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Dissertation Writing – Preparing The Way

  1. Beginning.
  2. Style of Advising
  3. Quantitative instruments
  4. Interpreting the results.
  5. The professional literature.

3. Quantitative Instruments

Professors who locate themselves exclusively in the quantitative camp demand that students' research involve the compilation of data in the form of amounts. Hence, they reject historical chronicles, philosophical analyses, a line of logic leading to a conclusion, a comparison of the qualities of different societies, the detailed description of an individual's or group's style of life, and the like. Furthermore, adherents of quantitative studies sometimes prefer studies that focus on rather large numbers of people, schools, cities, or political constituencies so that broadly inclusive generalizations can be drawn from the research results. Such adherents thus disapprove of studies focusing on one autistic person (singlesubject research) or only a few subjects (three autistic children, two schools, four candidates for political office, five neighborhoods) whose results cannot, with confidence, be generalized to a wide range of people or events. Proponents of quantitative studies tend to prefer such research methods as controlled experiments and surveys that employ interviews, tests, systematic observations, questionnaires, and quantitative content analysis.

In contrast, professors who subscribe strictly to qualitative methodology tend to belittle research that involves what they may refer to as "no more than number crunching" which they feel oversimplifies complex causes, dehumanizes evidence, and fails to recognize individual differences among people, among environments, and among events. Advocates of qualitative studies tend to favor such research techniques as historical and philosophical analyses, descriptive observation, case studies, ethnography, and hermeneutics.

In our opinion as authors of this volume, basic and applied topics are equally desirable foci for theses and dissertations. However, not all professors would agree. Some believe that basic research designed to promote understanding is the proper aim of graduate students' studies. However, others insist that projects should always focus on solving problems that confront societies and individuals. Still other faculty members consider both basic and applied issues as worthy matters for master's-degree and doctoral candidates to pursue.

Consequently, you may wish to discover the attitudes that potential advisors have about basic and applied studies so that you can try to find members for your research committee whose preferences are in keeping with your own.
For some students, a key criterion for selecting an advisor is a professor's gender, ethnic origin, or religious affiliation. Such a stipulation can lead to trouble
Not only can fellow students offer useful observations about faculty advisors, but they may also help you in other ways at each stage of your research and writing.
At the beginning, when you are choosing a research problem to pursue, your peers may suggest potential topics and may identify advantages and weaknesses of topics you have under consideration.

As you survey the professional literature that relates to your project, your compatriots may help by suggesting sites to search on the Internet, by sharing relevant articles and books, and by showing you the system they use for taking notes and organizing their references.

During the data-collecting stage, fellow students can be asked to critique the methods (survey, ethnography, experiment, historical analysis) and instruments (tests, questionnaires, interviews, observations) that you intend to employ. They may help you gather data by distributing questionnaires, conducting interviews, or administering tests. They may also help you classify the information you collect by suggesting categories in which to place data or by assessing the strengths and shortcomings of the classification scheme you plan to adopt. Your peers may also be able to suggest appropriate methods of statistical or hermeneutic analysis and perhaps participate in carrying out the analysis.

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