Of Theses and Marriage: How to Choose Mr./Mrs. Right Roberto Criollo, MA.
Writing a ThesisWriting a thesis and defending it is an academic ritual whereby novices are introduced into the professional field (Swales 1990).
Steps in Topic Selection Define your Interests Think of a Possible Topic Review the Literature
Identify SpecificResearchable ProblemsDecide on One of Them and Focus on It
Defining Your Interests/Possible Topic• The students themselves select a topic.• The general selection is made on the basis of the interests and preferences.• What is selected is not a thesis title or a specific problem statement. Just a general field, area, or discipline• Example:Difficulties of Academic Writing
Reviewing the Literature• The student gets information about his/her „marriageable topic‟ by:• Going to the library and see if this topic has been previously married. Look at the thesis list in the institution & copy the titles.• Going to the library and finding out if the marriageable topic has references.
Reviewing the Literature As a further step, the student may brainstorm (helped by his chaperon) at least 10 important concepts to be defined. The student will go to the relevant references and get information. This search will guide the bachelor(ette) to spot important specific helpful details.
Identifying Specific ResearchableProblems In this stage, the most important step will be getting knowledge about research methodology to narrow down the topic. Finding out the „legal procedures‟.
What is a Thesis?Simply stated, a thesis is a piece ofresearch that is required by auniversity in order to award anacademic degree.
What is Research? “Research is the study of an event, situation, problem or phenomenon using systematic and objective methods in order to understand it better and develop theories or principles about it” (Richards, Platt, & Platt 1992; Vogt 1999).
Research Methods126.96.36.199 Experimental Research188.8.131.52 Other Research Types184.108.40.206.1 Historical Research220.127.116.11 Causal-Comparative Research18.104.22.168.3 Methodological Research
Methodological Questions What? How? (Instruments) Qualitative or Quantitative? Advantages and disadvantages?
Descriptive Research Collecting data in order to answer research questions or test hypotheses
Survey Research What? Opinions, attitudes, beliefs How? Questionnaires / Interviews Quantitative Qualitative Advantages: (Questionnaires) Practical, easy to administer and analyze, a large sample can be obtained. Disadvantages: Essential information may be overlooked, superficial analysis
Advantages (Interviews): Opinions are explored in depth. Opportunity to interact with subjects. Disadvantages: Time-consuming, samples are usually smaller, data are difficult to analyze.
Observational (Participant) What: Direct observation of a phenomenon or behavior as participant. How: Observation forms, recordings. Advantages: Easier interpretation, possibility of manipulating variables, subjects act „natural‟. Disadvantages: More subjective.
Observational (Non-Participant) What: Direct observation of a phenomenon or behavior where one is an outsider. How: Observation forms, recordings. Advantages: More objective. Disadvantages: Observer may affect subjects‟ behavior, lack of context information may affect results, observation is limited.
Correlational What: Evidence for a linear relationship between two variables. How: Quantitative data about variables, statistics (software). Advantages: Fairly straightforward, numerical reliability. Disadvantages: Requires knowledge of statistics and computers. Nature of the relationship between variables is unknown.
Experimental Research What: Evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship between two variables. How: Experimental design: two groups, two tests. Advantages: Strong evidences due to extraneous variable control. Disadvantages: Artificial environment, ethical problems.
Narrowing Down the Topic Difficulties of Academic Writing-Context Descriptive: Collect a sample of advanced learners‟ texts. Adopt or develop a scoring rubric for organization, grammar, etc. Evaluate Ss‟ papers and determine problematic areas. Descriptive (Survey): Administer an interview/questionnaire to find out students‟ and/or teachers‟ points of view.
Observational (Participant-ethnographic): Work with your class,record data from observation of Ss‟writing process, diaries, journals,samples of students‟ work, in-depthinterviews, etc.
Observational (Non-participant): Observing academic writing classes and focus on the type of content and activities. Correlational: Obtain from your group sample academic texts written in L1 and L2. Devise/adopt an evaluation rubric to assess papers. Correlate scores for L1 and L1. Are writing skills potentially transferable?
Experimental: Design objectives and activities using a particular writing approach (i.e. Genre-based), get pilot and control groups, get academic texts, apply techniques, determine if students who got treated perform better in the writing of a final text.
Evaluating the Topic: Is it Good? Is the topic directly related to the field? Or is it cross-disciplinary? Do you have a sound knowledge of its main concepts/theories? Is the topic relevant and applicable to the field? Is it interesting? Original? Feasible?
Are there enough bibliographic resources available? Do you know any professors in the staff who can guide you? Do you have a clear idea of the methodological procedures you will use for the collection and analysis of the data?
Will you have free access to subjects and institutions targeted? Will your resarch be extensive enough to comply with the institution thesis requirements? Or will it be too short or long?If most of your answers are „yes‟, you got yourself a good topic. If not, you need to consider adjusting some details
Epilogue Congratulations! Now you have a thesis topic. As in marriage, this is not the end, but the beginning. Be patient and rekindle your love affair with your topic. Be faithful, share yourself, keep communication open, be ready to sacrifice. Your love will give birth to the most beautiful baby of them all, a college degree.