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Webinar Transcripts

Discussing Method, Procedure, and Study Design

Presented Monday, March 21, 2016
View the webinar recording
Last updated 3/25/2016

 

Visual: The screen shows a large PowerPoint slide with Housekeeping information about how the webinar works. Pods for captioning, Q&A, and files are stacked on the right side of the screen.

Audio: Beth Nastachowski: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the webinar. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Beth Nastachowski. I'm the manager of multi-media writing instruction at the Writing Center. And I'm going to get us started by going over a couple housekeeping notes before I hand over the presentation to our presenter for the day, Lydia.

So a couple of things just to note here particularly if you're new to webinars or new to the Writing Center's webinars. We have started the recording for this session, so if you have to leave for any reason or you would like to come back and review the webinar, you are more than welcome to do so. I also note that we have many other webinars. All the webinars that we present live are also listed in the webinar archive so if there are other topics that you are interested in learning about, I encourage to you look through the webinar archives for other webinar recordings.

There's also ways for you to interact with the webinar today. We're going to be using our poll later on as well as these links that Lydia has in slides for you. So if you see something interesting for you or useful, I encourage you to click the links for more information or to save those links for later use. We also have the PowerPoint slides as well as other resources like a journal and a checklist. If those seem like something you would like to have for a later date, I encourage you to click those and save those for later as well. Also note that you can download the slides. We have slides here in the pods along with a handout that we have put up for your here. We'll keep those open for you so you can download those throughout the presentation.

Also note that we have a big Q and A box on the right side of the screen, and that's your opportunity to ask questions throughout the webinar. So myself and Paul are going be to monitoring that Q and A box, and I encourage to you send those questions to us so we can get you answers. And if we feel like there are some questions for Lydia to discuss aloud, we'll make sure she addresses those aloud as well. Also note if we don't get through all of your questions or if you think of questions throughout the webinar, we encourage to you e-mail us at WritingCenter@waldenu.edu. Also note if you have technical issues let me know in that Q and A box. I'll try to help as much as I can. There is only so much we can do during a live session, so there's a help button at the top right-hand corner of your screen. With that, I will hand it over to you Lydia.

 

Visual: The next slide is the title slide for the webinar and has Lydia Lunning’s information listed.

Audio: Lydia Lunning: Thank you, so much, Beth, and thank you, Beth and Paul and our wonderful captionist for keeping things going behind the scenes. I have asked Beth to interrupt me if there are questions I can address for the whole group. But in the meantime, please feel free to put whatever questions you have in the Q and A pod, and Paul and Beth will direct you where you need to go. My name is Lydia Lunning. I am one of the dissertation editors as well as the coordinator for capstone resources. I want to say a few words initially as an overview for this session.

So in this session we're going to be talking specifically about writing issues and APA specific issues that people face when they are writing up their methods section or when they're discussing their methods and their procedure for data collection. If you have questions that are specifically about methods or about aligning your methods and your particular project or anything that has to do with content or methodological questions that you might have in general, I recommend that you first -- that you definitely talk to your chair or discuss them with your committee. But there are also some resources I'm going to talk about at the end of this webinar at the end in the later slides, or if you download the handout that Beth indicated there are some links there, too, to places in the Center for Research Quality where you can go if you have specific methodological or alignment or content questions. So I unfortunately will not be able to address many of those today, but there are some writing issues and APA issues that can make -- that can pose challenges when you are writing up the methods section.

So I hope that the session will present you with some strategies and some ideas and some options for how to write a clear, precise, sound scholarly document when you are talking about your methods. And just also to say that APA is not there to make your life difficult. Although, you know, it is very complicated, and there are lots of guidelines and rules to keep track of. People can sometimes get really tied up in knots trying to meet all the specific guidelines in the methods section specifically. So I hope that this session will ease some of that strain and give you an idea how to approach writing your methods section so it doesn't feel so constraining and complicated so that really you are writing just sort of a clear, straightforward discussion of what your methods are and your decision process of designing your study. I hope that thesis statement what this session can provide for you.

 

Visual: The next slide “Learning Outcomes: After this webinar, you will (be able to)…” and has four text boxes that list the outcomes that Lydia discusses.

Audio: Just a quick overview of more specifically what the learning outcomes will be. I'm going to talk about what the role of this section in your dissertation and doctoral study is not just in APA guidelines but at Walden and with your particular program and with your particular committee. There are a lot of little details that you are keeping track of when you are undertaking a document and a research project of this size. And sometimes I think it just helps to kind of refresh and review what the overall purpose of writing this section. So I'm going to talk a little bit about that.

I have a lot of examples in this session today about -- examples of well written scholarship descriptions of methodology and things that you can apply in your own writing hopefully and things that you can avoid or things that you can know to watch out for when you encounter them in your own drafting process. Also I'm going to talk about how to get started to know where to begin when you are writing up your methodology or how to incorporate the literature or kind of what -- how to get started and how to fill in all of those headings that are in the checklist in a way that are a good, solid reflection of your decision making as a scholar and how you decided to craft and design the study that you are either proposing to do or that you have already done.

And there are a lot -- as Beth said, there are a lot of resources in this slide deck and in the files pod, so I hope that people will use this webinar not necessarily as a demonstration for how to do the methods section but as a resource that you can then refer back to when you are on your own. It's kind of hard to demonstrate how to do something that is long-term and long form like the dissertation or doctoral study is because a lot of what you're doing is going to be thinking about things for a few days or coming back to things after a few weeks. So it's kind of hard to demonstrate that in a one-hour session. But I hope that you will take this webinar as a resource, especially for those you of you if you are earlier on in your program or in your degree. Make a note of this webinar and then return to it in the links and the resources available when you might need them when you are off writing up your methods section.

 

Visual: PowerPoint slide 5 opens and shows the poll question that Lydia discusses. The Q&A and captioning pods move side-by-side to the top right and the bottom right shows the poll choices. The files pod is not visible.

Audio: So with that in mind, I would like to take a quick poll just to kind of see where people are, see where you are in your program. There are going to be elements of this that are specific to those people who are in the initial drafting process so people who are actually at the point where they are writing their proposal. But there are a lot of things that you definitely want to keep in mind if you are planning out or you're early on in your program or you're just starting to formulate your study, and there are going to be things to keep in mind for those of you at the final stage who have actually already written everything up and you're trying to keep in mind what to do after you've written up your entire study how to revise your methods section to complete your research.

And it looks like we have most people reporting. So it looks like we have about two-thirds are at the proposal stage.

 

Visual: The poll closes and the results are shown.

Audio: So this is right -- I hope, I hope when it's going to be -- have a lot of information that's going to be specific to what you're doing right now. But for the third or so of you who are still earlier on in your program, I really hope that you make note of some of these resources and make note of some of these writing expectations and keep them in mind as you are developing your skills in your courses and also as you're planning out your research. This is great. This is a great breakdown.

 

Visual: The screen reverts back to the previous layout and the PowerPoint slide #6 opens. It lists two bullet points about the importance of discussing the method, procedure, and study design.

Audio: So just to review what the methods section is for or why you have to discuss your method, your procedure, and your design in your doctoral study and your dissertation, this comes back to the scientific methods. At Walden we are engaged in research, in the social sciences. And this is where the science part comes into it. So in your literature review and your introduction and your problem statement, you've established the research problem in the background. You've kind of described scholarly conversation and the significance of what you're doing.

Once you get to discussing the methods, the procedure and your study design, this is where you are explaining to your reader not only what you did, so the precise steps that you took to -- or the precise steps that you plan to take to carry out research but also why you did it. So it's not enough to just explain step by step the procedure. You really need to provide scholarly justification for why you made the choices that you did. And I'm going to talk more specifically about that in later slides, but I do want to emphasize that you have those two goals when you're writing this section.

So you're not only just saying what you did or what you plan to do but really explaining to the reader why so that they understand what the scholarly motivation was behind the choices that you made. And there are a lot of metaphors that you may have heard people use either at residencies or in discussions with your faculty. Some people like to discuss the methods section as a recipe. So you're just writing up all of the elements in the recipe so that you can hand it off to someone else and they could replicate what you did. And that is really what you're doing with the scientific method is that you are taking clear, systematic steps so that someone else can replicate your results. So either they can replicate exactly what you did and come to the same conclusion or, if it's someone doing research in a similar field or on a similar topic, they can take your procedure and replicate it in a new setting or in a new context and really build off of what you've done in your doctoral study or dissertation.

So you want to make sure that the steps and the procedures you're describing are clear and systematic, that they are transparent so that there are not elements that you do not disclose in your research that could have a significant impact on the data that you end up collecting so, you know, you don't forget to disclose that you actually knew the participants before you interviewed them or you forget to disclose that there was a certain element to the introduction to the survey that was going to significantly bias people's responses or things like that. So you want to make sure that you are transparent in disclosing all elements that would have a relevant impact on the data that you collect and that you are doing it in a clear and systematic way so that people could read your study. They could just flip straight to your methods section and look at what you did and then replicate your results just based on what you wrote in your study.

So keep in mind your audience includes readers who are not just you and your committee and people who have been involved in the development of your research, so they don't have special background knowledge on the choices that you made. You want to make sure you're stating everything clearly and specifically enough so that someone who is just flipping to your methods section for the first time can still understand what you did and why you did it. So that's the purpose of this section.

 

Visual: The PowerPoint slide changes to “General Methods Writing Tips: The User’s Manual for Your Research.” This slide has a graphic of a computer user manual. A sentence with the purpose of the methods section is also included which Lydia discusses in detail.

Audio: And with that come a very specific set of writing objectives. And in addition to thinking of this as a recipe, you can think of it as your user's manual. And as I indicated at the beginning, the writing process for the doctoral study and the dissertation is long-term so hopefully not too long. But it is, you know, over a series of weeks and months and terms that you are developing and carrying out your doctoral capstone. So you want to make sure that you have written a clear user's manual so that not only when you pass this on you could potentially pass this on to someone else to replicate or carry out your research. You need to actually remember what you plan to do so that when it comes time to do it you don't have to improvise because that's -- you know, you want to make it so that you're not stuck out in the field collecting data, not really sure what to do and not having a contingency plan if things go wrong. You want to make sure you're clear and specific in your methods section so you can just have everything all set, go to your research site, have a plan B if things don't go as expected, and carry out your study and collect your data. You don't want to be left in the field having to improvise and kind of make due when you haven't really left yourself a step-by-step guide for what the plan is. That's another thing to keep in mind.

Not only are you being kind to future researchers, you're really being kind to your future self. I say that a lot in terms of planning for and writing out the doctoral study and dissertation. It takes a while, and it takes a lot of steps, so at each stage you want to make sure you're being kind to your future self.

 

Visual: Slide #8 “Beginning to write…” opens and four bullet points to keep in mind that Lydia discusses.

Audio: So as you're beginning to write, keep in mind that the method flows from your research questions. So your research questions are going to determine the kind of method that you take and the kind of design that you develop or the kind of design that you use. Excuse me. You want to make sure that you do not go in the other direction. You'll have a very hard time creating sound, scholarly, doctorate level research if you start with the kind of method and reverse engineer the kind of questions you need. You don't want to say I think qualitative research is going to take too long so I want to make sure I develop a quantitative study.

Quantitative information may not be relevant to your topic at this time. Maybe your research question really encourages and needs the qualitative approach. So you want to make sure that the method that you determine flows from the research questions and not in the other direction because you don't want to create a methods section and draft a methods section that does not align with your research questions and problem statement, because then that will be a lot of work that you have to undo or redo.

So you want to make sure you're starting from your research questions and that the method comes from there so that you can keep moving forward and you don't have to backtrack in your approval process. When it comes time to actually write up your methods and discuss your procedure and design, you should have already determined your research questions. But you should also have an idea of what your methodology is and what the research design is going to be. If you are not sure about what these things are or how they fit together, you want to have a conversation with your chair and clear up any questions that you have. And there are also those resources through the Center for Research Quality. There are methodology office hours if you have a question. Or if you're not sure of certain directions that you got from your chair you want to clarify them before you go back to your chair with more questions, go to the Center for Research Quality. Maybe you need to go to IRB and ask questions from IRB about what their expectations are.

But make sure that you have these things clearly set before you start writing up this section or you're going to end up having to redo a lot of work and realign a lot of things, and you want to avoid that kind of situation or you want to avoid unforeseen gaps down the road. So make sure that all this stuff is set up. You and your chair and your committee are all on the same page, and then you can just get set to writing your document.

And you should describe it all specifically. So the design, how you conducted your sample and your measures. And I've put a couple of pages here in the APA manual. I know that the APA manual is full of a lot of guidelines and rules and exceptions, but if you haven't had a chance to read the initial chapter or the initial chapters, there are what I -- I mean, what I think are some really lovely discussions of expectations for social science writing and just kind of how to write a successful and a solid methods section and kind of the different scholarly approaches to take or things to keep in mind when you're addressing your goals and your purpose in this section. So I recommend people check that out if you have not already. There is a lot of stuff that you can take note of and keep close when you are starting a longer drafting process.

 

Visual: The slide changes to “All methods sections have:” and has a text box with six bullet points that Lydia discusses. Below the text box is the sentence “Essentially, you will describe, step-by-step what you did to collect (or will do to collect) your data.” The slide also has a reminder to consult your specific rubric or checklist, and to use the resources in the Files pod.

Audio: So you want to make sure that your methods section includes all of the necessary elements. And here's where you will need to defer to your chair and the requirements of your program in addition to the different checklists and rubrics for your degree. So in terms of what order this should all go in and what information belongs under each heading, you want to make sure you've downloaded the correct checklist. So for example, if you are getting a Ph.D., and you're writing a dissertation, and you know that you're going to do a quantitative study, make sure that you have downloaded the quantitative checklist and that you have included all of the headings in that checklist for chapter three in the Ph.D. dissertation.

The methods go in chapter three. And you want to make sure that all the information under those headings is included as described in that checklist. So essentially, what you're going to do is you're going to go step by step how you collected your data and why. But you want to make sure you do it in such a way that it follows the guidelines and specifications of your program. So keep in mind that different programs have different -- there may be slightly different organization. There may be slightly different descriptions or expectations for what goes in each heading in each section. So you want to work closely with your chair and with your committee to make sure you're meeting all those requirements, but you definitely want to make sure you're not leaving anything out. So if you download the resources in PDF again from the files pod, you can get links to ask questions in clearing things and discussing things with your chair.

 

Visual: Slide #10 “General writing and APA tips” opens and lists three bullet points that Lydia discusses.

Audio: With APA, I find that it helps to start generally. Start general and then move to the specification. So if you start with the general principles of APA writing and APA style and how they apply when you are discussing methods and justifying your design, you want to make sure that you've provided enough details.

So you want to make sure your writing is clear and precise. So how did you attain access? How did you obtain access to the research site? How did you determine who was going to be in your study? How did you determine your population? How did you gain access to your population? You want to make sure there are enough details that as your reader is following along at no point should your reader say, wait a minute, how did you get from point A to point B. There's a step that I don't understand how you got here. At no point do you want your reader to question, hold on, there's a gap, I don't understand what's going on. You want to provide enough detail that your reader can clearly and easily follow along step by step what you did and why you did it.

Anticipating IRB requirements and anticipating what is going to go in your IRB application is a great way to make sure you're providing enough significant and accurate detail in your methods section. I'm a firm believer that the IRB application in anticipating what's going on there through the guidance of your chair and your URR, part of what they do is help you anticipate what's going to happen at the IRB approval stage, but the IRB approval stage is really a great way to spot-check yourself and make sure you are including enough relevant detail.

So even if you're not at the IRB application stage, going to IRB office hours or talking to your chair or URR about what the expectations are for IRB approval can really help you map out your methods section in enough detail so you don't have to go back later and add stuff in, so that you're looking ahead to what the requirements are going to be and say, okay, I've met all these requirements, I know what's expected of me, I'm not going to have to go back and add in or adjust information for IRB approval. I know I'm writing toward IRB approval in my methods section basically. For those of you who are at the final stages, after -- once you get over IRB approval, once you get past that stage, you want to make sure that you have included that approval number in your document. That is essential for doctoral studies and dissertations that are published through Walden in the ProQuest database. You want to make sure that your IRB approval number appears in that document. Because once you have completed your final study, you don't need to include all of your application documents in your final study. You just need that IRB approval number to say my document was approved. If you have any questions or you need to follow up about any of the approval procedures, here's the number. Here's the number for reference through the Walden Institutional Review Board. So just make sure that that approval number appears either in your methods section or in an appendix.

And this third thing is where it can kind of get tricky or there can kind of be -- I don't want to say confusion, but there can kind of be writing issues that people run into when trying to figure out how to cite sources in their methods section. Because you have probably -- once you're writing the methods section you have probably done all of this work, incorporating cited research in your literature review. How do you do that? How do you do that without repeating yourself? How do you incorporate scholarly evidence and scholarly research and reference to the current scholarly discussion in your methods section in a way that's specific to justifying your methods rather than just repeating all the information in your literature review? So I'm going to have more specific examples of that. But really, the reason that you are citing outside research in your methods section is to give examples. That's the -- you're going to find a couple of hallmarks of studies, method and content. And you want to really use their justification for their methods and their explanation of why they used the methods they did as support for the decisions that you then make.

So whereas in your literature review you've probably been talking about findings and talking about study findings a lot to discuss the current scholarly conversation when it comes time to justify your methods, you're going to want to talk about the methods or examples of methods or examples of studies that have taken on similar methods to justify the decisions that you made. And whether that discussion belongs wholly in your literature review or some of it belongs in your methods section will be something you discuss with your chair and something you determine with your committee based on the conventions of your discipline or the requirements of your program. But in general, you want to make sure that you're not just citing findings, that you're also using the literature to justify your decisions in terms of study method of design.

 

Visual: Slide #11 “Verb tense” opens. The first bullet point lists the rule for verb tense for the proposal followed by an example sentence in a text box. The second bullet point lists the rule for verb tense in the final capstone document followed by an example sentence in a text box.

Audio: One thing that can be a stumbling block when writing in APA style, especially if you are reading things written in other scholarly styles or if you've been trained in other scholarly styles, one thing that can be a stumbling block is verb tense. As you have no doubt been told in APA style, there are certain things that always need to be in the past tense. And the thing that you need to remember is the things that need to be in past tense are things that have already happened. So if it helps to think about verb tense in APA style this way, verb tense needs to reflect when an action took place. And that, I mean that's really all you need to remember.

If you're writing your proposal, a lot of the stuff you're talking about hasn't happened yet, so you don't have to talk about it in the past tense. You're going to talk about it in the future tense. You need to remember though that when you've actually carried out your research, you need to go back and revise your proposal chapters so that things that have now taken place are in the past tense. So you always talk about previous studies, previous findings, things that other researchers have already written and published. All of those things have already happened at a specific point in time, so you always talk about those in the past tense.

Now that you are proposing and carrying out your own original research, you're going to have to keep in mind that the verb tense still needs to make sense. So if you haven't done it yet, make sure it's in the future tense. Once you have done it, make sure you go back and change it, because if your reader is going through the ProQuest database and they are looking at your methods section and some of it is still in future tense, they're going to be confused, and they are going to think is this part of this study or is this something that this researcher is recommending happens after the study? I'm not quite sure at what point in time this thing is supposed to take place. Just make sure that verb tense reflects when an action has taken place, and you should be in good shape. And if you have any questions about that, you can defer to the APA manual or you can write to editor@waldenu.edu. But for the most part, just make sure that the verb tense matches when something happened and you should be good.

 

Visual: Slide #12 “Voice” opens. It reminds the viewer to avoid third person and has two examples in text boxes. The first example is written in third person and the second example is written in first person. In each example, the color of the font changes for the words that illustrate the difference.

Audio: Another stumbling block that people can encounter or another area where people can get mixed messages depending on the literature that they're reading or the information they are getting from people in other disciplines is when to use third person. So I will say definitively according to APA 6th Edition on page 69 -- I didn't put the page number on the slide, but you can write down the page number. On page 69 in APA 6th Edition, when you are talking about yourself, you should not use the third person. If you are talking specifically about yourself, you do not want to refer to yourself as the researcher. Now, the reason this is cause for confusion is this is actually different from older styles and older editions.

So it is a way that you may still see in certain writing and that you may still see if you're reading kind of older research or seminal works from before APA 6th Edition. But keep in mind that in APA 6th Edition you want to avoid referring to yourself in the third person. And the reason for that is that you're going to be talking about a lot of researchers in your study. In your literature review you might talk about Smith 2014 discovered that XYZ, the researcher also discovered that ABC. And so if it's a document where you're referring to yourself in the third person, as a reader I might be confused. Okay, are they talking about Smith 2014 here, or are they talking about themselves? So that's why you want to avoid referring to yourself in the third person. If you want to talk about yourself and your actions carrying out the study, you want to use first person. But in APA style, avoid using the researcher to refer to yourself.

 

Visual: Slide #13 opens and continues to show information about “Voice.” This slide illustrates active voice and has two text boxes with examples. The first sentence is written in passive voice and the second sentence is written in active voice. The font colors of the verbs are different from the rest of the words to show the difference.

Audio: One thing that is actually not a hard and fast rule but is a guideline in APA style to encourage clarity is using active voice. So this does not mean that you can only use active voice in APA. There are certain cases where it's actually impossible to express what you're trying to say only relying on active voice. There are some cases where to meet all other guidelines and to meet all other scholarly conventions you may need to use passive voice. And we will talk about those -- a couple of examples of those in a later slide. But I do just want to say that the emphasis and the preference in APA style is for active voice. And that is for a lot of reasons, mainly in terms of clarity and specificity and just logical flow of sentences that the subject of the sentence is the source of the action, that, you know, the subject is the thing doing the verb, and it just makes for a clearer read.

So you can see in these two examples in this study data were collected. That's an example of passive voice because you don't know who is doing the collecting. So to make it active you would just say in this study I conducted intensive interviews. And because this is a guideline and not a hard and fast rule there are some exceptions.

 

Visual: The next slide “Voice: Using all passive voice is unclear” and has an example paragraph with passive voice in a different color font.

Audio: So I am going to talk about when those -- when some of those exceptions may be necessary. But for the most part, this is an example of what it looks like when you're using nothing but passive voice. The reason APA suggests avoiding passive voice or avoiding too much passive voice is that otherwise you get paragraphs like this. A survey was administered. Teachers were invited. Requirements for participation were provided. Teachers were e-mailed. There is no -- it's not clear at all anywhere in this paragraph who is doing what. And you may say, well, isn't it just assumed that I as the researcher am doing these things and that's why it's in passive voice? Not necessarily. It could be any number of sources of action in this sentence. Maybe someone administered the survey on your behalf. Maybe somebody else invited the teachers. So you can't just assume that the reader is going to know that you're the one doing something if you use passive voice. It can lead to really sort of vague and unclear and unspecific writing. So that's why you want to avoid passive voice.

 

Visual: Slide #15 “Voice: ‘I’ + some passive voice is just right” and describes when passive voice is acceptable. The bottom of the slide has a text box with an example paragraph.

Audio: The reason that this can get tricky, specifically in the methods section, is what are you talking about in your methods section? What are you talking about when you're discussing procedure? You're talking about what you did. So because you're not supposed to refer to the researcher, if you're talking about what you did, you can run into the situation where you just start every sentence with I. So you could say I did this, I did that, then I did this. And while that's not wrong, while there's not a rule against using I, there's no specific rule of the number of times you can use I or whether or not you can use I to begin a sentence. There are no specific rules about that.

The reason you want to avoid overusing I in scholarly work is that it puts the emphasis on you as the individual researcher rather than putting the emphasis on the procedure or the methods or the decisions that you made or the actions that you took. And also it just makes for kind of a choppy read if you're not able to really vary your sentence structure if you just begin every sentence with I. I did this, I did that, I did this. It's sort of repetitive, and it doesn't make for a very dynamic or interesting read on the part of your reader. So you don't want to overuse I.

And this is a case that one thing we suggest at the Writing Center is that you establish who is doing the action. So if you're carrying out the activities in a sentence you use at the beginning to establish that you're the one doing things. In this study, I administered a survey. And then if it's clear through the rest of the sentence that you're still the one taking the action, you can do kind of a combination of first person and passive voice or just use I once and then use passive voice throughout the rest of the paragraph just to establish who is doing what.

But then to keep the focus on the actions that were taking place rather than on you as the individual researcher. And again, this is not a rule. This is not true in all cases, and this is not the only way of doing it, but this is one approach that we advocate at the Writing Center for how to balance APA recommendations and APA guidelines with kind of the scholarly conventions and requirements of writing up this section. So one way to balance that is to make sure that it's clear that you're the one doing things but then emphasize the actions taking place rather than yourself through the rest of the paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide #16 “Voice” opens and shows the importance of carefully using both active and passive voice. The bottom of the slide has an example paragraph in a text box to illustrate the point that Lydia discusses.

Audio: Here's an example of what I was indicating before. Sometimes if you use I once in a paragraph, that's still not enough to be clear, because in this example, in the first sentence, in this study, I collected data in partnership with XYZ Corporation. Okay. You've used I once in the paragraph. That's great. That should establish it for the rest of the paragraph, except, hold on. Organizational administrators in the researcher's office worked to create samples. I've introduced another actor in the paragraph. I've introduced another potential source of action. I've introduced another subject who can do a verb. So when you get to the third sentence surveys were e-mailed to these 100 individuals. It's not clear from the sentence who is doing the e-mailing. Was I doing it because I collected the data or were the organizational administrators doing it because they were the ones who worked to create a sample of 100 potential respondents? So this is an example where you would need to rephrase it so it's clear who is doing what. Maybe the people in the human resources office were the ones who actually sent the e-mail, and so I would need to rephrase that, or maybe I'm the one who did it as the researcher. So I would need to clarify that. So here's the case where you would need to use your best judgment from the perspective of a reader and say is it clear who is doing what. No? Okay. Maybe I need to rephrase.

 

Visual: Slide #17 “Anthropomorphism” opens and shows a definition and two examples. The first example shows anthropomorphism and the second example shows a revision without it.

Audio: Yet another stumbling block or issue that can come up in writing APA guidelines is anthropomorphism. Just to review, anthropomorphism means attributing human qualities or actions to non-human things. And if you look at the stipulations in the APA manual, part of it has to do with not personifying animal subjects, for example. I think the example in the manual is discussing mice having husbands and wives. Well, mice can't have husbands and wives because there's no system of -- you know, there's no institution of marriage for mice really that we know of. So that would be personifying animals and attributing human characteristics to non-human things in a way that could lead to potential bias or inaccuracy in findings or interpretations of findings. That's part of the anthropomorphism rule.

The other part of it is similar to passive voice. If you're anthropomorphizing an animal thing, it's not always clear what the human source of action is. This study explores the link between leadership coaching and manager approval ratings. Well, not really because the study can't really necessarily explore things. The one doing the exploring is the researcher, so it would be more direct, and it would avoid anthropomorphism to say in this study I explored the link between manager coaching and manager approval ratings, and again, this is avoiding anthropomorphism for the clarity. It's not such a strict rule. There aren't a list of verbs that one cannot attribute to human subjects. There are some -- you know, a theory can't think, so you can't attribute the verb think to a theory that maybe a theory can show, maybe a theory could indicate, demonstrate, or state. So there's not really a specific list of verbs that you cannot attribute to non-human things. There are some cases where, you know, it's a little bit of a gray area. So you want to make sure that you are not anthropomorphizing to the point of diminishing clarity or misattributing action or not attributing action to a human actor. So that's what that rule is for. And again, there may be some exceptions and there may be some cases where you may have a faculty member that says this is unclear, this feels like anthropomorphism, and you may have another faculty member who comes back and says no, in this discipline this is acceptable. So just keep that in mind in terms of anthropomorphism, that there is some areas for interpretation, and make sure you're writing things as clearly and specifically and precisely as you can to avoid issues that anthropomorphism can bring up. All right.

 

Visual: Slide #18 “Citations” opens. It has examples of when to cite. It also has two bullet points about when to avoid citations such as Creswell or secondary sources.

Audio: Knowing when to cite. Knowing the reason to use outside literature and outside previously published research to support your decisions. So examples of things that you can cite in the methods section are methodologies. So you can cite the methodology that someone else used. And you can also cite their decisions and the judgment calls that they made in how they put together their study, the design they chose, the procedures they created, and a discussion of the role of the researcher. So in the methods section, you want to try as much as possible to get past using definitions as justification. So what I mean by that is you don't necessarily want to cite Creswell's definition of a research design as your justification for why you used it. At the doctoral level you can assume a base level of knowledge on the part of your reader.

So once you are writing a doctoral study or dissertation, you can pretty much assume that the people reading your research know what a case study is. So in order to justify why you did a case study, you're going to have to do more than explain what a case study is. You're going to have to cite research that supports your decision to use a case study. So for that reason, there's not a lot of -- there's not a lot of call for using secondary sources. What you really want to do is find current, relevant research on your topic in your field and say these are the decisions they made and this is why I'm making a similar decision or this is why in my case I would need to make a different decision. So make sure that you are not citing definitions as justifications. Definitions can sometimes be useful, and sometimes they're necessary and relevant. But defining a case study is not the same as explaining why you needed to do a case study or why you had scholarly precedent for doing a case study. So that is why you need to incorporate citations from previous research into your discussion of methods.

 

Visual: Slide #19 opens and continues the discussion on citations. It includes an example of how to cite research methods instead of findings. Lydia discusses this in depth.

Audio: And so sometimes, rather than paraphrasing material from the studies, you're just going to use them as examples. So here in this example -- in this case on the slide, if you just wanted to cite an author because of their good example of the type of methodology that you want to use, you don't want to cite them as if you're paraphrasing what they said. You can just say, you know, since 1975 two longitudinal studies have measured binge drinking, e.g., these studies. You would put the e.g. in the parenthetical citation as indicating you're citing these as examples. You're not necessarily paraphrasing information. You're not necessarily discussing the specific findings. You just want to say, hey, two other studies have done this, and this is what I want to do in a similar case. So sometimes in your methods section you're going to be citing other samples. You're not going to be citing material from those studies.

 

Visual: Slide #20 opens and continues the discussion of citations. It includes an example of how to cite other methodologies as justification for your choices.

Audio: Sometimes, rather than citing methodology you are just going to want to cite -- you are going to want to discuss specific findings. But again, in terms of example rather than paraphrasing any claims or conclusions of those studies. So in my method I followed previous studies, e.g., examples of previous studies that I followed and the researcher's determined gender, role, development, influences, behavior, and self-perception. This is another example of how you can incorporate previous research to justify your decisions. That's what you're doing in the methods section. You're not describing the current scholarly discussion. You are justifying your decisions, and you are pulling examples from currently published research to justify those decisions.

Audio: Are there any questions? I will pause -- I know I'm going at kind of a fast clip, so to make sure I haven't lost anybody, are there any questions about any of that so far?

Audio: Beth Nastachowski: Thanks, so much, Lydia. I think so far we've just been sort of confirming and talking a little bit about specific instances of some of these things that you're talking about. But there was one question about whether first person can be used in other chapters or sections of the proposal. Could you touch on that and where it's appropriate and where it might not be?

Audio: Lydia Lunning: Fantastic question. Absolutely. Yeah. What I want to make -- yes. I want to definitely also take this opportunity to say a lot of what I'm saying is not only applicable for your methods section. A lot of what I'm saying is applicable to any time you have to talk about your methods. So even though a lot of what I'm saying right now is specific to, I'll just keep with the Ph.D. since that's the example I used before. A lot of this is specific to what you're going to do in Chapter 3, but a lot of it is stuff you're going to include in Chapter 1 as well when you're talking about assumptions you made or how you decided on your limitations and delimitations. So a lot of this applies throughout the study not just in your methods section. It is whenever you're discussing your methods or what you did. So that's a great question.

You are probably going to use first person or you're going to have call to use first person in other chapters when you're describing actions you took. So, for example, if you are talking about your research search strategy in your literature review, you're probably going to have to say something like I used the following databases. You know, you're probably going to have justification for using first person there. Or just the example I used just before. In your introduction when you're talking about your assumptions, it's acceptable to say I assumed that blah, blah, blah. Or when you're writing up your results you may say I found that.

So there are going to be cases throughout your doctoral study where you're going to be describing your actions or your decisions, and it is appropriate to use I. The place you want to avoid I is things like I think that blank or in my opinion, blank. A lot of times when you're using first person in that kind of construction, often you can just delete it. So you don't want to say I think, I feel, in my opinion, that sort of thing, because that is not basing claims on scholarly evidence. But you're going to have opportunities or examples throughout your entire study where you need to talk about what you did or what you plan to do or what you propose to do or how what you proposed to do was different from what you did. So there are going to be opportunities or examples that crop up throughout the study where you're going to use I.

The one place where you definitely under no circumstances want to use I is the abstract. So the only place where there is a rule against using first person is in your abstract. The abstract is one place where you're actually going to have to use passive voice because you aren't allowed to use I. That was a good question. That was a long answer, but I think that covered it.

Audio: Beth Nastachowski: I think that helped, Lydia. Thank you. There are a couple questions about this last slide here, and I wonder if you can summarize the main point on this last slide again.

Audio: Lydia Lunning: Oh, sure. This is just an illustration of how you can cite examples of things in other research. So that's what the e.g. is for. It's just to say in any method I followed previous studies, for example, these four studies where researchers determined this. So sometimes you're just citing things as examples. You're not saying these are the only studies where this happened. You're not necessarily going into detail paraphrasing their results or their conclusions. You're really just saying here are some examples of other people who did what I'm trying to do. So that's kind of what's going on here.

Audio: Beth Nastachowski: Awesome. Thanks, Lydia. I think that's all from us for now.

Audio: Lydia Lunning: Sure. Awesome.

 

Visual: Slide #21 “Confidentiality” opens. It lists bulleted questions to ask yourself as you write the methods section.

Audio: Other things that are going to come up in terms of writing are confidentiality and determining what needs to be confidential and what you can and cannot reveal in your study. That you will determine with IRB, so -- and the agreement that you make with the research site and your research partners. What needs to stay confidential? You need to confirm with your IRB approval documents and what's on your IRB approval form, but you need to keep in mind that you cannot identify participants. So identifying the organization may be acceptable, but are you describing the participants in that organization to such a level of detail that if your reader knows the organization they're going to automatically know who your participants were? So be careful of that kind of thing. Just make sure.

Imagine that there is a detective reading your document and not just the main text of your document. The detective has access to all of your citations, all of your reference entries and all of your appendices. Anything that is in that PDF, that ends up in ProQuest. Can the detective put them together to know who your participants are? If they can, you need to figure out a way to remove that information from the document if you've promised confidentiality in your IRB approval documents.

 

Visual: Slide #22 opens and continues with information about maintaining confidentiality in your study that Lydia discusses.

Audio: If you have ensured confidentiality, there are a couple of straightforward ways to maintain it. So names of people, organizations, addresses, e-mails, phone numbers, get rid of all of them. So you will not want to use people's real names when you're talking about participants if you're quoting what a participant said. Sometimes if you are using personal communication to establish the research problem, you say I went to the research site and I communicated with, you know, the superintendent of the schools and they said this. Sometimes it's enough to identify people by their job title, if identifying them by name would reveal too much information and compromise confidentiality.

And in the appendix if you have letters of cooperation or contact information or things like that, you want to make sure you redact any identifying information. And you wouldn't just highlight it in black because somebody can actually copy and paste the highlighted portion. And then if they paste it into another document they can actually see what you have highlighted, and they can actually retrieve contact information that way. I think the easiest way is to just replace identifying information with XXXX, because that indicates that there was information there that's been cut out, but you can also if you have a scan of a letter from a research partner, for example, you can black it out by hand before you scan it or put a text box over it. Keep in mind that highlighting in Microsoft Word isn't necessarily going to do the trick, but I'm a big fan of just replacing the text with placeholder text.

 

Visual: Slide #23 opens and has more information about maintaining confidentiality. This slide also includes a text box with an example of the wrong way to cite a confidential source that Lydia discusses.

Audio: The reason confidentiality can get tricky is that you want to provide support. You want to attribute information to its source. And you want to provide support for your claims, but you do not want to cite sources that are going to compromise confidentiality. So you do not mask information in a citation or a reference. Keep in mind that all references in your document need to be fully functional. And by fully functional I mean in that reference entry needs to be information that will lead your reader to a retrievable source. If you cannot lead your reader to a retrievable source, there should not be a reference entry. And that's, you know, why there should be no personal communication in the reference entries. The same is true for sources that are going to reveal or compromise confidentiality. So if including a source is going to compromise confidentiality, don't include an entry for it. And then citations also should be fully functional, which means every citation needs to lead to a reference entry. So if you've deleted the reference entry, you can't keep the citation.

So here's an example of something you would not want to include in your methods or your discussion of your interaction with the research site. So here we have the school's population had grown and I cite some specific statistics and I say Happy Valley Schools 2014. This is not an accurate citation because Happy Valley Schools is a pseudonym I made up, so the citation is not functional because it leads to a reference entry that's not functional because part of the information is made up. You want to avoid doing that.

 

Visual: Slide #24 opens and shows an acceptable way to revise the citation while maintaining confidentiality.

Audio: Here's an example of how you get around that, that you still attribute information to its appropriate source but you do it without compromising confidentiality. So here you have according to a 2014 Happy Valley School report. So I indicate that the year I indicate that it was report. I indicate that it came from the research site, but I don't make it look like I'm citing a retrievable source because if I cited a retrievable source I may compromise confidentiality. It's enough -- it's sort of understood that confidentiality and protecting participants trumps citation in this case. So if you give enough general information to indicate how you got the information without leading the reader to the exact source, that is acceptable when you're writing up the section, maintaining confidentiality.

 

Visual: Slide #25 opens and shows another example of the wrong way to cite confidential sources.

Audio: And this is just another example of this. So I may have established in my document that rather than referring to the company by name, I'm going to refer to it as XYZ Company, but I don't want anything that looks like a citation. It's not a citation because it doesn't function like a citation.

 

Visual: Slide #26 opens and shows another example of the appropriate way to revise a citation of confidential sources.

Audio: So instead, I would make it look like this. I would say according to the XYZ Company website, and you can include the year if you want. If it's sort of assumed that you have retrieved it from the website around the time of data collection or study development, that's sometimes enough, too. But you want to make sure that whatever information you include it doesn't reveal confidentiality information, and it doesn't mimic a citation or a reference entry. So you want any citation or reference entry to actually be real so if you're if you're including a pseudonym or you're including revised or more general source information, you don't want it to look like a citation.

 

Visual: Slide #27 opens and shows a bulleted checklist for maintaining confidentiality.

Audio: And this is just a checklist for that if you're returning to these slides or you're returning to this recording. Just make sure no fake information in citations and no citations that don't function like citations and the same with reference entries. Just make sure that everything in the reference entry is a real source where there would be no problem if a reader retrieved it for themselves. Otherwise, just describe it in more general terms in the text.

 

Visual: Slide #28 “Researcher bias” opens and has bullet points that Lydia discusses.

Audio: I'll go through this very quickly because I think a lot of this is covered in the specific APA stipulations. But in the methods section and throughout your studies, throughout your discussions you want to be very careful about researcher bias. So you don't want to pretend like you have no biases, but you want to disclose any potential biases that you can have. And you also want to describe things in dispassionate terms, so you want to describe things objectively and let the evidence from the current research and your own data speak for itself. So you want to -- although you may be very passionate about your subject, you don't want to describe it and discuss it in emotional terms.

And this can be very direct things or it can be very subtle things in the way, for example, you discuss or describe the population or the setting. You want to make sure that you are using objective non-biased terms in your descriptions of things and you're letting the information kind of speak for itself.

You also want to -- this goes along with being transparent. You want to be sure that you talk about any notions you have, about any potential biases you may hold as a researcher and that you write about things without inserting potential bias in the language that you use.

 

Visual: The slide changes to “Example of too much information” and shows a poor example of discussing research design decisions with multiple research designs described.

Audio: And I realize we are close to the end, but I just want to demonstrate a few of the examples that are in this slide deck that you can use later on or that you can look through later on. There are -- the trick with your methods section or the trick in describing and discussing your methods, your procedure and your design is to include enough information that someone could replicate and understand what you're doing, but you don't want to include so much information that you completely overload your reader and they get lost in what they're supposed to pay attention to.

So, for example, you don't want to talk so much about what you didn't do that your reader loses track of what you actually did do. So this is an example of a case where there's too much information in your research study design. You don't necessarily need to go through every potential design and explain why you didn't use it. You want to focus on why you picked the one you did and maybe establish or discuss why some other potentially relevant designs were not chosen. But you don't want to go through every possible permutation because then your reader is going to lose focus on what you actually did do.

 

Visual: Slide #32 opens and shows an example of a very brief research design description. Lydia discusses why this is a poor example.

Audio: So here's an example of not enough information. So here I don't know what you did but I know why. I know why this researcher chose a quantitative research design to demonstrate a correlation, and they didn't choose a qualitative design because they couldn't demonstrate a correlation. But I have no understanding why demonstrating a correlation between these two variables is a good idea, what the variables were. So make sure you do include enough detail that the reader understands your decisions and which decisions you made.

And this is kind of an extreme example, but it can even be so much as to say I chose a qualitative approach so that I could conduct interviews. Well, that's sort of like saying interviews are qualitative so I did a qualitative study so I could do interviews. You didn't really fill in the piece about why interviews would be relevant or why interviews would produce data that would be necessary or useful in filling a gap. So make sure that you're describing all of your decisions and you're describing them in a way that clearly justifies why your study ended up looking the way that it did.

 

Visual: The next slide opens. It shows a paragraph of a well-written research design section.

Audio: And here's how you do that in a way that looks just right. So we have time for questions. I'll go through these quickly, but just so you know that they're there. Here's examples of ways this has been done successfully. This is a successful information. This is one that includes enough specific information, so that's not just in the section I discussed my methods, you know, that you want to say more than that. And you want to say it in a specific way that orients your reader to the specific elements of your topic and your individual study, but you don't want to do so much background information that you basically just repeat what you said wholesale from your introductory chapter, for example.

 

Visual: Lydia flips through several other slides with good examples of research design sections.

Audio: And I will just go through these to show you. These are good examples. So these are examples of ways to use other sources, ways to use description and discussion to justify your decisions and explain to your reader what you did and why you did it. And then here's a list of takeaways for you and what to do next.

 

Visual: The next slide opens with the “Resources for Doctoral Capstone Students.” It has a link for the Doctoral Capstone Resources Website and a screenshot of the home page.

Audio: But I wanted to specifically mention the doctoral capstone resources website, which is linked here, and I think this is particularly relevant to the methods section because not only does this link to Writing Center resources, it links to resources across Walden, including in your individual program and including in the Research Office. So I would check out this link. Check out the Writing the Proposal section. And see if there isn't a lot of information there that can help you write up your methods section in a way that is going to stand you in good stead once you're out in the field and collecting data so you know what you're doing and you make it through IRB approval and have a clear, solid instruction manual for yourself later on.

 

Visual: Slide #42 “Additional Resources” opens. It has links for quantitative and qualitative methodology advice, and IRB at the Center for Research Quality.

Audio: And I also want to call your attention to some specific resources available to students at this stage. And I mentioned before, but I wanted to let you know that I have links in the slide deck, and there are also links, I believe, in the handout. But there are office hours where you can go. There are scheduled office hours where you can drop in if you have particular questions about your study or about something that you want clarification or you want more information before you write it up and send it to your chair, for example, or you've talked about it with your chair and you kind of want more information or a different perspective. There are qualitative office hours, quantitative office hours, and there are IRB office hours if you have questions about confidentiality or approaching participants or things like that so that you can anticipate all of that in your proposal before you get to IRB and before you get to your final stages.

 

Visual: The next slide opens and shows the editor e-mail address and several links for recorded Writing Center webinars for doctoral capstones.

Audio: And there are some links here for further resources in the Writing Center. Again, if you have questions after this session you can write to editor@waldenu.edu. But I also wanted to point you to a couple other doctoral capstone webinars. There's the presenting data in describing analysis, and that -- the question earlier kind of touched on that. Some of the issues are the same. Some of them are different that also talk about presenting your data, so presenting qualitative data, presenting APA tables and figures and things like that. But it also talks about appropriate use of first person and passive voice and active voice and things like that. And then also introduce, conclude, and write the abstract of your studies. So those are two other webinars that may be relevant to you at this stage, relevant to your needs. And then the scholarly writing section probably has a lot of additional webinars that would be useful to you. But I think with one minute to go, I apologize. There's lot of information. I hope this was a useful reference to everybody. But I will see if there are any other questions that I can address or anything else on the slides that I should go over.

Audio: Beth Nastachowski: You know, Lydia, I don't see any other questions really. But one thing I did really want to just emphasize again was how many resources there are out there for everyone. I had a couple people asking about guidelines for the different sections which of course would be really helpful to go to the Center for Research Quality and also to the Doctoral Capstone Resources website.

 

Visual: The presenters scroll backwards through the slides to show the slide “Resources for Doctoral Capstone Students.”

Audio: And the last thing I wanted to note a couple people were asking about the length for their methods section and how long it would be. And my suggestion was to go to the library and take a look at other finished studies that students have done in the past in their same program to see kind of, you know, the range what they're seeing in their particular programs. Do you have any other suggestions, Lydia, if people are looking for examples?

Audio: Lydia Lunning: Oh, yeah, I mean, I think those are definitely great. And I wanted to point -- so maybe people can see on this image, but it might be too small. But if you look across the top of this image you can see there are links to the particular programs at the Doctoral Capstone Resources website, so that will take you there, if you're unfamiliar with how to get there through the research office, for the Center for Research Quality. But I would say not just for the methods section but for any section going to the library and looking up Walden dissertations in your program is a great idea. You can also ask your committee. So if your chair has a specific way that they are suggesting you do things, I think you could feel free to say do you have examples or do you have, you know, previously published studies that I could look at. So asking your chair for advice and examples of Walden studies they can look at is also good. And just to keep in mind that no two studies are the same, so unfortunately there's not like a set page limit because it really depends on the kind of research you're do. But I would say, yeah, looking at the library is great and then asking your chair or other committee members if they have suggestions for examples, too.

 

Visual: The PowerPoint reverts to the final slide with the editor e-mail address and webinar links.

Audio: Beth Nastachowski: Great. Well, thank you so much, Lydia. I see lots of thank yous in the Q and A box. And so I guess since we're at time we'll go ahead and end for the day. So thank you. Thank you, to you, Lydia, and thank you, everyone, for coming to the webinar and engaging in us here. I'll be posting the recording by the end of the day today if that interests anyone. And we hope to see you at another webinar and have a great day.