Sunday, April 1, 2012

No More Collective Classes

For any of you who missed last Monday's final full class meeting, that was it. From here on out, we will be looking to your blog posts and emails to monitor and assist your progress. Full proposals are due as blog posts and/or attachments linked to blogs and/or hard copies in our offices in three weeks (that is, by Monday the 23rd of April, first day of finals). Adviser signature pages with signatures are due in hard copy in either one of our offices by the same date. Go, class, go.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Final Stretch

I remember the feelings I used to get at this point in every semester (I still get them). It's a simultaneous jolt of "Yahoo!" and "Oh Crap!!!"

I'm going to focus this post on the "Oh Crap" part and let you all handle the "Yahoo" part.

As Mark mentioned last week, your "Oh Crap" list for this class consists of the following: 

1) Statement of Thesis and Project Summary; 2) Working Outline; 3) Literature Review; 4) Schedule for Completion of Project, with Dates; 5) Annotated Bibliography.

How are you doing with those?  I am especially concerned at this point about parts 3 and 5 (which overlap). Once one's topic is chosen and one's outline completed, the biggest remaining job is finding and evaluating quality sources. Those include big picture sources (big sources within the fields you are covering) and small picture sources (those few who have written about your specific topic). 

If you find yourself unfinished or stuck or confused or even unbegun on any of the five components then let's talk it through tomorrow in class (or come see one of us).

If, on the other hand, you're one of the lucky few who has (nearly) taken all of those steps already then the only thing I have to say is "Yahoo!"


Folks, either tomorrow or the following Monday will be the last time we meet as a class, face-to-face. If you haven't attended in a while or if you have attended every meeting faithfully, it would a good thing if you came. See you there.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Break Is Over, Apocalypse Looms

Since the world as we know it will end around the winter solstice later this year, it seems like a good time to start working faster on your capstone proposals so that you can plan on having a UVU degree in hand for the End of Time.

(Of course, the world as we don't know it will carry on as always. By definition, we don't know what that means.)

For those of you who missed the last class before break, we've been pressing you to come up with preliminary outlines. Barring that, we'd like to at least know what is going on with each of your projects.

We're heading into the last few weeks of regular classroom meetings, after which, the blog remains as our forum, but you each work on completing your proposals and collecting your adviser signatures individually.

As a reminder, in addition to the signed cover sheet, a completed proposal requires the following: 1) Statement of Thesis and Project Summary; 2) Working Outline; 3) Literature Review; 4) Schedule for Completion of Project, with Dates; 5) Annotated Bibliography.

We have discussed thesis, summary, literature review, annotation, and outlining in class already this semester, but we're happy to spend more time clarifying any of those requirements. Otherwise, the next step is to start in on the schedule for completion of the project, with dates. That's right: how are you planning to get from here to the end of your project's time?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Morning

Wallace Stevens wrote of Sunday morning's "late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair," on his way to considering rather larger themes that Sundays may suggest.

Here in my sunny chair, late in the morning, I see the small theme of students making fitful progress on their thesis projects. An outline here (thank you), a note on a new research tactic there (good), an update on struggles from a few days ago over there (and since?).

If you aren't one of the few who have attempted an outline yet, do try your hand at one before tomorrow.  Those of you who have partially drafted outlines, check for comments and consider whether you need to redraft or merely complete. Those with fully fledged outlines, check for comments suggesting whether the time has come for you to start showing these outlines to prospective advisers.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What You Think

For starters, this week, I feel I should point out that few of you took to heart Chris Foster's challenge from last week:

"My challenge to you for this week (if you haven’t already done so) is to come up with an outline of what topics you expect your paper to cover and in what level of detail."

More generally, the majority of those who posted did a nice job of posting links to recent reading relevant to their topic.  These links are an important window for your professors and your classmates.

They are not, however, particularly helpful as to the contents of your own thoughts about what you have been reading and researching.

A pattern discernible in class has been that, when queried in person, each of you has interesting and crucial comments to make about the reasoning and worries behind your chosen topic.

On the blogs, I'm still sensing that the majority of you may be posting for the sake of having made a post.

We want to know what you think about what you are reading, about what its relevance is to your chosen thesis, about where each source might fit in as either support or counterargument, and so foth.

Before you graduate, you will have to make this thinking about your sources and their arguments clear in the course and context of your capstone thesis and during its defense before your advisers.

We can help you clarify and direct the work of your thought now, early in the game, as part of this class, if you help us know, not just what you are reading, but what you are thinking about what you are reading.

Think about it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Beginning with the end in Mind

Sorry for the Coveyism, but I think that this habit can in fact be highly effective when it comes to writing a research paper. 

We are at the stage where a big concern is the scope of your project. Questions arise such as: What are the things that you are going to include? What things are you going to focus on? What parts might turn out to be controversial? What parts are you most worried about? What tasks will take the most time? What things require the most prior preparation (e.g. IRB approval)?

My challenge to you for this week (if you haven’t already done so) is to come up with an outline of what topics you expect your paper to cover and in what level of detail. I would expect these outlines to be about a typewritten page long and show what sections we can look forward to seeing.

Accomplishing this at this stage should give a combined source of comfort and challenge. Comfort because it will give you a sense of structure and put limits on what you have left to do. Challenge because parts of your project may have barely begun or may seem daunting.  A correct balance of those two emotions may help propel you forward in a structured way.

General Sun-Tzu, author of The Art of War, which argues that battles are won ahead of time with correct planning.