A rationale comprises a line of reasoning that explains the topicality of the research and defines a context for the location of the project.
Two Major Roles of the Rationale
The rationale plays a major role on two stages: (a) as soon as the research proposal is submitted for approval to your advisors (b) when the final version of your dissertation or thesis is prepared.
Putting Your Work in a Context
What does it mean to put your study in a context? It means to ascertain the sphere of life to which the research applies. One of the best ways to do this is to use labels that your readers are familiar with. For instance, if you study the life of Chinese-American families, you can think of several options that go all the way from general to very precise and specific. Label number one, which is social change, is a general one. Label number two, which is a family structure, is already a bit more precise and narrowed down. The third label, which may be structure tendencies of Chinese-American families, is very distinct, narrow, and precise. If we proceed to analyze this example further, we can continue with how your rationale can start with each label:
- If we speak about the social change, the most prominent theories are …
- Family structure can be classified in a number of different ways …
- Tendencies in family structure in Chinese-American families are the following …
Then you should showcase the way that your project corresponds to the chosen sphere of life.
Identifying Your Intended Contribution
Arguably, one of the most important goals that an author’s rationale accomplishes is a thorough clarification of how the suggested project can expand the knowledge; in other words, how this project can expand people’s understanding of the world, narrowed down to the comprehension of the knowledge that is offered in the author’s project. Another important goal is a practical one – to clarify how this new knowledge can be applied to life and improve the conduct in regards to that particular aspect of life. To achieve these noble goals, the author usually identifies the inadequacies in the prevalent body of knowledge and insufficiencies in prevalent practices and then goes on to explaining and offering ways to get rid of these inadequacies and insufficiencies. Contributions of the author can be very different and may include:
- Facts about individuals, institutions or events which are unknown and haven’t been studied before
- Consequences of the application of dominant theories as well as methods of investigation in regard to individuals, institutions or events not studied in such a way before
- Innovative methods for gathering data and studying phenomena
- New ways to look on familiar events
- Novel understandings of existing data
- Meta-analysis or conclusions made by the combination of results of analogous studies
Please, consult your advisor if you require further clarification about the essence and role of an author’s rationale.