Posts Tagged ‘advice for students’

I am going through your drafts and doing my best to provide helpful feedback. I was unable to clear my days on Tuesday and Wed., so I wasn’t able to get to them until last night. At about 30-60 minutes per draft (and other meetings and things), I was hoping to be done by Sat morning, but realistically, that will probably be Sunday morning.

I believe I already moved the deadline to Wednesday of exam week, but if you need another day to write the PERFECT paper, just let me know and we can work something out.

Now, a couple of reminders and tips:

  1. Follow the outline in the slides I presented in class.
  2. Remember the Appendices – any research instruments (surveys, interview questions, observation sheets) as well as a Reflection. In the Reflection, please think a bit about your experience working on this paper. What was easy, what was difficult, but most importantly, what you learned from this experience: What skills do you feel confident you have learned/improved? Writing introductions? Organizing literature reviews? Making arguments for the need for your study? Finding references? If you were to do this again, knowing what you know now, what would you do? Do you usually write outlines and drafts? This time you did. Was that helpful? How?
  3. Writing – do remember to use your literature review to make an argument for the need for your research. At the end of each literature section, write a couple of sentences that APPLY that information to your study. Use it. Is it a stepping stone? A gap in the literature? What does it mean for your study? Then, add a TRANSITION to the next section. You will see notes about A+T in the comments on your draft, this is what it means.
  4. Discussion – from what I’ve seen so far, the Discussion sections could be stronger. There is more to Discussion than listing implications of the research. You also need to interpret and explain the results, and relate them to the literature you reviewed. Also, remember to discuss limitations.
  5. Directions for Future Research  – This is another section that is often weak. Most suggestions for future research involve more of the same: Do the same study, but make it bigger, or with different populations. That’s OK, but not as interesting as it could get. Think about it this way: Knowing what we know now from your research contribution, what would be some other, further questions to ask that would take the field deeper, farther, or to more interesting places? Think beyond “more of the same.”

Please keep an eye on the blog for further notes and updates.

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missed-deadline-278x300So, you know that the final paper draft is due December 2. It would help you (and me) stay on track if you wrote a blog post with some key dates by when you want to have parts of the paper finished. Please plan your milestones and publish them on your blog!

I know I haven’t posted on this particular blog as often as I feel I should, but here are some posts on my other blogs that some of you might find interesting:

Bonus posts: How to write a Discussion section for your paper, thesis or dissertation and How to write a paper guaranteed to get published.

It’s done!

Not only the literature review, but the entire paper. That explains why I didn’t have time to post an update on the blog.

In case you missed it, here’s part 1 – my process for working on a literature review.

I left off with an outline. So, what happened next?

After reading a few more articles, I felt that the outline didn’t make any sense whatsoever, and that I had no idea how to go about this. Stress plummeted to very unpleasant levels. When that happens, I know what it means: It’s time to start writing.

So I started writing. I started with just the first paragraph, and that lead me to the second. After that, I re-evaluated my outline. I looked at all the articles, sorted them into piles, and saw that my initial outline plan actually made sense.

This is what my lit review looks like

So, I started attacking the literature review section by section – aka pile by pile. As soon as I was done with a pile of articles, I put it aside. I kept writing, and writing, because at that point I was on a roll  – I knew what I wanted to do, and couldn’t wait to get it done. So I actually drafted the entire literature review in one sitting (maybe 5 hours or so). As the need occurred, I found more references to fill in the occasional gap.

When I write, I work with Word and Endnote – it is a reference management software that works with Word to insert citations in text and in the list of references. So I had to make sure that each reference was entered correctly in Endnote. I use Zotero to collect references, then export them into Endnote, and clean them up in Endnote. Zotero references often need a lot of cleanup – for example, each word in an article’s title is capitalized, and that’s not correct in APA style, so I need to go back and lower case each word manually, and add whatever information is missing. I hear Zotero also has a plugin for Word, but I am pretty happy with Endnote. Have you used it? What do you think about it?

I cannot share the end result publicly, but if you’d like to see the literature review, let me know and I’ll post it on Blackboard.

I am spending Spring break working on a paper, specifically, the literature review section. So I thought I’d document my process here, in case it may help you. Maybe we can turn this blog post into an ad-hoc literature review support group.

(Speaking of support groups, I tried creating one for College of Technology graduate students. Nothing much has happened yet, but if you’re interested, join the group on Facebook. I’m planning to try again to meet over the summer.)

Back to the literature review. It sounds simple. Here are the steps, in 140 characters or fewer (fewer, not less):

Yesterday, I worked on reading articles that an undergraduate research intern had helped me collect.

As I was reading, I experienced the following:

  • elation and satisfaction at learning new things
  • panic that there’s so much more to read than I have time before the deadline (and by deadline, I mean before I die)
  • confusion about how to organize the articles into literature review sections
  • occasional tiredness and boredom, coupled with restlessness. Even though I was tired, I couldn’t stop reading, I had to pick up article after article.
  • the thought that I can’t do this before deadline, I should just give up and try a later deadline
  • the thought that I’ve done this before, and just like I miraculously met deadlines before, I will meet the deadline this time, too.

You may experience all of the above, except, maybe, the last one – if you do not have sufficient experience. What I am trying to say is that unpleasant feelings, panic, and doubts are part of the process. They don’t mean much. Just like a headache goes away, they, too, will go away. So notice the unpleasantness, label it as normal, and keep going. I wish I’d known earlier on that they are a normal part of the process.

The most difficult for me was the confusion, the fact that I could not see a structure or a way to organize articles into sections. That’s when I knew I need to take a break (go to sleep) and give my brain time to process all the new information. When I woke up this morning, I had a structure in mind, an I could hear the words for the first paragraph (which is the hardest for me to write).

Pooky helping with a literature review. Note the piles of articles in the background. Each pile became a lit review section.

This is where I am right now. My paper is about using social media in higher education. So, I’m thinking that the outline of the literature review will go something like this:

  1. Several people argue that Web 2.0 is so much better than sliced bread (cite here all of these arguments). If it’s so wonderful, how come we don’t all use Web 2.0 in our teaching? And more importantly, what evidence do we have that Web 2.0 is as really as great as these arguments claim? (This is my transition to the section about empirical studies.)
  2. Empirical studies have looked at social media tools individually. There are studies about microblogging in education and at conferences, which show that… (summarize results here). There are studies about using blogs in education which show that… (summarize results here). There are studies about wikis… There are studies about some other random tools… However, there aren’t studies that look at an integral social media solution. What happens when you combine several of these tools in education? That’s the need we are trying to address with our study.
  3. Theoretical framework: Learning outcomes, Self-determination theory, Social capital (explain all these theories and how they apply to our problem).
  4. Study goal and research questions.
  5. THAT’S IT. That’s the end of my literature review.

I am now thinking that there’s a bunch of statistics and studies about how students use the Internet and social media, and they seem to belong somewhere in the literature review, but I am not sure where. Help me out: Where do you think I should plug them in, in this structure? Or should I leave them out?

How’s your process going? What feelings are you experiencing? What are you discovering that works well for you?