1.1: Explain how and why you chose the terms of reference for your project

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7CO04 Business research in people practice

7CO04 Business research in people practice

Learner Assessment Brief

Version 2022.1 June 2022

Level 7 Advanced Diploma in


  • Strategic People Management
  • Strategic Learning and Development







The assessment for this unit is quite different from those used for other core units. Learners are required to address all twelve tasks (derived from the assessment criteria), rather than taking one Assessment Criteria from each Learning Outcome (as in the core knowledge units), or six from fifteen as in the Personal Effectiveness and Business Acumen core unit. Assessment of all twelve ACs is necessary because the Business Research in People Practice unit is an integrated project requiring all the ACs to be addressed via a series of tasks.

It requires a skill set which encompasses the following:

1) an understating of theory and practice.

2) the ability to plan a project and undertake background reading necessary to identify and specify research objectives.

3) analytical skills to write targeted questions and analyse answers from respondents.

4) insights necessary to produce cost-effective and workable recommendations.

5) communication skills to present the material in a relatively short report.

6) a willingness to review learning so as to take away lessons for the future.

The assessment for this unit is a report which addresses the four LOs in an integrated way and draws upon different areas of people practice depending on the learner’s choice of topic. The final submission for this unit should be in the form of a business report, rather than a form whereby the learner ‘answers’ the assessment criteria one by one.

As with other units, the length of the project report is 4000 words +/- 10% allowance. The bibliography/other sources are not included in the overall total, nor are essential appendices. However, they will not be marked but they can be used to support the project – though these must be kept to a minimum. This means 1000 words (+/- 10%) for each Learning Outcome (LO).

Unlike other units, however, the tasks are not equal in size or weighting; see the Table below for the number of words expected as a guide for each task/AC. This demonstrates the ‘value’ of each task and its contribution to the project as a whole.


Task 1.1 – 150 words

Task 1.2 – 700 words

Task 1.3 – 150 words


Task 2.1 – 150 words

Task 2.2 – 700 words

Task 2.3 – 150 words


Task 3.1 – 150 words

Task 3.2 – 700 words

Task 3.1 – 150 words


Task 4.1 – 333 words

Task 4.2 – 333 words

Task 4.1 – 333 words

Assessment is undertaken at the level of each Learning Outcome, which means a mark is awarded within a grade for each of the four LOs rather than for each task/AC.  Accordingly, 70% of marks for LOs 1,2 and 3 should be awarded for tasks 1.2, 2.2 and 3.2. For LO4, however, each of the three tasks account for one-third of the overall mark as they are equal in weighting.

An overall grade for the unit is determined by adding up the marks within a grade achieved for each of the LOs – see the end of this document for the details on this

The business research project

Task 1.1: Explain how and why you chose the terms of reference for your project

The terms of reference should state the prime purpose and aim of the project, outlining which specific business problem is being addressed. This section should also explore the resources required for its completion in terms of broad costs and support, and the deadline date for submission. These must be precise, manageable and achievable in the time allowed. It is a good idea to use a GANTT chart which shows a clear timeline for each stage of the project - this can be located in the Appendix (please note this is not included in the word count).

Task 1.2: Develop a literature review which focuses on the key people practice issues you are investigating, and critically analyses a targeted range of literature from academic, professional and practitioner sources

This requires an analysis of published material and reputable on-line sources relating to the learner’s terms of reference and provides the underpinning support for the research questions. Sources may include:

1) textbooks on HR/L&D and relevant papers in peer-reviewed academic journals.

2) practitioner-oriented publications and reputable on-line websites, which offer a more practical treatment of the topics addressed in the project. These include: CIPD Reports and Surveys, government publications, material from employer organisations/trade unions, and independent think-tanks in the country where the research is undertaken.

3) any other source which provides data on specialist areas of people practice. Since relatively few words are allowed for this task, it is advised that no more than 10-12 sources are actually used directly in the report; however, given that most learners will read more than that, the full list of publications should be cited in the bibliography.

Learners are strongly advised to keep notes of key material when compiling their literature reviews. It is critical that they explore ideas by searching different publications, engaging with the arguments, and analysing the literature so it is presented in a clear and concise way in line with both the terms of reference and the research questions.

Task 1.3: Devise one or more research questions to examine during the research and in the final report

To complete this task, learners need to draw on the terms of reference and the literature review to identify one or more research questions to guide the remainder of their project. These can be in the form of hypotheses if they are using quantitative data or research questions for qualitative data.

All the tasks for LO1 need to be integrated. As noted earlier in this brief, the final submission should be in the form of a business report. Therefore, the tasks listed above may form part of an introduction and/or literature review chapter

Research questions are very helpful in organising the literature review as they serve to focus the learners on how their research can be structured.


For a project on employee engagement, plenty of publications are available, so it is crucial that the most pertinent material is used. It is best to start with the recommended reading set out in the CIPD level 7 unit on Strategic Employment Relations. It is important to critically analyse material from several sources to get a definition of the topic. Learners should also look at alternative views on employee engagement (critical reviews as well as the celebratory literature).

Once the terms of reference have been devised, a literature search will identify useful journal articles and specialist, practitioner publications. In the UK and Ireland, good sources would include CIPD, Engage for Success, the Involvement and Participation Association, Acas and People Management.

Examples of potential research questions could include some of the following options (or others as appropriate).

RQ1: How can employee engagement be tailored to align with the strategy and business context in the organisation under review?

RQ2: Which employment practices and processes need to be introduced and/or developed so the organisation and its employees benefit from employee engagement?

RQ3: Hypothesis. ‘Organisations which use a strategic, focussed and transparent approach to employee engagement are more likely to accrue benefits from their practices.

Task 2.1: Analyse the main differences between primary and secondary data and when they should be used

Primary data is material learners collect themselves, either individually or in a team. It is important to pilot the questions to be used in an interview, focus group or survey to make sure they are appropriate.

Secondary data is material collected by someone else, either as part of an internal survey in the same or another organisation, or published data sets such as in the CIPD Research Reports or from the Office for National Statistics. Both types of data can be used in BRPP reports but it is crucial that learners do not over-stretch themselves here.

Task 2.2: Justify your choice of research methods for collecting data to achieve your own project outcomes

This task requires a clear and concise reason justifying why you have chosen these research method(s).

Quantitative methods - such as surveys, can provide greater validity because there are typically more respondents, but questions must be unambiguous and simple to answer in order to have confidence in the findings.

Qualitative methods - such as interviews, focus groups, participant observation, and case studies

– provide more in-depth findings and allow for more nuanced explanations. However, respondents must be able to answer questions fully and with relevant knowledge – for example, regarding their own experience of an induction programme. Sample composition and methods of sample selection are key. Data from different categories of respondents is useful to check on accuracy or understand alternative perspectives on an issue.

If appropriate, both types of methods, and/or both primary and secondary data, can be used together.

Task 2.3: Explain how you have addressed the ethical issues connected with your project

People professionals are expected to display ethical practice, particularly if they are collecting data on other people. Ethical issues arise at several stages in the project, and some guidance can be found in the CIPD’s 2019 publication Ethics at Work: an employer’s guide. Key issues relate to: respondents signing an ethical approval form if data is collected from them; reassurance that names will not appear in the report without their approval; a commitment not to share personal data without agreement; secure data storage provisions.


In order to review the effectiveness of existing employee well-being policies and practices in an organisation, a mix of primary and secondary data could be used. Plenty of material is available from the CIPD L7 Unit Well-being at Work, the CIPD Health and Wellbeing Report (2019), government agencies, employer organisations and trade unions.

Some also include case studies on different types of organisations which can allow the learner’s organisation to benchmark against other firms in the same sector or size band.

Drawing on this, learners could then set up interviews/focus groups or a short survey of a limited number of staff at their own organisation. The key point is to think creatively about the most appropriate way to collect data which fits with your organisation’s needs and the terms of reference.

Task 3.1: Calculate the costs of different options for collecting and analysing data

Apart from a learner’s own time, costs for the BRPP project are unlikely to be high because they will do most, if not all, of the data collection.

Some studies might require the use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other digital technologies which are free or require a subscription. While most surveys are now done on-line, there might be costs for printing surveys if this is not possible.

Task 3.2: Provide evidence of how you have analysed, organised and interpreted the data collected for your project

Learners need to be able to demonstrate how data has been analysed, organised and interpreted so it is integrated with LO1 and LO2.

If questionnaires are comprised principally of questions with fixed-choice answers learners will need to tally responses, and then interpret the results. 5-point Likert scales are used regularly for this purpose as they are quite adaptable, and it might be possible to compare results with another survey. Stronger submissions will likely include some form of more advanced statistical analysis.

If qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews or focus groups, have been used, there might need to be amendments to the original analytical framework if new ideas emerge which capture nuances and greater complexity in people’s mindsets.

Task 3.3: Present the findings in a clear and concise manner, taking into account patterns which emerge from the data analysis

Findings should be organised, so they relate back to the research questions or hypotheses that were outlined earlier in the report. It is important not to drift into areas which are marginal to the learner’s main argument.

However, if the results do not fit with the original hypotheses or research questions, they should be discussed openly in a way which both engages the audience and encourages discussion.


An organisation with which you are familiar is investigating whether to set up new overseas operations in one of two countries, and you have been asked to focus on (a) legal regulations covering employment and (b) the quality of leadership programmes in these countries.

A decision has been made to use semi-structured interviews with employer organisations, professional bodies and University Business Schools in these countries to understand more about their national cultures and the resources available for employers.

These interviews revolve around key areas that require more information, so it is appropriate to collect data from a small number of highly knowledgeable people in each country.

Template analysis would be appropriate for this task as it can be used to design a coding protocol where ideas are organised into categories. This allows for relevant areas of employment law and the quality of local leadership programmes to be assessed for the study. It is a great way to organise, analyse and interpret data, and should enable the learner to produce a clear and concise report.

Task 4.1: Justify the conclusions from your project, showing how you drew on the data to do this

A check through the report should demonstrate integration across all the LOs and identify the most relevant points for the conclusion. This section of the report needs to be concise, clear and accurate, and show how the conclusions were derived from the data and that key messages are understood.

Being able to communicate in an engaging way is necessary to reassure sponsors that the data is accurate, the conclusions add value, and there is little or no risk to the organisation’s reputation and performance.

Task 4.2: Devise a set of business-focused recommendations, action points and a cost-benefit analysis

The recommendations from the report are a set of practical actions the organisation is recommended to implement to address the initial project aim and suggestions for further investigation as necessary. Good ideas are often ignored if the costs are deemed to be too high.

The identification of costs is not simple, so relatively easy-to-measure costs – such as loss of production, levels of absence, costs of recruitment and selection and/or training – are typically used. However, it is also important to consider costs that are more difficult to measure – for example, a poor organisational reputation for inclusion and diversity can easily put off potential applicants.

Task 4.3: Do a reflective analysis of your work on this project and identify what you would do differently in future projects to enhance success

Before putting the report away, it is important to take a step back and reflect on whether or not, and in what way, the project could have been improved. For example, were the timescales in the GANTT chart appropriate, how could the literature search have been improved, were any questions unclear to respondents, or could the recommendations have been presented more effectively to senior management?

If it is decided nothing could have been improved, it is likely that self-reflection has not been deep enough. Learning theory should be used to underpin your reflective analysis; see readings in this Unit, as well as the L&D Units at L7.


Quantitative data on the impact of a training course on the performance of supermarket checkout staff provides strong evidence that women, younger people, and those with prior experience of similar work, are better at this task than other people.

This might lead to a conclusion that these groups should be targeted in future recruitment. However, there are clear ethical, practical and legal reasons why this might not be an appropriate way to proceed.

The conclusions and recommendations from the project need to recognise these issues, as should the self-reflection, in order for learners to demonstrate their ability to think carefully and creatively when investigating issues. This applies particularly to some elements of data analytics, where learners need to take great care in choosing which metrics to use.

Marking Grid

Learners will receive a Pass, Merit, Distinction or Refer/Fail result at unit level.

Assessors must provide a mark from 1 to 4 for each Learning Outcome in the unit. Assessors should use the generic grade descriptor grid as guidance so they can provide comprehensive feedback that is developmental for learners.

To pass the unit assessment learners must achieve a 2 (Pass) or above for each of the learning outcomes.

*The overall mark achieved will dictate the Grade the learner receives for the Unit, provided NONE of the learning outcomes have been failed or referred.

Overall mark

Unit result

*0 to 7

Refer / Fail

8 or 9


10 to 13


14 to 16



Learners’ result should be recorded in a marking grid similar to the example below.

Marking grid:

Learning outcome











Overall mark


Unit Result




Generic grade descriptors for 7CO04






PASS / 2









1/ 2 / 3 / 4

Appropriateness of terms of reference (ToR), quality of literature review, and focus of research questions

Inappropriate ToR, inadequate literature review, and poorly- focused research questions

Satisfactory ToR, acceptable and relevant literature review, and sufficiently-focused research questions

Good ToR, good and well- targeted literature review, and well-focused research questions

Excellent ToR, very good and extremely well- targeted literature review, and excellent research questions


Depth of understanding and justification of chosen research methods, and degree to which ethical issues are addressed

Inadequate understanding and justification of research methods used, and little awareness of ethical issues

Satisfactory understanding and justification of research methods used, and acceptable awareness of ethical issues

Good understanding and justification of research methods used, and strong awareness of ethical issues

Excellent understanding and justification of research methods used, and very strong awareness of ethical issues


Quality of data collection, analysis and interpretation, and ability to explain the findings

Inadequate quality of data collection, analysis and interpretation, and failure to explain the findings effectively

Satisfactory quality of data collection, analysis and interpretation, with satisfactory explanation of the findings

High quality of data collection, analysis and interpretation, with strong explanation of the findings

Excellent quality of data collection, analysis and interpretation, with excellent explanation of the findings


Extent to which conclusions, recommendations and action plan are business-focused and credible, and quality of reflective analysis

Conclusions, recommendations and action plan lack business focus and credibility, with poor quality of reflective analysis

Conclusions, recommendations and action plan are sufficiently business-focused and credible, with acceptable reflective analysis

Conclusions, recommendations and action plan are clearly business-focused and credible, with good level of reflective analysis

Conclusions, recommendations and action plan show very strong business focus and credibility, with excellent level of reflective analysis


Overall Result



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