July 08, 2013 By Chidi Rafael

Being a ‘regular customer’ to your project supervisor is something now common among many Nigerian final year students.  Believe it or leave it! Some students can meet their project supervisors up to 15 times before they scale through chapter one. If you are having headache convincing your supervisor to approve your chapter one or proposal, then this article is for you.
You are welcome to my first part of ‘Discover what your supervisor is looking for in your project work’. This first series will cover the proposal/introductory sections of your research work.  As we all know, good grades do not just fall from heaven-it takes hard work and favor from God. Before you submit that seminar paper or research paper with the caption ‘submitted in partial fulfillment for the award of a degree’…. Your work must be good enough.
The first thing most project supervisors’ need from every student is their project proposal or a chapter one. This phase of a research work is the most important if you ask me. Why? Because this is the foundation in which all research designs, findings, measurement instruments will depend on. For instance your ability to link the background of the study with your problem statement will go a long way in helping you to develop good objectives and research questions to guide the entire study. So you now see why this research phase is so important?
To improve upon your project proposal or chapter one, I am going to handle each section one after the other and let you know what is required of you. Enjoy!

Depending on the school's format, the first section of a typical proposal or chapter one is introduction. Most universities and polytechnics will allow students to start with background of the study. For easy understanding, I will group them together. The introduction/background of the study section allows readers to know a bit about the subject matter and the problem in a wider range. Here students’ ability to effectively bring out the central theme of the study is highly rewarded. Before embarking on most research work, there is usually a problem. Your ability to recount the problem in a concise and detailed manner will earn you your first mark in your introductory chapter.
For easy understanding, if you are writing on ‘the effect of ASUU strike actions on academic performance of Undergraduates in Nigerian Universities’ you should be able to recount various ASUU strike actions that has occurred in Nigeria, and implications on students’ academic performances  thereafter. For the introductory part, you can start by defining ‘strike’ by one or two authors. After introducing the subject matter or variables/keywords, you start recounting the background of the problem under study.
The first recorded ASUU strike was on………..(Write more)
After then the problem of poor infrastructure in Nigerian Universities now led to another disastrous……
Empirical studies recorded by some renowned Nigerian researchers have indicated that students do not study during this strike due to…….

  • Start with a little introduction on your major keywords or variables in the study.
  • Give a concise and historical background of the problem under study.
  • Reference authors and if possible bring in a little empirical study centering around identified problems for the study in the background of the study.
  • Depending on your schools’ format, also take a little time to write on the background of the organization or area under study.
  • Do not make it too long. Ideally should not exceed two standard pages.

This is arguably the most important section of the introductory chapter of every project. Your ability to formulate a good background of the study will enable you to write a good problem statement. A problem statement is a summary of the background of the study. While the background of study talks more about the problem on a wider and detailed perspective, the problem statement is a brief summary of the problem.
A good statement of the problem must be concise, factual and relates with the background of the study. It should be brief enough to state the problem in a single line, then supported by previous research work(s) both empirical and theoretical.

In simple terms objectives of a study is like the ‘map’ for the study. Based on the problem(s) being investigated, students should be able to develop the aims for the study as well as specific objectives to be achieved. Just like the ‘SMART’ analysis, your objectives must be specific to addressing your research problems, it must be measurable (research questions and hypothesis should be able to be formulated out of it), it must be accurate, realistic and timely.

Just like research objectives, your research questions give more insight into how the objectives of the study can be achieved. Students must know that research questions correspond with research objectives. It must be relevant enough to provide answers to problems being investigated by the researcher. It must be good enough to achieve the objectives of the study. Your research questions should be open to answers other than ‘yes/no’. Avoid questions beginning with ‘do/does’ or ‘Are/is’. For example, do not ask research questions like ‘Does ASUU strike affects students’ academic performance?

Hypotheses are tentative statements about a phenomenon.  They are more like assumptions to be tested and proved. Hypothesis formulated must be relevant to the problem under study and it should relate with both research objectives and questions of the study.

Students must justify the need for the study and how it will contribute to the society, the body of knowledge if successfully carried out.
To get good marks here, your study should be useful :

  • To Government establishments, organizations-both private and public, NGOs- How it will help the government and managers of organizations to address identified problems and be successful.
  • The Economy of your country:-Show how policies developed from the study can help improve the economy.
  • Students’ researchers-state how your work will serve as a guide or foundation for future research studies

Ability of the student to delimit the study to a manageable limit is rewarded here. Students should explain the boundaries of the study as well as describe the aspect of the problem covered. For example, using our topic ‘the effect of ASUU strike actions on the academic performance of Undergraduates’,  one can delimit it to a  particular university or selected universities under study.
N/B: Scope could be managed in terms of geographical area, Time or period, research designs etc.

Ability of students to develop both conceptual and operational definitions of terms is rewarded. Students should evaluate the study carefully; define acronyms, keywords and variables in the study.
Additional marks will be added if:

    • The work is neat. Although typed, one may wonder how a work which is not hand written can be un-tidy. How you arrange diagrams, headings, sub-headings, upper/lower case contribute to making your work neat.
    • Spellings and grammar are correct.
    • The work is fully referenced with accepted referencing style.

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