The Study Dude – Write and Do Right

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to write daily about something that improves at least one person’s life (yours especially).

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.

This week’s Study Dude dives into John W. Creswell’s mastery of research design. Creswell, author of Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, offers writing tips, a technique for clear writing, and heart-to-heart advice on ethics.

Write Until You Sweat
Write like you’re lifting weights. Yes, start with a warm-up, proceed with a hard workout, and end with a stretch?all done in champion writer style.

Weight-lifting and writing have similarities. The renowned psychologist, K. Anders Ericsson, parallels physical performance with mental performance. When we write, we go through positive physical changes: in the brain. And while the mirror reveals a weightlifter’s muscle gains, brain scans reveal gray matter gains. Yet, no-one in my neighbourhood has a brain-scan lying around in the garage. Thus, you’ll notice weightlifting gains right away, but brain gains you’ll have to measure some other way.

So, let’s look at a routine for brain grains: like weightlifting, you should start with a warm-up. For writing, the warm-up begins with reviewing where you left off the day before. After the review, draft your day’s writing plan.

Then, the actual workout begins. Clock your time and write fast and furiously.

After the workout, cool down. For the cool down, enter into a chart what you’ve accomplished for that day and what you aim to accomplish the next day. Voila! A workout routine for brain gains.
I warn you, however, to ensure you read as many books on writing as possible. These books act like coaches. Every weightlifter?and every writer?needs some coaching. So, read at least two pages a night of writing how-to books. That’s all it takes.

Creswell has writing tips, including ones on warming up your writing muscle and doing frequent, short writing sets:
– Whenever you have a good idea, write it down. Don’t just think about it.
– As a warm up, when you begin a writing project, draft one or two pages explaining your project. Or, you can warm up by writing out something unrelated: say, complex directions for fixing a bicycle. Or, you can warm up by writing about any topic in three unique ways.
– As the workout proceeds, don’t edit right away. Just write. Once you’ve finished a draft, start polishing (editing) your writing.
– Be consistent with your routines: Write a little bit each day. Don’t power-out in one session or write only on weekends. Write daily, even if you don’t feel like it.
– Clock a time of day for writing.
– Map out your everyday schedule to find time slots to fit in a writing session or two.
– Write forbetween a half hour to two hours a day?manageable chunks. A good weight lifter will weight train an hour a day. Four hours a day, and the weight lifter might get injured. So, don’t write only on the weekend for four hour stints; these stints will drain you.
– As a cool down, chart the time you spent on writing. Mark down the percentage completed of your writing tasks.
– Also as part of the cool down, plan your writing tasks at least up until the next day (or the next week or, better yet, the next month).

Clarity? The Hook-and-Eyes Technique
In previous Study Dude articles, I spoke about different approaches to clarity. One approach by Pinker uses a style where the subject of one sentence is repeated as the subject of many other sentences?kind of like a list. Pinker’s approach seemed clear, but a little too simplistic for my liking.

Another approach to clarity by Joshua Schimel takes the object of a sentence and makes it the subject of the next sentence and so on. This approach created a flow of one idea to the next: clarity. (Schimel would likely view the list-style approach of Pinker as less sophisticated.)

Yet, the simplest and most flexible method for developing both clarity and flow is the hook-and-eye technique as outlined in Creswell.
– As sentences should flow from one to the next, use the hook-and-eye method. In this method, you circle the subject or even the object of your first sentence and draw an arrow to where it appears next. The subject can reappear in the form of synonyms or at least closely related words. For instance, the subject of feminists might appear in the first sentence, and the word “they” might appear in the next sentence, and the word “women” might appear in the following sentence. You would just circle all of these similar words and draw arrows from the first to the second and from the second to the third, and so forth. These sequences of similar words create cohesion and clarity.
– For clarity, repeat main ideas often. Better yet, repeat the name of the thing studied in the title, the purpose statement, and the lit review.
Do No Harm: Ethics
Ethics create value in academic research?and journalism. You see, I’m a budding journalist, and recently, I was assigned to photograph an interview subject?marking my first ever paid photography shoot.

Being a novice, I wondered about photography ethics. Going against my gut, I mapped out a plan to get aggressive by standing in front of center-stage for close-ups and creeping onto the side-stage for side profiles. Yes, getting the best footage possible marked my ethical duty.

And then, listening to my gut, I decided to look up photographer ethics on Google. What I saw startled me: photographers need to respect the audience and stay as invisible as possible. People pay money for events and no-one wants the head of a photographer blocking the stage. If not for Google, I would have made a nuisance of myself.

Similar ethical standards hold for observation-based research. Creswell says that, as a researcher, you need to make yourself as invisible as possible. In other words, don’t disrupt the routines of your participants. Stay in the sidelines. Ask questions only when your participants aren’t busy.

Creswell lays out the ethics of research:
– Refer to your research participants as participants and not subjects.
– Make sure your participatory research doesn’t further marginalize your participants.
– Treat your research sites with respect. Don’t intrude.
– If your participants don’t wish to be anonymous, make sure there are no surprises with what you publish about them.
– When doing experiments, make sure that the results benefit every participant?and not just the treatment group. The researcher should benefit, too.
– Replace participant names with aliases during the coding. Anonymity is vital.
– Only show your data to those involved in the research project.
– To ensure accuracy in your research, go over your interpretations with the participants.
– Create trust between you and your participants. Protect them.

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.

Creswell, John W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.