by Thomas Bill and Jack Allan
Writing a research proposal can be a difficult and daunting process at the best of times, never mind having to write one on exchange at a new University, in a new country. Here are our Top Ten Tips for writing a research proposal whilst abroad.
Discipline and Focus
Don’t get distracted by your new home. The new environment and surrounding are thrilling and interesting. Staying on top of the work is important. Methodically working through the research allows you to have a clearer picture of what you need to achieve.
Go on holiday
Don’t get too bogged down in work. You may find yourself in a subtropical paradise, the snowy wastes of Northern Canada or a great European city, go and visit your new home and everything it has to offer, there is no point in being there otherwise.
Location, location, location
The new location of your study offer a fresh perspective on your research. Business culture is different across the globe, take it in and see how local organisations operate and compare them to your home country. This could make for an interesting dissertation or help your research stand out.
Don’t forget about your home campus
Every little helps. You are still a student there too, and you have access to all those resources. Use as many resources as you can to help you through the research process. Don’t limit your research to a single set of resources, use those of both your home and away campuses.
Make sure it interests you
Like any good relationship you have to be interested in what the other has to say. Having an interest in the subject matter really helps provide a source of motivation to continue deeper into the subject matter. Be prepared to research this literature thoroughly over a prolonged period of time.
Reading – by the pool
You have moved abroad, away from your home comforts, your own bed and favourite seat in the library. Finding somewhere comfortable to read is essential (a local coffee shop or the pool?). Ideas come from journal papers, cocktails and stunning scenery. They won’t write your proposal for you, but they can provide inspiration.
Make it manageable
This goes for everyone writing a dissertation proposal, not just those abroad. When faced with writing a dissertation the potential theories and contexts to examine seem limitless, but don’t get carried away. As an undergraduate you are not attempting to restructure an international corporation or provide recommendations to the CEOs of top Fortune 500 companies. Make sure your research is manageable given your tight time-frame.
Get help from ALL of your tutors
This will likely be your first time putting together a research proposal so you’re going to need all the help you can get. Luckily, if you’re studying abroad you will have two sets of professors: those at your university abroad and those from back home. It’s often useful to seek help from both groups of professors. Different professors will have different expertise and they may offer you an alternative perspective on your proposal.
Early bird catches the worm
Get to the core of the theory as soon as you can. Identify the key authors and familiarise yourself with their research. Take a good look into your context. If it’s a particular industry, then get to know its key players. If it’s a country, then learn a bit about its history. This will give you a great grounding and will equip you with knowledge that will make writing your proposal easier.
Set deadlines, and STICK TO THEM!!
Your actual dissertation will usually take up two modules in your final year, so you will have a tonne of other stuff going on. Organisation is a major key to success. When you’re abroad there are a lot of distractions, so get into good habits for your final year and start setting deadlines and sticking to them. We found it helpful to have written a good draft two weeks before the submission date. This left plenty of time for editing and fine tuning.
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Picture by Vinoth Chandar under CC license