While assisting students in developing effective study skils, I have found developing those skills is a three-phase process. The first phase, and arguably the most important, is identifying the bad study habits students have developed over the years. These habits, I have found, can include studying at inopportune times, using the same methods to study for different subjects, or not studying at all. Identifying these habits—and all those in between—involves in-depth history taking. Phase two involves identifying distractions that frequently draw the student’s attention away from study. These can include anything from the munchies to phone calls and texts, to boredom. Removing these distractions sets the stage for new study behaviors and habits. Phase three involves putting in place behaviors and habits to replace the bad study habits. The most common replacement... read more
Dissertation Support Groups (DSGs) are, perhaps, one of the most powerful resources available to candidates. Carefully constructed groups can provide much needed support as candidates navigate the challenges to dissertation completion. Along with providing a connection to others attempting to achieve the same feat, it provides a place to share the joys and frustrations of the writing process, and encourage group member’s transformation from student to independent researcher. DSGs can provide members a wide array of support and assistance. Among the many types of assistance DSGs can provide are: conceptual development, emotional support, networking, resource mining, technical and bureaucratic information sharing, time management and accountability, transitional guidance, and writing counsel. Each is discussed briefly. Conceptual Development refers to the collective brainstorming that occurs in such groups when members are having difficulty wrapping their minds around their... read more
The first year of my Masters program I had to take microeconomics. I had actively avoided taking microeconomics all throughout my undergraduate career. Now I had to take it. Boy, was I scared! On the first test I got a 59. This was the lowest score out of two class sections! After speaking with the professor, I began to go to study sessions with teacher assistants as well as going to the professor with questions during office hours. But the most successful activities were the changes in how I studied. First, I began studying a little bit of microeconomics every night rather than just one night a week. Second, I would go to my classroom during off hours and write out questions (and their answers) that were giving me a hard time on the board. I would reason my way through the question and then compare it to the correct answers. This allowed me to see where... read more
Literature Review, Pt. 3 Writing the Literature Review Writing the thesis or dissertation literature review can be a daunting task. Many candidates cannot define a literature review let alone conceive of actually writing one. Knopf (2006) states: “A literature review summarizes and evaluates a body of writing on a specific topic.” (page 127) There are numerous books, blogs, and articles about how to write an effective literature review. All incorporate the same five steps that traditionally form the backbone of a literature review: 1) decide on a research area; (2) search the literature; (3) find relevant excerpts or information in the literature; (4) organize the information/excerpts into an outline; and (5) following the outline, write the literature review. The main differences between the books, blogs, and articles are how the authors approach steps 3 and 4. Some describe an elaborate string and card system while others prefer basic methods of selecting... read more
Developing Effective Study Habits Recently, my schedule has gone from intermittently busy to consistently busy. This has led me to make a fundamental shift in how I manage my time. It also got me thinking about my next blog post – time management. I went exploring on the Internet and hit pay dirt. What follows is an outline of what I found. Regarding time management for students, authors advocate developing better skills that make you better at studying and developing better habits for studying. For brevity’s sake, I am going to focus on developing good study habits. There are 10 habits that can help the studying process. They are outlined below. 1) Study at times when you work best. During college this varied for me depending on the type of studying I had to do; but, in general, this was between 1:00 and 4:00 am. 2) Get and stay organized. Arrange your space, stuff, time, and technology. This allows you to maximize your studying efficiency. 3) Overcome... read more
It has been a while since I last posted anything related to the dissertation process. For that, I apologize. Let’s chalk it up to being extremely busy! However, I have carved out the time to write this post. So, let’s get back to the dissertation process… Taking notes effectively has two main aspects: what (the specific information) you take notes on and how you physically record those notes. The former is the subject of this blog; the latter is a matter of taste and experience. If you are an active reader (and I sincerely hope you are if you are writing a thesis or dissertation), you already have a feel for the kind of information for which you are looking. The obvious is the citation information. Then what? Well, you need to know what you have read (the authors main points, methodology, and key findings). What else? Note your reaction to the item you are reading. How does it impact your thesis or question? What other questions does it raise for you? Are there any particular... read more
Four Tips for Better Writing No matter how well one writes, one can always improve one’s writing. Four tips to do so follow. (1) Think Before You Write. Preparation is the key to a well-written document. Prior to writing you must determine three key details. First, identify the purpose of your document. Will you be arguing a point or simply telling a story? The former can require formally presented bullet points for and against something while the latter may use less formal language written in something akin to stream-of-consciousness writing. Second, decide the audience for whom you are writing. Clearly, language formality and technical jargon, for example, will be... read more
The GMAT: A Study in Complexity The GMAT offers a different experience for standardized test takers. Rather than simple data computation, interpretation, comparison, and analysis, the GMAT adds data sufficiency questions that can confuse even the most seasoned standardized test taker. Data sufficiency problems have three parts. First, they propose a question. Second, they offer two separate statements related to the question; and three, they then ask whether one or both of the statements is sufficient alone or in tandem to answer the original question. Below is a question from a recent GMAT. Sammy’s long distance telephone plan charges him x dollars for the first 3 minutes of a call and x – 0.50 cents per minute for each subsequent minute. Sammy made a call to Nate for t minutes, where t is an integer. If the call costs $7.50, how many minutes was Sammy’s call to Nate? Statement 1: The rate for the first 3 minutes of the call costs $2 per minute... read more
The backbone of a successful dissertation is the literature review. This review provides the building blocks for the rest of the dissertation. The literature review consists of three phases: information gathering, note taking, and the actual document review. The first two phases—information gathering and note taking—are the subject of this blog. I tackle these two phases together because they work in tandem and really cannot be divorced from each other. Information gathering does not begin until the candidate makes three basic decisions: (1) the subject of the dissertation and the related keywords that will be used when searching the internet and academic databases; (2) the method employed to gather the information; and (3) the type of literature review s/he will eventually conduct. The first decision, the subject and baseline keywords, are important because they will inform your searches for information. The subject is obviously your dissertation topic; the keywords are... read more
Now that you have answered some basic questions about your search topic, methodology, and literature review type, you can now start your literature search. Going back to the dartboard analogy, you begin at the outermost target ring. This, for me, was a broad Internet search using different search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Dogpile). As a result of this initial search, I found millions of books, articles (from various sources such as journals, trade magazines, popular magazines), presentations (both audio and video), and a variety of other pieces of information. From this broad sweep, I learned four key pieces of information that would help me in my second Internet sweep: (1) keywords to inform my next Internet sweep; (2) the type of academic journals with articles about my topic; (3) names of researchers working on the topic; (4) the names of organizations and associations related to my topic; and (5) the kind of research conducted on the topic (e.g., methodological)... read more
When faced with paying $40 or $50 per hour for a tutoring session, parents and students often ask, “Why so much?” Until recently I did not know how to adequately respond to this question. It was not until I had a rare student-free day that the answer came to me. I spent the entire 12-hour day developing and adjusting study plans; researching resources for my students; learning new tools and techniques to use with my students; finding answers to questions for which I previously did not have answers; developing notes and/or PowerPoint presentations for my students; reading student essays, papers, theses, and dissertations; answering questions that had been phoned or e-mailed in; and answering phone calls. Tutoring is not just about the sessions themselves. There is a great deal of preparation work, personal development, and research that goes into these sessions. Tutors who want to fully engage their students and maximize the quality of their tutoring sessions do a... read more
One of the more difficult aspects of master thesis and doctoral dissertation study development is deciding what type of study to pursue. This brief blog defines the three basic types of study, the data common to those types and the methodology associated with them. The first type of study is a qualitative study. It is direct observation designed to answer broad questions about a social phenomenon. Word data is collected that shows themes and patterns native to a sample population. It typically involves open-ended questions. Quantitative studies, on the other hand, utilize statistical, mathematical, or computational techniques to investigate a social phenomenon. In this type of study, secondary numerical data is used to ask questions about populations. Quantitative studies use close-minded questions commonly answered with numerical or yes and no data. The final study type is a mixed methods study. As indicated by its name, it involves both qualitative and quantitative... read more
A few months back WyzAnt asked its tutors about their favorite quote about education. While there are quite a few quotes I like, until recently, my favorite was a WB Yeats quote but now, I lean toward a quote by Phil Collins—Yes! Phil Collins! In one interview he said, “ in learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn.” I have always felt teaching and learning were reciprocal processes and that each is dependent on the other. Hearing Phil Collins voice my long-time belief has made his statement my favorite quote about education.
Congratulations to Sean for doing so well on the GRE! I knew you could do it! Good Luck on getting into the school of your choice! I was an absolute pleasure working with you and I know you will do well in anything you do in the future!
When deciding the next topic for my blog, I identified and disposed of numerous topics. I simply could not identify a topic on which I wanted to write. Finally, based upon an increasing number of dissertation coaching requests and a desire to inform doctoral candidates, I settled on the dissertation process. Having determined the topic, I then had to think of a title for the blog post. After much hemming and hawing, I finally decided on, “Crafting a Dissertation.” I chose this title because, like most works of art, the dissertation requires creativity, passion, and hard work. It truly is a work that must be carefully and painstakingly crafted. Throughout my musings on this topic, I will try to identify challenges met, hurdles cleared, and lessons learned. So, without further ado the first posting of…Crafting a Dissertation. The dissertation process can be, by turns, frightening, exciting, disheartening, and exhilarating. It is, I have decided, consistent preparation that... read more
If I could go back in time and give my younger self academic and professional advice, I would tell her to focus on the trees. This means spending the requisite time identifying and mastering the basics before going on to work at the forest (more advanced) level. I always did fairly well in everything I tried but that success was achieved with significant stress and angst because I was so focused on the forest that I overlooked the trees. The result was enormous amounts of time (time that could have been spent on other pursuits) and energy spent on remedial efforts to learn the trees when the forest was the needed focus. Spending time to learn the trees in younger life makes later life infinitely less stressful and more enjoyable. Do not be in any rush to get to the forest; focus on the trees first.
Around this time students are preparing to take the GRE. The thought of the GRE makes many students break out in hives as they consider what the GRE means to their futures. But the GRE is not as intimidating as it seems. The new GRE is composed of three primary sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytic Writing. The verbal reasoning section tests your vocabulary, mainly. It looks at how you relate one word to another or a group of words to another group of words. To do well on this part of the exam, all you really need to do is broaden your vocabulary, become familiar with root words, and brush up on prefixes and suffixes. With those three steps, you can score well on the GRE verbal reasoning section. The Quantitative section looks at how well you take fundamental math (arithmetic, geometry, and algebra) and apply it to somewhat complex questions. The questions, although, somewhat complex, can be broken down into component parts that can resemble fundamental... read more
I have had to privilege of helping several doctoral level students with their dissertations. I just found out that Marcy's dissertation was accepted and she has now graduated! CONGRATULATIONS Marcy! The hard work paid off!
As the school year gets closer and closer, students tend to get do everything they can to forget about school and enjoy what is left of summer. While that is understandable, students should really be preparing for the school year. There are three primary things they can do to prepare for a good year: (1) get organized, (2) make sure you know what classes you are taking, and (3) read! Getting organized is more about setting up your desk at home to help you maximize the efficiency of your study time. For example, get color coded folders, pens, pencils, etc. Make up a study schedule and place it above your desk. Figure out how you are going to tackle each subject (i.e., using note cards for improving English vocabulary). Making sure you know what classes you are taking seems like a stupid suggestion but you don't know how many students I have come across you do not know what classes they are taking or what those classes entail. They just picked whatever sounded like the... read more
As we have seen in my previous blog posts, economics can be difficult to understand precisely because it depends, in large part, on consumer behavior. Elasticity is particularly dependent on consumer behavior. We know a change in price is accompanied by a change in quantity demanded and therefore a change in supply. Under most circumstances, simply knowing the direction of such changes (i.e., whether a change in price yields an increase or decrease in quantity demanded) is sufficient. But there are other times when it is important to know not only the direction of the change but its magnitude as well. Economists use the concept of elasticity to measure the change in magnitude. Elasticity simply measures how sensitive we are to changes in price. If price matters very little, changes in price will have small impacts on our willingness to purchase an item. However, if price matters greatly, changes in price will have a large impact on our willingness to purchase an item... read more