A student research proposal

UU-MBA-711-ZM – Dissertation Page 1
UU-MBA-711-ZM – Dissertation
Week 1 – Case Study
‘Helpful but not required’: A student research proposal
Lian was a student from China. Lian was interested in the applicability of organisational citizenship
behaviour theory to Chinese workers. An abbreviated version of Lian’s research proposal follows. It has
been deliberately modified to allow you to evaluate and improve it by working through the case study
Title: The Applicability of Organisational Citizenship Behaviour Theory to a Chinese
The early definition of organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) viewed this as discretionary
behaviours by employees that were not recognised through the reward system (Organ 1988; Organ et al.
2006). Partly because such behaviours could subsequently be recognised through reward, OCB was
redefined as ‘performance that supports the social and psychological environment’ within which work
occurs (Organ 1997: 95). It has been adopted by researchers such as Bolino et al. (2002) to indicate
situations where employees work beyond contractual requirements to support one another, to subordinate
individual interests to organisational ones and to demonstrate organisational commitment. In this way
OCBs may contribute to organisational performance and potentially offer a source of competitive
Podsakoff et al. (2009) report finding over 650 published articles on OCB, mainly examining the
categories of behaviour that make up OCB (its dimensions), what causes employees to engage in these
behaviours (the determinants or antecedents of OCB) and how OCB is related to these other variables.
An early, influential study to identify its dimensions used interviews with managers in a manufacturing
company to ‘identify instances of helpful, but not absolutely required job behaviour’ to help to define
OCB (Smith et al. 1983). This and other early studies led to the identification of five categories of OCBs
(Organ 1988). These were labelled as altruism (helping a co-worker with a workplace task); civic virtue
(participating in the organisation); conscientiousness (working beyond the minimum requirements for the
job); courtesy (considering how one’s own behaviour might affect others and acting to facilitate
harmony); and sportsmanship (not complaining even in less than ideal situations) (e.g. Organ 1988).
Further research led to new dimensions of OCB being proposed (Organ et al. 2006), although these five
original categories have remained the most commonly tested.
However, continuing to use some of these dimensions of OCB and the measurement scales associated
with them (Organ 1988; Podsakoff et al. 1990) has been questioned for two important reasons. Firstly,
the nature of work has changed since the 1980s and 1990s. Manufacturing and manual work is now less
important in many economies while knowledge work is much more important. Based on research, Dekas
et al. (2013) developed an OCB scale for knowledge workers that reflects the nature of knowledge-based
work, such as working flexibly and taking personal initiative. This new scale overlaps with some earlier
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OCB dimensions but replaces or eliminates outdated items related to willingly obeying rules or
regimented working practices.
Secondly, questions have been asked about the transferability of OCB scales to other cultures. OCB
studies may apply only to the cultural context within which they are conducted (Choi 2009). The
applicability of OCB to other cultural settings therefore requires further research. Hui et al. (2004)
examined the relationships between psychological contract constructs and OCBs in China. They adopted
the OCB scale developed by Podsakoff et al. (1990) (see earlier) and, in part, found that that more research
is required to understand how culture affects the applicability of OCB. Farh et al. (1997) examined the
relationships between organisational justice theory and OCBs in China, using a Chinese OCB scale they
developed. They found that the relationships between organisational justice and OCB were moderated by
cultural (attitudes about either modernity or tradition) and gender factors. Some behaviour of Chinese
employees may be due to socialisation or broader cultural norms and be more personally focused than
organisationally related (Farh et al. 1997; Hui et al. 2004). This raises questions about the applicability
of OCB in China and whether organisational justice and psychology contract constructs may be
determinants or antecedents of OCB. In addition, Hui et al. (2004) point out that organisational type may
affect OCB; for example, they cite research saying that Chinese employees may prefer working for a
foreign-owned company rather than a state-owned enterprise.
Research question and research objectives
The research question is:
To what extent are organisational citizenship behaviour, organisational justice and psychological contract
theories applicable to Chinese organisations and why?
The research objectives are:
1. To identify suitable measurement scales for each theory, to use in the case study Chinese
2. To examine the relationship in the case study organisation between findings from the
organisational justice scale and findings from the organisational citizenship behaviour scale.
3. To examine the relationship in the case study organisation between findings from the
psychological contract scale and findings from the organisational citizenship behaviour scale.
4. To examine the relationship between findings in the case study organisation from the
organisational citizenship behaviour scale and findings in other national contexts from
organisational citizenship behaviour research.
5. To draw conclusions from the relationships observed in objectives 2, 3 and 4, to evaluate the
applicability of these concepts in a Chinese organisation.
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Research design
This research is designed to test the applicability of these theories in a case study, Chinese organisation.
The research will use a desktop study strategy incorporating existing scales from peer-reviewed, highquality academic journals. The research will be cross-sectional in nature.
Discuss the following questions:
1. Using the information in the ‘Background’ section of Lian’s proposal, what concerns may be
raised about the proposed ‘Research design’, ‘Title’, ‘Research question and research objectives’?
2. Drawing on your responses, how would you re-draft the ‘Title’, ‘Research question and research
objectives’ and the ‘Research design’?
The following points should be noted for this part of the assessment:
• This is an individual assessment, not a group task.
• Your research project progress should be submitted on the due date (i.e., Sunday of Week 1) by
11.59 p.m. (23.59 hours) VLE (UTC) time at the latest. To submit your research progress report,
please use the submission link titled “Week 1 – Case Study” that is located in Week 1 on the VLE
page of your module.
• Literature should be sourced from a range of journal articles and textbooks. A limited range of
readings will be made available.
• The word count is 600 words +/- 10%. This does not include the reference list and any appendices
the assignment may include.
• Accurate referencing of sources is crucial in this coursework. The referencing system used in this
module is the APA Reference system. Please make sure you are familiar with this. Marks will be
deducted for inaccurate referencing.
• Academic Integrity: Students are expected to demonstrate academic integrity by completing their
work, assignments, and other assessment exercises. Submission of work from another person,
whether it is from printed sources or someone other than the student; previously graded papers;
papers submitted without proper citations; or submitting the same paper to multiple courses
without the knowledge of all instructors involved can result in a failing grade. Incidents involving
academic dishonesty will be reported to university officials for appropriate sanctions.
Furthermore, students must always submit work that represents their original words or ideas. If
any words or ideas used in an assignment or assessment submission do not represent the student’s
original words or ideas, all relevant sources must be cited along with the extent to which such
sources were used. Words or ideas that require citation include, but are not limited to, all hard
copy or electronic publications, whether copyrighted or not and all verbal or visual
communication when the content of such communication originates from an identifiable source.

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