Step 5: Writing And Presenting Your Findings
The key to successfully writing your paper is organization (writing skills help, too!). Here are some tips that may be helpful:
- You should have a clear idea of your research hypothesis by now. Make sure that this is stated clearly at the beginning of your paper (or presentation).
- Summarize the articles you have collected, identifying the main points. If you have made a photocopy of an article or book chapter, highlight the sentences or paragraphs that are most applicable to your topic.
- Start writing the sections that are clearest to you (these don’t always have to be written in order). Provide background information and then add your supporting ideas.
- Once you start writing you will be able to identify areas where you still need more information. You can then develop a new targeted search strategy to retrieve more information. Your concepts may be much narrower than at the beginning stages of your research.
- Make sure that you have the correct citations for all of your resources (don’t wait until the last minute on this one).
The format of your writing will differ depending on the expectations for the research.
It is important to provide information on where you obtained the information that was used in your research.
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Cite your references
An important part of presenting your research is to acknowledge the sources you used to gather the information. One way of organizing your references is to use bibliographic management software. This software allows you to create your own files of references and can assist you in formatting them according to the publication style you are using. Three of the most popular programs are ProCite, Reference Manager and EndNote.
Papers that are written by students for courses at MSASS must adhere to the format created by the American Psychological Association (APA). Copies of the print version of The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association are on reserve in the Harris Library.
Note: Don’t forget to spell-check and proofread your document. You need to do both. They are NOT the same thing.
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Present your research
The presentation of research can take many formats, although typically a paper or report will be written to summarize the findings. Often, in addition to a written report, the research needs to be presented to classmates, colleagues or another audience. Sometimes you want to include an audiovisual aid in your presentation. The Harris Library has an extensive video collection on a number of topics relating to social work and social welfare.
Increasingly, presentation software is being used in group settings to share the main ideas of a project. A number of websites exist that provide information on how to effectively use presentation software.
Everyone has different comfort levels in front of an audience.
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Books in the Harris Library
Nicol, A. A. M., & Pexman, P. M. (2010). Displaying your findings: A practical guide for creating figures, posters, and presentations (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Nicol, A. A. M., & Pexman, P. M. (2010). Presenting your findings: A practical guide for creating tables (6th ed.). Washington, DC : American Psychological Association.
If you have conducted things like interviews or observations, you are likely to have transcripts that encompass pages and pages of work.
Putting this all together cohesively within one chapter can be particularly challenging. This is true for two reasons. First, it is always difficult to determine what you are going to cut and/or include. Secondly, unlike quantitative data, it can often be difficult to represent qualitative data through figures and tables, so condensing the information into a visual representation is simply not possible. As a writer, it is important to address both these challenges.
When considering how to present your qualitative data, it may be helpful to begin with the initial outline you have created (and the one described above). Within each of your subsections, you are going to have themes or headings that represent impactful talking points that you want to focus on.
Once you have these headings, it might be helpful to go back to your data and highlight specific lines that can/might be used as examples in your writing. If you have used multiple different instruments to collect data (e.g. interviews and observations), you are going to want to ensure that you are using both examples within each section (if possible). This is so that you can demonstrate to more well-rounded perspective of the points you are trying to make. Once you have identified some key examples for each section, you might still have to do some further cutting/editing.
Once you have your examples firmly selected for each subsection, you want to ensure that you are including enough information. This way, the reader will understand the context and circumstances around what you are trying to ‘prove’. You must set up the examples you have chosen in a clear and coherent way.
Students often make the mistake of including quotations without any other information. It is important that you embed your quotes/examples within your own thoughts. Usually this means writing about the example both before and after. So you might say something like, “One of the main topics that my participants highlighted was the need for more teachers in elementary schools. This was a focal point for 7 of my 12 participants, and examples of their responses included: [insert example] by participant 3 and [insert example] by participant 9. The reoccurring focus by participants on the need for more teachers demonstrates [insert critical thought here]. By embedding your examples in the context, you are essentially highlighting to the reader what you want them to remember.
Aside from determining what to include, the presentation of such data is also essential. Participants, when speaking in an interview might not do so in a linear way. Instead they might jump from one thought to another and might go off topic here and there.
It is your job to present the reader with information on your theme/heading without including all the extra information. So the quotes need to be paired down to incorporate enough information for the reader to be able to understand, while removing the excess.
Finding this balance can be challenging. You have likely worked with the data for a long time and so it might make sense to you. Try to see your writing through the eyes of someone else, which should help you write more clearly.