Getting a Head Start with Your Thesis Proposal

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  • 1. Managing Your Thesis: Getting a Head Start With Your Proposal “IF THERE’S A BOOK YOU REALLY WANT TO READ, BUT IT HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN YET, THEN YOU MUST WRITE IT.” -TONI MORRISON
  • 2. What You Will Learn Today  Learn how to analyze the thesis proposal requirements  Develop a strong research question  Gain resources for being successful in this thesis proposal project
  • 3. ANALYZE THE THESIS PROPOSAL
  • 4. Why Write a Proposal:  It’s like a contract: You say you will do X, and if you do X, then you’ve fulfilled that component of the grad program.
  • 5. Why Write a Proposal  It’s like a contract: You say you will do X, and if you do X, then you’ve fulfilled that component of the grad program.  It forces you to conceptualize what you are trying to do before starting the thesis project, as well as articulate it persuasively to your committee who may or may not be experts in your proposed field of study.
  • 6. Why Write a Proposal  It’s like a contract: You say you will do X, and if you do X, then you’ve fulfilled that component of the grad program.  It forces you to conceptualize what you are trying to do before starting the thesis project, as well as articulate it persuasively to your committee who may or may not be experts in your proposed field of study.  It demonstrates that you understand how to conduct discipline-specific research within an acceptable timeframe. In other words, it forces you to demonstrate that you know how to be part of the discourse.
  • 7. The essential elements of a successful thesis proposal  Inquiry (e.g. research question, problem, gap in scholarship, opportunity for exploration)
  • 8. The essential elements of a successful thesis proposal  Inquiry (e.g. research question, problem, gap in scholarship, opportunity for exploration)  Background (e.g. rationale, lit review, definitions, assumptions)
  • 9. The essential elements of a successful thesis proposal  Inquiry (e.g. research question, problem, gap in scholarship, opportunity for exploration)  Background (e.g. rationale, lit review, definitions, assumptions)  Purpose (e.g. significance, implications, “so what?”)
  • 10. The essential elements of a successful thesis proposal  Inquiry (e.g. research question, problem, gap in scholarship, opportunity for exploration)  Background (e.g. rationale, lit review, definitions, assumptions)  Purpose (e.g. significance, implications, “so what?”)  Methodology (e.g. procedure, scope/limitations, approach, timelines)
  • 11. Finding disciplinary-specific guidelines  Search for “Graduate student handbook (fill in your department)” on Western’s website
  • 12. Finding disciplinary-specific guidelines  Search for “Graduate student handbook (fill in your department)” on Western’s website  Google “(fill in your department) thesis proposal example”
  • 13. Finding disciplinary-specific guidelines  Search for “Graduate student handbook (fill in your department)” on Western’s website  Google “(fill in your department) thesis proposal example”  Talk to an advisor or fellow graduate students for an example
  • 14. GETTING (OR REFINING) YOUR RESEARCH QUESTION
  • 15. Getting Your Research Question  The first part of any thesis project is the research question  Having a good research question is not only the first thing you should start with, it is the foundation for all the work you will do  Pick something you are passionate about!
  • 16. Getting Your Research Question  Talk about your ideas  Collaboration and communication are key components of research and will help you to refine your topic  Talk with people from different backgrounds  Advisors and professors  Field experts  Peers  The Graduate Research/Writing Center
  • 17. Getting Your Research Question  Talk to someone briefly about your research interests.
  • 18. Getting Your Research Question  If you could boil down your interests into one research question, what would it be?  Write it down
  • 19. Getting Your Research Question  Example Research Question: What kind of renewable energy is good for the community?  Now let’s “interrogate” the question
  • 20. Refining Your Research Question  Question # 1: What words are vague or undefinable?  Good Good as in what? Healthy? Sustainable?  There are many kinds of good, so which one is it?   Community Which community?  The Western campus community? Bellingham community? US community? 
  • 21. Refining Your Research Question  Question # 2: What is the methodology?   How would we measure if certain renewable energies are good for the community? Would we test them all? In every conceivable way? If you’re realizing that the methodology is impossible for the timeframe in which you have to produce your thesis, it’s time to refine your research question even further. If your methodology is doable, you still may even consider revising if you’re finding that your research question doesn’t really line up with the method of research that you actually want/plan to do.
  • 22. Refining Your Research Question  Question # 3: How does this question fill a gap in the scholarship?  A good research question is embedded within a field of scholarship and adds to the conversion  If you already know the scholarship surrounding your subject, you can refine your research question so that you are adding something new to the academic conversion  If you are unsure if your question fills a gap, you will want to identify the topics you need to research to know if your question is original to the field
  • 23. LOCATING YOUR QUESTION IN THE FIELD OF RESEARCH
  • 24. Is your research project… or is it… Focused Novel Feasible Theoretical Near-Term Results Extended Grounded Challenging Empirical Long-Term Prospects VS Compared with other research in the field, you want to make sure your research project fits in a happy medium for each of these different considerations.
  • 25. Is your research project… or is it… Focused Novel Feasible Theoretical Near-Term Results Extended Grounded Challenging Empirical Long-Term Prospects VS Take each of these binaries and consider your own research question within the body of scholarship research that you’ve found already (or know you will need to find).
  • 26. MOVING FORWARD FROM THESE INITIAL EXERCISES
  • 27. We’ve started the process, now ask yourself  What do you need to further consider or find out about the proposal assignment itself?  What do you need to further consider as you refine your research question?  What do you need to further consider in terms of framing your inquiry within a field of research?
  • 28. MANAGING YOUR THESIS & THE THESIS PROPOSAL PROCESS
  • 29. Why the thesis process is so hard  Challenges in writing a thesis are often not rooted in academic ability, but in being able to manage the project as a whole. Organizing your thesis project research/writing is a Herculean task, to say the least.  Luckily, there are many resources that make this process exponentially easier than it has been in the past.  Links for the following items can be found on the Graduate Research/Writing Center webpage, which you can find through WWU’s library website.
  • 30. Research  Zotero is a "personal research assistant" that helps you collect, organize, cite, and share your references.  Mendeley is a "reference manager and academic social network" that helps you organize your research and collaborate with others.  Endnote is reference management software used to collect and manage bibliographies, citations, and references.
  • 31. Writing  Gingko is a mapping and writing tool that allows you to write spatially and in smaller chunks.  Scrivener is a "content-generation tool" that allows you to compose in one place throughout the writing process, from brainstorming to final polishing.  Evernote is a content management tool that allows to collect, find, and share anytime an idea strikes you.
  • 32. Planning and Mapping  Mindomo is a mapping and task-oriented program that allows you to plan out what you need to get done in a project.
  • 33. People  Although all librarians can help with research, each has a subject specialty. Get to know your librarian.  Keep in close contact with your advisor(s), since they are the ones to whom you are ultimately writing your thesis and thesis proposal.  Email us to make an appointment to work with a Graduate Writing Center Assistant. Or submit a draft online and we’ll work with you asynchronously!
  • 34. GOOD LUCK WRITING!