5. Research Proposal – Management Research Methodology: Integration of Principles, Methods and Techniques

CHAPTER 5

Research Proposal

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Upon completion of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of the research proposal in the overall research flow
  • List the objectives and types of research proposals
  • Write a research proposal
  • Evaluate a research proposal
  • Understand the legal and ethical aspects of research

Research proposal

When a researcher needs approval and/or financial support for an intended research, he prepares a formal proposal and submits it to an appropriate approving/sponsoring authority. It is a bid for undertaking research. The proposal is the form of a research design, which is the blueprint for conducting and controlling research. It can also be considered a research plan or a research project.

Making a research proposal and getting it approved and supported may appear to be an administrative activity rather than a step in the process of research, but it is not so. Therefore, it is necessary to define research proposal as an integral part of the general research flow. Figure 5.1 details the process of research in three stages: (i) The preliminary investigation stage in the first step, at the end of which a research problem is defined with a great degree of confidence. It may also be derived from the study of the actual problem of a manager or from a feasibility or an exploratory study carried out on the scientist’s perceptual formulation of the research problem. (ii) When the problem becomes clear, the next step of the process is research planning, comprising research design (the technical planning of the details of the research process) and the managerial portion of planning to obtain resources, in terms of outside help, equipment, scientific manpower, time and funds. Every research requires resources, the allocation of which must be planned in advance. (iii) After obtaining approval of research proposal and resources, research activities can be initiated and executed as per the design and within the framework of control by the funding agency. The form and content of the research proposals vary depending upon the researcher and his organisation, the client’s organisations, and the supporting agency. The research proposal serves as a means of communication between the researcher and the research supporter, and must necessarily be drawn up with care and clarity.

research proposal
A research proposal is a blueprint for conducting and controlling research. It is considered as a research plan to serve as a means of communication between the researchers and the research supporters.

In this section, the purpose, content, types, and format of research proposals will be presented. Needless to say, the details for a typical proposal will be presented with qualifications wherever necessary and illustrations will be provided.

 

Fig. 5.1 Research proposal in research flow

Purpose of a research proposal

The purpose of a research proposal is to clearly communicate the following to the sponsor:

  1. Need of the particular research
  2. Benefits of the research
  3. Beneficiaries of the research
  4. Kind of data to be collected and the means
  5. Type of analysis that will be done
  6. Whether help of other organisations will be needed
  7. Duration, facilities, and funds required to carry out the research
  8. Credentials of the proposers

purpose of research proposal
The purpose is to communicate clearly the need of the research, the benefits and the beneficiaries, the kind of data and types of analysis, the duration, the usefulness to other organization and the credentials of the proposers.

A research proposal is critical, for it makes the researcher think of the possible roadblocks on the way and alternate bypasses to be taken in such cases. Another very important use of a research proposal is that it helps the decision maker and the researcher to arrive at agreements on the problem with regard to objectives, information required, and the methods of analysis.

Types of research proposals

The type of proposal depends on the type of project it deals with. It may range from a simple pilot study to a large complex project. It may originate from corporations (firms), research students (graduates), faculty in a university, or research organisations, both private and public, or research consultants. One way of classifying research proposals is to consider them as internal proposals or external proposals.

types of research proposals
The types of proposals: (a) academic research proposal for conferments, (b) proposals internally generated and funded, and (c) proposal internally generated and externally funded either by a public or private funding agency.

Internal proposals These are proposals generated within an organisation or agency and submitted to its management for approval or funding. They are responses to specific management needs of problem solving or product or process development, and are funded internally. The emphasis is on solving the immediate problem or developing new product/process or modifying old ones. They do not emphasise literature reviews. An executive summary is required in these proposals for quick management appreciation. Schedule of funds and time frame for completion should also be included. Project plans like Program Evaluation and Review Technique/Critical Path Method charts are not generally required.

External proposals A proposal generated within an organisation and directed to an outside customer, organisation, or funding agency, is an external proposal. This may be against an advertisement or solicitation from the customer. Then the proposal becomes a competing bid. It may also be unsolicited, in which case the proposing scientist or organisation makes the proposal based on a perceived general/natural need after a preliminary/feasibility study. Usually, the external proposal is larger in scope because it aims at winning funding for research, as in research institutes/universities, or winning contracts to generate profits, as in industry.

In external proposals, objectives, detailed research design, credentials of the research scientist/team, and the budget become vital. In complex and large projects, a detailed project plan like PERT charts may be required but specifications of the funding agency must be met in this regard (Krathwohl, 1988).

Development of the proposals

The first stage of development of a proposal for research for solving a management problem is to elicit management questions through a researcher-manager dialogue. These management questions are converted into research questions. Research efforts required are delineated and described to the manager. Data required for solving the problem are clearly communicated to the manager and his cooperation is ensured. The methods of analysis and a timetable of activities are mutually agreed upon. The credentials of the research scientist/team for carrying out the research are depicted.

development of research proposal
Management questions are stated and converted into research questions. Objectives, data required, instruments of data collection, methods of analysis, the timetable of activities and costs are detailed.

Considerable amount of time and expenditure must be spent on the effort of developing a project proposal. Preliminary literature review, some feasibility or preliminary study to firm up the scope, objectives, data requirements and analysis methods may have to be conducted at the expense of the scientist or his organization. Where the project is large and complex, building up a team of expert scientists will be an arduous coordinating and planning task. Whether to bid or not to bid in a particular situation must take into account many questions relating to the stiffness of competition, technical suitability of the team, the capability to compete within the time and cost stipulated, previous experience with the soliciting organization etc.

Formatting the Research Proposal

Formats of the research proposal vary considerably depending upon whether the research is (i) academic, (ii) internally generated and funded; (iii) internally generated and externally funded and monitored, (iv) the funding agency is public or private; and (v) the research project is small or large. This has been well discussed in modules by Cooper and Schindler (2000). The essential items for all proposals are problem statement, research objectives, research design, and schedule (an example of a typical format is shown in Table 5.1 (also see Annexure 5.1 for the format of a real project proposal).

 

Table 5.1 Format of a Typical Research Proposal

Item No. Typical Section of a Research Proposal
1 Project title
2 Broad subject
3 Subject area
4 Duration
5 Total cost
6 Principal investigator’s details
7 Co-investigator’s details
8 Project summary
9 Origin of the proposal
10 Objectives
11 Review of status of R&D in the subject
12 Importance of the project in the context of reviewed status
13 Review of expertise available with the team
14 Methodology
15 Work elements
16 Time schedule
17 Utilisation of research results
18 Budget details
19 Current research projects with the investigators.

Contents of the Research Proposal

Research objective This item states the purpose of the investigation. It could be to test a hypothesis, as in a causal study, or answer a research question, as in descriptive areas, or obtain a solution to a problem. This should emerge naturally from the problem statement and constitute achievable goals of the research. The remaining items of the proposal should be consistent with the research objective, for example, data obtained, its analysis, and conclusions.

Research design This is the technical portion of the proposal indicating the phases/steps of the research action to be taken. Such tasks as sample size determination, sample selection, data sources, and method of data collection are stated. Also, the design of the instrument, procedures for data collection, giving possible reasons for rejecting alternate approaches, whenever they do exist, are also given. For example, in a causal study, why a descriptive field study was used instead of experimentation will be elucidated.

contents of a proposal
These are the objectives, the research design, schedule of work, and budget of the research project. Credential of the researcher and a brief literature review are also included.

Schedule of work Time table of the major phases of the research should be included in this, for example, literature review, pilot study, finalisation of questionnaire, (main study) data collection, data preparation, report generation where the project is large and complex, a summary CPM/PERT network showing the interrelationship of the phases, and project duration may have to be provided, particularly when the sponsoring organisation demands it.

There are a few items required only by industry or sponsoring agents but not required in academic research like master’s thesis/doctoral thesis. These are generally the credentials of the researcher, the budget, details of project management, and an executive summary.

Credentials of the researchers These include the academic qualifications, positions held, industrial/managerial/research experience, areas of expertise, papers published in reputed journals, by the team members and the consultations offered, memberships of technical/managerial/research institutions/associations held by them, and honours/medals awarded to them. This will give an indication as to the competence and technical capabilities of the team to carry out the research study proposed.

Budget In all cases of internal and external proposals, except very short ones, a maximum estimated cost of the research in some form of budget is a must. A typical “Budget Sample” format is shown in Table 5.2.

 

Table 5.2 Budget Sample

Other items which are part of any management research in the industry literature review, facilities and other resources, bibliography and glossary are provided in the case of academic research and very large projects involving large funding.

Literature review A review of literature should concentrate on recent research studies or developments, company data, or computerised data banks. From a quick comprehensive review in the general area of the research, it should delve critically and elaborately into the problem area, clearly bringing out the research premises on which the research methods and approaches have been developed in the proposal. Short comings, lacunae, and gaps in current research should be brought out. At the end of the review, a short summary pointing to the need of the research should be included. Whenever a literature review is mandatory, a bibliography is a must and it must follow one of the standards suggested by research manuals (see Turabian, 1971). A few other details like special equipment, glossary of special terms specific to a research area, and instrument details also have to be provided.

Requirements of the sponsoring agent

There may be other requirements of the sponsoring agents (SA), such as the following:

  1. The project proposals should clearly focus on any of the areas listed by it.
  2. Every project should have local project advisory committee of experts constituted by the research team in consultation with the SA.
  3. The organisation carrying out research must take the responsibility for administering the project.
  4. Proposals will be reviewed by experts in the field. The principal investigator has to make a presentation to the experts who may require the investigators to modify the proposals.
  5. Periodic expenditure statements have to be submitted by the research organisation to the sponsoring organisation, with respect to funds received for the project.
  6. A percentage of overheads will have to be earmarked for the institution in the budget proposal.
  7. The report should be prepared as per the guidelines shown in Table 5.3

Table 5.3 Guidelines for Preparation of Project Completion Report

  1. Format of cover page:
    1. Title of the project
    2. Name of the sponsoring organisation with project reference number
    3. Address of the implementing institution with year of completion of the project
  2. Report should be typed neatly in double space on A-4 size white paper
  3. Fifteen copies of the final project report should be submitted
  4. If the report contains data collection from other sources, these should be duly acknowledged
  5. Wherever possible, pictorial presentation of data should be provided
  6. The report should cover broadly the following:
    1. Preface
    2. Summary
    3. Recommendations
    4. Acknowledgements
    5. Contents
    6. Introduction
    7. Methodology
    8. Detailed analysis of the data
    9. References
    10. Annexure, including a copy of introduction letter, blank questionnaire, and other items.

Evaluation of research proposals

An evaluation of the research proposal by the proposing research team/organisation can also be very useful before a proposal is finalised. Sometimes, using the draft proposal, a pilot study is conducted and every aspect of the project is rehearsed, so to say, in order to derive insights into the loop holes, flaws, inadequacies, and possible improvements in the proposal. The proposal is modified, particularly the sample, instruments, and sometimes even the scope of the study before submitting it to the SA.

In unsolicited proposals of single bidders, the SA may evaluate the proposal and suggest modifications as per the suggestions of the experts reviewing the proposal. In the case of competitive bidding, test of criteria for evaluation are developed and the bidders will be rated against them. Weightage factors may be provided for each criterion. Scores are obtained by multiplying the ratings and their weightage factors and summing them up. Whichever organisation scores the highest is chosen for funding. An independent expert panel may be used for this purpose.

Some implicit considerations

A few important considerations not specifically dealt with in the research proposal are discussed in this section. However, they are extremely critical in the execution of research study in a professional manner:

Implicit considerations in proposed research
Ethical aspects, training aspects, cooperation of other organization and legal aspects are of great importance in executing the research study proposed.

Ethical aspects Whenever human subjects are involved in the research—experiment, interviews, observation, and response to a self administered questionnaire—three aspects have to be carefully kept in mind. They are safety, confidentiality, and anonymity.

  • Safety: This aspect is particularly important in experiments. No subject should undergo any harm, physical or psychological, while (and after) participating in an experiment. If there are risks involved, they should be clearly explained to the subject and a written consent should be obtained. Secret observation of an individual (if involved in the experiment or study) should not result in anyway in jeopardising the professional career of the individual or tarnishing his/her personal image
  • Confidentiality: Any information obtained from the individual, group, or organisation should be kept strictly confidential and be merged in the aggregated disclosed information. If such individual information is necessary to be disclosed in the research, it should be disclosed only with the written consent of the individual unit. Personal data should be revealed only with prior written consent.
  • Anonymity: Any sensitive information disclosed in a research study should not lead to the identity of the individual/group/organisation. Anonymity of these units should be strictly maintained.

Training aspects Qualified personnel hired/employed as project assistants should be adequately trained to make the execution of the project successful. The training may consist of (i) orientation and (ii) rehearsals.

ethical aspects of proposals
Safety, confidentiality and anonymity are three important ethical aspects of the proposed research.

  • Orientation: The objectives of the study, the kind of data collection to be carried out, and the type of data preparation and analysis to be carried out should be explained to the assistants. It may be useful to them to study some relevant literature. What they should do and how they should do it, the exact nature of work and its details should be spelt out to them. Likely problems, difficulties, and restrictions in their work should be discussed. The importance of a good approach and human relations must be stressed.
  • Rehearsals: Some mock up situations should be used so that the assistants (a) carry out interviews (among themselves or with the investigators), (b) get questionnaires filled up, (c) extract data from records, (d) make scientific observations, and (e) analyse fictitious data.

Cooperation Any research project involves the participation, in some way, of co-investigators, managers, and other employees and administration of an organisation, and the project assistants. Cooperation of all these people is vital to the success of a research study. Openness about the research study, data needed, assured confidentiality, and sincerity are essential to secure this cooperation. One of the most important factors to secure cooperation is to minimise the manager’s work in the project and make it easy and clear. At each stage, human relations is a dominant factor. A sine qua non for securing cooperation is to make a written request for their participation and obtain consent as a regular procedure.

Legal aspects One of the best ways to get the approval for the project is to get it whetted by the University Research Committee, which has the responsibility of protecting the safety and confidentiality of the subjects, or use public procedures laid down by the national committees on safety and confidentiality of research. The core of the whole legal aspect is to obtain the consent of the individual unit after revealing the details of the project and the implications to the individual unit (for details with respect to this subsection please refer to the appropriate sources in the bibliography).

SUMMARY

Once the problem is formulated and the research design is clear, the researcher is ready to present a case for support and will be in a position to develop a research proposal. The research proposal is a means of communication between the researcher and the research supporter. Research proposal development is a part of the research process and enables the researcher to get funds for his research and execute it. The proposal should be prepared with care and in a suitable format. It should succinctly give the statement of the problem, objectives, usefulness of the result, the kind of data to be collected, and the methods of analysis proposed, in addition to communicating to the evaluating agency, the resources and time required for research. It also includes the credentials and competence of the researcher(s) who will carry out the research.

ANNEXURE 5.1 Sample (Real) Research Proposal (Krishnaswamy et al, 1997)

Development of Decision Support Systems (DSS) for Efficient Routing and Scheduling in Transport Systems

Project summary One area of transport planning where there is a vast scope for improving efficiency in operations is the routing and scheduling of transport fleets in various spheres of activities. Apart from the efficient distribution of foodgrains, cement, fertilisers, petroleum, and such other products, there is another dimension to efficiency in the routing of transport fleet. Specifically, a large number of organisations, both in the public and private sectors, provide buses for pickup and dropping of their employees. The magnitude of investments, the operational costs related to the daily running of these buses, and the associated fuel costs are phenomenal. Planning, routing, and scheduling of the fleet in these organisations is generally based on subjective judgements and intution. However, the efficiency achievable by scientific methods of operations research and the availability of present day microcomputers could be effectively used to meet the transport requirements at the minimum possible costs. The potential for savings in terms of reduction in fuel costs in this area alone would be of the order of several crores of rupees across the country. Similarly, in the collection and distribution of milk, food, and civil supplies from warehouses/central facility to various distributing outlets calls for optimal routing networks.

A recent study at the Indian Institute of Science has led to the development of a heuristic algorithm for better routing and scheduling of transport vehicles. The use of this algorithm in routing of employee pickup buses in a large public sector organisation in Bangalore shows scope for saving several lakhs of rupees every year in fuel costs alone. It is proposed to develop improved algorithms and a user friendly software in the form of a Decision Support System (DSS) as part of the proposed project. The objective is to ensure that these are implementable at the operational level in the various organisations involved in this type of transport operations across the country. A second DSS for efficient routing for the distribution of goods and services is also contemplated.

Origin of proposal The sponsoring agency has identified transportation as a thrust area under engineering sciences in its “identified areas of research”. In recent years, following the energy crisis, which worsened after the Gulf War, there has been an urgent need to conserve diesel oil by efficient planning in the day to day usage of transport fleets in various sectors of the economy. In this regard, the investigators were associated with a number of real world studies related to the efficient routing and scheduling of vehicles in a few transport systems so as to minimise the unnecessary running of buses as well as the associated fuel consumption while simultaneously catering to the required demand. Some of these are briefly described below.

 

1. One study related to the efficient routing of vehicles for a public sector organisation in Bangalore involving the transportation of about 12,000 employees across four shifts from 410 pickup points in and around Bangalore by a fleet of about 100 buses. A practical heuristic method developed for the specific situation resulted in the reduction of the total mileage covered from 14,000 kilometres per day to 12,600 kilometres per day without affecting the timely transportation of employees. In terms of fuel consumption alone, this implies a 10 percent savings. The scope for potential savings for this organisation alone was of the order of several lakhs of rupees per annum. Additional advantages included lesser number of buses and drivers lower fuel consumption, higher seat utilisation factors and, on an average, lesser journey time for the employees. A similar study in another organisation involved the development of a heuristic method based on coordinate geometry and sweep algorithms, but was not implementable.

2. One student project involved the scheduling of buses across routes and scheduling of drivers across shifts to effectively manage peak load problems in another public sector organisation in Bangalore having a fleet of 250 buses to cater to the pickup and dropping of nearly 20,000 employees every day. The objective was to meet the varying demand during the day with minimum fleet size and crew size by effectively scheduling the fleet.

3. Another study related to the efficient allocation of buses to depots for the Bangalore Transport Service that had a fleet of 1200 buses on 8 depots at the time of the study. Use of simple integer linear programming methods to minimise dead mileage subject to depot capacity constraints indicated a savings of Rs 20 lakh in the form of operational costs.

 

Apart from these, investigators have considerable interest in several real world problems in the area of least cost distribution of milk, optimal distribution planning of foodgrains and rationed articles, efficient garbage disposal systems by city municipal corporations, and several other studies related to transport system efficiency. The networking of these on a computer system and optimisation of routing offers tremendous scope for improvement.

Definition of the problem Specifically, two types of problems related to transport planning would be addressed in this project. The first one of these relates to the pickup and dropping of employees of large scale organisations, both in public and private sectors. For example, in Bangalore city alone there are dozens of such organisations collectively having a fleet strength of more than 2000 buses, as per statistics obtained from the Motor Vehicles Department of the Government of Karnataka. In particular, four large scale public sector organisations, namely, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Indian Telephone Industries (ITI), Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT), and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) together transport nearly 60,000 people every day by a fleet of about 1,000 buses, covering 80,000 kilometre and consuming about 20,000 litres of diesel per day. The amount of fuel consumed is directly dependent on how efficiently the routes are designed across various pickup points and the fleets allocated across the various shifts. There is an urgent need to develop an efficient planning mechanism to use the transport fleets effectively, using the power of microcomputers.

A second problem of similar nature is related to the distribution of goods and services in many public systems. For example, the collection and distribution of milk, mail, and foodgrains would also need a similar scientific approach for achieving efficiency in transport operations. The characteristics of this decision problem varies greatly from the employee pickup problem. For example, the routing of a milk delivery van can be circuitous whereas that of an employee pickup bus should be almost unidirectional. It is planned to develop optimisation algorithms and associated computer software for this type of planning problems as part of the project. If successful, perhaps, these could be extended to the macro level for both statewide and nationwide transport operations.

Objectives The overall objective is to bring efficiency to transport operational planning through the optimisation power of scientific methods such as operations research and the computational capabilities of micro computers. The following objectives are envisaged:

 

1. To develop an efficient algorithm for routing and scheduling of transport fleets for employee pickup and dropping, so as to minimise fuel consumption, unnecessary mileage, and maximise fleet utilisation.

2. To develop a user friendly Decision Support System (DSS) for incorporating the algorithm in (1).

3. To test this algorithm and the DSS in a real environment through one or two case studies.

4. To develop an algorithm, and a DSS for transport fleet associated with the collection and distribution of milk and other goods and services at the urban and district level operations.

Review of status of research and development in the subject In western countries, realising the impact of transport planning on the state of the economy, tremendous emphasis is being placed in recent years on research in transport planning, which would lead to implementable methods and algorithms. In particular, considerable research effort is being made in the field of vehicle routing and scheduling. This reflects the widespread impact of microcomputers on computerised vehicle routing for commercial users. The availability of PC-based routing software has resulted in a drastic reduction in transport expenses. Some of the major contributions in this direction could be listed as follows:

  • Fisher et al (1982) developed a system for Du Pont for the distribution of clinical equipment and supplies and helped reduce costs by 15 per cent (50 routes, 1500 customers, 1000 cities, 2 plants, and 5 depots).
  • Bell et al (1983) developed a routing system for Air Products and Chemicals Inc. for the distribution of industrial gases nationwide, which resulted in savings of 6 per cent to10 per cent (340 vehicles, 3500 customers, and 23 depots).
  • Belardo et al (1985) developed an interactive system on an IBM PC/XT for Southern Corporation to construct routes for supplying a chain of departmental stores, which resulted in savings of $1,000 per day (7,000 stores).
  • Evans et al (1985) developed routing system based on computer graphics for Kraft Inc. involving food service delivery vehicles, which resulted in variable costs savings of 10 per cent (13-18 vehicles, 15-\0-250 customers/day, and a single depot).
  • Brown et al (1987) developed a system for Chevron for dispatching petroleum tank trucks, which helped reduce transportation costs by 13 per cent (430 vehicles, 50,000 orders/month, and 120 bulk terminals).
  • Yano et al (1997) developed a system involving the delivery of goods to retail stores with backhaul option, which resulted in savings of $450,000 in 1996 (11 trucks, 40 stores, and a single depot).

In conclusion, it could be pointed out that considerable research work on the efficient routing of other modes of transportation problems is still going on in western countries. In recent years, both the US Government and the private sector have funded several projects and implementation research related to the routing and scheduling of different transport fleets.

To the best of our knowledge, there is very little work done in the area of transportation planning in India with specific focus on efficient routing and scheduling. One or two sporadic investigations in the past have attempted to indirectly address this planning problem in a local framework. The work mostly relates to theoretical exercises, with virtually no emphasis on implementability. Perhaps a major reason for this in the past was the non-availability of microcomputers at the user organisations. However, the advent of powerful microcomputers and their widespread adaptation in many spheres of organisational decision-making has now made it possible to implement such efficiency oriented algorithms through decision support systems in real life.

The need for fuel conservation at the national level needs no further emphasis as a large amount of foreign exchange is spent every year in importing fuel.

Methodology When formulated as a mathematical programming model, the vehicle routing and scheduling problem become a combination optimisation problem, involving millions of (0-1) integer variables. It is well known that these are complex mathematical problems that are difficult to solve for exact optimal solutions, even with the latest available computational capabilities of computers. Several types of heuristic approaches have been attempted in western countries, each being appropriate in a specific environment. However, the routing problems associated with employees’ pickup and dropping, which has certain special constraints, have not been addressed earlier. It is only recently that this problem has been modelled by the researcher of this project and an exploratory heuristic algorithm was subsequently developed.

It is proposed to study and develop new heuristic approaches, including the possible modified/improved adaptation of the recently developed algorithm in the first phase. The efficiency of these would be compared on the optimal results obtainable from mathematical programming (combinatorial) methods on small scale test problems. Extensive tests would be conducted using linear and integer programming software. The best suited heuristic method would be coded as a software in an appropriate computer language so that it is usable in a PC/XT or PC/AT environment. The next step is to provide mechanisms in the form of development of a DSS. Specifically, the input structure in the form of demand at pickup points and distance matrix across various pickup points would be established along with flexibilities to inquire, update, and process information. These would be done in close interaction with the transport departments of one or two large public sector organisations in Bangalore, such as ITI, BEL, HAL, or HMT. Two workshops are contemplated to be held in this connection. The first one, in the early stages of the project, would be towards appraisal and identification of all the problem parameters associated in this type of vehicle routing problem. The second one, planned to be held towards the end of the project, will consist of the demonstration, training, and actual use of the DSS developed in the project.

As regards the routing of a transport fleet for the movement of goods and services, modelling and algorithm development would be attempted at an exploratory level only at this stage, keeping the routing problems within an urban framework. Traditional multiple travelling salesman problem type algorithms would be attempted to develop appropriate heuristic methods. A distance matrix of various nodes in Bangalore city is to be developed as part of the input data structure of the DSS for demonstration purposes. One or two case studies related to efficient routing and distribution would be taken up. No workshop is contemplated for this part of the routing problem in this project.

Work elements The overall work in the project could be broken down to the following work elements. This includes both technical and administrative activities related to the project. The anticipated duration for each activity and the starting and ending months, from the project initiation date, are also given in brackets.

 

1. State of the art survey consisting of the current routing practices in a few organisations in Bangalore and an update of research literature (2 months; 0-2).

2. Recruitment of staff and project appraisal/orientation (3 months; 0-3).

3. Procurement of benchmark optimisation, transport networking, and routing software such as LINDO, TRNET 88, TPRO 88, and so on (6 months; 1-7).

4. Development of a mathematical model and appropriate heuristic algorithm-1 for routing and scheduling of employee pickup fleet (9 months; 3-12).

5. Development of Decision Support System (DSS) on a PC/XT or PC/AT environment incorporating the heuristic algorithm developed in (4) above for the routing and scheduling of employee pickup buses (6 months; 12-18).

6. Interaction meetings with likely user groups involving problem identification, delineation, and initiation (2 months; 6-8).

7. Case study analysis; extensive problem analysis, data gathering from one or two user organisations (such as HAL, HMT, BEL, or ITI), including test data on shiftwise and pickup-pointwise demand, distances across pickup points, nodal dropping centre, and so on (4 months; 15-19).

8. Testing the heuristic algorithm and DSS in the wake of case study data (2 months; 18-20).

9. Interaction meeting and/or workshop with likely user organisations on the use of the algorithm and DSS developed (2 months; 20-22).

10. Development of mathematical model and heuristic algorithm – 2 for distribution of goods and services (6 months; 12-18).

11. Development of a distance matrix mechanism in an urban environment, through the example distance matrix for Bangalore city (2 months; 16-18).

12. Development of a DSS for routing of transport fleet involved in distribution of goods and services (6 months; 18-24).

13. Case study and test data from one or two Bangalore-based user organisations involved in the distribution of goods (4 months; 23-27).

14. Extensive testing of the algorithm for efficiency and the DSS for effectiveness (3 months; 25-28).

15. Report preparation and submission (2 months; 28-30).

Time schedule The absolute time required for each work element or activity as well as the likely starting time and ending time, in months, are given under 232: Work Elements. However, since some of these activities could be carried out parallelly, the overall duration is much less than the cumulative absolute time. Details of the activitywise durations in relation to the starting time of the project are also given in the form of a bar chart under 410: Time schedule bar chart, from which it is estimated that the project would require a total of 30 months.

The important milestones and the anticipated times at which these are expected to be achieved are as follows:

 

1. Development of an algorithm to solve the efficient routing and scheduling of transport fleet for employee pickup and dropping (12 months from the start of the project).

2. Development of a DSS for (1) above (18 months from the start of the project).

3. Development of a practical algorithm for routing of transport fleet for goods and services in a micro or urban environment (18 months from the start of the project).

4. User friendly DSS for (3) above (24 months from the start of the project).

5. Implementation and usage (30 months from the start of the project.

Utilisation of research results Since this project is aimed at the development of implementable algorithms and decision-support systems, its ultimate goal is in its effective utilisation. In this context, two workshops are contemplated. The first one, in the early stages, is oriented towards identification and delineation of problem areas and would be confined to organisations involved in employee transportation in the Bangalore region. The second workshop, to be held at the end of the project duration after the successful development of the algorithm and the DSS for efficient routing and scheduling of transport fleet for employees pickup, would be at the national level. In this workshop, extensive orientation and training of the participants in the use of the DSS would be provided.

In addition to these workshops, wider dissemination is contemplated in the form of presentation of papers and demonstration of software in national and international seminars, forums of professional associations, and publication in the form of papers and articles in journals and industry magazines. When successful, it is anticipated that the results would be of universal value to many developing countries, in addition to India.

Budget estimates

Note: Since the financial year is deemed to be from April to March, it is presumed that the work would be taken up only in October of the current year and, therefore, a total of six months only is considered for the first year. The project duration is 30 months (two, and a-half years) and, therefore, the remaining two years would have full duration of 12 months each.

Suggested Readings

  • Krathwohl, David R. (1988). How to Prepare a Research Proposal, 2nd ed. New York: Syracuse University Book Store.
  • Lefferts, Robert (1990). How to Write Successful Grant Proposals. Englewod Cliffs Prentice Hall.
  • Locke, Lawerence F., Warren Wynck Spiduso and Stephen J. Silverman (2000). Proposals That Work: A Guide to Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals, 5th ed. Thousands Oaks: Sage.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES

1. Why is the research proposal considered as a technical part of research?

2. Why is it necessary to carry out a feasibility study of a research before submitting the proposal for approval?

3. What need does a research proposal serve

  1. when soliciting funds?
  2. when submitting it for academic purpose to a university authority?

4. When the research design is not clear to the researcher can a research proposal be made? If yes, how? If no, why?

5. What are the ways of evaluating a research proposal?

  1. For seeking funds
  2. For acceptance towards a university degree

6. Study a research proposal (i) for doctoral research, (ii) for funding by the Department of Science and Technology.

Comment on the adequacy and various items of the proposal.

7. Study a Ph. D. thesis in a restricted way, as follows:

  1. The background of the problem and
  2. The problem statement in a broad way relevant literature
  3. The research design outlined in the initial chapters

Now write a research proposal using the above information.

8. Study the research report of an externally funded research project in a restricted way, as follows:

  1. The background of the problem and
  2. The problem statement in a broad way relevant literature
  3. The research design outlined in the initial chapters

Now using the above information, write a research proposal (compare with the original proposal if available).