Introduction to Project

Introduction

Project work is an integral part of the graduate and postgraduate programs in many universities. You are required to undergo fieldwork or project work on the approved topic or area and spend a few weeks in the field to gather information on the assigned topic using relevant instruments. The data thus gathered will have to be tabulated, analyzed synthesized, and presented in the prescribed form. After data analysis, you have to write a project work report and submit it for evaluation.

The project work process explained above needs a scientific investigation into the topic selected for the project work. In this article, we will explain the concept, purpose, and process of project work. The methods of project work will also be described in some detail.

What is Project Work?

The project work assignment is an off-the-classroom and field-based study project undertaken by a student under the guidance of a faculty member. The project work can be described as a systematic and organized effort to study and observe the specified situation at hand. Thus, the project work process involves a series of well-thought-out and carefully executed activities. It encompasses the process of inquiry, investigation, observation, and examination. The expected end result would be to discover new facts and realities about the social or business phenomenon.

 We can thus define project work as an organized, systematic, and data-based investigation into a specific situation undertaken with the objective of gathering information that enables the student to gain familiarity with the situation or reality and generate more knowledge about the phenomenon under investigation.

Purpose of the Project Work

The project work assignment has some specific purposes. These are as follows:

·   Expose you to business or social reality by providing you the opportunity to get first-hand information and actual knowledge about the working of an organization, a system, or a situation.

·   Promote student-centered learning by encouraging you to take the initiative to become self-directed learners and thinkers.

·        Provide an opportunity to you to work on those issues or problems, which are of particular interest to you.

·   Develop interpersonal and communication skills by encouraging you to interact with the practitioners.

·        Develop data–processing and report-writing skills to explore, analyze, and describe a business situation or a social phenomenon.

Employers are frequently keenly interested in ensuring that students of business only have a solid academic background, obtain some proficiency in developing teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving. The project works in various business subjects individual or team-based are one activity that allows students to develop these skills. Successful completion of project work can be used to demonstrate to employers that you have the skills they are seeking.

  Nature of the Project Work

As stated above, the overall objective of the project work is to experience the way in which organizations function in a given environment. The keyword here is experience.  Experience has dimensions:

About the Nature of Business

·         Understanding the industry, the business unit, its environment, the system of work, and its customers.

·         Understanding the particular functional area like production, finance, or personnel.

·         Learning the changes taking place in the business world.

About Research Methodology

• Applying the research methodology to analyze the problem or issues faced by the organization.

• Looking for suitable solutions. How can you apply your knowledge acquired so far to solve the problem?

Project-based Learning

This is an approach that organizes students learning around projects. Relevant and challenging projects are identified. You are involved in tasks such as design, problem-solving, case development, and investigative activities. Thus, you get the opportunity to work relatively autonomously over a period of time. The following are the criteria of project-based learning:

·         Projects are central, not peripheral to the teaching of a course.

·         Projects are focused on problems or questions.

·          Projects involve students in a constructive investigation.

·         Projects are student-driven.

·         Projects are realistic with practical relevance.

To be of practical relevance, project-works should be linked with the business world. The following are the mo methods of such linkage:

Linkage with Industry

·      The project works have undertaken by students should be linked with the business activities of an organization.

·          To facilitate this linkage between business and educational institutions, collaborative arrangements should be made.

·          The best project work of students should be awarded

Criteria of Evaluation

·         Contribution to knowledge.

·         Practical value in terms of solutions to industry problems.

·         Contribution in terms of addressing society’s needs.

What is involved in Project Work?

You may need to be familiarized with the various processes, which should include the important aspects of research. The following activities are involved in  project work:

·         Selecting a relevant topic or issue for study.

·          Locating the sources of information.

·         Extracting the relevant information from these sources.

·          Identifying the various dimensions of the problem or issue.

·          Organizing and analyzing the data effectively.

·          Drawing conclusions

·          Writing a report

The major activities involved in project work are explained in the following sections in some detail:

Definition of Topic and Research Questions

Ideally, for maximum learning, you should be entirely responsible for defining the topic. You may have interests, skills, and resources that are not manifest to the supervisor and which would not be optimally utilized and developed if these are not consulted in the definition of the research area.

However, your readiness for this responsibility should be realistically assessed. Some potential problems in this process may be:

·         Inexperience resulting in difficulty deciding on an appropriate and feasible topic.

·         Over-ambitious scale (e.g. under-estimation of time, available resources)

·         “Re-inventing the wheel” resulting from ignorance of previous works done.

Project Work Design

This involves selecting or devising a methodology or plan for obtaining relevant data and their analysis to draw inferences.

Data Collection

 Some potential problems that you may encounter in the process of data collection are as follows:

·         under-estimation of workload

·          poor planning and coordination of interviews and field trips

·          making contacts and appointments

·         delays caused by waiting time

·         determining scope, type, and relevance of data to be collected

·         unpredictability of data (e.g. lack of support from external organizations),

Data Analysis and Report Preparation

Some potential problems that you may encounter in the process of data collection and report writing as follows:

·         misinterpretation (predisposition and bias)

·          being bogged down by details; inability to see the woods for the trees

·          unwillingness to discard tangential data and findings

·         Insufficient care in documentation (quotations, bibliographic references, etc.)

·         Lack of discipline in structuring report framework before starting to write.

Methods of Project Work

Project works can be either exploratory in nature or descriptive. The exploratory and descriptive designs can further be classified into three broad categories:

·         small-scale surveys,

·         case studies, and

·          feasibility studies.

It should, however, be noted that these types of project works are not mutually exclusive and that a combination of all three could also be used, if necessary. A brief description of these types of designs is given in the following sections.

Exploratory and Descriptive Studies

An exploratory study is a preliminary step in which the main focus is on achieving a clear view of the subject under investigation. Such studies are undertaken when we do not know much about the situation at hand. In essence, exploratory studies are done to better comprehend the nature of the problem since very few studies might have been conducted regarding the phenomena needed to be understood.

Exploratory designs are not formal but are rather, unstructured. They may be conducted by one or more of three approaches:

·         examining existing literature.

·         questioning knowledgeable individuals, and

·         examining a few selected cases.

You, therefore, may utilize any number of informal approaches in attempting to find out the facts about the phenomenon.

A descriptive study is one that simply describes something. That something could, for example, be the demographic characteristics of employees, or a profile of suppliers, or the complaints registered by the customers. Thus, the descriptive studies of this nature might describe:

·         the demographic characteristics of employees in terms of their age, gender, education, family income, etc., or

·         the profile of suppliers in terms of the quality of supplies, rejections, regularity, demand for advance payments, and so on, or

·         the consumer complaints in terms of their frequency, nature, causes, and so on.

A descriptive study is a very useful and most commonly used design of field or project work. This type of study is undertaken in order to describe the different aspects of a situation. Descriptive studies that present information in a purposeful type thus data to:

·         understand the features and aspects in a situation under study,

·          offer ideas for further investigations and research, and

·          help in identifying problems and making certain simple decisions.

Any source of data is often used in a descriptive study, although most studies of this nature believe heavily in secondary data sources.

Descriptive and exploratory studies have their own features and data requirements. Whereas qualitative data obtained by interviewing individuals may help the understanding of the phenomenon at the exploratory stage of a study, more quantitative data in terms of frequencies, or mean and standard deviation become necessary for descriptive studies.

EXAMPLES

·        Suppose, for your project work, you want to know how many employees were recruited during the past twelve months in an organization, their gender composition educational level, and the average number of days that these individuals had remained absent during the twelve-month period. This information will suffice for getting the idea about the composition of the newly recruited workforce and identifying the gender-wise issues related to absenteeism.

 ·   Suppose you want to have, for your project work, a profile of the bank borrowers who have loan payments outstanding for six months and above. The profile that you would get will describe the defaulters in terms of their age, earnings, type of occupation they are in employment status and the like. This information would help you to identify the loan payment issues of the bank and recommend to the management to make a decision right away on the type of individuals to whom the bank would not extend loans in the future.

As a student in the marketing area, you may want to study, for your project work, the pricing, sales, and distribution methods followed by a company. With this in mind, you might seek the following information from the company:

·         Pricing methods, costing methods, prices in relation to other competing products, price hikes, and sales.

·          A profile of the terms of sales, sales by region, etc.

·          Types of distribution channels used.

·          Adhering and sales promotion expenses.

The analysis of this information gathered from the company would describe the existing situation and identify the issues facing the company, and help recommend a strategy for its future action.

Small-Scale Survey

A field or project work using the survey method is most common. It is probably the oldest research method known to man. A survey is also descriptive and specifies the properties of business phenomena, or could also be exploratory and specify interrelation among variables. A survey study is the systematic gathering of information from respondents for the purpose of understanding and or predicting some aspects of the behavior of the population of interest.

Business organizations often conduct surveys to understand the situation and solve problems. In surveys, detailed information is collected with the intent of employing the data to justify current conditions and practices, or to make more intelligent plans for improving them. The objectives of a survey study are, therefore, not only to ascertain status but also to determine the adequacy of status by comparing it with established standards.

Survey studies are usually more extensive. They involve the careful identification of the population, the selection of the sample for that population, and the collection of comparable data to make qualified generalizations. Surveys seek descriptions of various aspects of the business unit such as the location, employees, products, prices, markets, competition, and customers.

Surveys emphasize the systematic collection of information directly from the respondents by using any of the following methods:

·         Telephone interviews – a collection of data from respondents via telephone.

·          Mail surveys – a collection of data from respondents via mail or similar different Techniques.

·          Personal interviews – a collection of data in a very face-to-face situation.

·          Home interviews – personal interviews within the respondent’s house or office.

·         Intercept interviews – personal interviews in a central location, generally shopping center, haat bazaar, etc.