Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How do you decide upon a research topic for your summer training?

Summer Training & Research

The answer would really depend on few of the following considerations:

·         Is it a summer training “program”, summer training “project” or simply. . . . . “Summer Training”? If it is a program then there will be components other than the one project you may be allotted by your organization and it depends on the current research orientation of your B school weather a research project will be a component or not. Some B schools have a focus on research either as a matter of policy or by default as they may have a concentration of research oriented faculty.

If it is a summer training project, the project may be a research based, task based or a hybrid. It is a popular misconception that projects awarded by the industry are usually task based and the ones decided by the faculty are research based. While the latter may hold some merit but it has been observed that even the industry does allocate extensive research projects too.

If you are unlucky enough to be a student at one of those “me too business schools” which seem to be mushrooming all over the place, then you may end up as “free labour for the local businesses” in the name of summer training. In this case no one will really bother about what you may learn, the focus will be on how much volume you and the other “trainees” drive in the 6-8 weeks time.


Social research tools can be used to generate results that are actually “actionable’ by the industry and allows the student to bridge the gap between “theory” she has studied (hopefully!!) in the sterile environs of the class and its manifestation on the ground in the industry.


If You are Supposed to Then How Do You Decide on a Research Project?


The Idea!

So doing a research project as a part of your summer training is compulsory!! And the faculty in charge has asked to decide upon few “Topics” or “Titles”. How do we proceed????

Assuming that you are actually doing your training, you will have to ask yourself the following questions:

1.    Is there something the company is trying to do but don’t have too much of an idea of it?

2.    Is there any problem cropping up regularly?

3.    Are the customers of this product seeking something else?

4.    Are the customers satisfied with the services provided by this company?

5.    What are the competitors of this company doing?

6.    Do they need any information about anything in the market?

7.    Can I see the marketing HR or Finanace I have studied in action?

This list can go on and on. . . . . . but I am sure by now you will have an idea of what kind of questions I am trying to tell you to ask yourself. . . . . .


In my language, as a summer trainee at an organization, you should map the value chain and look for managerial issues that might need resolution or can de with more clarification. As a student you should be able to see concepts that were till today merely part of the syllabus come alive in front of you. The moment you are able to visualize the whole “process”, ideas for research will start popping up in your head!


But is it Feasible?

I use the following criteria as a very rough tool to asses the feasibility of the research idea.

1.    How much time do we have? Can this project be done in time?

2.    How much and what kind of data will we need? Will we be able to get the data easily and in time?

3.    What kind of technical know how is needed to pull this off? Does the students and the faculty concerned have such knowledge or not?


It is quite simple: “Don’t Bite off More than You Can Chew”. Studying “strategy” may not be feasible for a very simple reason that the information needed will need access to the top management of organizations who unfortunately are very busy people and we may not be able to meet them. It is difficult to study the “effect or impact of advertisements” as students and faculty may not have exposure to tools needed to measure impact of an ad! A longitudinal study can be done on any subject but not within the 6-8 week limit imposed on summer trainings!


OK It’s Feasible! Now how do you Make a “Title” out of it?

Right! Now you have an idea and it can be done in time! Great! The first step in writing a title would be to remember that it should be focused enough to clearly spell out what is the study about and at the same time it should be as short and crisp as possible. . . . . . . . . I know, I know, you already know that. My approach is to write a title to the best of my efforts and then rewrite it again and again till I have hit upon one which “seems perfect”. For example:

I am really curious about why many of my students opted for an MBA. . . . . . . . Then naturally I am curious how they decided where to their MBA from. . . . . . .  Now, if I were to make a research title out of this curiosity, My first step would be:

1.    Look for studies on the same or related topics. I would suggest use of Google Scholar for the purpose.

Once I have studied a few articles from magazines, sites and journals, I will have an idea as to what kind of titles to they have and what are the various issues studied. . . . . My next step would be:

2.    Talk to a couple of students and have a talk with them as to how they decided on an MBA and the college. This can be called a very rough “pilot study”

Now I will have a great deal of idea as to the issues involved, the research that has been done on the subject and the way students seem to decide in India.


Now you write the title:

·         A study of why students do MBA and how they choose the college to do it from.

OK. . . . . . something seems off, doesn’t it???? Let’s write it down once again, but this time we will try to add more technical terms and less “layman” language!!

·         A Study of Consumer Decision Making While Selecting MBA and the School to do it from.

Oooohh!! Too heavy but the end is still “layman” and for some reason it is not clicking. Calling the student a consumer does not seem like a very good idea and decision making is too broad and vague a variable to be studied . . . . . . lets try once again!

·         The Choice of MBA and the School to do it From: A study of student decision making.

You know hat, the problem seems to be that we are trying to “study’ too many variables in one go. What if we study only “How students decide upon a college” after they have already chosen MBA.

·         School Choice Behaviour of Prospective MBA Students: A Study of Factors Considered and the Moderating Influences.

Wow!! I think this is it!! We have our title!! The title very clearly indicates that the research is about how prospective students decide upon where they do their MBA from, the factors they considered and the factors that “moderate” the end decision of the student!!


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