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Seeking Feedback While Writing Your Dissertation
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Seeking Feedback While Writing Your Dissertation


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For PhD students, knowing how to ask for feedback and how to act on it is vital in establishing a beneficial student-supervisor relationship. Across an academic career, feedback and peer reviewing …

For PhD students, knowing how to ask for feedback and how to act on it is vital in establishing a beneficial student-supervisor relationship. Across an academic career, feedback and peer reviewing plays a central role in research careers, whether it is comments from your supervisor, readers’ reports on publication submissions or anonymous reviews of conference or grant proposals. This workshop considers how you can generate, analyse and make the most of feedback throughout the research process to improve your research and writing practice.

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  • XC this pageWhat is your process? What might it become? Why make changes now? (Boice)If writing is a process, is feedback also a process? Where and from whom might you seek feedback? At various stages how would you draw on supervisor and other readers/faculty to gather feedback, to make sense of feedback received so far?
  • What fears do you have about writing – in general and even more specifically those related to writing a dissertation? Honestly note what you don’t know about – or can only assume to be true about – writing a dissertation.  From MatrixFor those who prefer lists, focus on listing (1) based on writing that generated feedback your strengths and weaknesses as a writer as you and others have named these; (2) attitudes embedded in feedback that lead you to flourish or shut down as a writer; (3) improvements you could make to your writing practices / approach to writing.For those who like creating narratives, write for 5 minutes about one or two pivotal writing experiences that included feedback from someone who was not a peer reader – these experiences with feedback on writing might be ones you would call successful, motivating and/or ones you would call stifling, frustrating.
  • Promoting Outstanding Writing For Excellence in Research – Texas A&M grad schoolFor Elbow, the phrase 'writing with power' has two meanings. The first meaning is probably what most of us think of, when we think about writing with power : powerful writing, of course! Written words that make a difference in readers' individual lives, or in the lives of entire communities. Writing with power makes us think of writing contained in such places as The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, religious texts, classical literature, and poetry.Yet Peter Elbow emphasizes a second meaning for this phrase, and it is this second meaning:"… writing with power also means getting power over yourself and over the writing process: knowing what you are doing as you write; being in charge; having control; not feeling stuck or helpless or intimidated. I am particularly interested in this second kind of power in writing and I have found that without it you seldom achieve the first kind.” (Elbow, 1998, p. viii)
  • Praise / Blame – criticismStrategies that enable judgment and decision making - critical feedbackDecisions about what to ask, what decisions you need to make, where you want to direct attention, what overall query guides specific questions -
  • where does feedback fit into writing with comfort and fluency?Attributes of Quick Starters Start before they’re readyIntegrate active participation into communication practices, overall philosophies and daily practicesProactive in seeking advice from colleagues/multiple mentors, collaborators, and significant othersWork with others to establish strategies for balance among / integration across the commitments in life, work, cultural/affinity groups, and local/global communityVerbalize general optimism – about students, peers, research, teachingSpend less time in the whine and procrastination and imposter modesThe New Faculty Member, 1992BoiceAdvice for New Faculty Members – “when you write daily, you start writing immediately because you remember what you were writing about the day before. This leads to impressive production. In one study participants who wrote daily wrote only twice as many hours as those who wrote occasionally in big blocks of time but wrote or revised tem times as many pages.” Be accountable to someone weekly: Boice 1989 article:Participants were divided into three groups: (a) The first group ("controls") did not change their writing habits, and continued to write occasionally in big blocks of time; in 1 year they wrote an average of 17 pages; (b) the second group wrote daily and kept a daily record; they averaged 64 pages; (c) the third group wrote daily, kept a daily record, and held themselves accountable to someone weekly; this group's average was 157 pages (Boice 1989:609).
  • How, when and why in the writing process might you seek out feedback on your writing? How might this adaptation enhance motivation and increase resilience? What are the risks of seeking – and of not seeking – feedback?
  • How, when and why in the writing process might you seek out feedback on your writing? How might this enhance motivation and increase resilience?
  • “Isn’t It All Just Improv, Anyway?Building Successful Partnerships”Susan Strunk & Anthony Auston, Palatine Public Library DistrictRichard Oberbruner, Improv Trainer
  • C. K. (Tina) Gunsalus – yes, andIda - WHINE TO WINE: Applies to internal conflict & ambiguity AND to situational conflictimprov comedy with ‘yes, but’ the second part differs: 'yes I hear you, but I don't care’The Powerful Difference Between Saying "Yes And" and "Yes But” - by AvishParashar
  • XC this on back of writing process HOWhere/when/from whom seeking feedback – from earlier on: plot those and discuss feedback they imagine getting – best and worst case scenariosWhat thinking is necessary precursor for seeking out, asking for, making use of feedback?
  • XC: Elbow HONotice that this is dead last on my list – and Peter Elbows’ list!
  • With “think-talk aloud while advisor/supervisor sits at computer and asks you questions – joint texting/revision-in-action: in person, virtual (skype, doc in clouds)What could be there, what’s almost there, what could be jettisoned, what could be combined, what happens if…? (eg, you start with end of sentences, move this ending sentence up to the start, link these 5 paragraphs together via transitions to show us how you developed/want us to think through this one big idea and/or link it to other passage
  • All of the strategies of “writing up” feedback also applyAnd impact on making meaning – on shifting from self as audience to self and local others to self and discipline to self as member of wider conversation and community of thinkers
  • They write questions
  • Individual trouble shooting – from samples of feedback they’ve brought along
  • The Text of a Feedback Memo will address the following questions:Discuss what you see as the strengths of your chapter/next draft/final thesis.Note any passages you have recently revised and/or are still working to develop – describe for your reader why you’ve made particular changes (and perhaps why you’ve have not pursued other suggestions), what you see as “missing” or not quite complete, clear, detailed enough in the area(s) you’ve highlighted. If you are trying to decide between ideas, wordings, approaches, tactics, sources vs analysis, say that – consider sketching out the different, maybe seemingly conflicting, ideas you have in mind.Write out 3-5 well developed, specific questions/concerns would you like readers to address as they give you feedback on this draft. 
  • Transcript

    • 1.
      Ilene d. Alexander, phd
      University of Minnesota
      Center for teaching and learning
      Seeking (Framing and Using) Supervisor Feedback
    • 2. Session Overview
      Writing as a Process with Comfort & Resilience
      Ideas from Exemplars
      Examining Elements of a Resilient Feedback Process
      Developing Practices for Feedback
      In a Writing Up Mode
      In a Writing as a Process Mode
      Conveying Requests for Feedback
      In Person, In Writing; At Which Stages, From Which Responders
      Making Sense of Accumulated Feedback
      Reviewing/Mapping Feedback; Say-Back Memos; Yes, And
    • 3. Writing as a Process
    • 4. (How) Do you use writing as a process?
      How do you approach writing? Scholarly, academic writing requires “writing before you’re ready”, steady chunks of writing time throughout the research process, commitment to drafting as a way of making meaning, strategies for seeking feedback as a component of substantially revising work, and working with writing-supportive peers.
      Take 10-15 minutes to inventory how you have and now currently approach/complete major writing projects or assignments – does your approach incorporate “writing as a process”? does some (or much) of the process of writing seem a mystery to you? are there components that you regularly skip? are there practices you hope to incorporate?
      Only you will read this writing. And, we’ll all discuss ideas.
    • 5. Writing as a Process
      Writing with power also means getting
      power over yourself and
      over the writing process.
      - Peter ElbowU Massachusetts-Amherst
    • 6. What’s “Critical” in Feedback
      What does “criticism” look/feel/sound like in academic settings?
      How does “critical feedback” look/sound/feel as an interaction?
      What might be other ways of conceptualizing this interchange, exchange of views?
      critical care zone
      dinner party
      professional inquiry
      other metaphors, conceptions – for practice, for people & roles
    • 7.
    • 8. Gaining Comfort & Fluency
      selection from Robert Boice’sHow Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency (1994
    • 9. Developing Resilience
      a positive capacity to cope with stress & catastrophe
      an ability to bounce back after a disruption
      a capacity to use exposure to stress to provoke strategy to address future negative events / challenges
      a positive behavioral / cognitive / kinesthetic adaptation in encountering significant adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or sources of stress
      involves two judgments
      one about "positive adaptation"
      one about significance of risk or adversity
    • 10.
    • 11. Elements of Resilient Feedback*
      Trust - Energy
      Communication - Listening
      Acceptance - Collaboration
      Building - Partnership
      Spontaneity - Innovation
      *as in improv
    • 12. “Yes, and…” Thinking
      I am going to say 'yes' to you, accepting whatever you have said
      I am going to say ‘yes, but’ to show I actually don’t accept whatever you have said
      I am going to say ‘yes, and,' to share my ideas linked to yours by building on what you have said 
      'Yes but' is a conversation stopper
      'Yes and' is a conversation builder
      'Yes and' … opens minds, helps people listen, and moves us mindfully forward in creating a supportive environment as well as sparking motivation for learning, writing, revising, collaboration
    • 13. “Yes, and…” Thinking
      • Brings positive energy to academia/workplace – act of trust
      • 14. Affirms and expands possibilities – act of innovation
      • 15. Conveys taking in of what has been said – act of listening
      • 16. Moves conversation forward constructively – act of collaboration
      • 17. Helps create partnerships within the unit and within the larger community – act of building
    • “Yes, and…” Thinking
    • 18. “Yes, and…” Thinking
      “Yes, and…” in Writing Process
    • 19. Feedback: In Writing Up Mode
    • 20. What Do We Need to Learn?
      Ways of responding in writing
      Revision: Content and Organization
      Where and why it’s needed
      Strategies for content development, overall organization and development of cohesive analysis / argument / knowledge construction
      Transitions Coherence Unity
      Revision: Surface Features
      Key sections, paragraphs, sentences
      Section, paragraph, sentence structures
      Conventions – of language, of citation style, of formatting
    • 21. What Do We Need to Learn?
      Ways of responding conversationally
      Summarizing – Narratives, Dialogues, Comparisons
      Telling – Stories, Scenes, Portraits
      Showing – Ideas, Options, Missed Moments
      Pointing – 1st Thoughts, Asking
    • 22. Feedback: In a Writing Process Mode
    • 23. What Do We Need to Learn?
      Audience – real readers
      Purpose – writerly and readerly concerns
      Research question – methods, organization
      Thesis statement – initially and carrying it forward
      Focus – idea(s) and argument(s)
      Flow – sign posts and transitions
      Readability – real readers, real audience
      Academic context – conversation around/launching
      So What? – implications, interest, integrity, impact
    • 24. What Do We Need to Learn?
      Good Questions – Good Questioning
      Open Ended Questions
      Asking for Information
      Diagnostic Questions
      Challenge Questions
      Extension Questions
      Combination Questions
      Priority Questions
      Action Questions
      Prediction Questions
      Generalizing and Summarizing Questions
    • 25. What Do We Need to Learn?
      Bloom’s Taxonomy as a Tool to Frame Questions
    • 26.
    • 27. Revision Memos
      For transmitting new materials or corresponding with readers new to your drafts, a Revision Memo provides
      (1) a short narrative contextualizing the segment in the larger work
      (2) a statement to pinpoint the extent of, what type of, and suggested timeline for feedback you want from individual reviewer
      (3) specific questions to frame your concerns/queries and guide the reviewer in providing feedback
      (4) synopsis of revisions you’ve already undertaken
    • 28. Sample Revision Memo
      Sample memo for a early draft of dissertation writing:
      Discuss what you see as the strengths of your chapter/next draft/final thesis.
      Note any passages you have recently revised and/or are still working to develop – describe why you’ve made particular changes, and why you’ve have not pursued other suggestions, what you see as “missing” or not quite complete, clear, detailed enough inarea(s) you highlight.
      If you are trying to decide between ideas, approaches, tactics, balance of review of sources and your analysis, say that – and show/sketch out what you see as options and are trying to figure out.
      Close with 3-5 well developed, specific questions/queries you want readers to address as they give you feedback on this draft.
    • 29. Letter of Transmittal – slide 1
      A more formal Letter of Transmittal may accompany a “ready for defense” and may include:
      (1) reminder of dissertation title
      (2) listing of material the reader has previously read/responded to
      (3) summary locating the portion of the dissertation now being transmitted in the overall work
      (4) summary of key focus/ideas presented & discussed in the transmitted material
      (5) context for what is – and is not – being done in theory/method/methodology/this project overall
    • 30. Letter of Transmittal – slide 2
      (6) highlight of changes that have been made from previous versions, and upon what previous advice and from
      (7) list of your specific questions for this particular reader
      (8) highlight whether and which other readers are responding to this segment
      (9) set out a time line for responses and next steps you will be taking on receipt of comments