Creating an Outline Using Margin Notes

I’m currently writing the various sections of the dissertation’s literature review. I usually have the narrative, or flow, of what I want to write about in my mind and don’t map it out. I’m very fortunately that I’m able to visualize the flow beforehand, as this saves me a lot of time. If I don’t know how to write about my chosen topic, or I can’t see the narrative, I sometimes just start typing. This allows the information I’ve read ahead of time to come to mind and the piece, for the most part, works out rather well. Other times, however, it’s a mish-mash of thoughts, topic sentences, and a disjointed mess.

I over the weekend I set about writing a section on the Canadian Copyright Act, emphasizing the fair dealing sections, and the lack of copyright comprehension by educators. The seven pages contained some well-written paragraphs, but lacked a good flow. I felt a bit like a pinball when I re-read the piece. The topics (and the poor reader) were bouncing from one subtopic to the next, and then back again.

Self-diagnosis writing problems can be tough, but as an academic writing tutor at UVic, I’ve learnt a few tricks that can quickly get the heart of the matter and offer a remedy to disjointed work.

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Pulling Together Phenomenology Annotations

Over the last few weeks I posted my annotations from Vagle’s Crafting Phenomenological Research (introductionchapter 1, and chapter 2), with last week’s post about the highlights and insights from the first three chapters. These postings illustrate my method of annotating a book, which is much different from annotating a journal article.

The first section of the book was only 42 pages, which is quite small compared to other textbooks. Normally, I write the highlights and insights after each chapter because they usually contain much more information. The highlights and insights are important to how I write because collectively they provide me with enough information to create the narrative for a section I’m about to write.

The insights, along with questions that remain unanswered, are sometimes added to my papers. For example, the phrase “never-nothing-going-on” is an excellent phrase that will make its way into my dissertation’s methodology section. I feel it accurately describes the optimum mental approach to conducting interviews.

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Crafting Phenomenological Research Section 1 Highlights and Insights

The first three chapters of the book provide background information of the philosophical underpinning of phenomenology. After reading these the first 42 pages of the book, I maintain my concerns about phenomenological philosophy and research methodologies using words and phrases, such an “intentionality,” that are inaccurate outside of philosophy. This reinforces the barrier to using this research methodology against scholars who are not versed in philosophy.

The phrase never-nothing-going-on forces and focuses attention on the present, but I see issues with attempting to understand “nothing” because of my suppositions. I cannot live a bracketed life. But “opening ourselves up” to a new is possible. “Letting go” will be difficult because a critique of something new is based on experience and suppositions. This may be achievable when conducting interviews, but suspending suppositions 24/7 is, to me, an impossible feat.

I believe research has many different processes and rules, but I am somewhat uncomfortable with wading through phenomenology research methodology readings searching for processes just to discover the ambiguity of the research methodology.

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Crafting Phenomenological Research Chapter 2 Annotation

The following are my notes from Vagle’s book Crafting Phenomenological Research book. This is from chapter two, What is Intentionality and Why is it Important?

Intentionality – inseparable connectedness between subjects and objects. It is how we are meaningfully connected to the world
Subjects – Humans
Objects – All other things that may be studied, such as things and ideas
Essence – “There is an essential structure to a phenomenon and the intentional relations [interconnectedness] that characterize the phenomenon” (p. 29)
Post-intentional phenomenology – “Intentional relationships that tie participants, the research, the produced test and their positionalities together” (p. 30)

Phenomenologist study the phenomenon and the intentional relations that manifest and appear (p. 27)

Western culture is confused with the word “intentionality” because it means “purpose” and “intent”

Comment – This is the first time I’ve read that philosophy “borrows” a word and changes the meaning. Perhaps non-philosophers would be more open to using this research methodology if the correct words, such as interconnectedness instead of intentionality, were used Continue reading

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Crafting Phenomenological Research Chapter 1 Annotation

The following are my notes from reading chapter one, What’s the Phenomenon in Phenomenology?, of Vagle’s book Crafting Phenomenological Research.

This quote provides an excellent explanation of phenomenology: “The primary purpose of phenomenology as a research methodology steaming from its philosophical roots is to study what it is like as we find-ourselves-being-in-relation-with-others” (teacher to student) “or other things” (a good book) (p. 20).

Comment – The following quote apply describes the sense I had of phenomenology is when I began reading about it as a methodology:
Phenomenologists “are not primarily interested in what humans decide, but rather in how they experience their decision-making” (p. 21)

Phenomenologists are not interested in quantitative methods, the objective world or how people construct things (p. 22)

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Crafting Phenomenological Research – Introduction Annotation

The following are my notes from reading the introduction of Vagle’s Crafting Phenomenological Research

Vagle states the book contains three core ideas:
1. “Phenomenology is an encounter” (p. 11
2. “Phenomenology is a way of living” (p. 11)
“Never, nothing going on and that we can never grasp all that is going on (p. 12). Remain open and slow down
Question – Is this similar to mindfulness or living in the now?
3. “Phenomenology is a craft” (p. 12)
We are always honing our phenomenological skills, but phenomenology evolves. It is much more than following a series of steps or procedures (p. 12)
– There are “all sorts of possible ways” to practice phenomenology (p. 14)
– Phenomenology is not a singular or unified philosophy or methodology (p. 14)
Comment – This is likely why it is confusing to researchers. Lack of unification, confusion between the philosophy and the methodology, and it’s not merely a series of steps to follow to collect and analyze data. This makes phenomenology inaccessible to some, too much work to others, and confusing to many. Continue reading

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The Four-Week Ph.D. Candidacy Exam

Photo by John Newcomb, CC BY 3.0,

MacLaurin Building, University of Victoria. By John Newcomb, CC BY 3.0,

On March 16, I successfully completed my candidacy exams. In the curriculum and instruction specialization program, faculty of education, at the University of Victoria, candidates are emailed four questions and must answer two questions within two weeks. The final step is a presentation and oral exam.

Answering two questions doesn’t seem difficult, but each answer must be a 30 to 40 page academic paper, not including references. The first question focuses on the candidate’s area of specialization and is known as the content question. The second question is on methodology.

I prepared meticulously for the exams over the past several months. Integral to the preparation was believing I had successfully passed the exams. I wrote the first two chapters of the research paper and completed a rough draft of the methodology chapter, and even up until the night before my exam began, I was adding to my quote bank.

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Being Busy Isn’t the Same as Being Productive

Tracking my time allows me to discover what I waste my time on and ultimately manage my productivity. This is of particularly importance to me as I work on my dissertation. I felt I was working towards my completion goal, but I was actually spending a lot of time “doing” and feeling busy with tasks that worked around my dissertation and not on my dissertation.

Being busy isn’t the same as being productive; therefore, I had to put my energies into finishing my dissertation and not into being busy with my dissertation.

I solved my problem very easily. I track my time, but the time sheet didn’t have enough detail. First, I added more categories to my time sheet so I could accurately track time I spend working about my topic.

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Optimizing the Learners’ LMS eLearning Experience

The first eLearning course I enrolled in in the year 2000 was a nightmare because I couldn’t find all the required pieces of the course on the website. Granted, LMS (learning management systems) were in their infancy at that point, and I honestly don’t recall which, if any, LMS was use. Nonetheless, the course left such a horrible impression on me that it took many years before I attempted another online course.

I always remember that experience when I design my courses. I’ve worked primarily in Moodle and Blackboard, and each have their pros and cons, but no matter which LMS is used, making the course as learner friendly as possible is always at the forefront of my layout.

In the Blackboard example used here, the site is laid out by module. The Course Documents page contains all documents the learners will use, including the course syllabus and assignments, in addition to links to useful sites. These documents are added to the modules in which the topics are addressed and assignments “handed out.” The multiple postings allow learners to quickly find what they are looking for.

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Balancing Teaching and Dissertation Writing

DeadlineEarly last week I was successfully following my work schedule, which includes re-shooting about 30 videos for the online course I’ll teach in fall, revising my dissertation introduction chapter, and writing the first draft of the lit review chapter.

Then I received a phone call that changed my work schedule.

A week earlier I had applied to teach another online course. My application was successful and I now have 27 more videos to shoot.

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