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LO1: Be able to plan a people practice business research project aimed at adding organisational value.

Post Date: 05 - Mar - 2024

7CO04 Business Research in People Practice

Assignment Writing Guide.



Advanced Diploma in

  • Strategic People Management
  • Strategic Learning and Development



Researching and writing business reports is a key skill that will be important throughout your career. The process of identifying research problems, developing and deploying methods to collect relevant data, and the ability to work with that data in order to identify trends and patterns is crucial to the ongoing success and development of organisations. The purpose of this unit is to enable you to develop your knowledge of research skills within the human resource management domain, and to build your ability to produce persuasive business reports. The research that you produce will address a business problem by developing a set of business focused recommendations to address this identified issue.

In order to successfully complete this unit you need to display a skill set which encompasses the following:

1) an understanding of theory and practice.

2) the ability to plan a project and undertake background reading necessary to identify and specify research objectives.

3) analytical skills to write targeted questions and analyse answers from respondents.

4) insights necessary to produce cost-effective and workable recommendations.

5) communication skills to present the material in a relatively short report.

6) a willingness to review learning so as to take away lessons for the future.

For this assessment you are required to write a report which addresses the four Learning Outcomes in an integrated way and draws upon different areas of people practice depending on your choice of topic. Answering the assessment criteria one at a time will not enable achievement of the learning outcomes on its own. The final submission for this unit must be in the form of a business report, rather than ‘answers’ to the assessment criteria one by one.

As with other units, the length of the project report is 4000 words +/- 10% allowance. The bibliography/other sources are not included in the overall total, nor are essential appendices. These will not be marked but they can be used to support the project – though these must be kept to a minimum. In practice this means that approximately 1000 words (+/- 10%) should be allocated to addressing each Learning Outcome (LO), although it is recognised that research projects will be very diverse and therefore some variation in this is permitted depending on the requirements of your independent research project.

Assessment is undertaken at the level of each Learning Outcome, which means a mark is awarded within a grade for each of the four LOs rather than for each AC.

The business research project

The following section provides advice and guidance about the construction of the business research report.  As noted in the previous section it is important that the final submission is presented as a coherent business report, rather than a set of answers to each of the assessment criteria.

LO1: Be able to plan a people practice business research project aimed at adding organisational value.

Assessment Criteria

1.1: Justify terms of reference for the business project

1.2: Critically analyse key publications and other evidence to underpin the research questions

1.3: Develop a range of questions aimed at addressing the project’s main focus and outcomes


In order to meet the assessment criteria listed above you need to:

Write the introduction and terms of reference for the research project

The introduction should provide some background to the organisation and explain the business problem being addressed. This is followed by the terms of reference, which should include the project’s aim and research objectives. This section should also explore the resources required for its completion in terms of broad costs and support, and the deadline date for submission. These must be precise, manageable and achievable in the time allowed. It is a good idea to use a GANTT chart which shows a clear timeline for each stage of the project - this can be attached as in an appendix (please note this is not included in the word count).

Write a literature review which critically discusses published work relevant to the research aim/terms of reference

This requires an analysis of published material and reputable on-line sources relating to your terms of reference and provides the underpinning support for the research questions. Sources may include:

1) textbooks on HR/L&D and relevant papers in peer-reviewed academic journals.

2) practitioner-oriented publications and reputable on-line websites, which offer a more practical treatment of the topics addressed in the project. These include: CIPD reports and surveys, government publications, material from employer organisations/trade unions, and independent think-tanks in the country where the research is undertaken.

3) any other source which provides data on specialist areas of people practice.

You are strongly advised to keep notes of key material when compiling your literature review. It is critical that you explore ideas by searching different publications, engaging with the arguments, and analysing the literature so it is presented in a clear and concise way in line with both the terms of reference and the research questions. 

Develop a set of research questions (qualitative research) or hypotheses (quantitative research) that the research project will seek to address

Following the compilation of a literature review you need to draw on both the terms of reference and the literature review to identify one or more research questions to guide the remainder of your project. These can alternatively be in the form of hypotheses if you are using quantitative data.


For a project on employee engagement, plenty of publications are available, so it is crucial that the most pertinent material is used. It is best to start with the recommended reading set out in the CIPD Advanced Diploma unit on Strategic Employment Relations 7HR01. It is important to critically analyse material from several sources to get a definition of the topic. You should also look at alternative views on employee engagement (critical reviews as well as the celebratory literature).

Once the terms of reference have been devised, a literature search will identify useful journal articles and specialist, practitioner publications. In the UK and Ireland, good sources would include CIPD, Engage for Success, the Involvement and Participation Association, ACAS and People Management.  

Examples of potential research questions could include some of the following options (or others as appropriate).

RQ1: How can employee engagement be tailored to align with the strategy and business context in the organisation under review?

RQ2: Which employment practices and processes need to be introduced and/or developed so the organisation and its employees benefit from employee engagement?

LO2: Be able to justify the most appropriate research methods to collect data for the chosen project.

Assessment Criteria

2.1: Assess differences between primary and secondary data, including the value of different research methods

2.2: Justify the most appropriate research methods to support the project’s intended outcomes

2.3: Critically assess the ethical issues surrounding data collection, usage and storage for the project


In order to meet the assessment criteria listed above you need to produce a methodology section for the proposed project which gives consideration to:

Research approaches and research designs

You should be able to discuss the differences between different types of data available to you, and different methodologies that could be deployed within research projects, defending the research design decisions that you have made. LO1: Be able to plan a people practice business research project aimed at adding organisational value.

Primary data is material you collect yourself, either individually or in a team. It is important to pilot the questions to be used in an interview, focus group or survey to make sure they are appropriate.

Secondary data is material collected by someone else, either as part of an internal survey in the same or another organisation, or published data sets such as in the CIPD research reports or from the Office for National Statistics. Both types of data can be used in your BRPP report, but it is crucial that you do not over-stretch yourself here.

Data collection and analysis methods

Quantitative methods - such as surveys, can provide greater validity because there are typically more respondents, but questions must be unambiguous and simple to answer in order to have confidence in the findings.

Qualitative methods - such as interviews, focus groups, and participant observation, provide more in-depth findings and allow for more nuanced explanations. However, respondents must be able to answer questions fully and with relevant knowledge – for example, regarding their own experience of an induction programme. Sample composition and methods of sample selection are key. Data from different categories of respondents is useful to check on accuracy or understand alternative perspectives on an issue.

If appropriate, both types of methods, and/or both primary and secondary data, can be used together. It is however essential that the project includes the collection of some primary data. 1.1: Justify terms of reference for the business project

Research ethics

When exploring the issue of research ethics, people professionals are expected to display ethical practice, particularly if they are collecting data on other people. Ethical issues arise at several stages in the project, and some guidance can be found in the CIPD’s 2019 publication Ethics at Work: an employer’s guide. Key issues relate to: respondents signing an ethical approval form if data is collected from them; reassurance of anonymity within the report; a commitment not to share personal data without agreement; secure data storage provisions. 


In order to review the effectiveness of existing employee well-being policies and practices in an organisation, a mix of primary and secondary data could be used. Plenty of material is available from the CIPD Unit Well-being at Work, the CIPD Health and Wellbeing Report (2022), government agencies, employer organisations and trade unions.

Some also include case studies on different types of organisations which can allow your organisation to benchmark against other firms in the same sector or size band.

Drawing on this, you could then set up interviews/focus groups or a short survey of a limited number of staff at your own organisation. The key point is to think creatively about the most appropriate way to collect data which fits with your organisation’s needs and the terms of reference.

LO3: Be able to analyse data to make decisions and provide business and people management insights.

Assessment Criteria

3.1: Appraise the costs of different approaches to data collection and analysis for the project

3.2: Design an appropriate strategy for analysing, organising and interpreting data collected from research

3.3: Present the findings of the business project clearly and logically and aimed towards the intended audience


In order to meet the assessment criteria listed above you need to produce:

A critical discussion which explores the relative costs of different approaches to data collection and analysis (this may be included within the methodology or the findings section)

For any business research it is important that the cost implications are taken into consideration.  You will need to consider the costs associated with your research methods, plus the alternative data collection methods that you considered but discarded.

When it comes to considering costs, apart from your own time, costs for the BRPP project are unlikely to be high because you will do most, if not all, of the data collection.

Some studies might require the use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other digital technologies which are free or require a subscription. While most surveys are now done on-line, there might be costs for printing surveys if this is not possible.

A findings section which sets out, and interprets the trends or patterns within the collected data

In the production of the findings section, you need to be able to demonstrate how data has been analysed, organised and interpreted.

If questionnaires are comprised principally of questions with fixed-choice answers you will need to tally responses, and then interpret the results. 5-point Likert scales are used regularly for this purpose as they are quite adaptable, and it might be possible to compare results with another survey. Stronger submissions will likely include some form of more advanced statistical analysis, perhaps using packages such as SPSS.

If qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews or focus groups, have been used, there might need to be amendments to the original analytical framework if new ideas emerge which capture nuances and greater complexity in people’s mindsets.

A discussion section which relates the findings to the existing literature base (literature may be drawn from both the literature review section itself or additional sources as required)

An analysis of the findings from primary research should relate to the initial research questions or hypotheses, plus comparing and contrasting your findings with those identified by the literature, cross referencing to the original sources reviewed.

Findings should be organised, so they relate back to the research questions or hypotheses that were outlined earlier in the report. It is important not to drift into areas which are marginal to your main argument. When discussing the key trends and patterns the learner should relate the key findings back to the literature base, this is particularly important if the results do not fit with the original hypotheses or research questions. In such cases they should be discussed openly in a way which both engages the audience and encourages discussion.


An organisation with which you are familiar is investigating whether to set up new overseas operations in one of two countries, and you have been asked to focus on (a) legal regulations covering employment and (b) the quality of leadership programmes in these countries.

A decision has been made to use semi-structured interviews with employer organisations, professional bodies and University Business Schools in these countries to understand more about their national cultures and the resources available for employers.

These interviews revolve around key areas that require more information, so it is appropriate to collect data from a small number of highly knowledgeable people in each country.

Template analysis or thematic analysis would be appropriate for this task as it can be used to design a coding protocol where ideas are organised into categories. This allows for relevant areas of employment law and the quality of local leadership programmes to be assessed for the study. It is a great way to organise, analyse and interpret data, and should enable you to produce a clear and concise report.

LO4: Be able to propose recommendations based on conclusions derived from the research and analysis.

Assessment Criteria

4.1: Justify conclusions derived from analysis of key findings, which align to the terms of reference

4.2: Propose business-focused recommendations, action points and a cost-benefit analysis

4.3: Evaluate the success of the project, including ways in which to improve future project design and delivery


In order to meet the assessment criteria listed above you need to produce a conclusion section to the business project which contains the following:

Answers to the original research questions (or hypotheses) which show how the business project has addressed the terms of reference

This should summarise the research by drawing the main threads from the secondary research (literature) and primary research. 1.1: Justify terms of reference for the business project

This conclusion to the report needs to be concise, clear and accurate, and show how the answers to the research questions (or hypotheses) were derived from the data and that key messages are understood.

Being able to communicate in an engaging way is necessary to reassure sponsors that the data is accurate, the conclusions add value, and there is little or no risk to the organisation’s reputation and performance.

Recommendations that flow from the findings of the research, including an action plan and cost-benefit analysis

The recommendations from the report must be in the form of a set of practical strategic actions the organisation is recommended to implement to address the initial project aim and suggestions for further investigation as necessary.

The recommendations should be supported by an operational implementation plan and a strategic cost-benefit analysis aimed at the decision makers.

The identification of costs is not simple, so relatively easy-to-measure costs – such as loss of production, levels of absence, costs of recruitment and selection and/or training – are typically used. However, it is also important to consider costs that are more difficult to measure – for example, a poor organisational reputation for inclusion and diversity can easily put off potential applicants.  To create a persuasive business report, it is important to highlight the potential business impact, so for example, any cost savings and/or an increase in revenue that could be associated with the recommendations.

Please note the action plan and cost-benefit analysis are excluded from the word count.

A reflection on the process of researching and writing the business report, with consideration given to own continuing professional development.

Before putting the report away, it is then important to take a step back and reflect on whether or not, and in what way, the project could have been improved. For example, were the timescales in the GANTT chart appropriate, how could the literature search have been improved, were any questions unclear to respondents, or could the recommendations have been presented more effectively to senior management?

If it is decided nothing could have been improved, it is likely that self-reflection has not been deep enough. Learning theory should be used to underpin your reflective analysis; see readings in this unit, as well as the Advanced Diploma learning and development units. 

Please note your reflection is excluded from the word count.


Quantitative data on the impact of a training course on the performance of supermarket checkout staff provides strong evidence that women, younger people, and those with prior experience of similar work, are better at this task than other people.

This might lead to a conclusion that these groups should be targeted in future recruitment. However, there are clear ethical, practical and legal reasons why this might not be an appropriate way to proceed.

The conclusions and recommendations from the project need to recognise these issues, as should the self-reflection, in order for you to demonstrate your ability to think carefully and creatively when investigating issues. This applies particularly to some elements of data analytics, where you need to take great care in choosing which metrics to use. LO1: Be able to plan a people practice business research project aimed at adding organisational value.

Your evidence must consist of:

A business report of 4000 words (+/- 10%), refer to CIPD word count policy.

Please note that the following are excluded from the word count:

· Reference page and bibliography

· essential appendices

· action plan

· cost/benefit analysis

· reflection

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