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!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


This, right here, is the moment that I start to wonder if that *other*, really cool idea, that I've sort-of-had-in-the-back-of-my-mind-since-October ... is actually way cooler than my current idea.

Oh proposals. As some of the class know, SSHRC is a bit of a pain, and our proposals are only now just going to SGS, and then may eventually make it to SSHRC proper... and we don't get to know if we've made it or not for months. I guess this is all part of the learning experience... I know most academics apply for grants and then sit with fingers crossed as they wait- heck, most governments and not-for-profits work the same way too. But there is something in the waiting that makes you want to second guess every bloody bit of what you've decided on.

Nervous doesn't begin to describe it. Some of you have been talking about how anxious you are-- and it's funny, because I know I shouldn't be: I know this topic. But getting that across to someone... that is an entirely different can of worms. And I'm nervous that I'm not saying it properly, or writing it right, or phrasing it well, or whatever. My concerns aren't really the method, or the topic... but rather with the selling of the whole thing.

I have issues 'selling' something. It's like when you write a cover letter for a job- isn't it rather awkward to explain how you're better than other candidates, even when you *know* you bring something important to the job? I suppose I could psychoanalyze myself and say it's because I've got 5 brothers and sisters and oh, you toot your horn at your own expense in big families like that. But I feel the same with the proposal, and it's worse when it's in third person, because then it feels like I'm trying to make it "more important" or valid or weighty or something. Reasons to cite Latour, I suppose.

Is anyone else still hitting the "maybe this idea isn't so fabulous after all" moment? And if the lit review isn't making you think "wow"... where do you go from there?

After the panic attack...

Ever look at something you've written, truly despise it and erase almost all of it in a fit of rage, anger and frustration??

Well, that was me at about 6 pm last night. I actually got rid of most of what I had written in my proposal, keeping only the bare bones. I have never been more frustrated with a paper since maybe my very last English paper in undergrad...and even then it was more about the subjectivity of the marking then the writing of the paper itself. I always strive to be a perfectionist in my writing and maybe that is what is frustrating me the most right now...

So last night, after I erased the majority of the research proposal in a fit of insanity and panic, I resigned to stop looking at it! I closed my computer and decided that I would not look at it until today....

well it is today...

...I'm still worried, but also in a strange way refreshed and energized. I've decided to change my proposal slightly and hope that with the new adjustments I'll be raring to go!

In my SSHRC proposal I proposed to critically examine the effectiveness of librarians in
three patient libraries in Toronto, Ontario, which are slated to lose their public

I gave myself 5 research objectives:

(a) examine the current patient libraries;
(b) determine the importance of having a full-time librarian on staff at each hospital;
(c) explore the benefits a patient library will have on patients, their families and the
hospitals as a whole;
(d) establish the challenges that staff and patients face should the libraries be
downsized or closed;
(e) explore alternative ways the city?s main library system can continue to fund patient
libraries so that they may have a librarian on staff.

I've decided to revamp these objectives into research questions as described by Knight, p 10 to aid with the literature review:

a) What are patient libraries?
b) What are the benefits of a patient library on patients?
c) Why are librarians important to patient hospitals?
d) What are the challenges facing patient hospitals, their staff and the patients?
e) What alternatives to downsizing or closing a patient library can be implemented by the hospital, city and province?

Okay...I think I'm on the right track!

...I need a coffee!


"I have CDO: It's like OCD...only the letters are in alphabetical order they should be!"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ruminations Part 3 - valid invalid?

I keep worrying that my research won't be considered internally valid, let alone externally (actually I'm pretty sure that's no on the external). I keep trying to think of all the angles and research-y ways that I could make it more internally valid but its turning into a monster! Even if I was doing a thesis there is no feasible way I could do this on my own within say a year, I'd need like five or a large staff. I'm begining to wonder if the entire topic isn't just to big, or if I'm making it to big because I want to go off into the wilderness and explore this one area that everyone seems to be ignoring, maybe there was a reason for this ignoring in the first place, or not and I'm just making this bigger than it needs to be because that just what I do.
Brain work now!!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taking a break to blog

Well i am currently surrounded by a pile of books...literally! I am sitting on the floor with books ALL around me!! It is scary and yet strangely comforting...

I am currently in the process of detailing my mini-literature review of the book sources I have chosen and will be tackling the
online journal and article sources tomorrow or Friday. I must say, while this proposal can be difficult at times, the hardest part for me is using APA formatting. I know...weird right??

I think it stems from my undergrad. I never liked the imbedded citations and once I was a history major, we were not to use APA style, but rather Chicago or MLA. Once I began using footnotes, I was hooked! I like the way my paper looks with footnotes, I like writing footnotes, I like how clean and easy to read the paper is, but alas!

I have to keep stopping myself from entering footnotes when I am writing this proposal, and write the works cited in their proper format...

*sigh* anyone else feel the same way??? or is simply exclusive to me?

Happy December 1st!!


"I have CDO: It's like OCD...only the letters are in alphabetical order they should be!"

Ruminations Part 3

Going over my notes as I begin to map out my research proposal I soon realized that I am apparently engaging a form of historical-comparative model. I say a form because I'm not sure if I'm following Luker exactly in her explanation on the subject, but considering my question/thesis (in this case they are practically one and the same) its largely dependent on examining past events in relation to present events and assessing the variables, and here I thought I'd be struggling to come up with a method. So let that be a lesson to all of you go over your notes again you'd be supprised at what you've forgotten.