Research and Analysis Project – RAP Guidelines
1.1. Introduction (RAP Guidelines)
Research and Analysis Project (RAP) is the final component of OBU BSc degree scheme. RAP consists of two major components (i) Research Report (RR) and (ii) Skills and Learning Statement (SLS). You also need to give a presentation to your mentor. The research report needs to consist of up to 7,500 words and the Skills and Learning Report needs to consist of up to 2,000 words.
You need to pass both of the components of RAP (i.e. RR and SLS simultaneously) in the same attempt for passing RAP. If you fail in any one component, you are awarded a Fail grade in the whole RAP. You must pass RR and SLS in the same RAP submission.
You have a maximum number of three attempts to pass the RAP. You will not be eligible to continue your BSc degree scheme if you fail to pass the RAP in three separate attempts. If you fail, you are allowed to resubmit the same project or a new project. You can either submit three different projects or resubmit the same project three times.
The research needed for RAP should be undertaken specifically for it. You are not allowed to take a workplace consultancy or research report and adapt it for the RAP. You cannot use a research previously done for submission to another educational institute for a different degree.
The RAP must be your own work. The OBU has strict regulations about cheating. You should be aware of these regulations. These can be found on OBU’s website. The candidates who are found guilty of cheating can be permanently expelled from BSc. degree scheme and the ACCA can take disciplinary action against them.Click here for more information.
1.2. Topic Areas (RAP Guidelines)
The Oxford Brookes University has approved 20 topic areas from which you can choose any one topic and base your RAP on it. Following is the list of approved topics:
(1) Analysis and evaluation of budgetary control system and its link with decision making and performance management
(2) Evaluation of how introduction of new technology can help in achieving business objectives
(3) Assessment of potential effects of impending laws and regulations on the operations and financial position
(4) A review of business management and accounting issues of environmental costs
(5) Evaluation of use and impact of short term and long term Islamic financial instruments
(6) Review of key factors in the employee’s motivation
(7) Evaluation of effects of restructuring of operational activities on the financial performance
(8) Analysis and evaluation of business and financial performance over a period of three years
(9) Evaluation of planning and implementation of information system
(10) Review of use and effectiveness of costing techniques
(11) Investigation into operational and financial costs and benefits of internal audit/review activities
(12) Investigation into potential effects of a proposed accounting standard on business activities and financial statements
(13) Evaluation of contribution of human resource activities in achievement of business and financial objectives.
(14) Appraisal of financial and business objectives of a strategic investment and its impact on stakeholders
(15) Analysis and evaluation of the management of working capital and its effect on funding strategies over a period of 3 years
(16) Evaluation of operational and financial risk management
(17) Assessment of quality of corporate governance and its impact on stakeholders
(18) Review of marketing strategies and their effectiveness
(19) Evaluation of operational and financial outcomes of a merger or acquisition
(20) Assessment of business ethics and corporate social responsibility, and their impact on stakeholders and business practices
You can choose any one topic from the above list, undertake research on any organization of your choice, and present your findings and results in the Research Report along with your evaluation and assessment.
Candidates must choose from the above 20 topic areas. They are not allowed to request any other topic area for undertaking RAP.
1.3. How to choose an appropriate topic? (RAP Guidelines)
RAP is very different from the ACCA studies and examinations. You are required to make many choices to produce a RAP of high quality. One of the most important choices is to choose an appropriate topic for RAP. You should be very careful while making this choice. Your choice can play a significant role in your success or failure. You should carefully take into consideration the following factors while making this choice.
(i) Knowledge and Understanding of Topic Area:
The first thing to consider is your knowledge and understanding of the topic areas. You should choose a topic about which you are confident that you have a good knowledge and good understanding.
Your grades and marks in the examinations or assessments tests should support your confidence. For example, if you believe that you are good at evaluation of business and financial performance of an organization, and you got good passing marks in paper F7 and F9, you should choose Topic 8 for your RAP.
Similarly if you believe that you have a good knowledge and understanding of existing as well as impending laws and legislations, and you passed paper F4 with good passing marks, you can go for Topic 3.
(ii) Your strengths and Weakness:
You should take into consideration your own strengths and weaknesses while choosing a topic. Do you have the abilities to handle the topic that you are choosing? What are your weaknesses that might be a hindrance in your way?
For example some people are very good at analyzing and evaluating the financial and business performance of a business, some are good at assessing the quality of corporate governance, and some are good at understanding the factors affecting the motivation of employees.
You should evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and decide which topic you can handle the best. For example if you are good at assessing the quality of corporate governance of an organization, you should choose Topic 17.
(iii) Access to Information:
The next factor to consider is your access to information required for your research and analysis. You should consider do you have access to reliable information. You should choose a topic about which you are confident that you will be able to gather sufficient information of high quality.
(iv) Sources of Information:
For access to suitable information, you need to have sufficient sources of information. Research required for your RAP needs a lot of information that will have to be gathered from multiple sources. Information from just one or two sources is unlikely to be sufficient for the purpose of RAP. Therefore, you should choose a topic for which you have multiple sources of information to gather all the data and information required for analysis and evaluation.
For some topics, you will need to have a lot of internal information. For example Topic 6 is about critical review of key factors affecting the employee’s motivation in an organization and Topic 10 is about costing techniques. For these topics you will need internal sources of information. Availability of internal sources of information will play very important role in these topics. Therefore, you should make sure that internal sources of information are available before choosing such a topic.
(v) Your Work Experience:
If you have any work experience, you should take it into consideration when choosing a topic for RAP. Your work experience will greatly help you in handling your RAP.
You should choose a topic area about which you have work experience. For example if you have experience of costing techniques, you should choose topic 10. If you have experience of working in a law firm or legal department of an organization, you might want to choose topic 3 which is about assessment of potential effects of impending legislation on the operations and financial position of an organization.
1.4. How to select a suitable organization? (RAP Guidelines)
Ones you have decided upon the topic area you want to work on, the next important decision to make is which organization should be selected for RAP! You need to choose an organization about which you will undertake a research to gather data and information for your analysis and evaluation. Following factors should be considered while selecting an organization for your RAP.
(a) Size of the Organization
Although OBU does not require you to choose an organization of a significant size, you are recommended to choose a big organization. The reason behind this is that usually information about organizations of large size is easily available. Since large organizations have more interested stakeholders, more public information about them is available as compared to organizations of small scale.
(b) Organizational Structure:
An organization with a simple organizational structure is preferable to an organization with complex organizational structure. The reason behind this is that you will not have to waste your time and efforts on understanding the organizational structure. Another reason is that you will be able to focus your attention on your research and analysis without being confused and distracted by the organizational structure.
You should also take into consideration that you might have to choose a competitor organization for the purpose of making comparison. If you select an organization of complex structure, you might find it difficult you choose a suitable competitor organization for comparisons.
(c) Number of Products:
An organization should be chosen which has only a few products. You are recommended to choose an organization that has no more than 4 or 5 products. If an organization has too many products, you might find it difficult to handle the information about all of them. If you select an organization that has a diverse range of products, you might have difficulty in finding an appropriate competitor organization.
If the number of products is too high, the data and information might become too vast and you might have difficulty in covering your analysis and evaluation about them in your RAP because you have to limit your research report to a maximum of 7,500 words.
If you have selected a topic area which has very little relationship with the number of products or the topic area which will not be affected by the number of products, you can go for an organization that has a diverse range of products.
(d) Listed or non-listed organization:
Next thing to consider is whether to choose a company listed on stock exchange or a non-listed company. Preferably a listed company should be selected. The reason behind this is that more information about listed companies is publicly available as compared to non-listed organizations.
Listed organizations publish their annual financial statements that are available to the public. Financial statements of an organization are one of the most important and most reliable sources of information. Financial statements are very rich in information about the organization. Therefore they are a valuable source of information.
Besides this, there are other sources of information available for the publicly listed organizations. For example the stock exchange can provide important information about listed organizations. Trader organizations, chambers of commerce, and other similar organizations also keep data and information about listed companies.
(d) Country of Organization:
Another factor to consider is the country of the organization you are choosing. You are recommended to choose a country with which you are familiar. Political, social, and economic factors have a very deep effect on any organization. You need to be aware of these factors and have an understanding of how these factors affect the organization you have chosen for your RAP. You are more likely to be aware of these factors of the country you are living in. Therefore you should preferably choose an organization from the country in which you are living.
It will also be easier for you to gather data and information of an organization that is in your own country. You might sometimes have to travel to gather data. For example you might need to have a meeting with an employee of the selected organization for having information which is not available through external sources. In such circumstances, travelling will be much convenient if you have selected an organization in your own country.
(e) Familiarity with the Organization:
Knowledge and familiarity of the organization is an important factor to consider. If you are familiar with a suitable organization, you should select that organization for your RAP. By “familiarity” we mean you have knowledge of its organizational structure, hierarchy, products, operations, business practices, or markets.
It will become a lot more easier for you to handle your RAP if you are already familiar with the selected organization. Your research and analysis is likely to be more in depth and wider if you are already familiar with the organization.
(f) Industry of the Organization:
You should also keep in mind the industry of the organization you are choosing. Preferably an industry should be selected which has a significant size. More public information is available about the industries that are large in size. Your research and evaluation might have to make comparisons with the industry. For example you might have to compare the performance of the selected organization with the performance of the whole industry, or with the industry benchmarks. In such cases you will need to have data and information about the industry. The information about the industry is likely to more easily available if the industry you have selected is large in size and have significant importance for the economy.
1.5. Which sources of information to use? (RAP Guidelines)
Ones you have selected the topic area and decided about the organization to research about, the choice you have to make is which sources of information to use for your research. The choice of sources of information will depend on the topic area you have selected and the objectives of your research. A single source of information is unlikely to be sufficient for your RAP. Relying far too much on a single source of information can result in failure. Therefore, you will have to use multiple sources of information. Following are the sources of information that you can use:
(I) Primary or secondary sources:
The first thing to consider is whether to use primary or secondary sources of information. The decision will depend on the topic you have chosen. Its more likely that you will have to use both primary and secondary sources of information. OBU does not require you to use primary sources. If the secondary sources are enough for the purpose of RAP, you are allowed to completely base your research on secondary sources.
(II) Financial Statements:
Financial statements are the most important and most reliable source of information. Since they are prepared for catering to the needs of multiple stakeholders, they are full of information. You should make use of this source of information.
(III) Internet Sources:
The internet is a very wide source of information. You can find tons and tons of information over the internet. While using the internet as a source of information, you should be careful about the reliability of information. Make sure that you use information from the websites that are reliable.
A problem with this source of information is that you might get overflowed with the abundance of information. You will have to make decisions about which piece of information to use and which one to ignore. You should be careful that the information you are choosing is relevant to your RAP and your research objectives.
(IV) Newspapers and journals:
Newspapers and journals are also an important independent source of information. Since they are an external source of information, they will provide you with independent opinions about the organization you have chosen. This is an important factor since it will help you in critically analyzing the performance of the organization.
(V) Other institutions:
Information about the organization can also be gathered from institutions such as stock exchanges, trade organizations, chambers of commerce, and trade unions. They are an external and independent source of information. They can provide you reliable and unbiased information about the organization.
(VI) Academic Sources:
You need to use academic sources for deciding which accounting and business theories, models, techniques, and concepts will be helpful for you. You will need these models and theories etc. to understand the related issues in the selected organization, and to analyze and evaluate the other information that you have gathered.
1.6. Guidelines for Handling Research (RAP Guidelines)
Ones you have decided upon the topic area, suitable organization, and the appropriate sources of information, next step is to start the research process. One of the major causes of failure in RAP is problems in the research process. Almost 50% of the candidates fail in their first attempt due to poor research process. We will provide guidelines that will help you in undertaking an effective research process.
- The first thing is to demystify research. For many candidates, research for the purpose of RAP will be their very first experience. It is likely there will be many mysteries in their minds about the research. Therefore the first thing you need to do is to remove these mysteries from your mind.
In common words research means to enquire, to look into, to find out, to investigate. For example if you want to buy a car, you will decide about the type of car you want, the make and model, size etc. Then you will select some models and evaluate them by studying reviews about them and test driving them. After this you will chose the car that best meets your needs. This whole process of gathering and evaluating information about the car was a ”research”.
RAP is an example of applied business research. Applied business research is undertaken in a systematic and well planned manner. Its purpose is to contribute to the solution of certain problems or issues, or to increase the understanding of its significance.
- Start with deciding what are the objectives of your project and what are your research questions. Your project objectives and research questions should guide your research process.
- After this, you should start collecting and gathering the information that will help you in meeting your project objectives and answering your research questions. Use whatever sources you think are suitable for your RAP. You can use primary as well as secondary sources of information. You can gather information from websites, newspapers, journals, magazines, books, financial statements, published analysis reports of other writers and authors, etc.
- Ones you have collected the relevant information, you should securely save all of it. Try to save the information in a well organized manner so that you will not have to waste time in finding the relevant piece of information when you need it. You should keep copies of financial statements, questionnaire responses, extracts from journals, reports, or magazines. Links to relevant websites and data downloaded from the internet should also be saved in an organized manner.
You should retain this information with you until you have received your official notification of your RAP grade from OBU. The OBU have the right to ask for additional evidence for your information gathering.
- After gathering the information, the next step is to summarize and classify the data and information into smaller groups. For example if your RAP includes ratios analysis, classify all the information needed for calculation of ratios in a group.
- Then analyze and evaluate the data and information and figure out the results and findings. For example if your RAP includes ratio analysis, calculate your ratios at this stage. Prepare notes and drafts depending on your analysis and evaluation. These will be helpful for you when you will be preparing your research report.
- If you feel that the gathered information is not sufficient and some of your research questions are not being sufficiently answered, you should gather more information.
1.7. Preparing your Research Report (RAP Guidelines)
Research report is the first of the two components of RAP. In this section we will discuss how to prepare your research report.
One of the important things to remember is that a recommended structure and content is available and it should be followed. The benefit of following the recommended structure is that it acts as a checklist and reflects the assessment criteria. Although it is not mandatory to follow this structure and content, you are strongly advised to follow it. If you use your own structure, there is a risk that you might omit some important requirements which can result in failure. It should be kept in mind that presentation is also of significant importance. Therefore you are advised to follow the recommended structure.
Following structure and approximate word distribution is recommended by the OBU.
(I) Title Page
The first page of your research report should clearly state the title of your report. The title is the topic area which you have selected for your RAP. For example if you have selected Topic 8, your title can be ” THE BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE OVER A PERIOD OF THREE YEARS “
The title page should also mention the name of the organization you have selected for RAP. Other information that you can present on the title page is your name, you ACCA registration number, the month and year of your RAP attempt, and the total number of words.
(II) Contents Page
The second page of your research report should have table of contents on it. You should carefully structure and organize your contents page and accurately state the page numbers. You are recommended to state the page numbers ones you are done with writing the report. Make sure that numbering is accurate.
(III) PART 1 – Project objectives and overall research approach
This is the first part of your research report. It should answer the following questions:
- Why you chose this particular topic area?
- Why you chose this particular organization?
- What are your project objectives and your research questions?
- What will be your overall approach to the research?
You should answer the above questions in approximately 1,000 words.
(IV) PART 2 – Information gathering and accounting / business techniques
This is the second part of your research report. It should answer the following questions:
- What sources of information you used to obtain the data and information?
- What methods of collecting data were used by you?
- What were the limitations of gathering data and information?
- What ethical issues arose during the process of gathering data and information?
- How did you resolve those ethical issues?
- What accounting and/or business models, techniques, theories, and concepts have you used in your report?
- What are the limitations of these models, techniques, theories, and concepts?
These questions should be answered in approximately 1,500 words.
(V) PART 3 – Results, analysis, conclusions and recommendations
This is the largest and the most important part of your research report. This part is the brain of your RAP. This part should explain you findings from your research. Following details should be included in this part:
- Description of the findings/results of your research and limitations of those findings/results
- Presentation of your findings/results in suitable form (for example tables, charts, graphs)
- A critical analysis and evaluation of your results
- Meaningful conclusions about the results of your research
- Suggestions and recommendations for the individuals identified by you within your selected organization
- Explanation of how well the project objectives and research questions were met
This part of your research report should consist of approximately 4,000 words.
(VI) List of References:
In this part, your should list down the references to all of the sources of your information. For example in this part you should include the links to the websites, the names of books and their authors, the names of newspapers or journals, titles or articles and names of their authors.
The last part of the research report includes appendices. In this part, you can include extracts of financial statements, your workings and calculations, the list of formulas used, extracts and summary findings from the primary research methods (such as questionnaires).
1.8. Guidelines for Skills and Learning Statement (SLS) – (RAP Guidelines)
Skills and Learning Statement is second component of the two components of RAP. The purpose of SLS is to assess your skills of self-reflection and communication. Self-reflection is an important academic and professional skill that requires you to review and evaluate your experiences and learning.
Your self-reflection skills will be assessed on the basis of the answers you will provide to the SLS questions. Your communication skills will be assessed on the basis of the presentation that you will provide to your project mentor. You will have to provide to the OBU the copy of the PowerPoint slides used in the presentation to project mentor.
Your SLS should be based on answering the following four questions:
- Reflect on what you have learnt from the meetings with your project mentor, including the presentation that you gave to your project mentor?
- To what extent do you think you have achieved the RAP research objectives you set?
- How have you demonstrated your interpersonal and communication skills during the project work?
- Reflect on how undertaking the RAP helped you in your accountancy studies and/or current employment?
Answering the SLS Questions:
First and fourth question requires you to “reflect”. It is important that you understand the meaning of ”self-reflection”. Self-reflection means to review and evaluate your experiences and learning. The emphasis is on evaluation. That means that while preparing SLS, you do not have to merely describe what happened or what you did. SLS must evaluate your experience of undertaking RAP. You should try to make some meaning of your experience, judge how well you achieved your project objectives, and come to a conclusion about significance of undertaking the RAP.
These questions do not have any right or model answer. You should provide an honest evaluation of yourself. The SLS should reflect what actually happened. The research process might have been messy at times and you might have had some bad experiences. You do not have to hide these from the OBU. You can reflect about the unpleasant experiences you had during the research and what you learned from these experiences.
The word limit for SLS is 2,000 words, but that does not necessarily mean that you have to write 500 words for answering each question. You can write more while answering one or two particular questions and write lesser about the other questions. You can range your answer from 350 to 650 words per question. You should keep in mind that the total number of words of SLS should not exceed the limit of 2,000 words.
Two of your SLS questions are directly related to your meetings with your project mentor. You should keep notes about each of your meetings with your project mentor. If you think about what happened in each of your meeting soon after it has taken place and record your reflections in a diary or other notebook, you will have a good source for writing your responses to these questions.
2. Guide to citing and referencing
Citing and referencing is very important in any academic work produced. The purpose of citing and referencing is to acknowledge ideas of other people, avoid plagiarism, and to show depth and breadth of your reading.
Citing is making reference to the work of other authors in your own writing. The names of these authors are gathered together and provided in an alphabetical order at the end of your work. This list is known as reference list. The reference list can be done either in alphabetical style where the authors names are listed in alphabetical order, or in numeric style where the list of authors is numbered in order of mention in the text.
There are many citing and referencing systems. OBU advises you to use Harvard Referencing System. This referencing system consists of two sections: (i) In text citing, and (ii) Reference list.
(I) In Text Citation
The in-text citation is placed at the exact point in your report where you refer to other author’s work. Other author’s work can be anything like book, journal, website, online document, or any other source. The in-text citation consists of last name of the author (or editor/compiler/translator) and year of publication in brackets.
- For example if there is only one author the in-text citation will look like (Shuksmith, 2000)
- If the author is an organization or government department e.g. (World Health Organization, 2013)
- If there are two or three authors, all names should be given e.g. (Smith, Thompson and Walker, 2008)
- If there are more than three authors, cite first author followed by “et al” in italics format e.g. (Drucker et al., 2001)
- If more than one work is produced by the same author in the same year, use (a,b,c) e.g. (Morgan, 2001a)
- If the author’s name naturally occurs in the sentence, give only the year of publication e.g. Watson discussed this idea (2003)…
- If the name of author is not available, use a brief title instead e.g. (Anonymous, 1944)
- If the information was taken from a website and no author or title is available, use the URL e.g. (http://www.laqadir.com, 2010)
- If the year of publication is unidentifiable, use the abbreviation n.d. for example in (Labor Party, n.d.)
- If reference to page number is needed, use the abbreviation p. for single page and pp. for multiple pages e.g. (Kelvin, 1998, p.121)
- Short quotations can be added into the text using single quotation marks e.g. as Kelvin discussed (2001, p.121) ‘the value of money…’
(II) Reference List
At the end of your research report, you should provide the list of all sources used. Depending on the type of source, you are required to provide different details. We will discuss these types of sources and the details that you need to provide.
For the books, you need to provide:
- Author: Surname of the author/editor/compiler/translator, followed by the first name or initials. Include all names if there are up to 3 authors. If there are more than 3 authors, use the first name and then et al.
- Publication year: If year of publication is not available, use n.d.
- Title: Provide title of the book as given on the title page of the book, include any subtitles separated by a colon. First letter of the first word and any proper noun should be capitalized. The title should be given in the font of bold, italic, or underline.
- Edition: If the book has more than one edition, give the edition number.
- Place of publication and publisher: Use colon to separate these two elements. If any of this information is not available, use s.I. for no place and s.n. for no publishser.
Ridley, A., Peckham, M. and Clark, P. (eds.) (2003). Cell motility: from molecules to organisms. Chichester: Wiley.
For e-book, provide the following details:
- Year of publication
- Place of publication and publisher
- [Online] in square brackets
- Available at: Give the URL where the book is available
- Accessed: Give the date you read the book (in brackets)
Holliday, A., Hyde, M. and Kullman, J. (2004). Intercultural communication: an advanced resource book. London: Routledge. [Online]. Available at: http://www.dawsonera.com/ (Accessed: 15 August 2011)
Chapter in Book:
For referring to a chapter in a book, following detail should be provided:
- Author of chapter
- Year of publication
- Title of chapter (remember not to use italics for this)
- In: Give the author and title of complete book in italic font, place of publication, publisher, page numbers of the chapter
Smith, H. (1990). Innovation at large. In: James, S., (ed.) Science and innovation. Manchester: Novon, pp. 46-50.
For printed articles in journals, provide the following details:
- Year of publication
- Title of article (remember not to use italic for this)
- Title of journal (use italics for this)
- Volume number, issue number and/or date
- Page numbers
Williams, J. (2000). Tools for achieving sustainable housing strategies in rural Gloucestershire. Planning Practice & Research 15 (3), pp.155-174.
For electronic journals, in addition to the above printed journal details, provide the following details:
- [Online] in square brackets
- Available at: Give the URL where the journal can be found
- Accessed: Provide the date you read the journal
Jones, P. and Evans, J. (2006). Urban regeneration, governance and the state: exploring notions of distance and proximity. Urban Studies 43(9), pp.1491-1509. Academic Search Complete [Online]. Available at:http://web.ebscohost.com (Accessed 17 August 2010)
For a webpage you should provide details as in the following example:
Labour Party (2010). Policy guide. Available at: http://www.labour.org.uk/policies/home (Accessed: 13 August 2010)
Report from a database:
For a report from a database, you should provide detail as in the following example:
Mintel (2010). Sports goods retailing – UK – May 2010. Mintel Leisure [Online]. Available at: http://reports.mintel.com (Accessed: 17 August 2010)
For newspaper articles, provide the details as in the following example:
Hunt, P. (1999). Time is running out. Daily Telegraph, 8 February, p. 10.
(NB: For internet edition there is no page number – instead give [Online], Available at: URL and Accessed: date; if citing newspaper article from a database e.g. Factiva, follow pattern above for online journal article).