Hello Class! Welcome to the first week of the course!
In this lecture, I will introduce you to the goals of the course and offer guidance on the readings of the week. After you review this lecture, I urge you to also look over the whole course and become acquainted with what is expected from you, especially the final project. Each week builds toward this final project, so you need to keep it in mind as you work through each step of the course. Additionally, on top of individual projects, you will be required to complete group activities. Therefore, it’s best to get to know your peers during the initial discussions. If you make such an effort, the assistance that you can give and receive will be even more beneficial and rewarding.
In this lecture, we will cover the following:
► The Goal of the Course
► Research is about What You Think
► The Ideal Research Topic
► Remarks on the Required Readings
► Remarks on the Assignments
THE GOAL OF THE COURSE
This course helps you understand how to carry out a doctoral research project. You will learn how to come up with a topic, create a research question, and design a study. After six weeks, you will have developed a detailed topic outline in an area of interest and an annotated bibliography of resources. Between now and then, you will develop the skills necessary to identify and analyze scholarly and other credible sources in order to synthesize contributions and identify an area of study where you can make a valuable contribution.
To begin, you will explore your interests and identify possible research ideas during this first week. You may find that your focus continually switches and your opinions frequently shift. That’s completely understandable. Many doctoral students go through several research projects before they find their final one. It may take a few weeks to settle on a topic, which could still change after the course. Nevertheless, as you go through the process of finding a topic for your final project, you will strengthen the skills needed to investigate any research question and defend it as an emerging scholar.
RESEARCH IS ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK
You are about to begin a journey of discovery toward a deeper understanding of your area of interest and its academic study. The scholars you will read and incorporate into your work will become partners in this journey. This kind of academic project is often thought to be like a conversation. It’s one between your academic mentors, your disciplinary colleagues and scholars, the readers of your work, and you. Your writing is no longer meant only for the professor, at least that will not be the intention. It will be part of a larger discussion. When you work, imagine these new academic relationships. Treat them with respect and try to reach their level of discourse. However, don’t forget that your voice is part of it. You should always reflect on what you think about the research and how you might improve upon it. Your contribution to this conversation matters.
THE IDEAL RESEARCH TOPIC
While not a required read, Simon A. Lei offers helpful advice in the recommended article for the week, titled Strategies for finding and selecting an ideal thesis or dissertation topic: A review of literature (Lei, 2009). Lei’s perspective is realistic and encouraging. For example, he explains that instead of students freely choosing their dissertation research topics, they may end up being guided to topics by their advisors. This is dependent on the advisor. However, most advisors are open to discussing their ideas about research topics during the early stages of a student’s doctoral research. If you have someone in your department that you want to be part of your research project, it’s a good idea to reach out to them as you develop your ideas. Their input at this stage can save you a lot of time.
Lei also suggests you review more than journals and professional organizations for research topic ideas, including recent books, conference proceedings, calls for papers, articles by topic, theses, and dissertations available through online databases. These databases usually offer abstracts, allowing for a quick understanding of the scope of the research. Because it is a good first step, the discussion for this week also recommends you investigate journals and organizations, but additional research beyond these areas is also acceptable. In fact, I think it would be very valuable.
Once you have narrowed down a few potential topics, Lei promotes connecting with other professors, graduate students, and scholars outside UAGC to explore the topic more. For example, simply emailing a scholar involved in your research with a question about their work is often all that is needed to have them personally contribute to your project. As you gather more information and discuss your ideas with more people, a topic should start taking shape. Ideally, it should be personally interesting, supported by your advisor and relevant to their work, academically valuable, and beneficial to your career path. You may not find a topic with all these elements, but try to keep them in mind as you begin your research.
REMARKS ON THE REQUIRED READINGS
Entering the Conversation
The required resources for the week are a few web pages from the Writing Center with video tutorials. The first resource, titled Entering the Conversation, elaborates on your transition from student to expert, since you are preparing to join the conversations among your fellow academics (University of Arizona Global Campus, n.d.-a). To identify your contribution to the discourse, the resource identifies a literature review as instrumental in determining your topic, its scope, and its form.
Additionally, the video tutorial linked in this resource establishes a few steps (or moves) that help transition from a general topic to a research plan. Below is a breakdown of these steps:
The other required resource for the week is titled Integrating Research (University of Arizona Global Campus, n.d.-b). It describes the important distinction between presenting information from sources in your research and writing about the information in your own voice where you incorporate your own interpretations and analysis. At this level in your academic career, you should be writing about your own ideas, and sources should be used to facilitate and illustrate these ideas.
As a rule, you should never simply summarize information in a source. And try to have very few quotes. Also, avoid beginning or ending paragraphs with information from sources. Paragraphs in your writing should introduce your own thoughts and conclude with them. At the beginning of a paragraph, you should explain what the paragraph is about, introducing your main claim that will be established in it. Afterward, support from relevant sources can be explored with your own opinions, analysis, and conclusions about them. To put it in another way, you are not presenting information so much as you are explaining your own thoughts and interpretations of the information.
In this resource, there’s a video tutorial that explains this approach to academic writing by referring to the ICE method, which stands for INTRODUCE, CITE, and EXPLAIN. This practice of introducing a quote, citing the source, and then explaining the information provided is a necessary practice when quoting. Nevertheless, I want to encourage you to always try to paraphrase the information from other sources instead of quoting. Writing in your own voice is almost always more compelling and interesting than borrowing another’s.
Review All the Writing Center Resources
At the bottom of the required web pages, there are links to other Writing Center resources that I highly recommend you review. These resources will help your writing. The more you practice improving your writing, the better time you will have completing your Ph.D.
Narrowing a Topic
Although I encourage you to review all the resources in the Center, I wanted to highlight the recommended resource Narrowing a Topic & Developing a Research Question, which briefly reviews the steps taken after finding a research area where you focus on developing your thesis (University of Arizona Global Campus, n.d.-c). Once you have chosen a topic for your research paper, you need to narrow the topic to something distinct, clear, and manageable. When you are first exploring your research topic, you will need a broad understanding of the research already done. You will aim to add to the knowledge of the topic by identifying a gap in the research. Your thesis will state your area of focus and conclusion, although this thesis statement will go through a process of development and redefinition as you are creating it. You should not force yourself to stick to your original idea, but allow yourself to adapt to what you discover during your research.
As the book The Craft of Research cautions, “research follows a crooked path, taking unexpected turns, sometimes up blind alleys, even looping back on itself” (Booth et al., 2016). The book is a helpful resource during this stage of your academic career. It concisely identifies the step-by-step process of putting together a doctoral research project. The process of completing this project can feel uncertain and confusing. It is a creative process usually best taken one step at a time. After glimpsing at the process in such resources as Narrowing a Topic & Developing a Research Question, looking at The Craft of Research or other resources can provide an improved sense of direction through more developed information about how to move forward.
REMARKS ON THE ASSIGNMENTS
To earn your degree, you must complete a doctoral research study, either a dissertation or an Applied Doctoral Project (ADP). This kind of project involves a deep curiosity in a subject, resulting in not only what themes have been and are currently being explored in your specialization but also what remains to be examined. This week, you will examine contemporary themes and emerging issues in your field of study, investigating your levels of interest in potential research projects.
To begin, you will work on discussion forums that explore your personal choices in your studies. First, you will introduce yourself to the class, highlighting your academic interests. In your second discussion forum, you will review organizations and publications that shed light on scholastic topics and issues in your area of study. Be sure to take plenty of notes when you do this research. These notes will not only come in handy during your assignments for this week, but also in future weeks and maybe in your future research projects.
The paper assignment for this week will continue the work you did in your second discussion forum. Your paper will narrow your focus to one topic, where you will synthesize a contemporary theme and issue that you believe is valuable to study. While this assignment only requires you to list two resources, I encourage you to list more. For a topic to be viable, you should know that there is a host of sources for you to pull from in your research, so you should be aware and familiar with more than two sources by the time you write your paper.
Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2016). The craft of research (4th ed.). University of Chicago Press.
Lei, S. A. (2009). Strategies for finding and selecting an ideal thesis or dissertation topic: A review of literature. College Student Journal, 43(4), 1324–1332.
University of Arizona Global Campus. (n.d.-a). Entering the conversation. Retrieved from https://writingcenter. uagc.edu/entering-conversation
University of Arizona Global Campus. (n.d.-b). Integrating research. Retrieved from https://writingcenter. uagc.edu/integrating-research
University of Arizona Global Campus. (n.d.-c). Narrowing a Topic & Developing a Research Question. Retrieved from https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/narrowing-topic-and-developing-research-question