Group Project Research Proposals by xto11231


									 Group Project Research Proposals

Spring 2007
Christina Tague
          Why write a proposal

• Clarify your objectives
• Delimit the scope of your work
• Develop detailed understanding of the project
  context (stakeholders, issues, previous
• Research possible tools/techniques that may
  be relevant to your project
• Have a „do-able‟ work plan in place for next
           Proposal Objectives
• Communicate what the problem or question
  is that you are going to address
• Justify why this is a
  useful/relevant/meaningful problem
• Communicate how you will approach this
• Argue that your approach is likely to succeed
  (that it is both “doable” in a practical sense
  and will answer your question or solve the
  problem that you pose)
• Possibly argue why funding is needed to do
  this work
              The first step

• Clearly defining your objective or
  research question
     Examples of weak objectives

• Fish are declining in the oceans; this proposal
  will seek to figure out why
• Create an environmentally sustainable
• How would pollution impacts change if the US
  signed the Kyoto protocol
• The goal of this proposal is to improve the
  water quality of Santa Barbara
               Problem Statement
• Problem -”the experience we have when an
  unsatisfactory situation is encountered”
• Opportunity - a unique situation that can contribute to
  resolving the problem
• Question - “a statement about what you wish to know
  about an unsatisfactory situation”
• Objective - a statement about what you will do about
  an unsatisfactory situation
• Purpose -”explicit intention of the investigator to
  accumulate data in such a way as to answer the
  research question or achieve a stated objective”
• Hypothesis - “a proposition set up as a convenient
  target of the investigation”
(modified from Locke et al., Proposals that Work)
      Some better examples (Tague):
•   PROBLEM:In the Sierra Nevada, climate-warming leads to reduced snow
    accumulation and earlier snow melt, and thus less water is available late in the
    summer when plants need it most. This change in water availability may have
    important implications for ecosystem health under a changing climate, leading to
    drought stress and reduced productivity. Ecosystem and park managers need to
    know when and where this risk to ecosystem function will mostly likely occur.
    Because the timing of snow melt, and drainage varys spatially within watersheds,
    forest water use at different locations should show different sensitivities to earlier
    snow melt - but this has not been demonstrated or quantified.

•   RQ:What is the relationship between the timing and amount of snowmelt and
    summer water-stress driven reductions in forest transpiration. How does this
    relationship differ for north/south facing slopes, and upslope/midslope/valley

•   PURPOSE:The purpose of this research is to use both models and
    measurements of plant transpiration and watershed hydro-meteorology to define
    spatial patterns of transpiration and its sensitivity to climate-driven changes in
    snow dynamics
•   HYPOTHESIS:Transpiration in forests on south facing slope will be more
    sensitive to water-stress relative to north facing slopes
      Some better examples (Kotchen):
•   PROBLEM:Despite the history and current practice of Daylight Saving Time (DST) as a policy for energy
    conservation, little is known about whether DST actually saves energy. Few studies have investigated
    the question, and they have found mixed results. Nevertheless, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extends
    DST for the stated purpose of energy conservation. In 2007, federal DST will begin three weeks earlier
    and last one week longer. The Act also makes an explicit call for research into the actual conservation
    effects, and Congress retains the right to repeal the extensions if the intended benefits are not realized.
    The need to better understand the consequences of DST for energy consumption is particularly timely.

•   OPPORTUNITY: The research proposed here will provide the first empirical estimates of DST effects on
    residential electricity demand in the United States. The research design is based on a natural experiment
    in Indiana. While some counties have historically practiced DST, the majority has not. This changed with
    a state law that required all counties to begin practicing DST in 2006. The initial heterogeneity of DST
    among Indiana counties and the policy change in 2006 provide a unique opportunity to empirically
    identify the relationship between DST and household electricity consumption. To take advantage of this,
    we are collaborating with Duke Energy, the utility company that provides electrical service to much of
    Indiana. They have agreed to provide data on monthly billing statements from January 2000 through
    December 2006 for over 27,000 residential meters from 25 different counties.

•   RQ:Our specific research objectives are the following: (1) estimate the effects of DST on residential
    electricity demand in Indiana, and (2) forecast the effects of the 2007 extension of federal DST on
    residential electricity demand, and (3) use the Indiana results to produce estimates of DST effects for
    other states and the nation.
      Some better examples (former group project):
•   PROBLEM: The CP Block is a structural and insulating building block made of highly compressed rice
    straw. Using a rapidly renewable material such as straw in the building industry could lead to many
    benefits for both homeowners and society. Buildings constructed with the CP Block would provide private
    benefits, such as reduction in energy cost and public benefits such as decrease in energy demand and
    air pollution. Straw, an agricultural by product, has historically been treated as waste. Most states allow
    farmers to dispose of straw by incineration; however this practice has been banned for over a decade in
    California. Hence there is a great demand to find uses for more than a million tons of rice straw every
    year. Fortunately, straw has potential for use as an alternative building material.
•   The CP Block is an innovative and experimental product. Oryzatech, Inc. manufacturer of the block,
    plans to introduce its product to the green building and mainstream construction markets as a substitute
    for conventional wood frame and cinder block construction in residential housing. However, since the CP
    Block is not yet on the market, its potential acceptance by homebuyers and building industry
    professionals is unknown.

•   RQ:How does the CP Block compare to other building materials in terms of price, physical
    characteristics, environmental performance, and acceptance in the mainstream construction markets?
    What motivates homebuyers to purchase a straw block home? What motivates builders to adopt the
    block as a construction material?
•   Purpose: To conduct a product comparison of the CP Block with ten conventional and alternative
    building materials used in the residential construction market. To develop a logistic regression model to
    estimate the likelihood that a homebuyer would purchase a CP Block house as a function of price and
    other explanatory variables. Model will be based on a contingent valuation survey for the CP block.
So how do you get to a precise
   clearly defined problem
         What is your system

• System - a set of interacting
• Environment - influences; input-outputs
  into the system
• Draw a conceptual model of the system
  that you are going to be working with
Example System Components Diagram - Where does
                your project fit

• Needs analysis
• What is the problem from the perspective of
  the client (note that the client may not have
  precise definition of the problem) - you may
  have to talk to them, review literature and
  develop conceptual models to figure this out
• Given the client‟s situation - what is it that
  they need
 Other elements of the problem that need to
be clearly evident in your problem statement

• Scale: time and space (sediment in all reaches of a
  stream or just a the outlet? environmental perception in
  different neighborhoods or at the state level? Water
  availability in the last 40 years, last 200, future?)

• Geography of the problem (are you talking about a
  specific place (Santa Barbara; semi-arid West; or a
  general principle?)

• Quantities/elements that can be measured (fish
  populations? Fish catch? Revenue of fisherman?)
    First ask - what is the question?

• General questions - Multiple studies and theory
  leading to a comprehensive theory
• Specific place-based questions - Application of
  existing theory to specific case, + studies at particular
• For example, compiling documentation of relationship
  between urbanization and decline of fish populations
  versus using review studies to suggest when and
  how urbanization might impact fish populations in the
  Santa Ynez and then setting up a monitoring program
  But your problem does not exist in
• So research to find out what do we already
  – General principles and theory that can be applied
  – Techniques (remote sensing, cost-benefit
    analysis; models - find similar problems where
    these have been applied)
  – Related site specific studies
• Initial preliminary literature review
• Gives you a sense of what is possible - “do-
Client Needs

                     Project Proposal

                            Proposal Lit.
                            Review; Client
                            needs analysis

Problem Definition
            Parts of a research proposal
• Problem Statement
• Literature Review and Background
     Justification (relevance and feasibility)
         • Societal Relevance (why is this important to know)
         • Relevance to the client (what is it that the client needs and why)
         • Science Relevance (how does this fit with existing knowledge about the
            – It is a reasonable question to ask
            – It has not already been answered
• Methods
     – Data (collection; sources)
     – Step by step description of how you will answer the question
•   Budget and budget justification
•   Personnel (C.V. - credibility of researchers)
•   Timeline and milestones
•   Dissemination of results
     Proposal Literature Review

Goal Oriented
    • Client/Stakeholder Needs Analysis (what is
      lacking; what criteria would show improvement)
    • Societal Relevance (why is this important)
    • Expert Relevance (how does this fit with
      existing knowledge about the
       – It is a reasonable question to ask
       – It has not already been answered
        More on literature review

• Search based on your initial definition of the
  system (geography, scale (time and space),
  components/interactions of interest)
• Based on placing yourself in the “map” of
  existing knowledge about the system
• Map - Existing knowledge and acceptable
  techniques (measurement and analysis) to
  obtain that knowledge

• Credibility of the literature you use to make
  arguments and define your methodological
  and conceptual maps
   –   Peer reviewed vs non peer reviewed journals
   –   Up-to-date, classic
   –   Review articles; multiple citations
   –   Similarity-relevance
• Logical development of the arguments
• Literature review is a strategic document
          Helpful techniques

• Always keep track of citations with the
  notes that you write
• Use review articles first
• Ask experts
• Use articles to find other articles
• Try more than one article database
         Organizing Information
• Good writing (especially strategic writing like
  a research proposal or literature review)
  requires planning how you will organize your
• Everything should be directed at the overall
  goals of the review (client, societal and expert
  background to show relevance and feasibility)
• What is your conceptual model of the system;
  what is your model of current, relevant
  knowledge about the system - use this to
  structure your review;
               Mind Mapping

• A diagram/visualization of the relationships
  between ideas (or potentially tasks)
• Useful for brainstorming, „to-do lists‟, project
  management, organizing writing data,
  literature about a topic
• Check out
     Data and Methods

• Method outline
  – Step-by-step process by which you will
    answer your research question
  – Details / References to describe complex
    techniques and or models to be used
  – Data
    • Sources for existing data
    • Detailed procedures for any data collection
        Method section in proposal

• Basic steps required to answer the research question
  / or meet a stated design goal/purpose
• Description of data, how you will collect it and what
  you will do with the data
• Also need to provide justification for why this method,
  why this data - and to make it clear why they are
  appropriate (precision, scale, accuracy, availability
  (cost, accessibility, effort, techniques)
• Description of model(s)
    Describing models in a proposal

• Why this model - tell the reader enough about the
  model that it is clear why it is being used to answer
  the RQ or objective
• Data used to drive the model (inputs, parameters,
• Assessment of model performance (directly by
  comparison with data; or rely on previous studies or
• Explain how the model results will be analyzed to
  answer the RQ or meet proposal objective
An engineering approach to methods

• Analysis of needs and generation of criteria
  (primarily in literature review)
• Systems Design/Generating Alternative
• Evaluation of alternative against design
• Decision/Implementation of Proposed Design
• Operation and subsequent reappraisal
     Alternative Solutions, Systems
How will these be generated?
•Based on existing proposed alternatives by different
•Based on clearly defined systems (inter-relationships
between elements) and their environment
•Based on understanding of currently available tools,

How will solutions be evaluation?
•What are objectives and criteria for evaluation
•Evaluation may often involve the use of models

• Plans for economic, social and technical
• Should include some ongoing measures
  for evaluation
• This usually does not occur in the time
  frame of a group project
            Final Thoughts

Good proposals lead to good projects
(and save you time and energy!)

To top