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This reflections form a part of the Masters degree in the University of Bedfordshire. The following is a reflective report on how the research work has been carried out. It outlines the method and stages involved in carrying out the dissertation.
This research subject has been allocated to me. The work involved had me to consider extensive research on the Africa economics and generate holistic view of its prospects. It also required me to produce a report on the business strategies that can be followed for economic growth of the continent. The topic is well researched by previous researchers and abundance of material i.e. primary, secondary and tertiary data is available for the purposes of the research. This was in line with the specialization in the master's degree and seemed interesting to carry out the research.
It was my first time experience to work on such a task, a task unrelated to anything I did before. Simply doing a project involves attaining a task assigned by the supervisor, gain experience, and attain a master's degree my dream. It was not so by the time we reach the end of the academic year as it was a new passion, I did my all project work not simply to complete the course, but also to serve as an experience to bring a look for life. What if all learning does not account for experience then what does learning give for life. I use to worry on learning if it can give me academic strength, experience ability for further research and getting placed with a good employer. Worries are not always baseless, so was mine. It seems me it has a strong reason to worry, of course for their own, it was a worry but for others it seems so silly. Anyhow the best answer was to be given by their experience.
The real intention behind the research is to get the answer and experience. This usually happens and realized at the end but not at the beginning when one starts to contemplate initiating a task. This made the entire process exciting, new, thrilling and interesting. The real competition is how to complete the project in time and attain good grades and complete my Master's with flying colours. This has been my life time dream and was willing to take any amount of pain. I was confident that I would be able to take it all till end. Making the start is the first challenge. A good start means here to plan and complete the project in time working for the same goal but without deviations.
Then the research should add some flavour to the work and to get an answer to the topic under consideration, this is not an application but getting something new which can be applicable to the situation and can be tested by someone else. So it was a bit worrisome to be honest at the start.
Individual research project work did not contain the element of coordination and team work and a person has to work on his own. Definitely, this is going to create some problems with the way I was going at every stage of the project. The intention of research output is to make practical solutions to boost economies. The solutions should also help the weaker economies which will help to boost economic ties between the developed and underdeveloped countries thus improving the living standards at both types of countries.
Recollection of Experiences
The first stage consisted of analyzing the topic and mainly concentrated on data gathering. This phase involved laborious work as there is no dearth for the literature that is available both in print and electronic form. The main difficulty was to relate the available literature to the methodology. Initially, all the available data, mainly quantitative was gathered to be analyzed further. After earmarking the data, a plan was set up to proceed with the research. The project was planned carefully allowing for emergencies and other deviations. Mainly the time that is available to this researcher was of major concern. Since, the project was scheduled to be completed within a time span of 10-12 weeks, this planning stage was very crucial. Once, the plan has been generated, a rigorous adherence to the plan was required.
This is followed by reviewing process where an extensive reviewing of the concepts and theoretical aspects is carried out. Notes were made accordingly to make sure important bits and pieces of information is recorded and protected for further use. However, this too has to follow a specific pattern as the quantum of notes generated will be enormous. The control of this element along with the time element would present considerable challenges.
A review process was planned at every stage. Prior to this the whole project was broken down into individual elements and was grouped. Some of these processes have to be carried out simultaneously and hence, missing a deadline would mean additional burden for the following week. Hence, review process was of utmost importance.
Finally, after elaborate planning the reading stage commenced. This posed a number of difficulties as the versions of many sources did not match or contained analysis that was irrelevant to the purposes of this research. Hence, sorting out the data needed to be allocated some time. Further, this sorting out was to be carried carefully so as not to miss out any important data that is at hand. Hence, the data was sorted according to 'very important', 'important', 'not so important' and 'not necessary for the purposes of this research'. Once, this stage has been completed within a week's time frame, first the very important data was considered for analysis minutely. Notes were taken and additional literature was searched for substantiating the views or negating them to evolve my own hypothesis that is to be tested. However, generating this hypothesis was a tedious process. The knowledge gained from studying of business research methods has helped a lot, without which it would not have been possible to outline the research orientation in the first place. Next, the knowledge of business research methods has helped in identifying the research process, research approach and research design. In addition, this has also contributed to collection of data and the methods relating to it.
Once, this was done there was a need to go back to the concepts, mainly business related concepts. A number of case studies were to be collected and analyzed to generate a proper framework to examine the topic under consideration.
After, preparing a framework, which was mainly socio-economic in the case of Africa, there emerged a need to understand the more underlying concepts to substantiate the view points. A thorough reading of literature, mainly the academic journal articles have helped this researcher to consolidate the framework in which the topic could be examined.
Once, this framework has been prepared, I started taking notes. However, these need to be cross-checked with a variety of sources. The previous opinion of availability of large amount of data now appeared to be under question. As I narrowed down on certain elements, there existed a fresh need to collect additional data. Again the same process of sorting out the data for very important material that is relevant to this topic and also academically acceptable was posing further problems.
Once, the initial reading was complete, I have started writing up of the literature review. This seemed to be highly challenging intellectual work as care had to be taken not to replicate existing views but to critically evaluate the work and develop my own view point. Further, the logical order to evaluate my point of view was crucial. This literature review has consumed most part of the schedule as planned.
The next stage was to write up the other parts like Research Methodology etc. The findings and discussions on findings had tested the limits of understanding as competing ideas needed to be accommodated. Once, this was finished, I started writing up the Introduction and conclusions part followed by other minor parts to finish off the writing up part.
After I finished the initial writing up part, I had to give it a couple of readings and cross-checked my ideas with friends to make sure the points discussed are valid and stand to the test of logic. Finally, I could generate a work that is worth the efforts.
Personal Feelings and Learning from the Experience
The first impression about this project was what one could expect while doing a task that is ease sail of work without any hurdle.
When I was working on getting the information from people to know if they can suggest any methodology of boosting business using Africa as a model, many seemed clueless. The first answer given by the people was that they viewed Africa as purely a resource supplier including the people there in Africa, they considered even the natural disasters there like famine, floods etc as an opportunity for the grain producers in western countries. This resembles the mood of people even in the crisis they are viewing the other underdeveloped countries as purely a need supplier. All the information that I got regarding the methodology was from people like friends, colleagues etc who were of the same category as I belonged to. This created a problem of information stagnation, so initially I was in quest of new people who can give the unbiased information in humanistic approach in dealing with African countries without favouring any particular group of economies.
I could not readily find any person who is doing a similar project in our university not because they had no intention but they were trapped in traditional ideas. This gave me again the lone feeling and feeling isolated. So I had decided to shift for other sources of information such as U.N reports. I got a lot of information from such reports. Thus after getting information from both active and passive resources I sorted all the information and created a data base for creating the report. I could not keep a tab on time in completing the project while getting the information. A lot of time took in simply getting the information which had yet to then to be analyzed and finally bring it into a report. Although vast information is available on Africa on internet, yet I did not want myself to get information from a passive source. My basic intention of creating awareness among the people in looking for solutions to overcome the challenges faced during the recession.
Initially, I carried on my life enjoying with friends and attending parties. I was spending a good deal of time on having some fun. Although, I worked on some ideas initially, they were mainly from my imagination and a little of study. A good deal of interest did not come initially as I wasn't dedicating sufficient time for the study and writing up. But it seemed as though I was ignoring the project work initially owing to lack of study or dedication of sufficient time to the work.
While my friends and college mates were working conscientiously, I was lagging a lot behind. However, some of my friends were not happy with my performance, and initially they were under impression that I can work on this project properly. Now they started realizing that I have clearly lost direction. However, realization came to me after wasting a couple of valuable weeks.
I felt very bad when I realized that I wasn't doing good. It was like feeling ashamed of myself and the very next day I again started the preparation. It was mainly out of my habit that I leave things to the last moment and work in the final stages of the work. This has posed serious problems before, and even some of my closest friends have warned me to get rid of this habit. However, I am very determined now. It was a causal chat with a friend that has brought back the sense of competition to me.
I immediately realized started my planning for the research work. It was like that I could not put things back in order after I lost the initial momentum. I was so surprised that despite putting in the best efforts, I could not perform well which was in complete contradiction to my previous experiences.
Initially, I thought that this would be an easy work as I had studied the subject well and that I could easily cope up with writing part. However, I understood that my previous studies were of little use as far as this research work is concerned since the topic under consideration has been narrowed down greatly. My problems started surfacing. Then, I started talking to my friends to generate ideas, but everyone seemed to be busy with their part of the work. They were in no position to take out time for me. This was really depressing at moments.
On the top of it, I was made redundant from my part time job which seemed going good in the summer season. This has generated additional problems. Further, I suffered with fever for a couple of days which took some more time out of the schedule. I had to relocate to a different place owing to financial considerations and this was a kind of harsh experience to me, may be first time in my life that I am living on my own.
I moved to a different locality and took care to accommodate myself closer to the university where I can access resources. With a good deal of concentration and changed lifestyle, I regained some strength. I started working as planned before and took care not to waste any time and to accommodate for the time I had wasted before. This has helped me to return to a more manageable lifestyle. After a couple of weeks time, I could gather some good information. I felt interested and went to with them, concept after concept. In other words, the fundamental issue was to adopt an organized approach that was appropriate for typical research.
Group dynamics - knowledge transfer platform:
I had a discussion with my friends and seniors who have done the work or are engaged in conducting a master's level project. Everyone then began to encourage and then I suddenly realized that all of us were consciously thinking some research element which it could be the research topic. This had not convinced everyone immediately, because all of them were in a mood that research approach and design should come as special thought not the one which we regularly do with our conscious mind. Yet we reached the consensus by simple magical words that came from me that, we already possess such an aptitude within our minds that we are already in a quest for answering the regular and frequent occurring thoughts and our thoughts matched the task that had to accomplished. Thus we naturally got the tendency to accomplish the task. However, this topic seemed old to everyone, even to those who were doing some related projects, but it was important that because until then all projects were on issues like troubles in automobile industry, troubles in aviation industry, troubles in oil exploring, how to boost heavy engineering projects, market for agricultural products etc. These of course so far made the western economies lead the other economies.
I realized that for every task needs to be analyzed in full with complete information and procuring additional informant in the right direction with true intent. This will slowly and surely help the regain the confidence. Let alone this, I needed to increase my efforts to keep up the pace. Further, I learnt the art of attending to my work diligently and renewed my inner confidence to any task in life and I am sure this will help in my showing up well in my professional life ahead after this education phase in my life. I found that formulation of step by step process and have clear research design and approach will increase understanding and it must be undertaken irrespective of the strain it might take. I noticed that am a motivated lot and trying to appreciate my efforts and that instilled additional confidence in me. I learnt the basic art of prioritization tasks. Initial fears will be there but have to remain calm and composed will reap benefits. I learnt that breaking down of tasks into smaller tasks, and then clubbing them back again is essential in effectively and efficiently completing the task. I learnt to define my goals more clearly. This dissertation phase has been my life learning experience frome minute of it and learnt the basic of tackling tasks which I am sure will only boast career ahead.
I have decided to keep this lifestyle of attending immediate priorities in life and in a way, this research work has been a lesson for life to me. I feel intellectually satisfied, am in a position to analyse, plan, implement and control the surrounding issues which will go a long way in my life. I have decided to keep up with this lifestyle for the rest of the life. This is definitely a trying intellectual process and on the whole I have enjoyed it a lot.