Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chapter 1

I initially wrote the first chapter of my research proposal/dissertation in February this year.  Of the three chapters that I wrote, it was the most difficult because I had no idea who my audience was.  In reality, the audience was my professor in the research proposal writing class and my classmates.  However, none of them are members of my dissertation committee, who I tried to imagine as my audience.  The problem with that was I could not really consult them yet because I had not completed my comprehensive exams yet.  So it felt like I was writing Chapter 1 for a simulated audience, one that doesn't really exist. 

Chapter 1 should be the most engaging of the chapters to write because it is my opportunity to make my case.  Because I didn't know who I'm making my case to, I struggled.  Although I tried to imagine my future dissertation committee as my audience, I also had to write it for someone outside the field.  In fact, I do have someone outside the field sitting on my committee, but she is very familiar with the context of my initially proposed data collection.  I felt like I was making my case to people who were already half on board with me.  I didn't feel the need to make a stronger case, and perhaps that is what made my first chapter 1 weak.

Now that I have passed my comprehensive exams, my advisor and co-chair recommended that my audience be to someone in education, but not in foreign language or ESL education, and to someone who has the authority of issuing grant money.  This advice has helped tremendously, but I basically had to scrap most of the original draft.  I had to scrap it because I have decided, through the advice of several committee members, that I should broaden my scope beyond sojourning EFL teachers in Japan to EFL teachers in East Asia sojourning from the United States (and maybe Canada?).  My advisor also recommended that framing chapter 1 as a call for intercultural communication training in ESL education would help.

The first steps were the easiest as I already had most of the literature.  I made a spreadsheet and categorized my literature in terms of domain: education, language education, teacher education, intercultural communication, and sojourner studies.  After I completed this spreadsheet, I revisited all the literature that stressed both teacher education and intercultural communication to find the best arguments.  Then I looked at literature about intercultural communication to better sell the idea as the business/corporate world finds intercultural communication to be quite important. 

Actually...writing this blog is helping because I haven't made my point clear enough about the connection between the international business/corporate need for intercultural communication and the reason why many people learn English as an international language.  Put simply: globalization.  I've heard this pitch so many times that I forget that not everybody knows this connection.  I wonder if I should make that my biggest catch rather than the poor standards for teachers in terms of intercultural communication.  It seems as if it precludes the standards.

Anyway, although I seemed to have avoided analysis paralysis when writing chapter 1 for class.  I now seem to be going into it a bit.  I seem to have about 2 good hours of progress a day before I get second thoughts that send me into this analysis paralysis.  The simplest example is when I realize that many of my studies for demographics are over a decade old.  So when I search for more up to date demographic information, I find little to none, but that search helps me find other literature that may help.  But I already have enough convincing literature.  This sidestepping literature search usually takes up an hour, and then I lose track and second guess my arguments, primarily, and my writing ability, secondarily. 

This blog is helping me refocus in terms of bullet points.  I seem to have a few bullet point-type ideas, but I feel the urge to elaborate on them even though that's the point of chapter 2.  I believe my biggest struggle is when to elaborate and when to keep it succinct.  This struggle comes out of explaining my ideas to someone who is not in my field.  How much explanation or background information should this person need, so it is clear enough? 

So I will revisit my literature and make more bullet points to sell the need for my study under the premise that it will improve intercultural communication training in second language teacher education.  It's back to outlining, but without scrapping again.

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