Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Plenary 1 - Royal Holloway, University of London

Student reactions after the Royal Holloway, University of London MBA and MSc International Management plenary week 1 (residential summer school) held in June 2011 at the Egham campus.

2011 MBA and MSc International Management Distance Learning cohort

In what was very much a team effort, staff at the School of Management pitched in to ensure that a record number 113 delegates at this year's Egham plenary had a highly engaging and rewarding experience. These two-week plenary sessions allow students on the distance learning MBA/MSc International Management course to meet face-to-face with academic staff and other students in an intensive programme of master classes, group projects and social events.
The ever popular Thames boat trip was reinstated, plus the formal dinner in Founder's Picture Gallery saw arts marketing specialist Dr Derrick Chong share some historical insights into its £30 million Victorian art collection. Following participant feedback, more emphasis this year was put on engaging with industry speakers. Oral feedback suggested that 2011 was a significant improvement on the 2009 and 2010 sessions.
"Plenary 2011 - for me the second truly amazing time in Egham! It was a week filled with interesting research, hard work and great presentations. But maybe the best part was connecting with interesting people from all parts of the world in an ambience of great academic heritage and beautiful nature. Comparing week one in 2010 to week two in 2011 one could feel that the organisers are pushing hard to make this experience even better."
L. Schaper, Germany

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

MBA Sweden study visit 2012

Royal Holloway MBA International Study Visit to Stockholm University Business School

Detailed photo itinerary is contained below:

In Pictures

In News

On Twitter -

 ‬The following copy and images are provided thanks to Dr Sigrun M Wagner.
This year’s MBA cohort (2011-2012) went on a study trip to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, after the end of their exam period and before their final group assignment (life consultancy case with Conti) and dissertation. They were accompanied by alumni relations officer Fiona Redding as organiser and teaching fellow Dr Sigrun Wagner from the academic staff.
The visit included three company visits, two guest lectures at Stockholm University Business School (SUBS), a boat trip on Stockholm’s canals, some free time and organised dinners including the final dinner with students and staff from SUBS’ executive MBAs. The following offers an insight to the trip with the help of pictures.
We had a cold start at the RHUL bus stop on Monday morning, waiting for the bus to Heathrow.

In Stockholm we arrived into beautiful sunshine – a yellow bus was waiting for us to take us to our hotel, Mornington hotel in Nybrogatan.

The rest of the afternoon was free, which most people used to venture out into the city for a cup of coffee. Lots of pictures were taken throughout the week:


The first night involved dinner near the hotel, which provided a chance to get to know each other better. The group also met the local counterpart from Stockholm University Business School, Isabel Dahlin, education and market coordinator.

The first company visit the following morning was to Swedish Orphan Biovitirum (SOBI) at Karolinska Institute’s Science Park. SOBI is a pharmaceutical company that specialises in orphan drugs for rare diseases. After getting an introduction to the company and the regulatory process for new drugs, the group was taken on a tour through the labs to see the actual processes with a chance to ask further questions.

In the afternoon, the whole group went for a boat trip in beautiful sunshine –Stockholm welcomed the group with an early arrival of summer! Stockholm is also called the Venice of the North and the boat trip provided a good opportunity to see this beautiful city from the water.

The first full day in Stockholm concluded with dinner at Myntkrogen, the restaurant in the Royal Coin Cabinet, opposite the Royal Palace.

The next day started with an all-morning visit to Swedbank, a leading bank in Sweden and the Baltic countries. The presentations and discussions centred around sustainability, banking models and the impact of the financial crisis. They provided stimulating and inspiring ideas not only for the students.

Our super organisers, Isabel and Fiona, during our visit to Swedbank:

After lunch, the group was taken to Stockholm University Business School for our first lecture, which was on critical and institutional perspectives on fashion blogging from a marketing researcher. 

There were no scheduled activities for the evening so students and staff went their own ways for dinner and entertainment (so I hear!).
In the second lecture on the trip, marketing guru Evert Gummesson provided interesting and challenging material on relationship marketing. He delivered a fascinating lecture that engaged everyone.

The buildings of the business and economics faculty at Stockholm University used to be veterinary clinics – outside the surgical clinic:

Most of the group outside Stockholm University’ School of Business after lunch and a walk around the waterside campus:

Awaiting the final company visit at Scan AB – a big player in the meat industry. A leading strategist and an HR professional talked us through the company and were very open to suggestions of the students with regard to international strategy and challenges facing the company.

The company visit at Scan AB concluded with sampling their delicious meat products:

For the final dinner at Hagaforum, the group was joined by staff and students of the Executive MBA at SUBS and provided a fitting ending to a great trip:

After a final morning with some free time to sleep or go sightseeing, the group headed back to the UK and here we are, happy and exhausted upon return to RHUL:

Overall, this was a successful visit which was very well organised and enjoyable.
For more pictures see the School of Management’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.444129535616828.111127.201254953237622&type=1) and the twitter feed of academic Sigrun Wagner www.twitter.com/smwagner_RHUL (hashtag #RHULMBA2012)

Marvellous Methodology Writing

To my mind, an effective methodology needs to achieve two things:

(1) justify the approach you have taken
(2) explain in detail how the primary research took place

(1) Justifying the approach
If you think about your research topic - you can (in theory) undertake any kind of research - but will need to find the most appropriate methodological approach that fits the investigation you are undertaking.  I use the image of an upside down tree trunk - with the sub-dividing root system as a visual metaphor.  Often it is easy to jump to a choice of methods (questionnaire, interview, focus group), but it is important to justify why this was a good choice, what are its strengths, how can you mitigate (over come) some of the weaknesses.  (For every strength, there is a weakness...)
Thus - the first choice is between qualitative or quantitative methods and then within each of these you will find a variety of approaches and then sometimes within these further options.

What I recommend is that you spend 3 hours in the library in the research methods text section and pull down 15 different texts and use them to construct a well referenced argument that uses the expert opinions of research methods authors to demonstrate a rationale behind your choice of methods.  The methods section of an academic journal that uses a similar approach might be a good place to get a feel for the different kind of language that is expected.

Do not forget to cover mitigation, actions taken to anticipate or compensate for possible short comings in the approach.  In the business world flagging weaknesses might not be common practice, but in academia recognising shortcomings preempts criticism for not having considered the issue and demonstrates the ability to self-critique, which is often seen as a virtue.  Three modest items here should be sufficient.  Anything too important may invalidate your research (disaster), and too many small points will detract the readers focus. 

Suggesting that a certain approach is "quick and easy" will not engender the correct feelings in a markers mind, thus you may want to consider using phraseology that suggests "beyond the reasonable scope of a under/post graduate dissertation project" to cover approaches that might be too expensive, too time consuming, or just too big.  Access to experts or research scenarios made possible by work, family or social networks should be openly discussed, but avoid positioning the research negatively e.g. "My dad took me to his work one day and I have a few chats with his colleagues" or "I watched people whilst I was working".  Careful use of rationales, how the interviews were set up, how observation bias was avoided, how observations were recorded can impart credibility to such types of approach.  Establishing the credibility or appropriateness of the research subjects is also achieved here. 

(2) Detailed methodological description
You may remember cooking classes from school, or perhaps at home, most of us can use recipes.  Part of the scientific approach of peer-reviewed academic research requires sufficient detail to be given to allow other researchers to follow on, perhaps trying to exactly replicate the study (think of pioneering heart surgery or nuclear fission) and validate the findings.  Thus, sufficient detail should be given to allow someone to do this.  Back to the recipe idea, this gives specific, detailed lists of actions in a structured order that allows repeated perfect cake baking.

Source: Wikimedia.org

Pancake Recipe

Two medium eggs
Flour (any, but self-raising makes for lighter pancakes)
Milk (semi-skimmed or full fat for taste, lower fat for health) 
Butter or fat for frying (avoid margarine, it tends to burn in the pan)
Serve with granulated sugar and lemon juice

Step 1: Weigh eggs, use same weight of flour and milk (a traditional balancing scales is great here)
Step 2: Put the flour into a mixing bowl, crack open the eggs and add them followed by the milk
Step 3: Use a mixer or hand blender to combine the liquid until a smooth, creamy paste is formed, with all traces of egg and flour gone.
Step 4: Melt some butter in a large frying pan on full heat and use a small cup to pour enough mixture into the pan to cover it all over.
Step 5: Check the underside of the pancake to see how well cooked it is (usually the top goes nearly solid).  You are aiming for a golden brown colour patchwork.
Step 6: Using a sudden-lifting-jolting action from the wrist, in plenty of space, flip the pancake out of the pan and catch it again having inverted it.  (Alternatively it is possible to turn over the pancake using a wide, flat utensil such as a spatula).  Take care to clear up any spillages.
Step 7: When both sides are browned, serve on a plate with sugar and lemon juice.

You will note from the simple example above there is quite a bit of jargon (sometimes explained e.g. spatula), some ideas are quite difficult to express (I struggled with "flip the pancake") and clearly from the above I could have written more (nothing about clearing away or how to use a weighing machine), equally it could have been possible to write even less, but this would then have left the novice cook perhaps struggling to follow.

You probably need to avoid the formulaic 'step 1, 2, 3...', use full sentences and provide as much detail as possible, but ensure your writing is very tight or concise.  This section may use few or limited in text references.

Where a pilot approach is used, highlighting changes made to the approach is helpful. If a questionnaire is used, include a copy in the appendix and reference it here.  If problems with the methods were encountered that were not overcome, briefly mention it here and also flag this as an opportunity for further, refined research and as a limitation to the findings in the results.  Some open criticism here actually can improve the quality of the work, but do not go overboard.

A careful blend of the two essential components listed above should see a solid methodology emerge.  Key tip:  reading other authors methodologies will help this make more sense and give you appropriate insights into accepted terminology and writing style.