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Masters in Project Management: Academic Writing and the Research Question


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Title: Masters in Project Management: Academic Writing and the Research Question

Masters in Project Management Academic Writing
and the Research Question
  • Lawrence Cleary and
  • Íde OSullivan
  • Shannon Consortium
  • Regional Writing Centre

Workshop Procedure
  • Summary Review of the Features of Academic
  • Developing a Research Question
  • Lunch
  • Developing a Research Question (cont)

Whats Academic about Academic Writing?
  • When someone says academic
  • writing, what features characterize
  • that kind of writing for you?

  • Freewriting Prompt How has your academic writing
    developed since we last met?
  • Freewriting (Murray 2006)
  • Write for 5 minutes
  • Write complete thoughts (sentences)
  • Do not stop
  • Private writing -- no one will read it
  • Write about the topic or sub-topic
  • Like brainstorming in sentences
  • Structure and coherence not required
  • Explore many angles, do open writing

Academic Writing
  • Complexity
  • Formality
  • Objectivity
  • Explicitness
  • Hedging
  • Responsibility

Writing to Prompts (Murray, 2005)
  • Joining the conversation
  • Broad and narrow conversations
  • An area of project management that I would like
    to research is
  • Keep writing non-stop for 5 minutes.
  • Write in sentences.
  • Do not edit or censor your writing.
  • Discuss what you have written in pairs.

Reflection and Discussion
  • What impact did the previous exercise have on
  • How might this type of writing activity be
  • How do you now move from this broad area to
    selecting a topic that is manageable/ doable
    within the scope of the dissertation?

Choosing Your Topic Scope
  • The time / space continuum what can I
    meaningfully talk about in 80 to 100 pages, or 20
    to 25 thousand words, after 15 months of reading,
    research, analysis?
  • EPM2
  • Try to do what can be done in this much space and

Selecting a topic
  • Your starting point for finding a topic may be to
    try to answer some of the questions below (Unit
  • Is there a managerial problem or issue relating
    to your job or organisation that you would find
    interesting to investigate?
  • Is there a subject area that, if you were to
    become more of an expert in it, would enhance
    your career?
  • Did you come across any theory or model during
    your programme of studies that you found
    intriguing, challenging or feel is highly
    appropriate or relevant to your own business
  • Is there an area of business practice that you
    feel is currently under-researched and there is
    scope for further investigation?

Reinventing the Wheel
  • What has been done before? (See Appendix A in
    Unit 6).
  • What are some of the topics?
  • Case studies
  • Risk management
  • The Application of a tool to achieve a desired
  • Statistical evaluation
  • Etc.
  • Value Engineering as a method of Professional
    Stress Reduction

While Reading
  • Read broadly and deeply, but do not be afraid to
    concentrate on areas that interest you.
  • Come to a good understanding of how the aspects
    of Project Management that interest you fit into
    the bigger picture. How will additional knowledge
    in this area benefit the field as a whole?

While Reading
  • Look for the literature that attempts to answer
    questions that you want answered. What are they
    saying and what questions are not being addressed
    or definitively answered.
  • Look for gaps in the knowledge or debates about
    the reliability or applicability of what is known.

Narrowing the Topic
  • Google Project Management
  • Google Project Management time
  • Google Project Management time tracking
  • Google Project Management time tracking

Gaps in the Literature
  • Read, read, read.
  • What seems to go unexplained or what seems to be
    based on less than absolutely reliable evidence?
  • What question seems to go unanswered or not
    answered to your satisfaction?

Gaps in the Literature
  • Why is that? Has no one done the research? Or is
    the research so old that the confirmation of the
    knowledge has led to it being a given assumption
    in this area of research?
  • Do a search. Confirm your hunches.

Developing and Refining the Research Question
  • How do you now refine this topic into a question
    that is answerable within the scope of the
  • Ask yourself what questions need to be answered
    in order to fill the gaps in the literature.

Developing and Refining the Research Question
  • These are your tentative research questions.
  • What questions need to be answered in order to
    answer the research question?

Developing and Refining the Research Question
  • The research question/problem is at the heart of
    every research project
  • To see the problem with unwavering clarity and
    to state it in precise and unmistakable terms is
    the first requirement in the research process
    (Leedy and Ormrod, 200543).

Developing and Refining the Research Question
  • The research question must be
  • carefully phrased
  • stated clearly, completely and precisely
  • representative of the goal(s) of the research

Developing and Refining the Research Question
  • Important considerations
  • Feasibility
  • Validity (see Unit 2)
  • Refining and fine-tuning the research question
  • Delimiting the research
  • Defining the terms
  • Questioning the question

Developing and Refining the Research Question
  • Does senior executives perception of
    environmental uncertainty affect the strategic
    functions of construction firms? (Phua,
  • Analyse and evaluate this research question?
  • What questions need to be answered in order to
    answer the research question?
  • Map out the article outline.

The Actual Article Outline
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Why perceived environmental uncertainty?
  • 3. The link between perceived environmental
    uncertainty and firm strategy
  • 4. Present study and hypotheses development
  • 5. Study approach and method
  • 5.1. Sample and procedure
  • 5.2. Measurement instruments perceived
    environmental uncertainty 5.3. Firm
    activities/strategic functions
  • 5.4. Extent of firm change
  • 5.5. Firm variables
  • 6. Analysis and results
  • 7. Discussion and conclusion

Thesis Statement
  • companies that deal in projects on an ongoing
  • thus must learn to deal with crises on a regular
    basis. It is
  • these crises that are the concern of this paper.
    Its specific
  • purpose therefore is to review the nature of
  • interruptions that have interfered with project
    progress of
  • an international construction company and reflect
  • their remedies. It is thought that this exposure
    will add to
  • the projects-as-practice material for academics
    and the
  • normative literature that assists managers in
    dealing with
  • crises, especially within construction
  • (Hällgren and Wilson, 2007 1-2).
  • Hällgren, M. and Wilson, T.L. (2007) The nature
    and management of crises in construction
    projects Projects-as-practice observations,
    International Journal of Project Management
    online, available http//
    f accessed 15 May 2008.

Difficulties Associated with Writing
  • What do you worry about or struggle with when
    faced with this writing task?
  • Freewrite on this topic for five minutes

Difficulties Associated with Writing
  • Anxiety and fear of writing
  • Lack of confidence and motivation
  • Getting started
  • Cracking the codes of academic writing
  • Lack of guidance, practice and feedback
  • Misconceptions of writing
  • Good writing skills are innate X
  • Think first, then write X

Strategies to Develop Academic Writing Skills
  • Writing is a process
  • Create time and space for writing
  • Freewriting
  • Writing to prompts
  • The next thing I want to write about is
  • The reason I am writing this is
  • The objectives of my essay are
  • Create your own writing prompts
  • Experiment with different types of writing

Strategies to Develop Academic Writing Skills
  • Keep a learning diary (Moore and Murphy, 200561)
    / writing diary / process journal (Elbow and
    Belanoff, 200319).
  • When do you feel most/least motivated to write?
  • What strategies have/have not worked in the past?

Strategies to Develop Academic Writing Skills
  • Write a little bit every day (Moore and Murphy,
  • Keep a notebook with you to record ideas when
    they come to mind (Moore and Murphy, 2005).

Cracking the Codes
  • Analysing the genre/text and modelling
  • Generate a list of
  • The most important features of academic writing
  • Criteria to make your writing more effective
  • The important conventions in your discipline
  • What is/is not acceptable in your discipline

Cracking the Codes
  • Develop a writing charter Murray and Moore
    (2006135) that you can consult for guidance.
  • Journal guidelines for contributors

Discipline-specific Conventions
  • What organisational features/patterns are in
  • How are arguments and counterarguments presented
    and structured?
  • What types of evidence are important in this

Discipline-specific Conventions
  • What stylistic features are prominent?
  • Is the text cohesive? How does the author achieve
    such cohesion?
  • What kind(s) of persuasive devises does the
    author employ?

Wrapping Up
  • Writing ProcessPlanning, Drafting, (Discussing /
    Consulting), Revising, Editing and Proofreading.
  • Rhetorical SituationOccasion for writing,
    writer, topic, audience and purpose.
  • Writing Strategiescognitive, metacognitive,
    affective and social.

  • Elbow, P. and Belanoff, P. (2003) Being a Writer
    A Community of Writers Revisited. New York
  • Leedy, P. and Ormrod, E. (2005) Practical
    research Planning and Design (8th edition). New
    Jersey Pearson Education International.
  • Moore, S. and Murphy, M. (2005) How to be a
    Student 100 Great Ideas and Practical Hints for
    Students Everywhere. UK Open University Press.
  • Murray, R. (2005) Writing for Academic Journals.
    UK Open University Press.
  • Murray, R. and Moore, S. (2006) The Handbook of
    Academic Writing A Fresh Approach. UK Open
    University Press.
  • Phua, F. (2007) Does senior executives
    perception of environmental uncertainty affect
    the strategic functions of construction firms?,
    International Journal of Project Management,
    25(8) 753-761.