Friday, December 10, 2010

Final Post

This has been a very interesting experience! I enjoyed learning the different ways to approach research proposals, and how much work goes into writing one! The two required texts were great and aided greatly in the final proposal, especially Luker's "Nitty-Gritty" chapter.

The Peer Review Assignment
An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious - just dead wrong.
---Russell Baker

The Peer Review assignment was quite the eye-opener. When reading and utilizing articles for assignments and papers, I tend to go through them and find what I need without much thought. By conducting the peer review, and actually analyzing and dissecting the methods used by the researcher, it was surprising to see how inaccurate, or biased the information in some journal articles could be. While I think the Russell Baker quote is a little harsh in some also is quite true...information is almost always must be argued, it must be fleshed out, it must be researched and researched and researched! This assignment has aided in my other assignments, as I am now more aware of looking for biases, looking for inconsistencies, and looking for other problems in an "academic" journal article.

The proposal...oh the proposal!!! It ended up not being as bad as I thought. Once I was able to flesh out my ideas (and deleted two drafts) it was smooth sailing! I thoroughly enjoyed my topic, and if I ever pursue research, I would explore this topic again!

However, for right now....I plan on finishing my last assignments and be finished my MI degree as of Tuesday December 14th.

So in closing I shall end with a favourite quote of mine, and wish all you first year MI students an excellent progression through this degree program!

An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't.
---Anatole France

Christie :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Theoretical Frameworks...

On the off chance that anyone is still reading this blog, I thought I'd post something our group went over in class today. There was a bit of concern around the idea of a theoretical framework, and how to situate your research in one. I know this is discussed in our readings, but at this late moment in the semester, sometimes a fresh voice makes all the difference. As such, I'm going to quote the rather straightforward article I found on this very topic (by Dana L. Zeidler, Ph.D.
Science Education, University of South Florida, no date that I can find...) which reminds me quite a bit of Luker's voice...

"What is a Theoretical Framework?: A Practical Answer

Doctoral students live in fear of hearing those now famous
words: "That sounds like a promising study, but what is your
theoretical framework?” These words instantly send the harried
doctoral student to the library in search of a theory to satisfy
his/her advisor. The search is often unsuccessful because of the
student’s misconception of what constitutes a “theoretical
framework.” The framework may actually be a theory, but this is
usually restricted to research which is attempting to ‘test the
validity’ of an existing theory. Most doctoral research (i.e.,
original research) does not fit into this rubric. So, what is a
theoretical framework?

It is, perhaps, easier to understand the nature and
function of a theoretical framework if it is viewed as the answer
to two basic questions:

1. What is the problem?

2. Why is your approach a feasible solution?

Indeed, the answers to these questions are the substance
and culmination of chapters 1 and 2 of the proposal and completed
dissertation. The answers to these questions can come from only
one source, a thorough review of the literature. Perhaps, a
hypothetical situation can best illustrate the development and
role of the theoretical framework in the formalization of a
dissertation topic.

As an interested reader of educational literature, a
doctoral student becomes intrigued by the importance of
questioning in the secondary classroom. The student immediately
begins a manual and computer search of the literature on
questioning in the classroom. The student notices that the
research findings on the effectiveness of questioning strategies
are rather equivocal. In particular, much of the research focuses
on the cognitive levels of the questions asked by the teacher and
how these questions influence student achievement. It appears
that the research findings exhibit no clear pattern. That is, in
some studies, frequent questioning at higher cognitive levels has
led to more achievement than frequent questioning at the lower
cognitive levels. However, an equal number of investigations have
shown no differences between the achievement of students who are
exposed to questions at distinctly different cognitive levels.

The doctoral student becomes intrigued by these equivocal
findings and begins to speculate about some possible
explanations. In a blinding flash of insight, the student
remembers hearing somewhere that an eccentric Frenchman called
Piaget said something about student being categorized into levels
of cognitive development. Could it be that a student’s cognitive
level has something to do with how much he/she learns? The
student heads back to the library and methodically searches
through the literature on cognitive development and its
relationship to achievement.

At this point, the doctoral student has become quite
familiar with two distinct lines of educational research. The
research on the effectiveness of questioning has established that
there is a problem. That is, does questioning have any effect on
achievement and does the cognitive level of questions make a
difference? The research on the cognitive development of students
has provided an answer to the second question which was specified
at the beginning of this soliloquy. That is, could it be possible
that students of different cognitive levels are affected
differently by questions of different cognitive levels? If so, an
answer to the problem concerning the effectiveness questioning
may be at hand. At this point, the student has narrowed his/her
interests as a result of reviewing the literature. Note that the
doctoral student is now ready to write down a specific research
question and that this is only possible after having conducted a
thorough review of the literature.

The student writes down the following research hypotheses:

1. Both high and low cognitive level pupils will
benefit from both high and low cognitive level
questions as opposed to no questions at all.

2. Only pupils categorized at the high cognitive level
will benefit more from the high cognitive level
questions than from the low level questions.

These research questions still need to be transformed into
testable statistical hypotheses, but they are ready to be
presented to the dissertation advisor. The advisor looks at the
questions and says: “This looks like a promising study, but what
is your theoretical framework?” There is no need, however, for a
sprint to the library. The doctoral student has a theoretical
framework. The literature on questioning has established that
there is a problem and the literature on cognitive development
has provided the rationale for performing the specific
investigation that is being proposed. ALL IS WELL !"

Taken from:

With this, I'll sign off.
Hope this helps anyone still working on this section of their proposal.

Thanks everyone for a great term... and good luck on the rest of it!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The End

Well ... I guess this is my last blog post. It was a great semester, everyone :)

I am currently working on my research proposal. Extensions are bittersweet. You love them, because you get more time on your assignment. But then again, I'm not going to be done tomorrow and all I keep thinking is ... "Mary ... you could have been done already..." I am totally jealous of the people who are already done. I am interested in my topic, but apparently not passionate enough because 6000 words seems like a loooooong way away.

Good luck everyone!

Bittersweet Ending!!!

I can't believe this term is already over!!!
I was really excited to start working on my research proposal as I am very interested in my topic. When I started writing, I wondered how I was ever going to write a 6,000 word. However, when I started to outline what I plan to do, I began to worry that the 6,500 word limit might be too little. Only when I started to read more about research methods did I begin to understand the amount of details that you need in research. For example, I thought that using an observational method would be the simplest to write about however, it was the hard. I had to figure out how I would observe people and how I would deal with the ethical situations. Until I wrote this proposal I did not really understand this details or the work that actually have to go into conducting research. Regardless, I really did enjoy this project as writing it felt like trying to complete a puzzle.
Anyways....back to paper writing!!!
Ah, Rebecca- I know how you feel. I'm a bit unsure about the lit review as well... and have also taken the "camps" approach. It is exactly times like this when I regret my science degree-- lit reviews? What's a lit review? In a science degree, it's so... straightforward. Here, it's like I'm trying to weave something together without a pattern (yes, yes, I know the pattern is the method... still). How much depth is right? Too much? Etc. I'm right there with you. And I'm so glad for tomorrow.

And Varsha-- me too, in spades. I've always loved writing, but keeping a blog/journal of schoolwork and writing? It seemed... silly at first. Generally speaking anything that has to be done consistently makes me think busy work (elementary school reading journals, anyone?)... which is ridiculous, given that my all-time favourite blog to follow is by a technology expert who writes about... oh... wait... technology. Not a hobby-ist, not really- but writing about what he does and why he does it and things he's heard and learnt from and been inspired by... which is sort of the point (at least as I understand it now). And going back through your own thoughts... there are a couple things I wish I'd written down as soon as I had the idea, because there's something in the wording, or the magic of that moment, or the energy, or something, that I wish I had captured. For future reference. Like finishing up details of a proposal before it's due.

So yes. This has been a strangely valuable lesson. Even if it reminds me, every time I log in, of that Ray Bradbury quote: "You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads..."



Still Posting?

Hi All,

I thought we were done with the posting last week.

Well, since you're all still here, I should take advantage and post a few comments/questions about the research proposal process.

1) Is anyone getting completely carried away with the "Background" portion? I have read a few posts from people who are feeling luke-warm about their projects, and I have to say that there is one advantage to that, and that is that you aren't consumed by intemperate enthusiasm. I feel very strongly about my subject, and am having a very hard time controlling my exuberance. When it comes down to actually explaining how I'm going to pull it off on the other hand, well, I'm a bit out to lunch.

2) How much of a lit-review is the mini-lit review supposed to be, exactly? In proposals I have had to submit in the past, the lit-review portion of the proposal was little more than a list of the things we intended to read and review, but I get the sense that here we need more. But how much more? Currently I am managing this issue by breaking the lit into camps, providing a list of readings in each camp and discussing why being well-versed in each area is important to the research, but not really going into further detail than that.

Now that I've posted these, I can at least refer to them in our workshop tomorrow, and as an added bonus anyone who reads this can be comforted by the whole "misery [or at least, befuddlement] loves company" principle.

Final Thoughts...

I'm actually kind of happy with my topic and the way my research proposal is turning out. I changed the topic almost completely from the SSHRC proposal and I think I made the right choice.
Maybe I'm not as panicked about it because I have no intention of doing this research?? But then again, that could mean I'm glossing over some pretty big holes... but let's not think about that.. ^_^

Maybe I shouldn't say this but for the first few weeks I really did not want to write this blog. I didn't think I had anything to add and I wasn't convinced that it would help me at all. Was I ever wrong. In the course of writing my research proposal I've come back to this blog maybe 2 or 3 times to look at what I said about a certain reading or concept. In all of those instances I was able to incorporate my blog post into my paper!

That was a great lesson to learn and if I'm organized enough I might start keeping a journal/blog for all of my courses, but that's a pretty big if.

Good luck on your proposals! And enjoy your holidays, when we finally get to them!