COMMERCE 7037 - Research Methodology (M)

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2020

This course equips students with the awareness and skills to conduct scholarly research at an advanced level. It is based around two interlinked themes - 1. theoretical issues of research (eg philosophy, epistemology, ethics etc) and 2. practical considerations of research design. The first of these provides an essential framework for quality research, necessarily underpinning all professional research activities and guiding participants through a critical journey of engagement with the inevitable limitations and delimitations of research in the 21st Century. Candidates will be introduced to a number of research issues and controversies (eg debates around deductive, inductive and abductive approaches; qualitative and quantitative methods, cross sectional and longitudinal strategies; archival, observational, survey-based or experimental techniques; sampling, data collection, data analysis and dissemination). The course's overall aim is to prepare candidates, more generally, as academic researchers.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code COMMERCE 7037
    Course Research Methodology (M)
    Coordinating Unit Business School
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 36 hours
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Prerequisites At least 2 courses at specialisation level
    Assumed Knowledge At least 2 courses within a specialisation
    Course Description This course equips students with the awareness and skills to conduct scholarly research at an advanced level. It is based around two interlinked themes - 1. theoretical issues of research (eg philosophy, epistemology, ethics etc) and 2. practical considerations of research design. The first of these provides an essential framework for quality research, necessarily underpinning all professional research activities and guiding participants through a critical journey of engagement with the inevitable limitations and delimitations of research in the 21st Century. Candidates will be introduced to a number of research issues and controversies (eg debates around deductive, inductive and abductive approaches; qualitative and quantitative methods, cross sectional and longitudinal strategies; archival, observational, survey-based or experimental techniques; sampling, data collection, data analysis and dissemination). The course's overall aim is to prepare candidates, more generally, as academic researchers.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Peter Sandiford

    Location: Nexus Tower – Room 10.28, 10 Pulteney Street

    Telephone: 8313 2017 (office)

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On completion of this course, successful candidates will be able to:

    1. apply methodological theory to critically evaluate existing research in business and related research.

    2. differentiate between alternative research methodologies, philosophies and strategies in business oriented research and identify their limitations and implications.

    3. explore relevant ethical issues and apply (systematise, defend, recommend and implement) ethical principles to the conduct of scholarly research.

    4. plan, design and conduct a scholarly research project.

    5. reflect critically and transparently on their own research preferences, philosophy and ideology when evaluating existing research and conducting their own investigations.

    6. engage in scholarly discussion and debate within the academic community in the spirit of collegiality.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    2, 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    There are a large number of research methods/methodology texts in business and management (some below). However, no single source provides everything we need in a course like this one. This is partly due to disciplinary and philosophical differences across and within our
    various sub-disciplines (finance, accounting, management, marketing and international business).  So, even within the same discipline we can expect research to vary according to theoretical influences, the purpose (and question) of the research project and researcher preferences. This is so much the case that few scholars are able to agree on what to do or how to do it, when discussing research). So, we do not have a single core text for the course, but will use various different sources, normally available through the library and/or the myuni website. It is also worth bearing in mind that a lot of the issues we will explore in this course are faced by researchers in other fields of social sciences (eg economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, education etc) – after all business is a wholly social activity – so don’t be surprised to see readings from different disciplines to your own. This also reinforces the necessarily inter-disciplinary nature of
    business research, within the even wider field of social research, so candidates are encouraged to read widely across the diverse types of social research during (and after) their program of studies.

    When preparing for your own research project it is particularly important to recognise this need for wider reading. It is very tempting to only rely on written sources within your own discipline, topic area or preferred research method. This would limit your research and development enormously. The best research (and researchers) focus on their research topic/question, while recognising how this fits into the wider
    literature and exploring ideas from other disciplines. So, the management (or marketing, finance, accounting, international business) researcher who only reads management (or etc) research is doomed to present a very limited view of business and, indeed, the world!

    Weekly readings will seek to apply the key ideas introduced here into a more business oriented context. These are taken from the following sources (these sources include ‘required reading’ for the course, but  you are encouraged to explore other books and articles, especially more specialist sources that apply more fully to your own research).


    Clough, P. & Nutbrown, C. (2012) A Student's Guide to Methodology, 3rd Edition, London: Sage.

    This Text can be accessed online through the library; simply search the title in the library catalogue and log in using
    your normal credentials.


    Feest, U. & Steinle, F. (eds.) Scientific Concepts and Investigative Practice, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 1-22

    Another e-book, though this is an edited text, with chapters by different authors. It is accessible direct from the library.


    Saunders, M. Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2016) Research Methods for Business Students, 7th Ed., Harlow, UK: Pearson.

    This is available as an e-text, but can only be accessed by two readers at any one time. There is also one printed copy
    in the library and various other editions are available.


    Strang, K.D. (ed) (2015) The Palgrave Handbook of Research Design in Business and Management, New York: Palgrave.

    The library holds e and paper copies of this text too.


    Williams, M. (2000) Science and Social Science : An Introduction, London: Routledge.

    This is another e-book 


    All these e-books are included in the weekly readings, though you are likely to find their other content useful throughout the course and the whole program. Other individual readings will be specified weekly in myuni.

    Recommended Resources
    There are many student texts and otherscholarly works on research methodology, research philosophy, research ethicsand research methods/techniques. As explained above, candidates are alsoexpected to draw from published research. Various readings will be recommendedduring the course, though candidates are expected, increasingly, to discover,discuss and evaluate sources for themselves during the course. The readings arespecified in the weekly schedule below and these sources are given in full inthe lists above. Most are available from the library as e-books or journalarticles (it is good practice—and very easy—to find these for yourselves (butdo let me know if you have any difficulties). A small number have beendigitized from print copies and these are available from the myuni coursereading folder/ This reading should include, but not belimited to refereed journal articles and monographs in their disciplinary field. Such sources may be methodological in nature, but it is also important to readempirical, review and conceptual/theoretical work through a methodological lensin order to better understand the philosophical and methodological influencesof authors, thus contributing to a more critical approach to reading and‘doing’ scholarly research. 

    Please do remember that this coursecovers a lot of different disciplinary traditions and it is essential for wellrounded researchers to be aware of other traditions and approaches to research.The course includes material relevant across the business disciplines (andbeyond) so this is a good opportunity to develop your understanding well beyondyour own narrow research topic. You will probably find some of the readings andideas presented within the course as challenging, unusual or even bizarre –this is not unusual, but it is essential to recognise that there is almostalways more than one way of understanding a social phenomenon (business is asocial science, after all) and it is rare to find a single ‘right’ answer toany human endeavour!
    Online Learning
    The course utilises MyUni as a communication tool and as the main means for coursework submission and feedback provision. Students should be actively scanning the MyUni course webpage regularly for course updates and additional information.

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This is a challenging and interactive course, providing an introduction to all areas of scholarly research. Research
    methodology is underpinned by a variety of (often conflicting) theories and
    assumptions about human existence and knowledge. The subject itself is complex,
    often controversial and cannot be effectively ‘taught’ or ‘learnt’ in
    traditional didactic lecture sessions. Much of the learning experience is based
    on critical and reflective reading across a variety of disciplines, supported
    by scholarly discussion and debate in the classroom environment; this requires
    all participants to develop an awareness and openness towards alternative ways
    of thinking and research paradigms. It is not necessary to agree with each
    other, but it IS necessary to
    demonstrate scholarly respect for other ways of doing research.


    In order to perform well in this course,
    students will develop some familiarity with and understanding of the relevant
    research theories and concepts covered in class and in the broader literature, enabling
    them to successfully apply these in their written and class-based work.
    Therefore, students are expected to have reviewed the topic to be discussed
    every week and be fully prepared. In addition, it is essential for participants
    to engage in seminar discussions in an informed way. The communication skills
    developed in seminars by regularly and actively participating in discussions
    are considered to be most important by the School and are highly regarded by
    employers and professional bodies.


    Although face-to-face classes will vary
    in approach. After week one, a typical class will normally involve most of the
    following activities:



    Weekly guided preparation (activities
    and/or reading). This will include readings suggested by the tutor and student
    selected weekly seminar readings. Weekly preparation may also include more
    practical activities (especially for the seminar). Class activities assume some
    familiarity with all the readings, although we recognise that some of these
    will be more challenging than others – come prepared to ask about any content
    that you find particularly challenging – in such a broad subject area no-one
    can realistically “know it all”, so there may well be some ideas that we all
    (including lecturers and even professors) struggle with!


    Individualised preparation.


    Each week, every candidate is expected
    to search for, find and analyse a relevant additional reading and come to class
    prepared to introduce the reading to coursemates. This reading should be a
    scholarly piece of work (such as a research article or an edited chapter/conference
    paper or monograph) relevant to the week’s topic. This preparation should,
    whenever possible, focus on the candidate’s own research, although it can also
    represent a follow-up to something you found intriguing, challenging or
    disagreeable from other parts of the course, the program or, indeed, the wider scholarly,
    political, commercial or popular media. The tutor guided reading list reduces
    as the semester develops, based on the expectation that candidates will
    increasingly search out their own readings relevant both to the topic under
    consideration and their own research plans.


    Class content


    Lecturer led introduction to the topic
    (normally including key discussion questions).

    Group discussion of guided readings.

    Individual sharing of additional
    readings/prepared activities.

    Insights and research journal debrief

    Seminar (tutor/participant led)


    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.


    The University expects full-time
    students (i.e. those taking 12 units per semester) to devote a total of 48
    hours per week to their studies. This means that, for this course, you are
    expected to commit approximately 9 hours for private study (i.e., the study
    time outside of your regular classes). Students are required to attend all
    class sessions.

    Learning Activities Summary

    Theme 1: Theorising knowledge and research

         1.  General Introduction to the Course & to Research Methodology.

         2.  Research Philosophy in historical context. Philosophy; epistemology; methodology etc.

         3.  Research Philosophy into the 21st century.

         4.  Philosophical questions; methodological ‘answers’: concepts, epistemology, deductive reasoning; induction; abduction etc.

    Theme 2: Researcher values and ethics

         5.  Defining and theorising Ethics for Research.

         6.  Formalising Ethics for researchers; ethics and risk management

         7.  Researcher values; the value of research. Evaluation research; evaluation of research etc.

    Theme 3 Designing, Planning, Doing and Communicating research

         8.  The role of the literature: conceptual frameworks and contribution

         9.  Research design and planning: problem, aim, objective, question or hypothesis; qualitative or quantitative (or something else      altogether)?

         10. Data issues: negotiating access, data collection, analysis and interpretation, secondary, primary or meta?

         11.  Communicating research: Proposals; Dissemination 

         12.  Applying methodology in practice – from idea to thesis and beyond


    Tentative seminar schedule

    Please note that after seminar 3, candiates will deliver/facilitate seminars, subject to numbers; specific titles/foci will be negotiated with the course coordinator within the broader weekly topic area. 

    Small Group Discovery Experience
    This course assumes team-work between class members as peers, but working as supportive individuals, not as 'a group'. The course is preparation for each student's thesis, so coursework and assessment is, as much as possible, tailored to individual thesis topics.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    Assessment Item


    Due Date

    Learning Outcomes

    Essay (1000 words) 10% Week 3
    Tuesday 3:00pm
    1, 5
    Seminar presentation (45 mins) 20% assigned & negotiated date in-class 5, 6
    Participation 10% weekly, throughout semester 1, 6
    Research Proposal (2500 words) 40% Week 12
    Thursday 5pm
    2, 3, 4
    Research Proposal Presentation (30 mins) 20% SWOT week
    Thursday and Friday
    4, 6
    Total 100%
    Assessment Related Requirements

    In order to pass this course, students must achieve at least 50% overall, and achieve a passing mark of, at least, 50% for their final research proposal.

    Assessment Detail
    In order to pass this course, students must achieve at least 50% overall, and achieve a passing mark of, at least, 50% for their final research proposal.

    Any requests for extension or modification to coursework deadlines and requirements must be made using the appropriate university form (available from the examinations website)

    The assessment components are as follows:

    Individual essay

    You should prepare a short, introductory essay exploring your initial research plans. You have already considered a broad area of interest to pursue with your thesis research (outlined in your application enquiry). This essay requires you to develop your original proposal and introduce your topic area and research objective/questions/problem in relation to the literature. This essay requires you to provide an overview of your research plans concisely, briefly positioning your research within the relevant disciplinary and methodological literature and outlining your chosen research approach; you should carefully justify this approach, drawing from the literature on social research, with a particular focus on the specific context of business, management and/or marketing.

    Essay assessment criteria:

    1. Positioning of research (question, problem, hypothesis etc) within theexisting disciplinary literature.
    2. Selection and critical evaluation of methodological theory.
    3. Quality and relevance of support material (up to a MAXIMUM of 8 RESEARCH references – so it is essential to be selective).
    4. Strength of argument (eg. to explain and justify methodological approach).
    5. Grammar, structure and presentation (clear and concise).

    You should submit the essay on myuni by the submission deadline.


    Seminar Presentation

    Candidates will (individually or in small groups) present a one hour-long seminar to the whole class. Each candidate/group
    will prepare, organise and deliver a relevant seminar based on the weekly topic areas (specified above). These seminars are designed to complement the lecturer-led learning sessions in a particular and specific aspect of the, more general topic area. This gives the class an opportunity to explore a more focused issue/question in rather more depth. It also allows the candidate(s)
    leading the seminar to explore an issue of particular interest and/or relevance to their own research work. There is considerable flexibility in the seminar title/focus, although candidates are recommended to discuss their initial ideas with the course coordinator in advance to ensure their plans are appropriate. Early seminars will be facilitated by the course coordinator, providing
    examples to guide you towards seminar facilitation.

    You should prepare a brief overview ofyour seminar including a brief introduction to the topic, bibliographic details of a single scholarly reading for other participants and possible seminar questions to discuss (maximum one page in total). This should be submitted via
    myuni at least seven days before your seminar, so that it can be posted to the seminar page by the course coordinator. It is your responsibility to ensure that the reading is available electronically, ideally through our library resources. This preparatory overview contributes to assessment criteria 1 and 2 (below). Late penalties (5 marks per day) apply to this material.

    Seminar assessment criteria:

    Preparation and communication of other participants’ preparation requirements

    Quality of reading and any other references utilised

    Construction of seminar question (relevance and scholarly focus)

    Facilitation of discussion and cohesion of seminar

    Articulation of discussion result (session conclusion)


    All candidates are required to prepare carefully and participate in all the learning sessions; attendance alone is insufficient. You are expected to draw from your preparation and wider reading during discussions and volunteer constructive, critical and supportive
    questions, answers and suggestions during formal and informal learning sessions (eg presentations and/or classmate enquiries/reflections.

    Your participation in classroom settings will be assessed by the course coordinator based on the level and quality of your contribution to discussions and activities throughout the course.

    Participation assessment criteria:

    Contribution to discussion

    Participation in learning activities

    Evidence of thorough preparation (guided and independent)


    Research Proposal

    The written proposal is the culmination of your work in this course and provides the basis for your study and the resulting thesis. A well planned proposal is key to conducting high quality research. Although there can be various unforeseeable challenges with any research project, effective planning can help avoid or minimise many of these. As well as course material, your supervisors can provide much advice on this, so do ensure that you seek feedback and advice as you work through the course and prepare your proposal.


    The proposal must include:

    A clear, concise title.

    A short, one paragraph summary.

    Statement of the research problem (this should clearly develop into clearly stated and justified research aim, objectives, questions, hypotheses etc. Not all of these will be specified in the proposal – this will depend on the type of research project).

    Overview of the literature demonstrating where the proposed research will contribute.

    Philosophical and methodological issues relevant to your study (this would normally involve positioning your researcher methodologically and providing a rationale for your overall approach.

    Research design and plan (include details of time-plan, sample, specific methods and techniques, timeplan, limitations etc).

    Overview of the projects ethical issues and consideration of how these can be addressed.



    Assessment criteria for research proposal

    1. Adequate assessment of the literature
    2. Clear identification and justification of research problem
    3. Clear identification of underpinning theoretical or conceptual framework
    4. Justification of proposed methodology within an appropriate philosophical and ethical framework
    5. Proposed data collection and analysis
    6. Quality of written presentation (referencing, grammar, punctuation andclarity)

    You should submit your proposal on myuni within the submission deadline.

    Research Proposal Presentation
    All participants are required to prepare and deliver a short presentation of their research proposal to the school at the end of 1st semester. This is scheduled to take place during the last week of formal classes.


    The main purpose is to obtain valuable feedback and suggestions for improvements to your research design from more
    experienced researchers. The presentations will be relatively short so it is essential for candidates to prepare well (in particular, you should avoid ‘death by overhead’ – keeping visual aids few, , informative, clear and uncluttered); it is a good idea to give a short introduction, outlining your research aim and rationale; a crisp overview of the key literature (ideally showing how your plans ‘fit’ into it; a critical introduction to your methodological approach; clear and specific methods/techniques, with particular attention to planned sampling strategy, data collection and data analysis/interpretation; and, of course, ethical issues and research limitations/delimitations. 

    You will be required to address audience questions at the same time as receiving their feedback/comments. It is a good idea to solicit feedback to particular issues/challenges/questions that have arisen during your preparation – do make good use of your more experienced audience.

    You should prepare a small number of powerpoint slides to support/illustrate your presentation – do take care not to keep these clear, relevant and helpful to the audience. You should upload your slides in a single file to myuni at the latest by 5:00pm on the day preceding your seminar.

    Assessment Criteria for Proposal Presentation:

    1. Critique and appropriateness of content (literature, research aim, methodology, methods etc)
    2. Quality of presentation (clarity, use of appropriate visual aids)
    3. Quality of discussion/questions generated and answered
    1.     All written assignments must be submitted on myuni through the relevant link, preferably each should be submitted as a single word

    2.     Extensions to the due date of written assessments may be granted under special circumstances. An extension request based on illness or on exceptional personal circumstances must be made using the appropriate form (in line with the university’s assessment policy), available from:

    3.     Students applying for an extension based on medical reasons must visit their medical practitioner, with the approved University
    form, and have the medical practitioner complete it.  A normal doctor's certificate will not be accepted.

    4.     Please note that all requests for extensions should be directed in writing to the course coordinator no later than 48 hours before the due date. Extension requests after this time will only be granted for exceptional circumstances. This does not include poor time management or poor file management.

    5.     All assignments are to be lodged at, or prior to, the due date and time.  A late assignment where no extension has been granted will be penalised by a reduction of 5 marks for each day, or part of a day, that it is late.

    6.     Assessment marks will be provided on the course myuni site.  Students are encouraged to check their marks and notify their tutor and the course coordinator of any discrepancies.

    Presentation of Assignments

    1.     Students must retain a copy of all assignments submitted.

    2.     All individual assignments must be attached to an Assignment Cover Sheet that must be signed and dated by the student before
    submission.  Lecturers will withhold students’ results until such time as the student has signed the Assignment Cover Sheet.

    Students may not submit work for an assignment that has previously been submitted for this course or any other course.

    Markers can refuse to accept assignments that do not have a signed acknowledgement of the University’s Policy on Plagiarism:

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.