CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 69: Know your abbreviations in English I

E.g……..I.e………[sic]: An example that is very sick!!!

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A warm welcome to this week’s lesson and a big thank you to you for following our posts and sending us those wonderful comments. After our series for thesis writers, our lesson today will move us to something we use in general writing. Have you wondered what these abbreviations really meant: e.g, i.e, [sic], NB, et al. and etc?

  1. e.g.: Ex-Gratia? Nope, For example.

You probably already know that this word means for example, but what really is the relationship between E.G and for example? Shouldn’t it be f.e? Or were they spelling example as egzample?

E.g. is actually a Latin word- exempli gratia- which is translated “for example” in English. This word is used when about to list one or many members of a group in a list that does not cover all the members of the group. It is usually written like this with two dots and does not need FOR to introduce it. You do not also need to put etc. at the end because e.g. already means the list is not exhaustive.

Many pets, e.g. dogs, cats, and fish, get used to their owners quite quickly

There was a large number of celebrities, e.g. actors and musicians, at the book launch

  1. i.e.: Another Latin word abbreviated and adopted into the English Language (I remember this word because a lot of my Francophone students studying English always had difficulty understanding it).

This word is originally “id est” and for those of us speaking the Queen’s language, it would mean something in the region of “that is”. Please, do not ask me what that is. What is that? That is. Period.

This word is used when explaining a word or idea further (because you can sense the readers did not really get it the first time). In other words, i.e. really means what I am actually trying to say is…

Lending a helping hand to others is to many people an act of self-gratification, i.e. people are generous only so that they can feel good not really because they are sensitive to need.

The Ghanaian national football team, i.e. The Black Stars, has often had a love-hate relationship with supporters.

Classical tragedy is intended to produce pathos in the audience, i.e. not bathos but pity and fear

  1. [sic]: Does this abbreviation have anything to do with being sick? I hope not but in a sense, it means there is something that is not too well with the sentence.

This abbreviation is inserted at places in a write-up where a writer is quoting someone else and believes that the original writer has made a mistake in the quote. This error could be grammatical, typographical, semantic or a misinformation. Whatever it is, the writer (the new one quoting another person) wants to be clear that he/she was not the one who made the mistake but the error existed in the original version.

Its full rendering in Latin is sic erat scriptum, which means “thus was it written”.  Get it now? Some examples:

She wrote, “They made there [sic] beds.”

Note: The correct sentence should have been, “They made their beds.

During the noon hour, Hernandez posted a message to his supporters on Facebook.  It says, “I wan [sic] to publicly thank everyone who has been so supportive of me and my family these past few days… .” [KCBD]

Note: The correction should be “want”

The company is selling a T-shirt for girls with the following grammatically incorrect sentence written in shiny silver print: “If your [sic] single, so am I.” [NY Daily News]

Note: The correction should read “you are”

Of course, you can make corrections when writing your own piece but once you begin to quote, you dare not make any corrections at will. But this abbreviation must be used sparingly and you must be 101% sure that it is an error not a variation in language or form or your own ignorance.

Next time, we will look at NB, etc and et al. We hope you learnt something from this lesson.

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CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 68: THESIS WRITER VI- DATA COLLECTION

Roll up your sleeves and let’s get ready to COLLECT DATA!

In today’s write-up, which is our final in the series of thesis writing, we give you a few tips on how to successfully sail through the data collection process of your work especially if you have to do it yourself.

The lack of relevant data, having poor data and delay in the data collection process can jeopardize the whole research process.

The process starts from obtaining the necessary permission to go out by your school, approval from the organization you want to collect data from amongst others. Some researchers, especially Ph.D. candidates, employ the help of research assistants to help ease the burden of the data collection process which comes with its own challenges.

Here are 8 tips to help you wrap up that data collection process:

  1. Psych Yourself Up: Know first of all that the process will not be a fun fair per se but one of hard work and persistence. Some of the challenges will include not receiving positive responses from organizations, missing questionnaires, delays in filling questionnaires etc. Some researchers tend to give up easily because of some of these challenges. Psyching yourself up will help you remain mentally strong to finish successfully.
  2. Have a clear plan: Your plan should include timelines and places to visit as well as the telephone calls to make. The planning process will also need some record keeping to note what has been done; how many questionnaires have been received; organizations left to be contacted amongst others. Your plan should also include combining your trips to organizations situated in the same area. This will help reduce the cost of commuting to collect data. Have a clear strategy and plan.

 

  1. Start small: The data collection process can look so daunting and unending that many researchers tend to postpone the process till they realize they have little time to finish. If for instance, you have to send out 300 questionnaires to 10 organizations, that is a huge job and can easily discourage or make you procrastinate starting the process. The key is to break the work down and plan to do it in small bits.

 

  1. Use the “who you know” approach: One of the difficulties in the collection process is gaining access to the selected organization/s of the research. What we term as the ‘who you know approach’, even though often seen in the negative light, can be used to your advantage in the collection process. Contact your supervisor, lecturers, coworkers, friends, and family to see if they can help you with contacts of people they know in your chosen organization to help facilitate the process for you. It works!!!

After gaining access to the organization/s, it is also prudent to get a representative in the organization to help coordinate and encourage others to fill the questionnaires as well as help collate the filled ones for you.

  1. Be flexible: The principle of flexibility can also be of help when things do not go as planned. Be prepared to change your methodology and approach if the need be. Do not be inflexible.
  2. Keep it simple: One of the things that put respondents off and cause delays in the data collection process is a lengthy questionnaire. As a researcher, you must try as much as possible to keep your questionnaire simple and short. Effective tips are merging questions to reduce the number of questions and reducing the font size and spacing measurements. This is the trick so that it doesn’t look bulky.
  3. Adopt technology: The positive effect of technology is felt in every sphere of work including research and the data collection process. The use of IT tools like the email, instant messaging etc makes reaching respondents easier without commuting to meet them in a physical location. One helpful tool is the survey monkey which helps with easy online data collection.
  4. Be ethical/genuine: The last piece of advice we want to leave with you in this write-up is to maintain a high sense of research ethics and genuineness. Due to the pressures and difficulties that come with the data collection, researchers can easily be tempted to forge or ask unqualified persons to fill the research instrument. This act will obviously affect the results of the research. It also dilutes the confidence of your research when you know the results or findings of your research are not a true reflection.

We hope our series was helpful. Unfortunately, this is the last lesson in the series and we will be switching to other writing and grammar lessons in our next post.

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CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 67: THESIS WRITER V- RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

How Are We Going to Do the Research?

What is the research methodology?

The research methodology is simply the strategy developed by the researcher to solve the research problem he/she has identified. It generally seeks to answer two basic questions in relation to the research: how the researcher intends to collect the data and how the data will be analyzed.

We would like to begin by giving you four (4) keys to developing a winning methodology:

  • 1. By all means have a justification for the components of the methodology you choose to use. The common question you will be asked in your research defense is ‘Why did you use this method and not another?’
  • 2. Ensure appropriateness of the methods chosen. Your methodology should be in tight sync with your research objectives and problem.
  • 3. Conduct a pilot test of the methods you have chosen to ensure they are feasible and will provide the required results for the research. This is usually done by selecting a similar but smaller sample you are going to use for the research to provide the same data and analyze it.
  • 4. Consult before finalizing or rolling out the methodology. You must by all means consult your supervisor; you can also consult other researchers who have trod the same path before for advice.

The methodology is generally made up of the research design, sampling design, data collection techniques, data analysis techniques, and ethical consideration.

Research Design

The design of a research gives the researcher a clear guideline as to how to solve the research problem. The choice of a research design must be influenced by the format predicted to collect the data, the purpose or objective of the research, the time available for the whole research to be conducted among others. Even though there are other classifications of designs, the common ones could be descriptive, experimental, explanatory or diagnostic. The names of the design suggest what they seek to do. For instance, whereas a descriptive design seeks to describe a particular situation chosen for research, the experimental design seeks to usually establish a cause and effect relationship between two elements.

Population and sample design

Every research requires the collection of data from either a group of people or observing elements in order to achieve its objectives. These groups or elements form the target of the research and referred to in research as the population of the study. For example, a research on ‘Job satisfaction among Policemen’ will have ‘policemen’ as the population. Though the ideal would be to use all policemen, this is impossible due to time and resources limitation. The solution to this problem is the use of a sample, which simply refers to the subset of the total population of the study. However due to the technicalities of research, there is always a justified number that can be selected out of a population to still ensure that the results are reliable and represent the population (reliability and generalization) There are Mathematical tools and tables to ensure that the right number with respect to the sample is selected to represent the population such as the Krejcie and Morgan equation. This subset of the population is referred to as the sample size.

Data collection techniques

The first decision to be made before the techniques for data collection is the kind of data the researcher wants to use for the research. Primary data are simply ones that will be collected for the first time and are original in nature. Secondary data are ones that have already been collected and processed but are useful for the study. It is also possible to have a combination of both primary and secondary data in a research. Primary data is collected via interviews, questionnaires or case studies.

The next issue is whether to use quantitative or qualitative data or both approaches. Quantitative data as the name suggests collects data in numerical terms whereas qualitative data deals with non-numeric data. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages and the choice of any should be based on the purpose and conditions of the research. For example, a research that seeks to explore a new field or topic is likely to adopt a qualitative approach while a research that seeks to present an objective view of the findings will adopt a quantitative approach.

Data Analysis

This is the most important and complex stage of the methodology because the researcher must be able to turn the raw data collected into meaning information that can be used to address the research problem. The wrong choice of analysis tools and techniques will produce the wrong output. The choice of tools for analyzing data is largely dependent on whether the data is quantitative or qualitative. Some of the tools used for analyzing quantitative data include simple and multiple regression analysis, multiple discriminant analysis, multivariate analysis of variance, and canonical analysis. These are all used as and when they are suitable to be used based on the kind of data or the output required by the research. The commonest tool for analyzing qualitative data is the content analysis which seeks to code and classify data from interviews, focus groups, etc in order to make sense of them. Even though it is advisable to have knowledge of tools for data analysis, do not hesitate to seek help from someone skilled in using the analysis tool.

Ethical consideration

Ethics simply differentiate between what is acceptable and unacceptable in research. Among the key ethical issues that must be observed during and after data collection are voluntary participation, informed consent, confidentiality and ensuring anonymity. Voluntary participation is ensuring that people are not forced to take part in your research but rather have a choice as to whether to provide data or partake in your research. Informed consent also talks about briefing those who are going to partake in your research, more so if it is an experiment on them of the risks and side effects to expect if there is any during and after participating in the research. With respect to confidentiality, since research usually involves collating personal details as well as views and experiences of people, it is the right of the participants to have all the information they have provided kept secret and used only for research purposes. Last but not the least of ethics in research is ensuring anonymity. The data collection process should be void of gathering very personal data that can facilitate easy tracing of the identity of one who provided the data (e.g. name and photographs of the person etc).

We hope you enjoyed this lesson. Stick with us and keep sharing.

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CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 66 THESIS WRITER IV: LITERATURE REVIEW

Steps to a good literature review                                                                                                   

Here we go people with our second lesson back-to-back. Its a continuation of our last lesson on literature review in thesis writing. I think you should check that out first https://charismataediting.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/lesson-65-how-to-do-an-effective-literature-review-for-your-thesis/ before reading this lesson. You are warmly welcome.

The focus of this lesson is to give you some steps to penning down (or typing down) that literature review that your supervisor cannot resist and will keep him/her referring all your colleagues to you.  Here are some of the major steps:

  1. Set boundaries

It can take forever to do a literature review if you do not set boundaries to guide you in the process. You can also find yourself reading unnecessary and irrelevant materials that are not related to your research. You can set boundaries for the literature review by your search in relation to the variables in your research topic. For example, if your topic is ‘Employee turnover and organizational performance’, you first search for literature related to the whole topic and after look for literature related to ‘turnover’ and ‘performance’ separately.

2. Initial reading, downloading, and organizing materials

The next step is a combination of three things. Building on the point above, the researcher must also assess the literature before downloading it. Every literature, especially research articles, has abstracts that give a summary of what the whole paper entails. The researcher should assess that before downloading anything. In this age of technology, most of the literature you will need (from articles, books, magazines, report etc) can be accessed from the internet. Many schools subscribe to various research platforms (e.g. Emerald, Google Scholar, Ebscohost, JSTOR, etc) that give students the opportunity to download necessary literature for free. Furthermore, you, the researcher should immediately organize the download literature into various folders. This helps to make writing on a particular theme easy for you.

3. Summarize articles

A good foundation for writing your literature review is to make a summary of all the relevant literature you have downloaded and organized. The summary of each article should be sub-headed as the Name of Author and date of publication, objectives of the research, context, research gaps, methodology adopted, findings, recommendations of the research and any key information identified. Remember, it’s a summary: it must just capture the important aspect under the sub-heading.

 

4. Do an in-depth reading and writing

After your summary, you are now ready to begin the writing out your literature review. This will require that you do some in-depth reading of the articles you think will need more attention. You can now put the pieces of your summary together under the various themes they fall under in your literature review. Generally, the literature is divided into the theoretical review, empirical review and the conceptual framework (where applicable). Remember not to just copy and paste your summary but to compare and contrast the various issues in the literature to draw a conclusion.

Watch out for the following

  • Out-dated literature

In research, the time relevance of your literature is also important. As much as possible you must avoid or use minimal old literature in your review. Old is relative. The general notion is not to go beyond ten (10) years. However, there might be some distinguished scholars in your field will might have published some old articles but cannot be ignored in your literature review.

  •  Plagiarism

We have run numerous plagiarism tests on a number of thesis works we receive for proofreading and editing and it not surprising to find that the highest percentage of plagiarism in a thesis is mostly found in the literature review. Copying and pasting another’s work as yours is tantamount to plagiarism which is an offence punishable in research. The key to avoid this is

  • Keep references

One important thing one needs to do whiles writing the literature review is to immediately create a reference list. Some people have not been able to retrieve some references when they needed to compile the reference list. Avoid this by creating your reference list as soon as you start writing.

  •  Backing up your articles and write-up

The most tragic thing that can happen to a researcher is to lose his/her writings and articles due to a computer fault or theft. There many ways nowadays to back up your work. Using ‘Dropbox’ is one that we adopt. Do your work and save your articles in ‘Dropbox’ or any other ‘cloud’ option available to you.

Finally, it is important to note that the cost of a good literature review is time and discipline. The time you invest in your thesis will definitely show in the output. You will need to invest time in your literature and work in general by going to the library and visiting various internet sites. You will need discipline to ‘sit down’ with your downloaded literature to read and write. Discipline will require that you set out specific times in the day when you plan to sit to work on your literature.

We hope once again that this piece helps you. Share your thoughts with us and share this with others.

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CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 65 THESIS WRITER III: LITERATURE REVIEW

LITERATURE REVIEW: THE THESIS COMPASS

It’s been a long break. Welcome back to your favourite online writing class. We apologise for the break and to compensate you our wonderful followers, we are giving you two lessons at once. We are continuing our series on Thesis Writing and our next two lessons would be on Literature Review! Yes, we know- that part of the work that seems to take so much time and effort. We hope you enjoy it. Let’s have feedback; ask us about anything in thesis writing you are don’t fully understand.

We would like us to remember that the intention of these series is to help make writing thesis as simple as possible to the ordinary student or reader. We will, therefore, try to reduce the technical words as much as possible in our explanations.

At this stage, we assume that you have gone through the step of choosing a topic and the topic has been accepted and approved by the supervisor and the school. It is important that the topic is approved, otherwise you are not ready to start the thesis proper.

The thesis is basically usually divided into five (5) chapters: Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Presentation of Data and Discussion, and Summary and Conclusion respectively.

The natural thing to do after selecting the topic is to start writing a research proposal or an introduction (chapter one) of the thesis depending on the guidelines of your school (We will look at the difference between a proposal and an introduction in our subsequent series). However, we suggest based on experience that after settling on your topic, one should focus on doing an in-depth literature review (normally the chapter two of the thesis). Doing your literature review after your topic will serve as a ‘compass’ for your research. A compass is an instrument that helps to give directions or make choices about the right way to go. Starting your thesis without some certainty about what you are going to do can be frustrating and a good literature review helps give you some direction in your work. It is estimated that doing a good literature review will be about 50% of your thesis done. It serves as a good and solid foundation for your research.

The subject of literature review is a very broad one but we will try to touch on a few salient points to consider in the process.

  1. First, we define literature review as a critical analysis of literature related to your chosen topic and not just a description or summary of the literature. Critically analyzing literature involves comparing and contrasting the various literature related to your study. This means reporting on how the theories, methods, arguments and findings of the various researches are similar or different and what accounted for the variations.

2. Secondly, doing your literature review earlier will help you simplify the following things that will be required of you in the course of your thesis:

  • Research Gaps:  The research gap is simply the problem identified by the researcher which justifies why the thesis is relevant. This could be an issue, context, method or theory gap. Your research will have to seek to fill one or a combination of these gaps, that is solve the problem. Gaps can only be identified when the researcher does a good literature review. Even though your topic was selected after some literature review, doing an in-depth one after will help deepen your understanding and strengthen your justification for your gaps and further help you discover more gaps which were not spotted initially.
  • The research method: Apart from gaps, the choice of methods you will adopt for your thesis is key and you should have a fair idea of which will be best for your work. The literature review will expose you to various methods adopted by past and similar studies to your thesis. The methods include: the population or sample, data type (quantitative, qualitative or mixed), analysis tools (regression, correlation, Structural Equation Modelling etc) among others to use for the thesis.
  • Language of the research: Every field of research has its own language (jargon) that the researcher has to be familiar with and use when writing. For instance, a research in the field of ‘health and safety’ cannot do without the word ‘safety climate’. Conducting a good literature review helps the researcher to recognize some of the key terms in the field of choice.

In our next lesson, we will be examining some of the steps to putting together a good literature review.

We hope this lesson was useful. Just hold on for our next lesson. Have you missed our previous lessons in the series? Check out the last one on choosing a topic https://charismataediting.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/thesis-writer-ii-choosing-a-research-topic/ or our introduction https://charismataediting.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/charis-for-writing-lesson-63-thesis-writer-i/

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CHARIS FOR WRITING Lesson 64 THESIS WRITER II: Choosing A Research Topic

What at all should I write on?

Hello and a warm welcome to this week’s lesson. Like we promised, this week’s lesson is continuing from the last one we began on thesis writing. We shall deal with choosing your topic. Have you been sharing our posts? You should if you think they have been helpful. Now to the lesson.

Choosing a topic is one of the most important aspects of writing a thesis, if not the most important.

It is the first thing one needs to determine before the research can actually start. The earlier the student starts thinking about it, the better. Unlike story books which can wait till everything is done to pick a good title, academic research demands that the topic be chosen first before all. Why?

Choosing the right topic helps to give the thesis a clear direction and purpose and helps drive the other parts of the thesis: objectives of the study, literature review, methodology, etc. The principal key to coming up with a topic is ‘Brainstorming’. This means allowing your mind to roam and come up with several possible topics. Here are a few pointers that could also help:

  1. Personal interest or passion

There is nothing like doing a research that syncs with something you are passionate about. Asking yourself questions about what you are passionate about, and what motivated you to select the course you are undertaking can help in choosing an interesting topic. One reason why it is important to choose a topic you are passionate about is that there is always a point in the period of conducting a research where the researcher feels like giving up and it is the passion or interest work that serves as the motivation to move on.

  1. Current happenings

A good and interesting topic can also be gleaned from current happenings in the country and beyond that related to your course. This can be gleaned from the newspapers, radio, internet etc. For instance, a Human Resource Management student can get ideas from the labor issues in his/her country.

  1. Work experience

Another excellent avenue to get an interesting topic is to brainstorm on the occurrences in your work environment. Every research seeks to address a problem in a particular context. There might be a problem in your current organization or past working experience and your research could be the perfect tool to address that problem. One benefit of doing this is that you will have easy access to data needed to work with.

  1. Lectures or tutorials

During lectures and tutorials, you must pay particular attention to the research ideas that run through your mind and you must not let them go: write them down. This might happen especially when the topic being taught excites you.

  1. Literature review

The world abounds with millions if not billions of research work done in diverse fields including yours. There are various search engines that can help you access research work done. Doing a bit of reading around can help stir your interest towards a particular research direction and give you a solid foundation to begin you research. You can start from Google scholar. (Will look more at the subject of Literature review in our subsequent lessons)

  1. Supervisors

Every lecturer has his/her research interests and can be of great help in times of deciding on a thesis topic. Some lecturers might also come up with thesis topics and ask students who are interested to see them. The danger here is to be careful not to have a topic imposed on you or go for one you are not really interested in. Remember, interest is key when deciding on a thesis topic.

A thesis topic should neither be too short nor too long. It should ignite an interest in the reader and give him/her a sense of what to expect before reading the thesis. The topic should however be related to the course you are studying. For instance if you are studying Project Management, your topic should have a link with it. It is important to also note that the topic you choose will undergo various changes depending on your supervisor or other reasons.

That is it for this week. Join us next week as we delve into preparing the thesis. We hope this lesson was useful.

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CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 63: THESIS WRITER I

                   An Introduction: Long essay, Thesis or Dissertation?

Like we promised you, this week begins our series of lessons that would help you write that academic paper better. You are welcome and thank you for sticking with us.

Some, if not all, tertiary institutions demand that their students present one of these: long essay, dissertation or thesis depending on the level and course one is offering.

People usually interchange the terms long essay, dissertation and thesis in the world of research. So to avoid this confusion, some schools simply refer to it as ‘project work’ or ‘term paper’ or ‘research paper’. Even though the definitions or use depends on the school you find yourself in, we will briefly look at the general differences between them.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the long essay is “To find out by making a test. To attempt or endeavor especially by tentative methods or by appraising, probing, or seeking expedient”. Simply put, to write a long essay is to conduct a research.

A dissertation is “a substantial paper that is submitted to the faculty of a university by a candidate for an advanced degree that is typically based on independent research and that if acceptable usually gives evidence of the candidate’s mastery both of his own subject and of scholarly method”. Simply put, to write a dissertation is to conduct a research.

Thesis refers to “a position or proposition that a person (as a candidate for scholastic honors) advances and maintains or offers to maintain by argument.” Simply put, to write a thesis to prove a point or support a research in writing.

Well, you can see from the definitions that there is almost no difference between them but per those we have had the privilege to edit, we make the following conclusions:

  1. The long essay is done by undergraduates; thesis by master’s students and the dissertation by PhD candidates.
  2. The dissertation is longer and more detailed than the others.
  3. The long essay and thesis seek to expound a particular subject of your interest whiles the dissertation rides on existing research to prove a new idea or research.

But don’t forget, stick to what your school calls it and what is demanded of you. Also note that even though they may be different, they have similar content. However, for the sake of our discussions we will refer to our project work as ‘thesis’ since that is what is commonly used.

In the next few weeks, we will be bringing you down to earth write-ups on some issues related to writing a thesis from the selection of the topic to the submission of the final document.

Share your thoughts on what you think the differences are and some issues with research you would like us to touch on in our series.

We hope this lesson was useful. Catch us next week and let’s keep sharing. Did you miss last week’s lesson? It’s here https://charismataediting.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/charis-for-writing-lesson-62-proofreading-american-and-british-spelling-ii/

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