From our group and individual conversations and in your initial blogs posts, all the Kean Crew thesis bloggers have a good idea for their thesis topic.

Yet a thesis needs more than a topic, it needs a more specific question, argument, or claim you as authors will pursue through research and writing. This week we will both work on shaping that question plus looking at ways to potentially widen the source of inspiration or connections for your work.

Schedule Me!

Use the doodle tool or just contact me to schedule a time this week we can again meet individually.

ResNetSem Community

As a networked seminar I’m expecting participating and making use of our Twitter and Slack platforms, whether it is sharing resources, discussing ideas, asking for feedback.

As a start for twitter, I’d like to see your thoughts on this week’s Question of the Week, about the idea of Structured Serendipity.

In fact, one angle might be thinking if there is a strategy for using twitter to one less a source of noise/distraction. This can be in being strategic into choosing accounts to follow, creating twitter lists to follow, and in using a tool like Tweetdeck that let’s you create a more filtered view of twitter.

Rather than consuming twitter through a single stream laden with ads, with Tweetdeck I create columns for hashtags and lists I follow.

Slack is a private discussion pace for our class and our colleagues in Dr Zamora’s class at the University. You should be checking in on some regular basis; I recommend the desktop or mobile app; see the info sheet made for our Slack.

In this week’s email, you will find two Slack links to follow; one is a simple survey, the other with some info / links on some readings. I’d like to see how Slack can work for a group discussion space.

On Blogging

All your blogs are set up, and look beautiful, with great domain names. They are listed/linked as the “crew” and posts are syndicated in to a bloggers category.

Below and more in class, I will reveal a means for more efficiently surveying all our blogs; it’s what I use to get a high level view and understanding of your work. Anytime you have an idea, question, pondering, new possible angle on your project you should write something there, like a notebook.

It’s up to you to figure out a means to manage your research process, and keeping track of ideas as they emerge. Some use do use their blogs, others use regular notebooks or index cards, some jot notes in an app on their phone or use a tool like Evernote that synchronizes notes between platforms. Others prefer to record audio notes.

I am using your blogs and any direct contacts we have as a means of staying up to date on your process. Make use of it, what seems like a chore now will be a valuable record of your process later. Trust me.

From Topic to Question

We’ve had good discussions and opening blog posts that show me each of you have a clear idea of your topic. The phase now is to craft that into a clear question / claim / argument that is the central focus of your thesis.

You may have a previous text on research to work from, if not, in Slack I am going to provide a link to Chapters 3 and 4 of Booth, Colomb, and Wilson’s The Craft of Research on “From Topics to Questions” and “From Questions to Problems”

The best way to find out what you do not know about a topic is to barrage it with questions. First ask the predictable ones of your field. For example, a historian’s first questions about the Alamo stories would concern their sources, development, and ac- curacy. Also ask the standard journalistic questions who, what, when, and where, but focus on how and why. Finally, you can sys- tematically ask four kinds of analytical questions, about the com- position, history, categorization, and values of your topic. Record the questions, but don’t stop for answers. (And don’t worry about fitting the questions into the right categories; use the categories only to stimulate you to ask them and to organize their answers.)

I have started seeing your questions in your blogs, but would like to see more barrage to narrow in your scope. Try some of the suggested prompts in Chapter 3 of The Craft of Research. Practice them in your blog.

Then start working on the significance question, again from Chapter 3 of The Craft of Research:

Even if you are an experienced researcher, you might not be able to take this next step until you are well into your project. If you are a beginner, you may feel that this step is still deeply frustrat- ing even when you’ve finished it. Nevertheless, once you have a question that grabs your interest, you must pose a tougher ques- tion: Why should this question also grab my readers? What makes it worth asking?

Next, in Chapter 4, dig into the differences between practical and research problems:

The term problem thus has a special meaning in the world of research, one that sometimes confuses beginners. In our every- day world, a practical problem is something we try to avoid. But in the academic world, a research problem is something we ea- gerly seek out, even inventing one, if we have to. Indeed, a re- searcher without a good research problem has a bad practical one, because with no research problem to work on, she has nothing to do.

You are in the process of moving from Topic to Question to Research problem, and the path there is via writing, writing (ahe, blogging) and discussing. And writing.

See this week how you can start working this path.

Update Sep 19, 2017 My colleague Mariana Funes recommended two books aimed at arts research, both authored by Patricia Leavy:

We should check if these are available in the Kean Library; the preview materials might be useful, and if the seminar group agrees it would be worthy, I can look into getting an evaluation copy.

A Feedly Way to Be More Structured in Blog / News Reading

You may recall from Networked Narratives how much of a challenge it was to follow the output of 20 different blogs. But even following five blogs is complicated if you count on manually checking or even remembering to read them on this site on a regular basis.

I have for you a better way, and in fact (this means I want you to read this) this is The Indispensable Digital Research Tool I can Say, Without Lying, Saves Time.

Before class, I’d like everyone to create an account at Feedly which is an “RSS Reader” “News Reader” you can use via a computer or via mobile app for Apple iOS or for Android.

As explained in my blog post from the desktop app you can import a file that contains all the information to subscribe to all Kean blogs. Download the ResNetSem OPML file to your computer, and in Feedly, under Add Content use the Import OPML option to use that file.

You should end up with something like:

How Feedly sees the imported Kean blogs

From this single interface, you can read all the posts from five blogs.

We will review this in class, but this is only part of the power of an RSS Reader. We will spend some time each looking for blogs, news sites that offer feeds that are relevant to your own projects, so you can create a more structured way to get relevant serendipity coming your way.

If you would like to see how it works to create another set of blogs to watch, you can download and import into feedly the OPML subscription file for all the blogs in Dr Zamora’s Networked Transformations class.

In Class Today

Featured Image: MSc Dissertation Proposal flickr photo by tjmwatson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license