Class 3: 09/14/09
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class 3: 09/14/09

building research skills


the 3 levels of seeing

  • All there is to thinking [doing research],” he said, “is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing which makes you see something that isn’t even visible.” (Norman Maclean, 1976, p. 92)

  • the immediately visible

  • that which is visible but noticeable only to the careful observer

  • the invisible or the unobservable

all researchers must attend to:

  • precision and accuracy

    • precision: exactness of description

    • accuracy: extent to which we are describing what we say we are describing

  • bias and efficiency

    • bias: systematic error in description

    • efficiency: maximizing the information gathered

  • the observation “n” problem

    • how many observations do I need

  • cost/risk

    • will my research put someone at-risk or cost someone

  • resources and constraints

    • how much time, money etc. do I have

  • including relevant factors and excluding irrelevant factors

    • am I observing the right things

  • framing research questions

    • There is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas….Discovery contains “an irrational element,” or a “creative intuition.” (Karl Popper)

  • building models

    • a narrative that explains one’s observations

  • evaluating models

    • does this model adequately explain new observations

    • does this model explain observations better than other models

constructing a model

  • hypothesize the factors involved

  • hypothesize how they might be related

  • draw the models

  • evaluate which one explains the facts best

  • guesstimate the strengths of paths


  • model must be falsifiable

  • maximize concreteness

  • explain as much as possible

Krathwohl: ch 6 the literature review

  • goals: see page 103

  • getting started:

    • existing reviews

    • AERA (and other) programs

    • key articles’ references

    • people familiar with the area

    • ERIC

  • terms

    • controlled vocabulary

    • keyword indexing

    • citation indexing

  • copy Table 6.1 and keep it in a notebook

  • copy General Suggestions (p. 121) and keep


  • aggregate data

  • applied research

  • case study

  • control for

  • dummy variable (first paragraph)

  • ecological fallacy

  • emic, etic

  • endogenous, exogenous

  • experiment (first & third paragraph)

  • gambler’s fallacy


Sieber: Ch 3

  • general ethical principles

    • beneficence

    • respect

    • justice

  • six norms

    • valid design

    • competence of researcher

    • identification of consequences

    • selection of subjects

    • voluntary informed consent

    • compensation for injury



fewer than 40 words

  • Price (1982) wrote, “Interventionists make efforts to teach and typically do expect mastery, whereas anti-interventionists avoid teaching what they perceive as difficult, because they fear that children will be harmed by unreasonable expectations for mastery” (p. 282).

  • Price (1982) wrote that “interventionists make efforts to teach and typically do expect mastery, whereas anti-interventionists avoid teaching what they perceive as difficult, because they fear that children will be harmed by unreasonable expectations for mastery” (p. 282).

more than 40 words

  • Ayers (1993) observed,

    We experience our own culture from the deepest levels toward the surface, and so our own culture can be largely invisible to us. . . . When we look at another culture, however, we tend to see the surface first, and we may fail to probe toward the deeper well-springs of meaning. This, too, can cut us off, and make culture and other people invisible. (p. 79)

grad life

Wildavsky: The Organization of Time

  • honor the sabbath: have an inviolable day off

  • do not do for yourself what others can do for you

  • spend money to buy time

  • play when you play but work when you work

  • learn to fill up the small fragments of time

  • organize the flow of your work: avoid waiting to work

  • avoid downtime: plan ahead

  • keep yourself supplied with work

  • control your schedule: get small things done ahead of time

  • have a rule to have rules

  • if you can’t think of what to do with something, throw it away

  • defend your work time, but don’t be a workaholic

  • keep conversations with students businesslike

  • keep things short

  • be careful about taking on new obligations

  • efficient use of time makes it easier to let go

more top 10 tips

  • read Graduate Programs Handbook (your advisor may be a little out of date)

  • get to know the grad programs secretary in your department and treat her well

  • develop friendships with grad students in other departments and colleges

  • find a special place somewhere on campus where you can work uninterrupted (hint: it probably won’t be your office)

  • point every paper you write toward your dissertation

  • take advantage of being a student—go to games (except for football and men’s basketball, all are free with student ID)

  • work out regularly—get exercise

  • maintain a life and passion outside of grad school, e.g., read novels, listen to music, dance, skate, play music, join a club

  • do graduate school—don’t let graduate school do you

good resources

  • Chronicle of Higher Education

    • academe’s job ads

    • available on line:


        • user name: uiuclib

        • password: library

  • Tomorrow’s Professor

    • listinfo/tomorrows-professor/

  • Google Scholar (

best quick getaways

  • Krannert Art Museum (2 minutes)

  • Carle Park (Urbana: Iowa St. 3 blks east of Lincoln—15 minute walk)

  • Hessel Park (Champaign: Kirby St. 4 blks west of Neil—25 minute walk)

  • Meadowbrook Park (Urbana: Windsor east of Race—short bike ride)

  • Lake of the Woods (Mahomet—15 minute drive, west on 74)

  • Salt Fork River Preserve (Homer Lake) (17 miles east of Urbana)

  • Allerton (southeast of Monticello—30 minute drive)

free (or cheap) stuff this week

(under construction)

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