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a.k.a. “Research Plan”
School of Public Service Leadership

Scientific Merit Process
Learners who are doing action research for their dissertation will use this form to go through the process of scientific merit review. The goals of this process are: (1) to facilitate the planning of the details of your action research project, (2) to ensure that the proposed project has rigor and allows for scientific merit review, and (3) to facilitate your progress through the dissertation. This is not an addition to your dissertation but rather a step to assist you in obtaining mentor, committee, school, and IRB approval more efficiently. You must obtain mentor, committee, and school approval of your Research Plan before submitting your IRB application.

Scientific Merit Criteria
The following criteria will be used to establish scientific merit. The purpose of the review will determine if the proposed project:

1. Contributes to society by improving a practice
2. Documents need for change by utilizing evidence-based needs assessment
3. Meets certain “Hallmarks” of a good action research project including:
a. Action research design
i. Practical
ii. Participatory
iii. Defined Action Plan

Scientific Merit Approval
Your completed SMART form will be approved, not approved, or deferred for major or minor revisions. Your committee will use a checklist to determine if the study meets the criteria for scientific merit and the committee will provide specific feedback designed to identify any issues that need to be resolved related to the scientific merit. You will have up to three opportunities to submit this form for committee approval.

Obtaining scientific merit approval does not guarantee you will obtain IRB approval. The IRB review will focus on ethical issues. A detailed ethical review will be conducted during the process of IRB approval.

Recommendations for How to Use This Form
The SMART form is intended to help you and your mentor plan the design and details of your dissertation. Once your mentor approves your SMART form, your entire committee will review the form for scientific merit. When the entire committee approves your SMART form, then it will be submitted for school approval. It is recommended that you use this form in a step-by-step way to help plan your design. Expect that you will go through a few revisions before your mentor and committee approve this form.
Tips for filling out the SMART form:
• Prepare your answers in a separate Word document, as editing and revising will be easier.
• Copy/paste items into the right-hand fields when they are ready.
• Don’t delete the descriptions in the left column!
• Don’t lock the form, as that will stop you from editing and revising within the form.
• Leave no blank spaces in the form. If an item does not apply to your study, type “NA” in its field.
• Read the item descriptions carefully. Items request very specific information. Be sure you understand what is asked (Good practice for your IRB application!).
• Use primary sources to the greatest extent possible as references. Textbooks (Patton, Leedy and Ormrod, etc.) are not acceptable as the only references supporting methodological and design choices. Use them to track down the primary sources.

Upcoming Milestone Steps:

Milestone Group 1

Milestone 1: Learner Completed CITI Modules

Milestone 2: Committee approved topic (Sections 1 & 2 of SMART form)

Milestone 3: Mentor Approved Research Plan (complete SMART form)
Milestone Group 2

Milestone 4: Committee Approved Research Plan

Milestone 5: School Approved Research Plan

Milestone 6: University Approved IRB

Milestone 7: Committee Conference Call
Section #1 To be completed by Learner
1.1 Learner Name Madrian Bryan
1.2 Learner Program General Public Administration
1.3 Learner Email [email protected] Learner Phone 910-303-7817
1.5 Mentor Name/Email Dr. Joan Vermillion
[email protected]
1.6 Committee Member #1 Name/Email Dr. Suzanne Holmes
[email protected]
1.7 Committee Member #2 Name/Email Dr. Richard Johnson
[email protected]
1.8 Dissertation Title Small Business Initiatives: An Evaluation of Impact on Female Minority Military Veterans
1.9 Site Selected Fayetteville/Ft Bragg NC Area
1.10 Contact Info for Site Approver & Expected Approval Date Veteran Small Business Outreach
Fayetteville State University
1200 Murchinson Road
Fayetteville, NC 28301
I will be reaching out to the Director, Robert Rehder.

Section #2 To be completed by Learner

2.1 Project

Write approximately one paragraph that describes the action research project and the basis for it being addressed.
In looking at the North Carolina small business population in particular, the policies and programs offered through the Small Business Administration are lacking when it comes to assisting the minority veteran. This research project will evaluate the need for loan programs such as the Patriot Express Loan and the effects on minority veterans who are suited to be small business owners but are financially unable to do so due to this initiative no longer being available. According to the US Government Accountability Office, the Patriot Express Loan expired December 2013. Stakeholders are veterans looking to start businesses, the staff responsible for enforcing government programs, and those who have financial ties- the taxpayers. The stated claim is since the end of the Patriot Express Loan, minority veteran do not have access to federally backed lending which now makes it harder to start a business. The stakeholder claim closely relates to the systems theory- systems are intertwined and small subsystems do affect larger systems. In 2011, Clark (2014) states”…. unemployment rate for recently separated younger veterans was 12.4 percent, or three points higher than that for all vets, and would in some months reach as high as 20 percent for those recently separated”(p.32). Policy should be in place to minimize this hardship and encourage veterans to become entrepreneurs.

Clark, C. S. (2014). From war to work. Government Executive, 46(5), 32-36. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/1692719983?accountid=27965

Light, I., & Dana, L. (2013). Boundaries of Social Capital in Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, 37(3), 603-624. doi:10.1111/etap.12016

Small Business Administration. (2012).
Interagency Task Force on Veteran Small Business Development. Retrieved from https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd/resources/370491

U.S. Small Business, A. (6). SBA Patriot Express Loans Top $633 Million. Business Wire (English).

US Governement Accountability Office. Last retrieved July 2015, from

2.2 Contribution to Society

Using citations, answer the following questions in order:

1. How does your project improve a current practice?

2. If your action research project is successful, how could your project impact your field of interest?

3. What are the practical implications of your project? For example, what will be the impact of this project on your sample, your site location, or your workplace?
This project should provide guidance as to where the focus of Small Business Administration policies should be in the future and provide reasonable solutions for veterans.
1. How does your project improve a current practice?

Since September 2001, the rate of unemployment among the veterans has been on the incline (Hocker, 2012). Limited studies have explored the effects of recent programs and policies such as Patriot Express Loan on the life of veterans. This proposed study is aimed at using a mixed research method to quantify the effect of policy and programs such as the Patriot Express Loan on minority veterans and its impact on their ability to start a small business. The background of this study will include theory and rationale for assisting this segmented population by discussing Laissez Faire and its flaws, systems theory and a brief gleaning of numbers. Social policy and programs should be in place once the disparity has been discovered. The disparity at hand would be the opportunity for minority military veterans having the same opportunity at entrepeunership as others. With that in mind, a brief quantitative look at numbers in regards to Small Business Administration lending will be used to explain the problem in the first part of the research action plan. After discussing the Patriot Express Loan and quantifying its effect, the proposed study will use qualitative measures to collect data, analysis, and suggest a course of action for the federal government on how best to make the program effective and supportive to the minority military veterans.

2. If your action research project is successful, how could your project impact your field of interest?

The findings of this proposed study will significantly improve the coordination between the federal government and minority veterans looking to start a small business. With military extensions and activations having a significant impact on entrepreneurs within the military, the result of this proposed study will elucidate the existing relationship between these loans and the increased small business opportunity among the veterans.
It will recommend appropriate strategies to advance these loans in a way that promotes the establishment of business by the veterans.
It has been demonstrated in literature that one way to improve the U.S economy is to encourage veterans to start small businesses. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners (SBA, 2007). Veterans immensely contribute towards the growth of the American economy. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 indicate that for every ten veterans, there is nearly one veteran-owned business and that veteran-owned businesses employ 5.8 million people. In another study, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) (2012) showed that military service members have the largest marginal impacts on self-employment. According to this study, veterans are more likely (45%) to be self-employed when compared to non-veterans. Thus, quantifying one of the objectives of this research will be to quantify the affect of the Patriot Express Loan.

3. What are the practical implications of your project? For example, what will be the impact of this project on your sample, your site location, or your workplace?

The federal, state and local governments value military community members including service-disabled veterans, veterans and their spouses. They can reliably use the result of this study to make America the best place for veterans to live by providing loans that enable them to establish businesses that will contribute towards economic development. The nation needs to prove to the veterans that their service and experience are valued. The results of this proposed study will be used as the basis for determining the best way possible to empower veterans.


Hocker, Cliff (2012).Winning Battles for Vetpreneurs (2012). Retrieved from:http://www.blackenterprise.com/mag/winning-battles-vetpreneurs/

Small Business Administration (SBA). Last retrieved July 2015, from
2.3 Need and Evidence to Make Change

Provide current information on your needs assessment or analysis for change. Include the cost-benefit analysis if indicated by design.
Minority veterans are underrepresented in small business (SBA, 2013). It can be argued that when this subset is doing well, the economic system benefits. Veteran entrepreneurs own 2.4 million or 9% of the 27 million non-farm small businesses, a higher percentage than any other demographic, and are essential contributors to the U.S. economy (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). In 2007, veteran entrepreneurs fully owned 51% or more of all businesses nationwide generating $1.2 trillion in receipts and employing 5.8 million workers, making veteran entrepreneurs essential contributors to the U.S. economy (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2007, p. 1). Entrepreneurs have been recognized consistently for their critical role in expanding the U.S. economy and creating jobs (Whitehouse, 2012).


United States Census Bureau. Last Retrieved July 2015, from http://www.census.gov/econ/sbo/

Small Business Administration (2013).
Advocacy: The Voice of Small Business (2013). Retrieved from:
2.4 Theoretical Foundation

Describe the theory or theories that serve as the backbone of your project. Provide references for each theory.
One of the theories that will be utilized in this action research plan is systems theory or general systems theory. This theory has the distinction characterization of believing that interaction between systems is inevitable and that there is interdependence. In correlation to this project, stakeholders and other groups/entities will be more successful when this segment/special population is successful. As of 2013, veteran unemployment rates were as high as 11.1% for returning males and 14.7% for returning females. To compound this issue, the SBA reported that another 1 million veterans have been anticipated to return from duty overseas over the next 5 years (Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development, 2011, p. 1). Policies should be in place for the integration of veterans in order to ensure elitism does not eliminate the positive affect of having veteran entrepreneurs.

The other theory that will be discussed in the action plan will be Laissez Faire. The theory that markets should be able to self regulates and self correct is what most systems aim for but it is not possible due to external pressures (Cate, 2011). External pressures are what make it impossible for self correction and why there is a need for special programs. This theory will be discussed and will support quantitative data that displays an increase in minority veteran small business lending with special lending and the decrease without the program.

A third theory that will be discussed will be economic theory. Economic theory supports the ideology that small business impacts job creation and prosperity (Lui, 2013).


Cate, T. (2011). UNCERTAINTY AND THE POLICY ANALYST. American Economist, 56(1), 13-19. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/898973371?accountid=27965

An outline of general system theory. (2008). Emergence : Complexity and Organization, 10(2), 103-123. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/214148288?accountid=27965
Liu, D. (2013). Small business job creation hypothesis in Taiwan. Quality & Quantity, 47(3), 1459-1492. doi:10.1007/s11135-011-9602-2
von Schlippe, A., & Frank, H. (2013). The Theory of Social Systems as a Framework for Understanding Family Businesses. Family Relations, 62(3), 384-398. doi:10.1111/fare.12010

2.5 Researcher Positionality:

• Insider
• Insider w/collaboration
• Reciprocal collaboration
• Outsider, collaboration w/ insiders

Define your role, position, and how positionality will impact your research study.
The researcher could be a member of the study population and
shares characteristics with the participants, but does not contribute her experiences to the data being utilized. Instead, the
Researcher uses her experiences to understand the study’s problem.

The researcher is an insider working with an outside organization for facts and figures. The researcher would be characterized as a veteran and minority which are the biggest factors that would make her an insider. Interactions with focus groups will have a rigid structure in order to maintain unbiased data collection. Being able to identify with the sample/identified group should minimize barriers with the sample group but may limit access to agencies and organizations. It will be important for the researcher to remain open, honest, and reflective with all dialogue and input coming from government agencies in regards to discontinued programs for veterans and minorities. The look phase of gathering information should bring about a viable solution that will be framed and/or tested by this action plan (Stringer, 2014).

Stringer, E. T. (2014). Action research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
2.6 Research Questions and Project Goals/Objectives

List the research questions or project goals. These should align with the need for organizational structure or activities/outcomes of the project.

Objective 1: To evaluate the effectiveness of small business initiatives in supporting minority military veterans.

Objective 2: To identify common themes among program participants that may affect small business efforts.

Objective 3: To use the findings to identify and enhance core competencies for addressing the needs of minority military veterans.

Research Questions (RQ):

RQ1: To what extent are the services provided as small business initiatives in increasing the successful outcomes for minority military veterans?

RQ2: What, if any, are identifiable common themes among SBA program participants that may affect the success of minority military veterans in developing small businesses?

RQ3: How can the collaborative efforts of stakeholders contribute to the enhancement of the core competencies for addressing the needs of minority military veterans.
Section #3 To be completed by Learner

3.1 Action Plan

Provide detailed steps to implementing your research plan. This should read like a recipe for conducting your project.
Be sure to include all the necessary details so that someone else would be able to follow this and replicate the project exactly.

3.2 Results

Describe your program evaluation and dissemination of results plan.

3.3. Measures and Instruments

List and describe each data collection instrument or measurement tool you will use. This includes questionnaires, formal interview protocols, forms, etc. Include:

a. Data type(s) generated by each measure
b. Available psychometric information (including validity and reliability coefficients)
c. How this data will be used

Attach a copy of each instrument you plan to use as an appendix to your SMART form.

3.4 If Modifying an Instrument:

Describe any pilot test or field test that may be required for any instruments. Type NA if not applicable. Field tests must be done:

a. For new instruments or questions developed by the learner.
b. With expert panelists. Field tests require no IRB review. A pilot test requires IRB review.

3.5 Assumptions

Identify the key assumptions of the project; use citations to support their adoption.

3.6 Limitations

Evaluate the weaknesses of your project at this time. Indicate areas to be improved before starting your project and areas that cannot be improved. Give reasons for not redesigning to address any of the limitations identified.

3.7 Population and Sampling

Describe the key stakeholders or population of your project. Briefly describe the characteristics of this sample, including:

a. Demographics
b. Inclusion criteria, if any
c. Exclusion criteria, if any

Describe how you plan to select the sample. Include the steps you will take to include participants.

3.8 Sample Size

What is the expected sample size? Provide citations to support the sample size decision.

3.9 Expected Site

Describe the organization or site(s) from which you expect to draw your sample.
VA Outreach

3.10 Site Permission

Who is authorized to provide permission to use this organization or site? Does the site have an IRB? What do you need to do to obtain permission to access the stakeholders, population, or data source?

3.11 Participant Contact

How will potential participants first be contacted? How will participants be contacted following the study?
Invite Survey Monkey?

3.12 Data Analysis

Describe analysis procedures for each data type including: audiotapes, transcripts, videotape, field notes, photos, descriptive analysis, other quantitative analysis, etc.

Describe all methods and procedures for data analysis including:

a. Types of data to be analyzed
b. Organization of raw data
c. Management and processing of data
d. Preparation of data for analysis
e. Storage and protection of data

3.13 Ethical Considerations

Describe any ethical considerations given the sample population and/or topic. Please explain as fully as possible.

Describe any ethical concerns about defined researcher positionality. Address any potential for coercion.

3.14 Risk Assessment

Is your study more than minimal risk? Refer to your CITI course for more information about minimal risk. Please explain.

To be completed by Mentor
Mentor: Name Member #1: Name Member #2: Name Date & Reason for Deferral (if needed)
Topic Approval
SMART Approval
First Review
Second Review (if needed)
Third Review (if needed)
Faculty Chair consult (if needed)

Please attach the formal letter requesting permission, and letter of approval (on letterhead) to the end of this SMART form prior to submission for School approval.

MENTORS: Once you submit Milestone #4 – Committee Approved SMART form – please send this completed SMART form to: [email protected] for School approval.

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