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Oxford Brooks University Research and Analysis Project (OBU RAP Guide)

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1. Introduction to OBU RAP
2. Eligibility
3. Guide to Preparation for the RAP
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Topics
3.3 Choosing a Topic
3.4 Selecting an Organization
3.5 Sources of information
3.6 Research Guidelines
3.7 The Research Report
3.8 Skills and Learning Statement (SLS) Guidelines
4. References and Citing Guide
5. Completion Checklist

1. Introduction

The ACCA (Association of Chartered Accountants) in collaboration with the OBU (Oxford Brooks University) makes it possible to receive a Degree in Applied Accounting alongside the ACCA Qualification. Successful students will have a professional accounting qualification combined with an accounting degree. This powerful combination dramatically improves the career prospects of ACCA students.

2. Who is Eligible?

Here is the list of eligibility requirements for this degree:
• The student must opt in for the degree plan before completing/passing the F7, F8, and F9 papers.
• The nine papers in Fundamental ACCA Qualification must be passed
• The Professional Ethics Module must be completed before the RAP (Research and Analysis Project) is submitted.
• The RAP must be accepted/passed

Once a student is registered for ACCA qualification, the student has ten years to complete the degree. Eligibility ends if more than ten years has passed since ACCA qualification registration. Paper F4 or a suitable English language qualification is required to demonstrate English proficiency.

3. Guide to Preparation for the RAP

3.1 Introduction

The final piece of the OBU BSc degree scheme is the RAP (Research and Analysis Project). There are two components to this project. One is the Research Report (RR) and the other is the Skills and Learning Statement (SLS). The student’s mentor must receive a presentation as well. The Skills and Learning Report should be up to 2000 words. The Research Report needs to be up to 6500 words. These two main components should be passed simultaneously as part of one attempt to pass the RAP. Failing either will result in a fail for the RAP. After three failed attempts to pass the RAP the student will no longer be eligible for the BSc Degree Scheme. After a failed attempt, the student can resubmit the same project or a new and different project (up to three times).

The RAP must be new and unique work. The student cannot submit work done for another educational institution or for another degree. Cheating will not be tolerated! The RAP must be the student’s own work. Students should visit the OBU website to understand the cheating regulations and the list of possible disciplinary actions – including permanent expulsion or other actions.

3.2 Topics

Twenty Topic areas have been approved by OBU as focus of the RAP. The student can choose any of these approved topics:
1. How budgetary control systems are linked to performance management and decision making
2. The impact of emerging technology on business objectives
3. How impending laws or regulations might affect financial position and operations
4. How business management and accounting issues are effected by environmental costs.
5. Short and long term use of Islamic financial instruments evaluated
6. Employee motivation factors
7. Operational activities restructuring and the effect on financial performance
8. Three year evaluation of business and financial performance
9. Information system planning and implementation
10. Use of costing techniques and their effectiveness
11. Benefits and operational/financial costs of internal audits and review activities
12. Impacts of proposed accounting standards on financial statements and business activities.
13. Human resource activities and their contribution to financial and business objectives.
14. Strategic investment impact on business and financial objectives and on stakeholders
15. How management of working capital affects funding strategies over three years
16. Financial and operational risk management
17. How stakeholders are affected by quality of corporate governance.
18. Marketing strategies effectiveness
19. Merger or acquisition financial and operational outcomes
20. How stakeholders are affected by business ethics and corporate social responsibility

The student must choose a topic from this list and select an organization as subject of research. The results of the analysis are presented in the Research Report. These are the only topics allowed – no requests for additional topic areas will be accepted.

3.3 Choosing a Topic

Unlike ACCA examinations, the quality and acceptability of the RAP depends on good choices by the student. The choice of topic is very important. A good choice promotes success while a poor choice will likely lead to failure. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a topic:

i. Knowledge & Understanding
Students should choose a topic area where the student already has some knowledge and understanding. One good indicator of the student’s understanding are the assessment tests. A very good assessment score is a good indicator of understanding of the subject matter. Good passing marks on papers F7 and F9 demonstrates a good understanding in evaluation of business and financial performance. This student should consider Topic 8. A good assessment on page F4 is a sign that the student understands impending laws and Topic 3 could be a good RAP choice.

ii. Strengths & Weaknesses
Another component of choosing a topic is the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Students should honestly self-evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as they apply to the various topics. A student with strong analysis skills would do well in a topic where business performance is evaluated whereas a student with strong skills in understanding of corporate governance might choose a topic where corporate governance is the focus.

iii. Access to Information
The student should have adequate access to information relative to the chosen topic. The student’s ability to gather enough information about a topic should be a major consideration when choosing a RAP topic.

iv. Information Sources
Related to access to information is the number and quality of information sources available to the student. Research information should be derived from multiple sources. Limited sources tend to be one-dimensional in the information they provide. Multiple sources fill out the information and data so that the research and analysis has more validity. The student should have a good idea where to source information about a topic before choosing that topic for a research paper.

v. Practical Experience
For the student with some good work experience, that experience can prove valuable as the project moves forward. Work experience will certainly improve the student’s understanding of a related topic and lead to a better project paper. As an example: a student with experience in a legal department or law firm might consider topic 3 – potential effects of impending legislation.

3.4 Selecting an Organization

The next decision going into the RAP project is the target organization. The target organization will be the subject of the student’s research and analysis. A suitable organization will meet these criteria:

a) Size of the Organization
There is not a specified size for a target organization but large companies or organizations are better suited for the type of research and analysis that makes a successful RAP. Large business entities have more stakeholders and generally have much more public information available than smaller organization.

b) Structure of the Organization
The target organization should have a relatively simple organizational structure. A complex structure will cause the student to spend a lot of time understanding the structure – possibly limiting the student’s time and energy for adequate research for the project. In cases where a comparison between competing companies is required; a complex structure makes it much more difficult to find a suitable subject company for the comparison.

c) Number of Products
A target organization should be involved in a limited number of products. A recommended number is less than five. Too many products can result in an overload of information. Isolating data about specific products from publicly available information can quickly become complicated. For comparison analysis, a diverse product range makes finding a suitable competitor more difficult. With a 6500 word limit, a large number of products becomes problematic for the RAP.

Depending on the student’s topic area selection, a large product count can be acceptable.

d) Listed or non-listed Organization
Is the company listed on the stock exchange or non-listed? Listed companies are preferred because there is generally more public information available about listed companies. Annual financial statements are required of listed companies and these public statements offer a lot of information about the company. Information about listed companies is also available from other sources such as trade organizations and chambers of commerce.

e) Country of Organization
Students should choose an organization operating in a country the student is familiar with. Social and political factors always have effect on an organization. For best results the student should be either living in the same country as the target company or extremely familiar with the country’s business environments. Traveling to do research or gather data will be much easier if the target company and the student are in the same country.

f) Familiarity
If the student is already familiar with a particular organization, that organization would be a suitable subject. When a student already has knowledge of a company’s product lines, organization structure, hierarchy; that knowledge will allow more time and effort for the analysis component of the RAP.

g) Organization’s Industry
Business sector or industry. A suitable target organization will be doing business in a large business sector. Companies operating in a very limited industry field do not have as much information publicly available as would be found in a larger, more vibrant field. Gathering data about the industry field could be important in analyzing how a company was performing. Such industry information is generally more available for active business sectors or industries.

3.5 Sources of information

After selecting a target organization and a topic the student must consider the sources of information to be used. No student should expect to get adequate information from a single source. In fact utilizing only one information source will probably result in failure. Here is a list of possible sources:

i. Primary sources or secondary sources
The actual choice here will depend on the chosen topic. In most cases secondary sources will be adequate for the RAP and OBU does not specify primary or secondary.

ii. Company’s Financial Statements
A company’s public financial statements are the most important sources of reliable information. The information is trustworthy and accurate because it is presented to the company’s stakeholders.

iii. Internet Sources
For nearly all companies the internet provides a wealth of basic and background information. The student must take care to use reliable websites. The information from the internet can overwhelm the researcher. Students must be able to sift the useful data from the hundreds of pages of raw information available online.

iv. Business Journals & Newspapers
Many medium and large businesses get mentioned in newspapers and business journals. These sources often include opinions from the writers that can be helpful to the student developing RAP analyses. Sometimes journals can provide examples about how to analyze data.

v. Different Institutions
Trade organizations, stock exchanges, trade unions and chambers of commerce often have independent sources of unbiased information about a target organization

vi. Academic Sources of Information
There are dozens of academic institutions where theories, techniques, models and concepts are discussed and defined. Successful students will use these sources to be sure the analyses they perform are properly presented.

3.6 Research Guidelines

The real work for the RAP begins in the research process. This is where many students fail on their first attempt. Following the guidelines presented here will help the student establish an effective research process.

• Research is not a mystical function. Students should be ready to forget any preconceived notions about research if this is the first exposure to the process. An open mind is ready to learn the proper process.

Research involves inquiring, looking into, finding out, or investigating. Most consumers follow some type of research process before any large purchase (such as an automobile). They start with some idea of the type of product they want then they read reviews, look up technical specifications, even try out the product in person (test drive). Then, weighing all the information they have gathered, they make a decision. This process is “research”.

The “R” component of the RAP is this research process applied to a selected topic as it relates to a chosen business. The result should be an accumulation of information specific to a business organization, focusing on a specific topic as related to the business. From this amassed information the student will produce an analysis report

▪ A decision about the objectives of the research must be made and the objective clearly defined. Without a defined objective, there is no research – just a random accumulation of information. A defined objective will guide the process.

▪ Using appropriate sources the student will gather information and data that fits with the objective. There is no restriction on the sources used. It is up to the student to compile only that information that applies to the objective of the research.

▪ The information and data discovered in the research should be saved in an organized manner. Full source information should be included for citing purposes and for verification later. The student should make sure the research information is saved until the RAP is graded. The OBU has the right to request additional evidence.

▪ Students should classify data into small groups and summarize information into a format that promotes analysis. The actual formats and classifications will depend on the type of information and the way it will be presented in the analysis. Hard data such as financial figures and stock reports..etc that will be presented as charts or graphs will be saved separate from news stories, journal reports or other mostly text-based information.

▪ Analysis and evaluation of the gathered information depends on the topic chosen for the RAP. It is expected the student has learned how to do this analysis and evaluation by this point in the process. The information should be effectively organized to facilitate the analysis. There should be notes and drafts produced as the process moves forward. These will be helpful when the final report is produced.

▪ It may become obvious the information is inadequate for evaluation. At this point the student should go back to the research stage to gather more information.

3.7 The Research Report

RAP is Research and Analysis Paper. The first component is the research report. For best results the student should follow this recommended structure. This in not mandatory but utilizing a different structure may neglect some important requirements. Exercise caution with a different structure.

i. Title Page
The title page should clearly state the topic area chosen for the paper and it should include the organization targeted by the report. The student’s name and ACCA registration number as well as the month and year for the RAP submission and a total word count.

ii. Contents Page
The structure and contents of the report should be arranged so that a table of contents with accurate page numbers for the contents can be included as page two.

iii. PART 1 – Research Approach and Project’ Objectives
The first section of the research report begins on page three. This section will explain these decisions in approximately 1000 words:
• Why the topic area was selected
• Why the target organization was selected
• What were the objectives of the research and what questions were asked
• How will the student approach the research?

iv. Part 2: Business/Accounting Techniques and Information Gathering
This information should be provided in approximately 1500 words. This part should answer following questions:
• What information sources were used?
• What data collection methods were used?
• What data and information limitations were applied?
• Were any ethical issues encountered during the gathering process?
• If ethical issues arose how were they resolved?
• List the business models, accounting models, special techniques, business and accounting theories or concepts used to produce the report
• What limitations were encountered while utilizing these models and techniques

v. Part 3: Analysis, Results, Conclusions & Recommendations:
The results of the research are presented using approximately 4000 words. This is where the student explains the findings of the research, including these details:
• Statement of results or findings and a description of the limitations of those results.
• The research findings are presented using tables, charts or graphs where appropriate
• The student should perform a critical analysis and evaluation of the results
• What important conclusions came from the research?
• If individuals within the target organization were identified, what suggestions or recommendations does the student offer?
• Explain how effectively the research questions and objectives were met

vi. References List
There should be a list of references to all the information sources used in compiling the report. This should include books, journals, newspapers, articles including titles and authors.

vii. Appendices
In appendices the student can present specific extracts from financial statements, descriptions of student calculations, a formula list, or findings from primary research such as questionnaires.

3.8 Skills and Learning Statement (SLS) Guidelines

In the second RAP component, the Skills and Learning Statement (SLS) the student will look at what he has learned in the process of completing the RAP. Self-reflection will be valuable as the student advances through his academic and professional life. Answers to four questions will form the basis of the evaluation.

Communication skills will be evaluated based on a PowerPoint presentation to the project mentor. A copy of the presentation will be provided to OBU.

SLS Questions
1. The student will look back on the meetings with his mentor and the presentation to his mentor and describe what was learned during this process.

2. The student will analyze how completely he achieved the initial research objectives of the RAP.

3. A self-analysis of how the student has demonstrated communication and interpersonal skills as the project progressed.

4. How did the work on the RAP help the student in his studies or employment?

How to Answer SLS Questions
The questions involving self-reflection (one and four) require that the student review experiences and learning acquired while working on the RAP project. The self-reflection should include an evaluation of the experience. The significance of project objectives and how well those objectives were met as well as an analysis of the experience.

Questions one and three involve meetings with the project mentor. Keeping notes of these meetings will prove invaluable to answering these questions. Shortly after each meeting, the student should analyze what happened in the meeting and note the results in a diary. These notes will provide a basis for answers to the mentor-based questions.

There are no “right” answers to these questions. The purpose of these questions is an honest evaluation of the student’s experience with the work. Including issues and incidents that caused problems and an evaluation of how the student dealt with these problems is a very important aspect of the SLS. The total word count for the SLS should be less than 2,000. The answers for the four questions can be any length provided the total word count is less than the maximum.

4. References and Citing Guide

Any academic work based on research requires citing and referencing. This gives proper credit to the original producer of the referenced work and demonstrates the student’s breadth of reading. The authors of referenced works are listed alphabetically or numerically following the end of the paper. OBU strongly suggests the Harvard Referencing System for this section. This system includes in-text citations and a reference list.

i. In Text Citation
In-text citations are placed in the document at the point where the cited information is presented. Journals, websites, books or online documents can be referenced using the author’s (this could be an editor or compiler) last name and year of publication in brackets. Here are some examples:

• A single author in-text citation will look similar to: (Author_name, Year)
• Referencing a work by an organization will look like: (My_Organization, Year)
• Up to three authors of a cited work can be cited as: (Author_1, Author_2 and Author_3, Year)
• If a referenced work has more than three authors the first author’s name plus “et al” in italics is used like this: (Author_1 et al , Year )
• When an author produces more than on work in a single year the works are tagged with a letter representing the order of publication similar to: (Author_1, 2000a) where the “a” indicates the first publication by that author that year.
• When an author’s name is used in a sentence only the year of publication is required: (Year)
• When a author’s name is not available use: (Anonymous, Year)
• When the cited reference is a website without an named author the in-text citation will be the URL: (http://referenced_site.ex, Year)
• When a publication date is not available use abbreviation n. d. :(Reference, n. d.)
• Citing a specific page in a reference is done with p. and multiple pages use pp. Example: (Author_1,Year, p121)
• Use single quotes to indicate short quotations used in the text Example: Author_1 said ‘quoted here’ (Year, p.121)

ii. List of References
The Reference list is appended to the end of the research report. All references used to produce the report should be listed. Different details are required according to the type of source.

If the reference is a book then below information is expected:
▪ The author’s surname followed by first name or initials. Up to three authors are included or the first author’s name plus et al for more than three authors.
▪ Publication year (or n. d. if the year is not known)
▪ The title of the book as found on the title page, including subtitles if any. This should be bold, italic, or underlined. First word and all proper nouns should be capitalized.
▪ If there is more than one edition of the book the edition number should be stated
▪ The publisher and place of publication is included separated by a colon. The abbreviations s. I. (unknown place) or s. n. (unknown publisher) can be used.
Example of a book reference: Author_1, A., Author_2, B., Author_3, C. (Year). Book title: book subtitle. Published location: Publisher.

If the reference is an E-book these details are required:
▪ Author
▪ Publication year
▪ Title
▪ Edition
▪ Place and name of publisher
▪ [Online] (brackets required)
▪ The URL where to book is found
▪ The date the student read the book

To refer to a chapter in a book, the student should list these details:
• Chapter author
• Publication year
• Chapter title (no italics)
• “In:” plus the author and title of the book in italics; publication place, publisher and chapter page numbers

If the source is a printed article from a journal, these details are required:
• Author
• Publication year
• Article title (no italics)
• Journal title In italics
• Volume number and issue number and/or date
• Page numbers for the article

To reference an online or electronic journal use the same details as a printed journal and add these details:
• [Online] (brackets required)
• “Available at:” the URL where the journal is found
• “Assessed:” the date the article was read

A web page is referenced like below:
Author (Year). Article title. Available at: http://website.URL (Accessed: day month year)

A database report reference should follow this example:
Author (Year). Report title; Database title [Online]. Available at: http://website.URL (Accessed: day month year)

Newspaper article references should follow this example:
Author surname, author initial (Year). Article title. Publication name, publication date, p. Page number.
If the article was found in an internet edition – instead of page number use [Online] and “Available at:” URL, (“Accessed:” day month year)

5. Completion Checklist

Before the RAP is submitted the student should use this checklist to be sure all requirements are met:
• A title page including student name, ACCA registration number and word count
• An accurate contents page
• Was the recommended structure followed?
• Is the overall word count less than 6500 and the SLS 2000 words or less? (excess words will be ignored)
• The RAP should have more than 5500 words and the SLS should have more than 1800 words. RAPs with less words will likely fail.
• For resubmits a 500 word “Resubmission Statement” is required
• Has the student completed the Ethics Module by the submission date?
• A properly cited and accurate reference list is included
• Is the Harvard Referencing System used?
• If the RAP includes spreadsheet data are the formulae included as evidence of spreadsheet
• If financial statements are used, copies of the relevant sections should be included
• If a questionnaire was used to gather information, an example of the questionnaire and a data summary should be included
• For Topic 8 RAP is the latest financial statement used?
• For Topic 8 RAP, if a ratio comparator is used the comparator may be industrial averages or another company
• Have all four SLS questions been answered?
• PowerPoint presentation to mentor should be included as evidence of communication skills
• Were the recommended presentation guidelines followed? A4 page size;black text on white background; business standard font in size 11 or 12?
• Accurate credit card information on hand to pay the submission fee?
• Is the ACCA registration active?
• Is the student’s name correct on ACCA records – this is the name that will appear on the certificate
• Does OBU have up-to-date address for the student?

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