In this episode, I discuss different interactional patterns using a variety of information communication technologies (ICTs) in a Thesis Seminar course I’m giving this spring 2021 semester (beginning January 25, 2021). #thesisseminar2021
How do your plan information communication technologies (ICTs) in such a way that provides the interactions necessary to achieve learning outcomes for all students?
Thesis Seminar, an 8th-semester 16-week course for English language learning writers/researchers.
Point #1: Student-Teacher Interaction
Point #2: Student-Expert Interaction
Finding experts outside the classroom experience
Point #3: Student-student interaction (intrinsic)
What do you think about today’s topic? Feel free to leave a comment in today’s show notes or leave me a message using my Twitter handle, @bnleez.
Attribution: Intro/Outro music: Benjamin Tissot (also known as Bensound)
In this episode, I discuss moving from a literature review (theoretical framework) to the practicalities of conducting a study.
Selecting a topic
Selecting a topic (handout): Move from an everyday problem that you would like to investigate (stage 1) to defining a specific subject, perspective, and vantage point that defines your research topic (stage 2). The final stage (stage 3) is to remove yourself from the personal domain of refining the topic of interest to the formal world of academia. In this final stage, switch from everyday language to technical terminology used in a particular academic discipline (e.g., applied linguistics).(Machi & McEvoy, 2012).
Refer to the list of possible research topics in applied linguistics below as a guide.
Merge your topic with an area of linguistic focus: a) individual skills (i.e., reading, writing, listening, speaking), b) grammar, c) vocabulary, d) or some combination of the aforementioned (e.g., reading and writing, listening and speaking, speaking and vocabulary,
Ask questions about how your topic has changed over the years.
Ask questions about the structure or composition of a phenomena, situation, etc. that relate to your topic.
Ask questions about how your topic compares and contrasts with other similar categories.
Shift positive questions to negative ones: Why have English language learners in Mexico not been able to achieve…?
Questions from sources
Find a question from other studies, either verbatim or modifying it to your own research context.
Moving from questions to a problem statement
A problem statement – expressed as one sentence – for the purposes of developing a researchable topic includes 1) a topic, 2) an indirect question, and 3) a significance [or purpose] (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 2008).
Topic (general idea)
Here are a few examples of topics (in red).
I wish to learn more about **teachers' beliefs about formative assessments and related teaching techniques**.
I wish to learn more about **English language teachers who teach English grammar covertly to their English language learners**.
I am working on **why students are reluctant to speak English in class**.
I am trying to learn about **teaching covert grammar and how students feel about different related teaching techniques.**
Indirect question (a more specific idea that relates directly to the thesis statement of the paper)
Now, extend your topic by adding an indirect question (in red) to indicate what you don’t know or would like to understand better more specifically. What follows are a few examples.
I wish to learn more about [a topic] because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how _________.
I am studying teachers’ beliefs about formative assessment because I want to find out how students feel about related teaching techniques.
I am working on why students are reluctant to speak English in class because **I want to find out what authentic materials primary English language teachers use to promote better interaction among students.**
Build research questions specifically around the indirect question (in red) that you have created above.
Significance (So what?)
Your topic must be interesting to you, the researcher, but must also be interesting to others in the field. Your research should be an extension of what other researchers have already done. For this reason, it’s best to replicate someone else’s study (i.e., base your instruments, data collection protocols, analysis, etc. on what other researchers have already done while applying your method to a different set of participants related to the purpose of your own particular study). The significance and problem that you are researching are integrally linked. Add the significance after your indirect question. Here are a few examples.
I wish to learn more about [a topic] because I want to find out [indirect question] in order to __________.
I am studying teachers’ beliefs about formative assessment because I want to find out how students feel about teaching techniques used to assess written texts in order to **demonstrate the role of formative assessment when motivating English language learners to improve grammar in the classroom community.**
I am working on why students are reluctant to speak English in class because I want to find out how authentic materials might be used to promote better interaction among English language learners in order to **avoid having English language teachers in public schools use the coursebook as a syllabus.**
Moving from a topic to questions involves a three-part process: 1) expressing what you want to learn more about, 2) tagging an indirect question to your topic (beginning with a because clause), and 3) stating the significance of your research (beginning with an in order to clause).
Indirect question: because I want to find out what/why/how etc….
Significance: (Reflect on the reader’s point of view.): in order to…
First, distinguish between a practical problem and a research problem…
Practical problem: Students are afraid to speak in class.
Research problem: How can I provide feedback to students in such a way that they feel more confident to speak English with their peers?
Research solution: Provide individual feedback when requested during the task, and group feedback once the task has been completed.
Practical solution: Avoid overcorrection or providing too much feedback to students.
A problem consists of a condition and a cost or consequence.
(topic) I am studying teacher feedback (question #1 & condition) because I want to find out when giving feedback allows students to feel more confident when speaking L2 with their peers (significance, question #2, & cost or consequence ) in order to answer the bigger question of how teacher intervention can either promote or discourage student’s oral production in class.
The first question (the condition) helps answer the second question (the cost or consequence).
Example: Knowing when to give feedback that allows students to feel more confident when speaking with their peers (question #1 or condition) addresses the bigger question of how teacher intervention can either promote or discourage student’s oral production in class (question #2 or cost/consequence).
Here are additional tips when searching for a problem to research:
Ask teachers, students, administrators, and other experts in the field about problems they face related to teaching and learning an additional language.
In order for your argument to be persuasive, it must use an organizational structure that the audience perceives as both logical and easy to parse. Three argumentative methods—the Toulmin Method, Rogerian Method, and Classical Method—give guidance for how to organize the points in an argument.
Note that these are only three of the most popular models for organizing an argument. Alternatives exist. Be sure to contact me immediately if you are considering anything other than the Toulmin Method (as described below). Benjamin L. Stewart, PhD
The Toulmin Method allows writers to construct a sound and organized set of ideas “intended to focus on the justificatory function of argumentation” (Wikipedia). The key takeaway: consider why or the process of justification when trying to link evidence to certain claims.
Toulmin Method Format and Examples
Claim (i.e., conclusion, thesis statement, topic sentence, the main idea, proposition, assertion, main argument, initial argument, etc. ):
Example of a claim**:** Manufacturing hybrid cars provide an effective strategy to fight pollution.
Grounds (i.e., evidence, facts, data, examples, statistics, etc.): You should use evidence to support the claim. In other words, provide the reader with facts, data, examples, statistics, etc. that prove your argument is strong.
Example of grounds (Data1): Driving a car is a typical citizen’s most air-polluting activity.
Example of grounds (Data 2): Each vehicle produced is going to stay on the road for roughly 12 to 15 years.
Example of grounds (Data 3): Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor.
Warrant (i.e., bridge, analysis, synthesis, comment, explanation, justification, opinion, etc. ): In this section, you explain why or how your data supports the claim. As a result, the underlying assumption that you build your argument on is grounded in reason.
Example of a warrant 1**:** Due to the fact that cars are the largest source of private (as opposed to industrial) air pollution, switching to hybrid cars should have an impact on fighting pollution.
Example of a warrant 2**:** Cars generally have a long lifespan, meaning that the decision to switch to a hybrid car will make a long-term impact on pollution levels.
Example of a warrant 3: The combination of these technologies produces less pollution.
Backing (i.e., foundation): Here, you provide any additional logic or reasoning that may be necessary to support the warrant.
Counterclaim**:** You should anticipate a counterclaim that negates the main points in your argument. Don’t avoid arguments that oppose your own. Instead, become familiar with the opposing perspective. If you respond to counterclaims, you appear unbiased (and, therefore, you earn the respect of your readers). You may even want to include several counterclaims to show that you have thoroughly researched the topic.
Example of a counterclaim: Instead of focusing on cars, which still encourages an inefficient culture of driving even as it cuts down on pollution, the nation should focus on building and encouraging the use of mass transit systems.
Rebuttal: In this section, you incorporate your own evidence that disagrees with the counterclaim. It is essential to include a thorough warrant or bridge to strengthen your essay’s argument. If you present data to your audience without explaining how it supports your thesis, your readers may not make a connection between the two, or they may draw different conclusions.
Example of a rebuttal**:** While mass transit is an idea that should be encouraged, it is not feasible in many rural and suburban areas, or for people who must commute to work. Thus, hybrid cars are a better solution for much of the nation’s population.
The Rogerian Method (named for, but not developed by, influential American psychotherapist Carl R. Rogers) is a popular method for controversial issues. This method “is a rhetorical and conflict resolution technique based on empathizing with others, seeking common ground and mutual understanding and learning, while avoiding the negative effects of extreme attitude polarization” (Wikipedia).
Although an option, the Rogerian method will only be discussed on a case-by-case basis. The recommended method will remain the Toulmin Method as described above.
The Classical Method of structuring an argument is another common way to organize your points. Originally devised by the Greek philosopher Aristotle (and then later developed by Roman thinkers like Cicero and Quintilian), classical arguments tend to focus on issues of definition and the careful application of evidence. Thus, the underlying assumption of classical argumentation is that, when all parties understand the issue perfectly, the correct course of action will be clear.
The classical argument is made up of five components, which are most commonly composed in the following order:
Exordium – The introduction, opening, or hook.
Narratio – The context or background of the topic.
Proposito and Partitio – The claim/stance and the argument.
Confirmatio and/or Refutatio – positive proofs and negative proofs of support.
Peroratio – The conclusion and call to action.
Although an option, a Point-by_Point method of organizing one’s ideas will be the preferred method over the Classical (Block) Method approach. Again, the recommended method for organizing your thesis paper will be the Toulmin Method as described above. Adhering to the Toulmin Method does not ignore modes of persuasion and components of structure.
Organizing an argument – that is, organizing your thesis paper – relates more to writing style than it does to the mechanics of writing. Most of the feedback I provide English language learning writers relates to writing style than it does to mechanics. Also, I tend to provide feedback that relates to writing style first, before providing feedback about mechanics. Writing style relates to the choice of words, choice of sentence structure, and choice of paragraph structure whereas mechanics relates to spelling, grammar, and punctuation (Wikipedia).
Your thesis statement, topic sentences from body paragraphs, assertions from outside sources that serve as evidence (or grounds) for more broader claims, the reporting of findings from your own research, and your interpretation of your findings are all different types of claims. More specific claims that support more broad claims are called premises. An sound argument contains premises that lead to more broader claims that align to the main idea of your paper. Think if it this way when writing your literature review: the evidence sentences (or grounds) support the topic sentence of the body paragraph. The body sentences of the paragraph support the level II heading that marks your two-to-four subsections of your literature review. The level II headings (or subsections) should align with your thesis statement. In terms of your results and discussion section, your findings (direct quotations, statistics, observations, responses to questionnaires, etc.) should align or support the topic sentence of each body paragraph. Each body paragraph should align with the respective level II heading (subsection). Each level II heading should relate directly to a set of research questions and/or a hypothesis. The thesis statement should answer the research questions and/or be aligned with the hypothesis.
Attribution: Intro/Outro music: Benjamin Tissot (also known as Bensound)
In this episode, I discuss the first half of a thesis seminar Word template used to help English language learning writers to develop a literature review. This template may be found at the Sections of a Thesis Manuscript page.
In this episode, I discuss how to access a Notion template for an upcoming Thesis Seminar course that begins January 25, 2021. This template will be used to scheduled one-to-one tutoring sessions and to submit entries to a writing journal.
Attribution: Intro/Outro music: Benjamin Tissot (also known as Bensound)