- 1 Reporting Academic and Research Projects
- 2 The Background
- 3 Themes
- 4 Rationale
- 5 Our Approach
- 6 Theoretical Perspectives of the Themes:
- 6.1 Epistemic purposes of academic writing
- 6.2 Characteristics of good academic writing:
- 6.3 Variations in data and attributing meaning:
- 6.4 Qualitative data:
- 6.5 Integration of qualitative and quantitative data:
- 6.6 Planning the report:
- 6.7 Inductive and Deductive structure of an Argument:
- 6.8 The IMRAD structure
- 6.9 Semantic relevance and aptness:
- 6.10 Precise lay out:
- 6.11 Initial statements, assumptions and purposes (Central Idea):
- 6.12 Modus operandi (Modalities of execution):
- 6.13 Action research, survey and case studies:
- 6.14 Ideation of data:
- 6.15 The outcome:
- 6.16 Argumentation (Logical Attributes of outcome):
- 6.17 Exact contribution to knowledge:
- 6.18 Documentation & types of Documents:
- 6.19 How to write bibliography:
- 6.20 Time management:
- 7 Activities
Reporting Academic and Research Projects
In recent times the state level and district level educational functionaries are carrying out a lot of research and academic activities with a view to improve quality of education. They are submitting reports after completion of their academic/research activities but state directorate of education felt that these reports are mechanical and redundant in presenting the work. Though there are substantial and potential research efforts, due to lack of proper reporting and documentation, they are not put to context specific practices.
Any academic activity is purposeful and deliberate to gain new insights that would in turn help in policy decisions for quality improvement. While reporting the academic activities, it is necessary that the educational functionaries are clear in their conception of why the particular academic activity is initiated. Ideas and insights would ignite the academician to undertake an academic activity that yield to establish evidences for truth claims. These evidences are helpful in taking certain decision in improving quality of education. Hence epistemic purposes are the basis for any academic writing. In order to equip educational functionaries in grasping the epistemic purpose, this theme is included in this training package. Whatever the clarity that educational functionaries do posses in formulating the contours of epistemic purposes of their academic activity, unless they are able to report it in a viable format, it would be futile to yield conscious improvement in quality of education. Educational functionaries are requiring to be acquainted with the characteristics of a good academic writing to make sense of their academic work to polity implications. In this training programme, educational functionaries were acquainted with the characteristics of good academic writing.
One of the pertinent inadequacies that educational functionaries encounter during the process of reporting their academic work is to understand and interpret the data. They do have huge and variety of data. This data would definitely provide innovative insights and ideas in improving the schooling system. But due to certain limitations of organizing the data, most of the potential academic activities undertaken in the state education departments are kept in cold storage. If educational functionaries are able to use the data in a proper way, they would visualize the implications of their academic work. Hence, in this programme there are four themes related to management of data, viz., Variations in data and attributing meaning; Qualitative data; Integration of qualitative and quantitative data; and Ideation of data. Before starting to write the report, it is necessary to decide the format of the report depending on the quantum of work undertaken and the nature of data available. Planning the structure of report is the most important pre-requirement of any academic reporting. In order to equip educational functionaries with necessary knowledge and skills of planning their report, different aspects of structuring their report are included in the training programme.
In the past couple of decades many viable and potential interventions have been launched in order to achieve quality of schooling. As a result of firm intentions of achieving this challenge, educational functionaries are preoccupied in evaluating the efficacy of these interventions for quality improvement of education at various levels from primary education through upper primary to secondary education. Consequent to these efforts, a wide range of information/data pertaining to different quality parameters is available to educational functionaries who are functioning at cluster to state levels. As it is data may not mean anything, but provides some figures about quality parameters. Data in itself is not contributing to knowledge. That means data does not constitute new knowledge. However, data helps in gaining new knowledge through newer insights and thoughts while attempting to understand it. Then, data can help in acquiring insights and understanding only when it is analyzed and interpreted. This process of data analysis and discussion would provide a context of conceptualizing the progress achieved in quality of schooling. The magnitude of data that is available with educational functionaries is very wide as it is obtained through different sources. Huge data, now, available with educational functionaries is obtained through several academic activities and by carrying out some specific research based projects.
The task on hand is to equip educational functionaries in transforming the data into knowledge. Further, the field experiences of educational functionaries while organizing academic activities and in implementing the educational interventions also yield to lot of qualitative data. All such data, whether qualitative or quantitative, should be meaningfully reported and documented with a clear theoretical perspective. Such kind of reporting would help in understanding the efficacy of paradigm shifts for quality schooling.
The objective of the present porgramme is to equip educational functionaries of M.P. and Chhattishgarh States in reporting their academic activities and projects. Unless, they are aware of how their data be meaningfully understood with a theoretical perspective, they may not be abnle to write reports on their academic activities and projects. At macro level, preparing educational functionaries for writing their reports on academic activities and projects, require some theoretical understanding of articulating the conceptual frame to establish truth claims through a coherent and logical argument. At micro level, they should be equipped with necessary knowledge and skills of designing the report.
Educational functionaries may also use different communicable materials like – text, video and audio – to explain the efficacy of their academic programmes in achieving quality. They also are in possession of variety of documents and report is one such document that belongs to text. They are required to organize and categorize different documents to establish a claim or to describe a system/procedure. Keeping in view the task of preparing educational functionaries of M.P. and Chhattishgarh States, some alternative formats for reporting and guidelines for documentation need to be designed.
Theoretical Perspectives of the Themes:
The brief account of the theoretical perspectives provided to the KRPs during the transaction of the themes is provided hereunder.
Epistemic purposes of academic writing
Academic activities and projects cannot happen in vacuum. They are deliberate attempts to attain specified goals. Writing about these activities involves development of truth claims through objective or subjective evidences/experiences. Validation of the truth claims is a latent purpose of any academic writing. Development of substantial justification to the claims by linking the ideas of earlier thinkers and providing opportunities to generate innovative ideas to initiate some more academic activities/projects are the two major essential components of any academic exercise. One of the important steps in these endeavors is to examine the existing literature in the field that acts as anchor point to develop an argument. The purpose of academic writing is not to just describing what has been done but to provide new insights and perspectives. The perspectives that are generated should act as a ground of fertility to future academic workers in ventilating their ideas by either corroborating the present claim or generating new claims. People in academics may vary in their conceptions about particular phenomena with a variation in perspectives. Such varied perspectives generate wide range of nomenclature in the academic field. It is thus essential to provide our perspective by providing specific workable meaning to the terms that we use in our academic activities. Further arguments would be within this frame of reference. Reality and truth are the two basic foundation stones on which the entire edifice of academic work and writing is built. Hence it is essential to incorporate both reality and truth perspectives in any academic writing. As a matter of fact they should be kept in mind while planning the activity itself. These ontological and epistemological issues would ultimately provide direction to conduct an academic activity i.e. the methodology.
Characteristics of good academic writing:
Variations in data and attributing meaning:
The basis for any academic writing is available data. There are many forms of data. Each form of data requires different treatment while attempting to attribute meaning. Data may be in qualitative or quantitative form. Quantitative data constitute information collected through questionnaires and other scales in a survey. Such data may be called as survey data. Qualitative data constitute information obtained through interview or by using some ethno-methodological techniques. As such data do not carry any meaning. But through analysis meaning can be attributed to data with the help of a clear theoretical perspective. Efficacy of academic writing depends on the sound theoretical frame. This theoretical frame of reference determine how data be treated to attribute meaning. Quantitative data treatment is mostly carried out with the help of appropriate statistical techniques. Choice of statistics again depends on nature of data available and the objectives of academic endeavor. The data may be obtained from a probability or non-probability sample. Statistical choice is made on the basis of source and nature of data coupled with the research problem under investigation. Nature of data and the problem helps in deciding whether to rely on descriptive or inferential statistics. Inferential statistics are basically used in case of probability samples. These statistics actually do not indicate whether claims are true or not, but provide evidence for likelihood of something being true. Unlike quantitative data, qualitative data can not be put into a form of numerical expression. Qualitative data is extensive and hence condensation of such data requires judicious judgment in order to make it manageable to use it as evidence for an assumption or claim.
The academic exercises/researches that use qualitative data are considered as qualitative researches. This involves an in-depth understanding of phenomena under consideration. Unlike quantitative research, this relies on reasons behind various occurrences of a phenomenon. Qualitative data is very wide and voluminous. It is difficult to treat such data fully and hence certain data might be skipped without loosing the holistic perspective of the problem under investigation. Interview extracts, reflexive accounts and narratives can be used as evidences for a claim. These evidences are to be rationally put into the argumentation for generating new insights and thoughts about the phenomena under study.
Integration of qualitative and quantitative data:
Qualitative data helps in investigating ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a truth claim, where as quantitative data helps in establishing ‘what’, where’ and ‘when’ of a phenomena. Qualitative data obtained from focused samples as against large random samples of quantitative data. Qualitative data need to be categorized into patterns as the primary basis for organization. Quantitative data relies exclusively on analysis of numerical expressions. Qualitative data provides a platform for exploration. For holistic view of the results of an academic endeavor, reports should use both the forms of data for generating viable and potential arguments. Quantitative data analysis needs to be supplemented with qualitative data that provides clues pertaining to certain measures that are beyond ontological purview.
Planning the report:
- The Preliminary Outline: This provides purpose and direction of the academic activity to be reported. Before start writing the report, it is necessary to prepare a preliminary outline of the report or at least major issues. Establish content hierarchy in the main body of your text.
For this purpose you should be aware of:
- the levels of generality in your material - sometimes called the hierarchy of elements
- the planning skill of outlining the structure of the elements in your text
Inductive and Deductive structure of an Argument:
Inductive thinking is working from specific facts or observations to general principles and reaching your conclusions (your position) only after you have examined the evidence. Deductive thinking is working from a principle or central position on an issue, supporting that position with a logical argument, complete with examples and citations of other authorities and justifying the stand you took at the beginning. Inductive arguments emphasize exploration and observation, draw inferences from empirical data, leads toward a claim for validity of those inferences and correspond to the empirical research report type of text. Deductive arguments are more certain - they are either valid or invalid and correspond closely to the essay style of writing. Balancing inductive and deductive approaches: Academic essays and research reports are not necessarily exclusively inductive or deductive. Taking a process approach to either the essay or the investigative project will show that each features both approaches. Most extended texts inevitably follow a general --> specific --> general structure, as they draw the reader in with some general background and context, and then close by making some summary points or drawing some conclusions.
The IMRAD structure
- - Introduction: What you plan to do
- - Methodology: What you did
- - Results: What you found and
- - Discussion: What it all means
The IMRAD structure accommodates further sub-division along both functional and topical lines. Function based sub-divisions may be on subjects (sample), tools and procedure. Examples of topic-based sub-headings are language attitudes, language teaching approaches, language performance and so on.
Semantic relevance and aptness:
While reporting better frame sentences short and simple. This will be safe to avoid errors in language. Simplicity and brevity are certainly virtues in writing, but should not be pursued at the expense of reason or complexity in your assertions. There is a correlation between length and richness of expression. Assertions in academic communication generally need to be longer than in everyday communication, because the standards we set for accuracy and reasonableness are much higher. There are eight of dimensions of ‘fine tuning’ of expression and meaning. What do you find problematic about this statement? ‘Students will go on strike because they think that instructional procedures are too poor’. Let us see how the above statement can be made more "delicate" - and at the same time more "powerful". Through attention to the following qualities or dimensions, let us explore these one by one, in sequence, building on the above "problem" statement. You're advised to work through these in the sequence developed below, as the above example is expanded cumulatively.
Precise lay out:
This is the summary of the academic writing. Entire academic report is written in precise highlighting the main features of the academic work/project. Abstracts (and Summaries) serve to reduce a long text to its essential key points - summing up the study. Main aspects to be included in the structure of an abstract are -
- Findings and Interpretation
- Implications and recommendations for future research
Initial statements, assumptions and purposes (Central Idea):
The introduction to the research or investigative report provides the reader with important information for navigating the rest of the text. Hence, you should keep in mind following aspects while writing introduction.
- Establish the field
- Summarize previous research
- Create a research space
- Introduce research project
Further following points also to be kept in mind while making initial statements or truth claims.
- Why is this activity being conducted?
- What is the significance of this activity?
- Explaining the context of the activity
- Aims of the activity
Modus operandi (Modalities of execution):
The ground realities (ontological issues) that you have enumerated/identified would decide the methodology of your project/research work. Besides, your methodology should be compatible to aims of project/research activity. Following are the pertinent aspects that should be spelled out in methodology.
- Overall design
- Selection of the sample
- The process by which data is collected
- Data analysis
- Statistical analysis
- Comparing quantitative and qualitative analysis
- Strengths and limitations of methodology
Action research, survey and case studies:
The action research begins when a teacher becomes self-reflective. He/she introspects, self-evaluates the impact of his/her own performance with respect to the goals he/she is expected to achieve. Perhaps he/she is driven by an urge to be accountable to his/her profession or to derive satisfaction from his/her career. During his/her analysis on his/her own or by discussion with other teachers he/she may identify the shortcomings, defects, difficulties, problems – labeled as concerns. Then he/she makes decision about the most apt, among some possible, strategy for bringing about improvement of the situation. Action begins and self-reflection becomes objective if the teacher collects the appropriate information regarding the impact of his new strategy. Hence research component is also of importance.
The case study is one of several ways of doing social science research. Rather than using large samples and following a rigid protocol to examine a limited number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth, longitudinal examination of a single instance or event: a case. They provide a systematic way of looking at events, collecting data, analyzing information, and reporting the results. As a result the researcher may gain a sharpened understanding of why the instance happened as it did, and what might become important to look at more extensively in future research. Case study research means single and multiple case studies, can include quantitative evidence, relies on multiple sources of evidence. Case studies should not be confused with qualitative research and they can be based on any mix of quantitative and qualitative evidence.
Ideation of data:
Criteria for selection of data:
There are a variety of possible ways to select some data for analysis and to discard other data. Each of these ways may be more relevant in some contexts than other. Formalities of presentation are less precisely defined in presenting qualitative data than in presenting quantitative data. Analysis of quantitative data is carried through use of statistical techniques.
Report findings objectively, without making any kind of interpretation of those findings. The results section provides an account of what is found. Balancing the objectivity of results with interpretation is essential to link the evidences and the claim.
Argumentation (Logical Attributes of outcome):
This generally follows findings and interpretation (or findings and then discussion). It should match the introduction in the way it moves - from a close focus on study and to relating that study more broadly, to other work in the field. The argument allows to step back to a more general level of discussion, and to relate findings to those of other researchers - particularly to the literature reviewed in the introduction. It is important to be able to control the strength of the claims. Many writers make claims for which they have insufficient evidence. Establishing a fine sense of the relationship between the strength of a claim (a position or assertion) and the strength of the evidence for that claim is essential while interpreting the results. A Recommendation is generally included at the end of a general discussion. It may propose an action or further research.
Exact contribution to knowledge:
Conclusions are the exact contribution to the field. Conclusion should be neither summary nor restatement. Instead, it must go beyond the study to reach a judgment, to endorse one side of an issue, to discuss findings, or to offer directives. To put it succinctly, it should say something worthwhile. The important thing to remember about the conclusion is that the reader expects to be able to leave your text with your main message - or at least an idea of what you have achieved. In addition to the content of a conclusion - what should be included and excluded - it is worth considering the perspective taken at this concluding point in communicating with the reader. A conclusion can be seen as being both backward-looking & forward-looking.
Documentation & types of Documents:
Documentation is any communicable material that is used to describe, explain or instruct regarding some attributes of an object, system or procedure, such as its parts, assembly, installation, maintenance and use. The term documentation is in use for quite some time now and has its origin from the term document. The term document conveys a meaning of a medium or record on which information or knowledge on any topic is recorded for communication and use by mankind. A document (noun) is a bounded physical representation of body of information designed with the capacity (and usually intent) to communicate. A document may manifest symbolic, diagrammatic or sensory-representational information. To document (verb) is to produce a document artifact by collecting and representing information. Documentation can mean different things in different contexts. For example, there are major differences in documentation for a legal case, a scientific study, for art collection and computer software. And documentation can take many different forms even in a single context. There are number of examples ranging from instances commonly understood as prototypical documents, to instances that are understood as documents only in specialized or rare situations. Different types of documents Prototypical Documents, Documents of Record, Books, Canonical Documents, Transactional Documents, Functional Documents and Non-Prototypical Documents.
How to write bibliography:
A bibliography is a list of magazines, books, and newspapers that have been consulted in a research/academic work. There are many different ways to write a bibliography. The bibliography format used here is based on MLA style. Some of the important tips in writing bibliography are:
• The book or magazine title is always underlined in a bibliography
• If a citation is more than one line long, indent the second line five spaces
• Put the bibliography in alphabetical order, by the author’s last name. If there is no author listed, use the first word of the title (not ‘a’, ‘an’, or ‘the’)
• When there is more than one author, list the authors in the order they are listed on the title page
• If you use information form an article in a book or magazine, the article is listed before the title
Different academic writings differ in size and length depending on the type and nature of academic activities that are to be reported. It is necessary to decide the length of the report and of the individual chapters. There should be self-imposed writing targets. It is necessary to manage the time available, otherwise the report would not be completed within the stipulated period.