Category Archives: Thesis Writing

Any posts related to your successes, difficulties, and advice about thesis writing should go here.

How to cope with deadlines when you should focus on your thesis?

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Photo credit: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3rxmp2

The major deadlines for the thesis are coming and most of us are challenging to accomplish multiple tasks at the same time. Personally, I also have some issues since I have children and can not run away from my responsibilities. I have noticed that my groupmates are tired, some of them have the problems with procrastination, some are nervous and all of us are waiting for the Viva Voce and the thesis submission. However,  even though it is a very busy time we should be “kind to our mind” (as written in the Sky Walk)  and have a good rest, go out and walk, do sport, speak with friends and family but keep focused. It is realistic if you have a clear plan and to do list. Frankly saying, sometimes I can not follow my plan but it is not the reason to blame myself. I make adjustments and if I am incapable to accomplish the task in time I ask the course instructor or the supervisor to extend the deadline. Fortunately, our Professors are very kind and student-centered, they always support us. Speaking of the courses and thesis,  I would like to share my overall reflection about the education in Master program at GSE.

In the second year of the Master program, we had two intensive sessions and seven compulsory courses. I started to nervous when I realized that I have less time for the independent work with a thesis. Currently, I came to the decision that every assignment and new knowledge gained is connected to thesis and today I can use the excerpts of writing assignments, major implications and broad outlook in my thesis (keep in mind the APA while doing so). For instance, I am planning to use the personal conceptual framework about the connection between the globalization and language which was the assignment for the course. Also, several courses discussed the individual approach, differentiation, and equity of learners in multilingual classrooms which is also necessary to state while discussing the problem statement of the thesis. Moreover, now while writing the reflection I am doing the step back and thinking about further directions and limitations of my study because it is also the process of analysis considering the contribution of courses and new insights they provide. The course English for the Thesis writing itself is planned to help students with concerns, challenges, and misconceptions since every two weeks we do self-revision, peer revision and reflect on our progress of writing a thesis. So the main idea of my blog is to say that when you do assignments for courses relate them to your study, keep your thesis in mind and vice versa keep new insights from the courses in mind while thesis writing, this is an interconnected process.  Then you will not nervous about the deadlines because you won’t forget your thesis it progresses with you.

Overall, the learning experience at NUGSE is always insightful, engaging, sometimes challenging and the process which changes your mind. I would like to thank all professors, course instructors, TAs, my groupmates for their contribution to new me. I never had so many influential people in my life. I hope to reflect the baggage of knowledge which I gained in my future directions and realize my dreams with the intellectual empowerment obtained at NUGSE.

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On how to stay afloat

In my previous post I have talked about the helpfulness of peer-review, and this is a continuation which will talk about why in thesis writing “not making any waves” and keeping quiet may be a dangerous approach.

Following the theme of aquatic metaphors, there is a saying in Russian language “Спасение утопающих – это дело самих утопающих”, which roughly translates as “Saving the drowning people is the business of those drowning people”. It expresses the individualistic notion prevalent in the modern society that you have to cope with your problems on your own. This is an issue faced by many young researchers writing their theses, including myself. However, as Sulushash Iksanovna aptly puts it “Do not struggle alone”, because sometimes reaching out and even simply discussing your concerns will help you by letting talk them through, creating the possibility of a solution coming to you in the process. Previously-discussed peer review is one of the, but not the only form of asking for help.

If you feel that you are going under – do not be ashamed to admit that you are struggling and ask for advice from your supervisors or peers. For me, one of the biggest obstacles so far has been dealing with the quantitative data as part of my mixed-methods study. The feeling of helplessness and confusion overwhelmed me, rendering me unable to produce any meaningful content for a period of time.

What really helped me in this situation was asking for advice and help from my peers, who are also doing mixed-method studies. I approached several of them, and they explained some of the things I was confused about, especially in dealing with SPSS. Understanding that they can also be confused about certain aspects and discussing our approaches and talking about our studies produced many a revelation about my own work. This process enabled me to further pursue my aims with the new knowledge we have created in our discussions, as well as the invaluable advice and moral support that each of them provided during this collaborative journey. Please, do make waves and you will not drown when there are helping hands reaching down from the countless safety rafts around you.

BBC America. (2017). Planet Earth: Blue Planet II | Radiohead & Hans Zimmer – (ocean) bloom [Video file]. Retrieved April 03, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f9SItUEtJ8 ]

Tips for emerging reserchers

Currently, being a 2-year master student in Multilingual Education, I am conducting my thesis research. At first sight, researching might be seen as a tedious way which demands very hard work. However, this process can be enjoyable at the same time since you feel the improvement of your researching skills, and you can anticipate the possible contribution of your study to the field. In this blog post I would like to share some useful tips on writing an educational research, hoping that it will be helpful for MA1 students who are going to conduct one next year for the first time.

  1. It is crucial to choose a topic which you are truly interested in. You should be passionate about your theme; otherwise, probably, it will be really boring. Once you become clearly with the topic, start identifying the problem, developing your research purpose and questions. The important thing to remember: research topic, its problem, purpose and questions have to be in alignment with each other. Also, before starting to write your thesis, become familiar with its general structure. In other words, try to understand what you are anticipated to write in each chapter of the thesis. Usual structure of a Master’s thesis is as follows: Introduction, Problem Statement, Research purpose and Questions, Literature Review, Methodology, Findings, Discussion, and Conclusion.
  2. Remember about timeline. Do not procrastinate. If you leave everything till the last moment, of course, it will not be enjoyable, and you might worry about the quality of your study. My answer for the question “When should I start writing the thesis?” is “as earlier as possible”. By starting to write earlier you have more changes to produce a good “fresh” data rather than spending a lot of time on remembering details for presenting. Furthermore, if you start in advance you will have opportunity for improving the thesis till the submission time.
  3. Know your position in the research. Listen to the feedback from your supervisor, other instructors, and peer-reviewers. Learn to react both to a positive and negative comments adequately. Revise commented pieces of writing, and decide whether you should change something or leave the same, but you have to be able to justify the reason for your decision. You should become the main expert of your research by its submission.

These are only the basic tips. They may seem to be obvious, however, based on my own and peers’ experiences, I think they deserve to be published here. Hopefully, these tips will be useful for emerging researchers. Good luck!

The highlight of my data collection

As MA2 students we are dove into all sorts of hard and meticulous work on different parts of thesis. So in this blog post I wanted to avoid discussing something serious and academic and share one light and insightful story with you. This is the true story about what is to be a true teacher.

For my research I adopted case study and as a qualitative research instrument I employed semi-structured interviews. My participants were secondary school teachers. All steps of data collection: the process of getting access to research site, recruiting participants and interviewing them were really enjoyable for me as meeting different teachers and exploring their perceptions and views on the topic of my interest was a great experience to have. Especially, one interview was so fascinating and thought-provoking that I could not help but wonder how teaching can be influential.

The main hero of my story is a boy (pseudonym Sultan), a student of my interviewee, very experienced language teacher (pseudonym Ms. Aidarova). Ms. Aidarova’s became a home room teacher for Sultan’s grade. She knew that Sultan was notorious for his poor academic performance and bad discipline. During the classes he was always misbehaving or sleeping and never studying that made him to be scolded by teachers. However, Ms. Aidarova’s experience suggested that there was a reason for his behavior. She tried to talk to him but he was very reserved person. Then she talked to his friend and found out that Sultan’s parents passed away recently. She made a decision to help this child to overcome the dark period of his life and improve his academic progress. She avoided labeling him as a ‘bad student’ and kept with him only positive stance. She was encouraging him to study and was forgiving his mistakes. Results were not long in coming, Sultan’s school performance increased exponentially. Eventually, he became one of the best students and graduated the school with distinction.

Sultan’s case clearly depicts how individual approach to students and avoiding marking them out, belief in students’ abilities and optimism can transform the life of a person. So we can see that being a teacher is a hard but yet fruitful and noble profession.

 

“You know nothing John Snow” or how to know when and what to do

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Photo credit: https://allpoetry.com/poem/12716698-Modern-Woman-by-OriginalsByTerry

Thesis writing is the culmination of two years education experience at Nazarbayev University GSE. I feel like I am a trunk for the treasure that accumulates knowledge then dazzles the finder with gold ideas given by Professors. However, it is not always possible to demonstrate outstanding knowledge and guarantee one hundred percent preparedness to share all golds that you have. The major problem is the lack of time or pure time management. I have read several blogposts about the time management as  “Either you run the day, or the day runs you”-Jim RohnElastic time: How to gain control over your free time? / Laura Vanderkam (Deconstruction) and incorporate authors’ ideas and recommendations. It is crucial to mention here that there is no one receipt for success and everyone has his own. In this blogpost I want to convince mother-researchers of GSE and share with my experience of being multitasking and productive.

I am a person who likes challenging himself and take the risks to complete impossible missions. But this time I took the chance of studying at GSE not as the game nor as the life circumstance, but mature decision to do the step forward to develop personal growth. Being a mother of two toddlers and woman in Kazakh family needs a cold mind, strong character, and absolute health. Yes, superwomen exist and to be so you should work hard and be aware that every day will bring new challenges.  I can say that I am in the process and still working on time management and health to make my days happy and productive.

The first thing which is very important in managing your time and your life is to know your philosophy of living and be skilled to set priorities. My month calendar looks crazy, but when my children need extra attention I slow down and postpone other plans because children are my first priority.  The same with the other fields of my life, but I need to mention that family’s support takes a huge role to achieve positive results.

The second is working on attitudes towards everything you do. It is subjective, but I can judge people by their doings. When I see that a woman bakes beautiful and delicious cakes I can say that she has a good potential to win the Olympic prize, to do successful business or to write a perfect Thesis, but it depends on her will. When a person aspires to do his activities accurately and be concentrated the product will be valuable. So, stay focused and concentrated while writing your thesis.

The last but not list important factor is love. It is trivially, but without loving yourself, your surrounding, your activities it is hard to accomplish plans and gain tremendous results. The thesis is also like your child, your life project that needs attention and positive feelings, therefore love your thesis with its theories, deadlines, and challenges and you will write it in one breath.

Overall, I didn’t want to do the shopping list but share my real reflections on planning and managing your time and your life.  I hope that this blogpost helps you to remind simple but important aspects for writing a successive thesis.

 

Are you sure you are not being lied to?

We’ve been working very hard recently: writing the study’s introduction, reviewing the literature, drafting the methods section of our thesis, and collecting the data in the field. Now I believe we’ve all come to a point where we are trying to figure out how to turn the voluminous, messy data to research texts. But before you go through the process of data analysis and delve into data, I would like to introduce you to a fancy term called Social Desirability Bias that poses a serious challenge to researchers in the field of social sciences. It is the tendency of people to lie to researchers to present themselves favorably to others which may consequently invalidate the results of the study.

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(Source: PromoKitchen)

The motivational forces behind this misrepresentation of self might involve one’s pursuit to be liked and respected by society. That is why when we ask our participants to report their attitudes, beliefs or behaviors about an object, there is a risk that they may inaccurately describe themselves and their experiences by distorting their answers. For instance, in my study, I was afraid that my participants would be hesitant to share their concerns about native and non-native English speaking teachers, for the fear of retribution (it didn’t happen, though). Indeed, the fear of being socially unaccepted or, even worse, judged may motivate people to give “right” answers that do not reflect the reality.

I hope you are on the same page with me on the assumption that the highest level of pressure to give socially desirable responses occurs in face-to-face interviews as talking to a stranger per se might make the potential participant feel uncomfortable (there is also an evidence that focus group participants also engage in deception). And as many of my peers have chosen an interview as their research instrument, I thought it might be a particularly exciting time for us to consider the issues pertinent to Social Desirability Bias.

According to several blogs (links are provided below), using indirect questions and ensuring participants’ anonymity and confidentiality can be effective techniques to reduce social pressure. However, it does not guarantee that your participants will not try to portray the favorable images of themselves. At the same time, you as a researcher cannot always identify whether the participant is telling you the truth or misrepresenting himself/herself to meet societal expectations.

So, what do you think of Social Desirability Bias? Have you heard of this term before? If so, did you think of ways to mitigate its effects? How can you design your questions to elicit the most truthful responses? Should we be worried or are there minimal chances of its presence in educational research?

P.S. I may be a little late in posting this blog, but everyone is quite used to me being late.

 

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/10/social_undesira.html

http://www.sloverlinett.com/blog/2014/january/reflection-social-desirability-bias-is-lurking-between-the-lines-in-your-audience-

https://cogsresearchmethods.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/social-desirability-making-yourself-presentable-and-interesting/

No Research Is Boring

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In December 2017 second-year Master students had their data collection period. Even though this active part might be very stressful and intense for some students, I enjoyed every aspect of it. I felt that I was actually DOING something. So, did I have any problems with my data collection? Yes. Did I learn anything from them? Definitely.

Networking is a key.

The first thing you should do is to find your participants. My participants are parents who maintain bilingual communication with their 10-16 years-old children. And it was quite challenging to find them. In this way, I was a little jealous of my groupmates who could go to the school principal and get access to the teachers whereas I had to activate all my communication skills to find such families in two different cities of Kazakhstan. As a result, I am able to integrate my research topic into any conversation in the world. Even now I cannot stop asking random people about their language experience.

Research = Flexibility.

We do realize that people do not have to participate in the study and if you really want them to, you should be available at any time and any place. I had some wonderful conversations in a good office or cozy kitchen, but data-rich interviews also happened in the corridor, during lunch breaks, or in “that-corner-seems-quiet” kind of places. Not because of my poor planning but rather because people are willing to help even if they are extremely busy.

So, breathe in, breathe out, and focus on your questions.

“What else would you like to share that I haven’t asked?”

I think this is one of the most powerful questions in the interview. When you complete the main part and say that you have just one question left, some people get even more excited about their experience. Nobody guarantees that the story they are about to tell is connected to your study, but from their speech, you can get a deeper understanding of their attitudes, experiences, and preferences. This final story is less systematic but really important for them to express. And it leaves your interviewees satisfied with their participation in the study. What can be better than a person with positive impressions of his/her contribution to the research community?

The way research is conducted in practice is sometimes different from what we expect. I hope this post will help next generations of Master students not to be too stressed about their study and enjoy this experience. And for those who have already finished their data collection: What did you like the most about it?

Photo credits: http://infobaby.info/razvitie/149-pochemu-rebenok-trekh-let-stal-chasto-zevat.html

Challenges of writing thesis

Thesis writing is a long journey which demands hard work and patience. In this journey, you have to have a clear idea and aim which will guide yours throughout during the whole process. In this blog post, I will try to share my assumptions, recent results, and difficulties which I am experiencing in this journey.

Firstly, let’s start with the challenges which I have in the thesis writing process.  The first problem is obviously connected with the finding appropriate resources which are directly relevant to your topic.  In the plethora of information, it is sometimes hard to select exact literature and it is time-consuming. Moreover, since our studies are devoted to Kazakhstani context, sometimes it is hard to find relevant information or previous study in our context.

The second problem is procrastination. Sometimes you just do not know how to start and what to write since the first step is always important. After several months of experience in thesis writing and the fight with procrastination, I come to the conclusion that the important step is just starting to write no matter which part or which paragraph. When you have something written in your paper you can analyze your ideas, make corrections, and gather similar ideas and parts.

One more problem in thesis writing is data collection process. In the theoretical part or in other parts you just summarize the experiences and results of other authors and you do not think about how they gathered such information. Moreover, when you describe your actions for ethical approval in written form it looks easy and smooth. However, when you go out and face the reality, you realize that nothing is easy and smooth as in your mind. During the data collection process, one problem can be with getting permission from principles or your expectation may do not coincide with a real situation, and sometimes participants may refuse from participation etc. Even the process of interviewing requires hard works and concentration. Therefore, the main advice here is to be ready for everything and do not make dreams since the real situation anyway will be completely different.

Overall, there are many other challenges which you can come across during this journey. All these problems teach your new things, enrich your experiences, and will be a good contribution to the formation of a good researcher. However, one important advice is never to give up!

 

 

 

“Me or Him”/Her (laughter)

Here is the question: “Why do we need research? Or why research is important?” I’m 99% positive that among all the possible answers one will be stated the most, perhaps in various forms but having the same meaning: “to give voice to the voiceless, to hear them out and to empower”. Then there is another question: “What are the limitations or disadvantages of a qualitative study?” Again, can you guess the most probable answer? “The most probable” according to me, of course. And you are absolutely right. It’s more subjective.

Although it is a total exaggeration to say that a qualitative approach has an inherently subjective nature, there is no denying that a researcher brings in his or her positionality, bias and personal interpretation of the stories told by people. So the next question arises: How as a novice researcher do I not confuse their voices with mine? Or as Participant 6 put it when asked about his or her teaching beliefs towards the role of a student in the classroom:

“Do you mean the issue of “me or him” (laughing)? Well, to be honest, I am not yet sure about it.”

Me or him”. Me or them.

It got me wondering during the research tasting stage i.e. data collection and analysis.  I knew that some of the interviews went not so well, not as I had expected them to go. That is even if I knew from theory that I should not be pushy, or interrupt the respondent, or lead them towards the anticipated answer, I still did it. Also, I found myself to be an unfocused listener. At times, it was difficult to concentrate on what they were saying.

Now I am at the stage of consolidating my coding framework and preparing to write the results chapter followed by a discussion of findings. Even if I ground my interpretations in literature and conceptual framework, how can I be sure that it is the most accurate interpretation? Interpretation of what they think not an interpretation of what I think.  Because sometimes when reading different studies I find myself questioning the conclusions that authors made.  Especially, if there is a long direct quote from a participant and we interpret it differently.

I think I got better towards last interviews where I listened more carefully and let my respondents talk freely. Lesson learned: we need to listen. Also I think that the quote from a respondent that got me thinking is a very good example. As even if there is any other different twist to it, it is necessary to consider it through critical and analytical lens first. Lesson to be learned: to try to let them be a priority in my study as much as possible by being more critical.

This post is more of a reflection on data analysis process. It might seem over exaggerated or oversimplified to some extent, but I do believe that the question raised by one of my participants is worth thinking about.

YOU ARE WRONG! Or are you? (Sometimes you need to let others decide)

This is a challenging time for the second-year students because it is the most important period, which allows us to demonstrate the outcomes of our experience in GSE in the form of a tangible manifestation of our learning via our thesis. This thought adds mental pressure on the perfectionism within some of us, causing us to go into the “better nothing, than subpar” thinking.
One of the ways I have found helpful in overcoming this state of mind is to improve the parts of the thesis written prior. But when you look at a text written by you for a long time, it is already so familiar that you may get stuck and not see any ideas for improvement.
And here a fresh viewpoint can be introduced in the form of feedback from peers to stir up the calm waters and raise new and surprising ideas and concerns about your writing. It is a great way have something you have written evaluated without the pressure of submitting it for marks. But for peer feedback to be actually useful, there is a need for some consideration into how you react to criticism and whether you would be able to actually utilize those suggestions.

In my experience, previously I was really defensive when receiving feedback, especially from peers. But now, with a lot of exercises in our Thesis Writing class devoted to the process of reviewing, I am on the way to reaching the mindset where I will value each piece of feedback as a valuable contribution and learn to differentiate between when to follow advice, and when to leave what was written as is.

My main suggestion is to keep your mind open, ask questions about feedback to understand it better and make the process of peer reviewing easier for all the parties involved.

(Make others work to make your thesis better)

Картинки по запросу think about it