- Deal with a real live business issue – either a problem a company is facing or a situation that could be improved (e.g., turnover, sexism at work, lack of engagement, talent management, succession planning, leadership development, psychological contract of various generations, employee engagement, induction).
- Feature the analysis of some raw qualitative or quantitative data (i.e., your research cannot rely only on an analysis of data undertaken by other people, and you can only re-use existing data if you have access to the raw data source).
You can conduct your research within a specific host organisation or across organisations, as long as you tackle a real business issue. Generally it is easier to negotiate access to and do research in one organisation rather than several. The host organisation can be in the UK or abroad. It is your responsibility to identify a host organization, and negotiate access.
We do not need to know the name of the organisation where the research has been done. It is best to anonymise the company or organisation. If your MRR includes materials of highly confidential nature, and your company wants access to the MRR to be limited to yourself and staff, your supervisor can provide a letter to that effect.
The structure of management reports
The following guidelines are appropriate to most reports, but you should vary this where necessary. Indications of the length of each of the main sections have been provided for guidance but the number of words required for each section is likely to vary from one study to another.
On the front page, please include: your name, the report title, the date of submission, and the word count (see below on calculating this). While most assignments on the course are anonymous, your supervisor has to be able to identify your MRR in order to mark it!
It is worth spending some time on the final title to ensure that it really does reflect the content of your work, and thus informs the reader at once what the report is about.
Preliminary pages also includes things like the table of contents, giving page numbers; appendices; lists of figures and tables, and so on. You can also acknowledge people who assisted you. This is the place to thank supportive family, friends, organisations and supervisors (although you will not gain extra marks for acknowledging your supervisor!)
You must include a declaration that this is all your own work, and that the research has been conducted ethically.
Your executive summary should focus on (i) the client task or issue you set out to address; (ii) the results, and (iii) recommendations for action. (It is the equivalent of an abstract for an executive manager audience). It should help a manager understand whether or not they should take further action on the report. It is also the LAST section you should write once you are fully satisfied with your content. There is no formal word count for this section; however, a length of between 200 to 400 words is recommended.
Here you should describe the major issues, problems, background and aims relevant to the investigation, and the reasons why this particular topic was chosen. You may want to refer to the literature/theory in your area (though this will be covered in more detail later). You may also need to introduce a specific market, industry or company if appropriate.
Here you present your review of the relevant research-based literature, including the theories, models, and relevant previous research associated with your chosen topic which identify the key issues to be investigated. You can also bring in reference to frameworks of good practice if necessary. The important thing is that the reader understands that you are exploring current thinking in your topic area. At the end of your review, draw key conclusions. Usually these conclusions provide the rationale for your own research, often in the form of hypotheses drawn from the literature.
After having reviewed the theory in your area, and the industry/market/company if appropriate, you can set your research questions (mandatory) and hypotheses (optional). (This can be part of the conclusions to the literature chapter, or appear in the next one – methods).
This section should detail how you achieved your objectives. It is always good to remind your readers of your objectives here.
The method should include the following subsections:
- Research aims and questions or hypotheses
- Research design (e.g. survey, case studies, experiments etc.)
- Data collection (including: methods of data collection; tools for data collection – questionnaires and interview schedules; sampling and respondent selection)
- Data analysis (including how and why you chose to analyse the data in the way you did)
- Reflection on the validity and reliability of the method chosen.
- Ethical considerations – This should include the ethical application form, signed by your supervisor, available from the public web pages.
A good methods section should enable any reader to replicate your research exactly: it should therefore feature a detailed description of what you have done. Refer to your research plan, and include it in an appendix.
In this section, you should include a full report of the research findings organized in such a way that it is clear you have answered your research questions. Do not be afraid to make explicit statements – for example, “The present research was designed to test whether men were more satisfied at work than women. The data show that, in agreement with our expectation, men were twice more satisfied than women”. This section should be structured based on your research questions and / or your hypotheses. Remember to help the reader understand what your findings mean. For example, what does an average engagement score of 3.5 mean?
The presentation of this section will depend very much on the methods of analysis. Graphs and other statistical displays are the norm for quantitative studies. Descriptions of interview findings, on the other hand, will largely be in text form, with illustrative quotations from the interviews.
The analysis will include your interpretation of the results, and should refer back to the objectives and your literature review. What do the findings tell you about your initial question?
It is important to note that the more in-depth and analytical your discussion is, the better the project is likely to be. We are not simply looking for a description of your findings, but a critical review and understanding.
This section should also include a discussion of the limitations of the study (e.g., Perhaps something did not go well which could not be predicted on the basis of the chosen methods alone). Better that you point out limitations (and every project will have some!) than be open to criticism. Ideally, if there are improvements to propose for these limitations, propose them yourself.
These are the overall conclusions for the whole project, and their implications for management:. This is worth spending time on. It is not the place to introduce new literature, but you should link the overall conclusions to the literature and the organisational context.
Please note that the conclusions must form an explicit link between the findings and the recommendations.
Do NOT leave the writing of these to the last moment. You will need time to think/write, leave it for a couple of days, then return to the task. Re-read your work and make sure your conclusions can be drawn from the research you have carried out.
It is important that you provide clear evidence-based recommendations for management action. These should include a programme of implementation in terms of resources and timescales. You must provide realistic estimates of costs associated with these.
- Provide recommendations that are connected to your research findings and/or to the relevant literature.
- Include a clear implementation plan with indicative dates and timeline.
- Discuss how benefits will be tracked (i.e. what measurement and control mechanisms will be in place to ensure that change sticks and that benefit flows from it).
- The costings should include:
- A clear budget to realise your implementation plan (e.g., number of hours, materials, and so on.
- An expense flow forecast. Should present the cost phased over the period (this can be presented in a table or in the text).
- A list of costing assumptions. These could just be bullet pointed (e.g., all costs are approximate, cost of man hours, does the technology cost include licences?).
- Contingency expenses or time and rationale for the amount of contingency (i.e. if it’s 50%, why?).
- Reference to any other costs that may not be able to be quantified (e.g. organisational stress, individual burn-out…) and if anything should be put in place to mitigate, track, monitor these.
Personal learning statement (250 words)
This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to reflect on your own experiences and learning – one of the qualities of a ‘thinking performer’ (or ‘reflective practitioner’).
In about a page, you should briefly consider:
- what significant personal learning was achieved while conducting the study;
- whether there are any learning needs arising from the study;
- what problems or difficulties arose, and
- whether they could have been avoided;
- how you dealt with them;
- how preparing the MRR has helped you to understand the process of business research;
- what you might have done differently (or, will do differently next time).
This is an alphabetical list (by first author surname), in Harvard style. Use reference management software (e.g. RefWorks) to do this in a very easy, error-free and painless way.
Ensure that you list the contents of appendices, and number them .
Your appendices should include (where applicable):
– A copy of your questionnaires or other data collection instruments;
– an example of an annotated interview transcript;
– code book and data analysis matrices;
– Organisational and other supporting documentation.
– Ethics form and related documents (such as confidentiality and consent forms)