Sample Research Proposal Paper on Leadership Studies: Case K-12 Research Proposal

Research Design

This section of the study focuses on the study methodology for a proposed research. A case study method will be undertaken to help in comprehending problems associated with leadership, with particular interest on Linden Park Middle School where problems currently exist on the need to improve the school. The dilemma faced by the principal is that some of the teachers are resistant to operational changes that have been recommended especially with reference to school improvement committees. The research design will help in giving a clear understanding of the problem as well as structuring a methodology for use in the actual study.

Problem Statement

Linden Park Middle School is facing a challenge in performance, and a new principal has been brought in by the Superintendent to uplift the school to satisfactory performance levels or else the school risks being taken over by the state. The challenge faced by the principal, Gloria Thorson, is that after forming two School Improvement committees to address the issues of bullying and school literacy rates through strategically laid down procedures. While the committee in charge of bullying is doing well, the teachers in the school literacy committee are offering resistance to the proposed changes and show unwillingness to work with the other committee members for the benefit of the school. Despite being dedicated to the cause, the principal has to find better ways of managing this resistance.

As is mandatory in any organization, dealing with leadership challenges requires more than just dedication. Although many leadership studies have been carried out over the years, there still exists an information gap to be filled through continued research. Most of the studies carried out focus on the aspects of leadership styles, and the challenges faced in various positions of leadership. Moreover, the studies have applied case examples from different organizations.

It is however strange that only a few of these studies are focused on the school leadership concept, and particularly on the challenge of resistance to change in the school. The proposed study is thus aimed at giving substantial information about how the challenge of resistance to change can be dealt with in a school set up. The decision to make this proposal was motivated by the K-12 case for Linden Park Middle School where the school management is required to make quick changes that will result in better performance both in discipline and in academics.

The issue of change initiation and management as a challenge to leadership is also identified and addressed by several other authors (Schuler, 2003; Pardo del val & Martinez, n.d; Hernandez, 2011). Smollan (2011) opines that organizational change is a mandatory process that indicates growth. Organizational change is driven by the desire to adapt to the organization’s environment and to improve its performance. In either way, the most economical and feasible method is often selected for change initiation. However, two thirds of change initiation strategies in organizations fail due to resistance to change. This should not be the case since if effectively managed, change can be a driver for better performance through initiating an innovation process as well as offering help in identifying organizational weaknesses and addressing them (Smollan, 2011).

Importance of the study

The issue of resistance to change in organizations is a problem worth researching because it is a key leadership challenge, affecting not only Linden Park but also organizations across the world. The research will contribute to the academia immensely through providing additional information on the subject of resistance to change in organizations; specifically giving recommendations for use in the school set-up and giving ideas for further research into the areas of leadership challenges in the future. To other stakeholders, the research will be instrumental because the recommendations offered therein can be applicable in all other organizations just as the leadership problems are also similar across organizations. It is thus an informative and essential research.

Research Questions

A solution to the prevailing problem can be described by a single major question which can be defined as:

  • What is the most prevalent challenge to leadership at Linden Park Middle School and how can it be addressed?

This question forms the origin of our research and answering it will be able to address the problem outlined as researchable. In order to effectively address this question, the research is proposed to begin from a general theoretical basis, leading to sufficient information that will be used to analyze the presenting problem and to place it in the Linden Park Middle School context. The research will therefore be guided by the following minor questions:

  • What are some of the challenges faced in leadership in various organizations?
  • How can the problem of change resistance be addressed in the school set up?

Answering these research questions will help the paper to build up gradually, from the point of little to no information to understanding fully how Gloria Thorson, the principal at Linden Park, as well as leaders facing resistance to change can be able to make decisions that lead to better performance in all the areas of the organizations’ strategic plan. These questions will also result in the formulation of recommendations for application to other leadership problems. For Linden Park Middle School, all the variables such as challenges to leadership and the ways of resolving them will be founded on the principle that the incumbent leader has the objective of improving the school’s performance in a limited amount of time.

Research Methodology

The proposed study will adopt a case study methodology towards the accomplishment of the study objectives. The basis for choosing this particular method is because case studies have been confirmed to be effective towards the accomplishment of organization specific objectives and where generalizations are not desired (Baxter & Jack, 2008). The focus of the case study will be Linden Park Middle School, with the particular problem of research being the basis for the study. This method is a type of qualitative research which aims at obtaining information that can be applicable to a wide range of situations within contexts similar to the one presented in the case study. Moreover, the case study approach to research is effective in giving an investigative outlook at an issue, which can help in clearly bringing out answers to research problems.

Research Design

The rationale for using qualitative research in this study is that the research questions require theoretical answers. This implies that an in depth exploration of the presented ideas has to be carried out. The effectiveness of exploratory research for empirical objectives has been highlighted by Baxter and Jack (2008). This particular qualitative design is effective for the exploration of any phenomenon within a particular context when the intended information source is varied. An open ended interview questionnaire will be designed for the primary data collection as this is one of the methods that have been found suitable for collecting information from small sample populations. The advantage associated with the interview design is that it gives the respondents an opportunity to give their opinions without interference or coercion (Baxter & Jack, 2008).

A case study will be the most relevant qualitative design approach for this study as it focuses on the problem faced in a single institution (Linden Park Middle School). A case study is a qualitative research design which involves an exploration of issues associated with a particular subject at a given time and in a specific context (Creswell, 2009). For instance, the present research focuses on the problems faced by Linden Park School in the context of school improvement teams. As such the design involves an in depth exploration of the case of Linden Park Middle School. The case study as a qualitative design is proposed because it offers a variety of advantages for the study. First, carrying out a search for the data to be used will lead to the discovery of so much information both for the present study and out of it due to the design’s exploratory nature. In addition to this, the study will also provide a sufficient theoretical cover to be applied in the case study presented for the research. In addition to extensive data availability, the qualitative approach is also described by Creswell (2014) as being flexible and adjustable. Another advantage of the design is that it can be carried out within specific ethnographic divisions to give representative information based on its flexibility (Creswell, 2009).

The case study will help to understand the prevalent problem at Linden Park Middle School and thus offer substantial information on how to address the problem as well as how to apply the information received to other situations with identical challenges.

Population, Sample and Location

The case study will be carried out within the confines of Linden Park Middle School. The school contains nearly 1000 students and it can therefore be concluded that the population is sufficient for a school related case study. While carrying out the study, it is the intention of the researcher to involve both students and teachers in the study in order to be able to get conclusive as well as descriptive information. A total of 10 students and 5 teachers will be reached for the purpose of gaining a double view on the challenges facing the school. The focus on students and teachers is based on the foundation that small groups of individuals who have the greatest contact with the research problem are capable of providing detailed first hand information about a problem (Creswell, 2013). Baxter and Jack (2008) suggest that small sample populations are effective due to ease of management.

The actual sampling will be done using a random sampling technique whereby any of the students will be requested to participate and only the first 10 to accept will be taken as respondents. Similarly, only the first five teachers to accept the interviewer’s invitation will participate in the activity. This method is effective for case studies as it helps to avoid biasness in respondent selection and interview (Creswell, 2013).


While carrying out the study, the key primary data collection method will be interviews. As such, a voice recorder, questionnaire, pens and papers are essential for this study. The voice recorder will be used to record each interview for later reference during data compilation. The interviewer holds the obligation to maintain the confidence of the interviewees and to keep their data in privacy. It is also mandatory for the interviewer to represent the data received truthfully hence the need for a tape recorder (Creswell, 2013). The pens and papers are necessary for written records while the interview questionnaires will offer guidance to the interviewer on how to go about the process.

Interview Questions

Interview questions should be designed based on the intended answers to the questionnaires. The questions asked should all lead towards accomplishments of the research objectives. It is the obligation of the interviewer to design questions which do not pry into the privacy of the respondents. Consequently, the interviews will be carried out and recorded on the basis of anonymity, with the key objective being to protect the identity of the respondents and thus protect them from victimization (Baxter & Jack, 2008).

During the proposed study, the researcher intends to use a semi-structured template for the interview. Open ended questions will be provided since it has been confirmed that such an approach is effective for gaining sufficient information. Moreover, the respondents are more likely to give information from their own opinions and observations rather than being guided by offered answers. The information gathered through an open ended interview can therefore be said to be more authentic (Creswell, 2009). The following is a template for the interview questions to be used in the study.

  • What can you describe as the greatest challenge you have faced since joining this school?
  • Do you think the challenge has been brought about by a particular behavior? If so, elaborate.
  • Do you think the curriculum is being effectively tackled in this school?
  • What has been the greatest challenge to tackling the curriculum in recent years?
  • What do you think of the school improvement committees that were recently constituted for the school improvement?
  • Do you think the school will advance if these improvement teams perform on their mandates?
  • Would you want the school operations to be taken over by the state?
  • How do you suggest that the principal should handle the school improvement teams?
  • Do you think the principal’s efforts at improving the school are being sabotaged? If so, by who?
  • Are you willing to be part of the school improvement efforts?

These questions have the potential of resulting in high quality responses from the interviewees. The researcher will initiate the interactions between the interviewer and the potential respondents in order to create a positive rapport which is essential for truthful response to interviews (Creswell, 2014).

Data Collection Procedures

In using the exploratory qualitative approach to study, the main sources of data for the proposed study will be pieces of literature on the subjects of leadership and resistance to change. The materials used will be analyzed for suitability based on the content as well as the year of publication. Articles that are at most 10 years old will be used for the dearth of information to be represented in the proposed study. Moreover, any material whose content does not provide answers to the proposed research questions will be deemed unsuitable for the study and will therefore be excluded from the study.

Besides, the secondary data sources i.e. the books and other pieces of literature, a primary data collection procedure will also be used. Primary data collection procedures help to gain real life reports from respondents. These reports can then be linked to the information collected theoretically from secondary sources to help in drawing conclusions. Interviews have been confirmed to be an effective method for obtaining first hand information in case studies. The research will therefore adopt an open ended interview questionnaire to be issued to sample populations of teachers and students from Linden Park Middle School. In order to represent information as entirely required, the interview process will be audio recorded for later analysis. This will also help to save time during the actual interviews.

Data Coding

Data coding will mainly be done for the interviews. Since the interviews will be carried out on a basis of anonymity, the voice records will be made in a serial manner, corresponding to the respondent codes on the data sheet. Each student respondent will be accorded a pseudonym with two letters i.e. S and a number relating to their position in the voice recorder. For example, the first student will be S1. On the other hand, teachers will also have letter T and their position such as T10. Each of these codes will be used during data analysis to effectively represent the data.

Data Analysis

The data collected through secondary data sources will be analyzed through a continuous abstraction process which involves repeated summary until the finest details relating to the research questions have been achieved. In doing this, it is intended that the overall objective be to converge at the point of research questions. On the other hand, the analysis of interview responses will be based upon written reports of body language as well as recorded verbal responses. These will also be recorded and continuously summarized until a conclusion and recommendations can be drawn. The behaviors of the respondents during the interview has the potential of indicating where there is some greater information needed as well as  whether the responses given are truthful enough. Moreover, each of the questions will be given a series of key words related to the answers so that the weight of each answer can be analyzed.

Strengths and Limitations

The proposed research design will be able to answer the research questions in greater details than presented above. Furthermore, the research will be a source of additional information to the academia regarding leadership, particularly in schools. Another strength for the qualitative research design is that it is flexible and enables divergence from the expectations of research particularly during the interviews and the case study as a whole. An advantage of the interview is that the information gained will be sufficient for the study since it gives an opportunity to ask additional questions where the response given is considered as desiring. The proposed open ended design is therefore comprehensive.

On the other hand, the major delimitation for this research design is that the research will still be limited in its scope. This is because it focuses of a single school hence has a small sample population. The proposed design also fails in generalization since it has the capacity of exploring the details of a problem without delving into the surrounding probabilities (Creswell, 2009). Moreover, it also focuses on only a single problem in the school. It is thus recommended that other studies be organized to delve more into the school leadership role and thus provide a greater dearth of information than the proposed study.



Baxter, P. & Jack, S. (2008). “Qualitative Case Study Methodology: Study Design and Implementation for Novice”. The Qualitative Report,13(4), 544-559.

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches 3rd Ed. Thousand Oaks.

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Sage Publications

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches 4th Ed. Thousand Oaks.

Hernandez, R.G. (2011). Coping with Resistance to Change in Organizations. Retrieved from http//

Pardo del val, M. & Martinez, F.C. (n.d). “Resistance to Change: A Literature Review and Empirical Study”. Retrieved from http//:www.[

Schuler, A.J. (2003). “Overcoming Resistance to Change: Top ten Reasons for Change Resistance”. CIPD

Smollan, R. (2011). “Engaging with Resistance to Change”. University of Auckland Business Review, 13(1).