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The completion of a graduate level academic program gives the individual who is looking to further themselves within their chosen profession. An individual within their academic minority adds a valuable distinction and accomplishment to their name which places them apart from the thousands of other qualified individuals within their field. Data compiled by the U. S. Census Bureau shows large increases in income as an individual's level of education rises ("Median Annual Income, 2007). Therefore, the completion of a graduate academic program will be highly beneficial in many aspects of the individual's life that chooses to pursue it.
An individual who obtains a graduate degree must first proceed through the grueling task of enrolling in, and completing a graduate level academic program. This decision is not one that should be taken lightly because it can be a frustrating and time consuming step that many are neither equipped, nor prepared to take. It demands the individual to take many hours of graduate level classes and compose manuscripts on a variety of different subjects relating to the field of their choice. Finally, at the conclusion of a Master's program an individual is required to compose a thesis which is defined by Merriam-Webster Online as a "dissertation embodying results of original research and especially substantiating a specific view" (Thesis 2009). This stage will be more difficult than the rest of your graduate work because it will contain everything that you have learned from your studies. We will discuss the writing process as it pertains to writing a Master's thesis. We will explore some of the common obstructions encountered, as well as how time may be managed effectively. We will also explore how an individual may set their manuscript up with the most logical progression as possible, and how to best utilize writing, editing, and research time.
Composing a manuscript is almost impossible to do without encountering obstructions within the process. Obstructions can come in a vast variety of different forms, including improper time management, writer's block, and even unexpected life events. One can conclude from the examples above, the obstructions that one can encounter are, at times, are impossible to avoid. When an individual is composing a thesis time is the utmost importance; especially if they are writing to a deadline. In cases like this, an individual's top priority is to minimize the impact of the obstructions; therefore, finalizing the manuscript in a timely manner.
There have been numeric methods that have been used by individuals in the academic community throughout the years which have helped in minimizing the effects of obstructions. Obstructions, as well as life are unpredictable, so we will focus on the prevention of the more common writing obstructions. Planning is essential for avoiding obstructions to academic writing. Proper planning can help a writer avoid a number of different obstructions which include problems, such as writer's block. During this phase the writer needs to be taking steps toward identifying their topic, as well as gathering and gaining a grasp of the material related towards the chosen topic.
Having knowledge strongly anchored within this literature keeps the writer from repeating previous work, or making claims that are insignificant or uneducated. The planning process also includes providing a purpose, crafting a thesis statement, and preparing an outline. These steps help the writer in deciding whether or not they are fully covering the material before they start into the writing process, and if the research is not sufficient then they are able to remedy that before it becomes an obstruction.
Another obstruction that was not covered within the earlier section is improper time management. When approaching any sort of project, whether it is a project at home or composing an academic manuscript, proper time management is essential. Without it your writing will become a nightmare. It is a well-known fact that improper time management not only stresses an individual out, but also, with a relative known of certainty will have a negative effect on the quality of work which is being produced. Organized time management skills have specific importance to the university student; if the student is to write a successful manuscript. When composing a Master's thesis a student cannot afford the unfavorable effects which can accompany poor time management. In this section we will visit a study performed upon different time management techniques, as well as how effective they may be to the student.
In 2007, Kearns and Gardener performed a study on time management techniques and their perceived effectiveness on morale and distress in a university context. The study tested four time management techniques, including having a clear purpose, planning and prioritizing, avoiding interruptions and distractions, and being organized. During the course of this study researchers distributed questionnaires to 290 participants, including university staff and students asking questions regarding the above time management techniques and their effectiveness. The researchers found that the time management techniques of avoiding interruptions and distractions and being organized showed very low to no correlation between perceived work effectiveness, stress and morale. The technique of planning and prioritizing work showed that it was effective at improving morale and psychological functioning during work time.
The end result of the study showed the most effective time management technique is having a clear purpose or plan. The results suggest that having a clear picture of goals and aspirations past their university career aids an individual in focusing upon their current tasks leading up to that goal. Other time management techniques such as prioritizing, avoiding distractions, and tidiness may be less effective than what is generally taught.
The ultimate goal of a writer when composing a literature review is to prove to the target audience that they have properly researched their topic and have a strong foundation upon which to base their present research. In essence, if the literature review is projected as weak to the target audience, the writer can be dismissed for not having a strong enough command of the subject to make a significant contribution through their research (Klingner, Scanlon, & Pressley, 2005). Now this does not mean that a writer has to include every piece of information that they encounter within their review; as in most cases this would involve large amounts of information and would have an undesirable effect upon the length of the manuscript. The goal of the writer, only include information which is the most relevant to the topic which is being researched (Klingner, Scanlon, & Pressley, 2005). The process of this information will strengthen the position which is taken within the manuscript, as well as promise the audience about the knowledge acquired by the researcher.
Possible Research Tools
There are a number of computer software tools which have been produced that assist the researcher in analyzing research data. Tools such as these make it possible to analyze massive amounts of data in multiple ways much more quickly than if it were to be performed by hand. There are many different pieces of software that serve this purpose an example of which is provided in this section.
NVivo 8 is one type of software that is produced for the purpose of quick and versatile analysis of massive amounts of qualitative data. NVivo 8 is composed of "purpose built tools for classifying, sorting and arranging information, qualitative research software gives you more time to analyze your materials, identify themes, glean insight and develop meaningful conclusions" ("What is Qualitative", 2007). NVivo 8 is able to analyze and link many forms of data including Word documents, PDF documents, audio files, video files, and digital photos ("NVivo Features", 2007). This qualitative research software developed by QSR International has been used in many different types of research including anthropological studies of life, stories and events, examination of the controversial areas of minority stress, mature aged women and adolescents in Asia, and the role the Internet plays in the music industry ("Case Studies", 2007). This versatile piece of software may help the qualitative researcher greatly decrease the amount of time spent during the data analysis phase of thesis writing.
As stated earlier the main purpose of a Master's thesis is to apply the knowledge acquired during the completion of a Master's program. A thesis contains a large amount of information and the goal of the student is to ensure that the progression of information throughout the document is as clear and logical as possible. This section will outline one system of logical progression that is used within academic writing.
When composing an academic manuscript with the most logical progression possible it is best to begin with an accurate picture of what the researcher is attempting to say within the manuscript. Included in this segment is the statement of the topic of the paper, as well as the questions that the researcher intends to answer about the chosen topic and why they are important to the discipline. This segment is intended to clearly state the purpose of the entire manuscript and therefore lays out the groundwork for the rest of the information to be presented within the document.
The next segment, in a logically presented manuscript describes the methods implemented while answering the questions presented within the first segment. This segment will allow the academic community a chance to determine the methods through which you came to your conclusions. The writer should include enough detail about their methods to allow the reader to replicate the methods used to attempt to reproduce the writer's results; if they should choose to do so. "Without sufficient detail, the reader cannot judge your findings and discussion and has no reasonable basis for trusting you" (Klingner, Scanlon, & Pressley, 2005, p. 16). Without this trust of the target audience the effect of the manuscript is greatly diminished.
The next segment within the manuscript should provide the audience with a description of the results that were produced by the aforementioned methods. This segment holds vital importance because it, along with the methods, furnishes the audience with the foundation upon which the conclusions of the research were built. The writer must make this section as clear as possible by including only the results that are related to the research's conclusion. The segment should provide "enough detail to be clear but not so much as to bore readers or render the article much longer than is justified for the problem studied" (Klingner, Scanlon, & Pressley, 2005, p. 17).
The final segment within the manuscript discusses the results of the research. This segment will merge all the information contained within the previous segments of the manuscript. In this segment the writer presents the conclusions that have been drawn from the data derived during the research process and proceeds to explain how the data supports the given conclusion. This segment also allows the writer to explain to the target audience how the information that has been presented in this article, as well as the conclusions that were drawn benefits the discipline through which the research is being conducted. It could be said that this is the most important segment of the manuscript based upon the fact that it allows the writer to present their information and findings as well as argue for their validity. With this being the case, the writer will want to "avoid undue speculation and keep the discussion consistent with both the purpose of the manuscript and what you reported in each prior case" (Klingner, Scanlon, & Pressley, 2005, p. 17). Keeping this segment on track and avoiding any extra unneeded material allows the writer to produce a strong conclusion to a well written, academically sound, and logically organized thesis.
Writing and Editing
During the composition of an academic manuscript a large amount of time will be spent writing and editing the draft. As with any form of writing, this phase focuses upon grammar, spelling, and logical progression of ideas; but during the composition of a thesis, the style in which the information is presented is also an important focal point. Most disciplines have their own writing style by which they adhere to for submission of academic writing. For Behavioral/Social scholarly writing, the standard style of the American Psychological Association (APA) has been accepted. To guide writers using the APA style, the APA has published a manual outlining the different facets of manuscript preparation including, but not limited to, grammar, font, abstract composition, quotation use, and reducing bias (American Psychological Association, 2001). It has been stated that the book provides a "sense of consistency throughout the myriad of journals and graduate schools that use it (Cuddy, 2002, p. 42).
Many find that even those writers that make their best attempt to follow the guidelines set forth by the APA fall short of proper manuscript preparation. In cases such as this it helps to have a trusted peer with knowledge of the APA process and review the manuscript for any errors which may have been missed. Multiple proofreading reviews are beneficial to the final editing process; in fact, some writers have had their manuscripts proofread up to 10 times (Cuddy, 2002). After this process is finished the writer begins editing the errors which were found during the review process. Once the draft has been finalized and all of the errors detected in the review process have been corrected then the manuscript is ready to be presented to the researcher's chosen committee for review, and the editing process is repeated until the committee is satisfied with the result.
A Master's thesis can be completed with little stress as long as the proper approach is taken. The time spent composing a thesis is a drawn out process that must be completed in steps if it is to be completed properly. Effects of obstructions can be minimized or even eliminated as the obstructions are identified and measures are taken toward their avoidance. Before the writing process begins the topic must be researched thoroughly to ensure proper knowledge is obtained to compose a solid manuscript. Adherence to proper style and logical progression of ideas allow the target audience to comprehend the information being presented to them with modest difficulty. The writer also needs to allow time for proofreading by themselves as well as trusted peers to ensure correction of all grammatical errors. The methodical completion of these steps helps to ensure that a researcher is presenting a quality manuscript to their chosen graduate committee.