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  • 00:10

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY: So the best adviceI can give you for writing up your researchis to try to remember that you'rehaving a conversation with an audience.We tend to think of writing as this one wayI'm going to write what I did.But if you remember from the perspective of the readerthat they're trying to have a conversation with you,

  • 00:31

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: it's going to make you write more purposefully.So one of the tools that I developed that I thinkhelps my students the most is setting up a conversationand trying to understand what questions each sectionof your report is answering.So a lot of people ask me, well, can Ido it in a different order?Can I use chronology?Can I use a backwards order?

  • 00:52

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: You can.The problem with that, however, isit doesn't meet the expectations of the reader.And the reader in your case is probablygoing to be the assessor.And if you confuse them, they madeyou think it's not just different, but that it's wrong.So yes, you can do it in a different style,but there's a risk in that.

  • 01:13

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: When you do it in the normal structure,it's what's expected, and then you have the conversation.So what is the conversation?Conversation goes something like this.So what's your research question about?You will answer that by giving themthe title, the abstract, the introduction, and your researchquestion.So by the time I read all those preliminary things,

  • 01:36

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: as a reader I have a great sense of what your researchquestion is about, what your research is about.Got it.It's amazing how many papers I read-- particularlydrafts-- where I'm reading, I'm reading, I'm reading.I'm well into the lit review and the methods,and I still don't know what they're trying to answer.So make it very clear and obvious.

  • 01:56

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: OK.So I'm back at the reader.I have another question.I know what the research is about.Why are you interested in that particular topic?You're going to answer that in what's called your rationale.So you're going to tell me why it's important,why it's significant, why you should be interested in whatI have to say.What is the implications of doing this research?That's all in the rationale.

  • 02:18

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So as the reader, I'm thinking oh, that's interesting.I could see why you'd want to do that.My next question-- what do you hopeto achieve by studying this?Hit me with the aims and objectives, then.Very clear-- this is what I hope to find.This is what I hope to achieve.Aims and objectives answers that.The reader, next question-- I don't really

  • 02:40

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: know too much about this topic.Can you give me a bit of background?That's where you're giving context about the situation,how big the problem is.You're going to tell me about what it's like in this schoolor in this community.You're going to give me the context of the organization.That's a defined section of your report.

  • 03:01

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And then you're going to hit me with a lit review.You're going to tell me what other researchers havefound in this space.Yeah, a lot of people have been looking at this.However, you're going to make it into that argument that showsa space for your research.So you're giving your reader all of the context and backgroundso that they're up to speed with where you are.

  • 03:21

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: All right.So I'm the reader again.I'm thinking, wow, that sounds fascinating.How did you go about doing your study?Boom.Methods section.You're going to share your methodological approach.You're going to talk about your framework,whether it's qualitative, quantitative,ethno-methodological, scientific method, surveys--whatever it might be.And then you're going to get into more details

  • 03:42

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and tell me about the methods-- the surveys and the interviewsthat you did, the focus groups that you did, who you spoke to,what documents you'd explored, whatinternet sites you looked at.So all of that data and informationis going to come through in your methods section.And you're also going to tell me your limitations.So what stopped you from doing this

  • 04:04

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: as fully as you would like?Were you limited in your sample?Were you limited in where you could go?Were you confined by some reason, maybe time frame?You're going to tell me that, because Iwant to be able to believe in your research,and I want you to show me the holes,and then tell me why it's good anywaybefore I find holes in it.

  • 04:25

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Right.So now you've told me how you went about the study.What's my next question as the reader?So what did you find?That's where you going to tell me your results.You're giving me the results and your discussion.You're going to give me-- in a quantitative world,you're going to give me your tables and your graphsand your charts.In the qualitative world, it's goingto be your themes and your quotes.

  • 04:45

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And then you're going to give me your discussion.So you're really going to work through the analysisand interpretation and the meaning of the findings.Now, when you do something quantitative,there's a tradition that we take the findingsand do that as one section, and then we take the discussionafter in another section.And that's because you're laying outall your graphs and your bar charts

  • 05:07

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and your tables and things, and then discussing them.With qualitative, it tends to be more interwoven,so we're talking about discussion and findingsbeing interwoven.But what if you have a mixed studyand you have quant and qual?Should you do all your interview data first and all your surveydata second and then integrate them,

  • 05:27

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: or should you integrate them at the beginningand have a discussion by theme?I've seen it done both ways successfully,but my preference would be thematic.Why?Because remember, I'm the reader.I don't need to know all the machinations of what the surveypeople said and what the interview people said

  • 05:48

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and what the focus group people saidand what the documents said.I want to know what's actually going on.I want you to do the work and interpret it back to me,so I'll be much more interested in the themes.I'll be much more interested in the exercise of power.I'd be much more interested in the genderissues, or the racial issues, or the fears,or whatever it might be that's real.

  • 06:10

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Those headings have much more salience for methan interviews, focus groups.That stuff should be referred to back in the methods.So now, give me some rich themes.Remember, my question was, and what did you find?I'm excited to hear about what you found,so give me something meaty.Give me something with headings thatshow that there's some knowledge here that's valuable.

  • 06:33

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And then I'm going to ask you why is this significant?So you give me the answers, and I'm finding it fascinating,and I'm saying, why is this significant?You're going to give me the conclusionswith the implications and significance.So you're going to like ram it home and tell me boom,this is why this is important.This is why this is interesting.This is why you should be reading it.Now, if you're thinking about this report in this way,

  • 06:55

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: it comes to life.It's much more than reporting-- it's having a story.And you're conversing with me so that you'reexcited to tell me your results, because your readers'really wanting to know.Reader, last question-- so what doyou think those people should do about this?This is where you have your recommendations.

  • 07:17

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So you've worked through your conclusions,and you're telling me the significanceand the importance.Now I want to know one thing-- so what?Tell me what we need to do.What needs to change?What needs to happen?What do you recommend?And this is where, particularly for applied research,you want to have some really solid, robust recommendationsfor what needs to happen.Very little research now is just knowledge-based.

  • 07:39

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: It is about change.It is about making things better, so give mesome recommendations.And yes, you can recommendations for further studyand what has needs to happen next research-wise.But you may have come across some ideas in your research,particularly for your research as solutions-based research,that you want to share.So those recommendations become particularly important.

  • 07:60

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And together, that report then becomesless of a dry turgid reporting of what you did,but a living document that's conversingthe story of your research in a way that takes mefrom the initial curiosity right through to finding outall this information that makes mewant to change things and get behind what you're saying.

  • 08:21

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: It becomes a much more vibrant document.So there's a chart here for you that youcan follow that really gives you the background on howthese sections answer these questions.You can play with them a little bit,but it is a natural flow of conversation.I have one more piece of advice for youwhen it comes to writing up your research.

  • 08:43

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: That is be prepared to draft, draft, and redraft.I write a lot, and people always say to me,I can never write like you.You sound just like you.I said, well, it takes me 17 drafts to sound like me.It's not something that just happens.I write shitty first drafts.I write pretty bad second drafts.I write OK third drafts, and I write

  • 09:04

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: fairly fluid fourth drafts.Yet students hand me a first draft,and I say it's not very good, and they get offended.You have to understand the processof writing is one that does take many iterations,so be prepared for that.And get feedback-- ask people to read it and make sure it flows.It doesn't even always have to be expert feedback.

  • 09:25

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: If you're writing well, even if Idon't understand the technicalities of what you'redoing, if I'm a half-intelligent person,I'll be able to follow the logic and the flowand know whether or not you're making argumentsand whether or not it's taking me somewhere.So this is something you can give family and friendsto read and see whether or not it's making sense.

  • 09:46

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: If you're doing a Ph.D., make sure you'reutilizing that second and third supervisor so they can reallyread and give feedback.But don't take it all to heart.When you get feedback, use it to enhance your understandingof what you're doing, and use it reflexivelyconsider how you can make it better and stronger.

  • 10:07

    DR. ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And make sure you're asking for advice that's going to take youin a positive direction.But be prepared to write and redraft several times,because it's what it takes to make somethingpublishable and complete.

Video Info

Series Name: Doing Your Research Project

Episode: 9

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Research report, Writing research

Keywords: audiences; practices, strategies, and tools; tradition; writing (communication)

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Dr. Zina O'Leary advises researchers to report their findings as if they are having a conversation with the reader, following a natural flow of logic. She emphasizes the importance of organization, structure, and rewriting.

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What Advice Do You Have For Writing Up My Research Project?

Dr. Zina O'Leary advises researchers to report their findings as if they are having a conversation with the reader, following a natural flow of logic. She emphasizes the importance of organization, structure, and rewriting.

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