The use of the first/third person. Qualitative evaluation of research proposal. part 3

After having examined qualitatively the major research proposals weakness in terms of connection with theory and writing style, this post aims to highlight the importance of the person used in academic writing:

Bear in mind that the writing style and the person to be used may vary from one context to another and from one institution to another. However, as far as academic writing is concerned, third person must be used generally. Additionally, the most recognized writing style for social and behavioral sciences, the one provided by the American Psychological Association, also recommends, with some exceptions, the use of third person.

Your research proposals, as well as the research project itself, fall within what is considered academic writing.

The use of first and third person

Although there are exceptions, (for example, if you are discussing a field trip that you personally took in order to conduct research or interviews that you carried out), normally academic writing does not make use of the first person. This means you would not use ‘I’ in your essays. Therefore, instead of writing ‘I will argue’, you might write ‘this research will argue’. The first reason for this is that academic writing must be formal and impersonal.
Consider the difference between these two sentences:

1. ‘In this proposal, I will discuss the reasons why talent estrategy is important to the improvement of Chinese economy

2. “Talent strategy is important to the improvement of Chinesses economy”

Not only is the second sentence more formal because it does not make use of the personal ‘I’, but it is also more direct and thus sounds clearer, more concise, and more academic. Instead of stating that a point will be made, as in the first sentence, the second sentence simply makes the point directly.

The second reason why the use of the first person is discouraged is that it is often redundant (unnecessary). Consider the difference between these two sentences:

1. “I believe that talent strategy is relevant to the improvement of Chinese economy”

2. Talent strategy is relevant to the improvement of Chinese economy”

It is unnecessary to state ‘I believe’. The reader knows that the statement is what the author believes, because the author is writing it in their proposal. Further, which sentence sounds more convincing? The second sentence sounds more convincing because it is direct and straight to the point.

Finally, the use of third person grants objectivity and avoid subjective statements. Academic writing is not about your opinions and feelings. It should be rooted in facts and not fictitious claims.


Writing style. Qualitative evaluation of research proposals. Part 2

Following the index provided in the previous post for a qualitative evaluation of the research proposals performed by the students of the subject Research methods from Faculty of Management and EconomicsGdansk University of Technology (Poland); the current post will focus the point related to writing style.

Four requirements of a good writing emerge from the difference between the two cases you can see below. First of all read carefully both cases and try to find the differences.


Luxury international is defined as “a beyond people’s survival and development needs of the range, with unique, rare, exotic features such as consumer goods, also known as non-necessities. Define in economics. Luxury is the ratio between the highest value and quality products. From another point of view, the luxury is an intangible value and tangible value of the ratio between the highest products. Consumption of luxury goods is an advance consumer behavior. The luxury the word itself has no derogatory. China is one of the largest marketing in the global luxury goods consumption. In 2010, Chinese consumers bought $ 10.7 billion of luxury goods, accounting for a quarter of the global consumer products market.


China is one of the largest marketing in the global luxury goods consumption. In 2010, Chinese consumers bought $ 10.7 billion of luxury goods, accounting for a quarter of the global consumer products market.

For this reason, the study of luxury goods demands has become more popular in China. Some authors suggest that the demand is higher because the GDP has grown considerably over last years. On the contrary, other authors suggest that what has really increased is the social inequality. In other words, the rich people are more and more rich and the poor ones more and more poor.

First of all, what is exactly a luxury good? It may be defined in three different ways:

Luxury product may be defined in three different ways:

1. In terms of personal need: luxury goods are also known as non-necessities and people demand for being unique, exotic or having a especial characteristic.

2. In economic terms: is a good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, and is a contrast to a “necessity good“. Luxury goods are often synonymous with superior goods.

2. In socioeconomic terms: luxury goods have a superior status due to their design, quality, durability or performance that is remarkably superior to the comparable substitutes.


What makes the second case more understandable is:

  1. Shorter sentences. One of the most common handicaps of an undergraduate research proposal is the length of the sentences. Whenever you use a very long sentences, composed by two, three or four sentences connected with no dot (.) or comma (,) but using such links as “which”, “that”, “therefore”, the complexity may make the sentence non understandable. On the contrary, if you construct several sentences, with a basic structure: subject (the research) + verb (aims) + Object (Luxury goods consumers behavior´s study) and supporting yourself with dots and commas the reader will be very grateful.
  2. Shorter paragraphs. Related with the previous one, a too long paragraph may turn out to make too complex the content. You must administrate the number of paragraphs in a way that each one provides a different argument.
  3. Using of connectors. Despite every paragraph must have their own argument, the truth is that all of them must be somehow connected. To do so we can also support our writing by mean connectors such as “for this reason”, “apart from”, “assuming this idea”, “first of all”, “secondly”, “finally”, etc. I will make the writing more understandable and easy for the reader.
  4. Using of list. Whenever you are enumerating a number of items, provide a list of them separately. It will give your writing more “oxygen” and let the reader visualize clearer the main points.
  5. Removal of too complex vocabulary. Try to avoid too complex words. Many people, especially undergraduate, tend to think that using very sophisticated words is a synonymous of major understanding. Far from reality, if you overuse this kind of words you will just make your writing pedantic and ununderstandable.
  6. Use of further explanations. But let´s be honest, sometimes we cannot avoid the use of complex words, simply because we really need them to explain what we want to explain. In this case, do not hesitate to use further explanations, i.e. explaining the same with different words. You construct a subsequent sentence starting by “in other words”, “in other terms”.

Qualitative evaluation of research proposals. Part 1

Apart from a more quantitative evaluation of the research proposals in the previous post What is the most common weakness in formulating a research proposal in this and in the next post you will find a more qualitative examination divided into the next points:

1. Lack of connection with theory.

2. Writing style

3. Person used

4. Clarity, structure and content of the research proposal background.

5. Interconnection between different parts of the proposal (background, research question and objectives)

This post will focus the first point, lack of connection with theory.

As you can appreciate in the quantitative analysis, being linked to theory is likely the most common weakness. But what does being linked to theory mean? It means that your research will not be “alone in the Universe”, that your research will be part of other researchers´ work that has contributed to a major understanding of the reality being studied. In other words, and using the metaphor of a puzzle, you must be able to find a gap to be cover by your “puzzle part”, i.e. by your research.

Unless you are entering an undiscovered cave? (which I do not think is your case taking into account your topic research) #criticallyreviewofliterature will provide you with previous works on your topic. To be more concrete, at this initial stage, you do not even need a very deep review. What you actually need is a so called “preliminary review”. In other words, you must perform a superficial search in some directory, like Google scholar, under the appropriate “keywords”. Actually, among the 11 steps required to do a successfull review of literature, finding keywords is likely the most important.

Have you already identified your keywords?

What are the most common weaknesses in formulating a research proposal?

Assuming as a good research proposal the points suggested in the previous post What is a good research? (excepts those on “are you fascinated with it” and “does it match your career goals” since it depends on you) and after having examined around 17 proposals, here you can see the results obtained from a quantitative approach. Please, note that every category has been rated on a scale from 1 to 3 where 1=low compliance level and 3 high compliance level. Therefore, values ​​close to 3 indicate a high compliance while values close to 1 rather low.

ranking 2

Are you a “explorer” or a “painter” researcher? #researchdesign

If you are not entering a “undiscovered cave” in your research, that is, if you do not need to explore about the nature of some problem simply because it has alrearesizer.phpdy been studied before, perhaps the purpose of your research is basicly descriptive. In other words, you do not need to ask yoursefl “what is happening” because this question has already been answer before and you just need to describe the phenomena.

This kind of research take place when you need a clear picture of the phenomena. So, in this case you will not need a lantern but a painting brush. Your role will consists of collecting certain information and describe it, as a painter does when doing a portrait.

Descriptive studies usually aims to answer “what” research questions. Following our previous post example on wine industry, imaging now that the polish market is actually a mature market, that is, though beer and vodka are more popular drinks, the truth is that over the last years the wine has carved a niche in this country, included Spanish wines. For this reason, after a review of literature you have learnt a lot about Polish delight. Now, what you need is just describe the numbers of wine exportation. For this reason to contact the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Poland and ask for details. Together with it you collect information of the number of wine shops starte up last three years in Poland.

Bear in mind that a descriptive study may be the forerunner of a exploratory study. If after analysing wine industry data you see that the importation in Poland has hardly increase 1% last three years comparing with the 15% of other countries in European Union like Hungary or Romania, you might consider doing also an exploratory study by mean focus group to understand the nature of this phenomena.

The same way, in management it is very common that a descriptive study is the precursor of a explanatory study. What is an explanatory study? Read this other post.

Are you entering an undiscovered cave? #researchdesign

After thinking about your project in terms of research question here it is the turn of thinking over the purpose of your research. In other words: “how the way in which you asked your research question would result in either (1) exploratory, (2) descriptive, (3) explanatory or (4) descripto-explanatory study” (Saunders et al, 2009)jeca-04

The current posts aims to understand exploratory studies. The rest will be addressed in future posts

The same way if you enter a cave that nobody has before set foot, exploratory researches take place when you are entering an unknow territory of knowledge. If your research topic is the use of iPhones among teenagers and after a carefully search of literature you couldn´t find any similar study, you are force to make use of a “lantern” in order to “assess the phenomena in a new light” (Robson, 2002)

This kind of research is very useful if you want to clarify your understanding of a problem because you are not sure of its precise nature. It usually occurs with emerging phenomena. Imaging the next situation: you have enough evidences that the new social networks are changing the relation between workers and managers, but you lack of previous literature to understand “what is happening”. For this reason, you decide to undertake an exploratory study. This study will consist of conducting in-depth interviews among a number of both managers and workers in order to know closely the nature of the phenomena. After several interviews you find that the use of such social media as twitter or facebook or own company messenger let managers to control closely their workers behavior. This may have both negative and positive consequences. Negative as workers could feel inhibited at work but also positive because it can help managers to know closely their workers and be more comprehensive.

But this is also a very common purpose in market research industry. Imaging that your company want to export Spanish wine to Poland. In this country, it is well known that either beer or vodka are more popular drink than wine, but nothing is clear about the Polish delight in wine, and even less in spanish wine. For this reason, the company has contacted a market research agency and they plan to do a focus group in Warsaw. The idea of the research is gathering at least eight people between 18 and 55 years old that do not consume wine usually and another group of eight people at the same age who consume wine at least once a month. During the performance of the group they will be provided different kind of wines in order to know their taste. Both Spanish wine but also other “control” brands from France, Italy and Portugal. Looking at their reactions and opinions, as well as their willingness to consume wine more often you will be able to “entering an undiscovered cave with a good lantern”

In conclusion, exploratory studies aims to  contribute with new knowledge to a field that has not been treated previously and, usually, by mean such techniques as in-depth interviews and focus group. Also, exploratory studies usually asume a inductive approach, i.e. to create a theory after the data collection.


Ibáñez, J. (1979). Más allá de la sociología: El Grupo de Discusión: teoría y crítica. Siglo XXI de España Editores.
Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students. Pearson.
Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.
Are you testing or creating a theory when doing your own research project?

Working at theory level when #formulatingaresearch ?

The research “onion” or how to formulate your #researchdesign

What is Exploratory Testing (