Evaluation Essay Topics

Any essay would be naked without a topic because the topic is the entry point of an essay. In a nutshell, it enables the reader to peer into the story without actually reading it.
Before writing an evaluation essay, any writer should take it upon himself to think of a topic that is mostly likely to click with his audience and enable them to identify with the essay. Who are you looking to convince?

Choosing a Topic for the Right Audience

By knowing your audience, you will come up with evaluation essay topics that directly affect and resonate with them, thus building their interest in reading your essay. For instance, if your audience consists primarily of movie enthusiasts, it would follow that a topic angling on movies would capture their attention. For instance; it could be a comparison between the characters of the movie.

Using Books as Evaluation Essay Topics

Books can also act as evaluation essay topics. For instance, you could have recently read an interesting book on ‘Strategies of Successful Business’ and your hands are just itching to evaluate it. Well, go ahead and convince your readers that the book is worth their time; or that it is not.

A writer can also form evaluation essay topics by studying what is happening in society. What are some of the emerging issues that can be evaluated? For instance, The Objectification of Women in Music Videos can form a good topic for an evaluation essay. 
Some writers tend to be frustrated because they cannot think of any good evaluation essay topics; but there is no need to beat yourself up.

Using Free Evaluation Essays to Explore Essay Topics

Free evaluation essays are written by other writers for the purpose of guiding others on how to write good evaluation essays based on good topics that readers can identify with. These essays are scattered all over the internet for all and sundry to read, without paying a single dime.

There are many sites on the internet that are flooding with evaluation essay examples for reviewing. However, it is not a guarantee that all the samples are free evaluation essays because some will require you to become a member first and pay a certain fee to get access to all the essays.

For proper growth as a writer and faster progress in choosing evaluation essay topics, it is advisable for a writer to go through free evaluation essays in order to have a pool of ideas to borrow from.

Good Topics for College Essays

Time passes really fast and before you know it you are required to write exemplary undergraduate college application essays that will earn you the highly coveted slot into college.

Colleges use application essays are a means of evaluating prospective students to see who is well suited to join their institution.

When the application letter arrives, you realize that you cannot come up with any good topics for college essays. No need to start panicking because you don’t need to travel to Mars to think of a good topic for your essay.

Good topics for college essays are derived from your everyday life. Have you ever done something that changed someone’s life? Like helping and old woman’s cat out of a burning house?  A topic built on such an idea will make your essay interesting from beginning to end.

 A good essay depends on a good topic, choosing a wrong one may turn your essay into the admission officer’s worst nightmare. An officer can judge the quality of the article just by reading the title, imagine if he or she were to stop at the title. It helps to have a prior idea of essay topics that work for undergraduate college application essays writings. Your tool for achieving this is research. There is no easy way around it, turn the internet upside down if you have to but ensure that you get the gist of coming up with a good topic.

You will come across a range of great ideas on how to select good topics for college essays. Go through the ideas carefully, analyze them and come up with a topic that will shock the admission officer (in a good way of course).

After you have the topic, write that story that will knock them all out, they will not be able to resist you. Seize this golden opportunity to sell your personality to the admission officer.

It has been said by people wiser than me but it won’t kill me to repeat: never ever use undergraduate college application essays as a platform for showing off your achievements or the honors you have received. Leave that to the egotistic high school quarterback who thinks that college, like high school will be his kingdom.

Show offs tend to blow their chance at getting into a good college by writing self-centered undergraduate college application essays that fail to amuse. This is often due to lack of vision and inability to choose good topics for college essays.

Law School Admission Essays

Every year, thousands of students attain the required minimum grade to join the college or university of their dream. Consequently, the admission boards have to use law school admission essays to select the most suitable candidate to join their respective institutions. The purpose of law school admission essays is not to summarize the contents of curriculum vitae, but to help project your unique self. It is your originality and authenticity that sets you apart. The same is expected in Harvard admission essays, graduate school admission essays, college admission essays etc.

How to write law school admission essays

Law focuses on debate and how you argue your case. In fact, persuasion skills lawyers have determine the outcome of a case. Therefore, students need to exercise their negotiation skills right from writing my essays. Given below are tips for writing law school admission essays, but they are also applicable to Harvard admission essays, UC admission essays or any kind of admission essay:

 The planning stage

You must motivate yourself, conduct an audience analysis and anticipate possible questions the admission board is likely to ask. Ask yourself questions such as why do I want to join this law school, and why is the institution my preferred choice. The audience is a team of professionals and they are likely to bombard you with questions from all corners.

Think about your topic- the board can give a single topic or multiple questions from which to choose. The topic should be guided by a thesis statement. A thesis statement focuses the assignment.

Writing stage

The purpose for writing the essay is to:

  • Convince the reader of your suitability
  • Clear any doubts
  • Invoke positive action from the reader

To achieve this, appeal to logic and emotions of the reader through evidence presented, creativity and following the basic writing requirements. Evidence presented must be credible and should appeal to belief and value system of the audience.

In many cases, students are given instructions on how to write law school, graduate school, college and Harvard admission essays among others. While this is important, an example contributes to a better understanding. Before writing the complete copy of law school, UC and Harvard admission essays, it is paramount for students to have unquestionable skill and experience. This is possible through referring to samples and writing samples on their own and handing them for evaluation by experienced writers.

Advantages of Cheap Essay Writing

Many students will attest to the fact that writing essays can be a very daunting task. The education system has become very demanding and students are left with very little time to work on their projects. If you have an essay to write and you lack the luxury of time you can consult cheap essay writing services such as PhDify.com. Delegating the essay to professionals gives you the time to focus on revising for your exams and handling other school work assignments.

Outlined below are some of the advantages of hiring custom essay writers

When students are given an essay to work on, most rush to the library and other resource centers. However, most institutions lack the necessary resources to help students to prepare a compelling essay. This is where cheap essay writing services come in. For starters, essay writing services such as PhDify.com have a wide pool of resources needed to prepare comprehensive essays.

Originality is another reason why you should hire custom essay writers. If students are using the same resources which are limited, there is a high likelihood of plagiarism. Essay writing services invest in many books and resources to ensure that the work written is original and custom made for every student. These sites have a zero tolerance to plagiarism and all the work is thoroughly checked by editors to ensure originality.

Quality is guaranteed when you hire custom essay writers at PhDify.com. A thorough screening criterion is used when hiring writers to ensure that they are qualified for the job. They must have the relevant education background with majors in various disciplines. Cheap essay writing services does not mean that the quality is compromised. These essay writing sites such as PhDify.com, have a large pool of writers and they are thus able to cater for a wide clientele base and offer cheap write my essay for me.

Conformity to various styles of writing is another advantage of hiring custom essays writers from PhDify.com. The writers undergo relevant training making them versatile in different styles of writing such as MLA, APA and Chicago. You are therefore guaranteed that your essay will be written using the style that you have requested.

Privacy and confidentiality of the work written is guaranteed in essay writing sites such as PhDify.com . The work written by custom essay writers will not be sold to another customer. To check on originality, the work is scanned through grammar and plagiarism software. The essays are only submitted to the students once all this checks have been carried out and the work is found to be of quality standards.

Writing essays is time consuming not forgetting that you still have to attend to other duties and responsibilities. You can easily locate cheap essay writing services online where you can find custom essay writers who are qualified to handle your essay. Your essay marks will have a huge impact on your final grade and it is wise to entrust this task to proficient custom essay writers.

Outsourcing – Dissertation Sample

The increased competitive aspects and importance of increasing bottom line performance by the officers and directors of public as well as large corporations has caused management to seek ever increased cost-saving solutions utilizing globalization. The realities of today’s highly competitive business environment and the use of outsourcing as a solution to lower costs in specific aspects of the production and or delivery of goods and services has evolved to the point where it is an essential component in corporate cost savings. In the early 1800’s the fabric covering wagons in America and that was also used for sails on clipper ships were outsourced to Scotland and the raw materials, fabric, was imported from India (Global Envision, 2005)

It took thirty years for England’s textile industry to become competitive enough to wrest this business away from Scotland and India, indicating that bottom line costs have always been the rationale for outsourcing (Global Envision, 2005). The progress of outsourcing moved slowly in terms of it being a major business technique until the 1970’s when major companies started to contract out their payroll services for processing, and this continued into the 1980’s expanding to accounting, word processing and other forms. The indicated administrative functions does not take into account that piece work in the apparel business has historically been outsourced, as well as parts in the automotive industry and the hiring and or interviewing of employees through employment agencies. The point is that outsourcing has always been a component of business practice that has escalated as a result of increased globalization and technological innovations in software, as well as the Internet.

Today’s outsourcing has transcended the locally based efforts of the 1960’s, 70’s and early 80’s in that it encompasses the utilization of labor and resources in foreign countries half a world away, rather than those within a company’s immediate vicinity or near its border. The contribution of cost efficiencies resulting from outsourcing has increased as companies specializing in offering this service have developed in countries where the cost of labor enables them to compete in this manner.

Additionally, foreign governmental programs offering tax, tariff, land and building concessions in cooperation with foreign corporations as well as part of their own individual economic initiatives and the advent of technological advances has hastened this process. And while modern outsourcing on a large scale first gained favor in the United States with companies such as Kodak and American Standard (Bizbrim, 2005) it is now a global phenomenon that started with countries such as Mexico and China and now includes India, Russia, Vietnam, South America and Pakistan as major outsourcing locations.

On the positive side, outsourcing entails firms taking a specialized aspect of business operations, be it product parts, administrative services, customer service (call centers), and other labor intensive functions. Through economies of operation by specializing on specific areas of expertise, along with economies of scale, lower labor costs as well as reduced operational (land, facilities, taxes, etc.) the preceding translate into savings in end costs making firms more competitive, and improving bottom line results. The negative aspects include the loss of jobs in a originating country’s, increased dependency on services by companies located at a considerable distance, potential quality control issues as well as potential political and economic repercussions (Katz, 2004). The business ramifications of outsourcing entails an international perspective that is fraught with benefits as well as disadvantages in its application. The following will examine these aspects, taking into account the theoretical as well as practical areas along with supporting and opposing points of view.

Theoretical and Practical Outsourcing Aspects 

A simplistic definition of outsourcing is “…a process in which a company delegates some of its in-house operations/processes to a third party”(Bizbrim, 2005). In today’s business environment this entails two forms, domestic and offshore (White & Case, 2004). Domestic outsourcing refers to those instances when the operations/processes are conducted within a country’s borders, while the other form entails the utilization of a company(s) located in another country. Offshore outsourcing, in general, consists of transferring nonproductive, labor intensive or specialized work to an outside firm that used to be conducted in-house (Economic Report of the President, 2004). As a business practice, the theoretical rationales for outsourcing are (Tagliapietra et al, 1999):

1.    Gain or maintain a competitive advantage

In providing any goods, product or service a company must contend with the quality, expectations of end users, pricing and market positioning of competitive firms within its business sector.  Theoretically, if a company reduces its operational expenditures it will thus gain a competitive advantage in savings that it can utilize to reduce cost, increase margins, and or provide extra services or other benefits that will sway customers to its products, goods or services. The specific reasons attributable to this broad concept can vary, however the theoretical benefits of outsourcing are to accomplish this objective as one of its core essentials. Making the process work in actual circumstances means that a company must implement actions that based upon the industry, competitors and marketing conditions, derives benefits it can utilize to accomplish the foregoing. The broad practical aspects of the preceding can consist of one or all of the following examples which represent a few of the more important elements of the concept:

a.    Improved operational efficiencies

Depending upon the industry sector this can entail the moving of part or all of a segment of operations to achieve this end. A study by Forrester Research (Global Envision, 2004) estimated that 3.3 million jobs in the United States representing $136 billion in payroll will move outside of the country by 2015. In Europe it was reported that during 2003 outsourcing agreements increased from $19 billion to $44 billion over 2002 and that the United Kingdom accounted for 54% of all the contracts signed in that year (Jaques, 2004). These numbers would not have been achieved unless the firms within these countries contributing to these totals believed that the gains justified the expenditures

b.    Reduction in operational costs

The costs of labor, union regulations, land, taxes and facility space comprise a few operational expenditure areas that a company can realize savings in as a result of outsourcing. Lower labor costs in China as well as India, Russia and other countries explain one aspect of why there has been a tremendous growth in the utilization of outsourcing for not only payrolls and call centers, it also accounts for computer parts and or assembly such as sneakers (Nike), clothing, software and medicines. In the last instance this can entail the research and development phase or the insurance claim department handling the forms submitted by insured individuals. In 2003 the United States had a $120 billion trade deficit with China, and the main contributor to this was the outsourcing of manufacturing (Global Envision, 2005). Lower labor costs, and currency rate advantages were two of the main reasons why many American companies moved operations there. 

For example, the high quality Apple Computer is assembled in China. And the UK’s HSBC bank moved 6,000 jobs to India and China to reduce operational costs (Rediff, 2004). In 2004 the United Kingdom’s trade deficit with China ran at 17.1 billion euros while Britain’s trade with China totaled 24.0 billion euros (Freeman, 2005). The European Union member states ran a deficit of 70.8 billion euros that same year compared to 55.5 billion euros in 2003 and in 2002 that figure was 47.6 billion euros (Freeman, 2005). 

c.    Just in time delivery

One of the other large corporate areas for savings is in inventory. The cost for materials and warehousing finished items is an additive that is reflected in the final price. Just-in-time delivery was developed in the 1970’s in Japan to meet consumer demands and to aid the Japanese economy (Mariathasan, 1999). The outsourcing of parts, processes and systems in today’s global business arena entails Internet B2B order processes that project when finished units are needed and where, based upon sophisticated modeling programs that predict consumer demand as well as economic conditions. The costs saved through reduced warehousing costs as well as finances that would be otherwise tied up in finished inventory awaiting shipment to various delivery points throughout the globe represents a huge business savings. 

All of the preceding practical outgrowths of the theoretical advantages derived from outsourcing to “gain or maintain a competitive advantage” are dependent upon an individual company’s ability to implement a successful outsourcing strategy that solves the multitude of logistical problems inherent in doing business in varied countries with outsourcing suppliers.

2.    Access to new markets

Theoretically, depending upon the product(s), goods or services a company is engaged in, access to new markets/countries as well as the ability to improve the position in those markets is based upon being able to effectively and efficiently service that country. The theoretical advantage inherent in outsourcing is that when the proper supplier is selected the necessary expertise to accomplish the preceding can be found within a firm that has vast experience in the laws, culture and policies that accompany entry into new markets and countries. To work, this theory has to be put into practice. Company management must investigate the positive as well as downside aspects of utilizing a third party source as opposed to internal methods. This entails an understanding of the diverse elements, laws, customs, regulations, currency fluctuations, market conditions, competition and associated areas that accompany a new markets entry and the ongoing monitoring of the preceding.

Management’s responsibilities entail exposing the company to new markets of opportunity to increase the potential consumer or client base thereby enabling it to sell more products, goods and services which aids in reducing per unit costs. When key operational segments such as customer service, shipping, warehousing, production and allied operations are spread throughout differing countries the company faces massive duplication of processes and employees, thus adding to overhead costs. Application of outsourcing techniques can permit a company to gain access to a new market by significantly reducing the learning curve required to operate there. The savings in administrative functions, a functioning customer service or support department, inventory management and delivery, as well as other areas reduces the risk exposure and lessens new market entry cost breakeven exposure. Some of the other practical benefits resulting from the utilization of outsourcing in entering new markets are:

a.    Organizational flexibility
b.    Improved operational efficiencies
c.    Reduction in operational costs
d.    Economies of scale
e.    Increased competitiveness
f.    Reduction in capital investments

The preceding all contribute to the objective of:

a.    Improving a company’s profitability 
b.    Enhance its competitiveness and 
c.    Increase its ability to respond to change.

3.    Ability to concentrate on core competencies

The utilization of outsourcing theoretically permits a firm to marshal its internal management and other resources to allow it to concentrate on its core competencies. Hamel et al (1990) describe this as “…the collective learning and coordination skills…” of a company’s products. They explain that core competencies represent the source of a company’s “…competitive advantage…” Hamel et al (1990) and that this is the method by which the company can introduce new services and products. The importance of this corporate theory cannot be over stated as it represents management and the company focusing in on what it does best, and then doing that to the best of their ability.

In a practical sense this has been the approach of China, India and other outsourcing locations as they understand that their competency lies in lowered labor costs thus providing them with an advantage in luring business operation segments in manufacturing, services, and other areas. And while trade articles and sources discuss the outsourcing of jobs to India, China is the emerging power in this field as it has the raw numbers in population and is projected to lead global outsourcing by 2015 (Minevich et all, 2005).  You can also order dissertation at PhDify.com

Outsourcing Realities

Regardless of the product, goods or services the element that makes any of these areas work is people. Even industries that are non labor intensive are in effect labor intensive from the standpoint that it takes people, abet less of them, to make it work and run. India reigns as the prime outsourcing locale for software and service exports to the United States as a result of such lower costs. During 2003 through 2004 this total was estimated as 8.5 billion USD in outsourced services (Krishnadas, 2003). The United States economy by outsourcing to India was projected to save between $10 and $11 billion (Krishnadas, 2003).

The relationship between the United States and India on IT outsourcing is reflected by the fact that for each $1.00 that is spent by a corporation in the United States on India outsourcing, 67 cents actually returns in the form of savings in cost, repatriated profits and new exports thus resulting in a net 33 cents that remains in India (Bartlett, 2004). He goes on to state that the outsourcing equation does not end there as the gains from productivity is estimated to add an additional 45 to 47 cents in value to the United States economy. The net resulting economy gains to the United States represent an estimated $1.12 to $1.14 for each $1.00 invested.

Interestingly, the United States in 2002 was the largest global exporter (outsourcer) of computer services at $60 billion. This contrasts with India’s total that was less than $20 billion that same year and China slightly exceeded $10 billion (Amiti et al, 2004). The United States ran a trade surplus in outsourcing during 2002 that amounted to $22 billion USD, more than it paid to other countries for this service (Amiti et al, 2004). The gains in productivity in the United States enabled it to maintain its trade advantage in this area and this offset the lower payment scales of their India counterparts. 

The labor cost savings that are blamed for the exodus of jobs to outsourcing locales such as India, China and other destinations has been found to have no permanent or long-term job loss effects on the United States economy (Garner, 2004). As outsourcing represents a cost saving strategy for manufacturing, the development of products, customer service and support, IT, records retention and other areas it is a bottom line additive that contributes to increased profitability, competitiveness, and enables a company to offer goods and or services at lowered prices with more features and benefits. Realistically, those firms which do not maintain pace with the cost cutting measures of their competitors are looking at reduced market share and business decline. But rather than being viewed as a must do alternative firms in all industry sectors, by and large, view outsourcing as practical (Hanel, 2005). He advises that there are four steps in the process of selecting as well as establishing an outsourcing relationship:

1.    Development of specifications that define the selection criteria,
2.    Evaluation of potential partners against these criteria,
3.    Design of a structure encompassing the relationship which consists of the objectives and an agreement defining the terms and level of performance,
4.    And lastly, the management of the association through formal and informal means as an ongoing process.

As outsourcing is a viable business strategy that aids in either keeping pace with or maintaining an advantage over competitors, management attitudes are positive.  The Garner Group’s study on this area indicated that 80% of the boards of American companies have discussed the issue of outsourcing and 40% have actually completed either a pilot study or implemented it for segments of their operations (Ezrati, 2004). He points out that historically those individuals whose jobs were displaced by outsourcing found employment in differing industries and that there are and have been cases of hardship on the part of a percentage of these individuals. Ezrati (2004) also points out that the companies that implemented outsourcing policies in response to or as a result of industry sector trends managed to maintain or increase growth thus resulting in a net gain in jobs, although the displaced positions were permanently lost.

Ezrati (2004) indicated that on an historical basis the jobs displaced by outsourcing mirrors developments in the 1950’s and 60’s when lower cost European labor threatened the American steel industry. He adds that the foregoing forced innovations in productivity, and that this same underpinning exists today. Ezrati (2004) states that innovation has created an 80% growth in management jobs over the past 20 years and the standard of living has risen with a 175% gain in per capital income since 1960, 58% from 1980 and more recently just under 20% from 1996. These figures reveal that the present heated climate of outsourcing represents another cycle in business than seeks to maximize cost outlay against productivity that benefits all concerned.

Conclusion

The global context of business in today’s technologically based environment creates a climate whereby the utilization of outsourcing is a viable and constructive management technique. The ills attributed to its use such as loss of jobs are the same arguments utilized in the 1960’s and 70’s in the exodus of manufacturing in the United States to Mexico and China, yet industry not only survived it increased productivity as a result. And that is the core around which outsourcing revolves, cost cutting measures that increase internal operational efficiencies to permit companies to compete in a fast paced business environment where customers and clients expectations continue to demand more for their money.

From an historical perspective the theoretical approaches and arguments for outsourcing weigh heavily on the positive side as its purpose increases shareholder value through improved operational costs and thus bottom line performance. In terms of the net effects to individual national economies, outsourcing has put countries such as India, China, Pakistan and others on the economic map in the same manner it did for Japan.

Outsourcing permits companies to focus their attention on their core business as well as obtain skilled labor at cost savings to improve returns. It also aids in improved technology that is made available to companies at lowered costs thus providing an underpinning to compete with self contained larger multi-national corporations on a more level playing field. Outsourcing is a technique that weeds out the unproductive elements in a businesses operation, replacing it with a more cost effective means to accomplish the end objective. When equating the global effects of outsourcing one must take into account that it has served to bring technology and innovation to developing economies such as India, China, Pakistan and other nations.

The transfer of technology, plant, software and other skills that form the foundation of the outsourced functions serves to upgrade the standard of living for workers in those sectors. The question of job loss in the countries of origin represents segments of corporate operations that needed cost containment in order for the company to remain competitive, grow and thus eventually add additional jobs. As an important segment of business operations and cost control, outsourcing historically has permitted companies a means to contain costs as well as remain in business, and this continues to be the case.

Bibliography

  • Amiti, Mary, Wei, Shang-Jin. 2004. Fear of Service Outsourcing: Is It Justified?. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 10808
  • Bartlett, Bruce. 2004. Outsourcing Myths – Debunked. 13/10/04. http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_bartlett/bartlett200410130821.asp
  • Bizbrim. 2005. Outsourcing Statistics. http://www.bizbrim.com/outsourcing/outsourcing-statistics.htm
  • Ezrati, Milton. 2004. Outsourcing / Off Shoring.  http://www.lordabbett.com/usa/insights/article.jsp?OID=12563
  • Freeman, Duncan. 2005. EU-China trade friction: A problem of perception. 27, May, 2005. Asia Times
  • Garner, Alan. 2004. Offshoring in the Service Sector: Economic Impact and Policy Issues. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  • Global Envision.2005. A Brief History of Outsourcing. http://globalenvision.org/library/3/702/
  • Hamel, Gary, Prahalad, C.K.  1990. The Core Competence of the Corporation 01/05/1990. Harvard Business Review, Article 90311
  • Hanel, Damian. 2005. Best Practice Tips from the Ottawa Manufacturers’ Network. http://www.outsourcing-canada.com/ottawa.html
  • Jaques, Robert. 2004. UK dominates European outsourcing spend. 30, April, 2004. http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2124894/uk-dominates-european-outsourcing-spend
  • Katz, Lothar. 2004. Global Outsourcing: Challenges and Opportunities. Leadership Crossroads, Dallas TX.
  • Krishnadas, K.C. 2003. India’s tech industry defends H-1B, outsource roles. 10/07/03. http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20030710S0050
  • Mariathasan, Marion. 1999.  Just In Time. http://academic.emporia.edu/smithwil/s99mg423/eja/mari.html
  • Minevich, Mark, Jurgen Richer, Frank. 2005. The Global Outsourcing Report. Ziff Davis Publications, New York
  • rediff.com.2004. HSBC to move 6,000 jobs to India, China. 02, March, 2004. http://inhome.rediff.com/money/2004/mar/02bpo1.htm
  • Tagliapietra, Sarah, Platan, Peter, Li, Ng Seow, Schneider, Ralph. 2004. Gaining competitive advantage through outsourcing. www.peterplatan.com/other/files/outsourcing.pdf
  • The White House.2004. 2005 Economic Report of the President. pp 71.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/cea/erpcover2005.pdf
  • White & Case. 2004. The Debate over Outsourcing in the United States: A Real Threat to Job Growth or an Evolution of Free Trade. http://www.global-trade-law.com/Outsourcing.White%20&%20Case%20Report%20(March%2015,%202004).htm

Organisational Effectiveness – Dissertation Sample

The potential of performance management to contribute to organisational effectiveness

What is performance management?

There are a number of definitions for the term ‘performance management’ and many of these are incredibly complex however they all share the same basic tenet that it involves identifying desired outcomes and the standards that need to be met along the way to achieve this.  Budgeting, reporting, communication and accountability are all key features of the process

Using performance management to drive a business

The key about performance management is that it is not just about improving one area of the business but more about involving a multitude of areas in order to improve a process or deliver a project. 

O’Herron (2005) says that performance management is all about analysing a large amount of data and that the best way to manage this data is to use performance management software which will interpret work-derived statistics into useable performance driving information and targets.  To this end, O’Herron argues that performance management is effectively a business strategy as it is a means of driving the business forward along a set route.
However, managers are responsible for identifying which data it is that they want to use.  This can only be done by first identifying the performance goals that the performance management process is designed to achieve.

O’Herron (2005) suggests that for effective performance management managers should be committed to improving four specific areas:

Firstly they should empower employees with the right level and quality of information on which they can make autonomous decisions that are fuelled by the data they have.  Performance management is a company-wide initiative and requires the commitment of all staff.
Secondly, they should encourage and stress accountability of actions so that individuals are aware of the repercussions of their actions and are encouraged to make the best possible decisions with strong data that backs their decision, 

Thirdly a culture of continuous improvement should be prioritised. The best way of achieving this is for management to show their commitment to this process of continual learning through constant review and restructure. Quinn, (2005) argues that the most important role of the manager introducing performance management is in their ability to inspire others.  Encouraging a continuous improvement culture is central to this inspiration. 

Finally managers should be willing and committed to experiment.  Performance management is a constantly evolving process that strives for best practice and results whilst recognising that this can never be attained.  Managers are empowered with the responsibility to find newer, more efficient and more effective solutions to working practices.

In support of the view that managers are being held more accountable under the existence of a performance management system (and therefore for the success of the system also) Fleisher (2005) claims that if managers are not held accountable for their actions and the actions of the performance management model, the system will definitely cause more inefficiencies than were in place before it was introduced.  Fliesher argues that, to prevent accountability problems, managers should have ownership of the performance management process and are therefore motivated by its success.  Only through ownership will they truly care about the process and the quality of the results it produces.

The commitment to a performance management ‘strategy’ seemingly requires a great deal of effort and cooperation throughout the organisation.  Since performance management is about setting and meeting targets on the way to a final goal, it is hard to measure the advantages of performance management over the opportunity cost of not doing so.  However, a 2005 article in the journal Supervision provides some insight.  The article claims that “Organizations with strong performance management systems are nearly 50 percent more likely to outperform their competitors according to a Development Dimensions International (DDI) study” (Supervision, 2005; p19)

Problems with performance management

O’Herron (2005) warns that the gathering of the data is the simple part of the process leading to performance management. More difficult is determining the results you are looking to prove or improve from this data.  If the aim of your performance management appraisal is ambiguous then the danger is that too much information will end up becoming overwhelming.  This uncertainty regarding the collection of data is, according to O’Herron, a common early failing in the performance management process and will lead inevitability to an unsuccessful or unfulfilled working model.  Many businesses are guilty of acquired a great deal of internal data and trying to make assumptions from the data that fit what they would prefer to find (O’Herron, 2005).

Once the correct data set has been identified and analysis has been conducted, the resultant performance management strategy is, like any plan, only as good as the commitment of employees to it.  Fleisher (2005) warns that although an increasing amount of technological help (e.g. specialist computer software) is available for managers and employees alike to govern the performance management process, all these new developments do is provide organisations with the tools to implement change.  How that change is implemented is ultimately characterised by the managers and employees involved.

It may appear easy to commit to a plan however performance management has previously been identified as an evolving process that can never be fully completed.  There is no start and end to the process and continual experimentation and change will always be required.  Without the willingness to do commit to future changes, performance management will ultimately result in very little improvement and little contribution to organisational effectiveness.

Contemporary trends in performance management

A recent article in the Corporate Board Journal focused on the strengthening link between the salary of large number of CEOs in the United States and the performance of their respective companies.  Increasingly the level of salary year-on-year is often directly determined by the yearly performance of the business.  The trend shows a decrease in set salary levels for top CEOs whilst reflecting an increase in the size and frequently of large bonuses.  This suggests a change in overall corporate payment structure and a growing recognition of the importance of improving performance standards   Central to this whole shift has been the growth in popularity and belief of the role of performance management (Corporate Board, 2005).

Further evidence of the growing importance of performance management as a driver for company strategy is provided by statistical evidence from a survey conducted by the Supervision Journal.  Companies are increasing the number of reviews of employees and performance they conduct but not so in a bid to closely scrutinise the actions of their workers but more in a bid to allow employees to better assess their own performance.  The results of a large national survey in the United States revealed, by Supervision, that in 1997, 78% of all companies carried out performance reviews once a year. 

The same survey, conducted in 2003, revealed that while 50% of organisations continued to conduct yearly reviews, 40% now carried them out at least twice a year. 
One could argue from the evidence cited from contemporary business trends that the more dynamic companies have embraced and utilised the benefits of performance management and have committed to the process by demonstrating the change required to do so.  Country-wide shifts in executive pay structures and increasing frequency of employee process reviews are testament to this dynamic movement.

The importance of managerial skill and commitment to successful Performance Management 

The growing use of performance management is not limited to North American private sector business, the Public Sector has long advocated the use of performance management techniques with public sector management typically characterised by targets – this is symptomatic of performance management.  Moynihan (2005) asserts that now is the era of performance management government as this is the best way to assess government performance year-on-year.  However, Moynihan also argues that – as with the private sector – performance management techniques are only effective in government where skilled managers are in charge of the process.  Here again, where software and other tools are available to facilitate the process, it is the human element that determines the outcome of performance initiatives. 

The role of managers in creating the requisite company, department or team culture, set clear measurable and attainable goals, and empower their subordinates to make autonomous and responsible decisions are all key managerial skills that are central to organisational effectiveness through performance management (Moynihan, 2005).

Against performance management (Mover)

So far we have largely argued that performance management is a positive manifestation of management theory and is ever-growing in popularity and scope in both public and private sectors and at all levels within organisations.  It has been warned that performance management does rely on skilled and effective human management to create the conditions under which it will be effective and to show and encourage commitment to the process among the staff involved.  However, Moyer (2005) argues that the process and theory of performance management is not without its faults.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review this August (and therefore extremely contemporarily) Moyer argues that too many performance measures can have a negative influence on the performance and activity of large companies.  He argues that “numbers and measures can distract businesses from setting priorities” (2005, p196).  There is strong public sector evidence that concurs with this in the UK.  There has been widespread and frequent dissatisfaction amongst clinical staff in the National Health Service at the overwhelming reliance on figures and targets to assess health care performance. 

In this case it is often argued that the figures detract from the human element of the health-care process which is arguably as important as the treatment itself in a great number of cases.  Those in the teaching profession are also often critical of the use of statistics, targets and league tables in the assessment of their profession.  The use of such performance measures ignores other influences such as demographics, individual students, class sizes, etc. 

Robert Kaplan and David Norton concur with the work of Moyer in their research in "The Strategy-Focused Organization"(Moyer, 2005). They argue that the best performing companies look externally to assess their own success and are not governed as much by internal figures and target setting.  By monitoring the changing activity of their rivals and the markets they are continually question their own performance and try and improve upon it.  The questions they find cannot be answered through statistical methods such as targets (Moyer, 2005).

Having said that statistics are not as crucial as performance management advocates would claim, the use of statistics makes good business sense when it is always numbers that drive the business in terms of profitability and productivity.  Regardless of sector or industry, statistics are the bottom line of business.  Therefore even in ‘human’ fields such as healthcare and education, managers failing to pay – at minimum – equal attention to the statistical evidence do so at the risk of the future of the business.  The crucial point here is that the numbers matter but they can also distract from the major financial issues which often are left unrecognised (Kaplan and Norton).

Conclusion

Performance management is a business strategy rather than a managerial tool used to improve performance.  Like any successful strategy it requires total and long-term commitment if it is to be effective.  Importantly it also requires talented managers who are able to inspire the idea of performance management, produce measurable criteria on which performance will be assessed and who will empower their employees will the knowledge and responsibility to make their own decisions that will impact on the success of the business.  
Part of the job description of a successful performance management manager is, as Moyer argues, the necessity to determine which numbers matter. 

If too many targets are set or too many inputs considered then focus will be lost and the impact may well be negative. However, if the correct performance indicators are identified and consequently a performance scale is established, performance management has the potential to contribute significantly to the organisational effectiveness of any business, in any sector, in any industry in any market.  From this point of view, performance management is a technique that all successful and aspiring businesses must utilise if they are to remain competitive.  You can also buy dissertation at our site

Regardless of business size, sector, industry or any other determinant factor, the success of performance management is about posing the right questions (Fleischer, 2005).

Bibliography

  • Corporate Board (2005); CEO pay links to performance are growing stronger; Corporate Board; Vol 26, Issue 153, p26
  • Fleischer, J (2005); Can you implement performance improvement? Call Centre Magazine; Vol 18, Issue 7, p72
  • Moyer, D (2005); Counter Proposal; Harvard Business Review; Vol 83, Issue 7; p196-198
  • Moynihan, D.P (2005); Testing how management matters in an era of government by Performance Management; Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory; Oxford University Press; Vol 15, Issue 3, p421-439 
  • O’Herron, J (2005); The Business of Performance Management; Call Centre Magazine; Vol 18, Issue 8, p22-28
  • Quinn, R (2005); Moments of Greatness; Harvard Business Review; Vol 83, Issue 7, p74
  • Supervision (2005); Parallels between performance management quality and organisational performance; Supervision; Vol 66, Issue 8, p19-20

Examine and Assess the style of This Life – Dissertation Sample

This Life first hit our television screens on 18 March 1996. Its boldness and honesty was refreshing in its realistic use of language and direct examination of such taboo subjects as drug-taking, homosexuality and rampant sexuality among the more youthful branches of the professional classes. But it would be unjust to say that the programme was all about sensationalism, in fact it was the opposite, it was about realism.

Britain was still being led by a Conservative hand. The economy was still struggling with a recession some years earlier. There was an air of disillusionment from the young twenty-somethings that had enjoyed a cultural adolescence of materialism, consumerism and self-indulgence. Was this the best time to broadcast a drama about young lawyers living together in London?

Finding an audience can be a fickle business, and then there is the challenge of maintaining that audience. As the opening title sequence graced the screen there was no Friends-style introduction to the characters with a pleasing pop tune playing in the background. No explanation, no actors’ names – just the title of the programme, “This Life”. The full impact came after the titles vanished.

In a novel approach the main characters introduce themselves to a panel at a job interview. The members of the panel are periphery characters that turn up throughout the series but, more importantly, the real panel members are the audience at home. In a world where people want information quickly we are served the characters on a silver platter from the very start. The questions put towards Anna, Egg and Warren are for the benefit of us at home. This device is a little heavy handed but it allows us to pigeonhole the different characters in a succinct way.

From the off we know that Anna is forthright: “I am in it for the money”, Egg is not entirely focused: “To be honest I don’t have any theories, I’m not into them”, and Warren is gay: “I am gay”. Moments after the interviews we are shown that Egg and Milly are a couple and that Warren used to be at college with them, we are also introduced to the fact that Anna and Miles had shared an intimate moment on their last night of college. This is all then neatly tied up when Egg and Miles disclose they were also at college together. Within the first ten minutes the audience has been brought up to speed on the past five years of the characters’ lives. This Life introduces the characters and simultaneously instructs viewers how to look at and understand the series. The relationship between these introductory scenes consists of the "vague simultaneity" of television narration that John Ellis mentions in Visible Fictions.

If the introduction to the characters in This Life feels that it has been laid on thick it is because it has been. The writers wanted to get the characters across as quickly and painlessly as possible, allowing the viewer to feel as if they are on an equal footing with the characters. We know their history. We know how they know each other. We have, in a very brief period, ‘shared’ their lives. From this moment we have a yardstick to measure how the characters develop over the series. As cultural commentator John Fiske wrote: “We approach the fictional world of [television's] realism with the same familiarity with which we approach the world of our experience: the two worlds are equivalent in that they are open to the same ideological reading practices.”

>From these opening scenes I already find myself deciding who I am most like, who my best friend would be, who my workmates are, who my enemies are, and so on. The character of Egg intrigues me the most from the outset. He is introduced as a young man who is unsure of what he wants to do. He knows that he doesn’t really want to become a lawyer but is in the awkward position of being offered the job he didn’t try too hard to get. His main loves are football, Milly and becoming a novelist, but not necessarily in that order. He is a dreamer. Over the course of the series he adapts, developing facets of different characteristics. But what we see from the beginning is an idealistic fresh faced young man who has moved into a house with his friends and is about to start work at a new job. As a viewer I find myself already wanting to find out what happens to him. It is interesting to note that This Life was created by Amy Jenkins who, like the characters she created, studied law at college then became a trainee in a London law firm. She left after a year to pursue her dream of becoming a writer.

The importance of such an abrupt introduction is paramount in grabbing the attention of the audience and keeping hold of it until the next episode. Television, as the medium, plays a vital role in people’s lives; it allows the viewer to be transported to the furthest corners of the planet, to delve into the personal lives of celebrities, to witness news as it is being made. The modern household is now shaped around the television (the medium and the rectangular object).

John Corner wrote that “Television services and programmes have largely been designed to be transmitted to the home and both fit in with, and yet also to exert a kind of benign regulation over, household routines.” This statement reinforces the decision of the team behind This Life to make a bold opening strike in the first episode. They had to turn the programme into an event. From that very first episode they knew that the public had to be programmed into thinking that Monday night was ‘This Life night’. With the help of the conservative (or Conservative) press this was achieved:

“I did not regularly watch This Life, but I caught the final episode and was appalled at the drugs, booze and worst of all, simulated sex between homosexuals… We should complain more often and perhaps our comments would have some weight in preventing such trash being shown.”

Narrative

This Life marked a radical change from the dramatic norm in its content and themes but it still had to conform to a narrative structure. This structure allows the storyline to flow in a linear way that an audience can follow, and therefore come back to. Bernadette Casey noted in 2002 that “A narrative is integral to the process of storytelling. It structures content sequentially, so that words and images do not appear arbitrarily but in an order that makes sense to audiences. This structure allows ideas, themes or characters to develop or move forward in a coherent fashion.”

The two modes of narrative that need this structure are the narrative of events and the narrative of drama. The narrative of events is linear based. It is used to show things that happen and the order in which they happen. An example of this appears in the first few minutes of episode one. Anna is being asked a question, she answers. Egg is also being asked a question, he answers. The fact that these questions and answers are edited together leads us to believe that this is happening at the same time but in a different location; the narrative of events is being shared in time but not in space. If we focus on Anna we see the events presented in a linear timescale. She is asked questions, she answers them, she leaves the office, she stands outside the office building, smokes a cigarette, stubs out the cigarette, speaks to Miles and leaves the location.

The events do not necessarily have to take place in a continuous line though. A perfect example of this is in episode three when Delilah and Truelove meet at the club after Warren has given her cash to fly to Amsterdam. Truelove hints at possibly burgling the house, Delilah shows him a set of keys. Some time elapses in the programme before Delilah and Miles leave the empty house together. We then cut to the rest of the household sitting in a bar before they walk back to the house and find it has been burgled. This happened in a specific order but over the course of an episode and shows that the narrative of events can happen over a very short time (Anna at her interview), over the course of an episode (the burglary) or even over the entire series (Anna eventually sleeping with Miles).

The narrative of drama deals more with characterisation and relationships. It also has to abide to a linear structure but is not so reliant on actual events taking place. This Life uses this mode of narrative to great effect during the series. It is the characterisation that builds the drama as much as the events. Throughout the series the character of Egg uses football as an analogy to life. In episode one he brings breakfast to Milly in bed. It is the morning of her first day in court and she is nervous. To understand and empathise with her Egg likens her first day in court to the first match for a footballer who has been signed for a million pounds. We do not see the player stepping out onto the football pitch but we can imagine it. This device has been used to tell the audience more about the character of Egg and how he sees the world than as a method to try and cheer up Milly.

By using this analogy the writers are progressing the character without relying on an important event to take place. They are implying that Egg’s footballer theory is polysemic, that it has several different meanings and can be interpreted in several ways. Fiske wrote that "The motor of polysemy is the diversity of social situations of the text's readers". The writers can only write so much into the characters, it is up to the audience to understand, empathise and sympathise with them. David McQueen also wrote on the subject of polysemic meanings saying that “The complexity and diversity of signs and codes employed on television means that it is a highly polysemic medium, or open to a variety of readings and interpretations.”

Taking this on board we can identify several examples of the writers using the programme as a polysemic medium where exposition is jettisoned in place of images and dialogue that invite the audience to make their own assumptions (which should be along the same lines as the writers intended). The codes that McQueen refers to can include the image and editing (what we see) and the dialogue and soundtrack (what we hear). These codes, or cues, give us information that we then develop into meaning using our own preconceptions and knowledge.

It sits nicely with the ideas of denotation (the most specific or direct meaning of a word) and connotation (an idea or meaning suggested by association with a word). Jonathan Bignell describes this as “The iconic and arbitrary signs in the language of television are often presented simply as denoting an object, place or person. But signs rarely simply denote something, since signs are produced and understood in a cultural context which enriches them with much more meaning than this. These cultural associations and connections which signs have are called connotations.”

An example of this is the five second shot of Anna standing outside the office after her interview having a cigarette proves that the information does not have to be on screen for an extensive duration. Anna is smoking a cigarette (about a quarter of the cigarette has been smoked); she looks around, throws the cigarette to the floor and stubs it out. There is a recently extinguished cigarette butt on the pavement next to it. She sees Miles leave the building. From this basic information on the screen I can draw my own conclusions, or connotations. In the confines of space and time Anna has been waiting at that same spot for at least five minutes (or however long it takes to smoke one cigarette and then light another). In terms of character Anna is purposeful; she would probably have waited outside all day until Miles finally turned up.

She is also someone that makes her own decisions based on what she wants; smoking is potentially lethal but she ignores the risks and continues to smoke. Without the need of exposition I mentally pieced together my own character analysis of Anna from five seconds of visual cues. This is what the writers wanted the audience to deduce for themselves and this is what Fiske refers to when he said that "meanings are determined socially: they are constructed out of the conjuncture of the text with the socially situated reader" and that the audience "recognizes that we are not a homogeneous society, but that our social system is crisscrossed by axes of class, gender, race, age, nationality, region, politics, religion, and so on…". This Life is aimed at an audience that can understand these basic narrative codes and use them to empathise with the characters.

If they were targeting a broader audience then they would have been forced to use exposition as a device. If so, the same five second scene could have possibly been broadcast as follows: Anna stands outside the building; she is smoking a cigarette and speaking on the mobile phone to Milly. She tells Milly that she has been waiting outside the building for nearly ten minutes and will not move until Miles appears from inside, she also explains that she is smoking cigarettes and knows the risks but she is not the sort of person to listen to ‘do-gooders’ and that she lives by her own forthright rules. This scene would then turn from five seconds to anything up to a minute, especially if Milly has to be visually introduced as the person on the other end of the phone. This Life would have been a completely different programme if these devices were used.

Style

Fiske says that “realism does not just reproduce reality, it makes sense of it”. By this he means that if one aspect of realism is about content, the other is about form. In This Life the content can be seen as the script and the form as the way in which it has been produced. The aim of the producers was to present the show in a way that would allow the script and the characters to develop over the course of the series but make sure that the audience was hooked from the beginning. In this sense the producers had to produce a programme that not only attracted a new audience but nurtured them over a course of time to feel that they were a part of it. This was achieved by giving the show a unique aesthetic quality. They took the approach of not just filming the action but using the camera as a voyeur into the lives of the characters.

The style in which This Life was shot had very rarely been seen on British television, especially not for a homegrown drama series. Perhaps the influence of such ‘realism’ contemporary dramas as US exports ‘NYPD Blue’ (Fox, 1993) and ‘ER’ (NBC, 1994) allowed the production to use handheld cameras; creating spontaneity between the characters and the situations they were in. This fresh approach to shooting has now almost become blasé with the influx of ‘docu-dramas’ in the late Nineties, but at the time it allowed the actors and the director to bring the script into a life of its own. It also invited the audience into the house and into the workplace. There is a feeling that at times I, as the viewer, am the sixth member of the household sitting at the kitchen table as Anna is in mid flow during a house conference. However, it would be too easy to say that this use of ‘jerky camerawork’ was a new invention.

It would be equally as lazy to say that it was stolen from US network television. The fact is that this voyeuristic approach had been used before to great effect in British television. In 1966 the BBC broadcast Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home. It can be argued that this was the first of the ‘docu-dramas’ and blatantly incorporated a style of filmmaking used by Jean Rouch, Chris Marker and Jean-Luc Godard – cinéma-vérité. This style of filmmaking was made possible by new lightweight cameras and tape recorders that “could get into the fiercest action, or smoke-filled rooms, without being obtrusive or ponderous”. It allowed a movie that showed ordinary people in actual activities without being controlled by a director. It is also worthy of note that Godard was the man who said “Photography is truth, and cinema truth 24 times a second”. Loach in turn used this medium to great effect, and there are a great number of comparisons in This Life.

One of the most obvious aesthetic references to This Life leaning towards realism is the use of naturalistic lighting. Whereas previous dramas had been shot using expensive, and time consuming, film stock This Life utilised shooting with modern video technology. This was vital in moulding the final product into the ‘docu-drama’ style that made This Life work. The lack of a large lighting set-up allowed the cameras to film around the actors in real locations in a less obtrusive way than the old studio-based cameras could. The actors were filmed without the obvious television and stage make-up of previous dramas, unless the storyline permitted it such as Anna using the female toilets in the courthouse as her personal make-up room before going into court in the first episode. This naturalism persuades us that these are ordinary people in natural surroundings (a kitchen, an office, a taxi). It could be argued that This Life owes more to soap opera narrative techniques than to the drama series genre.

This realism affects how we relate to the programme. As an intelligent viewer I know that this is a fictional piece of work, carefully scripted and painstakingly brought to life by astute directing. However, this feeling that I am watching a contrived recorded televisual play soon disappears as the above techniques are threaded together. The verisimilitude is never broken by elaborate, over the top ‘auteur-esque’ gestures or sloppy filming habits. It is only when the end credits appear that the ‘real’ reality returns, that these people, Anna, Egg, Milly, Miles and Warren are played by actors, fed lines by scriptwriters and instructed by directors. In his book Television Soaps Richard Kilborn says (notably of soaps but I would concur that this covers docu-drama) that “they seek to create the illusion of a reality” and that they have a “sense of lived experience”. I do not see this as a literal translation when it comes to sharing an experience; I have never worked in a solicitor’s office or shared a house with five lawyers, but I can empathise having worked in an office environment and shared a house. Fiske adds that in a "realist narrative, every detail makes sense" .

From the voyeuristic camera work, to the naturalistic lighting, to the use of real locations around London every contrived ideology has been used to make This Life seem as real as it possibly could be. John Corner wrote that “Viewers typically experience episodes of their favourite soap opera as a routine engagement with an imagined world running concurrently with their own real one… Soap narratives also follow a calendar co extensive with that followed by audiences…” This is evident in the episodic structure of This Life. The first episode shows Egg kicking leaves on the grounds of Gray’s Inn Court. In the next episode we see bare branches on the same trees. The next episode there is snow in the air, underlining the transition from autumn to winter. The viewer does not need to be told that time has passed; the codes are there to be read for ourselves.

This Life is a London based series. The characters live in south London and commute to work in Holborn. It could be argued that the London backdrops are being ‘prostituted’ to appeal to the masses rather than adding anything to the story. There certainly seems to be an element of truth in this statement. A lingering shot of St Paul’s Cathedral as Milly and Egg walk across Southwark Bridge is not truly necessary – we already know that they are in the city. However, it would be nearly impossible not to include images of black cabs, red buses and underground stations. The fact that Chancery Lane station (albeit the street level entrance) commonly appears more than once per episode is a vital piece of the narrative jigsaw. It is a device that, within a matter of seconds, informs the viewer that it is a new working day (or the end of the working day if it is at night).

The geography of Chancery Lane, Grays Inn Road and Holborn is imperative to the story; this is where the legal profession is based in London. The visual references to this area add weight to the realism of the programme, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. When we see Anna following Miles from Chancery Lane station and walking down Holborn we accept the connotations that they are lawyers commuting to work, walking past other lawyers outside the courthouses. This is in reality false, a lie; they are actors walking down a busy street being filmed on a camera. But the parts of the jigsaw are fitted together by our own conceptions; we are being fed visual references and we want to believe they are true.

The most important location, however, is the house. This is where the group can always be found. If the house is not believable then the whole programme would fall apart. Would we feel as empathetic towards the characters if they lived in a luxury modern, riverside penthouse apartment? Certainly not! The fact that the location is not in a beautiful part of London but on a noisy, busy road reminds us that this is somewhere we could be living.

Another area that allows the creators of This Life the freedom to present their ideas is through the editing. If we imagine the visual image as what we see and the soundtrack as what we hear, editing is the device that controls how we see it and how we hear it. This Life uses a number of editing techniques throughout the series to create a mood and generate momentum. At its simplest, the editing allows a transition of space and/or time. The cross cutting technique in the interviews with Anna and Egg is a device that transfers the audience from one office to the other (space) but hints that they are happening simultaneously (time).

Fades are also commonly used in This Life to instruct us when one event has ended and another one is about to start, normally by lowering the soundtrack and fading to, and then out of, black. These techniques are typically associated with Hollywood where the purpose of the edit is to be as seamless and non obtrusive as possible. However, the use of jump cuts (where the cut is purposely visible, creating an effect of discontinuity or acceleration) is also evident, an example of this is when Warren loses his temper at Delilah over the yoghurt. The jump cut technique is used purely as a dramatic device to emphasis his rage.

The editing also provides a way for the character of Warren to physically and emotionally detach himself from the rest of the group by visiting his therapist. This is done by a transition of space and time. Warren’s visits to the therapist are frequent when he isn’t a member of the household and allow the writers to delve into his character without breaking the verisimilitude of the group dynamics. He is the wildcard of the group. He is the outsider. Whereas Egg has Milly, Milly has Anna, Anna has Miles and Miles has Egg; Warren has nobody. He has not got a confidant, someone to bounce ideas off or discuss his inner turmoil. The editing reflects this as it takes him away from the rest of the story and places him in this unknown, unreferenced place. Later in the series when he moves into the house his visits to the therapist, and therefore his transportation from the rest of the characters, are less frequent as he finds an emotional release within the group. You can also order dissertations at our site

Themes

To understand how the interacting relationships between the characters work we first need to look at the bigger picture, and for that we need to understand the theory of hegemony. The concept of hegemony has its origins in Marxist theory where it can be seen as the “winning of popular consent through everyday cultural life, including media representations of the world”. In its simplest sense hegemony means ‘control over’. This control is maintained through cultural influences rather than force. The media, in this case the BBC, have a control over the ideologies which are broadcast and shown to the mass public. The writers of This Life therefore have to abide to these rules, but the hegemonic control over the media in the Nineties was changing with the seemingly endless possibilities that a ‘New’ Labour (on the horizon) could bring. This allowed the writers to develop a series that juxtaposed modern London living with the almost antiquated hierarchy of the English legal system.

The underlying assumption of those subscribing to a hegemonic view of society is that there are fundamental inequalities in power between social groups. The characters in This Life live within the confines of two such groups – the household and the workplace. Fiske argues that most television narrative is conservative and its realism is supportive of the status quo: "its effectivity is far more open to doubt [because] a textual structure is a hegemonic line that may, at any time, meet an equivalent line of resistance". This rebellion has been taken up by the writers and, almost ten years on, This Life can still be categorised as cutting edge television. At the time of broadcast there was not really another programme that could be labeled as a ‘peer’; ITV released their modern, character driven series Cold Feet a year later.

In a 1975 study on stereotyping roles based on gender, Professor Bradley Greenberg found that men “gave more orders than women and, most crucially, orders that originate with men were acted upon more frequently than those that originated with women.” He also stated that male characters “mainly needed physical support whereas female characters required support more often related to emotional problems.” This theory is supported by Fred Fejes who, seventeen years later, associates the physical and rational with men and the emotional and domestic with women. He noted that “men are disproportionately shown conducting business on the telephone, smoking and drinking whereas women are disproportionately shown preparing and serving food as well as doing household chores.” Men are shown as assertive, aggressive and independent. The women shown with these characteristics are usually presented as villains. For the most part women are shown as peaceful, warm, passive and dependent.

It is not impossible to imagine that the writers of This Life used the results of these two studies (and many others) as a mission objective of their own to break every rule. There are numerous examples of This Life rebelling against the gender roles mentioned above but it is interesting to note that these happen mostly within the core family of characters. It is as if the household is how the writers see what the world is, or at least should be like. However, outside of the family we are presented with a reality that owes more to Greenberg’s and Fejes’s findings. Both firms of solicitors are headed by older, white males. There orders are taken seriously and are to be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. But that is not to say that the writers have accepted that this has to be the way it is. Just when you feel a wave of apathy may wash over the younger characters a scathing line rekindles the flame of revolution: “Only the old can afford to be young” spits out Anna as she sees her aging boss arrive in a ridiculously phallic sports car.

This is an interesting tool in to why I feel This Life was, and still is, engrossing to its audience – it is how the dynamics of the group work outside of the constraints of the workplace that strike a familiar chord with the viewer. Whereas every member of the household is subordinate to the senior partners of the law firms, there is an exciting and more representational democracy at the house. Where Greenberg found men giving the orders we find Milly laying down house rules and Anna demanding house conferences. Where Greenberg found that men needed physical support and women needing emotional support we find Anna prowling for physical contact: “Is it worth a fuck… Miles, the tenancy, the job?” and Egg questioning his emotional state of being. In fact it is the male characters that seem to need the most emotional support, literally in the case of Warren whose visits to the therapist allow him to speak his mind.

Where Fejes found that men were the assertive business go-getters we find Milly being groomed for senior partnership in her law firm and Anna using her frank and forthright sexuality to gain a more powerful position in her firm, yet we see Egg feeling uncomfortable and dissatisfied with his new position and Miles questioning the ethics of taking what is considered to be a most important and high profiled case. Fejes’s findings also appear to be outdated when we see Egg preparing the food and bringing Milly breakfast in bed especially as he could have been written as the stereotypical football loving, sex-starved Northern male “It would be foolhardy to try [to live on Match of the Day alone]”. I find that it is the character of Egg that best shows the talent of the writers in trying to create a gritty drama that propels itself from the characters’ everyday lives.

Conclusion

At the time of original broadcast This Life was groundbreaking in terms of style and content. Almost ten years later and my feeling is that the programme is just as fresh as it was in 1996. The style of the programme, with its quick, fluid camera movements; naturalistic lighting; use of London iconography and editing techniques are still being used in drama today. The content which included sex, drugs, relationships, foul language and homosexuality sits a little more comfortably with today’s dramas but at the time it was truly shocking. I believe that This Life opened the doors for writers to experiment with their characters and not only say things that were commonly frowned upon by the ‘establishment’, but to shout it out at the tops of their voices! Without This Life it is hard to imagine the successes of Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Doctor Who), Harry Bradbeer (The Cops, Outlaws), Alrick Riley (Babyfather, Playing the Field) and Maureen Chadwick (Bad Girls, Footballer’s Wives).

This Life had to create a new audience and maintain a solid following. It did this by creative writing and deft production techniques. There was an intelligence about the series that was the secret to its success but just when you thought it might be taking itself too seriously it would laugh at itself. As Warren said: “Unfortunately I don’t have the time to hang around for an existential discussion – I’m off to get some cock!”

Bibliography

  • Bignell, Jonathan (2004) An Introduction to Television Studies Routledge
  • Burton, Graeme (2002) More than Meets the Eye (Third Edition) Arnold
  • Burton, Graeme (2000) Talking Television Arnold
  • Casey, Bernadette et al (2002) Television Studies: The Key Concepts Routledge
  • Corner, John (1999) Critical Ideas in Television Studies Clarendon Press
  • Craig, Steve ed. (1992) Men, Masculinity and the Media Sage Publications
  • Ellis, John (1992) Visible Fictions: Cinema, Television, Video Routledge
  • Fiske, John (1987) Television Culture Routledge
  • Greenberg, Bradley (1975) Life on Television Oxford University Press
  • Kilborn, Richard (1992) Television Soaps Batsford
  • McCullagh, Ciaran (2002) Media Power Palgrave
  • McQueen, David (1998)

An Empiricalstudy – Dissertation Sample

An empiricalstudy on the carriers and barriersto the adoption of m-commerce

1. Research Background

Information Technology has made a prolific influence on the business world. Almost all business houses are looking to reap the perils of new evolving technologies and enhance their business prospects. The new technological innovations have allowed organisations to conduct business in a completely new way by using online electronic transaction mechanisms and the concept of E-Commerce evolved (Gunasekaran & Love, 1999; Westland and Clark, 1999). Today in the business and commerce sector IT has taken one more step forward in the form of M-Commerce. These days many e-commerce transactions are conducted through mobile devices (e.g., cellular phones, hand-held or palm-sized computers, and even vehicle-mounted interfaces) using wireless telecommunications networks. 

With the explosive growth of the mobile telephone population, combined with the development of wireless technologies, M-commerce is becoming increasingly important to many businesses nowadays (Hung et al., 2003). IDC a research firm in the US has projected M-Commerce revenue to be around US$27 billion by the end of 2005 as compared to the US$ 500 million worth revenue collected in 2002. In addition, global revenues from M-commerce were $6.86 billion in 2003 and expected to reach $554.37 billion in 2008 (Wireless Week, 2004). In the UK an online survey of 1000 consumers in 2001 showed that 55% of them were very interested in these mobile services (Meyer, 2001). 

Even after the above mentioned facts many analysts have expressed their reservation for the use of M-Commerce primarily questioning its return on investment. This concern is also reflected in the study conducted by Thomas (2003) in which a survey among 1,205 U.K. companies across 15 sectors has shown that 65% of firms do not plan any M-commerce strategy in the near future. 

It is with the above observation that this research is to set out to conduct a study that investigates the various aspects of M-Commerce and how consumers perceives the use of different mobile applications. This will permit the organisations, mobile developers to better understand and target the appropriate user groups so that the goal of making m-commerce a reality instead of another technology fad that goes by the wayside can be achieved.

2. Aims and Objectives

The main aim of this project is to find out the key success factors and the barriers for the adoption of M-commerce? Consumer’s as well as organization’s perspective towards M-commerce will also be collated and evaluated. Additionally the study will measure the level of customer’s usability satisfaction and their expectations towards M-Commerce, Mobile devices and applications. Last but not the least this research will also provide accurate, up-to-date, research-based information about present and possible future trends in M-commerce. 

To summarize some of the research questions that will be addressed through this research are as follows:

• What are the factors that influence the adoption of M-commerce?
• What are the problems/challenges faced by the organisations in the adoption of M-Commerce?
• Consumer and organisational perception towards mobile communications and M-Commerce
• Identifying usability issues related to mobile communication devices using HCI principals
• The future of M-commerce and mobile communication market

3. Literature Review

M-Commerce Overview

Mobile commerce (m-commerce) can be viewed as a subset of e-commerce [Coursaris, and Hassanein, 2002] and [Kwon and Sadeh, 2004] and refers to “any transaction with monetary value that is conducted via a mobile network” M-commerce adds mobility and convenience to the Internet and creates a whole new set of opportunities. The portability of mobile devices offers new business applications outside the scope of fixed, desktop-based Internet offerings. However according to Siau et al (2001) mobile devices have a lot of limitations in the form of: (1) small screens and small multifunction key pads; (2) less computational power, limited memory and disk capacity; (3) shorter battery life; (4) complicated text input mechanisms; (5) higher risk of data storage and transaction errors; (6) lower display resolution; (7) less surfability; (8) unfriendly user-interfaces; and (9) graphical limitations.

M-commerce applications can be broadly divided into two categories: content delivery (i.e., reporting, notification, and consultation) and transactions (i.e., data entry, purchasing, and promotions) (Balasubramanian et al., 2002; Leung and Antypas, 2001). The following table elaborates the operation modes as mentioned above.

Service Types and Characteristics

Mobile commerce services can be characterized as subscribed service and un-subscribed service. This classification is based on service access modalities, and on the kind of devices that may be involved.

Subscribed services: are often personalized for the specific user and have a strong security level. (Ford & Baum, 2001) For example, like content transactions, stock market quotes delivered to your mobile phone on an hourly basis for a minimum monthly charge. The disadvantages of this service are a complex process and may require a wire-connection, or a direct interaction with the supplier of the service [Dionisio et al, 2001]. Besides that, it also implies some kind of permanent contract with the suppliers.

Unsubscribed services: Dionisio et al (2001) states that, due to their time-limited nature, always need more complex interaction between the user and the system, which implies a longer time to access the service, and also makes it more unreliable and exposed to network problems. Such as credit transactions, it is normally two ways, that involves a payment function, like shopping, credit card payment.

Some of the emerging services that already being used or is expected to be widely used by the consumers are listed below.

Banking: A lot of banks are already offering mobile banking services by using WAP mobile phone technology. Those banks currently transfer the account information to the wireless devices, and allow the customers to access and transact via the mobile Internet. Almost half of Western Europe's WAP-enabled mobile banking accounts originate in Scandinavia, 22 percent in the UK and 13 percent in Germany. (Engel-Flechsig, 2001)

Shopping: In England, Virgin Mobile customers can already browse the company's website via a mobile phone and buy wine, compact discs or appliances. Other products are likely to emerge, when the consumers who are shopping in one store are able to call up a service that can compare the price for a given product with the same product in different stores. So that the consumers can make an instant decision as to whether they should purchase, or go somewhere else. As noted earlier, there is also significant potential for commercial advertising, spam, and some special offers to attract customers.

The potential for this will be even more significant as shops are able to monitor consumers who are in specific geographic locations. For example, a person walking through the London street, could receive a spam SMS message from one of the shops which offering a special discount, then they may choose to go that shop. The customers may also avail point of sale transfer in which rather than paying a shopkeeper by cheque, consumers will be able to conduct an instant transfer of funds from the mobile account to the account of the tradesman, by linking to their identifying phone number.

Location Information and Marketing: According to Adams et al (2003), many organizations are involved today in the development of location base services. Customers can access location information at anytime and anyplace. For example, a service could tell a person how to find the nearest petrol station when they are concerned about their fuel, or to compare prices of an item elsewhere in town while they are in a shop.

Similarly other services include gambling, entertainment etc will be explored while conducting the detailed literature review.  

Organisational and Consumer perspectives

As mentioned earlier there is a lot of difference between e-commerce and m-commerce. For wireless-based applications to be used effectively in an m-commerce environment, we need a better understanding of the factors that influence a successful implementation. This in turn has created an increased need for dependable ways to measure the success and/or effectiveness of an m-commerce system. In order to achieve this it is very important to consider both organisational as well as customer’s perspective towards M-Commerce. As per Wen and Mahatanankoon (2004) current e-commerce providers, engaged through mobile devices, will find advantage in developing unique m-commerce value propositions founded upon the specific dimensions of “always on,” location-centric, convenience, customization, and identifiability.

The literature on information systems (IS) success contains concepts that can be readily applied to research on user satisfaction with m-commerce systems. User satisfaction being one of those concepts is commonly acknowledged as one of the useful proxy measures of system success. Some of the measures primarily designed to measure user satisfaction by means of information quality, system quality, service quality and other variables can be applied to M-Commerce as well (DeLone & McLean, 2003). In this initial review of literature the author considered the aspects related to the system quality of the mobile devices. This can be achieved by the usability analysis of the existing handheld/mobile devices. In order to do so it is important to review the various usability factors that are established according to the general HCI (Human Computer Interaction) design principals.

Usability Factors

Various standards and guidelines have been introduced to ensure that acceptance across the target user group and organisation is achieved.  Usability refers to general guidelines for interface design and operability.  Nielsen (1993) defines five usability heuristics thus:

Learnability: The rapidity with which users can accomplish tasks is directly related to the ease with which they can learn to use the system.

Efficiency: designing an efficient system attains high levels of user productivity.

Memorability: This refers to the ease with which system operations and navigation can be remembered by the user.   'The system should be easy to remember, so that the casual user is able to return to the system after a period of not having used it, without having to learn everything all over again' (Nielsen, 1993).

Errors: A low error rate within the system is required to prevent users making multiple errors. Moreover, in the event of a user error this precaution should enable the user to fully recover from his/her own errors with ease, avoiding catastrophic system crashes.
Satisfaction: Subjective user satisfaction is vital to system success.   Therefore a pleasant user design is essential.

Usability is widely regarded as a user-oriented process, whereby requirements can be observed and recorded in the intended task-specific environment.   Here behavioral attitudes, navigation tendencies, speed and ease of interaction, quality of feedback, system response rates, and ergonomic factors can be measured against usability heuristics and guidelines.  Tractinsky et al (2000) also stress the importance of aesthetics within HCI, stating that aesthetic perceptions of an interface are highly correlated with a user's perceived ease of use of the interface.

The preceding text in this section is a result of the preliminary literature review conducted by the author. A much more in depth review will be carried out during the course of the research which will be presented in the final report and will be used in developing the basis for interviews and the final questionnaires for the survey.

4. Research Methodology & Analysis

Research Approaches

Research methodology is a general plan of how the researcher will go about answering the research questions considering the sources to collect data and the constraints that one might have (access to data, time, location and money, ethical issues etc). It should reflect the fact that the researcher has thought carefully about why a particular strategy has been employed. There are many approaches or paradigms that are used for research purpose with labels implying opposite poles such as experimental/naturalistic, interpretive/positivist etc. In reality, however, there may well be a mixture of two or more approaches that is generally used. Some of these research approaches were reviewed by the author of this report at the initial stage of the research. This section briefly explores the purposes of some of the most commonly known research approaches/methods.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research questions focus chiefly on three areas: language as a means to explore processes of communication and patterns of interaction within particular social groups; description and interpretation of subjective meanings attributed to situations and actions; and theory-building through discovering patterns and connections in qualitative data [Tesch, 1990]. Interviewing, focus groups, and participant observation are common modes of qualitative data gathering. Qualitative research interviews aim to elicit participants’ views of their lives, as portrayed in their stories [Rice and Ezzy, 1999], and so to gain access to their experiences, feelings and social worlds. They may be unstructured or semi-structured. Qualitative analysis is a process of reviewing, synthesizing and interpreting data to describe and explain the phenomena or social worlds being studied.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is often conceptualised by its practitioners as having a logical structure in which theories determine the problems to which researchers address themselves in the form of hypothesis.  Some of the positive main characteristics that can be superficially recognised are: the emphasis on rendering theoretical terms observable and the presence of both induction and deduction. Statistics is the bottom line in quantitative research. To apply statistics correctly, you must follow the basic rules, and then use the appropriate mathematical formulas to arrive at average measures of your variables and their variance. When the basic conditions are met, the results should be repeatable, in this instance meaning that the same test applied to another sample of the same background population should yield the same results within the limits of random fluctuation. The quantitative analysis is based on numbers and predefined categories. Results are presented as rates or ratios, with statistical tests applied to rate differences. Conclusions are based on valid evidence.

Case Study Research

Case Study is a generic term for the investigation of an individual group, or phenomenon (Bogdan and Biklen, 1982). While the technique used in the investigation may be varied, and may include both qualitative and quantitative methods, the distinguishing feature of a case study is the belief that human systems develop a characteristic wholeness or integrity and are not simply a loose collection of traits. This very belief leads the researchers using case study approach to investigate a given scenario to a much greater depth bring out the interdependencies of the parts and the emerging patterns. 

Action Research

Kemmis and McTaggert (1998) based on the works of Kurt Lewin, frequently described as the father of action research, defined it as a form of collective self reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in a social scenario in order to improve the productivity, rationality and justice of their own social practices. The main purpose of the action research method is aimed at improving educational understandings, practices and settings and at involving those affected in the research process.

Naturalistic/Interpretive Research

The naturalistic researcher believes that the observer makes a difference to the observed and that reality is a human construct. The purpose of this kind of research is generally to explore perspectives and shared meanings and to develop insights into situations. Data generally takes the form of qualitative methods based on conversation fieldwork, interviews etc. 

Practitioner Research

This kind of research is conducted by a practitioner or professional in any field (doctor, nurse, teacher etc) into their own practice. Practitioner research is somewhat similar to naturalistic approach in the sense the practitioner is able to carry out research in his/her own natural environment. 

Survey Research

Bell (1993) says that surveys can provide answers to questions like What, Where, When, And How. It tries to elaborate the problems of ‘representativeness’ from other approaches like case studies or most of the qualitative approaches. This approach can be termed as fact finding mission and may contribute little towards the development of a hypotheses or shaping theory. The results from the survey can definitely be used to test a hypotheses or theory. The data here is primarily quantitative but may also be qualitative in nature as it represents peoples view about an issue. Questionnaires are generally used for the purpose of data collection.
Research Strategy
       
After reviewing the various approaches mentioned above the author decided to use a collection of methodologies to carry out this research. Both primary and secondary data will be collected. The secondary data will comprise of data from literature reviewed from books, journals, Internet and the annual reports of the organisations selected for the survey while the primary data will take the form of information/results collected from case studies, interviews and surveys. 

The preliminary phase of the research will comprise of collecting secondary data from the literature review. According to Sharp and Howard (1996), two major reasons exist for reviewing the literature. First, the preliminary search helps to generate and refine the research ideas. And secondly, a critical review is a part of the research process. Like most research projects, literature review will be an early activity in this research. After the initial literature search, the researcher should be able to redefine the parameters more precisely and undertake further searches, keeping in mind the research objective and goal. The literature review will help develop a good understanding and insight into the previous research done on this topic and the trends that have emerged.

The second stage of the research will comprise of short listing of potential organisations where selected employees will be interviewed to gain an insight into their M-Commerce vision. Informal or unstructured interviews will also be conducted with randomly selected consumers. Organisations which have an M-Commerce presence as well as those who have not yet incorporated M-Commerce in their organisation will be selected. Also for the purpose of comparative study the organisations selected will be of same size.  Interviews will help to gather valid and reliable data relevant to the research objectives. According to Saunders et al (2003), interviews may be categorized into three categories:

1. Structured interviews – Use questionnaires based on a predetermined and identical set of questions.
2. Semi structured interviews – The researcher has a list of themes and topics to cover, although these may vary from interview to interview depending upon the organizational context. The order of questions may also be varied depending upon the flow of conversation. Some new questions may also arise due to discussions.
3. Unstructured interviews – These interviews are informal. There is no predetermined list of questions. The interviewee is free to talk about events, behavior and beliefs in relation to the research topic. This type of interview is also known as informant interview because it’s the interviewee’s perception which leads to the conduct of the interview. It is also known as in depth interview because it’s used to explore in depth a general area in which the researcher is interested.

In this research, both the unstructured and structured interviews will be incorporated which will help in ensuring a smooth and friendly atmosphere while taking the interviews. First, an in-depth or unstructured interview will be held to identify variables. These interviews will be coded and analyzed to produce a set of questionnaire with reduction of categories to a smaller number of dimensions by means of analysis. Semi-structured or structured interviews can then be used to explore the themes that have emerged from the use of the questionnaire.

The next stage of the research will comprise of conducting two surveys on the selected organisations and the consumers respectively. The main idea behind the surveys will be to find out the organisational and consumer perspective on M-Commerce from a larger sample. The questionaires that will be used for the survey purpose will be developed based on the results of interviews and literature review. The different distribution techniques as described by Hussey and Hussey (1997) will be followed. The questionnaires will be circulated to the employees and consumers through Post, Telephone, face-to-face, Group distribution, email distribution and individual distribution.

Hussey and Hussey (1997) identify some important factors to be considered while using questionnaire. These are – Sample size, Types of questions, Wordings, Design, including instruction, Wording of any accompanying letter, Method of distribution and return, Method of collecting and analyzing, Actions to be taken if questionnaire is not returned. All of these factors will be considered while preparing the final set of questionnaire. Kindly refer to Appendix A and B for sample questions perceived at this stage of the research.

The final stage of the research will comprise of a case study on one of the most successful M-Commerce models in recent time. ‘I-Mode’ the mobile technology model that was launched in Japan in 1999 has achieved enormous success in the last six years. As per some report in June 2005, I-Mode had 45 million customers in Japan. This successful model will be studied thoroughly to bring out the interdependencies of factors leading to its success and the emerging challenges. The result of this case study will then be compared with the results of the interviews and questionnaires.   

Hussey and Hussey (1997) state that the use of different research approaches, methods and techniques in the same study is known as triangulation and such triangulation can overcome the potential bias and sterility of single method approaches. Triangulation has the potential to provide a multifaceted view, as it is the combination of different research strategies. The main emphasis in triangulation is on combining methods, e.g., survey questionnaires with in-depth interviews and case studies. The idea behind taking several data collection methods is that if diverse kinds of data support the same conclusions, confidence in the conclusions is increased.

Research Analysis and Presentation

Data collected from any research would require a good analysis to infer some logical arguments and make a sound conclusion. Data from this work will be analyzed using quantitative as well as qualitative methods. All the survey information collected will be analysed by using a quantitative data analysis technique SPSS. Coloured charts and graphs will be displayed to explain the results of SPSS analysis. This will include creation of simple tables, charts and diagrams that will show statistical relationship between several research variables. 

Qualitative analysis is a process of reviewing, synthesizing and interpreting data to describe and explain the phenomena or social worlds being studied. As Tesch [1990] states, the differing analytical procedures can be grouped into content, discovery and meaning-focused approaches. No matter which approach is used, just as with data collection methods, the rigour of the analytical procedures depends on their adequacy and transparency. Qualitative research findings are presented as textual descriptions that should illuminate the subjective meanings of the phenomena, or social world, being studied, but which should also place the findings in context [Popay et al, 1998], so as to represent the real world of those studied and in which their lived experiences are embedded. Qualitative data analysis will be carried out based on Yin’s (1994) descriptive framework.

This framework allows the existing theory to formulate research aims and objectives which will be further supported by analytic induction (Johnson, 1998). Analytical induction may be said to a process of intensive examination of carefully selected cases to empirically establish the cause of a specific phenomenon.  Validity of the data collected will be established by using the triangulation method in which preliminary results will be used to refine and restructure the questionnaires and Interviews. The completed work will be presented in a well structured report format using visual aids like pictures and tables. The author will try to make every possible effort to keep the report devoid of any technical jargon.  

5. Time table

Objective Timeframe Task

1. Phase 1 : Literature Survey 
25% of the total time spent on research 
Phase 1 will involve exploring the nature of business relationships, motivations, security and trust in m-commerce. Enhancement of current knowledge on M-Commerce will take place in this phase.  Also a good understanding and insight into the previous research done on M -Commerce will be developed in this phase.

2. Phase 2: Interviews 
20 % 
Phase 2 will investigate m-commerce issues in a deductive (positivist) manner. Prepare Interview questions. Prioritize the list of organisations (employees) and consumers to be surveyed. Survey may comprise of online interviews, telephonic interviews, and face to face interviews.

3. Phase 3 : Surveys
(Questionnaires) 
20 % 
Phase 3 will involve re-investigating m-commerce in an inductive (phenomenological) manner. This will involve taking the results obtained in Phase 2 and further investigating these by way of online questionnaires and paper based questionnaires. Through the questionnaire a much larger sample would be targeted.

4. Phase 4: Case Study 
20 %
(Will overlap with Phase 3) 
Phase 4 of the research will comprise of a case study on one of the most successful M-Commerce models in recent time: ‘I-Mode’ used in Japan.

4. Analysis of results and recommendations 
25 % 
After taking the interviews and surveys, a large quantity of interview notes, tape recordings, questionnaire results and other records will be generated all of which will be analyzed. There are many models (There can be many ways of linking between different parts of discussions or observations) available for the analysis of the surveyed data. The appropriate method will be chosen for effective analysis and to interpret the data collected from the interview/surveys from the prospective of the ‘interviewed’. Recommendations will be laid out based on the analysis of the data collected.

5. Writing up 
10 % 
The final report will be written

References and Bibliography

 

  • Adams, P. Ashwell, G. & Baxter, R. (2003) Location-based services – an overview of the standards. BT Technology' Journal 21(1): 34-43
  • Balasubramanian, S., Peterson, R.A., Jarvenpaa, S.L., (2002). Exploring the implications of M-commerce for markets and marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 30 (4), 348–361.
  • Bell, J. (1993) Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers in education and social science, Open University press.
  • Bogdan, R. and Biklen, S (1982) Qualitative research in education, Ally and Bacon
  • Coursaris, C. and Hassanein, K. (2002) Understanding m-commerce, Quarterly Journal of Electronic Commerce 3 (2002) (3), pp. 247–271
  • DeLone, W. H. and McLean, E. R. (1992), Information systems success: the quest for the dependent variable, Information Systems Research 3 (1992) (1), pp. 60–95.
  • Dionisio, L. Penna, G.D. & Intrigila, B. (2001)  On Designing M-commerce Applications [Accessed on 19 August, 2005]
  • Engel-Flechsig, S. (2001), Securing the new global economy, Mobile Commerce World. Accessed at:  [Accessed on August 20, 2005]
  • Ford, W. and Baum M.S. (2001): Secure electronic commerce: building the infrastructure for digital signatures and encryption. Prentice Hall
  • Gunasekaran, A. & Love, P. (1999). Current and future directions of multimedia technology in business. International Journal of Information Management, 19(2), 105–120.
  • Hung, S.Y., Ku, C.Y., Chang, C.M., (2003). Critical factors of WAP services adoption; an empirical study. Electronic Commerce Research & Applications 2 (1), 42–60.
  • Hussey, J. and Hussey, R. (1997), Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students, Macmillan Press, London.
  • Johnson, P (1998) "Analytical Induction" in Cassell, C. and Symon, G. "Qualitative Methods and Analysis in organizational Research", London: Sage, ISBN 0 – 7619 – 5351 – 5. (pp. 28-50)
  • Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R. (1988) The Action Research reader, 3rd Edition.
  • Kwon, O.B.  and Sadeh, N. (2004) Applying case-based reasoning and multi-agent intelligent system to context-aware comparative shopping, Decision Support Systems 37 (2004) (2), pp. 199–213
  • Leung, K., Antypas, J., 2001. Improving returns on M-commerce investment. Journal of Business Strategy 22 (5), 12–14.
  • Meyer, D., (2001). Consumer study tells wireless industry to go back to basics. Wireless News 20 (44), 45
  • Nielsen, J., (1993) Usability Engineering. Morgan Kaufmann, Los Altos, CA
  • Popay J, Rogers A, Williams G. Rationale and standards for the systematic review of qualitative literature in health services research. Qualitative Health Research 1998; 8:341–351.
  • Rice, P. L. and Ezzy, D. (1999) Qualitative research methods, a health focus Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Saunders, M.N.K Lewis, P. Thornhill, A. (2003) Research Methods for Business Students, Prentice Hall
  • Sharp, J.A. and Howard, K. (1996) The Management of a Student Research Project. Aldershot, Gower.
  • Siau, K.  E.-P. Lim and Shen, Z. (2001) Mobile commerce: promises, challenges, and research agenda, Journal of Database Management 12 (2001) (3), pp. 4–13.
  • Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of qualitative research. California: Sage, 1990.
  • Tesch, R. (1990) Qualitative research: analysis types and softward tools. New York: Falmer, 1990.
  • Tractinsky, N., Shoval-Katz A. and Ikar, D. (2000) What is Beautiful is Usable. Interacting with Computers, 13(2): 127-145.
  • Wen, J. and Mahatanankoon, P. (2004) M-commerce operation modes and applications, International Journal of Electronic B

Improve the Lifestyle – Dissertation Sample

Improve the lifestyle of someone who had a serious visual impairment or mobility problem

There is no doubt that technological development has come a long way. Technology has also helped people with particular disabilities. An example of this is the development of modernized wheel chairs that disabled people use; they only need to touch a device with their chin or even have a remote control in their hand. These devices can be innovated according to each one's need, and this has been the case with wheel chairs and other equipment for some time now.  

Since interfaces are now talked about for facilitating people within their homes, visually impaired individuals have also been taken into consideration. Since many of these individuals are confined to their homes, it is thought that they could use interface facilities to help them get chores and tasks done single-handedly.

A User Interface for a Visually Disabled Person:

Having an interface developed so that a visually impaired person can access it is a great thought; not only would it be an amazing innovation, but would be a great facilitation for the visually disabled . 

Often referred to as revamping, the process of transforming a user interface for the use of a visually disabled person has advantages and disadvantages as well. First of all, revamping may include:

• Scrutiny of user interface, removal of unnecessary forms.
• Redesign of user interface.
• Classification and substitution of user interface components.
• Automated interpretation of character stream interface.

The advantages of re-vamping or modifying an interface for the visually disabled include:

• Gives impression of new application to user/customer
• Often easy/cheap to implement
• Minimal affect on core of application
• Makes interface maintenance easier
• Provides opportunity for incremental replacement of old system

The disadvantages of re-vamping or modifying an interface for the visually disabled include:

• No changes in the major application, which is the older code or software behind the user interface
• Does not allow the system to be further evolvable
• Introduction of new code – overall size of system may increase
• May require further changes to old system – introduction of errors

In creating or modifying a user interface, one would have to consider the basics that an interface functions according to keeping in mind the basics the advantages and disadvantages above.. It is known that the interface is such a device that has the ability to receive instructions from a user (one who can see) and transform those commands into operations immediately or according to a program. It has features that help a person to type in passwords and usernames in order to gain access. The user interface functions according to comprehending or recognizing usernames and passwords; in other words it recognizes a user through these, and would not be able to follow instructions if it did not understand these . Similarly, a user interface would need to understand instructions from a visually impaired person, but how?

Mode of Instruction:

The mode of instruction is different, and there needs to be some kind of change in the software. For this to happen, there would have to be new software created that would be able to read a different form of instruction to the device. This does not mean that the whole device has to be changed with its software; what might be done is the same device may be used, and only a portion of the software could be changed. This new soft ware would have to be linked to the rest of the system for it all to function properly. This is to say that the portion created would have to operate in tandem with the remaining software of the device.

An Alternative:

An alternative to this type of change, the transformation that could be brought about could include an addition of voice receptors that convert sound to electrical impulses. The user’s voice would have to be synchronized in the interface so that it can perceive instructions. The use of passwords by word can then be implemented (TAGSYS' CTO Takes Center Stage at …, 2004). However, for the visually disabled this is not the only alternative, as they could also use their sense of touch to use the interface.

Communication of the Visually Disabled and the User Interface:

The instruction would have to be based on the way that the visually disabled communicate. The visually disabled usually communicate (read and understand) through their sense of touch. Things like brail are used in order to help them read, and so, some features like these would have to be considered. This means that instead of only changing the software of the system, the physical features of the device may be changed.

This is because this is the way that the visually disabled user would be able to understand the keys and operate the interface. An example of the change in physical features would be the change in the sizes of the buttons on the device. Just like one might see the large buttons on phones for those who are visually disabled, a similar feature could be used for the interface. It is believed to be effective as well, because it has been known to help people with poor vision or no vision at all.

Physical Features of a User Interface for Visually Disabled Individual:

A point to also note here is that one might need to make sure that there are large-enough buttons of the user interface because it will prevent one from feeding in incorrect usernames and passwords. In addition to this, other features of the device will also be used correctly with these large buttons, as there are fewer chances of an individual hitting the wrong keys or buttons. 

Large buttons and suitable software created for accepting a mode of instruction would also help people who are visually impaired. In addition to the use of larger buttons on the interface, audio features could be used as well. This would truly help a visually impaired person find his or her way around a device and make them feel more comfortable using it.

Visually Disabled Individuals and controlling the user Interface:

Nearly everything can be handled in this way: setting a security system, handling calls coming in, receiving visitors, having operations in the kitchen carried out, etc. At least, the very basics of the operations in the kitchen could be conducted until someone comes home and deals with the rest. Having more complex systems that are capable of handling more functions would be even more beneficial, but usually a visually impaired person handling everything and living alone is not considered. However, in time to come, there is much more that is considered possible, such as a visually impaired person taking a shower on his or her own. Therefore, a visually impaired individual would not have to handle washroom controls on his or her own.

It may sound impossible, but a small program that could handle the time of the shower being turned on and off, could do the trick. In addition to this, the temperature of the water could also be controlled well through feeding in codes that adjust the temperatures. Similar to this kind of operation, there will be others that can be controlled just as much. Controlling smaller things like alarm clocks can also be handled. However, it is obvious that there would need to be a greater number of controls on the system unless there are adjustments made to the username subcategories. These would automatically log one in to the device to be tuned and set.

Remembering Usernames and Passwords:

A person would need to memorize what the usernames and passwords are or have them stored on the device in case they don’t remember them. However, it is better to memorize passwords and usernames rather than have them stored on the device because these important details could easily fall into the wrong hands. This is something that cannot be allowed to happen because of the fact that it could result in serious repercussions. Since the interface would also be controlling the security system, passwords getting into the wrong hands could be disastrous. 

It is worth considering that security systems handled through the interface is one of the primary reasons why the interface is installed in one’s home. Hence, those who handle it have to be careful with security and know exactly what they are doing. 
Also, programming the interface with incorrect timings and the like would mean that features such as the security system would not function appropriately. This means that there has to be an alternative manner to deal with this problem too.

People such as those that have a memory problem could be shown how to store and retrieve their usernames and passwords within the system. By doing this, they could have one general password to retrieve this information, and this password could be something easy for them to remember. This method is one that would be effective, as it reduces the load on an individual with a weak memory. Also, since a person with a weak memory would not have to worry much about remembering things, this would reduce the stress that some people might experience while using the interface.

Overcoming Nervousness:

It is known that many visually impaired people do feel nervous while using computerized equipment, especially those that are at an advanced age. However, this system is such that once one is acquainted with it, it is not anything that difficult; it is only a matter of getting familiar with it that is important. Once a person begins operating the system, it becomes a matter of practice as well. 

For people who are visually disabled, fear might be even greater, but as long as they are taught how to use it through feel, and if they are given adequate confidence, they would be able to use it appropriately and be more independent. You can also order dissertation at our site

References:

  • Chignell, M.H. and Hancock. Intelligent Interfaces Theory, Research and Design, Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., New York, NY 1989.
  • Communicating Objects, 3-16-2005. 
  • Feder, B. 2003. "How to Find That Needle Hopelessly Lost In the Haystack." The New York Times, New York, NY.
  • Hall, John., Phillippi, Ryan., & Robbins, Tim. 2000 Will we destroy ourselves with technology that we make? Anti-Trust. MGM 
  • Lange, Larry. (10 June 1996). "Smart house: under construction." Electronic Engineering Times.
  • Shneiderman, Ben. 1998. Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction, Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
  • Smart House. Title Page. (May 8, 1996). 
  • TAGSYS' CTO Takes Center Stage at Chicago Frontline Conference to Deliver RFID Facts on HF vs. UHF in Item-Level Pharma Solutions, Sep 10, 2004. 
  • TAGSYS Takes Quantum Leap In Tripling Its RFID Tag Production Jul 26, 2004http://www.tagsys.net/rfid-news-111-2-1.html
  • The 'Smart House' is Here." (13 Apr. 1995). Newsbytes. 

Gender Differences, Reflected in Play – Dissertation Sample

Children in the primary years of school learn much both in and out of the classroom.  This is the time they begin reading, writing, and basic mathematics.  During these crucial years they are also learning who they are and how they relate to the world around them.  One important aspect of this development of self-concept is the idea of gender.  Children bring to their primary years an understanding developed through home, community, and previous educational experiences of their own genders and those of others.  However, gender concepts are often encouraged and reinforced significantly during the primary years, both in the classroom and through structured and unstructured play.

Gender

It is important to begin with an examination of what gender really is.  Most research into gender has been undertaken by those representing feminist, homosexual, or other non-traditional gender constructs, and possibly for this reason has received less attention in traditional media or education forums.  This leads to a misunderstanding of gender, its implications on the individual’s development, and its influence on the education and play of children.  However, the conscious or unconscious attitudes towards gender that surround children have great impact both on their concepts of gender definition and their own understanding of their freedom to develop a self-image within gender boundaries. 

Gender and chromosomal sex are often confused in the minds of many people.  A person is born with either male or female genitalia, which determines both their sex and gender.  This is a misunderstanding of both gender and its development within the individual.  Most people are born from a physical standpoint as either female or male, although some rare individuals are born with part or all of both physical attributes, and a rarer group with neither ().  However, physical equipment is not the determinant of gender, society is.  Most societies have historically held that physical “maleness” or “femaleness” determines gender, which then leads to the development of certain sexual desires, attributes and actions (Butler 1990). 

Physical differences were believed to create two distinct genders, male and female.  Being a man, that is, having masculine desires and performing masculine actions, is distinct and wholly separate from being a woman, with feminine desires and performances.  Masculine and feminine traits were believed to not be a matter of choice, which caused all individuals to be classified as either male or female (Hawkesworth 1997).  Importantly, this leads most societies to value a heteronormality, and try to conform to the male/female binary or somehow bring under control anyone with desires or actions outside of the these gender distinctions.  (Gamson and Moon 2004). 

People who behave outside of the traditional genders have been found to be stigmatised by society and considered deviant (Epstein 1997).  This is particularly difficult for young children who do not fit gender norms.  Little girls who excel at traditionally male activity, such as sport, or who have a boyish appearance are often the targets of slurs and bullying; even more often such are directed at effeminate boys or young men participating in traditionally feminine pursuits ().  Whilst there has been a relaxation of gender absolutes in recent years, children (and adults) still face a strong pressure from society to conform to the community’s ideas of male and female.  Society tries to “fix” individuals outside what it considers to be normative behaviour, often with the best intentions, by pressuring those in a minority gender role to conform to stereotypical patterns of behaviour (Epstein 1997).  Those who remain the male / female binary, refusing to conform, are “either excluded or demonised, and the border between the normal and the perverse is carefully patrolled” (Bem 1995, 331).

People, especially children, are therefore forced to choose one gender role or the other, or be socially outcast.  If androgyny exists, the community will typically assign gender to the individual based on appearance(Lucal 1999).  “Gender traits are called attributes for a reason:  People attribute traits to others.  No one possesses them.  Traits are the process of evaluation” (Weston 1996, 21).  Young children often use a variety of external appearance symbols to decide the gender of another, and some believe, for example, that if a boy grows long hair and wears nail polish he will become a girl. 

By the primary years, however, basic gender definition is already substantially established, both as part of the self-concept of the individual child and in the minds of children as a group (Jordan 1995).  Children are progressing during this period, however, in the development of their own gender identity, whether or not it fits with prescribed norms.  Children during the primary years are also continuing in the negotiation of gender definitions, and are subsequently open to an expansion of gender beyond the rigid “boys act this way” and “girls act this way” stereotypes (Jordan 1995).  Teachers at the primary level have the opportunity to expand these ideas of gender to allow a wider availability of self-expression, or confirm traditional gender stereotypes, often with profound affect on their students (Jordan 1995).

This development of gender concept has extremely important ramifications both for the child and society.  Gender not only determines many of the expectations for males and females, including behaviour, roles, and interests, it in some ways determines relative value (Murphy 2003).  Gender roles “prescribe the division of labor and responsibilities between males and females and accord different rights to them… creating inequality between the sexes in power, autonomy, and well-being, typically to the disadvantage of females”  (Murphy 2003, 205).  Children are socialized, through home, community and school, into gender-defined attitudes and behaviour (Murphy 2003).

As opposed to its historic one-or-the-other binary of male or female, gender has recently been recognised as a learned performance, a set of actions and self-beliefs developed by the individual in the context of his or her own feelings and the roles offered by society (Hawkesworth 1997).  This opens the possibility for gender roles beyond the binary male/female concept.  Consequently, whilst sex is biological, gender must be viewed as derived from cultural experience (Murphy 2003).  As a cultural construct, gender involves the incorporation of various symbols, which may support, exaggerate, or even distort the potential of the individual (Hawkesworth 1997).  

Gender is created over time by the repetition of these symbols, with how the acts are interpreted from society to society allowing for a diversity of norms in gender actions (Butler 1990).  For example, for two grown men to hold hands as they walk down the street would be considered a homosexual symbol in the UK, but is common practise and holds no such connotation in parts of Africa.  Each society has a distinct set of symbols for gender orientation, although there are many commonalities from community to community (Runker and Duggan 1991).  Within a given society, boys learn what it is to “act like a man,” and by repeating these actions over time establish their masculinity and themselves as males.  Girls learn to “act like women,” that is, to dress and behave in whatever society has defined as a feminine manner. 

This leads to a definition of gender as a performance, something each individual acts out, rather than a biologically based construct (Butler 1990).   This view provides a number of gender possibilities outside the traditional male/female, and also challenges what is “male” or “female” behaviour.  For example, who determined that girls should play with dolls but not trucks, and boys with trucks but not dolls?  Bem (1995) refutes such absolutes, holding that masculine is not the opposite of feminine, but that an individual can be both masculine and feminine at the same time, or even strongly one or the other at different times. “There is a co-dependence between femininities and masculinities which means that neither can be fully understood in isolation from the other” (Reay 2001, 153-154).  

Epstein (1996) describes Kinsey’s research into gender as determining genders to fall over a continuum rather than in two distinct groups.  This continuum spans male, female, homosexual, heterosexual, and everything in between.  Rather than being either “male” or “female,” with distinctly matching interests and sexual desires, an individual is somewhere in this fluid range of gender (Epstein 1996).  Each person performs repetitive actions and builds gender-based concepts, which determine his or her place on the continuum of gender identity.  This further determines whether he or she “feels” like a man or “feels” like a woman, or perhaps identifies with some other self-produced category (Bem 1995).

Research has indicated that children have a strong desire to mimic or be like those they consider similar to themselves.  (Pidgeon, 1994; Thorne, 1993).  For example, “Boys create and preserve their masculinity through fear and rejection of whatever might be construed as female” (Jordan 1995, 75).  The understanding of themselves as different from girls, the participating in activities that make them “feel” like boys, the avoidance of pursuits or behaviours others might associate with girls, and most importantly copying what they perceive to be masculine behaviours help boys determine and reinforce their feelings and understanding of being “male” in the traditional male/female gender binary. 

This is not limited to boys.  Most children are highly motivated to learn and practice whatever actions or concepts they deem necessary to achieve what they personally consider to be gender-appropriate behaviour.  This gender-appropriate behaviour is usually developed at home from a very early age, and reinforced through school and community experiences (Thorne 1993).  Unless those in positions of authority or influence specifically address issues such as social justice and gender bias, most children will come to believe that the two distinct genders, male and female, and their associated contemporary gender boundaries are both natural and correct. You can also order dissertation at our site

Hegemony

The definition of genders within society is often hegemonic.  To be able to recognise constricting or reinforcing behaviours within the area of gender, then, it is important to first examine how the society in question defines masculinity or femininity.  There tends to be more research on hegemonic masculinity than femininity, presumably because of its impact on world systems of governance, economics, and power (Cohn and Weber 1999).  The patriarchal society that still dominates world society rests on such masculine definition (Cohn and Enloe 2003).  Whilst women are increasingly included and allowed positions of influence in such systems, most would concur the systems still operate by and for men, as they were designed.  Women who participate must do so within a male construct and paradigm, which is sometimes at odds to their own preferences for dealing with a situation (Cohn and Enloe 2003). 

Male Hegemony

Connell (1995) first developed the term ‘hegemonic masculinity’ to describe the definition of masculinity preferred by society.  He argued that at any particular moment in history, there are number of different masculinities presented in a given society.  However, society values one or a few masculinities over the others, setting this definition up as the “ideal” to which men (and boys) should aspire.  This ideal is constructed in relation to both these other masculinities and to femininity in the society.  Setting up one type of masculinity as ideal allows the society to justify the dominance of this gender norm within it, justifying the domination of men who fit this definition over women and men outside it (Cohn and Weber 1999).  “Hegemonic masculinity preserves male power through the denigration of women” and men outside its boundaries (Ashley 2003, 258).  “It has led to a narrowing of cultural opportunities for boys through the perceived need to conform to narrow ‘macho’ stereotypes which requires boys to exclude themselves from any activity popular with girls” (Ashley 2003, 258).

Many writers typify the military as the pinnacle of hegemonic masculinity, and use it in describing male gender definitions in Western countries.  Cohn and Weber (1999) describe the military as promising to mould boys into a “real” man, “the hegemonically masculine man, which is, of course, seen as something good” (462).  Typical characteristics of the successful soldier include physical and emotional courage, loyalty, ability to endure hardship, fearlessness, compartmentalisation of one’s emotions, and tolerance for and willingness to take risks.  “And male bonding – you can’t be a man until you’ve bonded with other men” (Cohn and Weber 1999, 461).

  Cohn and Weber (1999) argue, however, that instead of “producing all of these culturally admired qualities we associate with hegemonic masculinity,” such gender boundaries, compartmentalisation of emotion, and reduction of anything feminine "creates some of the crippling qualities of manhood (Cohn and Weber 1999, 463).  Men are forced to conform to such limiting boundaries, such as “real men don’t cry,” and are restricted in the socially acceptable means by which they can practise self-expression.  Men are categorised as dominant, aggressive and warlike, women as passive, compassionate and peaceful, and anything outside these definitions is not considered appropriate or positively reinforced (Tickner 1999).

This link between reinforcement of masculinity in the military and in the classroom is often played out in power struggles and bullying within a given class, or the school as a whole.  “In the early school years most of the boys' co-operative play revolves around such fantasies, and boys who are not capable of positioning themselves within these narratives are excluded from peer play” (Jordan 1995, 78).  There is further a strong reinforcement of “the 'warrior' discourse, a discourse that… depicts the male as the warrior, the knight errant, the superhero” (Jordan 1995, 78).  In this context, the masculinity of the hero or the boy in a position of power is derived from and dependent on the behaviour of others, above whom he positions himself, thus confirming his male dominance and masculinity (Jordan 1995).  This is often reinforced by girls, who will ignore their own wants or needs to make sure dominant boys feel comfortable, and are likely to simply agree with these boys or avoid them rather than explore issues between the two or assert their own rights (Moylan 2003).

Within the primary classroom, much of the power assumption and bullying documented is gender-based, aimed at girls, or more prominently, at boys outside traditional hegemony.  Sexualised harassment is common, and clearly linked to the reproduction of hegemonic masculinity (Renold, 2000).  Skelton (2001) has concluded from research that “primary school boys engage in the reproduction of hegemonic masculinity through a discourse of ‘gay’ and ‘girlie’ against peers who do not overtly engage in the hegemonic performance of ‘football, fighting and girlfriends’” (19).  However, “given the opportunity, far more boys than currently do would rebel against hegemonic masculinity and its cultural proscriptions… Many boys are unhappy with the enforced dichotomy between public and private self” (Walker, 2001, 132).

Social class is also a component of what type of man a boy aspires to be (Ashley 2003).  Roughness, for example, is more prized amongst working-class boys.  In a study of a typical British primary class, Reay (2001) notes the class of nearly thirty was primarily working-class, with two middle-class boys.  Although one of these boys was not particularly interested in sport or likely to participate in fights, he was still considered one of the most popular boys in the class.  Reay hypothesises the class adjusted its definition of the requirements of masculinity due to his social status, as a similar working-class boy was not afforded such acceptance.  She further concludes this variance “suggests that popular discourses may mask the extent to which white, middle-class male advantages in both the sphere of education and beyond continue to be sustained” (Reay 2001, 157).  There is an “almost unspoken acceptance of white, middle-class masculinity as the ideal that all those ‘others ’—girls as well as black and white working-class boys—are expected to measure themselves against. (Reay 2001, 157).

Overall, it is clear that encouragement and reinforcement of a narrow definition of appropriate masculinity is limiting for many boys, hampering both their growth and development of true self-identity.  If schools are able to expand the perceptions of acceptable gender behaviours, these boys will be allowed to express themselves freely and explore who they are, the same freedom afforded boys who naturally fall within the hegemonic stereotype

Female Hegemony

Considerably less research has been undertaken on hegemonic femininity, which should be noted in and of itself.  Studies find a greater array of acceptable behaviour for girls, however, although bounded strongly by social class.  For example, in a study of working- and middle-class primary school students, Reay (2001) found that whilst there were some shared attributes, the desirable characteristics of one group differed significantly from that of the other.  Quietness, propriety, and diligence in one’s studies were all found to be valued characteristics for the middle-class girls.  In addition, Reay’s study reaffirmed “findings of feminist research which position ‘being nice’ as specific to the formulation of white, middle-class femininity (Reay 2001, 159).  Working-class girls were more likely to be sexual in their expression, or present as tomboys.  For the majority of these working-class girls, “being a ‘nice girl’ signified an absence of the toughness and attitude that they were aspiring to” (Reay 2001, 159).

There was a considerable emphasis on appearance, all but the tomboy group highly valuing feminine clothing and accessories, such as hair ornaments or fingernail polish.  In another study, girls stressed “the difficulty and constant negotiation involved in positioning themselves as fashionable and desiring a fashion that at one moment rendered them attractive and at another labelled them a ‘tart’ in the regulation of their bodies and their bodily expression (Renold 2000, 314).  Interestingly, it was often other girls applying the pressure for such tight-rope positioning, further indicating the importance of peer influence on gender negotiation, even at a young age (Renold 2000). 

Girls were critical of their physical appearance, with a very narrow physical ideal presented to which they wished to conform.  “Typical daily rituals included checking and regulating arms, legs, hips and thighs, positioning their bodies and others’ as ‘too fat’ or ‘too thin’ and advocating the need to diet” (Renold 2000, 310).  The tomboy group was the only one in either study to construct gender identities through differentiation from both “feminine” girls and boys.  This group was most likely to pursue alternative dress and fashion. (Renold 2000, 316)

In terms of relationships, girls are encouraged to be helpers of others and supportive of both the teacher and boys in the class.  Girls of all social classes are typically expected to be polite, kind, and compassionate to others in the classroom.  Women and girls are hegemonically expected to be collaborative, work together, and devise win-win alternatives to problem-solving (Rabrenovic and Roskos 2001).  Girls failing to perform within such gender determinants of appearance and action are typically ostracised from social and play activities, and often become the butt of the bullying and teasing, described above, by which other girls and boys position themselves within the group (Runker and Duggan 1991).

Heterosexuality

Prominent in both hegemonic masculinity and femininity is the emphasis on heterosexuality as normative behaviour.  This has an extreme effect on gender norming, even amongst pre-sexual children.  Although their is a prevalent believe that heterosexual relations somehow symbolise entry into adolescence, Epstein (1997) and others have documented how six-year-olds “date” each other, and how even four- and five-year-olds practise and reinforce heterosexuality in their interactions and play (Epstein, 1997).  There is considerable external pressure to conform to heterosexual gender norms for all children.

  Boys are often taunted homophobically if their classroom or playground interactions with other boys were questionably feminine, or if they themselves “failed or chose not to access hegemonic masculine discourses and practices”  (Renold 2000, 322).  Girls are reported to “construct their femininity, or what might be better described as ‘hyper-femininity’, through a specific, culturally coded somatic ideal, viewing their bodies as only desirable when, through the validation of others, they are heterosexualised” (Renold 2000, 311).  Boundaries of heteronomativity are fiercely enforced by peers, and also by authority figures such as parents and teachers (Frank et al 2003).

Renold (2000) and Reay (2001) both indicate a high number of heterosexual pairings, often refered to as boyfriend and girlfriend by the children involved, amongst children in the primary years.  These relationships further solidified the heterosexuality of the children involved, and called into question the gender boundaries of those who did not participate.  For example, Connolly (1998) noted that some primary-aged boys chose not to engage in heterosexual boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. 

Some stated they were not ready or too young, while others stated a desire to wait until they could experience a “real” relationship involving intimate sexual activity.  In a similar finding, unless boys such as these “successfully performed as ‘tough-guys’, ‘footballers’ or were ‘sporting competent’, their ‘heterosexuality’ would be called into question and they would often be ‘homosexualised’ and denigrated as ‘gay’” (Renold 2000, 320).  This provided two limited routes through which a boy in the primary years could establish his heterosexual hegemonic masculinity, either sport or girlfriends (Connolly, 1998). 

Heterosexual boundaries are therefore shown to further support the development of hegemonic masculinity and femininity, as the two are typically developed through rejection of the other.  That is, a true male rejects anything in or around him that is feminine, and separates from such “polluting” attributes.  The same is true in reverse, although less dramatically, for females (Cohn and Weber 1999).  This makes it all the more important that the school environment encourage a wide range of gender definitions, allowing students options later for legitimate self-expression, rather than forced conformity.

Gender from the primary years

“Gender behaviours and differences are learned from birth and have a profound impact on identity and social roles” (Pidgeon, 1994). Most children learn these gender definitions through interaction with their families and to a lesser extent their community.  Many are also influenced through previous educational environments such as infant school.  “Children who spend full days in a childcare environment learn much about what it means in such a setting to be a boy or a girl. Children also learn gender roles at home and bring rules of gender socialization into their childcare settings” (Chick, Heilman-Houser and Hunter 2002, 153)

  It is important to note, however, that children’s gender definitions are not fixed in the primary years.  Rather gender roles are socially constructed throughout a person’s life in ways both ongoing and active (Thorne, 1993).  Another facet of note is the finding by Pidgeon (1994) that children do not learn what is and is not a gender-appropriate behaviour by imitating the actions of others.   While the actions of others and the positive or negative reinforcement they provide has a profound and fundamental affect on gender definition, children also make choices related to gender negotiation, and “demonstrate their own ideas of what it means to be a boy or a girl” (Pidgeon, 1994, 24).

Young children become aware of gender gradually in relation to themselves, and later in relation to other people.  Most have achieved some type of gender identity by age three (Jacklin and Lacey 1997).  In a hegemonically traditional environment, they come to accept that all persons will be either male or female, and that gender will generally be constant by the age of five.  Most learn that gender is stable, and remains fixed throughout a person’s life (Jacklin and Lacey 1997).  This makes it important to examine the gender constructs children are already likely to have developed before entry to primary school.  Studies have shown that strong hegemonic conceptions of gender are already dominant in most children’s thinking by this time (Jacklin and Lacey 1997).  

Infant schools, day-care facilities, and even home environments are often heavily stereotyped to “male” and “female” conventions.  Boys are conventionally dressed in clothes that allow for range of movement and active play, while girls are often “dressed up” in clothing that promotes quiet or less active play (Runker and Duggan 1991).  Similarly, boys’ toys are typically bright, primary colours, and include things that require larger movement for play, such as cars, trucks, blocks, and balls.  Girls’ toys are more likely to be pastel in colour, with pink being the most favoured colour for girls amongst toy manufacturers.  Girls’ toys are typically replicants of items associated with the traditional roles of women, such as miniature kitchens, dishes, and houses.  Dolls require smaller, less aggressive movement in play, with typical doll-based activities including tending the doll, such as through dressing or bathing, and role-playing with the doll, reinforcing relationship priorities amongst girls (Runker and Duggan 1991). 

Books were found to strongly favour males, although there is some evidence this pattern is decreasing.  Chick, Heilman-Houser and Hunter (2002) found that “when the caregivers in the young toddler room read to the children, the main characters in the books were usually male” (52).  Kortenhaus and Demarest (1993) also came to similar conclusions in their study on the gender roles typically depicted in children's literature.  While they found a greater equality in representation of male and female characters in recent years, the depictions of gender were highly conforming to stereotypical gender roles.  The vast majority of books reviewed in the study represented male characters in positions of leadership, problem-solving, and power. 

Girls were likely to be represented as nurturers, helpless, and dependent (Kortenhaus and Demarest 1993).  Evans (1998) similarly found that girls who did occupy leading roles in children’s stories typically “still required the assistance of males to solve some type of dilemma” (Evans 1998, 84).  Evans cites a number of other studies that concluded “males were more often the powerful and active characters. Females, on the other hand, were described or depicted as sweet, weak, frightened, and needy. These researchers argued that children's literature may do a disservice to children if it does not accurately represent men and women and the different roles they portray in our Society” (Evans 1998, 84).

Children are also often treated differently according to hegemonic gender expectations.  Thorne (1993) found that boys in infant school consistently received more attention than girls, even though this attention was often associated with inappropriate or disruptive behaviour.  Boys typically exhibit a much higher activity level than girls, and while a small proportion of this difference is shown to be biological, most has been documented to be from gender conditioning in the environment (Thorne 1993; Chick, Heilman-Houser and Hunter 2002).  Infant boys received positive reinforcement for assertiveness, rowdiness, and rough play, whilst girls were negatively reinforced for such behaviours. 

Accordingly, girls were positively reinforced for helpful or caretaking behaviour, passivity, and cooperation in the infant environment, whilst boys were often asked if something was wrong when they displayed such behaviour (Chick, Heilman-Houser and Hunter 2002).  Boys were expected to be more active and therefore require more attention, which researchers noted to be provided by caregivers.  “Extra attention to boys was evident also in the infant room, where they were held and spoken to more frequently” (Chick, Heilman-Houser and Hunter 2002, 150).  Infant girls were more likely to occpy themselves quietly and not demand consideration, and accordingly received less attention (Chick, Heilman-Houser and Hunter 2002).

It can therefore be concluded that most children enter their primary years with a good amount of hegemonic gender reinforcement already under their belts.   “The process of the socialization and formation of sex roles begins long before school instruction begins: from birth on, parents treat boys and girls differently; they make different demands on them; children are given different toys to play with; they acquire different kinds of experience, and so on” (Buzhigeeva 2004, 77).  By the time they begin their primary years, boys’ and girls’ behaviours and self-concepts already include a number of gender-based characteristics, from a wide variety of origins (Buzhigeeva 2004, 77).

Gender int the primary Classroom

By the time they enter the primary school years, children usually have become aware of culturally accepted gender norms in their society and have at least partially negotiated their gender self-construct (Jacklin and Lacey 1997).  At this point children typically prefer playing with those of their own gender, reinforcing gender hegemony