Expanding our inspiration regarding method…

Our agenda:

Darline’s thesis-in-progress presentation

Thanks to Darline for a wonderful glimpse into her thesis-in-progress. As many of you stated last night, her thesis which focuses on ESL experience and ESL perspectives is a critical contribution, and one that is much needed in education. What I think makes Darline’s work special is the myriad “pathways” she developed for pursuing her inquiry. She employed autoethnographic writings and freewriting, she became a historian of her own family’s linguistic legacy, she has pursued case study narrative through carefully crafted interviews, and she has done a wealth of research on ESL theory and practice. All this comes together to form a thoughtful array of observations & findings. I think her work serves as a useful reference point for every thesis writer since you can consider her “menu of methodologies” as potential strategies for your own work too.

Small group work

I am glad I had a “touch base” discussion with each of the thesis writers that are still in the early phases of the project development. I think each of you has by now started out on your journey, and I am confident that each of you is starting to gain some sense of your own process. It is important for each of you to formulate a weekly “to-do list”. This is a good week to keep engaging and discovering new angles on what you are working on. As I have stressed, a thesis project is iterative, and shifts in time, consisting of ebb and flow of new knowledge and understanding. Each of you must learn to customize your work process – sometimes by reading and note taking in dialogue with other writers, sometimes by finding new materials for your reference, and sometimes by writing in your own creative way.

I hope that the TROIKA consulting protocol yielded some insights for my second semester thesis writers (“Get Practical and Imaginative Help from Colleagues Immediately”). Much can be learned through peer collaboration, and this exercise was designed to draw out solutions to a particular challenge or concern along the way. For those of you who had an opportunity to pursue the Troika framework together, I hope you will blog about your experience with this activity this week, and what new plans might have emerged from the discussion.

Your to-do list:

-Blog on your thesis progress: How is the process unfolding for you? What is working, and what is not working? Are you in research mode? Are you in ?exploring methodology” mode? Are you reading and note taking? Are you writing? What have you accomplished, and what steps do you need to take next?

-We will hear from Lexie about her own thesis-in-progress.  

-Come with one question:  For next week, please come to our class with ONE SPECIFIC QUESTION re: your thesis.  Please add the question to this google doc BEFORE class!

Have a restful and replenishing weekend! xo. -Dr. Z

Seeing the Forest from the trees

At a certain point in the thesis journey, there is a “forest from the trees” moment. A moment when you must take a step back and see the whole for all the parts. Thank you Meagan for an inspiring thesis-in-progress presentation which made this essential pivot quite evident. Meagan has been hard at work writing, researching, curating, and revising. Her work thus far is a rich testament to the learning journey-as-iterative. At this stage, she has all the parts of her study (all the “trees”). Now, she must step back, and organize it all with a logic that helps the reader see the forest (the overall intention or argument). In other words, Meagan is in her final “design phase”.

Seeing the forest from the trees…

Meagan’s work is meaningful – essentially it is a close look at the role between expressive writing, understanding the nature of trauma and healing, and discovering voice. I am looking forward to her final design for this study.

The rest of our time together:

I am pleased we were able to touch base in our smaler groups. We will switch it up with a next week with a new protocol (a different kind of peer review). I will meet with “first semester” thesis writers this coming round.

Each week I continue to read your blogsin order to keep up with your progress. In a way, you can think of thesis class like an “accountability loop” – by blogging a progress report and also sharing a weekly “next steps plan” you should be able to apprehend the slow march to measurable progress.

Keep going!!

For next week:

-Blog on your thesis progress.  What have you accomplished, and what steps do you need to take next?

-We will hear from Darline about her own thesis-in- progress.  Plan for breakout group work for next week. I will check in with Dylan, Linda, Lexie, Ryan, Emily, Kevin, Nives, and the other group have a check-in session with each other as well.

Calibration & reflection

As autumn and October is upon us, I commend you all for the slow-but-steady progress you are all making on your own terms. This is how it works. Step by step. Independently…, but with mentorship and a strong community of peer support. Keep setting your own small goals, and remember to self-discipline and put in the time to pursue lines of thought, reading, writing, connecting, sorting.

Thanks to the thoughtful “thesis-in-progress” presentations from both Patricia & Karel this week, we all received yesterday another glimpse into the iterative aspects of thesis building. Patricia presented her “The Adventures in Writing Process” portal for her upcoming case study work with nine emerging writers in the 3rd grade. What a wonderful glimpse into her thoughtful incorporation of some theoretical readings (Murray & Elbow) into a practice-based interactive design for your digital writers!! I especially loved the artistic application of her understanding through her multimodal design for this inquiry. We also spoke about the ambition of her project as she would like to apply a grounded theory model for observation and argumentation around the development of writing paradigms that emerge in your writers. I was pleased to recommend a “first phase” approach to this part of her work, as the time allotted for the remainder of her study will only allow for the start of the apprehension of patterns-of-practice with her nine “colorful” writers.

I think the main (positive) lesson here is to understand the scope of the work you are setting out to accomplish, and also understand the time frame in which you have to work. As Patricia recalibrate her earlier ambitions, she will end up with a more refined and precise set of outcomes, which will lead her to future work. I am glad we all had a chance to observe and discover this dynamic is producing a thesis project together. Said another way, sometimes a bit of “recalibration” is in order, and that is never a bad thing, but rather an essential step to take in the process overall.

Thanks to Karel for his sketch of his own writing process with his creative thesis project. As you all understand now, Karel has been working through his own experience in pandemic time through a creative exploration of the “Project Zero” story he has been developing. I think it is an important reality to apprehend – that all of you are writing a major academic project — your MA thesis – during this unprecendent time. There is no way that that contextual factor will not effect in some way the work. Thank you Karel for sharing your ongoing work with all of us, and making us see how that truth will shape everyone’s project in different ways.

To-do list:

-Blog on your thesis progress.  What have you accomplished, and what steps do you need to take next?

-We will hear from Meagan about her own thesis-in- progress.  

-Reminder of the Human Subjects Research in the Time of COVID-19 workshop next Monday Oct 5 at 3:15-4:15 pm. The Zoom link has been forwarded to all of you via email.

-Plan for breakout group work for next week (I will check in with Dylan, Linda, Lexie, Ryan, Emily, Fatima, Kevin, Nives, and the other group will proceed with a peer review protocol).

Have a great autumnal weekend, take care of yourselves, and reflect. And see you next Thursday! -Dr. Zamora

Presentations & Lit Review

Thesis-in-progress presentations

Thanks so much to Mary Kate, who kicked off our thesis-in-progress presentation series last night. Her presentation was a great place for us all to start. She gave us a generous glimpse into her own (self-designed) thesis process, from her own notetaking and collection of things that have been influential to her thoughts, to her lit review revision process. Please remember that she told everyone that she made a point to save everything that she came across in terms of readings for her lit review, and then she emphasized that she revised the lit review as she proceeded through the development of her own work.

I am quite sure that each of you will learn a little more each time a peer presents their work. Each of you will have a unique approach, and many tips or insights to offer your peers. Along the way, you will all learn about new ideas/concepts/inquiries, you will learn about different perspectives and approaches to researching, and ultimately, you will learn about the individualized “ebb and flow” that is indeed a part of both writing and research.

Just remember that Mary Kate’s work is close-to-complete for her MA thesis submission (she planned it that way because her daughter will arrive soon). The point is, this didn’t happen overnight. She has really been at this consistently for a while and she has worked hard. I want you all to know that this is what the journey yields (over time). She will be the first to tell you that this distinction in writing work (overall) doesn’t pop up quickly. So remember to stay the course, and keep at it. It will come together if you keep at it.

Our agenda slides:

Lit Review

We took our time in the second part of class to really go over the process of developing your Literature Review which in many ways is the cornerstone of your thesis planning and design. I enjoyed our conversation afterward, and especially the clarification questions that came up. I want to remind you all that the Lit Review is something that you will be working on throughout your thesis development. It is recursive and iterative work, and it reflects the ever-evolving refinement of your developing ideas:

Remember the idea of the funnel approach as you move through the process over the course of time. Eventually, you will be able to submit a concise Lit Review (with approximately 20-25 sources) which represents the specific context from which your thesis project has emerged. These are the texts that have directly influenced the shaping of your thesis project.

For next week:

For next week, we will all look forward to hearing from both Patricia & Karel regarding their own thesis-in-progress work. Be ready to listen intently and offer supportive peer feedback. In the second half of the class, we will spend some time in small breakout groups. I will provide a peer protocol for the thesis writers in their first semester of writing/researching, while I meet with second-semester thesis writers to offer direct guidance on their progress.

In the meanwhile, please blog about your thesis process this week.  As I stated last week, please make sure you devote at least 4-5 hours of time to thinking and working on your thesis.  This will be our working baseline or “benchmark” of an appropriate amount of time to put in. I leave it to you to decide if you need to add more to that (based on where you are at, on how it is flowing). See you all next week!

Dr. Zamora

Customizing your research

Roots and branches…building a thesis in steps

Research is a careful and detailed study into a specific problem, concern, or issue. Research is also the process of solving problems and finding facts in an organized way. The purpose of research is really an ongoing process of refining and deepening your initial inquiry even further. In its earlier stages, research involves exploration – a time-consuming yet deeply rewarding kind of undertaking (especially for the curious). Think of your research effort like the roots of a tree. You must ground your project in a network of questions, curiosities, and considerations, and what comes from this is also the source of growth and continual nourishment.

Library Visit

It was good to kick off our Thesis class last night with a visit to Craig Anderson in the Kean University Library. Craig’s workshop was a basic “walkthrough” of some key research databases in order to prepare you to pursue your own research questions and concerns via the vast resources the university library has to offer. I am glad you all now have a specific contact in our library, and I implore you to always consider your reference librarians as critical support as you continue down the path of the necessary research for your MA thesis project. The librarians are great to work with because they have special talent and expertise in the refinement of “search and discovery”. In short, they can help you get to knowledge (that you might not yet know exists).

Oftentimes, research begins with a bit of curiosity about a broad topic of interest. One needs to devote concentrated and reflective time to read other people’s work. You cannot write a MA thesis without having read a great deal. The work you select to inform the process of your thesis will be critical in shaping your sense of how to produce your own new knowledge. Sometimes it is a matter of considering arguments that have come before so that you can identify gaps and produce new insights in the light of such gaps. Sometimes your research serves to support the building or shaping of fictive realms effectively. No matter the nature of your thesis work, your research is a foundational element to this significant project. Good thing you all know Craig now. (In our university library, Chrisler and Linda are also great to work with!)

Our slides from class:

What we covered after the library visit:

We did not get to everything outlined in our thesis class agenda (slides above). Even at this early stage, it seems to me that we must shift to smaller breakout groups to speak more specifically about your progress. Each of your projects is very different and the research process will be distinct as well. As we move forward, I will design ways in which I can touch base with some writers in smaller groups, while having other small groups pursue peer review forms of support.

For next week:

I will start of class speaking to everyone about your Literature Review. Then we will work together in small breakout rooms.

In the meanwhile, please blog about your thesis process this week.  Make sure you devote at least 4-5 hours of time to thinking and working on your thesis.  This is actually a rather limited amount of time that I am suggesting (feel free to devote more time), but I am trying to be realistic in light of your busy lives. Still, in order for a thesis to be done effectively, please know a certain amount of time and writing needs to be clocked in.

Ways in which to spend some significant (focused) time on your thesis:

-Are you searching for and discovering new texts to read (in order to understand some aspects regarding your possible topic(s) of interest?

-Are you reading and note-taking in order to identify key texts that will be a part of your Lit Review? 

-Are you generating new ideas through reflective writing? 

-Are you exploring possible entry points or design elements for your creative work? 

-Are you conducting certain academic research that is critical to your work?

-Are you further developing the main categories or sections of your Lit Review? 

-Are you writing up certain ideas for a possible thesis proposal?  

-Are you revising some work that has been developed as a draft thus far?

There are a myriad of ways to move on the development of your work, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But what everybody has to do, is devote time, energy, and thought to the process.

See you next week!

Dr. Zamora

Early steps

It was good to see all of you last Thursday, and I am glad you are now truly on your way regarding your thesis journey. In terms of basic announcements, I am glad we were able to speak briefly about the two workshops coming up – the Graduate Student Introduction to Digital Library Resources workshop (Thursday, Sept. 17th) & the Human Subjects Research in the Time of COVID-19 workshop (Thursday, October 8th). Please click here for more information and to receive the required registration links & information. Please remember we will meet for the first part of classtime next week in the Library Resources workshop, and then at 5:30 pm, we will join each other in our Zoom room.

Course Calendar

Please remember to reserve a spot on our Course Calendar for your thesis-in-progress presentation date. I will also post some guidelines for these presentations soon and we can take a look at that together. Remember that I requested that the thesis writers who will be graduateing this semester go first and take up the schedule slots in the first half of our time designated for this, and then our newer thesis writers (who will graduate in May) can take up the dates that come later in the semester. ***Please also take note that you can add your name to a date that is already reserved for someone else since we need to double up sometimes with two presentations anyway.

Agenda Slides

Here are the slides for your reference regarding what we did this past week:

Spiral Journal exercise

I am glad we were able to start class with the Spiral Journal exercise. The purpose of the ‘Spiral Journal’ is to promote focus and while allowing individuals to compose responses thoughtfully and calmly in writing. This can help generate reflection and can punctuate further understanding through individual self-appraisal and then group interaction.

Breakout rooms

I am so happy that our division into two breakout groups (one for graduating thesis writers, and the other for two-semester thesis writers) went smoothly and productively. I joined Dylan, Linda, Lexie, Emily, Fatima, Kevin, Nives in order to take a close look at the Early Proposal document as we did a “walkthrough” of what early thesis work might look like. Meanwhile, Medea, MaryKate, Karel, Patricia, Darline, Meagan met in another breakout room in order to conduct a “round-robin” share-out of their thesis progress so far. Group 2 is welcome to take a look at this document again, and add or revise any of the collective notes they have taken together.

For next week

Setting goals. 

For your second blog post:

Group #1 Dylan, Linda, Lexie, Ryan, Emily, Fatima, Kevin, Nives: 

You are in the generative phase of “Discovery & Invention” (-freewriting for 15 mins, -generate lists of interests and/or possible topics (at least 5 topics), -reflect on at least four different directions you might want to go in, and why), -for some of you who have already identified your topic, please try to “open up” your ideas regarding the thesis and see if there is room for new or enhanced angles on your plan

Group #2 Medea, MaryKate, Karel, Patricia, Darline, Meagan: 

Reflect on today’s progress report.  Comment on your Lit Review thus far, your methodology, and design your own “working calendar” for major thesis benchmarks this semester.

Shaping Your Thesis Plans

Shaping a sense of the project….

It was genuinely so uplifting for me to see and hear all of you this past week. Once again, welcome back. Once again I want to state how truly how happy I am to have this chance to work with all of you in this capacity. It is the “heart and soul” of good work that matters to me. Here are the slides from last class for your reference:

Some of you are just starting the process of discovery and invention for this thesis project. And some of you are well on your way, and have various elements “in the can.” Since you are each at various stages in the overall process, this week during class time we will start with a reflective writing exercise, and then we will discuss the Course Calendar in terms of scheduling “thesis-/in-process” presentations. I would like those who will graduate at the close of this semester to take the early lead in the scheduling of these iformal peer feedback sessions.

In the later part of class, I will split you all into two groups in order to touch base and plan the next steps forward.

Remember, each of you can learn a great deal from considering each other’s proposal approach, no matter how nascent or evolved your proposal iteration might be. I look forward to “jump-starting” our collective work together.

For our Next Meeting

  1. Please send me the URL (web address) for your WordPress blog by filling this form out by Wednesday, Sept 9th.
  2. Please post you first blog.  In your first blog, please introduce yourself a little bit, let us know how you have been, and then reflect on your thesis plans/progress/ideas.  For some that might mean giving up a brief summary of the main argument or contribution of your ongoing work, for others it might mean a glimpse of early ideas before your journey begins.  Basically, you want to bring everyone up-to-date on what you have done, or what you think you might be working on.  And remember, you can always change your angle on the work, so this is just a thoughtful report on “current status”.


Dr. Zamora

Ps. Please take note that there are two workshops planned for the Thesis Class coming up – the Graduate Student Introduction to Digital Library Resources workshop & the Human Subjects Research in the Time of COVID-19 workshop. They will take place on Thursday, Sept. 17th, and Thursday, October 8th. Please click here for more information and to receive the required registration information.

Welcome to your Thesis

The thesis road is yours to map-out and yours to discover…

Writing a thesis is not easy. There are many twists and turns in the road, roadblocks do come up, and there are unforeseen landscapes that cannot be imagined until you cover ground and truly travel. That said, the more time you have on the road, the more of a chance you will have to discover. I have no doubt that each of you will eventually “arrive” at the place of your own design. A place of insight and learning. A place where perhaps the outcomes were not the ones you originally anticipated.

I look forward to working with each of you as you set a course and cover some significant ground on your own terms as you develop your culminating project for your Masters of Arts degree. I am here to provide suggestions, feedback, resources, and insight; to prompt you to refine your thinking and take your work to another level. Sometimes you surge forth in the process and cover good distance “on the road” due to insightful feedback during a conversation. And sometimes you surge forth due to extended sessions of engaged independent reading & research. Oftentimes, inspiration hits at the most unlikely times ;). I hope you will experience all of this.

The MA in Writing Studies @KeanUniversity is inherently a “customizable” degree, and I encourage each of you to follow a course for which you feel a spark of commitment and passion. I also encourage you to take risks in pursuing forms of learning that matter to you personally. In my own experience, this is the place from which meaningful transformation is born. And if you are going to work hard at something, why not make it both meaningful and transformative on your own terms?

The site will serve to organize some shared resources for supporting your writing process while connecting our learning. It is also a showcase of your work this year (in progress).


Dr. Zamora

ENG 5698 (Fall 2020) & ENG 5699 (Spring 2021)