Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tips for Writing a SSHRC Program of Study

I've previously blogged about on getting Canadian graduate grants including my top ten tips. This year, I had the opportunity to look at several prospective masters programs of study. Below are common concerns that I noticed.

Common SSHRC program of study issues:

- good storytelling is important - proposals must engage the reader and entice them to read on (and not instantly discard), so don't start with "I am in my first year of a MA..."

- if including one's personal background it should be related to the program of study so specify this relationship. Don't include one's life story or a laundry list of classes taken

- acknowledge ethical concerns - if your proposed research is low risk,then once sentence will probably suffice to acknowledge your intention to follow university process here. I read some students proposals that dealt with sensitive populations or were proposing research that may actually result (indirectly) in harm to participants - in these cases it's important to deal with this.

- watch the scope is not too broad or suffers from Miss Universe syndrome (i.e. my research will save the world)

- mention (even briefly) sampling, access, and data analysis

- don't use of the term "subjects" or other dehumanizing labels for research participants

- define key terms and/or operationalize central concepts

- a clearly articulated research question is important

- explain how the research fits into your current area of study. I read some programs of study that appeared as if the student was in the wrong program as they referred exclusively to the concepts of other disciplines. It is important to fit one's research into one's current discipline not only to show that you are on a logical, appropriate academic path, but also applications are vetted by one's department so don't alienate them

- include a good title

- cite sources correctly!

I believe addressing these issues will make a program of study read better and be more academically appropriate.

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