Proposal Development

PROPOSAL DEVELOPMENT AND FINAL REPORTING GUIDELINES FOR UI CNR MOSS STUDENTS

Developed January 2016. Updated __________________

Students in the UI CNR MOSS M.S. program are required to complete a “Plan B” project as part of their degree completion. As per CNR guidelines, students must develop a formal written proposal that will be presented publicly by the end of their second semester. After this formal presentation, students are either encouraged to go ahead with their project work, asked to make changes to the proposal and then go ahead with the work, or in rare cases students are asked to develop a new proposal.

After completing project work students must develop a formal written report of their work and make a formal public presentation at the end of their third semester.

While almost all students in the UI CNR MOSS M.S. program are completing the “non-Thesis” option, some students choose to focus their non-Thesis Project on more research-oriented activities while others will choose to develop a “product”.

The general sequence of events is as follows:

  • Develop a PROPOSAL. The proposal is a formal written document due to your Major Advisor two weeks before your formal proposal presentation. In order to progress smoothly through the second semester, consider the following suggested timeline:
    1. Introduction due to your Major Advisor by end of January
    2. Updated Review of the Literature due to your Major Advisor by end of February
    3. First draft of Methods due to your Major Advisor by middle of March
  • Present a formal PROPOSAL PRESENTATION by the end of second semester.
  • Incorporate feedback from your advisor and proposal presentation into your project plan by end of the semester.
  • Complete Institutional Review Board application if needed by at least three weeks prior to the start of any data collection. If you require IRB approval (in other words, if you are doing anything that looks like research with people) you need to have a letter from the IRB stating either that your project has been declared EXEMPT from oversight or that it has been APPROVED by the IRB. IRB approval processes will be discussed in Research Methods but you can get started learning about it here. It is your responsibility to make sure that this you have completed this process and you may not conduct and research until EXEMPTION or APPROVAL has been declared.
  • Conduct your project work over the summer and into fall if needed (aim to be done by the end of September of the third semester).
  • Write a formal PROJECT REPORT throughout third semester.
  • Submit a solid DRAFT of your FINAL PROJECT REPORT by Friday of the last week of October.
  • Submit a solid DRAFT of your FINAL PROJECT PRESENTATION (PowerPoint or equivalent) by Monday of the week before Thanksgiving week (so about 1.5 weeks before TG day).
  • A determination of your “Readiness to Defend” will be made two weeks before the scheduled presentation date. This decision will come from your Major Advisor and will be based on the quality of your written work and draft presentation materials.
  • Deliver a formal PROJECT PRESENTATION (format TBD – likely examples include an Oral Presentation or a Poster, to be presented at the end of the week after Thanksgiving.
  • Your FINAL REPORT is due is to your Major Advisor by the Friday before Commencement, typically the second week after Thanksgiving.

PLEASE NOTE: Completion of your degree requires successful completion of all your coursework, an internship, a public project proposal and written proposal document, a public defense of your project and a final written document that is approved by your Major Advisor. It is your responsibility to make sure that you are on track to complete all of these milestones on the way to your degree. Failure to complete these tasks in a timely manner may result in a delay to your graduation and additional tuition and fees. Additionally, there are paperwork and administrative milestones that you need to achieve that are NOT included here (for example, applying to graduate). These are covered in the Steps to Graduation document.

PRODUCT OPTION

The end point of a “product” option is the creation of a product designed to meet a defined need, that can be used in one more more settings, with a defined audience and a delimited scope. The project will include the design and development of the product and some degree of testing and evaluating the product. For example, a project might be a set of five lessons plans designed to increase energy literacy, for use in a middle school classroom.

The WRITTEN PROPOSAL for a PRODUCT will follow an outline similar to what is listed below:

  • Introduction: An overview of the justification, need (i.e., problem statement), goals and products of your project. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Overview of the goals of the project.
      1. g. “The goal of this project is to develop tools for teachers to teach about biofuels in the classroom”.
    2. Identification of the final product.
      1. g. “The final product will be a digital collection of lesson plans and resources, hereafter referred to as an “e-book” focused on the NARA supply chain process.”
    3. A statement about the larger significance of the product. In other words, how will the world be different because this product exists?
      1. g. “Energy literate citizens are better able to make decisions about important bioenergy issues.”
  • Review of the Literature: A review of relevant literature. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Literature related to the “content” of the project.
      1. g., literature about bioenergy, aviation biofuel production, and life cycle assessment.
    2. Literature related to methods for the project.
      1. g. what is known about best practices in e-book design; use of e-books in the classroom; use of multi-media to support hands-on lessons.
  • Methods: A description of the steps that you will take to complete your project. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. How did you / will you Identify the need for the product?
    2. How will you solicit input on the content or design of the product? How will you determine what content to cover? Who or what standards will you consult to define this?
    3. Describe guiding principles or frameworks for building the product. Will you use particular theoretical frameworks or pedagogical models?
    4. If applicable, how will you pilot test the product? Who will test it? What kinds of questions are you hoping to answer through your pilot testing (for example, does it work? Is is easy to use? Is it enjoyable for the users – teachers, students, others? Is it aligned to goals?)
    5. What is your proposed timeline for project completion?
    6. What resources will you need to complete this project and how certain are you that these exist or that you have access to them? For example, if you plan to create lessons for a workshop, be sure to include the process that you will use to work with the workshop developers to make sure that your lessons are included and that there is time for you to get feedback on them.

After you have completed your product development and evaluation you will need to write up a final project report. The sections of the final project report are very similar to the proposal, but they include a few more sections:

FINAL PROJECT REPORT

The first few sections of this report are almost identical to the sections of your proposal; the BIG DIFFERENCE is that these are written in past tense reporting on what you ACTUALLY DID!

  • Introduction: An overview of the need, goals and products of your project. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Overview of the goals of the project.
      1. g. “The goal of this project was to develop tools for teachers to teach about biofuels in the classroom”.
    2. Identification of the final product.
      1. g. “The final product is a digital collection of lesson plans and resources, hereafter referred to as an “e-book” focused on the NARA supply chain process.”
    3. A statement about the larger significance of the product. In other words, how will the world be different because this product exists?
      1. g. “Energy literate citizens are better able to make decisions about important bioenergy issues.”
  • Review of the Literature: A review of relevant literature. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Literature related to the “content” of the project.
      1. g., literature about bioenergy, aviation biofuel production, and life cycle assessment.
    2. Literature related to methods for the project.
      1. g. what is known about best practices in e-book design; use of e-books in the classroom; use of multi-media to support hands-on lessons.
  • Methods: A description of the steps that you took to complete your project. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. How did you Identify the need for the product?
    2. How did you solicit input on the content or design of the product? How did you determine what content to cover? Who or what standards did you consult to define this?
    3. Describe guiding principles or frameworks used to build the product. Did you use particular theoretical frameworks or pedagogical models?
    4. How did you do pilot test the product? Who tested it? What kinds of questions did you answer through your pilot testing (for example, does it work? Is is easy to use? Is it enjoyable for the users – teachers, students, others? Is it aligned to goals?)
    5. What was the timeline for project completion?
    6. What resources did you need to complete this project? What barriers did you encounter?
  • Results and Discussion: A description of what you produced and what you found out about your product. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. What did you produce? This should be a written summary of your product. The product itself may be included in total in the appendix; if the product is not the kind that can be included in a written document (e.g., if you designed an interpretive trail), include pictures and whatever written artifacts are available to help us understand what you produced.
    2. Provide a detailed description of your final product and discuss evidence you have that it is effective, or suggestions you have for future improvements. For example, this would be a good place to discuss results of any evaluation measures that you took – satisfaction, feedback, etc.
    3. Discuss how your results relate to the work reviewed in your “Review of the literature”.
    4. Discuss some strengths and weaknesses of your study. For example, what are the novel implications of your study and what aspects of your study could be improved in a similar future study?
  • Conclusion: A summary of the work that you undertook and the significance it has for the world now that it exists.

RESEARCH OPTION

The end point of the “research” option is a better understanding of some aspect of the world. At MOSS, these projects are typically grounded in practical application but they do not need to be. For example, students may be interested in exploring the impact of a workshop. Their project will be the design of an evaluation plan and the results of the evaluation. Students may wish to examine the effect of an educational intervention, or they may wish to compare two different approaches. Projects do not need to be limited to social science research or educational research.

The timeline for the research option is the same as for the product option. The written proposal, proposal presentation, final report and final presentation will differ somewhat in content.  While many topics are outlined here, The Creswell Research Design book is a better resource for explaining in detail what you should include in every section of your proposal and final write-up.

The WRITTEN PROPOSAL for RESEARCH will follow an outline similar to what is listed below:

  • Introduction: An overview of the need and general objective of the research. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Overview of the question.
      1. g. “This research will explore the impact of the outdoor learning environment vs. an indoor learning environment on energy literacy development in 6th graders”.
    2. Overview of the research objective.
      1. g. “The research objective is to understand if there is a difference in energy knowledge, behavior and attitude gains for students who participate in energy literacy lessons in an outdoor environment vs. students who learn the same material in an indoor setting.”
    3. A statement about the larger significance of the product. In other words, how will the world be different because this product exists?
      1. g. “Energy literate citizens are better able to make decisions about important bioenergy issues.”
  • Review of the Literature: A review of relevant literature. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Literature related to the “content” of the project.
      1. g., literature about teaching energy literacy, outdoor learning environments, results of prior studies, etc.
    2. Literature related to methods for the project.
      1. g. How have others measured energy literacy? What methods and instruments did they use?
  • Methods: A description of the steps that you will take to complete your research. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Re-state your research question
    2. Define your population of interest and your sampling strategy
      1. g. This research will explore energy literacy in 5th and 6th graders who come to MOSS. A random sampling strategy will be employed…
    3. Define your methods (including your plans for analysis!)
      1. Explain in detail what you will do to collect, analyze, and interpret data and report on the results of the study. Be specific here! If you are using interviews, list out potential interview questions. Describe where and how interviews will be conducted, how they will be recorded, how you will transcribe them and code them. For surveys, describe the instrument that you will use – if you are using existing scales be clear about that. If you are designing an instrument on your own, talk about the process of establishing validity and reliability of the instrument. What methods will you use for your analysis? Be specific about particular statistical tests or qualitative analysis techniques.
      2. g. (to be clear, this is a very brief version of how you might write this section. You will most likely include a lot more detail). “This research will use a mixed-methods design to study the impact of an energy literacy curriculum on 6th grade students. Interviews will provide insight into what students found to be most useful about the lessons. A quantitative survey instrument will assess student energy literacy content knowledge, behaviors and attitudes before and after their participation in the energy literacy curriculum. Interviews will be recorded, transcribed and analyzed using the Constant Comparative method (Glaser, XXXX). Questions to guide the semi-structured interviews include xxxxxx. The quantitative instrument will be derived from existing Energy Literacy assessments (NARA, 2016); data will be analyzed in SPSS using paired-samples t-Tests and MANOVA”.

After you have completed your product development and evaluation you will need to write up a final project report. The sections of the final project report are very similar to the proposal, but they include a few more sections:

FINAL PROJECT REPORT

The first few sections of this report are almost identical to the sections of your proposal; the BIG DIFFERENCE is that these are written in past tense reporting on what you ACTUALLY DID!

  • Introduction: An overview of the need and general objective of the research. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Overview of the question.
      1. g. “This research explored the impact of the outdoor learning environment vs. an indoor learning environment on energy literacy development in 6th graders”.
    2. Overview of the research objective.
      1. g. “The research objective was to understand if there is a difference in energy knowledge, behavior and attitude gains for students who participate in energy literacy lessons in an outdoor environment vs. students who learn the same material in an indoor setting.”
    3. A statement about the larger significance of the product. In other words, how will the world be different because this product exists?
      1. g. “Energy literate citizens are better able to make decisions about important bioenergy issues.”
  • Review of the Literature: A review of relevant literature. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Literature related to the “content” of the project.
      1. g., literature about teaching energy literacy, outdoor learning environments, results of prior studies, etc.
    2. Literature related to methods for the project.
      1. g. How have others measured energy literacy? What methods and instruments did they use?
  • Methods: A description of the steps that you took to complete your research. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Re-state your research question
    2. Define your population of interest and your sampling strategy
      1. g. This research explored energy literacy in 5th and 6th graders who come to MOSS. A random sampling strategy was employed…
    3. Define your methods (including your plans for analysis!)
    4. Explain in detail what you did to collect, analyze, and interpret data and report on the results of the study. Be specific here! What interview questions did you ask? Where and how were interviews conducted? How were they recorded, transcribed and coded? For surveys, describe the instrument that you used – if you used existing scales be clear to explain them. If you designed an instrument on your own, talk about the process of establishing validity and reliability of the instrument. What methods did you use for your analysis? Be specific about particular statistical tests or qualitative analysis techniques. Describe the measures you took to ensure the quality of your data. Describe the quality of the data – of those sampled, how many participated? How did you ensure trustworthiness and authenticity in your qualitative data?
      1. g. (to be clear, this is a very brief version of how you might write this section. You will most likely include a lot more detail). “This research used a mixed-methods design to study the impact of an energy literacy curriculum on 6th grade students. Interviews provided insight into what students found to be most useful about the lessons. A quantitative survey instrument was used to assess student energy literacy content knowledge, behaviors and attitudes before and after their participation in the energy literacy curriculum. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed using the Constant Comparative method (Glaser, XXXX). Questions to guide the semi-structured interviews include xxxxxx. The quantitative instrument was derived from existing Energy Literacy assessments (NARA, 2016); data were analyzed in SPSS using paired-samples t-Tests and MANOVA”.
  • Results and Discussion: A description of what you found out from your research. Topics that you should address in this section include:
    1. Display quantitative data in tables and graphs

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Display qualitative data using quotations from interview transcripts, concept maps and other visual display tools.
    1. g. “Some students thought that learning about energy outside helped them to connect more directly with the content. For example, one student stated “learning about energy while we’re surrounded by nature made me really think about where the energy that I use comes from and how my use of energy impacts the natural world” (said no 6th grader, ever, but this is just a fun example J).
  2. Explain what meaning you made of the data – what do your results show?
    1. g. “There was a statistically significant difference (p< 0.05) from Time 1 to Time 2 in overall Energy Literacy scores for the groups that learned in both the indoor and outdoor classroom settings. Additionally, there was no statistically significant difference between the Indoor and Outdoor groups Pre-program while there was a statistically significant difference between the groups Post-program. It appears that the outdoor classroom had a favorable impact on student attainment of Energy Literacy. The qualitative data provided some insight into why this might be. A theme that emerged in the qualitative data was the impact of the natural setting on student feeling of connection to the energy literacy material. Cohn et al (2016) found that when students are more personally connected to material they are more likely to retain information, develop more positive attitudes about behaviors and change their behavior. Our findings seem to support these ideas, though further study is needed to draw a strong conclusion.
  3. Discuss how your results relate to the work reviewed in your “Review of the literature”.
  4. Discuss some strengths and weaknesses of your study. For example, what are the novel implications of your study and what aspects of your study could be improved in a similar future study?

 

  • Conclusion: A summary of the work that you undertook and the significance it has for the world now that you understand this phenomenon better. Also discuss limitations of the research and questions for future study here.

 

 

 

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