The research starts from an idea which then requires literature searches such that the researcher is able to develop an understanding of how this idea relates to existing research. Through the literature searches the idea may need to be elaborated to a more fresh and informed form as compared with the previous research. Finally, this leads to the formulation of an informed research topic, which is again followed by considerations on appropriate research strategy and design.
Finding a good research topic is one of the most difficult and the most important phase during your thesis work:
Freewriting is writing down your thoughts as they come to you. When freewriting, you let your sentences flow freely without thinking about whether the ideas are appropriate or the grammar is perfect. You just start writing. Write quickly and try not to stop. Usually, you freewrite on a topic for a set period of time or number of pages without rereading or correcting what you have written. You can freewrite with pen and paper or on the computer — do whichever comes more naturally to you.
Write one page text where you describe what you are going to do as master's thesis. This assignment is supposed to make you think about your topic and produce initial idea, what you are going to study.
In the beginning your text will always look like utter rubbish. Admit it, do not worry, that is just a start for something good.
Descriptive topics aims to find out how things are:
Normative topics aims to tell how things should be:
Existing scientific knowledge can also be applied to develop more practical applications, like technology or inventions.
In the class we were having some discussions how to start research process and how to find a topic. To compensate, I ask you write one A4 paper, where you try to answer the following questions:
Reference: MIT Libraries
A thesis statement is a statement that tells you and your reader what you plan to write about. It is usually one sentence in the introduction to your paper. It tells the main idea of your paper. It might also give the reader an idea of the type of organization and the tone that you plan to use in your paper. Often a thesis statement is an answer to a question. Often it is a statement that you set out to prove.
Based on freewriting exercise, try to illustrate your thesis statement (main claim of your work) as a figure or diagram. Some examples here from the book Better Writing Right Now (Galko 2001, pp. 39-41):
First and foremost - you should really start working on figuring out your topic, otherwise it is really difficult to take part to the seminar.
Lunenburg & Irby (2008) present in their Writing a successful thesis or dissertation that the criteria for a good topic are the following:
How do you know the topic you selected is a good topic (Wang & Park, 2015)?
Four types of studies (Wang & Park, 2015):
According to Wang and Park (2015) the research questions are:
Drew (1980) identified three general categories of research questions: descriptive, relationship, and difference.
Miles and Huberman (1994) present some examples how research questions can be divided to causal and non-causal questions. Even though the causal research is typical in natural sciences there are many dangers you should be aware of. Discuss, what is the difference between causality and correlation?
The process of formulating the research question evolves throughout the research process (e.g. Lodico, Spaulding & Voegtle 2010). Sometimes you figure out the final research questions when you analyse the data. In inclusive research that is really typical. Discuss, what does the inductive and deductive research mean in practice and is it really possible to categorize research in such way?
Erickson, Florio, and Buschman (1980) suggest that qualitative methods are best at seeking answers to questions like (from Borg & Gall, Educational research, 1989)
A good practice is to start writing introduction immediately, because it is something where you describe other people what you are studying on. The final form of the introduction is normally written in the last phases of the research. After reading the introduction, reader should be able to know about following items in your research (according to Lunenburg & Irby, 2008):
Introduction typically starts by telling about the background of study, describing the problem, stating the purpose of the study, and telling why the study is important. The final part of the introduction tells how the paper is organized.
Some high quality introductions from different MIT research orientations:
First, write 1 page of initial introduction including background, problem statement, purpose and significance. In this phase the text might have bullets or single line paragraphs, but try to make the structure as a real intro.
Then, write down your initial research questions and add them to the end of the introduction. You can also describe the questions more precisely.
Read the chapter 3: The Philosophy and Principles of Research from the book Research Methods in Politics (provided in Slack). Even though, the chapter is from the completely different discipline, it is concise and rather self-standing introduction for the topic.
Write one A4 paper, where you reflect how your own research is related with the concepts presented.
Literature review is an essential part of any research. According to Lunenburg et al. (2008) the review of the literature can illuminate every aspect of a research problem by
The process of literature review of Wang and Park (2015) is presented below. Real world the process is not so systematic, but includes all of these actions.
The task is returned to Slack with private message to me and presented shortly in the class.
The results will be available on the seminar website next week (after the extra task's deadline). Remember to include member names. If you have any questions during the task, contact me in Slack or face to face.
4. Characteristics of good journal
5. Characteristics of good conference
6. How to evaluate a reference
Research papers can be divided to primary, secondary and tertiary papers. Primary studies include literacy review to provide background for the research. Secondary studies are meta-analyses that review systematically primary studies to answer the presented research questions (e.g., what methods were used in programming related studies between 2010-2015). Tertiary studies review systematically secondary studies to, e.g., make recommendations for government policy or medical treatments.
Strategy 1: systematic literature review. Basically you define the search criteria, collect your data and go systematically through all the papers. Takes lots of time, because the aim is to go through the whole population of papers within the criteria. Smaller scale study would go through only predefined journals for certain time interval.
Strategy 2: keyword search. Define keywords, select databases, go through results and pick the papers matching your criteria. Keywords and selection criteria must be well defined to make the review valid.
Strategy 3: forward/backward search. Forward search means that when you find a good research article related to your topic. See what papers are referring to the article and read them. Backward search means that you see the bibliography of the article and start reading the references.
Strategy 4: "state of art" search. Define what are the main venues (journals/conferences) related to the topic. Go systematically through all the papers for 3-4 years and find out, what is the current state of art in the field.
Strategy 5: benchmarking search. Find the papers most relevant to your topic (same research problem / theory / method etc.) and look for examples, how to write about your study. This might be good idea to make in the beginning phase to see what kind of Master Theses have been written in your field. The drawback is that you might start unintentionally copying the other paper (or even plagiarizing).
Of course you can use any reference tool you want, but I am going to present a short demonstration, how I am used to work with Mendeley. Officially, University of Jyväskylä supports Refworks and it might be good idea to check it out
If you were not able to participate to the class, check out the video tutorials from here.
Find 6 - 10 research articles that are broadly related to your topic. You can use the results from the in-class task, make a new keyword search etc. Make a list of references (an example of bibliography below). Go through the papers and select 3 papers, which you examine more closely: read the papers, make notes and annotations. Write a short text where you argument why the chosen papers are important for your study (why is it a good reference).
Return the list of articles and the text with PDF. Mark to the list, which articles did you read and annotate.
P.S: it is good idea to use following convention in file names: weekly3_firstname_lastname.PDF
Next week we are going to look, how to write about literature so it is essential that you make this task.
This one is simple, just do the in-class task from this week, but I assume you to elaborate a bit more to the questions 3, 4 and 5. All together, it should be 1-2 pages. Naturally, I recommend doing extra task before the weekly task.
P.S: it is good idea to use following convention in file names: extra3_firstname_lastname.PDF
Read the articles provided (title and abstract). Make a structure for the article, where you write headings for the theoretical chapters and couple of bullet points, what the content of the chapter could include. The outlines are made to chalkboard and discussed after.
Don't go and read the original thesis, because the idea is to discuss, what topics should be included in the literature review based on the abstract.
Master theses in Jyu:
Sorting the literature will help you better understand and summarize existing studies. It will also help you recognize trends, similarities, and differences among studies, which is the first step for organizing and synthesizing them. When you organize the literature by positive or negative findings, by theories, or by variables tested, you will understand the field of study in a systematic and organized manner. Seeing “the big picture” in this way will make the review process easier and more enjoyable.
Opposing arguments and findings: sorting articles by their points of view, such as pros and cons, or positive and negative findings. For example, some researchers find that the death penalty reduces violent crime while others find it has no effect on violence. Some researchers argue that some algorithm is better than the other one.
Different variables tested: sorting your literature according to specific relationships examined in the study. For example, ease of use and user acceptance.
Different theories applied: you may separate the papers into different groups according to the theoretical perspectives. In your review, you can evaluate how the perspectives may have led to different research foci and interpretation of findings. Typical example would be classifying educational research based on explicated educational theory.
Research methods: classifying your literature review according to the types of research methods that have been used. This is especially good method to find out, how your topic is being researched.
Time period: if you are interested in trends in research or social change, the literature can be classified according to the time of the research being conducted. You may put the books and articles into different groups according to the time period during which the research was conducted and published.
Population: you may also classify the literature according to the population you study. If the research on the same topic is conducted on different study populations such as different software applications / user interfaces / test procedures.
Successful literature review is a critical and organized assessment of existing studies. It should not merely list summary after summary but “evaluate, clarify and/or integrate the content of primary reports” (Cooper 1988: 103 as referred in Wang & Park, 2015).
Cooper (2010) emphasises the distinction between a narrative review and a synthesized review: A narrative review is a series of summaries of each article reviewed, typically in chronological order. Literature review is not a list of summaries presented in a paragraph or two for each study.
Heppner & Heppner (2004) propose that literature is organized so that more general information is discussed first, and the information most related to your thesis is discussed last.
You can categorize your references as:
A good literature review:
Make an initial outline of your study. Try to make descriptive headings for your content, you should have 1-3 main headings and 2-4 subheadings under them. Write 2-3 bullet points for under every subheading, what the content could be.
If you have already written content for your thesis, do not copy-paste the content to the outline. The purpose is to make good structure for your thesis without concentrating to the content (yet).
Return the PDF of outline to Slack as usual (with filename: weekly4_firstname_surname.pdf)
Read Writing Integrative Literature Reviews: Guidelines and Examples by Richard J. Torraco. It is a decent paper, which discusses the same topics we had in the class. I also recommend it to students who even were in the class.
Find one literature review or meta-analysis paper related to your field. Usually good keywords for searches in scientific databases are "meta-analysis", "literature review" etc. combined with keywords related to your topic. Write A4 where you:
We need to negotiate how we are going to organize the seminar presentations
In the seminar you will present your research plan:
There will be very strict timetable, so the presentations are short. After, there's feedback and review.
Research approaches are plans and the procedures for research that span the steps from broad assumptions to detailed methods of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Creswell (2014) explains how research approach belongs in the intersection of three components: philosophical worldviews, research designs, and research methods.
Creswell sees worldviews as a general philosophical orientation about the world and the nature of research (aka. paradigms). He highlights four widely acknowledged worldviews discussed in scientific literature: postpositivism, constructivism, transformative, and pragmatism.
Post-positivism challenges the positivist notion of the absolute truth of knowledge and recognizes that we cannot be completely sure about our claims of knowledge, when studying the behavior and actions of humans. Post-positivism can be characterized as
Social constructivism assumes that individuals seek understanding of the world in which they live and work. Individuals develop subjective meanings of their experiences. These meanings are varied and multiple, leading the researcher to look for the complexity of views rather than narrowing meanings into a few categories or ideas. The goal of the research is to rely as much as possible on the participants’ views of the situation being studied.
Transformative worldview holds that research inquiry needs to be intertwined with politics and a political change agenda to confront social oppression at whatever levels it occurs (Mertens, 2010).
Pragmatism arises out of actions, situations, and consequences rather than antecedent conditions.
|Worldview||Ontological belief||Epistemological belief||Axiological belief||Methodological belief|
|Postpositivism||A single reality exists, but we may not be able to understand or get it||Knowledge is constructed through research and statistics||Bias needs to be controlled and not expressed in a study||Deductive methods, such as testing of theories, specifying variables, making comparisons|
|Social constructivism||Multiple realities are constructed through experiences and interactions||Knowledge is shaped by individual experiences (and researcher)||Individual values are honored and negotiated among individuals||Inductive methods, such as interviewing, observing, and text analysis|
|Transformative||Participation between researcher and communities||Knowledge is co-created||Values need to be problematized and interrogated||Collaborative processes, highlighting issues and concerns|
|Pragmatism||Reality is what is useful, practical, and works||Knowledge is generated through using both deductive and inductive tools||Knowledge reflects both the researchers' and participants' values||Both quantitative and qualitative methods|
Researcher not only selects a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods study to conduct; the inquirer also decides on a type of study within these three choices. Research designs are called also as strategies of inquiry. Quantitative research design typically includes different kind of experiments, how a specific intervention influences an outcome, and survey research. Qualitative research design can have many different approaches: Narrative research studies the lives of individuals and asks one or more individuals to provide stories about their lives, phenomenological research describes the lived experiences of individuals about a phenomenon as described by participants, ethnography studies the shared patterns of behaviors, language, and actions of an intact cultural group in a natural setting over a prolonged period of time, and case studies are a design of inquiry found in many fields, especially evaluation, in which the researcher develops an in-depth analysis of a case, often a program, event, activity, process, or one or more individuals
The third major element is the specific research methods that involve the forms of data collection, analysis, and interpretation that researchers propose for their studies. We are going to have an in-depth discussion of research methods next week.
Historically the gap between quantitative and qualitative research approaches has been promoted by competing specialists. Traditional divergence of opinions is challenged by 'mixed methods'. Different research approaches should not be viewed as rigid, distinct categories, polar opposities, or dichotomies. Instead, they represent different ends on a continuum
Quantitative research is an approach for testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables. These variables, in turn, can be measured, typically on instruments, so that numbered data can be analyzed using statistical procedures. Researchers who engage in this form of inquiry have assumptions about testing theories deductively, building in protections against bias, controlling for alternative explanations, and being able to generalize and replicate the findings.
Qualitative research is an approach for exploring and understanding the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem. The process of research involves emerging questions and procedures, data typically collected in the participant’s setting, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general themes, and the researcher making interpretations of the meaning of the data. Those who engage in this form of inquiry support a way of looking at research that honors an inductive style, a focus on individual meaning, and the importance of rendering the complexity of a situation.
Next week we are going to make practical work related to research methods. Go through the resources provided below and choose one method which might suit to your study. Write 1-2 pages, how you would conduct your study with the chosen method.
Find one scientific article (journal or conference) which aims to make a methodological contribution. It means that as a result of research, the authors are trying to develop existing or new methodology.
Write a short summary (1-2 pages), what the paper is about.
The idea of the lesson is to figure out how different research methods can be used in computer science / mathematical information technology. The work will be done in groups of 2-3 human beings. Choose the method below or propose some other method.
You can of course propose some other method for the weekly task.
The task is to write a description how the chosen method can be used in our discipline
1. method background
2. data collection
3. method implementation
write 1-2 pages text where you describe how the method was used in a fictional research. The related topic should be from our discipline.
Return the task as PDF file in Slack. Use filename "Weekly 6 research method.pdf" where research method is your chosen method.
Layout of the file is following:
Extra task this time is the same as weekly task. Choose one of the research methods which is not already selected or propose a new one.
The quality of text is one concrete item in the evaluation framework:
The quality of writing is actually much more - poorly written argument makes the author sound incompetent and, on the other hand, too complicated text makes the paper look like jargon. One aim of the thesis evaluation is to find out if the student is capable of understanding and producing the discipline related professional language.
Paraphrasing means writing the original information without changing the meaning. Effective paraphrasing is a key academic skill needed to avoid the risk of plagiarism: it demonstrates your understanding of a source. With paraphrasing you can use other people's ideas to validate your arguments and indicate that something is not your own idea.
Summarising aims to reduce the original information to a suitable length; to make conclusions about information.
Paragraph is a distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme. The sentences of paragraphs in scientific text can usually be categorized to:
Task: analyse the following paragraph (from Bailey 2011, p. 78).
"The rate of home ownership varies widely across the developed world. Germany, for instance, has one of the lowest rates, at 42 per cent, while in Spain it is twice as high, 85 per cent. Both the USA and Britain have similar rates of about 69 per cent. The reasons for this variation appear to be more cultural and historic than economic, since high rates are found in both rich and poorer countries. There appears to be no conclusive link between national prosperity and the number of homeowners."
Cohesion of the text means the connectivity of ideas between sentences and paragraphs.
Coherence means if the text is making any sense.
Keep the paragraphs under the topic. This basically means that all of your paragraphs should be talking about the topic presented in the heading (or subheading).
Take distance to your text. It is much easier to review other text than your own, so it might be good to have few days pause and try to see your own text from other persons perspective.
Keep it short. The very typical problems of unclear writing are related to too long and complicated sentences or paragraphs.
Avoid "Finenglish". One difficult in writing a thesis in Finnish is that most of the references are in English, and translations can result to weak text quality.
"Yksi vaikeus kirjoittaessa opinnäytettä suomeksi on, että lähteet ovat englanniksi, ja käännökset voivat johtaa heikkoon tekstin laatuun."
"Opinnäytetyön kömpelö kieliasu voi johtua englanninkielisten lähteiden kääntämisestä suomeksi."
For a technical guide, use e.g. the guide from Monash University. See APA or IEEE, because they are the most used citation styles in our disciplines. Consult your supervisor for the recommended citation style.
The following material is from a PhD course in 2016 by Adrienn Karoly: XENA004 - Academic Writing Module Citation and Referencing.
With citing and referencing you acknowledge the source of ideas that are not your own.
Citing in the text using round brackets in APA (author, date) or bracketed number  in IEEE.
Referencing by giving full publication details at the end of the text.
Bibliography means a list of all the works consulted in relation to the research (not necessarily cited). Do not use term "bibliography" in your thesis.
Citing and referencing is used to:
You have to use citations and references when:
It is not necessary to cite and reference when
If you missed the class, please go immediately to the extra task, because it is extended version of the weekly task. You only do extra task.
Choose two Master Theses from JyX MIT theses list. The first should be a Thesis that represents a well written paper and the other one badly written.
Make the text analysis presented in weekly task 7 and make a comparison of texts. What are the differences between good and worse texts? Provide examples (quotes).
Getting the credits for the Thesis seminar:
In general, it is good idea to discuss beforehand with your supervisor what are your objectives and what degree you are aiming for. The links for evaluation forms:
Guidelines for the maturity exam based on Language Centre presentation:
The registration for the Maturity Exam is made to Outi Hynninen until 31.12.2016
The presentation time is exactly 10 minutes. The aim is to practice scientific presentations in pre-given timetable.The presentation consists of four slides. The presentation slides need to be available in Slack #presentations channel as PDF two days before the presentation (so Saturday). The language of the presentation is Finnish or English. The outline of is following:
2nd slide: background
3rd slide: method
4th slide: progression
General advices for the presentation:
Five classic presentation mistakes from the Thesis Whisperer blog:
In addition to your own presentation you need to opponent the other presentations in the session:
Familiarize yourself with the another presentations using the provided slides in Slack and doing some background work about the topic.
Prepare at least one good question for every presentation beforehand. Stay focused during the presentation and think about questions and comments.
After the presentation I will randomly choose one person to ask the starting question. After that we will discuss about the topic and the other opponents are able to present their questions. After the discussion, the chosen person gives a short comment about the presentation in general.
Choose one Master Thesis from JyX MIT theses list. Can be the same one as in the previous extra task. Make a full review for the thesis using the guidelines provided in this session. Write 1-3 sentences argumentation for each category, why did you choose the degree. Returned as usual.
Find a recorded academic presentation or a scientific speech. You can try TED talks, Youtube etc. Provide the topic of the presentation and the URL for it in the beginning of the paper. Write 1-2 pages where you summarize the presentation and make analytical insight about the quality of the presentation.
Thank you everyone for participating the seminar, it has been an honor! Unfortunately, I am not able to give feedback about the weekly and extra tasks, but based on what I've read, you should have no problem with taming the Thesis and finishing your studies.
The course feedback and Slack questionnaire will be available at 11.12.2016, you will be notified with e-mail. I will really much appreciate for the feedback!