Consulting Survey, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

There are multiple facets of a research project and each section has its own pitfalls and potential challenges.  While researching a project it is best to limit the amount of potential input outside catalysts have on the research project unless they naturally are needed to produce the results.  Preconceived notions and opinions should be limited and avoided in order to obtain the fouled or tainted results desired from a research project.  Preconceived information may impact the results of the experiment.  Our own experience may subconsciously lead our results toward an end state that may or may not reflect the actual results.  If the experimentation or research was done previously it may or may not have the same results depending on the assumptions and other environmental factors.  Just because a research project was completely in the past it does not mean that the same inputs were used to create the same response.  The personal experience of those performing the research project may impact the results by allowing the actions taken previously to impact the potential results.  Also, while completing a research project, the notion about what the research presumes will happen could sway the results.  It is best to go into a research project and let the results speak for themselves.  The research should provide clean, clear and focused data points that have as little as possible influence from uncontrolled or extraneous variables.  Ultimately the research project needs to have the methodology and focus to provide the deliverables outlined by the researchers or stakeholders of the research project.  The purpose of a research project is to prove, disprove or gain further insight into a problem statement.

The purpose of this study, then, is to explore skills MBA students need to enhance in order to better succeed as they progress through the MBA program.  Also do those skills correlate to the skills and attributes which the Vancouver Island University requires for entry?  This information would provide the data to formulate information to make informed decisions on what areas may need to focus on during their MBA courses and could provide legitimate feedback on the expectations the University is presenting to their students and what is actually required during the MBA program.

 Primary Objectives

  1. To understand what skills current students determine are critical to success during the MBA program at Vancouver Island University.
  2. To determine the relationship between success in the program and the skills required to access the program.
  3. To determine the relationship between success in the program and the skills acquired during the program.
  4. To determine the variability between the entrance requirements and the skills needed to be successful in the MBA program at Vancouver Island University.

To create a research design to focus on the accurate areas and collect the appropriate data points, a method of research design must be selected and implemented.  There are multiple ways to collect and research a project which include observational, correlational, true experiments and quasi-experiments.  Observational is the study of groups as a whole to view the entire aspect of the observational unit.  These types of studies are normally qualitative in nature. This could be a study of a sub-culture in southern Africa to learn their way of life or it could be a study on how cultures acclimate into other cultures in a macro level.  This type of design will play into the observational portion of the research in which the students of Vancouver Island University’s MBA program are studied.  Correlational research design includes the study of two or more covariant.  An example of this would be the correlation between wearing the proper running shoes and foot pain or the study of how long commutes to work impact mood.  The next two areas are very similar in nature.  True experimentation is most closely associated to laboratory experimentation.  This type of research is taking different aspects and manipulating them together or separately and recording their results.  Quasi-Experimentation, while very similar to true experiments, entails the study of naturally formed groups.  If you were to randomly select a group of people some are naturally formed into the same group such as gender or age.  This type of study would be used to study groups that are naturally formed.  The groups of students that are surveyed are naturally formed through their choice of educational institution and present themselves as key points of data that could provide information to the study.

When preparing a research project there are certain assumptions that you must document so that you can help reign in the possibilities and outcomes of the project.  You also want to document the assumptions so that you can understand what assumptions were made and therefore adjust them in the future to help learn more about how the inputs impact the outputs of the research project.

There are certain pitfalls when documenting assumptions.  The first is documenting the wrong assumptions.  An example of documenting the wrong assumptions includes addressing aspects that have no impact on the research at hand.  Assumptions should reflect the research underway and the environment impacting the inputs, outputs and results.  Misusing assumptions can occur when we have a preconceived notion about what an environmental impact may have on our experiment.  By allowing our presumptions on an assumption we may inherently impact the results of the research.  This is in line with over assuming some aspects of the experiment.  By placing too much emphasis on certain aspects of the experiment we may over assume correlation to results when in fact it may have little or no impact to the results occurring.

When researching a project there needs to be as many static inputs into the research equation as possible.  When driving toward a result the less amount of changing variables will help determine what the end result is.  The least amount of uncertainty and flux in the inputs of the research project allows the resulting output to be known and why it has the result.  Dynamic inputs have the inherent ability to change.  These changes could force the research into different outcomes depending on how critical the catalysts are that change.  It is important to know which inputs are dynamic and which are static.  Dynamic inputs should be limited and noted and never mistaken for static inputs.  Static inputs are stable and should be seen as inputs that do not need to be monitored as closely as the dynamic and fragile aspects of the research project. If the assumptions are not documented and controlled, inputs not monitored and the information persuaded by personal judgment the results are in jeopardy and would not be repeatable.  A research project needs to investigate how a system, environment or reaction interact without the interference or input from an outside system.  By viewing the environment without interaction will allow the research to remain untainted and produce the best results.  With the wrong assumptions the entire research project could fall like a house of cards.

Research Methodology

The method of research for this project takes into account the framework of successful research methodology and utilizes a primary research methodology implementing a survey tool, an interview process and an observation of the students currently participating in the MBA course at the Vancouver Island University.  The research data gathering technique used is the survey tool.  The survey tool is used to gather data so that the information can be compiled and analyzed by the researchers.  This information will provide a framework to shed light on the objectives of the research project.  The reason for choosing the survey lies in the fact that the objectives of the research project require information gathering from large samples of the MBA student population which includes not only directly corollary information about the skills necessary to be successful during the MBA program but also key information on demographics, class composition, level of progression in the MBA program and other key attributes of the project.  The information gathered will help create the picture needed to determine the right core competencies and skills necessary to have prior to starting the MBA program as well as the skills necessary to gain during the program.  The survey will be inclusive of the types of variables that are introduced into the research project and will allow a quantitative value to be assigned to the variable.

The specifics of the research gathering techniques included providing a survey with nine questions denoting specific demographic attributes and then focusing on the core requirements of the research project that allows insight into the competencies and requirements of specific skills sets that will allow success in the MBA program.  The survey tool used is a web based program that allows users to login and generate their survey on the user’s time table.  This is important because the person taking the survey must have enough time to take the survey and should be able to have access to take the survey at their convenience.  Have web-based option available allows the user to select their optimal location and time to complete the required information.  The users taking the survey are a representation of the current MBA students attending the Vancouver Island University.  Forty students completed the survey and provided responses to the desired questions.  Forty responses provides the perfect balance between the level of effort required to implement, monitor, analyze and report on the data points and the viability, reliability and representation of the student body of the MBA program at Vancouver Island University.

Analysis and Discussion of Findings

The findings of the research project are divided into two different focal points.  The first five questions develop the foundation for the demographics of the individual that is taking the survey.  This is a critical formulation of data points due to the intrinsic value of knowing the individual that is taking the survey.  For this research, the research team is driving to find the skills needed to be successful during the MBA program and whether or not the skills that are necessary are aligned with the entrance requirements by Vancouver Island University.  By understanding the demographics of the survey’s intended target the research team can harness a better understanding of the type of student that attends the MBA program.  These key areas include age, race, undergraduate focus, and work experience.  The analysis of the first portion of the survey was conducted and many key characteristics emerged.

The breakdown of the student body surveyed included a separation in sex by a 20% margin with males making up 60% and females 40%.  The ages of these individuals were more focused with 75% of the group falling into the 24-29 year old age group with equal distribution of participates falling on each side of that apex.  Chinese students make up the majority in regard to nationality but there is a heavy mixture of multiple nationalities through the study.  This closely resembles the demographics of the Vancouver Island University.  As the progression takes place through the survey there are two final questions regarding demographics and experience.  Below are two charts that depict undergraduate focus and work experience.

The work experience

The work experience shows that there is a separation between the two types of student experience in the classroom.  There are the students with little or no experience that are continuing their education directly or semi-directly from their undergraduate studies and those students that have been in the workforce for more than five consecutive years and are looking to enhance their experience base with education.  This is important to understand because the entrance requirements are not tailored to these two separate types of students that are taking part in the educational process.  Those that are continuing their education may have a tighter grasp and understanding of the educational process and the demands of collegiate life while those that are returning students will have real-life experience that does not always match the text book examples and will also need to adjust to an educational mentality.  The skills necessary to be successful may be learned skills that are earned through experience coupled with skills that come from the educational system.  The last area is the undergraduate focus.  This shows where the students’ knowledge base is derived.  It deduces a scenario on the types of students seeking an MBA as well as the underlying skill set and knowledge the student is coming into the program with.  The underlying knowledge as well as the experience of the student creates the total package to be evaluated for the variation between current skillsets and the skillsets to be successful in the MBA program.

The second portion of the survey derived key information regarding the specific skillsets that were either fundamentally difficult to master and implement during the MBA program or the skillsets that the students thought were applicable for success.  The challenges that were most notably recognized through the survey included the focus area of finance.  By over 40 percentage points the overwhelming response from the students showed that finance was the most difficult area in the entire MBA program.  The reasons behind this evaluation ranged from the deviation from the student’s primary focus of study to have absolutely no finance background prior to taking the courses.  The graph below shows the top three skillsets that the students brought from their work experience.  The top three are soft skills that are imperative in business and include communication skills, teamwork skills and interpersonal abilities.  All of these skills fall into the non-technical arena.

This is an interesting assessment because the top skillset brought from their own experience into the classroom was also in the top three skillsets that were not successfully grasped by the student prior to attending the MBA program.  The top skillsets that were not present but are critical to success include time management, research skills and communication.  The other interesting focal points of this question include those technical areas that were low on both lists because they seem to be already mastered by the students and these include math, computer and presentation skills.

The last question reviewed what the students wished they had learned through their coursework and the top skillsets were research skills, time management and organizational skills.  These were the skillsets that the students wished they had learned during the segments of their coursework that would have allowed them to be more successful.

Conclusions

The research conducted provided a picture into what each type of student brought to the program and what they lacked going into the new experience.  Based on this information there are a few clear indicators regarding the type of skills necessary to be successful.  There were four objectives of this research project.

The first was:

To understand what skills current students determine are critical to success during the MBA program at Vancouver Island University.

The skills students determined to be critical for success include communication and time management skills as well as the ability to conduct research in a more expeditious and thorough manner.

Next:

To determine the relationship between success in the program and the skills required to access the program.

The skillsets needed to gain entry into the program allude to communication skills but other foundational skills are reviewed for admission to the program.  The evaluation and entry criteria ensure that the foundations of the student’s education and experience are adequate to gain drive a positive learning experience during the MBA course.  The skillsets needed to be successful in the MBA program that were outlined by the students are skills that require consistent honing and usage to become proficient.

Thirdly:

To determine the relationship between success in the program and the skills acquired during the program.

The skillsets obtained throughout the course allowed for the students to grow.  There was a shift of the skills the students had regarding communication, teamwork, and interpersonal skill to the skills that the students thought were paramount to the skills that they wished they had learned sooner.  The skills learned during the program revolved around time management and research.  While time management could be learned and honed through business experience the research portion does not play a critical role in most of the experience the students had.

Lastly:

To determine the variability between the entrance requirements and the skills needed to be successful in the MBA program at Vancouver Island University.

The difference between what makes a student successful in the program and what Vancouver Island University sets as entrance criteria are different because they serve different functions.  This difference is inherent in the purpose of each section of the process.  For entrance it is the University’s responsibility to make sure that the foundational elements of education and experience are in place in order to create an environment conducive to success.  During the course each student will be tested and evaluated on many different aspects of business, education and technical skills.  Each area has its own unique function with its own unique skillset demand.

References

Commerce, O. G. C. O. G. (2007). Service design Stationery Office.  Start with security policies, n.d.  Retrieved 8/25/2012, 2012, from http://www.altiusit.com/files/blog/StartWithSecurityPolicies.htm

Highsmith, J. A., & Highsmith, J. (2010). Agile project management, creating innovative products. Addison-Wesley Professional.

Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge. Project Management Inst.

Smith, S. (2011). Don’t fear it assessment. University Business.

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