The Study Dude – Exercises for Self-Editing and Writing Academically

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to take make charts and graphs so that you can explain your thesis results with style and ease.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

Today’s article is the second part of a read of Patricia Goodson’s highly recommendable book Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing. Goodson grooms you for many tasks, such as self-editing, writing, and thesis drafting.

Create an Unforgettable Purpose Statement for Your Thesis
Previously, I wrote a thesis without a clear focus on the purpose of the draft. I examined Suncor’s environmental positioning as a thesis topic, but didn’t really zero in on what exactly I hoped to achieve. I learned, in hindsight, that entering a thesis with a clear, measurable, and concise focus can really set you up for success.

Yet, sometimes the thesis topic we consider remains so removed from our knowledge base and awareness that we can’t foresee what might arise as a potential purpose statement. In such a case, drafting a purpose statement can prove challenging. Brainstorming a purpose statement, in spite of our lack of knowledge, proves vital for optimizing not only your research data, but your focus.

Patricia Goodson presents some excellent advice for coming up with an effective purpose statement to guide your thesis writing:
– Try to view your purpose statement for your paper as a type of cliff-hanger that makes your readership hunger to read every word.
– Set your timer for ten minutes and write voraciously about what you think the paper is about. don’t hesitate to put down your thoughts.
– Your purpose statement should either respond to a question you assert, compare and contrast research in a way the enables you to assert an improved solution, or assess findings in a novel way.
– Write your purpose statement with action verbs (active and not passive verbs).
– A lot of journals will shrug off your submission unless you introduce your purpose statement overtly: “The purpose of this paper is…” (p. 143).
– As a way to make your purpose statement clear, try drafting it as a question. The question will aid in focus and help keep you on track with data collection.
– For ten minutes, time yourself and write as many different questions as you can possibly think of that capture your paper’s purpose. Keep this up for a week, tweaking what you wrote previously and coming up with new ideas. Your purpose statement will come alive before your eyes.

Draft Results with the Aid of Visuals
I worked in market research for a while, creating many charts in PowerPoint. In PowerPoint, I would tweak the colors of each bar in the bar charts, brighten up the labels with manually entered ones, and alter the legends to look beautiful. The SPSS statistical data gave rise to all kinds of fascinating information: I aimed to make that information visually stunning. The more beautiful I could make the data, the harder and more passionately I worked on the presentations. It was a win-win cycle.

Adobe Kuler’s online color program helped me find the right color combinations. Yet, I only stumbled on Adobe Kuler after my contract with the market research company came to an end and the company underwent a corporate merger. Since then, Adobe Kuler has become my mainstay for color direction. In Adobe Kuler, you can even upload a photo and extract key colors from the photo. Such photo color matching comes in handy if you care about making your Website or PowerPoint visuals match your logo colors, for instance. Just now, I did a search for Adobe Kuler, and instead Adobe Color CC came up. Adobe Color CC looks just like Adobe Kuler, arguably appearing even more intuitive and straightforward than the Kuler program.

In my university thesis, I made a beautiful diagram in my results section that explained the many different interpretations of the word “sustainable”, from economic to social to environmental, and the diagram itself upped the value of my final work. Visuals can put your design over the edge in edginess. don’t underestimate the value of visuals not only for corporate presentations, but also thesis drafting.

Patricia Goodson provides reams of advice for making stellar results sections through the use of visuals:
– Take your data and turn each grouping of data into a visual, whether the visual be “charts, tables, figures, drawing, diagrams, or photographs” (p. 174).
– Select your very best data results or the simplest to comprehend and display them in one of the above visual approaches.
– Ask others for feedback on what you create.
– Implement suggestions from feedback as you see most appropriate and beneficial to your research purpose.
– Then, with visuals in hand, write text to relate to what the visuals convey.
– Have fun!
– In 15 minute increments, write down all of your thoughts and questions concerning each visual you created. Ensure you link each brain dump you make (yes, they call them that in the book) with your research question or hypothesis.
– Use copious subheadings for each piece of chart data you analyze.
– don’t use subjective language, use descriptive language that is void of personal bias or positive or negative connotations.
– Take all of your lesser valued data groups, and bullet point them all. That way, they don’t take up a lot of valuable space, yet you get to address each one in the context of your paper to show off how much you know.

Make Your Conclusion End with a Bang!
doesn’t it seem confusing that a results section and a discussion or conclusion section would both appear in the same paper? doesn’t one seem to duplicate the other? If I lay out all of my results, what is left to say about the project in the discussion section? Those questions stymied me in my thesis writing process.

I didn’t want to make a recap of the results data in the conclusion section. It bored me to no end to write a recap of the data without adding anything new, but conclusions tend to shut down the transfer of any new information. Or, at least, so I thought.

Even in your essays, how can you possibly make anything exciting happen in the conclusion when you only recap what you already stated? Yawn.

Well, Patricia Goodson has ample advice on how to conclude your essays and theses with a bang:
– Look back at your brain dump for your results section (see above), and examine all of the questions you posed. These questions and the resulting answer make for prime fodder for your conclusion or discussion section. Make a list of these questions, whether or not you have answers for them. Write them all down.
– Try to figure out what other questions the audience might pose. Write these down as well.
– Come up with answers for the questions that are most intimately tied to your research question.
– After you do all this, link your results to other research by making a table. List your findings in the first column. In the next column write down citations of research that addresses the problem. In the next column write down bullets of how the research confirms or disconfirms your own findings.
– Add another column which discusses theory that pertains to your findings in any way. Add yet another column to say how the theory confirms (connects with) or disconfirms (disconnects from) your findings.
– Add three columns to your table and list them “So what… for practice?”, “So what… for future research?”, and “So what… for theory?” (p. 193) Then dump all of your thoughts onto paper for ten minute sessions.
– Now focus on limitations by doing a brain dump of all the problems you experienced when drafting your paper. Make a separate table (otherwise known as a matrix) with column one dealing with problems and limitations experienced, column two asking for a yes or no as to whether your problems impacted the results, column three answering how you solved the problem (only if the problem impacted the results), and column four probing for related strengths in spite of the problem. Finding the strengths helps you so that you don’t end your paper with a dump of negativity. The reader might read nothing more and nothing less than your conclusion, so you want to make it count.

This will give you absolutely everything you need to write your stunning conclusion to your thesis. So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

References
Goodson, Patricia. (2013). Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing. Thousand Oak, CA: SAGE.

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