Thesis Seminar: Week 4

Date: February 18-22, 2019


  • Do thesis statement, research questions, and main sections (level II headings) align?  Does the thesis statement (one sentence with a topic, opinion, and reasons or ways) answer the research questions?

  • Do topic sentences that begin each body paragraph contain a claim?

  • Are topic sentences from each body paragraph organized in a logical fashion?  Are they coherent? Do topic sentences align to their respective main sections?

  • Do main sections of the literature review (level II headings) align with the thesis statement?

  • Are main sections of the literature review (level II headings) organized logically (coherent)?

  • From prior weeks:

    • How does my thesis statement reflect a researchable problem?

    • How does my thesis statement align (or relate) to my literature review?

    • How do my research questions align with my literature review? Does the literature review answer the research questions?

    • How does the overall organization of my literature review reflect an argument or point of view?  What is my overall position?


At this point in the process (with three weeks left)…

  • you should have found the articles that you need to write your literature review.

  • you should have a clear thesis statement.

  • you should have a good idea of what your research questions are although it’s common to slightly modify your research questions as you develop your literature review (in qualitative studies).

  • you should have a clear overall organizational pattern that is appropriate for your thesis statement and research questions.

  • You should prepare for discussing your organizational pattern with your mentor (that’s me!).

Finding Articles

Thesis Seminar: Week 3

Date: February 11 , 2019 - February 15, 2019


  • How does my thesis statement reflect a researchable problem?

  • How does my thesis statement align (or relate) to my literature review?

  • How do my research questions align with my literature review? Does the literature review answer the research questions?

  • How does the overall organization of my literature review reflect an argument or point of view?  What is my overall position?

Weekly Learning Journal


Thesis Seminar: Week 2

Date: February 4 , 2019 - February 8, 2019


  • Is it convenient to have a mixed method according to what I want to research?

  • Is the information obtained convenient for my study?

  • Is the organization of the literature review appropriate?

  • What kind of information can I add to complement the literature review?


Begin with your research questions.  How do the experts (the literature) answer or address these research questions? Remember that these research questions are based on a researchable (specific) problem - a problem that obviously relates to you but also a problem other researchers have investigated.

Example research question: How can cell phones be used to promote communicative strategies and collaboration in the English language learning classroom?

Example questions that can make up sections to a literature review (they are not research questions).

  • Cell phone usage (or mobile technology), past to the present

  • What can the zone of proximal development apply to peer interaction or assessment?

  • What are various interactional patterns in the classroom?

    • What is the difference between collaboration and cooperation?

  • What are communicative strategies? Or How does one continue a conversation when they are not sure what to say?


Key terms: thesis statement, claims, premises, grounds (or evidence), and warrant

The way in which you organize your literature review will depend on how you choose to organize your academic argument.  Your literature review is an organized (logical) pattern of premises (or claims) that state your position around your research problem.  Your research problem relates to your research question(s) that pertain to the purpose of your study.  A good argument will include (Dartmouth, 2014):

  • a thesis or claim that declares the writer's position on the problem at hand;

  • an acknowledgment of other perspectives;

  • a set of clearly defined premises that illustrate the argument's line of reasoning;

  • evidence that validates the argument's premises;

  • a conclusion that convinces the reader that the argument has been soundly and persuasively made (para. 2).

Based on Toulmin's analysis of argument, include claims, grounds (or evidence), and warrants (Dartmouth, 2014, para. 5).  The claim is what you are asserting or proposing; the grounds include the evidence that supports your claim; and the warrant is what permits a piece of evidence to stand in support of a given claim.  Warrants are perhaps the most "slippery" aspects of argument, in that they often comprise widely-held beliefs and assumptions that may or may not be stated explicitly.

Essential question: Do the premises justify you in believing the conclusion?

Research Tip


A premise is a claim that leads to another claim (or premise), etc. towards a final conclusion. When forming an argument, gather premises (claims) that support a final conclusion.  Weak premises lead to a weak conclusion.

Solutions to the problem of the skeptical regress...

  1. Start with a premise that is unjustified. (problematic)

  2. Use an argument with a circular structure. (problematic)

  3. Use an infinite chain of arguments. (problematic)

Tricks for dealing with the skeptical regress...

  1. Start with assumptions that everyone shares and assure the audience (reader).

  2. Discount objections.

  3. Guard your claim.

Types of claims

A argument is based on how claims are presented.  There are five types of claims (Hart, 2002)...

  1. Claims of fact (Note: Different than evidence used to support claims that link to a topic sentence, and generally are avoided in this course when verbs like to be or to have are used as main verbs.)

  2. Claims of worth

  3. Claims of policy

  4. Claims of concept

  5. Claims of interpretation

Additional links


Parts of a manuscript (APA, 2001, pp. 10-29) Sample, Sample two

  • Title page

  • Abstract

  • Introduction (2)

    • Introduce the problem or aim of the study

    • Review of related literature (develop background)

      • Literature review (2)(Sample): When researching references to be used in your literature review, use an annotated bibliography. Create an index card per annotated bibliography and summarize the article and include a critical analysis. This makes it easier to keep track of your references when deciding which of these you will use in your paper - you don't have to use all of them.

    • Hypothesis

  • Method (Express the appropriateness of the method and the reliability and the validity of the results.)

  • Results

    • Data analysis

    • Tables and figures

    • Statistical presentation

    • Effect size and strength of relationship

  • Discussion (conclusions and recommendations)

    • Evaluate and interpret implications

    • Problem choice (limitations)

    • Levels of analysis

    • Application and synthesis

  • Multiple Experiments (if applicable)

  • References

  • Appendix



Weekly reflections and one-on-one, recorded tutoring sessions; online correspondence and additional tutoring sessions as needed

Thesis Seminar: Abstract, Introduction, and Conclusion

In this episode, I provide a general overview of the abstract, introduction, and conclusion when writing a thesis paper.


Include a 150-250 word abstract on a separate page just before the Table of Contents page. The abstract should be one paragraph with no indentation, double spaced, using Times New Roman, font size 12. Refer to the audio for what to include in your abstract.


Include a hook, context of the problem, and thesis statement in your introduction paragraph that begins your literature review.


Reword your thesis statement, provide the significance of your study, and include a closing statement when completing your conclusion paragraph that ends your Results and Discussion section.

Thesis Seminar: Week 1

Thesis Seminar


Review the syllabus for the course: objectives, content, method, assessment, and references along with course guidelines and work schedule.


  • Tutoring sessions (40%)

    • Weekly reflective journal.

    • Periodic grades assigned to different sections of the thesis paper: literature review, method, results and discussion.

  • Oral Defense (20%)

  • Written thesis paper (40%)


  1. Review APA folder for important APA documents that can help clarify any doubts.

  2. Review UAA plagiarism policy.


Link to video:

Review Narrowing Down a Researchable Topic Newsletter.


  1. Make sure you have created or have access to your current Google (email/YouTube) account - do not create a new Google account if you already have one.

  2. Install the following apps on your mobile device (cell phone, tablet, etc.):

    1. Google Docs (Android/iPhone)

    2. Google Drive (to access public classroom folder) (Android/iPhone)

    3. Google Classroom (Android/iPhone) - For degree-seeking learners only.

    4. Browser of your choice (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc.)

    5. WhatsApp (I will share my phone number with everyone the first day of class.) (Android/iPhone) - For degree-seeking learners only.


  • Complete the narrowing down your topic handout (from the newsletter).

  • Discuss your topic with both tutors your topic.

  • Discuss your topic with your classmates your topic.

  • Read additional articles as necessary to find studies similar to yours.

  • Turn in your handout to the tutors on Friday by 10:00 AM.

Narrowing down a topic

Let’s get started!

Selecting a topic: In order for a study to be worthwhile, a problem needs to be addressed.  A study that fails to address a problem is simply a study not worth doing. The last thing any researcher wants to happen is to present one’s findings only to have the audience/readers ask, So what? Having a problem provides value or significance to the study - in other words, purpose. Why should one spend hours analyzing and synthesizing the literature, collecting data, analyzing the date, and present findings?  The reason is to better understand a real-world problem.

When you are thinking about your study, reflect on past experiences as both an English language learner and your experiences thus far in teaching (e.g., teaching practicum classes, professional experience, etc.).  What problems or issues have you faced? Which experiences provided questions to you that you found interesting? What drives your curiosity? Asking yourself these kinds of questions is always a good start when beginning the process of narrowing down a topic… but it’s not everything!

Once you have a problem that you are curious about, one that you perhaps have faced in the real world, the next step is to see if this idea is worth researching.  How can you make this determination? Read… read… and read some more! The only way to know whether a topic is worth researching is to see what other researchers (called, the literature) have said about the problem.  What do others know about the issue you want to research?  Your study should complement what others have said and not “recreate the wheel”.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with replicating someone else’s study.  In fact, many learners confuse replicating a study as plagiarism. It’s not! It’s actually a good thing to search for studies that are very similar to what you want to do and replicate, modify, and/or adjust them to your own research context.  Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty as they say. Let’s get to the heart of the matter. The following steps (adapted from Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 2008) are meant to assist you in narrowing down your topic.

Move from topic to questions

Brainstorm a set of questions from a variety of perspectives, beginning with asking who, what, when, where, etc. but focusing on how and why. Then continue brainstorming through the following types of questions:

  • Topic history

    • Ask questions about development context.  How has this problem, technique, method, material, etc. changed over the years?  Why has it changed over the years? Googetc.

  • Structure and composition

    • How does your topic relate to a bigger context?  What is the composition of your topic? How do the pieces fit together?

  • Categorization

    • How can your topic be grouped together?  How does your topic compare and contrast with topics within the same or similar category?

  • Positive to negative questions

    • Turn positive questions to negative questions.  Why have wikis not become a prevalent web tool in today’s language classroom?

  • What if… questions

    • What if all language teachers had to use wikis with their learners?

  • Questions from sources

    • Search primary research articles and find questions for further research.  Or tailor research questions from primary research articles to local research topic interests.  Find questions from outside sources that allow you to fill the literature gap so that what you investigate adds to the body of knowledge that currently makes up the field.

Move from questions to a problem

To move a question to its significance, consider the following prompt:  I will to learn more about… because I want to find out (how, why, etc.)... in order to (do/perform some action)... Now, let’s break this one sentence down into three vital elements. Print pages 3-5 (steps 1-4) and bring to class on January 29, 2019.

Applied Research Problem (option #1) - Step 1

  • Topic: I wish to learn more about…


  • Indirect question: … because I want to find out (how, why, etc.)...


  • Practical significance: … in order to (do/perform some action)...


Note: When doing applied research, your practical significance will be mentioned as a discussion in the Results and Discussion section, and should be significant for the reader and not just the researcher.


Pure or Basic Research Problem (option #2) - Step 1

  • Topic: I wish to learn more about…


  • Indirect conceptual question: … because I want to find out (how, why, etc.)...


  • Conceptual significance: … in order to understand…  


  • Potential practice application: so that (readers/teachers/students/administrators, etc.) might (do/perform some action)...


Note: When doing pure or basic research, your potential practical application will be mentioned briefly in the conclusion only (and not in the Results and Discussion section).

What do you wish to examine? - Step 2

Determine what you wish to examine: behaviors, attitudes/opinions/perceptions, knowledge, emotions and values, culturally shared meaning, social structures and relationships, processes and systems, or environmental context (Guest, Namey, & Mitchell, 2013).

I wish to examine ______________________________________________________________________.

What is your unit of analysis? - Step 3

YouTube Video (

Determine your unit of analysis based on a particular level of analysis as they relate to teaching or learning an additional language (i.e., applied linguistics): national curriculum or activity, statewide school systems, city schools, an individual school, an academic department, teacher groups (or cliques) within a department, individual teachers, individual teacher practices, etc. The aforementioned levels may also be applied to learners. Choose one unit of analysis.

My unit of analysis is ____________________________________________________________________.

What’s your research design? - Step 4

State your anticipated research design, understanding that this could change over the next four weeks as you solidify your literature review.  

Qualitative inquiry includes phenomenology, content analysis, case study approaches, and discourse/conversational analysis. Indicate below in the notes section your research question(s) if you are considering a qualitative study.

___________________________________________________ best describes my qualitative research (if applicable).

Quantitative research is either descriptive (central tendencies, etc.) and/or inferential or using statistics (e.g., multivariate analysis, etc.) that sets out to statistically prove a hypothesis. Describe the type of quantitative research design that most appropriately addresses the problem under investigation.  Also state a hypothesis if applicable. Indicate N/A if design is qualitative.


Mixed methods will be some combination of qualitative and quantitative research designs and is typically either sequential or conconcurrent.  If mixed methods is being considered, explain whether it’s sequential or conconcurrent: otherwise, indicate N/A.


Moving from questions to a problem

First, distinguish between a practical problem and a research problem…

  • General: Practical problem: Learners are afraid to speak in class.

  • Specific: Research problem: Teachers fail to provide timely feedback using WhatsApp to shy students in a way that gives them more confidence to speak and interact with peers.

  • Specific: Research solution: Teachers correct shy learners along with all students  in written and verbal form both in and outside of class by using WhatsApp.

  • General: Practical solution: Avoid singling out shy learners in class when providing feedback on their speaking.

A problem consists of a condition and a cost or consequence.

(topic) I wish to learn more about learners being afraid to speak in class when called upon (indirect research question - condition) because I want to find out how English language teachers use WhatsApp to provide written and spoken feedback to English language learners (broad question - cost or consequence) in order to answer the bigger question of how teachers motivate shy learners to speak in class.

When doing your own research, you want to be specific - you need to have a specific researchable problem and through your study, present your research “solution” or findings.  Think in terms of presenting a possible solution or working towards a possible solution.

Possible research topics in applied linguistics

  • Grammar

    • Overt/cover

    • Implicit/explicit

    • Chomsky's Universal Grammar

  • Bilingual education

  • Classroom discourse

  • Corpus linguistics

  • Cognitive linguistics

  • Discourse analysis

    • Grice and Implicatures (part 1, part 2, & part 3)

    • L1 use in language teaching

    • L2 transfer

    • Learner autonomy

    • Interactive/collaborative language learning.

    • Task-based learning

    • Problem-based learning

    • Performance-based learning

    • Language learning strategies

    • Language exchanges

  • English for Academic Purposes

  • English for Specific Purposes

  • Generative grammar

    • Chomsky's Universal Grammar

  • Innatism

    • Krashen's monitor model

  • Language and culture

  • Language and Gender

  • Language and Identity

  • Language Emergence as a complex adaptive system

  • Language learning and technology

  • Language teacher education

    • Professional development or professional learning among (English language), in-service educators

    • Professional development or professional learning among (English language), pre-service educators

  • Language testing

    • Formative assessment in the language classroom

    • Formative vs. summative assessment in the language classroom

    • Dynamic assessment in the language classroom

    • Language exchanges

    • Task-based learning

    • Problem-based learning

    • Performance-based learning

  • Lexis

  • Linguistic Imperialism

  • Multilingualism

  • Phonetics and phonology

  • Systemic functional linguistics

  • Multimodality

  • Psycholinguistics

  • Sociocultural theories

  • Sociolinguistics

    • Motivation

  • Translation

Additional reading

Six steps for conducting a literature review (Machi & McEvoy, 2009):

  1. Select a topic.

  2. Search the literature.

  3. Develop an argument.

  4. Survey the literature.

  5. Critique the literature.

  6. Write the review.


Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (2008). The craft of research. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Guest, G., Namey, E., & Mitchell, M. (2013). Collecting qualitative data: A field manual for applied research. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Machi, L. & McEvoy, B. (2012). The literature review: Six steps to success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.


Teacher Learning Cast

Welcome to Teacher Learning Cast (TLC), where leadership and learning go hand in hand.  TLC is a weekly podcasting community that consists of a weekly (Saturday morning at 8:15 AM, Central Standard Time) live discussion (synchronous communication), and asynchronous social media chats that occur primarily in Facebook, Twitter (#tlcelt), and via YouTube broadcast and playlist.

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Google Classroom


The Limerick

A limerick for those in class,

Requires some thought to pass.

At first it seems tough,

Which can be quite rough,

But reading them is quite a gas.

The Vegan

When eating a pig is a sin,

A vegan will press to the end.

They scream and they press,

But never depressed,

They eat day-to-day for the “win”!


I once got sent to my house.

A life as a dog, not a louse.

The rain comes and goes,

And everyone knows,

That man’s best friend is a rouse!

Partner in Crime

A partner through thick and thin,

Becomes like some dust in the wind.

If one does embrace,

A love to be faced,

Then all will come out in the end.