Pretend that you have an opportunity to apply for money to do a big data project. If
successful you will be given enough money to get data and to get access to appropriate analysis
methods. The winning project will probably be one that is most likely to benefit the most
people. There are no limits on the types of projects that may be proposed. Any area (e.g.,
healthcare, organizational performance, disaster relief) may be used.
The first step in the process (this assignment) is doing a preliminary proposal. This
means that you have a well thought out idea but that you haven’t done the pre-research that is
required of a major proposal
In the sections below I outline the major elements of the preliminary proposal.
A good summary should state the question, its importance, and any major expected
benefits that the research will provide. Benefits include things such as a better understanding of
a customer base, indications of chronic disease, increased market share, cost reduction, etc. This
should be between 100 and 150 words.
This section should provide the background to the general problem (e.g., “Sales in
Auburn, Alabama have been decreasing steadily since the last quarter of 2012. A better
understanding of the characteristics of our customers will provide the organization with an
opportunity to better market our product in this area.”)
The trick with the introduction is to give the reader enough information to keep them
interested. The best way to accomplish this is with direct, supported statements (which you will
later detail) that indicate the problem and its importance. You need to supply the history of the
perceived problem or opportunity, indicate the symptoms of the problem or opportunity, and
introduce the main points that support your position.
A typical organization for an introduction might be:
General statement of problem area or opportunity
Purpose of the study – what are the expected benefits of conducting the study?
Justification of the research (importance and necessity)
What are the primary areas of focus in the study?
The introduction should not exceed one full page.
This is the section in which you go into detail about the factors in and outside of the
organization that serve as the foundation to support the research question. Potential questions
are: What was found previously about this issue if anything? What indications in the
organization led to your idea? What have you done to look deeper into the problem? What
major areas do you intend to address (e.g., keywords in a social media search, personal
characteristics of customers, weather issues and their impact on disaster relief, the spread of
This section should be no more than two full pages.
This is a critical section as it informs the reader how you intend to answer the question or
questions you have just defended. Each type of research project has weaknesses as well as
strengths; it is important to point out what these are in terms of your proposal. Be sure to
indicate how data will be collected (e.g., exists in data warehouse, supplemented with survey,
etc.) and analyzed, as well as how the subjects and/or data will be selected. Be sure that your
proposed methodology for data collection and analysis are in alignment with the analytic
technique. For example, don’t propose to use linear regression with categorical outcome data.
This section will vary according to the proposed project, but I expect it to be somewhere
between one half and one full page.
This is the section in which you have the last chance to convince the reader of the
worthiness of the project and whether it is feasible. Present an anticipated timeline for
completion. Conclude by briefly restating the importance of the research question or questions
and the contribution that this research is expected to make to the organization. Short and sweet!
FORMATTING and WRITING STYLE:
12 point font, 1 inch margins
Write in the first person (I will, etc.).
Be very careful that your spelling and grammar are correct.
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