Though the components of KAMs are presented linearly (Breadth, Depth, Application), imagine them as an inverted triangle:
Approaching the KAM "in order" and starting with the Breadth leads to multiple possibilities at every stage. While keeping options open is good, it can be overwhelming.
Additionally, if you have ideas (even vague ones!) for your Depth and Application, the theorists you choose might not fit your KAM as a whole. Theories are flexible and can be applied in creative ways, but you might be excluding a different major thinker who better corresponds with the other components. However, you wouldn't know this without first, or simultaneously, diving into the Depth and Application.
Rather than starting with the Breadth, work backward:
You might also define your topic of interest—the Depth—and work backward to the Breadth and forward to the Application. Both nonlinear approaches help reign in the scope.
With either approach, the inverted triangle metaphor still works, but you might operate within a narrower spectrum of possibilities compared to the original, full range. This will save you time and probably some frustration.
Remember: the goal is not to cover an entire field of knowledge—only a sliver of it.
The sooner you can define that sliver of interest, the faster your LA will fall into place. Nonetheless, the approach you choose will not affect the success of your final KAM, provided you develop it holistically.
The KAM should function as a whole with logical, thematic connections between its components.
While starting backward helps define your focus, you might not initially know what you want to do for your Application and Depth, so starting with the Breadth may be preferrable. This is OK—fantastic, in fact! Learning about theories more generally develops a solid foundation for scholarly practice.
Nevertheless, consider and develop sections simultaneously, especially if otherwise mostly working "in order." This will promote better cohesion among the sections and help prevent unnecessary work.
Above all, do not finalize your theorists before considering your Depth or Application. You may end up with a "default topic," chosen only because it fits your theorists, and not because it interests you. You may also find that theories, though interesting on their own and in synthesis together, don't make sense when applied to any single, specific topic. As a result, you would need to change your theorists or risk a disjointed KAM.
Finding resources for your KAM is more than gathering books and articles that seem on target.
Read—or browse with great care—each item before including it in your Learning Agreement.
Though you can postpone deep levels of analysis and synthesis until writing the KAM, examining your sources will:
Bibliographies that aren't carefully considered may be rejected by your KAM assessor, which means you would need to revise it. Worse (yes, worse!), your mediocre bibliography may be approved only to create havoc when you're trying to write that particular component, and you discover:
Remember: The LA is a contract that you will include each item you list in your finished KAM. While your KAM assesor may permit you to add additional key sources that you discover later, excluding an item from your original list may result in failing the rubric.
Learning agreements (LA) are the first step toward completing a knowledge area module (KAM). Complete KAM resources are available at the Office of Student Research Administration's KAMs page.