How to Brand Yourself as a Researcher

February 14, 2018

Recently I was invited by the Werklund School of Education’s Writing Group, which is co-hosted by the Office of Research and the Office of Teaching and Learning, to offer a workshop on branding yourself as a researcher. I’m pretty excited because this gives me a chance to combine my passion for research with my entrepreneurial spirt that led me to have a successful career as an educational consultant before I entered academia full-time.

Branding comes from marketing, but that doesn’t mean academics should feel any disdain towards it. Think of it as learning to share your expertise with people in your field, and beyond, to a wider public audience.

Here are the 5 key points I shared during the workshop:

Specialize.

It is easier to brand yourself as a specialist than it is as a generalist. It is normal for novice and emerging researcher to have multiple areas of interest. This works while you are still figuring out who are you are professionally, but specializing shows you are developing as a researcher. Have a clear research topic that you focus on intently.

Articulate your expertise.

Marketing experts recommend being able to state your focus in 7 words or less.  Here’s mine: “I research academic integrity and plagiarism prevention.” Don’t be that academic that has to ramble on for 38 minutes non-stop to say what it is you are researching. Get to the point and make it easy for others to understand. Practice writing out and saying your research focus until it feels natural.

Develop your plan.

Plan what grants you’ll apply for and when. Develop a writing schedule and target specific journals in your field. Ensure every element of your plan aligns with your area of expertise. Mapping out your research and writing activities will help to ensure you make time for them. Once you execute this plan, you’ll be on your way to having a fully developed research program in your area of expertise.

Stay focused.

There are so many interesting research ideas out there it is easy to get distracted. Stay focused on your own research program. The most successful researchers do not jump on every project that comes along. Choose the projects you want to be involved with carefully and ensure they align with your expertise.

Mobilize your knowledge.

Have multiple channels, but one message. Think about sharing findings in both peer reviewed scholarly journals, as well as plain-language articles targeted to the general public. Think about videos, podcasts and other ways of distributing your knowledge.

The point of all this is to position yourself as an expert in both an academic audience and the public. Ensure others know you are the “go to” person on your topic. Becoming known an expert authority on a key topic not only helps you get noticed in your field, it helps you get hired, and may help you get promoted, too.

Branding yourself as a researcher

References and recommended reading.

Marshall, K. (2017). Branding yourself as an academic. ChronicleVitae. Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1681-branding-yourself-as-an-academic

Mutum, D. S. (n.d.). Social media for researchers and online personal branding.  Retrieved from https://warwick.ac.uk/alumni/services/eportfolios/bsrfbr/dilip_social_media_academics_ebook2.docx

Mizenmacher, M. (2010). Branding your research (and yourself).  Retrieved from http://mybiasedcoin.blogspot.ca/2010/06/branding-your-research-and-yourself.html

Tregoning, J. (2016). Build your academic brand, because being brilliant doesn’t cut it any more. Times Higher Education, (February 24). Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/build-your-academic-brand-because-being-brilliant-doesnt-cut-it-any-more

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 

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What is the difference between a dissertation, a thesis and a capstone project?

February 6, 2018

A former student and I were talking recently, and she mentioned the thesis she completed as part of her Master of Education degree at our university.

“I’m going to stop you right there,” I said. “You didn’t do a thesis. You did a capstone project.”

“What’s the difference?” she asked.

It is a common question among students. Students also ask what the difference is between a dissertation and a thesis. Three things they all have in common are:

  • Completed in partial fulfillment of an academic degree.
  • Intended to showcase the student’s knowledge on a particular topic.
  • Approved in some way by the institution that grants the degree.

But that’s about where the commonalities end. Here are some of the differences:

Dissertation

This is usually completed as part of a doctoral degree. The work is overseen by a professor, who is often call the advisor or the supervisor. Often, there is a committee that also supports the work. Students are often required to pass a rigorous exam upon completion of their dissertation. Then, the examiners can make suggestions for further revisions based on their review of the work and the outcome of the exam. A doctoral dissertation is often a few hundred pages long. When it is completed and approved in its final version by all the examiners, it may become publicly available through the university library digital repository or another public database. Sometimes people use the term “thesis” when they really mean “dissertation”. The reason for this may be that the word “thesis” is shorter to say.

Thesis

This is usually completed as part of a research-based master’s degree or an undergraduate honours degree. The length may vary, depending on whether it is completed for the undergraduate or master’s level, but often they are about a hundred pages. The work is overseen by a professor, who is often called the advisor or the supervisor. Upon completion of their thesis, students must often pass a rigorous exam. The examiners can make suggestions for further revisions based on their review of the work and the outcome of the exam. When it is completed and approved in its final version by all the examiners, it may become publicly available through the university library or another public database.

Dissertations and theses often have many elements in common such as being supervised by a professor and requiring an exam to pass. Capstone projects, on the other hand, are a bit different.

Capstone Project

This is a project completed as part of a course-based master’s degree. It is often overseen or guided by a course instructor. Sometimes students present their work in some way, but the capstone does not usually require an examination to pass. The length and format of a capstone project can vary and some are presented as multimedia projects instead of a written report. These kinds of projects can go by different names. At our university we call them a “Collaboratory of Practice” project, but the general idea is the same.

Here’s a handy infographic to highlight some of the key ideas.

Difference between dissertation, thesis & capstone project.

It is important to remember that these are simplified definitions to help you understand the basic differences only. When you talk about your own academic work, it is important to represent yourself accurately. You want to learn the correct term to talk about the work you have completed as part of your degree.

These explanations may not apply to every institution. If you are not sure, talk to a faculty member from your own university to get more details about how things work at your institution.

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Avoiding Predatory Journals and Questionable Conferences: A Resource Guide

January 9, 2018
Cover art - Avoiding Predatory Journals and Questionable Conferences

Download a copy of the full report for free from the University of Calgary: https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/106227

Not long ago, a graduate student was lured in by a conference in his precise field of study and wrote to me to let me know of his acceptance. I had never heard of the conference. I had never even come across the name of it in passing. I have worked in higher education for almost a quarter of a century and I’ve heard of many legitimate and credible conferences in my field, so I became skeptical.

I asked numerous colleagues, as well as our resident librarian. No one else had heard of the conference either. Kudos to our education librarian at the University of Calgary,  since he went to significant effort to determine if the conference was legitimate. In the end, we decided that it was not a wise use of the student’s money or time.

As a result of that experience, I started investigating the topic of predatory conferences and journals in more depth. I started this guide thinking of other graduate students and junior academics who might be at risk of being seduced into spending valuable resources on taking part, while doing nothing to advance their own learning, professional development, scholarly experience or reputation. The stakes are high for academics and the pressure to produce can be overwhelming at times. This guide is intended to help scholars make wise decisions about how to spend their time, money and resources, while simultaneously protecting and preserving their professional reputation.

The goal of this guide is to provide a clear overview of the topics of predatory journals and questionable conferences and advice on how to avoid them. This guide intentionally adopts a plain language approach to ensure it is accessible to readers with a variety English language proficiency levels.

Download a copy of the full report for free from the University of Calgary: https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/106227

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks for Educational Research

October 30, 2017

Sarah Eaton blog technology researchIn my experience it is not uncommon for graduate students to struggle to figure out how to develop a conceptual or theoretical framework for their thesis or capstone project.

Here’s a list of resources that may help you do just that. I have developed this list with educational research in mind. Some of the resources are from other fields, but may have strong transferability to educational research contexts. Conversely, researchers from other fields may find the resources in this list helpful.

I have curated resources that are, in my opinion, high quality and relevant to those working in post-secondary research context. I have tried to include resources that are publicly accessible and available free of charge. I have excluded resources that seemed to be (again, in my opinion) overly brief or were being sold for profit.

Remember, if you are looking for sources to cite in your research paper or dissertation, scholarly journal articles and book chapters are often preferable to other kinds of resources because they are considered more credible. If you are just trying to wrap your head around the basics, any of these resources might help you.

Web-based resources

Clarke, R. (2011). Conceptual framework basics.   Retrieved from https://youtu.be/vxA43z4B1ao

Kesterson, T. (2013). Developing Conceptual Framework: Part 1.   Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HrbL508aG4k

Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Conceptual framework: What do you think is going on? Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (3rd. ed., pp. 39-72): Sage. Retrieved from: http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/48274_ch_3.pdf

Metha, R. S. (2013). Theoretical and Conceptual Framework as Blue Print of a House.   Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/rsmehta/conceptual-and-theoretical-framework

Schneider, D. K. (2005). The research plan and conceptual frameworks.   Retrieved from https://tecfa.unige.ch/guides/methodo/edu-tech/slides/res-design-intro.pdf

Sitko, N. J. (2013). Designing a qualitative research project: Conceptual framework and research questions.   Retrieved from http://fsg.afre.msu.edu/zambia/Conceptual_Framework_and_Research_Questions.pdf

Thompson, C. J. (2017). How to use a theory to frame your research study.   Retrieved from https://nursingeducationexpert.com/theory-frame-research/

Scholarly journal articles and book chapters

If you cannot find these articles easily, contact your local librarian. Often librarians can help you access legitimate copies of materials free of charge if you are having difficulty finding them.

Green, H. E. (2014). Use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in qualitative research. Nurse Researcher, 21(6), 34-38. doi:10.7748/nr.21.6.34.e1252

Imenda, S. (2014). Is There a Conceptual Difference between Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks? Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi/Journal of Social Sciences, 38(2), 185-195.

Jabareen, Y. (2009). Building a conceptual framework: Philosophy, definitions, and procedure International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(4), 49-62. Retrieved from https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/ijqm/index.php/IJQM/article/viewFile/6118/5892

Pearson Casanave, C., & Li, Y. (2013). Novices’ struggles with conceptual and theoretical framing in writing dissertations and papers for publication. Publications, 3(2), 104-119. Retrieved from https://doaj.org/article/227a9233d0d54cfeb08379902fbc0827 doi:10.3390/publications3020104

Saunders, M., N.K., Gray, D. E., Tosey, P., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2015). Concepts and theory building. In L. Anderson, J. Gold, J. Stewart, & R. Thorpe (Eds.), A Guide to Professional Doctorates in Business and Management (pp. 35-56). London: Sage.

Related posts:

How to narrow down your research topic http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Xf

Developing a Work Plan for Your Thesis https://wp.me/pNAh3-1X3

What if you’re wrong? A question for researchers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Vq

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Share or Tweet this: Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks for Educational Research https://wp.me/pNAh3-1Za

Update – January, 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


How to narrow down your research topic

September 17, 2017
Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the things novice and emerging researchers can struggle with is learning how to narrow down their research topic. Here are some resources that I’ve personally collected and curated to help you tackle this complex element of developing your research project. At the time of writing this post, all the links worked and none of these resources had pop-up ads, paywalls or require any kind of payment. These are freely available and should be widely accessible by students in most areas.

Written resources:

USC Libraries Research Guide – Organizing your social sciences research paper: Narrowing a Topic Idea – http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/narrowtopic

USU: Ways to Narrow Down a Topic – http://ocw.usu.edu/English/intermediate-writing/english-2010/-2010/narrowing-topics-skinless_view.html

Thompson Rivers University: How to Narrow Your Research Topic – https://www.tru.ca/__shared/assets/How_to_Narrow_Down_Your_Research_Topic30237.pdf

BYU LibGuide: Step-by-Step Guide & Research Rescue: Finding and Narrowing your Topic – http://guides.lib.byu.edu/c.php?g=216340&p=1428396

Temple University: Narrowing Your Topic from Subject to Thesis (1-page worksheet) – https://www.temple.edu/writingctr/support-for-writers/documents/NarrowingYourTopicfromSubjecttoThesis-Worksheet.pdf

Starting a PhD: Choosing and Developing Your Research Topic – https://100thousandwords.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/starting-a-phd-%E2%80%93-choosing-and-developing-your-research-topic/

U Penn: Plain Talk About Your Dissertation Proposal – http://www.ling.upenn.edu/advice/green_proposal.html

You Tube videos:

Kansas State University Libraries: How to Develop a Good Research Topic – https://youtu.be/nXNztCLYgxc

M. Moilanen: Now to Narrow Down your Research Topic – https://youtu.be/EcYgNV_nQjk

Laurentian University: Narrowing Your Topic – https://youtu.be/JYYQTSXq6RI

Amanda Dinscore: Narrowing Your Topic – https://youtu.be/J1eVTf974R4

Steely Library NKU: Developing a Research Question – https://youtu.be/LWLYCYeCFak

Check out these related posts on this blog:

5 Websites to avoid referencing in your research papers  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1IA

12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1JX

Why APA formatting matters http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hc

How many sources do you need in a literature review? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hu

What’s the difference between a citation and a reference? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1F9

Why “as cited in” should be avoided in academic writing http://wp.me/pNAh3-1BH

10 Great writing resources for grad students – http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Bc

How to create a research paper outline: 5 great resources http://wp.me/pNAh3-1y6

Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks for Educational Research https://wp.me/pNAh3-1Za

______________________________________________________

Share or Tweet this: How to narrow down your research topic http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Xf

This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Developing a Work Plan for Your Thesis

September 11, 2017

Sarah Eaton blog technology researchIn one of the graduate level courses I teach, students learn to develop a proposal for their thesis. One of the elements we talk about has nothing at all to do with the content or format of the proposal (both of which are important). It is developing a work plan for the proposal. I tell my students that in turn, the proposal work plan can be expanded upon and adapted to develop a work plan for your thesis.

Elements to include in a work plan are:

A weekly schedule, preferably aligned with the dates of your term. For example, a work plan for a 12-week semester would start with the first week of classes and end with the final week of classes.

Concrete tasks to do each week. “Read” is not a concrete task; it is a vague one. “Download and read 5 peer-reviewed articles in my topic area” is a concrete task.

Build in time to do drafts of your work. Neither a thesis, nor a proposal can be written at the eleventh hour. Building in time to outline and draft the work is crucial.

Be realistic. If you have a major life event happening in the middle of the semester, develop your work plan around that event. (For example, don’t plan on doing a significant amount of work if you or your partner is having a baby in week seven of the semester.)

Here are some of my favourite resources that I recommend to my students:

http://juxi.net/studies/SpaceMaster/Thesis/workplan.pdf

http://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files//pdpfinal_web_march_2015.pdf

http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2002/07/writing-research-plan

http://ebeit.mandela.ac.za/ebeit/media/Store/documents/Research%20Guidelines/TopicAndTitle/Example-of-Project-Plan-for-Research-Project.pdf

Some of these resources need to be adapted to fit a proposal, rather than an entire thesis. Their usefulness likes in helping you to conceptualize and develop your own work plan, customized to your project.

Learning how to manage your available time and knowing what you have to accomplish in a finite amount of time can help you chuck out your work into more manageable pieces. Having a week-by-week plan, that you construct yourself, can help you stay on track and meet your goals.

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Share this post: Developing a Work Plan for Your Thesis https://wp.me/pNAh3-1X3

This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


What if you’re wrong? A question for researchers

July 14, 2017

Part of my work involves coaching graduate students who are learning to become researchers. It is not uncommon for students to start out their journey thinking that research is about proving what you already know – or think you know. And so, we start out our journey with some provocative questions, designed to break away from entrenched ways of thinking about the world.

A couple of questions my students hear me ask like a broken record are:

  • How do you define… ? (e.g. How do you define “leadership”?)
  • What counts as… And how do you know? (e.g. What counts as “the right answer” and how do you know?)
  • Who decides? (e.g. “Who decides what it means to be a leader?”)
  • According to whom…? What literature have you consulted to substantiate this claim? (e.g. “Leadership, according to whom? What literature have you consulted to substantiate this claim?”)

As we evolve as researchers, we necessarily dig deep into these kinds of questions.

When you become a “Master Researcher” (which is effectively what you have signed up for with a Master’s degree), you come to realize that it is no longer enough to “just know” something. We recognize that our personal experience, however powerful, is limited. We not only understand, but we insist on acknowledging, that what we think we know might be wrong.

I often ask students, “What if you’re wrong?”

If the first reaction to that question is a visceral twisting of your gut, a gob smacked open mouth and an instant response of “I am not wrong!” Well, then… you’re probably wrong. And chances are, you have some “un-learning” to do before you can produce quality research in the social sciences (or perhaps any field).

Once you get to the point where you can react with deep curiosity, with a surprising dose of delight and your instant response is, “Well, indeed! What IF I am wrong? What would that mean? I have no idea. I could be wrong. Hmmm… What a delicious puzzle. I really want to understand what would mean to be wrong, as much as it would to be right. Let the discovery begin!”

The less attached we become to being “right”, the more skilled of a researcher we can become.

Check out these related posts on this blog:

5 Websites to avoid referencing in your research papers  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1IA

12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1JX

Why APA formatting matters http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hc

How many sources do you need in a literature review? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hu

What’s the difference between a citation and a reference? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1F9

Why “as cited in” should be avoided in academic writing http://wp.me/pNAh3-1BH

10 Great writing resources for grad students – http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Bc

How to create a research paper outline: 5 great resources http://wp.me/pNAh3-1y6

Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks for Educational Research https://wp.me/pNAh3-1Za

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Share this post: What if you’re wrong? A question for researchers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Vq

This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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