Topic Analysis

Full Reference

Davis, G.B., Parker, Clyde Alvin & Straub, Detmar W., 2012. Writing the doctoral dissertation : a systematic approach (third edition), Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barron’s.


Below, I’ve used the outline from chapter 8 and included blockquoted text from the example (pp. 81-100). I’ll be replacing it with my own text as possible.

Problem, hypothesis, or question

Decision models are built to handle risk aversion by the users, but human
decision makers are erratic in risk-aversion responses.

Major questions in area are

  1. What are the major determinants of variations in risk-aversion behavior by human decision makers?
  2. Is relative risk-aversion constant across problem situations?
  3. Does experience reduce variations in risk aversion?
  4. Can education or simulated experience reduce variations in risk aversion?

The fourth question is the one to be researched.

Importance of research (why it is worthy of doctoral research)

In the design of decision systems, a decision maker with a given risk aversion is usually assumed. But there is evidence (such as Allen, “Risk Aversion in Production Scheduling,” Journal of Business Research, July 1994, pp. 475-490) that the decision models are less effective than one would hope because of variations in patterns of risk aversion. There is, therefore, a need to evaluate methods for reducing variations in risk aversion by a decision maker. Burnham states, ‘There is an urgent need to understand the risk-aversion phenomenon and to find and evaluate mechanisms for altering risk-aversion behavior if the new decision systems are to be effective.”

Theory base for research

The research will be based on two components of personality theory: risk aversion and risk taking. Personality theory suggests each individual has propensities that place them on a scale between high risk aversion and high risk taking. The differences are based on childhood experiences. Personality theory also suggests risk-aversion propensities can be altered by training experiences. Tested, theory-based instruments are available for measuring risk aversion.

Significant prior research

There are a number of studies of risk aversion as determined by personality and environment. Hurst (“Constancy of Risk Aversion,” Journal of Decision Psychology, January 1995, pp. 120-131) experimented with ten college students and concluded that absolute risk aversion was affected by the problem, but the relative risk aversion evidenced by different subjects was not changed. Wadell (“Effect of Trauma on Risk Aversion,” Journal of Decision Psychology, February 1990, pp. 5-14) ran experiments that suggest traumatic experience is effective in changing risk aversion for broad classes of related phenomena. No reported research has been found on the effect of education and simulated experience on reducing variations in risk aversion.

Possible research approach or methodology

Five methodologies for research are possible. One or more may be used. One through three are proposed.

  1. Use a group of students and measure variations in risk-aversion behavior prior to taking the decision sciences course in the fall semester, immediately following the course in December, and six months after taking the course in May.
  2. Use a group of inventory controllers taking a course in scientific inventory management. Measurement before, after, and six months after.
  3. Use a group of students and measure the change in variability of risk aversion after using the inventory management decision simulator, which provides experience in handling uncertainty by means of decision rules.
  4. Use a group of inventory controllers and measure change after use of inventory management decision simulator.
  5. Observe changes in card playing behavior (Poker and Hearts) by students who have received instruction in assessing the probability of certain combinations of cards.

Instruments: An instrument to measure risk-aversion variation will have to be constructed and validated. Perhaps it can be constructed from parts of existing personality tests, such as the Alison battery and the Jann test for objectivity.
The inventory management decision simulator is available. A data generator to produce the desired stimuli will need to be added.

Potential outcomes of research and importance of each

Outcomes are contributions in part of cases; others probably not.

  1. Immediate Effect of Education
    Students Controllers
    Variability Reduced Contribution Contribution
    Variability Increased ? ?
    No effect No contribution No contribution
  2. Six-Month Effect of Education. Same as 1.
  3. Effect of Simulated Experience
    Students Only
    Variability Reduced Contribution
    Variability Increased ?
    No effect No contribution

The increase in variability is difficult to interpret and is not as strong a contribution as reduction in variability, unless a theoretical basis for the result can be found.