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.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Diving In!

 As with high diving, getting started on a research project can be scary.

Understandably, there are those who prefer to wet their feet by the side of the pool for a long while before taking a plunge. Then there are those who just jump right in without even testing the waters!

Either way, I can understand the nervousness. Those are deep waters. And they might be cold.

There is no one right answer to how one should go about getting all the way in, but, as with diving, usually we emerge from that initial plunge feeling refreshed and excited, saying things like "It's not so bad!" and "Come on in!" to those still at the edge.

For those of us wondering how to take that next step I recommend setting the following goals. This week: 1. Do a little googling of your topics (including google scholar). 2. Check an encyclopedia entry on your topic (perhaps more than one). 3. Look to see what books have been written in your area(s). 4. Check to see if there are any dominant and important sources or authors referenced in those books and encyclopedias. 5. Talk to someone who has done a lot of research in your area and see what authors and sources he or she recommends.

When the waters get deeper we will be finding scholarly journal articles. Be they philosophical thoughts, historical analyses, or scientific studies, in almost any area there are smart people who have addressed these interesting issues. When you get down deep under that water, you will find that you are not swimming alone!

But for now let's just have fun getting wet.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


The good news is that several of you have made significant further progress. A few of you are genuinely on schedule through the first month and trio of assignments. A couple of you are actually well ahead of schedule. All of you are on your way and have posted at least an initial assignment.

This fine Superbowl Sunday, however, bears testimony to the dangers of losing ground. The majority of you have not posted since early last week. As of 2pm Sunday afternoon, none of the fine new posts have received any student comments. And so forth . . . .

If you want to gain traction on your thesis project, and we will assume that you do, forward motion and attention to what other students are doing around you is a big help.

When today's football game is over, or before, or at least before class tomorrow, take the time to read the latest posts and instructors' comments on the blogs of your peers, even if you have nothing to post of your own. Ideally, leave a reply here and there yourself. It never hurts to give someone else a boost.

In so doing, you may notice several references in the latest batch of comments encouraging students who have progressed on refining their thesis statement to start digging more deeply into their review of the relevant literature. That's a preview of Monday's class topic and next week's assignment: lit review.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Off and Running . . . Sort of

We now are well into the slog of the spring semester. This week I noticed that, while several of you are deeply absorbed in your projects already, and a couple of you--Blake, Brenda--have also taken the time to review and comment on the projects of others, several folks are still stuck back on the first assignment.

Remember, we comment on your posts by Sunday, sometimes earlier. If you posted too late on an assignment the week before to receive comments before the last class, please don't feel the need to wait for us to leave comments before you get started on your next assignment. Or, if you do feel that you can't proceed any further without feedback, email one or both of us with your query. Or, post about your situation at the moment. We'll come back around to help you out of the mud.

All told, at least nine of the twelve enrolled students now has a blog up with at least one assignment posted and at least one set of comments and responses to go with it. One of you has a blog with no posts as yet, one of you has yet to start a blog, and one has yet to accept the invitation to be a contributor. If you are one of these three folks and reading this, try to get some kind of a post up soon, so that we know you're still with us.

Now the real digging-in begins. This is the fun part of the thesis challenge. It's hard work, messy, and satisfying if you really throw yourself into it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Couple of Items Mentioned in Class Yesterday

I told you about a new interactive tutorial that the UVU library has made. It's still in beta version with a couple of minor bugs, and it was originally designed for use in Psych 1010 courses, so the content examples are from psychology, but it's applicable to general research and may prove helpful to you as you familiarize yourself with how much your access to the UVU library can help your project. Here's the url:

Also, we brought up John Goshert's research writing handbook, Entering the Academic Conversation. You may want to check it out. It's a good guidebook; you may also know Prof. Goshert as one of our UVU English faculty. He's an accessible person, so if you're using his book as a reference while working on your capstone thesis project and you come with a writing question, you can look him up personally for a little feedback.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Beginning of a Thesis

It's now nearing noon on Sunday. Last I checked, all but three of you have accepted your invitations to the blog and can now be contributors. Only four students so far--Ryan, Robin, Brenda, and Holly--have posted their assignments as initial entries on their own capstone blogs. I have added all four of their blogs to the "My Blog List," where they join the blogs from the previous Capstone One students. I've also written initial comments for each.

If you haven't started up your blog yet and still have to post your first assignment, go ahead and do so. If Prof. Foster or I do not get a chance to read it before class tomorrow afternoon, it's still a benefit to have it up. Schedule permitting, we may yet be able to read and comment on it.

If you haven't started working on the assignment at all and are uncertain as to how to answer the questions itemized in the instructions (see syllabus, 7 Jan 12 entry, below), it may help you to review the four postings already up, as well as any comments made to them. We encourage you to comment yourself as well.

(A tip: you can always spot the newest entries simply by looking at each blog in the "My Blogs List": under each link there is the information that the latest post was made x hours/days/weeks/months ago. You should check out all the entries for the past week.)

See you in class tomorrow. Hope to spot your first thesis assignment here before then.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Heads Up

It's Saturday afternoon, the 21st of January, and this is just a friendly reminder that the first Cap One assignment is due by tomorrow morning. See the previous post below, which contains the the syllabus, to see what that assignment is.

Most of you have accepted the invitation to join this class blog (as of now, we have three holdouts). So far, however, only one person has started up a blog site of her own linked to this home page under "My Blog List." As a reminder, it is your own blog site where you will post your weekly assignments and where we will look to read those assignments and comment thereupon. Therefore,  they're crucial.

Looking forward to your first postings!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

And We're Back . . . the New Term, Spring '12


Chris Foster 623-0525
Mark Jeffreys 863-6199

This is the first of a two-course sequence during which IS students write a senior thesis, a research paper or project that draws on tools and knowledge from each of two emphases.
Capstone 1 is designed to facilitate the research and writing of the thesis. As needed, we may address theoretical and practical problems associated with research and writing, including interdisciplinarity, research methodologies, library research, and evaluating scholarly sources.
We will be taking your email addresses and inviting each of you to join the Capstone One blog, , as authors.
You will each need to start your own blog where you will post your weekly assignments. The links to your blogs will be on the home page of the Capstone One blog.
Post each assignment by Saturday night or Sunday morning, at the latest, before the following Monday class.

Grades will be based on the Final Proposal, due April 23rd, the Monday of finals week.

ATTENTION STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: If you have any disability which may impair your ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the Accessibility Services Department.  Academic accommodations are granted for all students who have qualified, documented disabilities. 
ACADEMIC DISHONESTY:  This course upholds the Students Rights and Responsibilities Code, Section VII-D, “ACADEMIC RESPONSIBILITIES.”  You are expected to do your own work on assignments and exams unless they are designed as collaborative efforts.  If you are involved in any form of academic dishonesty you will receive a grade of “zero” for that assignment.  If you are involved in academic dishonesty a second time during the semester, you will receive an “E” as your final grade for the course. If you plagiarize the proposal for the course, you will receive an “E” for the course.

First Class: questions, expectations, fears, examples--the Capstone One Blog

Assignment 1 (to be posted on your blog by Sunday morning, 22 January)
Most basically, what do you want to write about? What problem would you like to solve? What topic would keep your interest over the course of two semesters? What do you already know the most about? What would you like to become even more expert at? What question or topic will require you to use what you’ve learned in both your emphases? Can you state a first, tentative question you’d like to answer? Think about whether that question, like most first questions, is too broad for a thesis (requiring a book to answer it – and you’re only writing a senior thesis). Can you ask a more focused question? What kinds of resources will you draw on to pursue this topic?

Assignment 2 (post by 29 January)
            Rewrite/rethink your first assignment, emphasizing what progress you’ve made. Again we’ll talk about the topics, about progress made, sharing ideas and questions.

Assignment 3 (post by 5 February)
            Rewrite/rethink your first and second assignments. This will be a much advanced, third draft. Again we’ll talk about the topics, about progress made, sharing ideas and questions.

Assignment 4 (post by 12 February)
            Preliminary research. Use your noggin to squeeze the Google, squeeze the UVU library search engines, squeeze your in-laws, squeeze anyone or anything that might have information you’ll need for the thesis.
            Post a written description of what you’ve found that will help with the thesis. The writing is not for professors so we can see you’ve done the assignment but rather a record of your thinking and your findings. You’ll make good use of this in weeks to come.

Assignment 5 (post by 19 February)
            Make further progress on assignment 4, expand your collection of sources. Ask what you know you’ll need but haven’t yet found. Figure out ways to find it. Bring a record of your progress to class (with copies for everyone).

………that’s it for now. There will be other assignments to come.

In general, we’re working toward a robust version of the thesis that represents about half the work you’ll do for the final thesis. We call the first full version of this a proposal for research. We don’t mean “proposal” as first ideas, but rather at a full thinking through of the project, laying out what you’ve done and what still needs to be done in capstone 2.
This proposal must be completed and approved by advisors from your emphases as you begin the 499R class. When you ask faculty members to serve on your committee, you are also asking them to approve the proposal you have written. The proposal often includes a project summary explaining the topic, a review of literature and an outline of topics for discussion in the paper. The review of literature consists of a brief bio of the author of the source, a discussion of issues contained in it and quoted material from the source related directly to your project.

The thesis should involve a problem or question that requires you to draw on tools you’ve learned in the two emphases you have chosen for Integrated Studies. Each thesis should reflect serious academic research, clear and concise writing and should consist of an in-depth discussion and analysis of the topic. The length of the thesis will be determined by the topic and the disciplines involved. For instance, a thesis discussing a mathematical problem might be fully analyzed in a few pages, while a philosophical, theoretical thesis could take 30 pages to discuss. The thesis should include a clear statement of purpose or thesis statement, substantial supporting evidence for each assertion made, clear documentation of sources and a summary of the issues presented as a conclusion. The thesis should also include a works-cited section. Sources should include professional journals, books, articles, newspaper articles, documentaries, archives, personal interviews, etc. Internet sources may be used, but only with careful scrutiny as to original source and author and only to supplement other sources.

The Advisory Committee consists of three members: your IS Capstone instructor, and one full-time faculty member from each or your Integrated Studies emphases. Choosing the members of your committee is a crucial step in the capstone process. You should choose the member of each emphasis department whose work is most closely aligned with the project you have chosen to pursue. As an Integrated Studies student, you are still gaining a degree from the departments you have chosen as your emphases, and are still students of these departments. Integrated Studies simply facilitates the combination of these two disciplines. So work closely with the committee members you choose. 

Advisory Committee members will assist you in writing your thesis by reading several revisions of your paper.  You can call on committee members with questions about the topic as well as questions about research and research writing.  As committee members read each version of your thesis, they will comment on ways you can improve the paper. They are expected to give you honest and professional evaluation of your work, so be prepared to receive criticism. Work from the comments on each draft to revise, to clarify issues, improve support for your assertions and to document carefully.  Take the comments you receive seriously and revise to reflect these critiques. Once you have prepared a competent draft of your paper, submit the draft to your advisors. When you have received commentary from them regarding the direction and content of your work, revise and submit the next draft to your committee members. When you have received comments from each of your committee members and have revised thoroughly, submit another draft for comment. We will continue this process until all members of the committee are satisfied with the result. We hope to review each paper three times before it is ready for defense. Note that we are requesting only “competent” drafts for commentary. No committee member should be expected to review “rough” drafts or to read and reread identical drafts of a thesis. If you need writing help, the Writing Center is available to you.
This is a big project. It can be rewarding and enjoyable (even fun).

For examples of good theses and further information about the senior thesis, see the link to the Integrated Studies web site: (on the upper left corner of this homepage) or the theses in the library.