Expert Advice on Grant Writing

 

Research Proposals – What you Need to Know

dock on ocean in SA

In an online Q&A with researcher and professor Dr. George Veletsianos, students queried him about various aspects of research and the world of academia in general. What stood out for me was his advice about applying for research grants. Let me summarize what I came away with:

      • Know your audience: Find out about who is behind the grant. What do they stand for? What is the history of the organization? Strive to address any world views they may hold and show that you understand their goals.
      • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself: It is an interview of sorts. Don’t be shy!
      • Explain the following:

Why you? – Demonstrate that you are the best person for the task, find a connection in your life, past work that may illustrate this.

Why now? – What previous research can you link to culminate up to now; show it is relevant to what is happening in the world at present?

Why bother? – How is what you want to study contributing to man and woman’s knowledge base, and how is it connected to what the grant providers call for research?

Research is not cheap. There is money in the hands of willing agencies and organizations. All you need to do is win it with a worthy proposal.

 

References

Veletsianos, G. (2020). Questions about Research for George Veletsianos [Audio recording]. Retrieved from https://bluejeans.com/playback/s/PES97xtVyEHk1N21CMu2Nf6cWuxkum7cyWE7yZV9PPdarszJA4QnOQtZNBqC2oid

 

Open Education

 

One small step toward a better world: Systemic Racism and Privilege  

Before we can truly see how Open Education and Open Education Resources (OER’s) are the way we need to start viewing, practicing and spreading knowledge, we need to understand why they are so important.

Privilege. A word we should be familiar with, given the time and political environment we are living in. If you are unclear about what privilege really is or is not, go to this website to get a nice overview.

I am not sure how we find equality for all if we do not embrace Open Education. With the fact that the ‘haves’ are the vast majority of people attending the world’s top universities because they attended the top highschool because they attended the top middle school… Do you see where this is going? We can do better. We have to do better.

I found the following video to be a concise way to look at privilege. Have a look:

Open Education is a way to eliminate privilege that comes from sitting in the front row, from not realizing those in the back row deserve more. For me, I abhor the idea of all those voices that are not getting heard. In those voices, there may be a cure for cancer, a model for rainforest sustainability, the next brilliant world leader, or a physicist meant to discover a unifying theory.

Now that we can see real progress in Open Learning, it is time to push that momentum. As a grad student, I will share, I will allow the use of my privilege thus far, even if only to add to the growing number of amazing individuals who have started this movement. Open Educational Resources are only the beginning.

Ethical Responsibility

 

Themes in Research: A Preview on Ethics

Ethics in human research is a deep ocean of ideas, practices, and norms. Multiple books, papers, dissertations and research have added to this vast area of knowledge. My purpose is not to add any insight to this sea of discourse; but rather to briefly outline what ethics is in research and probe some of the main touchstones for qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods that have already been highlighted in multiple pieces of literature. As a topic that speaks to me; I find it important to keep ethical standpoints in the forefront of my knowledge base as I move forward in my academic career.

What is Ethics?

Defining ethics for the purpose of this discussion will be shortsighted, however, a brief overview is necessary to initiate this dialogue. In its simplest terms, ethics in human research is “The application of moral rules and professional codes of conduct to the collection, analysis, reporting, and publication of information about research subjects, in particular active acceptance of subjects’ right to privacy, confidentiality, and informed consent.” (Dictionary of Sociology, n.d.; Encyclopedia.com, n.d.; 2020). While I do not plan on unpacking all parts of this definition, it is important to note that it covers a very broad scope and is intended to blanket all aspects of research.

In Qualitative Research

Johnson and Christenson’s (2014) definition of qualitative research outlines that it “…relies on the collection of qualitative data (i.e., nonnumerical data such as words and pictures) …” (p. 33). This type of research can be ethically challenging because of the innately personal and interpretive nature of qualitative data. An example of this can be seen in any type of evaluation research, where “…determining the worth, merit or quality…” (Johnson & Christenson, 2014, p. 10) in the researcher’s focus and results. Since the research is engaged in looking at human behaviours or personal perceptions this creates highly sensitive and personal information that would be confidential in nature. However, multiple steps, such as ensuring anonymity and confidentiality that are built into ethical guidelines by government agencies like the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research in Canada (2016), work to negate these confounding factors for researchers and subjects alike.

In Quantitative Research

Quantitative research involves studies in which the data that are analyzed are in the form of numbers” (Drew et.al., 2008, p. 69). Numerical analysis, while seemingly objective can have ethical concerns. The quantitative study can have all the key elements of experimental design, or it can be non-experimental in design (Johnson & Christenson, 2014). Any type of research must be carried out with great care and attention paid to equity, quantitative methods are no exception. The ethical issues may arise in the case of an experimental design study which entails the manipulation of an independent variable (something that is theorized to cause change) and the effect that manipulation has on a dependant variable (something that is theorized to be susceptible to the independent variable). An experimental group would receive an intervention/manipulation, but the control group would not. The comparison of the outcomes of these two groups are then analyzed (Johnson & Christenson, 2014).

The ethical questions come into play when we consider experimental research with human beings and the assignment of individuals to one group that will receive treatment (intervention) and other individuals to another group who will not get the treatment (control group). Is it fair to let a group of individuals not have the privilege of an intervention we hypothesize would help them or in the opposite case; apply treatment top a group we theorize would harm them? In many cases, it would be unethical to manipulate said variable and study the effects. Johnson and Christensen (2014) give the example of finding a causal relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, pointing out that it would be unethical to conduct a purely experimental study to find this relationship (Johnson & Christenson, 2014). One would have to force an experimental group of non-smokers to smoke cigarettes and compare medical outcomes to that of the non-smoking control group. This would be unethical because you are knowingly causing harm to individuals. Instead, researchers use many creative methods to ensure ethics are in place. Including, using both qualitative and quantitative data to come to conclusions.

In Mixed Methods Research

As its name implies, mixed methods research is a combination of both qualitative and quantitative designs; and because of this, mixed methods research falls prey to the same ethical dilemmas that its component parents do. Are the recruitment processes fair and equitable; do power relationships need to be addressed; what are the cultural impacts; are there considerations for vulnerable populations; are there negative impacts of your research? These are all examples of questions that a researcher must answer to obtain approval from research institutions like Royal Roads University (Royal Roads University. n.d.). These measures help researchers and institutions protect their subjects from harm; that in the not so distant past; happened far too often.

Milgram’s obedience study (Milgram, 1963) and the Stanford prisoner experiment (Haney et al., 1973) are two high profile examples of mixed methods research that failed to protect their subjects. In both these psychological studies; participants were asked to perform tasks that; after the fact; harmed them psychologically (Baumrind, 1964). If today’s ethics policies had been more solidly in place, then those studies would have been designed very differently.

Conclusion

Conducting research; especially involving fellow human beings is a privilege and a responsibility. It is my hope that any individual embarking down this road takes more than just a cursory read of the ethics in research literature and develops a thoughtful and extensive evaluation of the best practices and problems concerning ethics in research. Thankfully, institutes of research such as universities, adopt rigorous policies and procedures for ensuring the ethical treatment of subject being studied (Royal Roads University, n.d.). Beyond that, the Canadian government has standards in ethical research as well (Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research, 2016). There is a responsibility for researchers to tackle the inequalities and injustices of our world; not add to them.

References

Baumrind, D. (1964). Some thoughts on ethics of research: after reading milgram’s “behavioral study of obedience.”. American Psychologist19(6), 421–423. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0040128

Dictionary of Sociology. Retrieved July 10, 2020 from Encyclopedia.com:  https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/research-ethics

Drew, C. J., Hardman, M. L. & Hosp, J. L. (2008). Ethical issues in conducting research. In Drew, C. J., Hardman, M. L., & Hosp, J. L. Designing and conducting research in education (pp. 55-80). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483385648

Johnson, R.B. & Christensen, L. (2014). In Educational research: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Haney, C., Banks, W. C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1973). Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison. International Journal of Criminology and Penology, 1, 69-97.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology67(4), 371–378. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0040525Royal

Roads University. (n.d.). Ethics – For Students.

Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research (Canada), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, & Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (2016). Tri-agency framework, responsible conduct of research. Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/crr-rcr/RR4-1-2016-eng.pdf.

 

 

Theoretical Frameworks

 

Theoretical Framework Team Project: Cognitive Load, Personality, Activity and Motivation; a brief overview.

Through a fantastic group experience; I was able to be a part of the creation of the following video.

References

Coghlan, D., and Brydon-Miller, M. (2014). Activity theory. The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (Vols. 1-2), (pp. 22-24). SAGE Publications Ltd. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446294406

Cook, D. A., & Artino, A. R. (2016). Motivation to learn: an overview of contemporary theories. Medical Education, 50(10), 997–1014. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.13074

Kaptelinin, V., and Nardi, B. A. (2006). Acting with technology : Activity theory and interaction design (Ser. Acting with technology). MIT Press. https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$26870:_ss_book:18551#summary/BOOKS/RW$26870:_ss_book:18551

Kaushal, K.B., Leon, Y.W., & Chun-Yen, C. (2019). The impact of personality on students’ perceptions towards online learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(4). https://ajet.org.au/index.php/AJET/article/view/4162/1569

Sweller, J., van Merrienboer, J. J. G., & Paas, F. G. W. C. (1998). Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design. Educational Psychology Review, 10(3), 251-296. https://10.1023/A:1022193728205

 

If you would like to see the annotated bibliography that seeded this video, have a look here.

Good Research Questions

 

To Research or Not to Research: What is the Question?

Research is innately a human quest. We seek answers, and we aim to explain the world around us. We must remember egalitarian principles that are; all people deserve to be treated equally (Arneson, 2013). We should also look at utilitarianism; the greatest good for the highest number of people, if we aim to improve our world (Dulgnan, 1999).

When human philosophy and scientific research find each other; we can move toward helpful, ethical and worthy questions to drive our curiosity. We can create good research questions.


In asking these questions; we may look to philosophical answers.

“W.P.F. – Greece” by Pollatos Dimitris is licensed under CC0 1.0

 References

Arneson, Richard, “Egalitarianism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/egalitarianism.

Duignan, Brian. [1999] 2000. “Utilitarianism” (revised). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 July 2020

George Mason University Writing Center. (2008). How to write a research question. Retrieved from https://writingcenter.gmu.edu/guides/how-to-write-a-research-question

Reflections in Academic Writing

Reflections in Writing: APA and Me

It is an interesting task to reflect. It forces one to stop; turn around and look at what actions have taken place. With academic writing, I find myself hurried and clamouring for the next idea even before my last idea has had time to settle in. It is no wonder I have always dreaded the act. The final product is always my prize, my sigh of relief. I have never found joy in the drafting. However, this task has shown me that pleasure can be found in the process of academic writing as long as I reflect on where I can do better.

Concision

Limiting word count has been a crux in my academic writing for as long as I have been handing in essays for assessment. I know from past professors as well as Royal Roads Universities Writing Center, that ‘wordiness’ can be a problem for other students as well (Blank, 2015). This propensity toward non-concise writing stems from wanting to write as my inner dialogue rambles. I get excited and lost in my thoughts, so I imagine that must be how to express myself. That is what Freud called ego (Freud, 2018). Concision is the act of using as few words as possible to deliver your thoughts to your reader (Bell, n.d.-a); a definition I sorely need to remember.

The need for concision is understandable. If all prospective and current researchers were to write as their ego guides them, the world of academia would be even more dense with heady, yet flagrantly intellectualized papers. The idea behind research and reporting out findings is to share them with the world. Nevertheless, if our writing is only accessible to the most elite, we are doing a disservice the world of academic writing. William Zinsser (2006) wrote; “Clutter is the disease of (…) writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” I read that in an undergraduate writing class, and to this day, I still struggle with unnecessary words. I endeavour to move forward in my academic writing with the idea that my inner dialogue is not why my reader is lending their time. It is for the reader that I must learn to think ahead, plan and minimize my ego.

Planning

Since the early years of my education, and even now, teachers tout the benefits and necessity of planning in the writing process (Bell n.d.-b). To some, planning is the groundwork and foundation for impeccable writing. However, for me, it seemed to stall my writing. I found that if I just set pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, the words would flow. If I try to mind-map or diagram my thoughts beforehand, I would seemingly distract myself with irrelevant side thoughts and branches of ideas that did not belong to my topic. How can so many teachers be wrong? The answer is; they are not. I can see now, that in the act of planning, I can predict where I might get side tract, or what ideas do not belong to keep my thoughts succinct and understandable to my reader.

After considerable effort, I did plan this paper. Probably not to the extent that a research paper will be prepared, but I followed a guide put forth by The Royal Roads Writing Centre (Bell, 2016) and found the process to be helpful. Planning a paper is meticulous work and requires the writer to acknowledge holes in their thinking. Again, I owe it to my reader to design and rework my writing to be as concise and thorough as possible.

Conclusion

Through this exercise of analyzing my processes and old habits of writing, I have come to realize a few details. I have learned my inability to be concise is a product of my poor planning skills, and that one can serve to negate the other. If I work to be concise, I am practising the act of better planning, and if I plan my words ahead of time, concision will follow. Now I can move toward finding pleasure in the process, and not just in that last period stamped with a sigh.

References

Bell, T (n.d.-a). Creating a document plan. [Video]. Retrieved from: https://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/writing/structure/planning-paper

Bell, T (n.d.-b). Introduction to concision. [Video]. Retrieved from: https://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/grammar/concise-writing

Bell, T (2016). Plan writing with PowerPoint.  Retrieved from: http://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/writing-tips/plan-writing-powerpoint

Blank, Kim G. (2015). Wordiness, wordiness, wordiness list. Retrieved from: https://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/grammar/concise-writing

Freud, S. (2018). The ego and the id. Retrieved from: https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca

Zinsser, W. (2006). On writing well: the classic guide to writing nonfiction. (30th-anniversary ed., 7th ed., rev. and updated). HarperCollins.