REQUEST: CONCEPT PAPER (14- Pages)
Concept Paper on: The Criminal Justice System, “Is Justice really just”.
Paper Must Include: The Topic, Brief Review of the Literature, Problem Statement, Purpose Statement, Research Questions and draft research plan.
DUE BY SATURDAY MAY 23rd, 2015.
[Text…Introduce the dissertation topic in one or more paragraphs (2 pages maximum). The study topic should be briefly described to establish the main ideas and context. Include recent, scholarly, peer-reviewed sources to support each assertion. The Introduction should orient the reader to all of the concepts presented in the sections that follow. Key words related to the research topic should be defined clearly and precisely upon first use and used consistently throughout the paper. This will help to establish and maintain the central focus of the paper. Review the Doctoral Candidacy Resource Guide for more information about applied degree expectations with regard to the study topic and design requirements.] Note: Do not describe the study purpose or method in the introduction as these belong in later sections.
Statement of the Problem
(Approximately 250 to 300 words) Articulation of a concise problem statement is the key to a successful proposal/dissertation manuscript and typically requires many revisions before the proposal is approved. The problem statement is a brief discussion of a problem or observation succinctly identifying and documenting the need for and importance of the study. Clearly describe and document the problem that prompted the study. Include appropriate published or relevant primary sources to document the existence of a problem worthy of doctoral level research. A lack of research alone is not a compelling problem (many things are not studied but do not necessarily warrant research).
The documented problem that is identified may be a practical problem or issue in the profession or study context for which there is not already an acceptable solution. In defining the problem a clear discrepancy must be drawn between that which exists currently and that which is desired. Although an applied study design does not necessarily require generalizability beyond the study site, worthy problems must be relevant and documented beyond any particular study site. To identify and articulate a problem, consider the potential negative consequences to the field or stakeholders if the proposed research is never conducted.
[Text… Present a general issue/observation that is grounded in the research literature and leads to the need for the study (in most cases scholarly citations within the last 5 years are required to document the general and specific problem). Follow with a focused, documented problem that directly reflects and leads to the need for a research response.] Note: Ensure that the concepts presented in the problem statement lead to and align directly with the Purpose Statement. Use of a “logic” map is highly recommended in order to ensure direct alignment and avoid “surprises” among the key elements: problem purpose research questions proposed method and design.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose statement should be one concise paragraph that describes the intent of the study and it should flow directly from the problem statement. Specifically address the reason for conducting the study and reflect the research questions. Begin the purpose statement with a succinct sentence that indicates the study method and overarching goal.
[Text…“The purpose of this [quantitative, qualitative, mixed method] study is to… (describe the study goal that directly reflects and encompasses the research questions).” Follow with a brief, but clear overview of how, with what instruments/data, with whom and where (as applicable).] Within the Purpose Statement:
- The research method is identified as qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method.
- The stated purpose reflects the research questions: variables/constructs and/or phenomenon/concept/idea are identified
- The research design is clearly stated and is aligned with the problem statement.
- The participants and/or data sources are identified
- The geographic location of study is identified (as appropriate).
Before moving forward, ensure that the purpose is a logical, explicit research response to the stated problem. The study results should make a contribution to the field or practice and have implications that are relevant beyond any particular study site.
Before listing the research questions, introductory information should be presented in a discussion context. The research questions are to be distinct and answerable, given the identified constructs/phenomenon and population.
Note: Do not include specific interview or survey question/items here.
Quantitative: Research questions are included and the question list is followed by corresponding list of proposed hypothesis(es). Ensure the research questions and hypothesis(es) are aligned with the purpose statement. The research questions and hypotheses must be directly answerable, specific and testable based on the data collected.
Qualitative: Proposed research questions that are related to the phenomenon are stated. The proposed research questions must be aligned with purpose statement. Qualitative research questions should be open-ended and reflect the nature of the qualitative design (avoid yes/no and closed ended questions).
Mixed Method: includes all of the above. Separate and indicate the qualitative and quantitative questions, followed by corresponding quantitative hypotheses.
[Text…Brief introductory text. Note: Avoid redundant text] Q1.
Additional questions as needed.
(Quantitative/Mixed Studies Only. Delete this section if the proposed study is qualitative.)
Both null hypotheses and alternative hypotheses must be stated. Each must directly correspond with a research question. Hypotheses must be stated in testable, potentially negatable, form with each variable operationalized. Note: Each hypothesis represents one distinct testable prediction. Upon testing, each hypothesis must be entirely supported or entirely negated.
H10. [Null Hypothesis Text…] H1a. [Alternative Hypothesis Text…] Definition of Key Terms
[Text (optional)… Definitions given represent key operational terms, words or phrases used in a unique way or that are not commonly used or understood. Definitions might include terms related to the study topic and context that are not commonly known.
Definitions should be supported with citations and/or noted as being those of the researcher with corresponding rationale/support. Commonly known terms should not be defined.
Note: All definitions included in the list should clear, concise, and directly related to the proposed study. Definitions that represent general concepts, constructs, theories, and main ideas related to the research topic should be discussed in other sections of the paper.
It is not necessary or appropriate to define or describe introductory research and statistical concepts such the differences between qualitative and quantitative methods or correlation, t test, ANOVA, multiple regression and so on.
Variable/Construct operational definitions are to be located within the Research Method section.] Term 1. Definition (APA citation).
Term 2. Definition (APA citation).
Term n. Definition (APA citation).
Brief Review of the Literature
[Text… The discussion should have depth and present an integrated critical analysis and synthesis of the scholarly, peer-reviewed literature that provides a foundation and context for the dissertation study. The discussion should be comprehensive, organized, and flow logically. The brief review of literature should not be a list of one article summary after another or an annotated bibliography. Use themes and/or subtopics as headings. Identify the themes or sub-topics around which the literature review has been organized into a coherent narrative discussion. In the review, at least 7 to 10 of the most important works or studies that touch upon the dissertation topic or problem should be discussed. Be sure to include works that provide alternate or opposing perspectives on the proposed topic area to demonstrate unbiased research. Focus particularly on those works that address main ideas in the field, describe areas of controversy, and indicate areas of incomplete knowledge and relate them to the envisioned study problem, purpose, and research questions. Include historical and germinal works as well as current works (within the last 5 years).
Note: Emphasize key findings and interpretations to build a coherent narrative of the current state of the literature rather than focus on researchers/authors (other than seminal authors in the field) and specific study designs (i.e., unless the author, specific design, analytics, sample size or geographic location are directly relevant, it is usually not necessary to describe them). Review the Background and Literature Review sections of published, peer-reviewed journal articles for examples of academic writing.
Please note the literature review will contain several headings specific to the topic. With the exception of key, seminal authors, the majority of references should be scholarly, peer-reviewed and published within the last 5 years.
Theme/Sub-Topic 1 [Repeat, as needed…] [Text…] Summary
[Text…] Research Method/ Design Details and Ethical Considerations
Because the research plan is in the concept paper stage, a highly detailed research design is not expected. The concept paper, however, provides a foundation for the next step in the dissertation process, the development of the proposal. A well-conceived, well written and well researched concept paper serves as a foundation for the remainder of dissertation work. Dissertation research is an iterative and often recursive process. Students should expect to revise numerous times before each milestone document is finalized. Although not required at this stage, students and faculty may find it useful to review the dissertation proposal template to begin to consider what will be required at the proposal stage, for example, design details and ethical considerations.
[Text… Discuss the proposed research method (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed). An Applied Research study must reflect an applied study goal and demonstrate validity within the context of the chosen research design and overall scientific rigor. Case studies, action research, and program development/ evaluation are appropriate.
A clear rationale behind the chosen questions for study, the particular data gathering techniques and data analyses should be provided. Clear decision paths are provided based on the associated research method/design. Sample size and method must be appropriate and justified based on the nature of the study design. Quantitative analyses must include justified sample size determination. Given an appropriate rationale for replication, replication studies in an original context are permitted.
In this section, describe and substantiate the appropriateness of the method and design to respond to the stated problem, purpose and research questions. The discussion should not simply be a listing and description of research designs; rather, elaboration demonstrates how the proposed method and design accomplish the study goals, why the design is the optimum choice for the proposed research, and how the method aligns with the purpose and research questions. Provide appropriate foundational research method support for the proposed study design; for example, refer to Moustakas and other appropriate authors to describe a phenomenological design and Yin to describe the appropriate application of a case study design.
Note: Avoid introductory research design and analyses descriptions as well as excessive reference to textbook authors such as Creswell and Neuman. General research methods textbooks are not intended to provide the detail needed to implement qualitative research designs. Do not provide detailed descriptions of particular methods or designs that were not chosen.] Operational Definition of Variables
(Quantitative/Mixed Studies Only. Delete this section if the proposed study is qualitative.)
[Text (optional)… Identify each of the primary constructs associated with the research question(s), and hypotheses. Include a brief overview of how each will be operationally defined for the proposed study. Operational definitions should be based on published, validated, research and instruments (describe and document how previous authors and/or the proposed instrument operationally defined each variable construct. Note: Operational Definitions are distinct from the Definition of Terms.] Construct/Variable 1. Description/Operational Definition.
Describe each variable, the nature of the variable (e.g., nominal, ordinal, interval), how each variable will vary (e.g., the range 1 – 5, 0 – 100) or levels (low, medium, high; male, female) and the data sources (e.g., archival data, survey items, and if appropriate, how the specific scores (categories, etc.) used in the analysis will be derived from the raw data such as summing or averaging responses to survey items or assessments.). Review the previous, established use of proposed instrument, the nature of the variable data collected and analytics for examples.
Note: Dissertations are not typically appropriate sources for instruments and operational definitions. Consult the Dissertation Center for guidance on locating pre-existing instruments. Also, review peer-reviewed, published empirical research related to the research topic for potential pre-existing study instruments that may be used as is or adapted with author(s) permission for the purpose of the study.
Consult research design sources (including Dissertation Center resources) and ensure that the measurement level of each variable and the expected distributional characteristics of the data are appropriate to, and meet the assumptions of, the proposed statistical analyses (for example, is it likely that the responses will be normally distributed?) Become familiar with non-parametric alternatives to parametric tests to account for the possibility that the data do not meet parametric assumptions. See the Dissertation Center for more information.
[Text…Provide a brief description of how study data will be collected, measured and analyzed. Describe the proposed instrument. Please note that survey self-development should be considered only after an exhaustive search for an existing validated instrument (See the Dissertation Center (Survey and Interview Resources) for guidance on such a search). Also, survey self-development will require a multi-step development and validation process, including pilot testing. (See the Dissertation Center (Research Methods Help/Research Workshop) for a tutorial on the multi-step development and validation process for a survey instrument). Review the scholarly literature for examples of how relevant concepts have been measured in the past.
Although a highly detailed description is not required at the CP stage, study variables must demonstrate appropriateness to the study purpose and meet the assumptions of the proposed statistical tests. For qualitative studies, describe the proposed instrument or collection (e.g., interviews, observations), and how concepts will be coded and analyzed as appropriate to the proposed design based on primary qualitative research methods and design authors. Include appropriate support for the application of the proposed design. Consult research design and analysis sources including those available in the Dissertation Center for guidance.] Summary
[Text…Briefly restate the key points, study purpose and proposed research plan.] References
Instructions: This section of the Concept Paper is a list of references cited in text. All resources cited in the concept paper must be included in the list of references.
List all references in APA format with the exception noted below. For each reference listed, there must be at least one corresponding citation within the body of the text, and vice-versa.
Formatting: Single space each reference citation, along with a .5 inch hanging indent; double space between consecutive references in the reference list (See the Doctoral Candidacy Resource Guide located in the Dissertation Center for NCU exceptions to APA format).
Tips: Sort in alpha surname/title order. Only capitalize the first word of the title and of the subtitle, if any. Do not bold the title. Know when to italicize and when not to (i.e., periodical/non-periodical/publication versus book/report/paper). Italicize volume (i.e., Journal Name 4, pp. 12-22.). Please refer to the APA Manual, 6th edition and the Writing Center for additional APA guidance.
Note: APA6 requires a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) be provided, if one has been assigned (see page 187-192).
Example (note single-space references, with double-spacing in-between):
Ahn, J. (2004). Electronic portfolios: Blending technology, accountability and assessment. T.H.E. Journal, 31(9), 12-18.
U.S. Government Printing Office. (2006). Catalog of U.S. Government publications: New electronic titles.
Winslade, J., & Monk, G. (2001). Narrative mediation: A new approach to conflict resolution. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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- Note: you are given length guidelines for this section of your concept paper, i.e. a two page maximum. It is important to follow every detail of guidance presented in the blue text of the Concept Paper template.
- Although the introduction is expected to be brief, it should be thoughtfully grounded in the current scholarly literature related to your topic. You should offer citations for carefully selected quality sources for all assertions made in the introduction. It is important to clearly understand what an assertion is and why they can cause problems for academic writers. An assertion is a statement or declaration that something is true or accurate that is presented without sufficient supporting evidence. In everyday conversation, we often make assertions that are without support as a part of normal communication based on facts that everybody knows. One of the many challenges faced by emerging scholars learning the art of academic writing is to break out of the habit of communicating opinions in favor of arguments for which supporting evidence is available. Reviewers will often challenge unsupported assertions with comments like: “how do you know this is true,” “sources please,” “do not make unfounded assertions,” “this is a bold claim, how can you back it up with evidence” and so on. Before you submit any documents to you chair, reflect on each sentence you wrote to insure that either the views offered are universally understood (though few are) or are supportable with evidence from scholarly sources or data.
- The introduction section should conclude with a brief overview of the remainder of the paper’s contents, including a listing of the sections that will follow.
Statement of the Problem
[Text… Present general issue/observation that in theory or practice leads to the need for the study (in most cases scholarly citations within the last 5 years are included). Present focused problem that leads to the need for a research response. Clearly describe and document the problem that directly leads to the study purpose. For some degree programs (DBA, EdD) the problem identified might be a practical problem or issue in an organization or school.]
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- Developing an acceptable Statement of the Problem for the concept paper is challenging for many learners; however, it is one of the most critical elements of the document. If a solid problem statement is not developed for the Concept Paper it is nearly impossible to develop an acceptable Dissertation Proposal.
- All Northcentral University doctoral learners are encouraged to begin work on their problem statement by reading a particularly helpful article entitled: Framework of Problem-Based Research: A Guide for Novice Researchers on the Development of a Research-Worthy Problem.
- To develop an acceptable problem statement, learners must manage the tension between their personal interests and what the literature says about their research topic.
- The following set of questions may help to build a logical case that a particular issue constitutes a research worthy problem.
- Why is it a research worthy problem?
- What are the potential negative consequences if this topic is never studied?
- Whose problem is it?
- Is it an economic problem?
- Is it a social problem?
- What is the nature of this problem and whom does it affect?
The brief article entitled Research Problem Exploration provides another set of questions which may help you articulate your problem statement. You will note this article also steers you toward grounding the research problem in the literature.
- As noted in the blue text above, you are to clearly and specifically identify the problem that forms the basis of the proposed study using a sentence, “The problem is…[followed by a succinct identification of a research worthy problem].”
- A sample problem statement that illustrates some (but not all) of the concepts discussed above is presented below.
Statement of the Problem (Example)
Employee turnover rates increased in all industries between 1997 and 2000 (Martel, 2002); and increased turnover reduces organizational profitability, due to the related high recruitment and training costs, which can reach or even exceed a worker’s annual salary (Hillmer, Hillmer, & McRoberts, 2004; Sanford, 2005). Replacing an employee requires advertising the position, time and effort in interviewing and reference checking, time and effort identifying skill shortfalls, and supplying the necessary training (Lazar, 2004; Piotrowski & Plash, 2006; Sagie et al., 2002; Sanford, 2005). With the increasing turnover rates (Martel, 2002), the specific problem was to investigate whether the emotional intelligence of the leader (Goleman et al., 2002) influenced employees’ affective commitment, thereby affecting turnover and related loss in profitability (Gardner & Stough, 2003; Morrow, 1993). Knowledge gained about this phenomenon would enable organizations to focus training in this avenue and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover (Lazar, 2004; Piotrowski & Plash, 2006; Sagie et al., 2002; Sanford, 2005).
Stephens, B. W. (2007). A phenomenological study: Human resource professionals’ perceptions of leader emotional intelligence and employee affective commitment. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Phoenix). Retrieved from https://gradworks.umi.com/3292918.pdf
It is clear that the author was well versed in the relevant literature. Although he most likely had a strong personal interest in this research topic, his problem statement is not based on his personal interests and observations alone. Instead, his interest in the topic guided his reading of the literature until he identified a thoroughly validated research problem that was also identified by several other scholars.
- You should have at least 5 – 10 good quality sources such as peer reviewed journal articles. In this case, more is better and newer is better than older. You may find it helpful to create an early draft of your problem statement and strengthen it as your literature review advances. Be prepared to abandon all or part of this early draft as master the literature related to your topic come to more fully understand the research worthy problems associated with it.
Please consider: Whose problem is it? What are the potential negative consequences if this study is never conducted? What is the nature of this problem and whom does it affect? Is it an economic problem? Is it a social problem? Is it an organizational problem? Describe and document the problem that directly prompts the need for research. Include appropriate high quality and recent sources to support the existence of a problem worthy of doctoral level research.
Purpose of the Study
[Text… Research method is identified as qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method. Research design is clearly stated and is aligned with the problem statement. Identification of variables/constructs and/or phenomenon/concept/idea:
Quantitative research variables/constructs are briefly identified (including potential confounding variables, covariates, mediating variables, etc.). Research variables/constructs are identified and cited, if appropriate.
Qualitative research identifies a single phenomenon, concept, or idea that will be studied.
Mixed Method research includes all of the above. Specific population of proposed study is identified. The number of participants that will serve as the sample should be estimated based on a power analysis (quantitative/mixed method) or conventions (qualitative) as detailed in chapter 3. Geographic location of study is identified.]
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A . Your purpose statement should consist of a single, concise paragraph. That is more challenging to achieve than you might realize depending on your learning style. Some learners write extensively in order to clarify their thinking. There is nothing wrong with this process provided you engage in extensive editing after it is over in order to make your written work concise and clear for your readers.
- Your purpose statement should flow directly from the statement of the problem section. This is the first step in achieving alignment between key components of the concept paper; eventually you will be expected to achieve clear and obvious alignment throughout the Concept Paper. Without a carefully developed statement of the problem section serving as a solid foundation upon which to build the other components of the dissertation, it will not be possible to develop an adequate and carefully aligned purpose statement.
- The marginal note beside the blue text above points out that the purpose statement should specifically address the reason for conducting the study. You should offer a concise distillation of the points you developed in your description of the research problem. To extend the example offered above you could write the following. Once the key factors that enable bullying behavior to persist have been identified, school administrators can take steps to remove or diminish these factors in their schools and create a safer and more conducive learning environment for the students they serve.
- To some extent, your purpose statement is to be formulaic in that complies with the following guidance: Begin the purpose statement with a succinct sentence that indicates the study method and overarching goal. ‘The purpose of this [quantitative, qualitative] study is to… (describe the study goal that directly reflects and encompasses the research questions). If you may not want to be constrained by a formula but this is not the best place to exercise your creativity. Here is a sample purpose statement from a published Northcentral University dissertation that illustrates the pattern you are to follow.
The purpose of this quantitative correlation study is to examine the impact of leadership styles on student academic achievement among practical nursing programs in the District of Columbia and Fairfax County, Virginia.
- Once a sentence similar to the one offered above has been presented, you are expected to provide a brief and clear overview of the following points:
- how the purpose will be fulfilled
- what data collection instruments or archival data will be used
- who the participants will be, and
- where the research project will take place.
For example, let us say your research purpose statement reads as follows. The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to identify key factors that enable bullying behavior to persist in three urban high schools located within School System ABC. Immediately after this statement you could add the following statement. Interviews and focus groups will be held with administrators, teachers, and students in these schools in order to gather data relevant to fulfilling the purpose of the study. This same information will be presented in far greater detail under the Research Method heading.
- Remember you are to present all of this information in a single concise paragraph.
- identification as qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods
- for a quantitative study: variables/constructs including potential confounding variables, covariates, mediating variables etc. (include citations if appropriate)
- for a qualitative study: identify the single phenomenon, concept or idea to be studied
- specific population for the study
- estimation of the number of participants (as verified by a power analysis for a quantitative or mixed methods study and conventions for a qualitative study)
- geographic location of the study
- the instruments to be used
Example Purpose Statement
The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to identify key factors that enable bullying behavior to persist in three urban high schools located within School System ABC located in East Texas. A group of 10 teachers, 10 grade eight students, and three administrators will be interviewed from each school using a semi-structured interview protocol in order to gather their perceptions of factors that enable bullying behavior in their respective schools. A cross case analysis will be conducted to identify common and diverging themes associated with this phenomenon at the three research sites.
- Your purpose statement should flow clearly and obviously from your problem statement. The clear and obvious alignment of your research response to the problem should be evident. Examine the examples offered above to see what this level of alignment looks like.
- Your purpose statement should not imply that you are going to prove something. You may be surprised to learn that we cannot prove anything in scholarly research for two reasons. First, in quantitative analyses, statistical tests calculate the probability that something is true rather than establishing it as true. Second, in qualitative research, the study can only purport to describe what is occurring from the perspective of the participants. Whether or not the phenomenon they are describing is true in a larger context is not knowable. We cannot observe the phenomenon in all settings and in all circumstances.
We can provide evidence to support a theory or interpretation of a complex process unfolding in the social world. We can isolate and operationally define an individual variable and determine if a null hypothesis can be rejected. We can gradually build up the knowledge base in a particular field of inquiry. However, there are many potentially confounding variables in all studies in the social sciences that cannot be controlled for, a reality that makes proof an elusive goal.
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- In addition to the guidance offered in the blue text and marginal notes above, many learners find it helpful to review chapter 7 of Creswell’s (2009) book entitled Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches before they attempt to write their research question list. A more advanced discussion of research questions is available in the book Research Questions by Richard Andrews.
Research questions are to be distinct from one another. In other words they should not overlap. Keep in mind that eventually your research questions will provide the structure for the fourth chapter of your dissertation as you fully elaborate on the answers you have developed for each question. You need to ensure that each question leads to a distinct answer that you can elaborate on without repeating ,
|TOC||Best Practices for Developing the Measurement Section||Menu|
- If you are planning a quantitative study, one of the most important points to consider in this section is the comment that “survey self-development should be considered only after an exhaustive search for an existing validated instrument and will require a multi-step pilot and validation process.” Developing your own survey is an extensive and demanding process and will add a significant amount of work to your dissertation process.
- The Quick Guide to Finding Tests and Measurements is the best place to locate a previously published data collection instrument. If you scroll down you will find a link to Buros Center for Testing which is particularly helpful but don’t neglect the other links as well.
- When you locate a previously published instrument, explain how it measures the variables you will be studying. Provide relevant details about the instrument such as: who developed it
- how many question items it includes
- how many subscales it contains
- what is the response format (i.e. Likert scale or other)
- what its scores mean
- its psychometric properties
- how its reliability and validity was confirmed
and so on. Below is a sample description of an instrument write up. It contains some, but not all, of the information mentioned above.
Victimization experiences with physical violence will be measured by using the Physical Violence Subscale of the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) (Straus, 1979). The 8-items measuring physical acts of aggression are delineated into minor and severe forms of physical violence. Respondents will be asked to select how often they sustained various forms of minor and severe physical violence in their relationship by their spouses/intimate partners during the last 12-months and during their lifetime. Frequency for the last 12-month time period will measured by a 7-point scale ranging from “never” to “more than 20 times.” Lifetime prevalence will be measured by a dichotomous response (“yes” or “no”) to each act of physical aggression. The Cronbach alpha found for the Physical Violence Subscale was .90 (Straus, 1979).
- Explain how the data will be recorded and protected. Also, explain how the confidentiality of the participants will be protected and the anonymity of individual respondents maintained.
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