Case Study Research Design

Two tutorials on Case Study Research Design are now available.

Case studies are frequently used in research and occasionally used loosely.  However, case studies have a unique nature, logic and a versatile design. 

Two new tutorials are now available guiding you through  what case studies are and how to design the case study research. For instance, the tutorials explain which types of research questions this method is most suited to and which four elements need to be included.

The tutorials are available here.

Student coaching sessions: Some tutor impressions

Scores of students have received individual coaching sessions with Writing Hub tutors over the past weeks.  What have we, as tutors, discovered? Here are some provisional findings:

  1. Many students wait too long with booking  a session.  If your deadline is mere weeks away, there really is not enough time to address bigger issues.  At this level of education, there are usually no quick fixes.
  2. It helps if you come to sessions with some clear goals. It is not possible, in 50 minutes, to look over an entire paper or chapter or even page.  Frequently there will be multiple issues.  In one coaching session it is possible to do an overall analysis, of course, and let you know there are issues of spelling, tenses, word order etc – but we cannot coach you on all these matters. (see point 3.)
  3. A key premise is that we’re not there to just correct your errors.  The learning effect is optimised if we can work with you on recognising the issues and then support you in correcting these.  (And this is why we cannot cover too much ground in one session. But it does mean, you have learnt how to be self-sufficient in this aspect in your future writing.)
  4. The most common issue? Paragraph organisation.  In these complex pieces of writing, you need to be super clear on what you’re communicating and developing a clear line of argumentation. And this needs to be topic by topic, sub-topic by sub-topic.  A few tense errors will only marginally hamper getting your message across. But presenting a wild mix of different thoughts and topics in a paragraph will stump your reader.  So, decide what each paragraph is about and stick to that.  A topic sentence helps as well.

Brigitte Sprenger

The Boom of Essay mills

This company offers to write your paper for you so that you do not have the stress of doing so. There is no mention that their product is against regulations of most universities/colleges.

Indications are that students are increasingly turning to the so-called essay mills to write their scientific papers and essays. A recent large-scale study concluded up to 15% of students had (admitted to) paying for someone else to write their work and a university vice chancellor has called on governments to regulate as these businesses become ever more aggressive in their advertising. Students are targeted via social media offering to write to order at as little as £7 (CHF 9 per page).

Concern about the burgeoning essay mills industry is increasingly preoccupying education and college regulators. In recent months, there have been calls and actions in the USA, the UK, Kenya, New Zealand and Ireland to legislate against or ban these ghost writers from providing or advertising their services.

High Risks

Students run the risk of severe penalties, including being ex-matriculated or having their degree titles revoked. Essay mills advertise there will be no plagiarism in the paper supplied – but of course the entire paper is plagiarism (i.e. the theft of someone else’s work – in this case, the work of the essay mill writer). And the quality of the work delivered varies widely from gibberish to passable. If discovered the repercussions are huge (e.g. the high profile court case where parents paid eye-watering sums for ghost-written college entrance exams.)

Universities are rightfully concerned. The software used by most universities (including the FHNW) detects similarity in a paper to content elsewhere. It cannot usually spot a ghost-written paper. The indicators for an essay-mill production lie more within detecting whether it is consistent with a student’s style and previous production.

Various developments to ban essay mills from operating, advertising or receiving payment are under way as the booming practice undermines the quality and reputation of universities and their degrees.

Decoding job vacancy texts

A job ad for a communications manager which shows up in the decoder as being male-biased.

A job ad for a communications manager which shows up in the decoder as being male-biased.

Do the texts in job vacancies impact whether men or women apply? An article in The Guardian argues that recent advertisements for headteacher posts show clear textual biases, so-called gendered language. An example is the wording in a current ad which looks for applicants with “relentless drive, energy and ambition”.

A former headteacher, Vivienne Porritt, found there was significant “gendered language” in ads she has been analysing. “She believes words such as “driven” and “ambitious” – especially when repeated within a three or four-paragraph job advert – are a turn-off for women seeking to apply for senior roles.”

The New York Times published an article on research of 50 million job ads which found that phrasing of job ads was very much still gender-driven.

If you’re phrasing a job advertisement, you might want to use the decoder to check whether your text overly emphasises male or female requirements.

Scientific editing: a many-level task

B42ART Editing an English language document

Editing your paper or article has to be done at different levels.  Dawn Field wrote on the Oxford University Press (OUP) blog this week that there are four main stages:

  1. Scientific editing
  2. Developmental (or structural) editing
  3. Line editing
  4. Proof editing

Most important is the scientific editing where, among others, there is the “determination of the value of the scientific content”, whether the targeting is correct, whether there’s enough evidence to support the interpretations, whether the argumentation is logical.

Read Dawn’s full blog post here

Key success factor of good writing: Organisation

Organisation is a key success factor of a wel-written text

The key success factor of a good text is good language. Right?

Not necessarily so. Many texts I see, be they research papers, journal articles or theses, contain some pretty impressive vocabulary and have complex sentences which are mostly grammatically correct. However, often they do not make sense. It’s a challenge to understand the messages and, as a reader, I am soon lost in a convoluted labyrinth of words. While all the correct words are in place , there is a lack of structure, organization and navigation. Too often we as writers are so focused on making sure we cover the numerous chunks of information we’ve found that we fail to orientate out readers, take them by the hand, and carefully guide them through our argumentation.

You need outlines. I swear by outlines.  At the start of your project you will be buzzing with ideas Continue reading

How can we help?

We are the hub for written communication. We guide, support and train you towards producing the texts you need for your studies, your teaching, your research, your profession.  As your partners, we can help you plan and design that presentation, write that research paper or scientific article. We provide relevant input and feedback either individually or in groups.

In this initiation phase the English section provides primarily support for faculty and the German section, Zentrum Schreiben, offers primarily support for students.  Our range of services will expand from autumn 2017.