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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *