analysis of company (and patent) registrar has done selecting altruism, egoism, deontology, and Kant’s second categorical imperative. The arguments already discussed under the teleology of ISP’s is exactly match with company (and patent) registrar and getting the registration with company (and patent) registrar is a duty forced in the law of the state. Moreover, Kant’s first formulation already discussed under the ISPs is also equally applied for the company (and patent) registrar. Hence, company (and patent) registrar acts can be analyze using altruism, egoism, deontology and Kant’s first categorical imperative.

The normative ethical analysis of Social Networking Sites has done selecting altruism, egoism, utilitarianism, deontology, and Kant’s second categorical imperative. Arguments provided for ISPs acts under the altruism, egoism are equally valid for Social Networking Sites. If we consider overall roll of Social Networking Sites it of course can also be discussed under other theories such as deontology and Kantianism but it is beyond the scenario.

Altruism, egoism, utilitarianism, and Kant’s first formulation have selected to do the normative ethical analysis of British Computer Society and legal associations. Professional associations work for the benefit of society (Harris, Pritchard, and Rabins, 2003, p.301) which we also accept without arguments. Hence, the acts of professional associations are altruistic their action can consider under altruism.  Harrison (2005, p.68) explains a sort of egoism as ‘psychological egoism’, according to Harrison, which is motivation by a concern for long-term best interest. The professional associations are established and they work for long-term interest for the group of people in the same profession. Therefore professional associations belongs to egoism probably one could name it as group egoism. Professional associations provided good service to the society maintain high standard of the profession and they are benefited indirectly. Hence, professional associations can consider under the utilitarianism.  Murray (1997, p.151) says that professional associations generally seek to establish minimum standard of conduct for their members, with varying degree of regulation and policing. That is a will of promoting the professional standard. Therefore, because of its will the act of professional associations can consider using Kant’s first formulation. In conclusion, British Computer Society and legal associations can consider under altruism, egoism, utilitarianism, and Kant’s first formulation.

Altruism, egoism, deontology, and both Kant’s first and second categorical imperatives are selected to the normative ethical analysis of Courts of Law. The courts of law functions in society purely for the benefit of society. Hence, its action can consider under altruism. The courts of law enforce the law in society, which is a duty according to deontologist as discussed before hence there action can consider under deontology. Kant insisted on purity of moral goodwill, that is one should not do things because of the outcome but because the action itself is right and further, moral action is not a matter of doing things, which also comply, to moral duties but a matter of doing the right things out of a sense of moral obligation (Pratley, 1997, p.170). The best motive is the will to one’s duty. Hence, the courts of law functions can analyze using Kant’s first formulation. The functions of courts of law treat each person not merely as means, but also as an end in itself. Thus, the functions of courts of law can analyze using Kant’s second formulation too. In conclusion, altruism, egoism, deontology, and Kant’s first and second and categorical imperatives can use to analyze the behaviour of courts of law.

The possible theories for ethical analysis of nine stakeholders, in which four are primary and five are secondary have already discussed under egoism, utilitarianism, altruism, deontology, and both Kant’s formulations. These theories of course give contradictory views.  Apart from all these theories, Buddhist Axiology provides very good approach to ethical analysis. They are presented in various texts (sutras) such as five precepts, eight-fold-path of life, singalovada sutra in which explains the duty, responsibility, and the role relationships between members in the society, such as teachers and students, parents and children, employers and employee, husband and wife, and so forth. If we consider the fourth precept of five precepts, it is abstaining from not taking what is not given (steeling). The fourth precept further explains five further requirements to judge the action, namely should know the owner is someone else, the intention to take it, planning a strategy, implementing a strategy and finally gaining the same. Up to the point in this scenario MySpace, Inc violated three-fifth of the fourth precept trying to take what is not given may it be materialistic or intellectual, what ever the possibility from legal grounds. Hence, the action of MySpace, Inc can explain in terms of buddhist axiology perfectly.


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Scales for measurement of variables

Scales for measurement of variables
To measure is to assess, quantify, analyze or appraise. It is to discover the extent, dimensions, capacity and quantity of any physical object.
Educational research deals mainly with ideas. “How sound is an idea” is parallel to assessing “how well you like a song, a painting or personality of your manager”. While physical objects are measured directly, ideas or concepts are measured with the help of an operational definition. Four scales are used to measure any object or to quantify any concept or idea or properties. These are discussed as follows:
It is just a label having no intrinsic value or quality. It cannot be used in grading or ranking, There are no overlaps and nominal scale are mutually exclusive. One can be either Muslim or non-Muslim, not both at the same time as it requires an item to be placed in one and only one class. It is used for counting or cross-tabulation.
Hair could be black or grey, blood can be A, B, O or AB. In cricket, there is left arm or right arm spinners.
It is used for obtaining personal data and is usually exhaustive to include all categories or segmentation.
It used for ranking, rating or grading. It can show best to worst status or first to last preference. But distance between two ordinal scales is not the same. Income level of poor, middle and rich class are like less than Rs.10,000, between Rs.11,000 to Rs.50,000 and 51,000 and above. The distances are 10,000, 39,000 and infinitive respectively.

It is evident that ordinal scale can rank some items in an order like less than or more but not “how much more”
It is more powerful than nominal and ordinal as it not only orders or ranks or rates but also shows exact distances in between. But it does not start from zero. If there is zero like zero temperature is not natural but arbitrary as 0 degree does not mean any temperature. Likewise, year 0 in a forecast is the end of construction year.
This scale is used in addition or subtraction of scale value to calculate mean, range, variance, standard deviation, correlation and regression.
Difference between interval and ordinal scale:
Ordinal scale only ranks but does not measure difference between the two ranks like “satisfactory” and “not-satisfactory”. Interval scale not only ranks but also gives exact distance between them by assigning a value. Difference in temperature of 20 degree and 40 degree is 20 but 40 is not double hot than 20.
This scale can perform all functions. It can show all mathematical and geographical indicators. It is useful when exact figures are required in objective matters are required.
If a person is drawing a salary of Rs.20, 000 and another Rs.40,000, it can be said that the latter is getting double the salary of the former.

Classification but no order, distance or origin 
Classification but order but no distance or unique origin
Classification, ordered and distance but no unique origin
Classification, order, distance and unique origin
Determining of equality
Determination of greater or lesser value
Determination of equality of intervals or differences
Determination of equality of ratios
Only Label 
Ranks, Rating and Grade 
equal grouping 
Weight, height 
Gender (male, female)
Doneness of meat, (well, medium well, medium rare, rare)
temperature in degrees
Age in years
Frequency Distribution
Addition/subtraction but no multiplication or division
All functions
Black & While
personality measure
Can say no measurable value like zero sales 
Levels, one-star & 4-star
Mean, range, variance, standard deviation 
Annual Income