Developing a Thesis Proposal

As part of the core seminar for the PhD in Canadian Studies (a joint program between the Carleton University School of Canadian Studies and Trent University), we composed brief discussion papers based on the course readings for the month.  This is the third and final piece of my second collection of papers from October 2010 on the topics of interdisciplinarity, methods, and strategies.  I had a really hard time with this one, as you may notice!

Bolts of the Doctoral Program: We Are Nuts Developing Thesis Proposals

Charmaz, Richardson, and Yanow all suggest that writing is a process that should be undertaken as a collaborative investigative process. Charmaz suggests developing writing projects with others, since written communication is an essentially social act. (Without audiences, there would be no authors! A blog is an amusing place to reflect on this.) Richardson sees writing as a “method of inquiry” and, similarly, Yanow considers writing as a “method of generating knowledge.” Using these brief response papers as a starting point for our discussions in the seminars seems like a reasonable implementation of their definitions and suggestions. These papers fit into the larger conversation, and returning to them to make revisions or contribute to ongoing on-line debates in other classes continues the scholarly dialogue in a range of forums that can be beneficial to the readers and the writers.

To build our analytical toolkit for becoming stronger, more transparent scholarly communicators, Yanow and Charmaz suggest various tactics for expressing perspectives reflexivity. Charmaz suggests that uniting your perspective with your writing practices can lead to clear, crisp, engaging, and effective communication, and advocates the usefulness of the gender lens and standpoint epistemology (discussed in greater detail in Harding). Richardson and Charmaz point to metaphors as narrative devices that can be useful when successfully deployed. Yanow suggests that truth claims are subject to interpretations, expectations, and practices. In an effort to promote greater accountability in scholarly projects, Yanow points out the useful tactic of validating your research through transparency in the meaning-making process. Richardson agrees with this approach, noting that the postmodern condition often leaves audiences doubting or suspicious. Furthermore, since “language is a site of struggle,” we must continually “reflect upon our method and explore new ways of knowing” (Richardson).

Do you agree with Richardson that “form and content are inseparable?” What is the most effective form of communication (ie writing, storytelling, alternative representations, experimental writing [Richardson])? What makes the most “memorable arguments” (Charmaz)?

Charmaz notes that “titles talk” and reveal quite a bit about the author’s perspective, point of view, and emphasis. In light of this claim, what is the finest title you have ever invented (or read)? What made it particularly illuminating or catchy? On the flip side, what is the worst title you have ever used (or read)? What made it ineffective?

What are the most effective ways to ‘see like a reader’ and guarantee academic rigor?

Writing this section about how to write was quite difficult!


Kathy Charmaz. “What’s Good Writing in Feminist Research? What Can Feminist Researchers Learn about Good Writing.” Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis. Ed. Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007.

Laurel Richardson. “Writing: A Method of Inquiry.” Approaches to Qualitative Research: A Reader on Theory and Practice. Ed. Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber and Patricia Leavy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Dvora Yanow. “Dear Author, Dear Reader: The Third Hermeneutic in Writing and Reviewing Ethnography.” Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power. Ed. Edward Schatz. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

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One Response to Developing a Thesis Proposal

  1. Pingback: From Pomposity to Amigosity: The Role of “Persona” in Social Science Writing « Home and Abroad

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