Research Proposal


Course Objective

After having successfully followed this course students are able to:

• To introduce a topic in order to make it fit for research
• To develop a problem definition guided by a research question
• To connect relevant theories to a framework of analysis
• To develop a methodologically sound research design
• To turn the above objectives into a doable research plan

Course Content

In order to be able to see, hear or ‘smell’ culture, the Culture,
Organization and Management (COM) program advocates the use of
interpretivist methods like (participant) observations, ‘shadowing’,
interviewing, document search, etc. leading to analyses of cultural
discourse, narratives, practices and materiality. Methodologically, the
program builds on a long-standing ethnographic fieldwork tradition. This
offers a unique niche within the field of organization and management
studies and enables students to critically study, for instance,
(radical) organizational change, diversity and identity, blurring and
drawing of organizational boundaries, transnational entrepreneurship,
and cross-cultural collaboration.
Organizational ethnographic research requires thorough preparation and
this course has been designed to help students to develop their ideas
and skills for doing fieldwork in organizations through the writing of a
research proposal. Students are stimulated to find an organization of
their choice and develop a research question that can be explored during
the three months of fieldwork. Furthermore the research proposal
contains a section on the contexts in which the chosen organization(s)
operates, a theoretical approach to the research question and concepts
and the methods to be used in the field in order to create an empirical
data base.
Writing the research proposal means that knowledge from a variety of
sources has to be synthesized into a coherent research approach. For
that, students may use what has already been learned in previous courses
and programs, as well as to explore new sources of literature that fit
their objectives. We offer an environment in which students are
encouraged to follow this through.
As from the start of the academic year, students will be stimulated to
think about a suitable organization and topic for their research
project. In period two and three, group meetings and masterclasses by
distinguished scholars will be organized to help students to develop
their ideas further, after which they will be geared to do the actual
writing of their research proposal.

Teaching Methods

Lectures, seminars, masterclasses and study groups (period 2-3) provided
by RP-teaching staff, tuition in small groups (period 2-3) by master
thesis supervisor.

Method of Assessment

The writing of an essay in which a research proposal is presented will
be graded by the master thesis supervisor that has been assigned to the
student. Active participation in class is essential for successful
completion of this course. For this, tasks will be given to support the
process of developing ideas about research and getting access to a
research location.

Students will be graded on an individually written essay (10-15 pages),
reflecting their research proposal which should cover the following
• An introduction to the research topic
• A problem definition, followed by a research question (if needed, with
additional sub questions)
• A concise overview of relevant theoretical perspectives, leading to a
framework of analysis
• An extensive description and reflection on the methods used in the
field, i.e. a research design
• A feasible research plan with an explicit time planning


Bate, S. P. (1997). Whatever happened to organizational anthropology? A
review of the field of organizational ethnography and anthropological
studies. Human Relations, 50(9), 1147-1175
Habraken, J.H.M. (2012). Citing sources according to APA guidelines. A
concise guide. Tilburg: Tilburg University.
Neyland, D. (2008). Organizational Ethnography. Londen: Sage.
Van Maanen, J. (2011). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography.
University of Chicago Press.
Ybema, S., et al., Eds. (2009). Organizational Ethnography; Studying the
Complexities of Everyday Life. London UK, Sage.

Target Audience

MSc COM students

Additional Information

The Thesis Trajectory is the main, continuous study process of the COM
Master. There are two parts: a preparatory phase in the first semester
(Research Proposal), and a field-work & thesis writing part in the
second semester (COM Master Thesis).
The thesis (preparation) trajectory "Research Proposal" starts in
September. Here, students start preparing for the theoretical and
methodological foundations informing doing research in the realm of
organizational culture. Simultaneously, the trajectory entails matching
with supervisors, working in small groups, individual supervision, and
gaining access to 'the' field: an organization or professional context
in which fieldwork will be done in several forms, dependent on projects
and themes offered and prepared for by lecturers.

The thesis trajectory in the second semester entails fieldwork
(research) from February - April, followed by analysis and writing in
May and June - see also "Master Thesis COM"

Custom Course Registration

In this course you can not enroll yourself for the tutorials, but you will be assigned by the course coordinator. Note: You do have to register for the course, with the corresponding parts!

Recommended background knowledge

• Insight in the philosophical bases of organizational research
• Thorough knowledge of qualitative, ethnographic, interpretative
methods of organizational and cultural research

General Information

Course Code S_RP
Credits 6 EC
Period P1+2+3
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator dr. H. Koerten
Examiner dr. H. Koerten
Teaching Staff dr. H. Wels
dr. H. Koerten

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Lecture, Study-group*

*You cannot select a group yourself for this teaching method, you will be placed in a group.