Summer 2014


Course Description



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What makes research powerful? Why is some research better than other research? Is it the design? The writing? The risk contained in the research questions? The timing? The congruence? The convictions of researchers?

This seminar provides graduate students with knowledge of how and why research is funded, the criteria for judging manuscripts for publication in Tier I journals, and how successful researchers build congruence into their work.

Researchers commonly make hard choices regarding which data collection and analysis approaches to use, which literature to review and also which body of literature to improve, which theories to support and which to challenge. Such decisions are not automatic. Here the premise is made that one’s philosophy or sense of mission guides methodological choice. Powerful research to some extent a result of the congruence of one’s ontology with one’s methodological and epistemological choices. What kinds of results are expected when a researcher’s purposes are unclear or weak? To what extent does it matter who the audiences will be? How and when should a researcher decide on the “products,” or the shape of the conclusions, e.g., a theoretical model, thick description, meta-policy presentation? What guides successful researchers? What criteria do the reviewers of journal manuscripts, theses and dissertations, and proposals of funding use when judging research?

There will be ten sessions. In addition, lectures will be conducted online. We will make multiple channels of participation possible through the involvement of the wider social web and the use of various free and open social networking tools (e.g., weblogs, Facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube, synchtube, Google Plus). Also, we will be using the course wiki (http://pgrads.wikispaces.com/) as a tailored course library, a holding tank for our materials, where articles, books, handouts and presentations can be found. During the course, participants who so desire will have the opportunity to use digital spaces in new ways to present their work.

Intended Audience

Advanced doctoral students possessing dissertations topics, literature reviews, and data.

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Literature Reviews and Conceptual Frameworks

Summer - Fall 2013


Course Description


The basic premise of this seminar is the main purpose of research, that is to improve the literature-- a literature review indicates the purpose of the research.

In this seminar advanced doctoral students will learn how to prepare relevant and congruent literature reviews. The approach includes identifying and contrasting various literature reviews, examining choices of bodies of literature to be reviewed and gaining the necessary savvy to take direct aim on the literature.

It should be noted that prevailing attitudes and informal policies within some departments encourage doctoral students to review literature in a descriptive, not a critical manner, as though all literature is equally potent. Such reviews merely signify knowledge of theories, not an appreciable critique of the state of the art or ways to push theory to new levels. When submitting manuscripts for publication or proposals for funding such submissions are often doomed from the start. If a manuscript or proposal does not offer something new it is probably not worthy of publication or funding. Chances are reviewers, especially if they are familiar with the literature, find nothing innovative or inspiring in a mere description, and may disregard an author’s approach, leading to rejection. No one believes all pieces of research are of equal importance; what is the point of pretending they are? Protecting time-honored departmental traditions such as this one comes at the expense of success.

Common sense indicates researchers are obliged to explain why their work might enhance a body of literature. Publishers and journal editors, as well as methodologists and theorists, inform us of acceptable methods of doing so, usually with heavy reliance on criteria such as innovation and vision. A proper literature review systematically reveals criteria others may have missed and directions few have taken.

Naturally, different analyses of even the best pieces of literature lead to different conclusions. What appears to be a cutting edge, seminal piece to one researcher may be of little value or inspiration to another. Researchers interpret literature according to their own, hopefully well-developed philosophic orientations. Similarly, doctoral students’ philosophic orientations, prevailing everyday attitudes and professional visions orient why they appreciate some works more than others. Accordingly, in this seminar emphasis is placed on articulation of one’s conceptual framework and using it as a heuristic device. Moreover, participants will be asked to establish congruence between the literature review and the themes of their studies. Congruence should also be found between a literature review and data collection and analysis strategies, intended audiences, and the nature of the conclusions.

Basic questions one might ask include, how do successful researchers justify their own work in a literature review? To what extent may doctoral students launch critical appraisals of prevailing literature? On what basis, toward what end and on which points must one be critical?

We will establish multiple aspects of participation through the involvement of the wider social web and the use of various free and open social networking tools (e.g., weblogs, Facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube, Google Plus). In this way, by both exploring the digital and using the digital tools, we will able to consider how our practices as scholars and researchers are informed by the difference of the digital. Also, we will be using the course wiki (http://pgrads.wikispaces.com/) both as a guide and meeting space, a place where you may find the handouts and presentations. All class sessions will be recorded and made available to you through the Connect link. In fact, it’s our hope that all recordings, handouts and presentations be made public in the spirit of open source learning.

The seminar is available both online and in a classroom setting. The seminar will be highly interactive and tailored to participants’ dissertation. Participants are asked to formulate their literature review strategies. Every activity of the seminar is designed to improve that strategy.

Intended Audience

Advanced doctoral students possessing dissertations topics, literature reviews, and data.