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Checked off the list: RSH9101B

Monday, August 31st, 2009

I completed RSH9101B: Research Topic, Problem, Purpose and Questions and am ready for RSH9102B: Research Methods and Designs. I am thrilled with my grade in RSH9101B which keeps me at a 4.0.

Here is a step-through of RSH9101B by assignment:

Activity 1: Topic Selection Oh boy, when I opened the syllabus and looked at this assignment I knew I was in over my head. I actually thought that this course would help me to decide on my topic, but the first paper requires “initial thinking on potential research topics.” To write this paper, you have to have at minimum a certain topic to write about. Your paper cannot be a random search for a topic…you have to already have worked that out. Over the course of my work at NCU, I have been working on what I called THE LIST, which is a list of topics that I discovered while researching other topics or reading books. Well, THE LIST has over 50 entries. So I contacted a few past mentors and starting poking their brains, trying out some of those topics. My topic ended up relevant to supply chain rather than management. I work in the supply chain area at my employer plus I see supply chain as the linkage between management and industry. I scheduled a conference call with my mentor, Dr. R. She was a big encouragement when I needed it, for sure. Her counsel was to move through each activity and build on the previous and let the topic work its way through. She wrote on this paper, “I do wonder however, whether your topic as presented here is still a bit too large or broad for a dissertation study?…I think it’s helpful to think of a dissertation research study as a hole in the ground that is 2 inches wide and 1 mile deep – that is, narrowly defined, but deeply studied.” Great advice!

Activity 2: Research Problem Statement Development Before I started this paper, I read about 10 NCU dissertations and thought that I had the concept. Dr. R wrote in her feedback that I had included elements of both the problem statement and the purpose statement in my paper. It’s really funny that she also advised that I look at other dissertations in the NCU database to see how others delineated the problem vs purpose statements when I had already done that and gotten myself twisted up. I was confused because of reading other dissertations.

Activity 3: Begin Annotated Bibliography I totally overdid this assignment, which ended up being 30 pages long. I thought I had not done enough until I read comments on nculearner and spoke to other students who were turning in 10 pages or so.  Dr. R pointed out that I needed to add more “historical” research on my topic, but otherwise, my annotated bibliography was “comprehensive.” This assignment took me DAYS to do – not the writing – the research and reading all those papers and then pulling them together in a way that made sense.

Activity 4: Research Purpose Statement Still not clear on the purpose vs problem statement thing, I dove into this assignment. Dr. R’s criticism involved using “business lingo” in my writing although I was actually paraphrasing some leaders in the field. I really should have quoted the authors so it would not appear to be my own words. This paper was supposed to be 1-4 pages. When I finished writing, I had 8 so I started cutting and ended up with 4 pages. I was afraid that I was repeating myself (you know the drill, say it once, say it twice, then remind me you said it). I was going toward simplicity and clarity of thought for this activity, but after getting a 95%, I regret that I cut down the paper.

Activity 5: Development of Research Questions My lowest grade on any of the papers: 94%. I felt out of my league because I am still not totally not sure about whether to go with mixed, qualitative, or quantitative study. So I crafted this paper as heading quantitative, although my spirit says qualitative. I am going to do some more work on the direction of research. With this low grade, I questioned whether I was on the right track or not. Doubt is a big discourager.

Activity 6: Update Annotated Bibliography OK, back to what I do best…read and write. This activity built on the previous annotated bibliography. I took the liberty of putting my purpose and problem statement on the first page of the paper, described the topical breakdown (3 sections), and added “There are 59 reference cited and described, an increase of 15 from the first annotated bibliography. As requested, historical and foundational papers have been added which will be included in the abridged literature review (activity 7).” Ka-ching, 99% on this baby.

Activity 7: Abridged Literature Review By this point, I think maybe I am “getting” this thing. Is it possible to enjoy this? This paper starts with an introduction to the topic by way of pointing out its relevancy. I stated “A brief review of scholarly articles reveals the introduction and development of the concept of supply chain, traces the integration of supplier collaboration, the rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and the interweaving of sustainable initiatives.” Dr. R pointed out inconsistent verb tenses in my paper, which partly resulted from reading academic papers with unbelievably random tense and trying to maintain their tense.

Activity 8: Topic Paper This is the big kahuna paper in this class, worth 20/100 points, and I sparkled when I got a 99%. The Topic Paper includes an Introduction, Abridged Literature Review, Problem Statement, Purpose Statement, Research Questions, and Summary. I know the simplest way to describe this assignment is to say it is the collection of all the previous assignments in the course, that that is not wholly true. I couldn’t just patchwork together all the papers-to-date and have it make logical sense. I would have had significant repetition, plus I had also done lots of research and developed the topic significantly with every paper. I got fancy and added two figures from two foundational academic papers. Marginal comments from Dr. R included some that stated that I had done a good job, others that asked for clarity. I did not use all of the references I had up to this point; I had 38 references in the Topic Paper when I finished. I could not have been happier than when I read, “This is a well done topic paper. It is thoughtful and well organized, and clearly written throughout. Your APA formatting is strong overall, and I am pleased with how much ground you have covered during this course. You are well positioned to continue onto your dissertation study.” YIPPEE!

CautionCOURSE CAUTION: Overall, RSH9101B was not the “dissertation discovery and development” course I thought it was. Do not enter this course door unless you have a pretty good idea of what your topic is. There is no time to flounder around looking for a dissertation topic.

Now, on to RSH9102B. I’ve seen the syllabus and it is S C A R Y !

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Abridged literature review

Monday, August 17th, 2009

I turned in RSH9101B Activity 7 Abridged Literature Review to Dr. R today, having worked on it some over the weekend and some today. I think the hardest part was consolidating the ideas into one whole and having it make sense.

First, I provided an overview, sort of like an introduction to the topic. I was not sure if this was “how” to do the abridged lit review, but to me it made sense to identify how the topic has moved from simply being fashionably green to being academically green

In the overview, I indicated that attention to the topic was found as far back as Malthus’ 1798 An Essay on the Population in which he considered the influence of rising population on society. I mentioned Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring and The Limits to Growth (1972). A report entitled Our Common Future from the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) outlined one of the most-quoted and earliest definitions of the concept of sustainable development. I then introducted the triple bottom line (3BL) proposed by John Elkington in 1994, and later developed in 1997’s Cannibals with Forks.

My overarching sentence to pull the topic together is:

A brief review of scholarly articles reveals the introduction and development of the concept of supply chain, traces the integration of supplier collaboration, the rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and the interweaving of sustainable initiatives.

Then I jumped right into discussion peer-reviewed articles regarding supply chain, collaboration, CSR, and sustainability, relating those topics to my proposed dissertation study. I am pleased with my kicker sentences (the last few sentences).

The assignment states the paper should be 2-5 pages in length – but a lit review like that would have to be super-abridged. Mine was 8 pages and to honest I could have easily done 8 more. As a matter of fact, once I got going it was really hard to stop and conclude logically.

The next assignment is the Topic Paper, in which the parts are assembled into the whole. Essentially, I take what I have done already in RSH9101-B, fix the things Dr. R recommended (including comments in the abridged lit review she is grading now), and pull it together into one Topic Paper. Right now, I am more concerned about whether a table of contents is required or not!

Here’s the syllabus verbiage for Activity 8 Topic Paper, 20 points:

Assemble and submit your topic paper. Use the sample outline to assemble an introduction, abridged literature review, problem statement, purpose statement, research questions, and summary.

Topic Paper (Components and Order)
Abridged Literature Review
Problem Statement
Purpose Statement
Research Questions

In developing the topic paper, review and as necessary, update your problem statement, purpose statement, and research questions to reflect your current perspectives and understanding of the problem, purpose, and research questions. The topic paper should reflect a clear and logical linkage among the problem, purpose, and research questions.

RSH9101B Updated Annotated Bibliography

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Over the weekend I completed and turned in Activity 6, the updated annotated bibliography. This document was 40 pages long. The purpose of the annotated bibliography is to collect sources that will be used in the dissertation. According to the syllabus, it is “a foundational piece that will be useful as you develop your literature review. Each annotation should include the purpose, method, and key findings of the study.”

Several of my sources were not academic papers, as I am writing on a very current topic. However, I had many peer-reviewed articles and papers so those I was able to identify the purpose, method, and key findings. Sometimes there were headings to identify this information, and sometimes I had to really hunt through looking for methods.

I really like ScienceDirect because most of the papers from there have a mini-outline at the very beginning, so you can tell in a flash if the paper is relevant or not. Sometimes I would select a paper based on the abstract and find out that the data or information was not applicable to my research.

Activity 6 is a second pass at an annotated bibliography – and after all the hours I spent reading for the first one, I did it again plus more for the second one! I had 59 total sources, 15 more than the first pass. All of the 15 were academic, and about half were historical. Dr. R had pointed out that I did not have enough in the historical to build a foundation for the lit review in my first annotated bibliography.

Activity 7 is an abridged literature review, and tonight I have been reviewing Chapter 2 in Creswell’s text Research Design. Well, I say “have been” but that implies nothing else. As a matter of fact, here is what I did this evening after coming home from work:

  1. watched a few minutes of NatGeo about catching big fish (husband was watching this)
  2. cut up a tomato for supper and got the plates ready (husband grilled out)
  3. ate supper (yummy) while watching NatGeo show about a new high-tech prison in MD
  4. did not finish watching show; I wandered off after eating
  5. called a student who had left a message earlier in the day regarding a question about an assignment
  6. another student called me with a question, we discussed the Learning Team Charter
  7. responded to posts in the University OLS for GEN200 (I am teaching just one class right now)
  8. checked personal emails
  9. refunded money through PayPal to an eBayer who returned an item he said did not work (ouch): I will have to check to see if it works or not this weekend
  10. answered several questions on AllExperts.com, where I am a continuing education and distance learning “Expert”; tonight’s questions were assorted, including one about a veteran returning to college
  11. watched video highlighting new Avon distribution center in Zanesville (loved it, I am a sucker for inventory management)
  12. asked husband to watch Zanesville video with me; he declined, obviously not as excited about machinery and inventory as I am
  13. read nculearner Yahoo group posts
  14. checked Associated Content account for page views; disappointed in a few articles I had believed to be evergreen
  15. read posts in NCU Learner Portal; of interest is one that reveals that it may make sense to take time between a few of the Diss track classes to refine the paper, rather than jump into the next course immediately (consdering this…is this something that would be good for me?
  16. wrassled with Tucker and Charlie (our dogs)
  17. re-read the syllabus for RSH9101B, and designed a timetable for last two assignments (#7 & #8) which must be in by end of the course date of 08/24
  18. used 5 minutes to organize the abridged literature review (#7) in my head, reconsidering the arrangement that I had come up with yesterday (flash reviewing an assignment before I start on it helps me organize)
  19. located which chapter in Creswell related to the literature review (I had read the book twice already, but need to review this topic again)
  20. re-scanned chapter 2 in Creswell
  21. worked on this blog post

I know that some of you wonder how I get everything done; you can see that I don’t watch much TV or sit around not working. If I am just sitting, then I am thinking and planning. It’s 10PM now, and I will finish out the night by logging off the computer, setting out my clothes for tomorrow, and reading for a few minutes before turning off the light. And I get to do it all over again tomorrow. Good night!

RSH9101B Activity 5: Development of Research Questions

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

I have been working on Activity 5 for about week and struggling with development of the research questions. It’s one of those “I know what I want to say but not sure it makes sense to anyone else” dilemmas. I found some good research on supply chain and want to bring this into my paper. Creswell (2009) states “The most rigorous form of quantitative research follows from a test of a theory (see Chapter 3) and the specification of research questions or hypothesis that are included in the theory” (p. 133). If I can pull the thread of a theory through my paper, it would give direction and validate my findings.

I was asked by a reader how I find literature for my paper. First I came up with key words related to my topic, then searched the NCU online library databases, including ProQuest, EBSCOHost, and Gale OneFile. I read each article and classified them into relevant or not relevant. Relevant articles were added to RefWorks and downloaded or printed. I paid special attention to the introductions and conclusions, as well as the References. I found some great articles through looking at the References used in other papers, and tracked those down as well.

As I read the articles, I keep a notebook, pencil, and yellow highlighter handy, marking each document as I read. I am writing down quotes and ideas in the notebook drawn from the articles as well as the books I read. Yes, this takes a long time to go through the articles but the act of reading, writing, and summarizing helps me understand and remember more thoroughly.

I discovered several papers that I felt would be applicable to my topic were not in the library, so I have used the Article Linker and the Interlibrary Loan service. The Interlibrary Loan service has been very fast. I have also identified certain authors with a history of relevant articles. Often, there will be several papers from a particular author over several years as he develops his work on a topic.

I hope I am working through the path to a good topic paper, which is the final assignment in this course. Here is what I have left in this class:

Finish Activity 5: Development of Research Questions

Activity 6: Update Annotated Bibliography

Activity 7: Abridged Literature Review

Activity 8: Topic Paper

Activities 3 & 4 + Amazon box

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

RSH910B Activity 3 is “Begin Annotated Bibliography.” I ended up with 44 references, each of which I read and analyzed for content. This paper was 33 pages long. Essentially, I wrote about what the article or book’s main points, the authors’ conclusions, reflections on the author’s authority, and how it tied into my subject. This paper actually took me longer than I thought it would because of all of the reading. I found some useful information and was able to build on my thinking for my dissertation. I dived the references into three sections to keep me organized; Research Questions, Facts and Information, and Related Topics, Examples, and Case Studies.

I turned in the 4th assignment today; this one is Research Problem Statement Development. From the syllabus, the general outline of the assignment should be:

After reviewing feedback from your Mentor on your topic, problem statement, and annotated bibliography develop your purpose statement. Present this purpose statement in approximately 1-4 pages that includes an introduction, problem statement and purpose statement. Your purpose statement will align with your problem statement reviewed by your Mentor in Activity 2. Refer to the course resources and the Dissertation Review Form for additional information regarding purpose statement requirements. Conclude your paper by explaining and justifying your purpose statement.

I set this assignment up like this…on the first page I have:

Research Problem Statement Development

Working Dissertation Title: XXXXXXXXXXXX

I divided the paper up into Introduction, Problem Statement, Purpose Statement, and Justification of Purpose Statement. I add these headings before I begin to write, to keep me focused on what I am writing about. I use this same system of adding headings which I sometimes delete before turning in the paper. It works like an outline and I stay on track.

Well, my Amazon order came in today, too. I am VERY excited as each one of these books should help me with my paper. Here are the titles:

Making Sustainability Work: Best Practices in Managing and Measuring Corporate Social, Environmental, and Economic Impacts by Marc J. Epstein

Green to Gold: How Smart Companies use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston

The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift by Andres R. Edwards

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins

Harvard Business Review on Green Business Strategy (miscellaneous authors)

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How it Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman

> Have you figured out what my GREEN dissertation topic is?

Research Problem Statement Development

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Now that my Topic Selection paper has passed muster with Dr. R, I am on to Activity 2, Research Problem Statement Development, worth 15 points. This assignment is a 1 to 4 page paper that will include “an introduction to your topic and the research problem statement, which includes appropriate documentation.” The problem statement “should explain and justify your envisioned research.”

I found a peer-reviewed article that I believe will work for the appropriate documentation. The authors danced around the topic and indicated that they believed there was much research to be done in my topic area. My topic is very current and is getting a lot of magazine and newspaper press but there is not much journal treatment specifically on this topic.

My topic is based on supply chain, which has received a lot of attention in the past decade or so. The connections and interactions between supply chain members is often complex and industry specific. Most chains are actually matrices rather than a straight line between two points. The specific area that I am focusing on is sustainability and the supply chain. I won’t reveal the exact twist on this topic right now because I want to keep it fresh. I have a number of ideas that I am hoping will yield an interesting paper for several diverse groups. I am very excited to be at this stage and my husband M has been a great help to me by listening and giving me feedback.

It’s a rainy day here in Virginia, so I hope to get some concentrated work done and perhaps turn in this paper today.  

Conference with Dr. R

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Just got off the phone from a conference with my mentor for RSH9101B, Dr. R. I initiated the call because I felt as though I needed a few words to encourage me and to get some clarity on some of the assignments. I am so very glad that I did this! Dr. R was very encouraging and provided useful insights into the dissertation process, as well as give me some direction on my topic. I had a few questions to ask, related to the topic as well as moving forward. She had written a comment on my paper that I really like:

I think it’s helpful to think of a dissertation research study as a hole in the ground that is 2 inches wide and 1 mile deep – that is narrowly defined, but deeply studied.

Excellent analogy! I am vascillating between thinking my topic is too broad, yet too narrow at the same time – go figure! My topic is very current and I am not finding a whole lot of scholarly literature exactly on the topic – only related to it. That’s OK, she said, because we will develop this as time goes on. She cautioned me not to do the whole dissertation now, but rather take it in stages and build it slowly.

I am very glad that Dr. R had some time for me tonight. Those 30 minutes really made a difference in my thinking about this project.

RSH9101B: Topic Selection

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I’ve been working on my topic selection paper which is supposed to summarize my initial thinking on potential research areas of interest and potential research topics. I have been collecting journal articles on various topics. It’s really been a struggle deciding which direction to go because over time I have accumulated lots of ideas. So I finally narrowed it down to two topics, one of which I could find little information about. Maybe I will save this one for my first book.

The other topic, I found more information around it but not exactly it. For a research degree like the PhD, a dissertation must lead to knowledge creation or expansion. A professional degree like a DBA is a practical response to a problem. My PhD research must add to the community of learning. So its a good thing not to find exact information on my topic. I invented a term to describe the “problem” in the supply chain which I believe exactly identifies what is occurring.

After I receive this paper back from Dr. R., I will begin the Research Problem Statement assignment. While waiting, I will go ahead and collect references for the Annotated Bibliography, which is assignment 3. I plan to turn in my topic selection paper tomorrow morning, after I have allowed it to “cure” overnight. I will wake up tomorrow with fresh eyes and hopefully see and correct any issues.

Books in Hand

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I have the texts for RSH9101B, which will officially start on June 1st and end on August 24th. Here are the titles:

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN: 9781412965576  

Zikmund, W. (2003). Business research methods. Mason,OH: Thomson/South-Western   ISBN: 9780030350849

I did not want to take a chance on used books so I ordered new from Barnes & Noble. The Creswell text was $44.95 and the Zikmund text was $163.96, and shipping was free. I have purchased mostly used books up until now.

It’s daunting to think that I am truly at this point in my education. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to work on a PhD because of my life circumstances. It’s my birthday this month, so I suppose that beginning the research phase on my 50th birthday ought to be a celebration of my life. My family has been such an encouragement to me to continue this path. As a mother, I hope that my children can see the rewards of my efforts. I hope that one day, they will also choose to continue their education as far as possible.

Next: (drum roll please) RSH9101B

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

I am finally at the RSH phase of my journey. I will begin RSH9101B on June 1st, and have been assigned Dr. R for the course. It’s time to reflect back on this journey and place a marker in the ground…yes, I was here! I am nervous about this next step because of all the horror stories I have heard. I am also concerned because I have several ideas for a dissertation, but nothing has gelled yet. I am hoping to find direction in this course. I need focus and so far have not found it.

While I am waiting for the course to begin, I am reading dissertations to understand more about how they are constructed. It seems there is a lot of variability in the scope and subject matter difficulty. Some are very technical and others are weak, to say the least. I will continue to read and may highlight some here. I may start taking off a few days each month to work on my papers. I work best when I can work all day on a project rather than start and stop.

This week we are going to visit relatives and so my reading and writing will suffer. However, I will jump back in next week!