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RESEARCHING DESIGN AND DESIGNING RESEARCH

By Victor Simpson,2014-05-28 14:28
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RESEARCHING DESIGN AND DESIGNING RESEARCH

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     ÕâÊÇÒ?ƪºÜºÃµÄ?éÉÜÎÄÕÂ??תÀ??ó?ÒÑÐ??ÑÐ?? By Cynthia Verba Most fellowships must be applied for during the academic year prior to when support is needed, with many fellowship deadlines occurring during the fall of the previous year. (Fellowship tenure roughly coincides with the academic calendar.) This means that it is essential to plan ahead, both in terms of identifying fellowship opportunities and in thinking about the application process. For the proposal itself, it is important to keep in mind that a fellowship proposal is a projection of what you expect to accomplish in the future, rather than a statement with definitive conclusions. This should make it easier to write a proposal in advance. The task in the proposal is to offer sufficient reason for why your plans or project are promising why you deserve support. The discussion of how to write a proposal will be dealt with in greater detail below, including the predissertation stage as well as the dissertation stage. First, however, we must consider ways of gathering fellowship information and how to take the follow-up steps.

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     Ð?Ò??ö??À??òËãÑÐ??µÄÌâÄ? Much of your knowledge at this early stage may still be related to undergraduate research, or to other scholarly experiences gained between college and the graduate program. It is considerably easier to present a focused and well-informed discussion on what you have already done than on what you are about to do (a condition common to all proposal writers). In using past experiences in a Proposed Plan of Study, however, it is essential to present them in terms of their impact on your future direction. A discussion of your senior thesis or major seminar paper, for example, should not just focus on your procedures or findings for their own sake, but on what you learned from them that influenced or shaped your goals in graduate school. The impact

     may have been negative (directing you towards new methodologies and issues) or positive (encouraging you to continue working along similar lines). Using concrete examples from the past is primarily of value in allowing you to talk about future plans with greater assurance and precision. In organizing the essay, you may choose to focus on a single, culminating research project (for example, the senior thesis), or you may prefer to discuss a series of intellectual experiences and show their cumulative effect. If you choose the latter, it is usually more effective to start with your most important experiences and then proceed backwards (a principle that works effectively in preparing a curriculum vitae). Whether you decide on a single project or a cumulative series

    of events, it is important to organize the material tightly and not to get too bogged down in descriptive detail. Each sentence or paragraph about past experiences should help to advance the single theme: your future goals and how they took shape. (Note: The NSF application has a separate question on past research experience. Even after answering the research question, you should still incorporate your research experience in the Proposed Plan of Study essay in the manner suggested here.) The essay is also an important display of your writing skills. You should be sure that it is a highly polished piece of work. When you have completed a draft, read it over and have others read it. With a final draft, be sure to have someone else read it for typographical errors.

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     ?ªÌâ???æ???È?ÏÉîÈëµÄÑÐ??ºó?? ?ªÌâ???æ???È?ÏÉîÈëµÄÑÐ??ºó?? Funding the Dissertation: Writing the

     Dissertation Proposal Learning to write an effective fellowship proposal at the dissertation stage has implications that go well beyond the process itself; it is a skill that is essential to a scholar throughout his or her career. The Nature of a Proposal: How a Dissertation Fellowship Proposal Differs from a Dissertation Prospectus A fellowship proposal is essentially a persuasive argument for why your project deserves to be funded. Most dissertation fellowships?ªand fellowships in general?ªinvolve a highly competitive contest, judged by an anonymous fellowship committee. This is in contrast to a dissertation prospectus, where you are simply asking your own department to decide whether your project is acceptable or not; this is normally an easier task, more like "preaching to the converted." Many departments have their own rules as to what a prospectus should be?ªhow long, what to include, what format to use, and other requirements?ªbut in general the prospectus is a fairly detailed explanation of your project. In a fellowship competition you are asking an anonymous fellowship committee to decide that you deserve to win and?ªyes?ªthat someone else deserves to lose. In this situation, it will not do simply to describe a project that is acceptable; instead, you must develop a highly persuasive and polished argument that will convince the reader that your proposed project will make an important contribution to the field, that it deserves to be funded. The argument should be constructed so carefully that each sentence and each paragraph advances your contribution argument in the most tightly-knit and logically coherent fashion. Constructing a Polished Argument for How Your

     Project Will Contribute to the Field: Three Possible Paradigms Before you can construct a tightly-knit argument, you must first decide

    what your contribution argument will be. There are three possible paradigms?ªor three logical possibilities?ªfor defining how a study will contribute to the field: Paradigm One: The project is a research topic that never has been done before. Almost by definition it will contribute to the field. The burden in this argument, however, is to show that the topic is indeed significant despite its neglect by scholars. Perhaps it has only recently acquired significance through scholarly developments, or perhaps there are other factors that have been overlooked that explain its importance. The main point in this paradigm is to show that the topic no longer should be neglected. Sample Argument, Paradigm One: "While thirteenth-century Venetian art has been studied in depth, the story of the fourteenth century remains to be written. Not only was this a period of extraordinary political and economic expansion and turning westward, but it was also a period matched by artistic transition, moving away from the prevalent use of Byzantine cultural models?ªonce again in the direction of the West." Paradigm Two: (This argument is the opposite of paradigm one.) The project will study well known material that has been examined many times before, but you are making a reassessment of that material by looking at it in a new way, which will be your contribution. The challenge in this paradigm is to make a strong argument for the need for reassessment, but without denigrating all previous work. (Your readers may well include an author of one of those previous works.) The wisest approach is to stress that you are adding a new dimension, thanks to the work that has

     already been done. Sample Argument, Paradigm Two: "The rapid turnover in population in 19-century cities and the chaotic ordering of their neighborhoods has led many historians to focus almost exclusively on the social dislocation and uprootedness that they felt urban life brought. This dissertation seeks to re-examine these assumptions . . . ." Paradigm Three: (This argument logically falls between paradigms one and two; it is where most research projects fall as well.) In this case, the project will contribute by exposing some new material which in turn will call for some reassessment of what has already been done. Sample Argument, Paradigm Three: "While there have been some studies done on the Alliance's activities in North Africa, there have been none on its work in the Ottoman Empire where most of its schools were located . . . . By studying the activities of an organization which channelled Western values directly to a broad mass of young students, I hope to shed some new light on the process of Westernization at the local level."

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     ÔÚÌÖÂÛÎÄÏ×µÄÊ?ºòÒª??ÒªÓÃ?Å×?ºÍ?Î??ÊéÄ? Discussion of the

    Scholarly Literature and Incorporating It into Your Contribution Argument: Should You Include Foot-notes and a Bibliography? You will note that all three paradigms have the advantage of allowing you to discuss the scholarly literature in the field, which is an essential part of

     a fellowship proposal. However, it avoids the potential monotony of simply describing a long list of works; instead it makes the discussion of literature an integral part of your contribution argument. When you discuss the literature, the general practice is to keep the scholarly apparatus at a minimum within the proposal. Cited works can be presented in abbreviated form?ªauthor's last name and date of publication?ªand placed within the text in parentheses, rather than in foot-notes. This is especially recommended when only a brief fellowship statement is required (of no more than six double spaced pages). The proposal can be accompanied by a bibliography even if one is not required, but it should be limited to selected works, presenting only those items that are central to the proposal. In some competitions, usually when a longer and more elaborate proposal is required (around ten double-spaced pages), you will be expected to have references and a bibliography. Cited works can still be presented in abbreviated form within the text, or you may use foot-notes. In either case, this type of proposal should be accompanied by a bibliography, but once again, the bibliography should be limited to selected works that are central to the proposal.

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     ?È?Ï??µÄ proposal ×ÔÉíÓ??ÃÓÐ?ò?é Writing a Concise Introduction to the Proposal Your contribution argument will have more meaning if the reader first has a grasp of the overall purpose of your project. An ideal way to begin a proposal is with an introductory paragraph that presents a clear and concise statement of the major goals of the project as a whole. If your topic

     concerns a particular time period and a particular location, this information should be included in the introduction. Similarly, if you are relying on a specific method or a specific kind of data, this too should be specified at the outset. The following are two examples of opening statements, with the first and longer example serving as an introduction to a longer a more complex proposal and research project: 1) "The purpose of my proposed research is to explore the transformation of Mexican rural social relations from 1940 to 1958 by examining the increasingly dominant role of business in agriculture. I will focus on the Gulf state of Veracruz, known for a wide range of soils, climates, food crops, and social relations of production, as well as for the strength of its peasant leagues since the 1920s. My preliminary work

    indicates that the study of business interests and networks is the most effective way of understanding the nature and pace of change in rural social relations in modern Mexico. In this context " business" may be broadly defined as the profit-oriented activities of individuals or companies with an interest in rural production?ªe.g., machinery, fertilizers, pesticides, seed, credit, and marketing." The main sources for my research would be company and private papers, business publications, local newspapers, community records, government and diplomatic documents, agricultural manuals and other specialized publications, and oral history or field interviews." 2) "I plan to study archival materials in Norway relevant to my doctoral dissertation. I hope to demonstrate through an examination of his personal papers, music, and publications that Grieg developed a unique style of composition based upon a personal aesthetic outlook."

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     Ò??öÏîÄ?µÄÒâÒå Significance of the Project in Broader Terms Another important component of the contribution argument is to explain the significance of the project in broader terms, showing its relation to larger theoretical issues or to the larger scholarly dialogue. Since this is such an important part of the contribution argument, it could be included not only as you present your paradigm, but also later in the proposal, as you make your closing arguments. The following two examples illustrate the use of broader arguments. Note in both cases, the use of active words, stating the potential significance in terms of expected or predicted outcomes ("The study will contribute . . . ." or "must provide a significant test case"). 1) "My work on the state of Veracruz, the first properly historical study of Mexican agriculture after 1940, will test the explanatory possibilities of this novel perspective, and will contribute new sources and fresh approaches to the fields of modern agrarian history and rural development." 2) "I could say, then, that my project is justified in that working out the intricacies of the Old Norse verbal system constitutes a formidable intellectual challenge. But I feel that much more is at stake than that. First, if the facts are as intractable as they seem . . . then they must provide a significant test case for the descriptive and explanatory power of current linguistic theory, and bring issues into clear view which have hitherto lurked in the background."

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     Feasibility of the Project: Developing Specific Objectives or Hypotheses The fellowship selection committee will want to know that the project is feasible, as well as important to the field. An essential

    step in showing feasibility is to translate your major goals into a series of well-defined hypotheses or specific objectives, making sure that the specific objectives are a logical outgrowth of the major goals. For each stated major goal, there should be at least one corresponding specific objective. The feasibility argument will be stronger if you avoid having too many objectives or hypotheses?ªafter a certain number of questions the project's feasibility sounds less convincing. Similarly, it is important to state all of your specific objectives in a single place in an orderly fashion. If they are scattered (and there is a common tendency for writers to pile up new questions on almost every page of a proposal), then it is impossible for the reader to know exactly what is being proposed, and how or why it fits with the major goals or contribution paradigm.

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     ÑÐ??µÄ????ÂÛÓ??Ã?üÀ?µÄÄÚÈÝ Research Design in Relation to Feasibility The feasibility of the project also hinges on the research design or methodology?ªand especially on how closely it mirrors both the major goals and the more specific set of hypotheses to be tested. For each specific objective, there should be at least one matching methodological procedure. The presentation of the research design or methodology should include the following: 1) overall design and why it has been adopted?ªonce again, with an emphasis on how closely it reflects the stated major and specific

     objectives (your method may be comparative, longitudinal, qualitative, quantitative, participant observer, sample survey, a case study, an experiment, or some combination of these methods). 2) type of data to be used?ªthe principal variables and their control 3) how data will be collected 4) how data will be analyzed 5) timetable for implementation 6) available resources for implementation

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     ºÍÌâÄ?Ïà?صÄ?öÈË????ºÍ×ÊÀú Personal Importance of Project - Candidate's Relevant Background or Qualifications Often the application includes instructions for discussing the applicant's qualifications as part of the proposal, or there is a separate essay question asking for relevant personal background. If there are no specific questions, it is nevertheless important to include some of your strongest qualifications or preparation for the project in the proposal itself, once you have described the project. This discussion also gives you the opportunity to convey a sense of your commitment and enthusiasm for the project. (Conveying your own enthusiasm may well generate a corresponding enthusiasm from the reader.) If there are no instructions, the following items should be addressed: 1) how the project fits in with long-term career goals of candidate

     2) special background or skills or preparatory work for the project

    (languages or other skills mastered, prior fieldwork or research related to topic, etc.) 3) any other evidence of your promise to carry out the project successfully. Some applications seek a more extended biographical essay?ªfor example, the Fulbright Institute of International Education application includes a c.v. in essay form that asks for such personal history as family background, intellectual influences, enriching experiences and how they have affected you. (Samples of c.v. essays appear in Scholarly Pursuits, Appendix B.) Others simply ask for a standard c.v. (Samples appear in Scholarly Pursuits, Appendix D.)

     ÕÆÃÅÈË Moderator ??Ìù: ??Ìù 4682 2003-01-15 07:12

     ÁË?âÄãµÄÆÀÎ?ÃÇ Who Serves on Fellowship Selection Committees?ªWill Your Proposal be read by Specialists in the Field, or by Generalists? Most people want to know the answer to this question so that they can address their proposal to the appropriate audience. The problem is that even in competitions that are judged by people in your own discipline, you cannot or should not assume that they are fully knowledgeable about your own specialized topic. Indeed, even specialists need convincing, and may in fact view your proposal with a more critical eye. The safest course is to provide enough background in making your contribution argument, so that both generalists and specialists will view the background as a necessary and logical part of your contribution argument. It is also wise to avoid jargon or un necessary technical terms.

     Paying Attention to Fellowship Descriptions; Adapting the Proposal When Applying for Several Fellowships It is wise to apply for as many fellowships as possible, as long as they are appropriate for your project. Most fellowship announcements include a description of the fellowship, stating selection criteria and providing some details about the type of projects that the granting agency seeks to support. You may find that there are a number of fellowships which are appropriate for your project, but that the fellowship descriptions vary, both in large and small details. While it is important to pay close attention to the wording in the individual fellowship announcements, it is also important to write a fellowship proposal that presents the most persuasive and logical argument in support of your project, following the principles outlined above. How can you write a proposal that does both?

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