Thesis Research Proposal

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

The culmination of our thesis class this semester was our thesis proposal, which consisted of a research question and sub-questions, justification, limitations, and literature review. Our next semester will consist of conducting research to answer our question and coming to some conclusion, either a new theory, process, product, or something else. Oh, and writing about it all in at least 5 million words or so (maybe less).

It’s been an interesting process, from being set out into the wilderness and told to come back with some game in 16 weeks. We could at least return to camp to ask what this game might look like, how we might spot its tracks, sneak up on it and then slay it. We also had brothers in arms to confer with about the process, share insights, weapons and hunting techniques. I think we’ve all returned to camp, some worse for wear than the others, but bearing our game in nice shiny packages none the less.

Click here to read my thesis proposal. (PDF document)


Thesis Proposal Posterized

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

image from posterTo cap off our thesis proposals we hosted a poster day so that we could share our work to date, get feedback and talk about our plans for the project. As always seems to be the case, making visuals and additional content helps with the main task at hand — in this case writing a thesis proposal. To create an engaging poster that tells the story I had to know my project and develop a story to tell. I decided that my objective was to create a poster that anyone who attended could understand and engage with me in my project after viewing it for 2-3 minutes. The story that I wanted to tell was that pairing visualizations with written text will improve cognition by a larger audience; that citizens often don’t but do need to participate in complex issues within their local government; and that my hypothesis and future research would attempt to see if the addition of visualizations to government communication on complex issues could increase citizen participation on those issues.

Yesterday came poster day and we were delighted to host a crowd that I would estimate at about 40 attendees, consisting of friends and family, Herron students and faculty and other interested parties. I was able to talk with about 10 of them at length about my project and received some great feedback. Some had insightful comments regarding my future research and how visualizations help them learn in their lives. A number also commented that they liked my poster and that they thought it was the easiest to engage (communications objective achieved). Many people were excited about the potential of getting more people involved in government, which is my main goal.

I believe all of us graduate students left the day feeling relieved that we were done for the semester, but most importantly excited about moving into the next phase of their thesis project after talking to and connecting with others on our work. I’m also proud of the way that the class came together to stage such an event. The food, the promotion, the exhibition space and the posters were all impressive and as our teacher said, set a high bar for classes to come. I’ll post a few pics of the day when I get a chance.

Process tools

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

While framing my thesis research question I reviewed a lot of material; I’m guessing I consulted 20 books and can’t even guess at the number of PDF documents. To keep track of important notes and quotes I used a system of sticky flags and PDF highlighter to mark sections of interest and then reviewed them to select the most important items to transfer to index cards. This was an priceless system and can not imagine trying to write my proposal without these cards.

To organize the many PDFs I covered I saved them to my computer hard drive and then printed out the most valuable ones. After printing I organized them in a binder, each with its own pocket. This came in handy and allowed me to grab the binder and quickly page through the pockets to find what I needed.

I think it worked out well and would recommend to anyone trying to tackle such a large project that they figure out an organization system early on in the process as it will pay dividends in the end.

The Writing Center

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today I visited the IUPUI Writing Center and worked with one of their fine writing tutors to review and refine my thesis proposal.

At the beginning of the meeting Keva, the tutor, asked what I wanted to get out of the hour-long session. I’d fortunately thought about what would be nice to come out of the meeting with and was able to offer specifics to her —¬† I wanted to review and refine my justification and limitations and identify an appropriate citation method to apply in my final document as opposed to focusing on grammar or other matters. “Great!,” she said (or at least that’s what she said in my remembrance.)

After establishing what I was there for and briefing her on the components of my proposal and subject matter we got down to doing work. She began by reading word-by-word my proposal out loud. This is something that is always recomended to writers but not done enough. I rely on it when I get to a section that troubles me but rarely (if ever) read aloud the whole piece. This alone offered great value and I identified some issues simply because she stumbled or paused at times due to clarity. After reading a paragraph we commented on and discussed what we had read, noting what revisions were needed.

After reading through the two sections, justification and limitations, and marking the document up, she located and gave me a document outlining the Chicago Manual of Style and we reviewed the handout for the sections that applied to my document.

Besides providing a tremendously helpful second or third set of eyes to read my proposal, and highly-trained eyes at that, I came out of the meeting having realized that while my background in journalism gives me a strong writing base to build on, Associated Press (AP) style is different than the fine art of academic writing.

Research- “Into,” “For,” or “Through”- Design

November 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

As my master’s thesis research proposal approaches being completed, I’ve been considering exactly what the research aspect can and will be. My research proposal – including question and subquestions, justification, and limitations – will determine the type of research but it helps to have a conceptual model to explore and offer guidance.

Previously, I had heard of design research having three types – “for,” “through” and “of” (rather than “into”) – and had my own mental model of such a concept. Today I came across a blog with nice insight into the types of design research and that uses essentially the same model. It’s helpful to read the thoughts of someone else going through a similar process (design research for their PhD) and see a visual model and accompanying explanation of their understanding.

Although I have not met you, I am going to refer to you by your given name. Thanks, Sheila!

Types and approaches of (Design) research
by Sheila Pontis

Ken + Jen Visocky O’Grady

October 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

On Wednesday, Oct. 27 the husband and wife, tag-team duo of Ken and Jen visited the Herron School of Art + Design auditorium for a speaking engagement. They recently published “A Designer’s Research Manual.” I had a chance to look at the book a few weeks ago and was impressed by the layout and presentation of a sometimes tough topic. Most research-focused books are targeted toward the scientific or scholarly fields so it is nice to see one written for designers, both students and professionals alike. Research is an often overlooked aspect of the visual communications/design process but, as the book description states, “In an increasingly crowded marketplace, embracing research practices will ensure a continued viable role for designers in business.”

I was excited for their appearance and to learn more about their views on design research. Unfortunately, they didn’t really speak about design research. Fortunately, they still gave an interesting presentation, one with valuable information for designers of all ages, and specifically for those transferring from academia to professional practice. Highlights for me included:

  • Design schools breed rock stars. We need more bands.
  • All designers have different skill sets. Know where your strengths are.
  • Maintain a crush list of designers, artists, business people, etc. Identify why you like those on your list and how they became successful. Write your list down. Reach out to them if you can.
  • Your competition may be your ally. Collaborate.
  • Celebrate every single victory. Not just your own.

Proposed Proposal Work

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

After submitting our proposals our instructor suggested insisted that we create an action plan for completing the proposal by the end of the semester (and as it turns out, creating a poster to share our proposal with others). I feel pretty good about where my work is at the moment and feel as if I my main work is in refinement and in getting feedback and/or approval so that I feel comfortable moving forward. Of course, now that I have my thesis committee members as well I need to begin establishing a working relationship with them.

I’ll tack a copy of my action plan near my desk, but if you want to check up on me you can download your very own copy as well.