The Story of the [Research] Question

As writer and scholar, have you ever felt “stuck” conceptualizing and fleshing out your thesis and related research question?

At any point in the writing process and academic calendar, but especially relevant during the semester-end stretch when final papers are due, it is not unusual to find oneself reflecting on interrogating the premises of, and perhaps, even feeling “stuck” in how to further develop the research question(s).

One way to intentionally and mindfully deliberate on the research question and unleash the conceptual flow of writing is to PAUSE and REFLECT on the “story” of the [research] question itself. This can be done by writing a brief reflective memo, which may or may not be integrated into the paper itself, but will probably prove to be quite cathartic, anchoring, and clarifying.
Taking license to be free and unrestrained, write as if journaling to yourself, and reflect on any one or combination of the following prompts relative to your thesis and/or research question(s):
  • What is the (background) “story” of (behind) this [research] question?
  • What has been the developmental trajectory of the research question?
  • How did I become interested in this question?
  • Why is this question significant to me?
  • What do I find most compelling about my question?
  • In what ways do I connect with this question? What are my points-of-reference in probing into, responding to, or contextualizing this research question – in my own life, practice, field, and/or in the world?

For more help or strategies to get started, come into Weingarten to work a learning instructor and get tailored feedback with individual consultations. Or feel free to join our Dissertation Bootcamp working group series for support in undergraduate and graduate research!

 

Staff writer: Min Derry

Keep English Switched On: Go to Office Hours

In this semester-long series, our expert Learning Instructor for International Students Julianne Reynolds offers tips for keeping English “switched on” in your daily life at Penn. If you’re only using English in the classroom, you’re missing out on a lot of learning opportunities. Follow these short and sweet tips to flip the switch to English.

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Go to office hours. You can ask questions about the course material, get help with a particular assignment, and build a relationship with an expert. Not only do you benefit by learning more about subject areas that interest you, you are also demonstrating to your instructor that you care about that subject. And you get more practice speaking English! It’s important to start building these relationships early on in your academic career. Down the road, you might turn to your instructors for career advice.

But don’t just take it from us:

““I visited four professors during office hours for a total of 6 times in the past academic year and each time I received tremendous support academically and emotionally. Among these meetings, there was one in particular that meant a lot to me. At the beginning of my master’s program, I talked to one professor about one challenging assignment, as I felt that I could never achieve what he expected us to. To my surprise, he not only explained the requirements in detail, but more importantly, relieved me from being overwhelmed by the pressure to be perfect. We ended up discussing our understanding about academic success for graduate study, and came to an agreement that what mattered most was the knowledge and experience we could take way with us for years rather than GPA. That meeting was a turning point for me, as I was able to actually enjoy learning and experiencing my study life without the burden of becominYue Shig a 4.0 student.” – Yue Shi, Counseling and Mental Health Services, GSE `15.

Keep English Switched On: Get to Know Your Classmates

In this semester-long series, our expert Learning Instructor for International Students Julianne Reynolds offers tips for keeping English “switched on” in your daily life at Penn. If you’re only using English in the classroom, you’re missing out on a lot of learning opportunities. Follow these short and sweet tips to flip the switch to English.

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Get to know the other students in your classes, especially ones who aren’t native speakers of your first language. One way to do this is to get to class early and make small talk with someone sitting next to you. Good topics for small talk include difficult assignments, the weather (seriously – especially if there’s a storm brewing), and current events on campus.

But don’t just take it from us:

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“Small talk is a relatively easy way to start a conversation with others and doing it more often will gradually build up your confidence. However, one important thing to keep in mind is to try not to think of the person you are talking with as a tool for practicing English. Friendship is cultivated by a genuine mutual interest in each other, so try not to pretend to be someone else and talk about things that you literally have no interest in. Be yourself and try to talk with people you want to get to know more. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if other people say something you don’t understand. People usually understand that you are not a native speaker and are usually happy to teach you (and you need to acknowledge to yourself that you have a lot to learn!). You can also ask people to correct you if they found that you’ve made a language mistake.”– Amelie Chang, Professional Counseling and Mental Health Services, GSE, `16.

KEEP ENGLISH SWITCHED ON: GET INVOLVED ON CAMPUS

In this semester-long series, our expert Learning Instructor for International Students Julianne Reynolds offers tips for keeping English “switched on” in your daily life at Penn. If you’re only using English in the classroom, you’re missing out on a lot of learning opportunities. Follow these short and sweet tips to flip the switch to English.

strategy2finalSeek out university clubs or groups where you share a common interest with other members. Check out the Office of Student Affairs’ website for a complete list of student organizations and budget time into your schedule to attend regular meetings. You might also be interested in attending social events sponsored by student groups or your academic department or school. When you go to these events, go by yourself or with one other person. If you go in a large group, you’re more likely to stay with your group and less likely to mingle with new people.

But don’t just take it from us:

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“When first moving to the US to study, I never actually thought that the language would be a major hindrance. After all, I have been studying English since I was 3, and all of the books I used for my undergrad were in English due to the lack of translations. But what I found out is that even though I did OK in class, it was much more difficult to accurately communicate in everyday situations: having lunch with your classmates, etc. It was in those moments that it was more difficult for me to find the words I needed to convey my ideas. I decided, then, to look for activities that would involve meeting people outside of those that speak my own language. I signed up for intercultural programs such as ILP (Intercultural Leadership Program) and Intercultural Buddies at GSC and started organizing activities with my U.S. classmates, like going out for dinner. After all, if I wanted to be surrounded by people from my own country, I would have stayed home. It’s so rewarding when you are able to speak to anyone right from the top of your mind. It takes time, and above all, it takes practice, but it’s totally worth it.” – Fernando Gama, Electrical and Systems Engineering, SEAS ’20.

Keep English Switched On: An International Student Blog Series

In this semester-long series, our expert Learning Instructor for International Students Julianne Reynolds offers tips for keeping English “switched on” in your daily life at Penn. If you’re only using English in the classroom, you’re missing out on a lot of learning opportunities. Follow these short and sweet tips to flip the switch to English.

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In September, Weingarten Learning Resources will host a series called Academics Plus for international students who would like to learn more about proven study strategies that work in U.S. classrooms. These hour and a half workshops are an ideal space to discuss academic, language, and cultural topics with the facilitators and with other international students who have similar concerns.

Since the workshops are open to students from all 12 Penn schools, this is a great way to meet people from other academic disciplines and backgrounds.

But don’t just take it from us:

wang“I found talking to WLRC instructors very useful in fitting into the academic and social life at Penn. Also, sharing experiences with other international students gave me the sense that I’m not alone in feeling all these pressures and hardships. These workshops helped me build my confidence, so that I can better figure out my own way of study.” – Saier Wang, Social Policy, SP2 ’16

Yue Shi“I participated in two Academic Plus workshops at Weingarten in the past year, one for reading strategies and the other for student conduct. Both workshops were very interactive and practical. For the reading workshop with 30+ participants, we were randomly assigned to 4-5 groups, and were asked to read an article before the instructor started the seminar, and to redo the reading after the strategies were introduced. That task enabled us to immediately apply new skills and see the effect. For the student conduct workshop, we were given some really tricky scenarios and were asked to decide whether or not the behaviors in the scenarios were plagiarism. Before the workshop, I thought I knew what cheating and plagiarism were for sure, but after that, I realized that there were some grey areas that I, as an international student, had misunderstandings in. I felt fortunate that I went to both workshops, as they helped to improve my efficiency and ensured that I was on the right track in an unfamiliar campus culture.”  -Yue Shi, Counseling and Mental Health Services, GSE ‘15

Spaces fill quickly! Click below to reserve your spot in the Academics Plus workshops today!:

Academics Plus