Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.
— Mike Tyson
I finally listened to an online info session that I missed last week about my upcoming research paper. As of January 22nd 2017, I’ll begin working on my final paper, which is due June 4th 2017 (I can’t wait! 🙌🏽). After listening to the info session I missed last week, I realized that half of 2017 will be spent in my basement reading, writing and reflecting… pretty much the same way I spent half of 2015 and the entire year of 2016. 😜
For some odd reason I thought the next six months would be easier than the past year and half… I thought I’d have time to complete my paper at my own pace, actually spend some time with friends, maybe plan a couple “weekend getaways” with the family… WRONG! (Insert punch in the mouth here 🥊) There’s schedules to be made, milestones to attain and deadlines to be met. It’s suggested that 200 hours of effort be put towards our research in order to complete a 10,000 word/45 page research paper. 😰 I’ve already began to plan a weekly agenda, outline my tasks and also allot time for research, writing and synthesizing my findings… (there I go again with that word “plan”).
Even though it seems like there’s a lot to do, it can be done. Yes, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed (as usual) but who wouldn’t be? It’s normal. Especially when expectations are so high and time is limited. There’s a lot to be done over the next six months but I’m learning to practice what I preach and “trust the process”, stay focussed and enjoy the experience.
After recently submitting my final LRNT 502 critical analysis paper, I took a step back and thought about how I had just completed such a great amount of work in such a little amount of time. For many of us, as Grant (2015) mentioned “stepping out of the bubble”—in reference to our RRU residency—was not easy. Personally, while on residency, I had two final exams to study for; as I was completing a Business Marketing diploma, a portfolio show to plan for; as my students were set to graduate two weeks after residency, freelance projects to complete and my own classes that I had to teach asynchronously while I was attending RRU. Upon returning home, it didn’t get easier. Summer camp had come to an end and I was in charge of running the household during the final two weeks of our MALAT program. To say that I was busy would be an understatement. Many of my classmates at RRU were in the same boat as I was with work and family commitments that had to be attended to once we got back home after our residency. As I sat down and completed the readings for my course, took notes, wrote summaries and annotated bibliographies, the biggest thing I had to get a hold of was organizing my final paper. I had predicted that I would need to keep my notes and references organized in order to be able to write a decent paper and be successful with my final assignment so I created a system that would help me utilize my time effectively and efficiently.
During our final days on residency, I sat down for lunch with Miriam and Lori-Anne one afternoon as Miriam stated that she wanted an easy way to keep track of her research for her thesis. As we went back to class that afternoon, I thought about creating a Google Form that could be accessed through multiple devices, such as a desktops, mobile phones or tablets so that Miriam could enter any information she found about her research at anytime, anywhere. I drafted out a series of fields that I thought were important for tracking thesis research and quickly had a Thesis Research Form up and running within 30 minutes. I ended up using the thesis research form to keep track of my research and categorize the articles that I had read by learning theory, epistemology, methodology etc…. I could quickly access the form and retrieve the information that I had previously saved and refer to the resources once I began writing my paper.
Reading With A Purpose
The workshops that we attended during our RRU residency on academic reading and writing helped me establish and maintain a routine that worked well with the time that I had available, post-residency. The workshop discussed how to search for key terms, how to identify thesis statements, cite primary and secondary sources and read academic papers with a purpose. With the short amount of time that I had available to complete my paper, the discussion on reading academic papers with a purpose stood out to me the most. The process discussed the three passes that every reader should complete in order to make sense of academic literature and how to draw meaningful notes from the readings. Below are a few pointers that helped me manage the content that I was reading:
Understand the framework
Read the abstract and summarize the main arguments of the research in your own words.
Identify the main argument of the research.
Ask yourself the following questions: Why is this paper is being written? Why is the research being conducted?
Analyze the introduction and conclusion, read the headings, sub-headings, key phrases, data tables, and diagrams to get a quick understanding of what the article is about.
Identify the thesis statement. (This is usually found in the introduction and should also be apparent in the conclusion of the research.)
Why is the research being conducted important?
How does the research relate to your field?
How does the research contribute to your field?
Underline and highlight any unknown words and learn them. Google knows all! 😉
Summarize the paper in one sentence using your own words. What is the main idea or point of the article after reading the first pass? (This is similar to an annotated bibliography).
Go more in-depth by paying attention to the beginning and ending of each paragraph.
Look to your summary from the first pass and see if it stays on track. (Do a review.)
Write any questions about the research that you have at this point.
Reflection and Analysis
Review the paper with a critical eye.
Ask questions, ie. did the author prove their points with factual data?
Are the methods used in the research sound and backed up by credible sources?
Is the argument valid, logical and concise?
Were any assumptions made baring any biases?
Summarize the article again using your own words.
Research Summaries Provide Structure
After following the above steps on reading academic articles, I began to write my paper and started with a summary for one of my chosen readings.I chose to do my summary and critique on The effects of communicative genres on intra-group conflict in virtual student teams by Hsu and Chou (2009). Hsu and Chou (2009) examined potential conflicts that were caused due to computer-mediated communication (CMC) between virtual teams within online environments. The authors conducted their study through the lens of a psycotechnical perspective and a sociotechnical perspective, which allowed them to focus on the relationships between technology and psychology and technology and social practice.
The lessons that I had learned in the workshops and residency were paying off and I quickly saw the results come to fruition.
While reading the article I could see myself distinguishing between qualitative/quantitative approaches, the cultures of inquiry, theoretical frameworks and methodologies fairly easily… or at least easier than I had prior to my residency. The lessons that I had learned in the workshops and residency were paying off and I quickly saw the results come to fruition. The key words started to be apparent and I began to see the connections and contradictions of the main arguments and points of the article rather quickly.
I am obviously at the beginning stages of practicing research but I feel that I have a better understanding of the process because of my experiences during the RRU residency and completing my research assignment. This assignment required me to critically analyze the content that I was reading while managing my time efficiently and keeping my thoughts and research organized while writing a concise and cohesive paper that could be easily understood by a novice and or academic… hopefully. 😉
Hsu, J., & Chou, H. (2009). The effects of communicative genres on intra-group conflict in virtual student teams. International Journal of Distance Education Technologies, 7(1), 1-22. doi.org/10.4018/jdet.2009010101