Understanding academic misconduct: Special event

November 21, 2017

University of Calgary logoIn my role as Interim Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning for the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, I am pleased announce we will welcome Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes to our campus for a special visit on November 24, 2017.

We have two events that are open to the public that I wanted to share with all of you:

Lunchtime Keynote: Understanding academic misconduct: Creating robust cultures of integrity

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Location: University of Calgary, Taylor Institute Forum

This keynote will draw from Christensen Hughes’s research with the late Don McCabe, founder of the International Center for Academic Integrity. Their work was published in 2006 the Canadian Journal of Higher Education (see http://journals.sfu.ca/cjhe/index.php/cjhe/article/view/183537 and http://journals.sfu.ca/cjhe/index.php/cjhe/article/view/183525), and they were awarded with the Sheffield Award from the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE) for their contribution.

Afternoon workshop: Strengthening a culture of integrity at the University of Calgary

Time: 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Location: University of Calgary, Taylor Institute Forum

This workshop will provide a deeper analysis of why academic misconduct is happening on Canadian university campuses, including from the perspectives of faculty and TAs. Working in groups, participants will discuss their experience at the University of Calgary and generate specific suggestions for what the University might do to strengthen its culture of integrity.

About Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes

jch-colour-photoDr. Julia Christensen Hughes is Dean of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the University of Guelph. With a career defined by advocacy, Julia has addressed the United Nations General Assembly on the need for business schools to contribute to advancing the UN’s sustainable development goals, including quality education. Previously, Julia served as President of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, a predominantly Canadian organization committed to enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in post-secondary institutions. During this same time, she served as the Director of Teaching Support Services at the University of Guelph.

Julia Christensen Hughes’s scholarly work includes the edited book, Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2010), McGill-Queen’s University Press. She has also written on ethics and integrity in the academy, with papers published in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education. Julia has received a number of awards and recognitions, including the Gold “educator” award from the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI); the Sheffield Award from the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education, for excellence in research; the University of Guelph’s John Bell Award, for distinguished educational leadership; and the “Woman of Distinction Award” from the Guelph YMCA, for outstanding contributions to education and training.

These events are open to all members of the campus community and the public.


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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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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


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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.

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:





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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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.

Starting the School Year with Beginner’s Mind

September 2, 2017

celloA couple of months ago I took on the role of Interim Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, for a six-month term. It has been an exciting time, with lots to learn and many new people to meet. I have been eager, but have learned already that some days there is a fine line between eagerness and exhaustion.

I have taken time to connect with leaders and administrators who have more experience in similar positions, to have coffee and ask for advice on how to succeed in the role. Without exception, their advice has included having a way to release stress and focus on something besides work.

This weekend I took their advice to heart, and in doing so, brought a decades-old dream come to life. When I was a child, like many of my classmates, I had the option to take music lessons. I immediately knew which instrument I wanted to study: the cello. My mother’s response was, “No, it’s too big and you’re too clumsy. I can’t afford to replace it if you break it. You can play the violin.”

So, for the next three or four years, I played the violin. I didn’t really like it. The neighbours didn’t appreciate it. The family cat certainly didn’t enjoy it. I puttered along for a few years, until my violin teacher discovered that, unlike my classmates, I had never learned how to read music. I learned by watching and listening. I learned to turn the pages of the music when everyone else did, but I had no idea what the notes on the page actually meant. In other words, I faked it. And I got away with it. To a point. I played well enough, learned mostly be ear and by watching others, but I never really excelled. After about four years, we started getting into symphony music and I crumbled. I just couldn’t keep up. When my teacher discovered my lack of literacy skills when it came to reading music and scolded me, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed that I gave up entirely. I handed in my violin and never took music lessons again.

Until now. Almost forty years later, I have returned to that childhood dream of learning to play the cello. This weekend, I rented a cello and signed myself up for regular weekly lessons. I have taken the cello out of its case to try it and see if any of the skills I had as a mediocre childhood violinist would transfer. As far as I can see, the answer is: hardly at all. I feel comfortable with the instrument, but it does not feel natural. I have tried bowing the strings a bit and it sounds bad. Interestingly, it does not sound as horrendous as I expected, but perhaps that is because I have memories of the high-pitched e-string on the violin. The deeper notes of the cello somehow seem less offensive.

I have decided to start my school year with Beginner’s Mind. This is a Zen concept which “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Beginners must also be patient with themselves as they learn and to accept where they are, while they strive to build mastery.

I will endeavour to practice my work as a new administrator and my learning as a novice student of music with a Beginner’s Mind. After over two decades as a teacher, it is easy for me to fall into the pattern of thinking and acting like an expert with my students. By putting myself in the position of being a novice learner, I will be reminded of what it is like not to know; to be excited one moment and frustrated the next; to be disciplined enough to practice even after a long day; to breathe and to learn to relax in order to learn better.

This time, I will not fake it. I will be humble enough to tell my teacher that I do not know how to read music and I will try, little by little, to learn in earnest, rather than merely cope. I will admit when I do not know something, rather than try to mask my lack of knowledge in order to fit in.

My goal for this academic year is to relish in the delights and drawbacks of being a beginner, and allow that mindset to help me become a better teacher. And yes, this time I intend to actually learn how to read music, too.

Related post: 7 tips for teachers to survive the school year http://wp.me/pNAh3-gz


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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.

Making evidence informed decisions about formative written feedback for ELLs

July 6, 2017

iStock-woman at laptopI have been working on a research project with a former student, Lorelei Anselmo, about providing effective formative effective feedback for English Language Learners.

Here’s a piece featured on the Werklund School of Education’s “Research@Werklund” site:

Providing post-secondary ELLs with high quality feedback

Formative assessment provides students with feedback that focuses on growth, rather than a grade. Effective formative feedback can help students demonstrate that learning has taken place, and that the learners have used the suggestions to improve their work. Students who can reflect and act on feedback are more likely to be successful in their academic tasks – however, students of all ages must be taught how to use and apply feedback for it to be impactful.

In a study on international post-secondary English language learners (ELLs), Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton and Lorelei Anselmo, a Werklund MEd graduate, interviewed and surveyed 19 learners on their experiences with formative feedback, both in their home countries, and in Canada. The researchers examined what it means to deliver high quality feedback to students about their writing, and how these students perceive and experience receiving feedback. Read 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.


Writing Educational Research (EDER 603.23)

May 11, 2017

U of C logo - 2015I am feeling energized! This spring, I get to teach one of my all-time favourite courses: Writing Educational Research (EDER 603.23). I’ll be working with Master of Education (M.Ed.) students to help them craft a term paper into a manuscript for publication.

Why do I love this course? Because it generates results! Some of the students who take this course really do end up getting their work published in peer-reviewed journals, conference proceedings, books and professional publications. Here are some real-life examples of students who have taken this course with me and have published their work:

There are additional students who have written to me to tell me they have manuscripts in progress. I really love to see authentic, real-world outcomes from student learning and these are some fabulous examples.

Course description

Here is the official description of the course:

This course will focus on examining and developing the skills associated with crafting an academic report and discussion on research data. Topics include genres and purposes of academic writing, as well as venues for presentation and publication. An academic paper is more than a compilation of relevant literature, attending information and a conclusion.

An acceptable paper, whether intended for an academic or a professional audience, and whether a report of findings or a theoretical-philosophical argument, takes a clearly defined idea, situates it in the current literature, and supports it with a well-structured discussion. The principal intentions of this course are to introduce students to the various structures of academic and professional papers and to provide support in their efforts to craft, present and potentially publish their written work.

A traditional approach to writing educational research involves first learning about writing, then learning to write. Learners first study sample texts, analyzing them and then dissecting them, examining their structure, argument and style. The next step often involves producing an original piece of writing that mimics the style, tone and structure of the sample text. The final step is to integrate elements of the student’s own voice and style with elements of the texts they have previously studied. The rationale behind this approach is that the student must first learn what counts as excellent writing by learning about writing. Only then are they prepared to write themselves.

This course takes a non-traditional approach to learning to write about research for scholarly or professional purposes. Students will focus on writing, offering feedback to peers, revising, and incorporating feedback.

Students take on three key roles during this course:

  1. Writer – Crafting an original work intended for sharing in a public forum.
  2. Reviewer – Developing your skills offering substantive and supportive feedback to peers to help them improve their writing so that they, too, are successful in sharing their work in a public forum.
  3. Reviser – Learning to consider and incorporate peer feedback thoughtfully. As scholars and professionals, we recognize that our work is stronger when we incorporate revisions from trusted colleagues whose intention is to help us succeed.

Check out a copy of the course outline here:

EDER_603.23_L09_Eaton_SP2017 – approved


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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.

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