A sample of a research proposal: Interdisciplinary PhD

Lately, I sat down to think and here is the outcome: a sample of research proposal, especially in interdisciplinary field. I dare hope that through this I may at least respite somebody’s burden…. I know that in PhD readings, there is no single resource; but a good proposal is just a sum total of all the sources that a doctoral student’s been consulting. My example is far from being perfect but I judged better upload it just to give you some insights. As I am a program/policy evaluator, I am suggesting an interdisciplinary topic that might transcend from linguistics to language policy evaluation.

The sample proposal I am suggesting is suggested as follows:


Evaluating the Policymakers’ Association of Language Policies and Return on Economic Growth


1.1. Background to the problem

The era of globalization has come with new language insights where language skills have direct observable repercussion. Globalization may refer or have many definitions, but the one by Bielsa (2005) stipulating that it is a move that strengthens political, social and economic ties among countries is practical in here. More concretely, globalization is “a set of social processes that transform our present social condition of conventional nationality into one of globality” (Steger, 2013, p.9). With globalization, former national boundaries are seen as too restrictive an obstacle to the countries’ development.

Looked in economical lenses, globalization refers to a trend coming with the removal of national boundaries in order to have an effective, more efficient, and freer interminable flows of human resources, capital, trade, goods, and services (Ambirajan, 2000; Hochschild, 1998; Steger, 2013; Jones, 1998). This information adds a flavor to the reasons for removal of countries national boundaries: there is a tendency that people, goods, and services are circulating for the sake of economic ties between countries.

Linguistically speaking, globalization goes with the need for communication not felt within national boundaries. Communication among different nationals, whether trough human interpreters or adequate high-tech, is sin qua non to serve the end of fluctuating people’s services and goods circulation.

Communication in the global era shapes its own ways not controlled or likely to happen with national boundaries. It dictates that should be lingua franca languages among people from different corners of the globe (Phillipson, 2008). In monolingual societies, the mother tongue is self-sufficient in catering the communication needs. But if people from two or more geographical entities meet, which is the shadow of globalization, there is an immediate need of a language likely to unite or ease communication between those people.

The responsibility the world countries for language plan and policy is felt in the global era. Since languages are cords that unite and get people to communicate, most countries plan and establish the weight the mother tongue and foreign languages have with their national boundaries. That is why there is always a section or institution that is in charge of planning, making policy, and regulating languages within each single country. The models of policies adopted vary but some are deficient while others are more fruitful, (Collier and Thomas, 2004).

A policy for languages ought to be made and there are reasons for languages to be planned and regulated. This is best grasped if the role of languages in the economic growth and development are made clear. There a strong relationship between language policy and human capital. For example people speaking a foreign language adopted as an official one are likely to have greater access to economic and political opportunities than others. “The greater the proportion of the population that speaks that language of instruction in schooling, lower the cost and higher the level of human capital in society”, (Laitin & Ramachandran, 2014, p. 2). All climaxes in the fact that the language policy making is linked in some way with economic growth (Hanushek, 2013; Glaeser, 2004). What is more, making a language policy is a means by which the political leaders socially (re)distribute and (re)construct dues to society men and women, (Tsui &Tollefson; 2004). A language policy can also sway friendship among countries, with the potential of being sources of political, ethno-linguistic, and social conflicts, (Laitin, 2000).

The question that arises is about the capacity of the African countries W, X, Y, and Z’s language policymakers’ ability to associate language policies and return on economic growth on the one hand and their competence to make a good language policy. Their inability in either aspects is dangerous for those countries.

The newness of this research is that none of the studies by the scholars quoted above evaluates the policymakers’ ability in associating language policy and economic growth or their language policy making. This gives a strong epistemological basis to this research.

1.2. Problem Statement

Epistemologically, any research should contribute to the domain of knowledge. This becomes even when research has a clear problem. The problem in this study is that language policy-makers on the one hand may fail to associate languages and their economic growth and this results in policies that are in some way affecting negatively economic growth. On the other hand, their ability to make language policy might also be low. If the language policy-makers fail to associate the policy made with the economic growth that may root from it or have no required ability to make language policy, this means that the policy made has little or no positive impact on economic boom up.

1.3. Scope and delimitation of the study

Doing an investigation on the language policymakers’ association of policies made and how they affect economic growth or how good those policy-makers are at making language policies may be carried out following different channels. The latter might include those policy-makers’ educational background in relation to making language policy, their in-service training on language policy making, their experience in the language policy making and its impact on making good policy likely to positively impact on the economic growth in their respective countries. Another aspect that can be dealt with in relation to this study is the policy-makers’ pinpointing challenges that rendering the language policy ineffective or not contributing to the economic growth in some way.

However, the scope of the study is limited to evaluating or judging the language policy-makers’ ability to associate language policy making and its positive effect on economic growth in their respective countries. If this scope is exceeded, the researcher fears to come to inconclusive conclusions.

1.4. Research Questions

The guiding questions for this research will be the following:

  1. To which level do language policy-makers associate policy making in that domain with economic growth it might have in their respective countries?
  2. In which category does the language policy-makers’ policy making ability fall?
  3. What do the language policy-makers recommend to their respective governments for the language policies to be well-made and by knowledgeable persons in that domain?
  4.  How is language policy making associated with the economic growth in a given country?
1. 5. Research hypothesis

a) The language policy-makers’ association between policy making and economic growth is still low;

b) Language policy-makers’ ability in language policy making is still low in the countries surveyed;

c) The language policies that are made have return on economic growth as languages influence human capital in a given country

1.6. Research objectives

This research aims at:

a. finding out the level at which the language policy-makers associate policy making with economic growth;

b. categorizing those language policy-makers’ ability either in very high, high, low, or very low categories;

c. pinpointing the language policy making challenges in the country surveyed;

d. getting theoretical and practical explanation on how policy making is associated with the economic growth in a given country

1.7. Research benefits

This research is beneficial in the language policy making, planning and regulating but at different angles and both theoretically and practically:


This will be an opportunity to develop more literature regarding the language policy-makers’ capacity to associate language policies, at least theoretically, with economic growth into their respective countries. Equally, this work is meant to bring the researcher’ contribution in the domain of knowledge. more literature regarding the use of the Discrepancy Model of Evaluation (DME) in foreign languages assessment, especially in EFL settings.

(2) Practically

From the practical point of view, there are two main groups that could benefit from this research:

a. The surveyed countries’ language policy-makers

The evaluation of their capacity to associate the policies they make with the economic growth return is expected to be an overview external evaluation on the language policy-makers’ capacity to make good policies linked to economic growth and how to it can be improved if found wanting.

b. Other Researchers

This study is also expected to inspire other researchers in general linguistics or evaluation studies to further research on language policy making, planning, and regulating. Whether those researchers will sway their studies in general linguistics or evaluation studies arenas, any investigation in the aspects mentioned in the previous lines would use this study as reference as it will be carried out in more than one country


2.1. Reviewing aspects related to some research variables
2.1.1. Policy

A policy is understood in the laymen sphere as the outline and basic plan of execution a job, leadership, or of how to act. But in more elaborate terms, policy is a government instrument used to direct or guide the distribution of human, natural, and financial resources.

According to Suharto (2006a), policy is an instrument of government, not just in the sense of government in terms of state apparatus but also the governance and public resources. It is a device that leads about the choice of action that directly regulates the management of the people’s interests. It is a resolution of principles to direct the way of acting that is made in a planned and consistent manner to achieve certain goals.

So, policy is just a government or institutional plan of how to achieve certain goal. The government that has no policy cannot distribute well the human resources, the financial shares or natural resources equitably to the people which put it there.

2.1.2. Public policy

The public policy is like the function of the brain to the body. The public policy is seen as the starting point in operations of programs or activities that are done by the government, communities or the private sector. Mulyadi (2015) argues that the public policy can be viewed as a continuous and related process by which the government, together with other stakeholders regulate, analyze, and manage some public affairs and human resources in order to attain a given goal. This insinuates the idea that without public policy, the government can serve the population or even solve any problem daunting the population.

Another implication is that the so-called “process” followed in any public policy has some stages. The latter as involve the narrow group in charge of a particular public policy to something tangible. The different stages of any policy making (including public ones) includes policy formulation. This is a process including problem search, problem definition, problem specification, problem sensing. Patton and Sawicki (1987:107) give seven stages in formulating any public policy:

  1. Think about why a given phenomenon is viewed a problem or issue;
  2. Precise the scope and delimit the problem that will be solved;
  3.  Collect information and facts related to the problem to be solved;
  4.  Formulate the goals and the target beneficiaries
  5.  Identify the policy envelope (variables play on the problem).
  6. Budget costs and the benefits of the policy
  7. Formulate well the policy problem

The stages listed above show how a public policy derives from an existing problem. There cannot be a government agenda lest there is a problem to be solved. The problem to be solved or that requires an intervention by the government has to be a real one and that can be tracked through the seven phases to qualify as a problem worth solving by those on power through stakeholders.

2.1.3. Language policy

There is a wide range of definitions of language policy but the one given in Orman (2008) stands out from others. It discloses that language policy is about law, and regulation formulation. Clearly, language policy has to do with the “formulation of laws, regulations and ofcial positions regarding language usage and the allocation of linguistic resources by some government or other political organization”(p. 39). The positions of those in authority as far as language use national widely is concerned are stressed in language policy texts.

Seen in an expanded landscape, the scope of language policy does not delimit itself to official positions only. Some language policy experts or researchers go beyond officially, i.e., explicitly declared positions but feel that other components of language policy should not be left behind. This means that there are other mechanisms, also known as policy devices that are additional to the declared and official documents (Shohamy, 2006). The language policy mechanisms are the ones making the language policies effective and practical national widely or regionally.

To be concrete, Shohamy (2006: 56) classifies the language policy devices into four categories:

1) Laws, rules and regulations, standardization and officially;

2) Language education policies;

3) Language tests; these give power to languages ;

4) Language in public space: ideology, propaganda, myths, and coercion

According to these categories, even if some positions by persons in authority are made, their substance is only felt trough laws, rules and regulations accompanying the very language policy declarations. The long practicing of this makes language and related regulations is felt more natural by the masses. Overt language policies depend highly on language practices or de facto policy in Orman’s (2006) terms. A given language becomes a vehicle of an identity to the extent that speaking wrongly the language might give impression to some of that language owner-listeners that speaker is deliberately denigrating their language, then refusing their identity.

2.1.4. Language policy: a field in social sciences

There is a growing interest in language policy (LP) but some think it is an interface area between philosophy of language and corpus linguistics. To begin, at least many would side with the assertion that LP is “interested in addressing social problems which often involve language, to one degree or another, and in proposing realistic remedies”, (Ricento, 2006). The social problems involving languages are many. But language policy and planning are all about identity planning. We become what we plan to be, and if we do not plan, we become what we did not plan or never consider to be. Some may also fail to associate how language is related to power.

The best way to delineate the scope of LP as a field in social sciences is to see its relation with power. One might see that power is “represented and reected in various language policies at all levels of social structure and processes”, (p. 19). With this relationship, one can grasp the argument that language policy is an instrument by which the people on power or those opposing them manipulate to have social change or ideological views to gain support from the masses.

2.1.5. Usefulness of language policy making

Language policy is somehow the policy about a country’s identity. On the top of that, it is also associated with economic growth, (Hanushek, 2013; Glaeser, 2004). Which means that making a language policy is a means by which the political leaders socially (re)distribute and (re)construct dues to societymen and women, (Tsui &Tollefson;, 2004). A language policy can also sway friendship among countries, with the potential of being sources of political, ethno-linguistic, and social conflicts, (Laitin, 2000).

Language policy making becomes a tool with which the government or persons in authority achieve or are guided in the decisions made to achieve identity. A power policy about language of school results in some sort of imbalance and many linguistic related conflicts may arise if there is a consequent issue that denies some group’s rights rooting into language policy.

2.1.6. Policy evaluation

As given (public) policy qualifies or survives the required stages of its formulation, then comes its implementation. Evaluation comes in just somewhere amid or by the end of the implementation. Evaluation plays a paramount importance in policy implementation. According to Mulyadi (2015), the evaluation of policy implementation plays two sorts of role:

a. Evaluation gives information that is trustworthy about the policy performance, i.e., how far the needs, values and opportunities have been achieved through public actions, the evaluation reveals how far the policy goals, specific objectives, and specific targets have been achieved;

b. Evaluation contributes to the clarification and critique of values that underlie the selection of your goals and targets

In one word, evaluation plays a big role in previewing how far the policy is doing what it was meant to. Concretely, the achievement of the goals, specific objectives and targets or any critique values about the policy are shown in details throughout the policy implementation evaluation.

It should be noted that carrying out a policy evaluation serves different ends like:

1. determining the performance, i.e., the degree or level of a policy performance;

2. measuring how efficient a given the policy is;

3. measuring the level of policy outcomes, that is how big and how well the expenses/outputs are;

4. measuring the policy impact;

5. determining the existence of discrepancies;

6. serving as input for other forthcoming policies, (Mulyadi, 2015; p. 92)

2.1.7. Language policy evaluation

Language policies first of all are included into the realm of public policies. The public policy evaluation follows some criteria and evaluation models are also used as the field is highly researched. To begin, a policy evaluation is the assessment of the overall effectiveness of a given policy, especially to which extent it has met its objectives, (Dye, 2002). However, on the contrary of what much might think, a policy evaluation can be done during and after that policy implementation.

2.1.8. Linking language policy and economic growth

There are a series of studies that dealt with associating the language policy with its return on economic growth. The variables considered in many of the cases were not found significant statistically because there were some errors in their determination. But the use of a range of language variable components made the variables to be statistically significant. For example, Hillman (2016) has a catchy and tremendous study about this link. On the one hand, English language variable via English language education policy was formulated and he used the following sub-components:

  • Mean years of schooling;
  •  Teacher Training;
  • Elementary Class Size;
  • Secondary Class Size;
  • Teaching Methodology
  • Curriculum Content

As far as the Economic variable was concerned, on the other hand, he used data about “Gross Domestic Product of Purchasing Power Parity (GDP PPP)” for 2014. The results were that the level of significance was achieved.

It should be noted that The World Bank explanation (2014) of GDP per capita is that:

GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP). PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States. GDP at purchaser’s prices is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products.

With the definition of GDP per capita, one can best grasp the role of languages in the economic growth and development clearly. “The greater the proportion of the population that speaks that language of instruction in schooling, lower the cost and higher the level of human capital in society”, (Laitin & Ramachandran, 2014, p. 2). The positive relationship between language and economic growth lies not only in the rising importance of the economics of language in the context of economic globalization, but also in the new point of view that it brings to both economics and linguistics.


A. Evaluation Model

The evaluation model in use in this evaluation research is the Malcolm Provus’ Discrepancy Evaluation Model, abbreviated as DEM. Both Fitzpatrick, Sanders, and Worthen (2012: 156-157) and Fernandez (1984: 9-10) explained about Provus’ DEM as an evaluation model. DEM has got five stages, but the fifth is optional. Those stages are:

  1. Policy Definition/Design
  2. Policy Installation
  3. Policy Process /Interim product
  4. Policy Product
  5. Cost-Benefit Analysis (optional; and this was not researched in this study)

The components of the DEM need clarifying and both Fitzpatrick, Sanders, and Worthen (2011: 156-157) on the one hand, and Fernandez (1984: 9-10) on the other hand clarifies that evaluation model stages as follows:

[1] Policy Definition Stage – at this stage, the purpose of the evaluation is to assess the program design by first clarifying about the necessary inputs (antecedents), processes, and outputs (outcomes). Evaluation at this phase seeks to see if the program has (1) clear objectives, (2) beneficiaries/target group, staff, and other resources that must be present for the program objectives to be attained, (3) policy objectives. An evaluation question that can be asked following this stage is:

“Is the program adequately defined?”

[2] Policy Installation Stage –at this stage, the evaluation assesses the degree of policy installation against Stage 1 policy objectives. The evaluator at this stage sees whether there are any discrepancies between expected and the actual policy implementation or activity. In the case some discrepancies are found, Fitzpatrick, Sanders, and Worthen (2011) and Fernandez (1984) report that a number of alternative solutions can be chosen: either to (a) change the policy definition; (b) adjust the delivery of the policy, or (c) terminate it. The evaluation question may be: “Is the policy congruent with the plans”?

[3] Policy Process Stage – is a stage where the evaluation consists of determining the relationship between the variables to be changed and the process used to effect the change. Stage 3 asks, “Are the resources and techniques being used congruently with the goals of the policy?

[4] Policy product Stage: at this stage, the evaluator assesses whether the program achieves its terminal objectives. Here the evaluation question might be “Has the program achieved its immediate outcomes/terminal objectives?

B. The data collection instruments

The data collection instruments will include a competence test to the language policy-makers, document analysis, interview and focus group discussions.

 C. Instruments validity and dependability

In this study, the focus is on the content validity. Experts’ judgements to enhance the content validity was used and the Aiken coefficient values was interpreted as in Retnawati (2015: 38): where the V-index between 0.4 up to 0.8 indicates average/mediocre validity while Aiken’s V- Index/coefficient above 0.8 is the indication of the instrument’s high content validity.

In this research, the V-Index can be computed following this formulae:

D. Data Analysis procedures

This study used both qualitative and descriptive quantitative analysis. The qualitative data were handled following Miles, Huberman, and Saldaña (2014:12-13) technique consisting of (1) data reduction or condensation, (2) data display, and (3) conclusions drawing/verification.

Concerning quantitative data from the scaled form questionnaire, they were analysed through Rasch Model with the Winsteps software version 3.73.0. The logits that are already made represent rating scale scores that are interval as they originated in the study subjects’ perception about the authentic assessment implementation in the pragmatics course they had taken. With such data in form of logits, the scores are of the same intervals and the researcher can freely draw conclusions with minimum or without related measurement error.

(i) Evaluation criteria

To rank the degree of the authentic assessment implementation in the pragmatics course as very high, high, low or very low, we transit via Bambang Sumintono & Wahyu Widhiarso’s (2015: 40) in Ndayizeye’s (2017) logits measure based on odd ratio probabilities. More specifically, Item Measure Statistics is used. With these odd ratio probabilities in mind, it can be seen that the interval scale spans from -2 up to +2. So, the intervals can correspond to the following criteria as far as categorising statements agreed or disagreed on by respondents is concerned:


X: stands for each statement’s “Item Measure” value in logits as analysed through Winsteps   version 3.73.0

As I have said in the lead-in, this post is far from being perfect. It’s all about guiding or boosting some ideas in you. What in know is that it can inspire you to come out with an original idea that will impress your advisors.

Good luck….Don’t forget to comment, give some sort of feed back about this post: did you get what you expected? Just say something ….Thank you very much.




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