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How to Write the Rationale of the Study in Research (Examples)
What is the Rationale of the Study?
The rationale of the study is the justification for taking on a given study. It explains the reason the study was conducted or should be conducted. This means the study rationale should explain to the reader or examiner why the study is/was necessary. It is also sometimes called the “purpose” or “justification” of a study. While this is not difficult to grasp in itself, you might wonder how the rationale of the study is different from your research question or from the statement of the problem of your study, and how it fits into the rest of your thesis or research paper.
The rationale of the study links the background of the study to your specific research question and justifies the need for the latter on the basis of the former. In brief, you first provide and discuss existing data on the topic, and then you tell the reader, based on the background evidence you just presented, where you identified gaps or issues and why you think it is important to address those. The problem statement, lastly, is the formulation of the specific research question you choose to investigate, following logically from your rationale, and the approach you are planning to use to do that.
Table of Contents:
How to write a rationale for a research paper , how do you justify the need for a research study.
- Study Rationale Example: Where Does It Go In Your Paper?
The basis for writing a research rationale is preliminary data or a clear description of an observation. If you are doing basic/theoretical research, then a literature review will help you identify gaps in current knowledge. In applied/practical research, you base your rationale on an existing issue with a certain process (e.g., vaccine proof registration) or practice (e.g., patient treatment) that is well documented and needs to be addressed. By presenting the reader with earlier evidence or observations, you can (and have to) convince them that you are not just repeating what other people have already done or said and that your ideas are not coming out of thin air.
Once you have explained where you are coming from, you should justify the need for doing additional research–this is essentially the rationale of your study. Finally, when you have convinced the reader of the purpose of your work, you can end your introduction section with the statement of the problem of your research that contains clear aims and objectives and also briefly describes (and justifies) your methodological approach.
When is the Rationale for Research Written?
The author can present the study rationale both before and after the research is conducted.
- Before conducting research : The study rationale is a central component of the research proposal . It represents the plan of your work, constructed before the study is actually executed.
- Once research has been conducted : After the study is completed, the rationale is presented in a research article or PhD dissertation to explain why you focused on this specific research question. When writing the study rationale for this purpose, the author should link the rationale of the research to the aims and outcomes of the study.
What to Include in the Study Rationale
Although every study rationale is different and discusses different specific elements of a study’s method or approach, there are some elements that should be included to write a good rationale. Make sure to touch on the following:
- A summary of conclusions from your review of the relevant literature
- What is currently unknown (gaps in knowledge)
- Inconclusive or contested results from previous studies on the same or similar topic
- The necessity to improve or build on previous research, such as to improve methodology or utilize newer techniques and/or technologies
There are different types of limitations that you can use to justify the need for your study. In applied/practical research, the justification for investigating something is always that an existing process/practice has a problem or is not satisfactory. Let’s say, for example, that people in a certain country/city/community commonly complain about hospital care on weekends (not enough staff, not enough attention, no decisions being made), but you looked into it and realized that nobody ever investigated whether these perceived problems are actually based on objective shortages/non-availabilities of care or whether the lower numbers of patients who are treated during weekends are commensurate with the provided services.
In this case, “lack of data” is your justification for digging deeper into the problem. Or, if it is obvious that there is a shortage of staff and provided services on weekends, you could decide to investigate which of the usual procedures are skipped during weekends as a result and what the negative consequences are.
In basic/theoretical research, lack of knowledge is of course a common and accepted justification for additional research—but make sure that it is not your only motivation. “Nobody has ever done this” is only a convincing reason for a study if you explain to the reader why you think we should know more about this specific phenomenon. If there is earlier research but you think it has limitations, then those can usually be classified into “methodological”, “contextual”, and “conceptual” limitations. To identify such limitations, you can ask specific questions and let those questions guide you when you explain to the reader why your study was necessary:
- Did earlier studies try but failed to measure/identify a specific phenomenon?
- Was earlier research based on incorrect conceptualizations of variables?
- Were earlier studies based on questionable operationalizations of key concepts?
- Did earlier studies use questionable or inappropriate research designs?
- Have recent changes in the studied problem made previous studies irrelevant?
- Are you studying a new/particular context that previous findings do not apply to?
- Do previous findings only make sense within a specific framework or ideology?
Study Rationale Examples
Let’s look at an example from one of our earlier articles on the statement of the problem to clarify how your rationale fits into your introduction section. This is a very short introduction for a practical research study on the challenges of online learning. Your introduction might be much longer (especially the context/background section), and this example does not contain any sources (which you will have to provide for all claims you make and all earlier studies you cite)—but please pay attention to how the background presentation , rationale, and problem statement blend into each other in a logical way so that the reader can follow and has no reason to question your motivation or the foundation of your research.
Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, most educational institutions around the world have transitioned to a fully online study model, at least during peak times of infections and social distancing measures. This transition has not been easy and even two years into the pandemic, problems with online teaching and studying persist (reference needed) .
While the increasing gap between those with access to technology and equipment and those without access has been determined to be one of the main challenges (reference needed) , others claim that online learning offers more opportunities for many students by breaking down barriers of location and distance (reference needed) .
Rationale of the study
Since teachers and students cannot wait for circumstances to go back to normal, the measures that schools and universities have implemented during the last two years, their advantages and disadvantages, and the impact of those measures on students’ progress, satisfaction, and well-being need to be understood so that improvements can be made and demographics that have been left behind can receive the support they need as soon as possible.
Statement of the problem
To identify what changes in the learning environment were considered the most challenging and how those changes relate to a variety of student outcome measures, we conducted surveys and interviews among teachers and students at ten institutions of higher education in four different major cities, two in the US (New York and Chicago), one in South Korea (Seoul), and one in the UK (London). Responses were analyzed with a focus on different student demographics and how they might have been affected differently by the current situation.
How long is a study rationale?
In a research article bound for journal publication, your rationale should not be longer than a few sentences (no longer than one brief paragraph). A dissertation or thesis usually allows for a longer description; depending on the length and nature of your document, this could be up to a couple of paragraphs in length. A completely novel or unconventional approach might warrant a longer and more detailed justification than an approach that slightly deviates from well-established methods and approaches.
Consider Using Professional Academic Editing Services
Now that you know how to write the rationale of the study for a research proposal or paper, you should make use of our free AI grammar checker , Wordvice AI, or receive professional academic proofreading services from Wordvice, including research paper editing services and manuscript editing services to polish your submitted research documents.
You can also find many more articles, for example on writing the other parts of your research paper , on choosing a title , or on making sure you understand and adhere to the author instructions before you submit to a journal, on the Wordvice academic resources pages.
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Concept Paper vs. Research Proposal – and when to use each
On the surface, concept papers sound like they do the same job as a research proposal – and essentially, they do. Both are designed to communicate the rationale, methodology and outcomes of a proposed piece of work. The difference between the two lies mostly in the level of detail and the potential audience, based on which your approach towards writing each will vary. In this article, we dig deeper into these and recommend when to use which.
Concept paper: Putting your idea to paper
- What : A concept paper verbalises an idea and puts it to paper for the first time. Here, an overall rationale is presented, with a focus on the essential idea and potential impact of the expected outcome(s). However, what you would not include here is much in-depth detail.
- When : Writing a concept paper is most useful when an initial expression of interest is made to either a collaborator or funder – provided the funder has mechanisms for you to do this, like an open call.
- Why : The aim of your concept paper will be to win your audience over with your idea and its potential ramifications.
(For more on concept papers, read: Understanding and developing a concept paper )
Research proposal: Showing how things will get done
Let’s say that through your concept paper, you find funding and collaborators for your proposed research project. You will now get into the nitty gritty of the project with a research proposal, while still keeping it “consumable” enough for a broader audience.
- What : A research proposal builds on a concept paper by now including aspects like key deliverables, milestones and specific outcomes, as well as how you plan to achieve these.
- When : You will typically send a research proposal to sources of funding of an open nature, i.e. those that do not require a standardised form to be filled in, as is often the case with institutional internal funding or private investors.
- Why : It is not necessary for you to first send someone a concept paper and follow it up with a proposal. However, you may often need to follow this sequence in order to provide only ‘need to know’ material depending on the stage of your relationship with potential partners.
( For more on research proposals, read: Writing a successful research proposal )
When both are needed, a concept paper precedes a research proposal
Deciding between a concept paper and a research proposal
Whether you send someone a concept paper or a research proposal depends entirely on two things:
- Your existing relationship with whomever you are reaching out to
- What you are trying to achieve
If you are emailing an organisation or individual for the first time, you are more likely to receive a response by attaching a brief, snappy concept paper that is easily read by a multitude of people. On the other hand, some larger organisations, such as pharmaceutical companies, are very used to seeing full-fledged research proposals and may have a portal on their website where you would need to upload one, enabling them to skip the preliminary step of vetting your work through a concept paper.
Our recommendation : Given how pressed many people are for time these days, it would be prudent to send concept papers more frequently than research proposals. If more information is required, you will be asked for it.
Concept papers and research proposals do very similar things, but set out and achieve very different aims. They are often sent in sequence – the concept paper first, followed by the research proposal. The need for a research proposal arises when the concept paper has achieved its mark – when, for example, more information is required for a funding decision to be reached, or due diligence is to be performed, as a result of your concept paper gaining preliminary acceptance. Following up with a research proposal fills in the gaps and will aid in answering questions arising from the concept paper.
Read previous (second) in series: Writing a successful Research Proposal
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How to Write a Concept Paper
How do you write a concept paper? Why is there a need to write one before writing a full-blown thesis proposal? How do you write a concept paper?
This article explains why a concept paper is important before writing a full-blown research paper. It also provides a step-by-step approach on how to write it.
I once browsed the internet to look for information on how to write a concept paper. It took me some time to find the information I wanted. I did find some, but I am not entirely satisfied with those explanations. The explanation and discussion are either too short or vaguely explain the concept paper.
Preparing a concept paper entails different approaches, but I somehow drew some principles from these readings. I wrote a concept paper in compliance with a request to come up with one. Nobody complained about the output that I prepared.
I remembered once again when a colleague asked me the other day to explain a concept paper and how to write it. He needs this information because students have been asking him how to write it.
To him and his students, I dedicate this article.
What is a Concept Paper and Why Do You Need It?
Before going into the details on how to write a concept paper, let me explain what a concept paper is and why you need it.
A concept paper serves as a prelude to writing a full-blown manuscript.
What do you consider a full-blown write-up? It could be a thesis, a program, a project, or anything that will require a longer time to prepare.
In essence, a concept paper embodies your ideas on a particular topic or item of interest. The concept paper saves time because your thesis or review panel may say that your concept is not worth pursuing.
A concept paper should consist only of 1 or 2 pages. Alternatively, if you want to deal with complex issues that require expounding on the ideas, it can go up to 5 pages.
For example, as a student, you will be asked to prepare your concept paper before writing your thesis proposal. This task means that you need to develop an idea and express it for others to understand. The central idea of that concept paper is your thesis statement .
You may glean from either your experience or from your literature review. Of course, your topic should be within your respective area of specialization. It makes sense to be an expert in your field.
If you are a computer science student, you might want to study the behavior of wi-fi signals bounced to different kinds of material . Alternatively, maybe you wish to create a simple gadget to concentrate signals for a portable USB wi-fi connection to improve its performance.
Or perhaps you would like to find out the optimum cache size for the most exceptional browsing experience on the internet. The list could go on.
How Do You Write a Concept Paper?
As I mentioned a while ago, there is no hard and fast rule on how to write a concept paper. It is not desirable to have a format, as your ideas tend to be limited. You may miss some critical points.
The ultimate goal is for you to be able to express your intention. What do you want to do or achieve?
How should you write the concept paper as a prelude to a thesis? What should it contain?
A concept paper must have at least the following elements:
1. A Rationale
You explain here why you need to undertake that thesis proposal of yours. You can ask yourself the following questions:
What prompted you to prepare the concept paper? Why is the issue of such importance? What should you be able to produce out of your intended study?
2. A Conceptual Framework
A conceptual framework serves as your guide in working on your idea. It is like a map to follow to arrive at your destination.
An excellent way to develop one is to do a mind-mapping exercise. That brings up another thing, what is mind mapping anyhow?
A mind map is simply a list of keywords that you can connect to clarify an individual issue. It is our subconscious’ way of analyzing things. We tend to associate things with other things. This tendency relates to how we recall past experiences.
In the field of computers, we have the so-called “links” that connect commands in a computer module to make an application program work.
How does mind mapping work?
You have to come up with a word, for example, that will help you start. You can begin with an issue on computers and, from there, generate other ideas that connect with the previous one.
The following video explains how to build a mind map using XMind, my favorite mind mapping tool.
3. Your Hypothesis
Once the idea of the conceptual framework is quite clear to you, write your hypothesis. A hypothesis is just your expected output in conducting the study. It arises from the conceptual framework that you have prepared.
Once you have identified the specific variables you would like to study, ask yourself the following questions:
- How are the variables related?
- Does one variable affect another? Alternatively, are they related at all?
A quick review of relevant and updated literature will help you identify which variables matter.
Nowadays, it’s easy to find articles on your topic using the internet, that is, if you know how to do it. You can start by going to doaj.org , a directory of open access journals. And of course, Google Scholar is an indispensable source of scientific articles. Just find the best and relevant ones for your literature review.
Example of Hypotheses
Considering the issues raised a while ago, the following null hypotheses can serve as your hypotheses:
1. There is no significant difference in wi-fi signal behavior between wood and metal.
2. There is no significant difference in browsing speed between a ten MB cache and a 100 MB cache storage setting using Mozilla Firefox.
At this point, you may already have a better idea of how to prepare a concept paper before working on a full-blown thesis proposal.
If you find this discussion worthwhile, or you would like to clarify further the discussion above, your feedback is welcome.
© 2012 October 31 P. A. Regoniel | Updated: 12/5/21
Thesis writing: 9 tips on how to write the results and discussion, five memory improvement tips for researchers, 5 time management strategies for researchers, about the author, patrick regoniel.
Dr. Regoniel, a faculty member of the graduate school, served as consultant to various environmental research and development projects covering issues and concerns on climate change, coral reef resources and management, economic valuation of environmental and natural resources, mining, and waste management and pollution. He has extensive experience on applied statistics, systems modelling and analysis, an avid practitioner of LaTeX, and a multidisciplinary web developer. He leverages pioneering AI-powered content creation tools to produce unique and comprehensive articles in this website.
very good clue about concept paper, Thank you too.
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How to write an effective concept paper?
Concept paper, meaning
A concept paper refers to an academic or research paper that is written with the primary purpose of identifying and explaining an idea or a concept related to a particular scholarly field or discipline before conducting a research. It is an unbiased research written in the form of a theory or hypothesis using relevant and impartial methods of research. It unravels and explains the positive and negative aspects of a research study utilizing various opposing theories to reveal gaps and criticisms.
In technical terms, a concept paper provides an overview of the project. Concept paper helps us to have a detailed knowledge on what is the process of paper works, projects, business proposals, research paper, etc. Concept paper is very useful for both students during university projects and entrepreneurs working on a business proposal.
What is concept paper in research?
A concept paper in research or academia refers to a critical and detailed summary of a research project by reflecting the interest and issues pertinent to a particular academic field or study. In academia, concept papers are usually written by a university student who is on the verge of conducting a research. A concept paper outlines the research about to be conducted with the purpose to have a structured goal and direction while conducting research.
Concept papers are also known to be rare proposals, which on average consists of 5000 words or less and is considered the first crucial step in proposal development. It is written by a professional, student, or a researcher in an institution or organization with the intention of providing a brief summary about a research project during the course of being conducted. It forms an assessment of an idea in a balanced manner, giving an in-depth explanation of a particular idea.
What is a concept paper in general?
1. It clarifies a concept: Dissecting or breaking ideas into parts to give a collective idea about a concept.
2. It conveys the essence of an idea and explains it.
Point of view
There are two types of point of view in a concept paper
- Subjective (personal) – light, informal, familiar, or literary: This point of view is usually found in newspaper articles where the information presented is informal for the reason that the audience can understand the language easily and enjoy having a brief overview or general idea about a particular subject without the need to emphasize deep learning. For example, articles that present concepts related to everyday living, such as inspirational philosophy written with the purpose to correlate with the common man.
- Objective (impersonal) – serious, formal, or literary: Objective point of view refers to information that is mostly part of academic journals, academic books, and scholarly magazines that are written and presented in a highly analytical tone. For example, journal essays, articles based on philosophy, or any subject related to the academic discipline that is written with the purpose of study and reflects subject-matter expertise, contributing to scientific discussions and theories. It involves enumerating of parts, structure, levels, stages, etc. of the concept being dealt with, as well as explaining of various supporting details and stating of implications.
How to create a concept paper?
A concept paper requires an academic format to structure and follow in order to explain a concept appropriately. The following consists of 11 fundamental ways on how a writer can explain an idea or concept in a professional and organized manner.
Patterns of development
1. Defining: Giving the meaning of the concept
2. Describing: Characterizing the concept by providing its characteristics.
3. Comparing: Equating with other concepts to ascertain similarities between concepts.
4. Making an analogy: This is similar to comparing, but also includes any deduction about of what has been compared.
5. Contrasting: Pairing or linking it with another concept with the purpose of identifying the differences between the concepts.
6. Classifying: Arranging concepts into groups, based on ways they are alike.
7. Illustrating: Giving proof or evidence, so the reader could understand the concept.
8. Narrating: Talking about the concept elaborately in a narrative manner.
9. Explaining a process: Explaining the different aspects of the process.
10. Analyzing cause and effect: Giving a critical explanation about the causes and effects of the idea or concept.
11. Listing: Enumerating, trying to take a rundown about what these kinds of concepts are.
These patterns of developments are necessary so that the reader of your academic paper can understand with much ease, such as your arguments or not necessarily arguments but the definitions or the ideas you wish to either explain or extrapolate in your paper.
Examples of a concept paper
The following is an example of an explanation of a concept (as part of a concept paper):
“There are five main types of food chemicals: Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrates include such things as sugars and starches and consists of carbon and hydrogen only. Fats contain oxygen and are found in dairy products and fatty meats. Together, carbohydrates and fats form the main energy-giving part of the human diet.
A protein contains nitrogen as well as carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Every day, more than 1 million cells die in the human body, but the proteins carefully rebuild them. Proteins are found in foods such as meats, eggs, and cheese.”
As you can see, the author of the short selection is trying to explain something about food chemicals by classifying them into carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The author then directed himself (or herself) to explain food chemicals by breaking down what makes up such food chemicals. He goes on by explaining the sub-ideas, just so he or she could give more insight on what food chemicals are and what they do to the human body.
It is evident that there is no added reaction to or reflection on how the selection has been written. Everything is pure and simple definition of terms and explanations. This goes to show that concept paper in its plain sense is more of a discussion-type written work by following the necessary steps on how to write an academic paper.
Why concept paper is important
Concept papers are known for their use in different fields such as business, sciences, technology, and academics. Specifically, this output can be used while preparing for a business proposal, product, or research proposal. These are the reasons which gives concept paper its significance.
The following points provide benefits of a concept paper to understand its value and importance as well as clarification on when to write a concept paper:
1. Clarification of product value: Using a concept paper can help define the importance of a certain product feature or research development. Also, the product or research impact on society and economy can be discussed and explained in this output.
2. A better definition of the duties and responsibilities: A concept paper helps to identify the main stakeholders involved in the project. Starting with the sponsor, who will then pick the project leader, who then assembles the core team and supporting teams at the start of the project. Creating the necessary stability inflow to facilitate the execution.
3. Improvement in communication: A concept paper is an expression of what leaders, sponsors, and the core team have in mind. It involves sharing information with those who will support the project by creating the necessary engagement and communication with those who are not fully dedicated to the project.
4. Maintaining focus during the execution: A timeline is clearly defined and visualized in concept papers. These allow teams to keep the project on track and maintain the discipline of daily management routines, designer views, and event management.
Always take into consideration that the flow of a concept paper depends on what kind of output you are working on.
Why write a concept paper?
A concept paper has several uses:
1. First, it is the basis of the full proposal.
2. Second, it helps determine whether a certain project is attainable or not.
3. Third, it is used to draw the interest of a potential funding agency or client.
4. Lastly, it is used to receive informal feedback on the ideas during the discourse of preparing a full proposal.
In short, a concept paper is a preliminary document for a proposal. It shows a preview of the improvement that the proposer would like to implement.
Additional information on explaining a concept:
There are three ways of explaining a concept
1. Definition – It is a method of identifying a given term and making its meaning clearer: its main purpose is to clarify and explain concepts, ideas, and issues.
Definition can be presented in 3 ways: informal, formal, or extended.
1. Information definition – Done through brief explanation.
2. Formal definition – Explains a term by indicating where that term came from and the quality that makes the term different from others.
3. Extended definition – It is composed of at least one paragraph, providing full description and complete information.
To better present an idea, one should identify the important elements contained in a definition: for example, as defined, for instance, meaning, to define, for example, is defined as, such as, to illustrate.
2. Explication – It is a method of explanation in which sentences, verses, quotes, or passages are taken for a literary or academic work and then interpreted and explained in a detailed manner.
3. clarification – it is a method in which the points are organized from a general abstract idea to specify and concrete examples are given., parts of a concept paper .
A concept paper usually ranges from 500 to 2000 words. The following sections discussed in a concept paper comprise the content of the paper.
Two outlines of concept paper:
1. concept paper for a project.
Use the following structure when you want to present a business project:
1. Cover page
- State the name of the proponents and their affiliations.
- State the personal data of the proponents.
- State the date of submission and the head of that project.
- Present what the topic contains and why they need to support the project.
3. Rationale or background
- State the importance of the project and what are the problems that need solution.
4. Project description
- Provide the goals and objectives of the project, timeline expressed in months and years, as well as the benefits and the possible outcome.
- State the methodology (action, planning, project activities, or approach).
5. Project needs and cost
- State the outline of the main budget, the description, and the amount.
- Explain how the budget will be used.
- List the personnel or equipment needed for the project.
2. Concept paper for academic research
Use the following structure to present an idea or concept for a research you would like to pursue.
1. Title page
- State the proponent’s name, institution, the title of the project, and date of submission.
2. Background of the study
- Provide the current state of the field you are researching on, knowledge and problems to be addressed by the research.
- Supply the site of the previous study that can prove your claims, and the reason why you want to investigate the topic.
3. Preliminary literature review
- Provide a theoretical framework, related literature that supports your topic.
4. Statement of the problem/objectives
- State the general problem in one sentence, including the research questions and objectives.
5. Abridged methodology
- Provide the data analysis scheme to be used, data collection procedure, instruments to be used, and the participants of the study
- Provide a timeline that is set in months and years.
- Provide the list of all sources like books, journals, and other resources cited in your paper.
Guidelines in writing a concept paper
1. Cost and methodology should be reasonable.
2. The budget, methodology, and timeline should be clearly mentioned.
3. Use statistics and figures when discussing the rationale for the project.
4. Use no more than 5 pages (single-paced) excluding the cover page. Do not overwhelm the readers with unnecessary details.
5. Never request funding for planning the proposal.
6. Adjust your language based on the intended readers. You may use technical terms for target readers composed of scholars and scientists. However, refrain from using jargon when your targeted readers are not professionals or experts.
7. Include the overview of the budget if it is required. If not, then skip the budget section. Instead, you may simply include the type of support you require or need, such as personnel, travel expenses, and communication equipment.
8. Be sure that the basic format details are incorporated, such as page numbers.
9. Cite your references.
The aforementioned analysis will help readers to write effective concept papers for business project and academic research papers.
How to write an effective literature review for academic publishing – Author Assists Blog
Difference between thesis and dissertation: Main components of writing an effective thesis paper – Author Assists Blog
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Setting Rationale in Research: Cracking the code for excelling at research
Knowledge and curiosity lays the foundation of scientific progress. The quest for knowledge has always been a timeless endeavor. Scholars seek reasons to explain the phenomena they observe, paving way for development of research. Every investigation should offer clarity and a well-defined rationale in research is a cornerstone upon which the entire study can be built.
Research rationale is the heartbeat of every academic pursuit as it guides the researchers to unlock the untouched areas of their field. Additionally, it illuminates the gaps in the existing knowledge, and identifies the potential contributions that the study aims to make.
Table of Contents
What Is Research Rationale and When Is It Written
Research rationale is the “why” behind every academic research. It not only frames the study but also outlines its objectives , questions, and expected outcomes. Additionally, it helps to identify the potential limitations of the study . It serves as a lighthouse for researchers that guides through data collection and analysis, ensuring their efforts remain focused and purposeful. Typically, a rationale is written at the beginning of the research proposal or research paper . It is an essential component of the introduction section and provides the foundation for the entire study. Furthermore, it provides a clear understanding of the purpose and significance of the research to the readers before delving into the specific details of the study. In some cases, the rationale is written before the methodology, data analysis, and other sections. Also, it serves as the justification for the research, and how it contributes to the field. Defining a research rationale can help a researcher in following ways:
1. Justification of a Research Problem
- Research rationale helps to understand the essence of a research problem.
- It designs the right approach to solve a problem. This aspect is particularly important for applied research, where the outcomes can have real-world relevance and impact.
- Also, it explains why the study is worth conducting and why resources should be allocated to pursue it.
- Additionally, it guides a researcher to highlight the benefits and implications of a strategy.
2. Elimination of Literature Gap
- Research rationale helps to ideate new topics which are less addressed.
- Additionally, it offers fresh perspectives on existing research and discusses the shortcomings in previous studies.
- It shows that your study aims to contribute to filling these gaps and advancing the field’s understanding.
3. Originality and Novelty
- The rationale highlights the unique aspects of your research and how it differs from previous studies.
- Furthermore, it explains why your research adds something new to the field and how it expands upon existing knowledge.
- It highlights how your findings might contribute to a better understanding of a particular issue or problem and potentially lead to positive changes.
- Besides these benefits, it provides a personal motivation to the researchers. In some cases, researchers might have personal experiences or interests that drive their desire to investigate a particular topic.
4. An Increase in Chances of Funding
- It is essential to convince funding agencies , supervisors, or reviewers, that a research is worth pursuing.
- Therefore, a good rationale can get your research approved for funding and increases your chances of getting published in journals; as it addresses the potential knowledge gap in existing research.
Overall, research rationale is essential for providing a clear and convincing argument for the value and importance of your research study, setting the stage for the rest of the research proposal or manuscript. Furthermore, it helps establish the context for your work and enables others to understand the purpose and potential impact of your research.
5 Key Elements of a Research Rationale
Research rationale must include certain components which make it more impactful. Here are the key elements of a research rationale:
By incorporating these elements, you provide a strong and convincing case for the legitimacy of your research, which is essential for gaining support and approval from academic institutions, funding agencies, or other stakeholders.
How to Write a Rationale in Research
Writing a rationale requires careful consideration of the reasons for conducting the study. It is usually written in the present tense.
Here are some steps to guide you through the process of writing a research rationale:
After writing the initial draft, it is essential to review and revise the research rationale to ensure that it effectively communicates the purpose of your research. The research rationale should be persuasive and compelling, convincing readers that your study is worthwhile and deserves their attention.
How Long Should a Research Rationale be?
Although there is no pre-defined length for a rationale in research, its length may vary depending on the specific requirements of the research project. It also depends on the academic institution or organization, and the guidelines set by the research advisor or funding agency. In general, a research rationale is usually a concise and focused document.
Typically, it ranges from a few paragraphs to a few pages, but it is usually recommended to keep it as crisp as possible while ensuring all the essential elements are adequately covered. The length of a research rationale can be roughly as follows:
1. For Research Proposal:
A. Around 1 to 3 pages
B. Ensure clear and comprehensive explanation of the research question, its significance, literature review , and methodological approach.
2. Thesis or Dissertation:
A. Around 3 to 5 pages
B. Ensure an extensive coverage of the literature review, theoretical framework, and research objectives to provide a robust justification for the study.
3. Journal Article:
A. Usually concise. Ranges from few paragraphs to one page
B. The research rationale is typically included as part of the introduction section
However, remember that the quality and content of the research rationale are more important than its length. The reasons for conducting the research should be well-structured, clear, and persuasive when presented. Always adhere to the specific institution or publication guidelines.
Example of a Research Rationale
In conclusion, the research rationale serves as the cornerstone of a well-designed and successful research project. It ensures that research efforts are focused, meaningful, and ethically sound. Additionally, it provides a comprehensive and logical justification for embarking on a specific investigation. Therefore, by identifying research gaps, defining clear objectives, emphasizing significance, explaining the chosen methodology, addressing ethical considerations, and recognizing potential limitations, researchers can lay the groundwork for impactful and valuable contributions to the scientific community.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A rationale of the study can be written by including the following points: 1. Background of the Research/ Study 2. Identifying the Knowledge Gap 3. An Overview of the Goals and Objectives of the Study 4. Methodology and its Significance 5. Relevance of the Research
Start writing a research rationale by defining the research problem and discussing the literature gap associated with it.
A research rationale can be ended by discussing the expected results and summarizing the need of the study.
A rationale for thesis can be made by covering the following points: 1. Extensive coverage of the existing literature 2. Explaining the knowledge gap 3. Provide the framework and objectives of the study 4. Provide a robust justification for the study/ research 5. Highlight the potential of the research and the expected outcomes
A rationale for dissertation can be made by covering the following points: 1. Highlight the existing reference 2. Bridge the gap and establish the context of your research 3. Describe the problem and the objectives 4. Give an overview of the methodology
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How to Write the Rationale for a Research Paper
- Research Process
- Peer Review
A research rationale answers the big SO WHAT? that every adviser, peer reviewer, and editor has in mind when they critique your work. A compelling research rationale increases the chances of your paper being published or your grant proposal being funded. In this article, we look at the purpose of a research rationale, its components and key characteristics, and how to create an effective research rationale.
Updated on September 19, 2022
The rationale for your research is the reason why you decided to conduct the study in the first place. The motivation for asking the question. The knowledge gap. This is often the most significant part of your publication. It justifies the study's purpose, novelty, and significance for science or society. It's a critical part of standard research articles as well as funding proposals.
Essentially, the research rationale answers the big SO WHAT? that every (good) adviser, peer reviewer, and editor has in mind when they critique your work.
A compelling research rationale increases the chances of your paper being published or your grant proposal being funded. In this article, we look at:
- the purpose of a research rationale
- its components and key characteristics
- how to create an effective research rationale
What is a research rationale?
Think of a research rationale as a set of reasons that explain why a study is necessary and important based on its background. It's also known as the justification of the study, rationale, or thesis statement.
Essentially, you want to convince your reader that you're not reciting what other people have already said and that your opinion hasn't appeared out of thin air. You've done the background reading and identified a knowledge gap that this rationale now explains.
A research rationale is usually written toward the end of the introduction. You'll see this section clearly in high-impact-factor international journals like Nature and Science. At the end of the introduction there's always a phrase that begins with something like, "here we show..." or "in this paper we show..." This text is part of a logical sequence of information, typically (but not necessarily) provided in this order:
Here's an example from a study by Cataldo et al. (2021) on the impact of social media on teenagers' lives.
Note how the research background, gap, rationale, and objectives logically blend into each other.
The authors chose to put the research aims before the rationale. This is not a problem though. They still achieve a logical sequence. This helps the reader follow their thinking and convinces them about their research's foundation.
Elements of a research rationale
We saw that the research rationale follows logically from the research background and literature review/observation and leads into your study's aims and objectives.
This might sound somewhat abstract. A helpful way to formulate a research rationale is to answer the question, “Why is this study necessary and important?”
Generally, that something has never been done before should not be your only motivation. Use it only If you can give the reader valid evidence why we should learn more about this specific phenomenon.
A well-written introduction covers three key elements:
- What's the background to the research?
- What has been done before (information relevant to this particular study, but NOT a literature review)?
- Research rationale
Now, let's see how you might answer the question.
1. This study complements scientific knowledge and understanding
Discuss the shortcomings of previous studies and explain how'll correct them. Your short review can identify:
- Methodological limitations . The methodology (research design, research approach or sampling) employed in previous works is somewhat flawed.
Example : Here , the authors claim that previous studies have failed to explore the role of apathy “as a predictor of functional decline in healthy older adults” (Burhan et al., 2021). At the same time, we know a lot about other age-related neuropsychiatric disorders, like depression.
Their study is necessary, then, “to increase our understanding of the cognitive, clinical, and neural correlates of apathy and deconstruct its underlying mechanisms.” (Burhan et al., 2021).
- Contextual limitations . External factors have changed and this has minimized or removed the relevance of previous research.
Example : You want to do an empirical study to evaluate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the number of tourists visiting Sicily. Previous studies might have measured tourism determinants in Sicily, but they preceded COVID-19.
- Conceptual limitations . Previous studies are too bound to a specific ideology or a theoretical framework.
Example : The work of English novelist E. M. Forster has been extensively researched for its social, political, and aesthetic dimensions. After the 1990s, younger scholars wanted to read his novels as an example of gay fiction. They justified the need to do so based on previous studies' reliance on homophobic ideology.
This kind of rationale is most common in basic/theoretical research.
2. This study can help solve a specific problem
Here, you base your rationale on a process that has a problem or is not satisfactory.
For example, patients complain about low-quality hospital care on weekends (staff shortages, inadequate attention, etc.). No one has looked into this (there is a lack of data). So, you explore if the reported problems are true and what can be done to address them. This is a knowledge gap.
Or you set out to explore a specific practice. You might want to study the pros and cons of several entry strategies into the Japanese food market.
It's vital to explain the problem in detail and stress the practical benefits of its solution. In the first example, the practical implications are recommendations to improve healthcare provision.
In the second example, the impact of your research is to inform the decision-making of businesses wanting to enter the Japanese food market.
This kind of rationale is more common in applied/practical research.
3. You're the best person to conduct this study
It's a bonus if you can show that you're uniquely positioned to deliver this study, especially if you're writing a funding proposal .
For an anthropologist wanting to explore gender norms in Ethiopia, this could be that they speak Amharic (Ethiopia's official language) and have already lived in the country for a few years (ethnographic experience).
Or if you want to conduct an interdisciplinary research project, consider partnering up with collaborators whose expertise complements your own. Scientists from different fields might bring different skills and a fresh perspective or have access to the latest tech and equipment. Teaming up with reputable collaborators justifies the need for a study by increasing its credibility and likely impact.
When is the research rationale written?
You can write your research rationale before, or after, conducting the study.
In the first case, when you might have a new research idea, and you're applying for funding to implement it.
Or you're preparing a call for papers for a journal special issue or a conference. Here , for instance, the authors seek to collect studies on the impact of apathy on age-related neuropsychiatric disorders.
In the second case, you have completed the study and are writing a research paper for publication. Looking back, you explain why you did the study in question and how it worked out.
Although the research rationale is part of the introduction, it's best to write it at the end. Stand back from your study and look at it in the big picture. At this point, it's easier to convince your reader why your study was both necessary and important.
How long should a research rationale be?
The length of the research rationale is not fixed. Ideally, this will be determined by the guidelines (of your journal, sponsor etc.).
The prestigious journal Nature , for instance, calls for articles to be no more than 6 or 8 pages, depending on the content. The introduction should be around 200 words, and, as mentioned, two to three sentences serve as a brief account of the background and rationale of the study, and come at the end of the introduction.
If you're not provided guidelines, consider these factors:
- Research document : In a thesis or book-length study, the research rationale will be longer than in a journal article. For example, the background and rationale of this book exploring the collective memory of World War I cover more than ten pages.
- Research question : Research into a new sub-field may call for a longer or more detailed justification than a study that plugs a gap in literature.
Which verb tenses to use in the research rationale?
It's best to use the present tense. Though in a research proposal, the research rationale is likely written in the future tense, as you're describing the intended or expected outcomes of the research project (the gaps it will fill, the problems it will solve).
Example of a research rationale
Research question : What are the teachers' perceptions of how a sense of European identity is developed and what underlies such perceptions?
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Burhan, A.M., Yang, J., & Inagawa, T. (2021). Impact of apathy on aging and age-related neuropsychiatric disorders. Research Topic. Frontiers in Psychiatry
Cataldo, I., Lepri, B., Neoh, M. J. Y., & Esposito, G. (2021). Social media usage and development of psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence: A review. Frontiers in Psychiatry , 11.
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Cohen, l, Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2018). Research methods in education . Eighth edition. London: Routledge.
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