How to develop your Knowledge Mobilization Plan (KMP)

March 8, 2017

This week in one of my courses, I’m working with doctoral students to help them understand and figure out how to develop a Knowledge Mobilization Plan (KMP) for their research projects. The KMP is a required element of their project this term.

Here are some resources I shared to help them understand what KMPs are and how to build one:

https://research.usask.ca/documents/Knowledge_Mobilization.pdf

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/research/UserFiles/File/Amanda%20Cooper%20Building%20KM%20Plans%20UT%20Final%20Post%20Version.pdf

https://www.edu.uwo.ca/research/documents/Thinking_About_Knowledge_Mobilization_Plans.pdf

http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/policies-politiques/knowledge_mobilisation-mobilisation_des_connaissances-eng.aspx

http://www.slideshare.net/sreibling/how-to-write-a-knowledge-mobilization-plan

https://www.mta.ca/uploadedFiles/Community/Research_and_creative/Research_Office/Mount_Allison_Connects/Institute_events/Building%20a%20Knowledge%20Mobilization%20Strategy.pdf

I also shared my approach to knowledge mobilization for my own research. I use a multi-dimensional approach that includes four different audiences:

  1. Academic – Academic (peer-reviewed) articles, academic conferences
  2. Professional – Professional journal articles (edited); Professional reports; professional conferences (e.g. teachers’ conventions); professional development workshops
  3. Social media – My blog Twitter (@DrSarahEaton); LinkedIn; Research Gate & Academia.edu. (Note: Those last two are are like LinkedIn, but directed towards those working in research).
  4.  Community – This can include public presentations or workshops. The key is to tailor these to a broad general audience.

I am to get my work out to as many different audiences as possible and to create a digital footprint for the work, so that if someone comes across it years down the road and they are interested long after I have moved on to new projects, they can still find out about the project.

I also look for ways to link the “products” or “outputs” of my projects. For example, I just led a project on signature pedagogies for e-learning in Higher education. I had the report archived on the University’s digital repository, so the citation looks like this:

Eaton, S. E., Brown, B., Schroeder, M., Lock, J. & Jacobsen, M. (2017). Signature pedagogies for e-learning in higher education and beyond. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/51848

I then blogged about the report on this blog: Signature pedagogies for e-learning in higher education and beyond http://wp.me/pNAh3-1MP

I then Tweeted about the report, which then got Re-tweeted by two of the co-authors:

RT

Brown RT.jpg

I also posted or submitted a copy of the report at:

  • Research Gate:
  • Academia.edu
  • LinkedIn.
  • ERIC (When there is a full report available).

Basically, I try to get the word out in any many ways as possible.

All this, by the way, took less than two hours to do. I have had these accounts set up for some years now and this has been a fairly consistent process for me when I want to mobilize knowledge about a project.

Here is an infographic I created to help you visualize how you might develop your own KMP. Not all the elements I talked about in this post fit onto the infographic, so don’t think of the visual as exhaustive:KMP.jpg

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How to conduct focus groups: Free online resources for researchers

February 6, 2017

I have been putting some resources together for graduate students on how to conduct focus groups. Here are over a dozen freely available online resources on how to plan, implement, record and analyze focus groups:

  1. Dawson, S., Manderson, L., & Tallo, V. L. (1992). The focus group manual. Retrieved from http://www.ircwash.org/sites/default/files/125-10840.pdf
  2. Education Training Services. (n.d.). Focus Group Planning Checklist. Retrieved from http://www.etr.org/cisp/access-resources/focus-areas/organizational-development/focus-groups-planning-checklist-pdf/
  3. Elliot & Associates. (2005). Guidelines for conducting a focus group. Retrieved from https://assessment.trinity.duke.edu/documents/How_to_Conduct_a_Focus_Group.pdf
  4. Family Health International. (n.d.). Qualitative focus groups: A data collector’s field guide. Retrieved from https://sa-assessment.uoregon.edu/Portals/0/focusgroups1.pdf
  5. Com. (n.d.). Moderator Check List to Conduct Focus Groups or Depth Interviews. Retrieved from http://www.focusgrouptips.com/conduct-focus-groups.html
  6. Harrell, M. C., & Bradley, M. A. (2009). Training manual: Data collection methods: Semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.mbamedicine.activemoodle.com/mod/resource/view.php?id=486
  7. Jordan Civil Society Program (CSP). (2012). How to engage your stakeholders in designing, monitoring and evaluating your Programs: A step-by-step guide to focus group research for non-governmental organizations Retrieved from http://staff.estem-uc.edu.au/taipham/files/2013/01/A-Step-by-Step-Guide-to-Focus-Group-Research.pdf
  8. Kielman, K., Cataldo, F., & Seeley, J. (2012). Introduction to qualitative research methodology: A training manual. Department for International Development (DfID). Retrieved from https://rbfhealth.org/sites/rbf/files/Introduction%20to%20Qualitative%20Research%20Methodology%20-%20A%20Training%20Manual.pdf
  9. Modesto, T. S. (Ed.) (2013). Preparing your dissertation at a distance: A research guide. Virtual University for the Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Centre for Distanced Education (CDE) – (SADC-CDE). Retrieved from http://www.sadc.int/files/3713/7821/2867/Dissertation_PDF.pdf
  10. Reilly, L. (2013). Training handbook: Organizing and facilitating focus groups. Alexandria: VA. National School Boards Association. Retrieved from https://cdn-files.nsba.org/s3fs-public/05_PET_FocusGroups_Handbook.pdf?cVFz.heuGUiKZnO.caQz8Qjftx7AV9Fk
  11. Shallwani, S., & Mohammed, S. (2007). Community-based participatory research: A training manual for community-based researchers. Retrieved from http://www.livingknowledge.org/fileadmin/Dateien-Living-Knowledge/Dokumente_Dateien/Toolbox/LK_A_Training_manual.pdf
  12. Temple University. (2004). Module III: Qualitative data: Focus group tools. Rapid policy assessment and response. Retrieved from http://www.temple.edu/lawschool/phrhcs/rpar/tools/english/Module%20III_tools.pdf.
  13. Temple University. (2004). Module III: Qualitative data: Focus groups: Training materials. Rapid policy assessment and response. Retrieved from http://www.temple.edu/lawschool/phrhcs/rpar/tools/english/Module%20III_training.pdf.
  14. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Focus group check list. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/focus_group_checklist.doc

I’ll update this list as I find more resources.

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12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers

January 18, 2016
Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over and over again I see these phrases in research papers. Every single time I ask students to consider an alternative. Here are a dozen phrases to eliminate in your academic writing and why:

#1: I hope that…

#2:  I believe that…

#3: I feel that…

#4: In my opinion…

Research is not concerned with what we feel, believe or hope. It is also not concerned with our opinions. Research is about posing a substantive question that merits an in-depth investigation and  providing credible evidence to address that question. These phrases may work in reflection papers or journals, but less so in research writing. Omit these touchy-feely phrases and focus on the business of providing evidence to support your discussion.

#5: Clearly…

#6: As you can clearly see…

#7: As this clearly demonstrates…

This can come across as defensive. It may seem like you are implying the reader is an idiot if he or she do not agree with you. Even if you feel that way, refrain from letting the reader know, as it will undoubtedly annoy him or her.

#8: As stated previously…

#9: As I have already mentioned / pointed out/ stated…

#10: As already noted in a previous section of this paper…

These phrases can sound condescending. I have yet to see a case where these phrases (and the remainder of the sentence that follows) add anything useful to the discussion. Keep your writing precise and pithy. Avoid repeating yourself.

#11: The only conclusion is…

#12 The only logical conclusion is…

This can sound arrogant, defensive or both. The underlying message is that anyone who disagrees with you is an imbecile. It makes it sound like you flat out reject the possibility that there could possibly be any other conclusion, which is rarely (if ever) a good idea in research. (Remember the Copernican Revolution.)

Instead of using phrases like these that can make you sound arrogant or defensive (even when that is not your intention), focus instead on writing in a pragmatic and straightforward way that lets the evidence speak for itself.

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How many sources do you need in a literature review?

February 19, 2014

Students often ask me how many sources they need in their literature review. The short answer is, “It depends.” It depends on your topic, the nature of your research project, your level of scholarship, and a number of other factors.

An article from Canberra University (http://www.canberra.edu.au/studyskills/writing/literature) suggests:

  • Undergraduate review: 5-20 titles depending on level
  • Honours dissertation: 20+ titles
  • Master’s thesis: 40+ titles
  • Doctoral thesis: 50+ titles

Another strategy I learned somewhere along the way that I now share with my students is this:

If your literature review is one section of a larger research paper, thesis or dissertation

 Minimum number of sources = number of pages in the body of your entire paper (exclusive of title page, abstract, appendices and references)

Example: A paper that has 10 pages of content (the body of the paper) needs at least 10 sources in its literature review. 

A thesis of 100 pages (in the body) includes at least 100 sources.

If your literature review is a stand-alone document

Minimum number of sources =  3 times the number of pages in the body of your paper (exclusive of title page, abstract, appendices and references)

Example: A stand-alone literature review that has 10 pages of content (the body of the paper) should examine at least 30 sources.

These are not hard and fast rules by any means. Also, it is worth mentioning that as students and scholars who care about the quality of our work, we want to aim to raise the bar, not simply meet a minimum suggested standard. What these guidelines are suggesting is that you don’t aim for any less. If you do, your search for relevant literature in your field may be incomplete and you need to keep digging. Of course, your sources have to be relevant to your topic, too.

Not every scholar or academic supervisor would agree with the guidelines I offer here, criticizing them as being too reductionist or simplistic. My point isn’t to offer a black and white rule or open theoretical debate for which there can be no clear solution, but rather to offer a straight forward and practical answer to a question that academics often respond to in an ambiguous way, leaving students frustrated, exasperated and anxious about how to go conduct their literature review. 

When in doubt, talk with your own instructor or supervisor, asking them what their expectations are. (Don’t be surprised though, if you get an answer that is vague, like, “It depends…”)

Remember: Aim for quality over quality… and to do a quality literature review, you need to have a substantive quantity of sources.

Here are some of my favourite resources to help you write your literature review:

University of Toronto – http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/literature-review

U Conn – http://classguides.lib.uconn.edu/content.php?pid=239974&sid=1980274

University of Leicester –  http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/writing-resources/literature-review

Queensland Univeristy of Technology – http://www.citewrite.qut.edu.au/write/litreview.jsp

Birmingham City University – http://library.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.04.htm

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Why APA formatting matters

January 15, 2014

Imagine you are buying a new home. You tour around a number of properties. You see one that is messy, distasteful and uninviting. The sales agent says, “Oh, don’t worry, the foundation is strong!” The trained eye may be able to see beyond the bad presentation, but it takes a lot of mental energy to get past it.

Now imagine you are taken into a home that is clean, neat and perfectly staged. You immediately feel welcome. You are instantly engaged psychologically and emotionally. You want to see more.

APA formatting is to research papers what presenting a clean, neat and well presented home is to selling a property.

Your prof may be able to look past a messy presentation, but it takes more mental energy. You want to be able to say, “Oh, but the foundation of the work is just fine!”  and you want that be enough.

Well, it’s not enough. It sends a message that you don’t care about presentation. You send a message that you don’t give a flying leap that your work is less appealing to read. You may be brilliant, but if the essence of what you show to others messy and disorganized,  it’s less inviting to enter your world and spend time there. Sometimes, students insist that APA formatting inhibits their creativity or individuality. My reply to that is, fine, go be as bizarre and unique as you like in your own writing space — your blog, your journal or whatever.

There’s an element of persuasion involved in writing a research paper. I won’t say sales, because that will undoubtedly offend some of you. But let’s face it. You are trying to “pitch” your ideas. Follow standard practices for presentation and your work is likely to be accepted a whole lot faster than if you insist on doing it your own way. When you are writing a research paper you are trying to persuade someone to read it, like it and possibly judge its value (e.g. accept it for publication or award a grade for it). 

Sometimes I find that drawing comparisons between reality TV and academia helps students make sense the expectations of life in higher education. Over the past few months, I’ve been watching Income Property. I don’t own any income properties and I probably never will, but I find the show fascinating. I see patterns in how projects are completed so they consistently meet the objectives.

Host Scott McGillivray helps home owners turn unfinished or unacceptable suites into beautiful rental properties. He and his crew completely renovate the space. They focus on doing excellent quality construction, electrical and plumbing work that is up to code. The work is inspected and they get feedback from city officials and inspectors before they start working on the finishes.

To me, that’s the the content of research. It needs to be solid, high quality and done well. Getting feedback along the way is important, too.

Once they get the necessary approvals that the job has been done right, they move on to the finishes. They pay attention to the details and ensure the look of the place is consistent with sound design principles that are timeless and impressive. After watching a few episodes of Income Property I noticed that they use very similar approaches for each project.

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/670220That’s the presentation of the work. The design principles are outlined by APA, MLA or whatever style guide you use. The format is timeless and paying attention to the details makes it impressive. They follow presentation design principles systematically. Each project is unique, yet they follow standards in a consistent way. It’s almost like there’s a template and yet, every project is individual.

McGillivray consistently points out that doing the construction work properly is non-negotiable. Just like doing high quality research is non-negotiable.

But what gets people to say, “Wow, this is impressive!” are the finishes. Following accepted practices for presentation (which might be interior design for a house, or formatting for a paper) and paying attention to the details are what makes you stand out and be impressive.

For an exemplary end product you need both: quality construction and beautiful finishes. If you have only done only one or the other, you are being sloppy. To do the job right, you need solid construction and a beautiful presentation.

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What’s the difference between a citation and a reference?

October 18, 2013

Sarah Eaton blog technology researchThere are certain things no one tells you (usually) when you are a university student. You are just expected to know them. When you learn them, suddenly it is as if you are part of an inner circle of respected peers who accept you… but you are not really sure how you got there. The devil is in the details. What sets rookies apart from experts is deep knowledge of details and sublties that others overlook or gloss over. Knowing the difference between a citation and a reference is one of those subtle details that moves you from the category of “novice researcher” to “respected researcher”.

It’s one of those things that you don’t really need to know — until you really want to be taken seriously among a group of experts. It’s akin to car buffs who know the difference between a supercharger and a turbocharger. Unless you are a “gear head” you don’t need to know. But if you want to be taken seriously in that social circle, you might be shunned if you didn’t know.

Regardless of your field, one key element that sets the experts apart from everyone else is their understanding of details in various elements of our work.

For students and scholars, once of these subtleties is knowing the difference between a citation and a reference:

Citation

A specific source that you mention in the body of your paper. The format of the citation may change depending on the style you use (e.g. MLA and APA) and the way that you weave the citation into your writing, but the basic elements of the citation that you need to include are:

  •  Name of the author(s)
  • Year of publication
  • Page number or page range

If you quote a source directly you must include the exact page number in your citation or it is incomplete.

Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional development

References

This is a list of the the sources you have cited. The references come at the end of your paper. In APA style, this is not a list of “works consulted”. Every source that is listed in your references also needs to be cited in the body of your paper.

Every source listed in your references should be accessible by others who read your work. Think of it as a trail of breadcrumbs that you leave for readers to show them where they can go to find the original source material for themselves.

In APA style, not all work that is cited necessarily goes into the references. For example, personal communications get cited in the body of your paper, to show the reader that you have a source for your information. But if the reader can not track that source as a primary document (because, for example, the information is contained within a private e-mail between you and someone else), then it does not go into the reference list.

Alert! It is not very common that sources are cited but not referenced. Use sources such as personal communications sparingly, if at all. The more credible sources you have in your references, the better quality your work will be perceived as having.

In general, there should be an exact match between the sources you cite in the body of your paper and those that appear in your references.

The actual books, articles and other materials you consult are called your sources of information. You need to know how to cite and reference all your sources correctly.

Now you know one of the subtle differences of of terms used in scholarship that sets apart the experts from the rookies. When you use the terms correctly, those who know will quietly nod their head and accept you a member of the scholarly community.

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How ethical are you?

July 25, 2013

In some of the research courses I teach, ethics is one of the topics we cover. In a university, ethics applies to many areas of our work including how we interact with our students and our research assistants, how we grade students’ work and how we conduct research.

Research involving human subjects must receive official approval from the university’s Independent Review Board (IRB) before we are allowed to begin our research. This applies equally to faculty and students.

Sometimes students are quite puzzled by this idea. They ask me, “Why does an independent board have to give you ethics clearance before you start a research project? Shouldn’t people just do the right thing?”

The problem is that sometimes people don’t do the right thing. Or they don’t think through what they are doing to understand what impact of their research or actions might have on others.

In 1971 Dr. Zimbardo conducted a psychological study that became known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. Stanford University students were used as research subjects in the study, which was designed to simulate prison life. The experiment was planned for two weeks, but the shut down the experiment after only six days. The students who were role-playing as guards had become sadistic and malicious. Those who were role-playing as prisoners became depressed and showed signs of severe stress.

The experiment revealed a great deal about human behaviour and how power in a relationship can be easily abused.

The Stanford Prison Experiment has become a classic case to talk about when we learn about professional ethics.

In today’s world, it is unlikely that the experiment conducted by Dr. Zimbardo over 40 years ago would receive ethics clearance from an independent review board. It’s not that Dr. Zimbardo broke any laws. It’s that the risks to the research subjects would be too high.

It is worth noting that professional ethics goes beyond research. Inevitably, our class discussions get around to ethical conduct as part of every day professional practice. Students begin to develop an awareness of how their actions, words and attitudes may be harmful or unethical. I often recommend that they read Better Ethics Now: How to Avoid the Ethics Disaster You Never Saw Coming by Dr. Chris Bauer. He demystifies the topic of ethics in plain and simple language that is easy to understand.

Sometimes they ask me, “How do I know if what I am doing is ethical?”

I usually answer them in two ways:

Firstly, if you have to ask yourself that question, then chances are good that there may be an ethical issue.

Secondly, if you are really not sure, ask yourself this: If your greatest mentor was standing by your side, would they be proud of you for what you did?

That question assumes, of course, that our mentors are ethical, too. More often than not, we put our mentors up on a bit of a pedestal. We want them to be proud of us and we would feel happy if we had their approval.

If our mentors or colleagues disapprove of our actions or question our judgement, we probably are not acting in an ethical manner. Ethics isn’t about doing what’s legal. It’s about doing what’s right.

Every day we are faced with ethical choices as part of our daily professional practice. Ethics can be learned and they can be improved. That’s one of the aspects of Dr. Bauer‘s book that I really like. He let’s us know that everyone is capable of improving and learning to be more aware and more ethical every day.

Professionalism goes beyond using polite language or wearing business attire. At the core of our day-to-day interactions and professional actions, we must take care that we are never causing harm to others or putting them at any sort of risk, particularly when we are in a position of power.

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