Thursday, September 16, 2010

PhD Students Informal Gathering on Sept 26, 2010

Posted by Bee Ching

Dear all,

After discussing with Dr Rosmah, we have come up with the tentative program for Sept 26 as follows:

9.00am - 9.30am

Presentation by Steven Tan (he passed his QE in year on his Post QE research progress

9.30am - 10.00am

Questions and answers

10.00am - 10.40am

Tea break cum HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI celebration

10.40am - 11.45am

Talk by Dr Rosmah on her PhD journey

12.00pm - 1.00pm

PhD(BA) Discussion Free Flow - where and how we like to go from here, including contents of AMOS and SPSS on 23rd and 24th October.

Regarding the scheduled workshops ,after email replies ,some telephone calls and SMS feedback, we have the following responses , 11 persons chose option 1(2 days) , 2 persons chose option 1 (Amos), 6 chose option 2(SPSS) .5 replies not coming as they are not free or they are doing qualitative research. The others are yet to reply. To help those who need to make travel arrangement, hence, the tentative time and cost for the October workshops are as follows:

23th Oct 9-4pm with 1 hour lunch break AMOS (contents will follow)
24th Oct 9-4pm with l hour lunch break SPSS (contents will follow)

Cost for workshop RM75.00 per day including lunch and two tea breaks

Hence for those who choose to come for l day workshop ,need to pay RM75.00 and for those chose to come for 2 days RM150.00.

In order to reduce the organizing committee workload and ease of account budgeting, we would like the confirmed participants to make payment in advance.

As a suggestion, as many of us are coming for the 26th Sept get together discussion meeting ,they are welcome to make the payments then. Otherwise, please bank into my Public Bank account Chia Bee Ching No: 4706877819 the full amount upon confirmation of attendance of workshops and inform vie mobile 0173402968 or email.

Thank you
beeching chia .

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Deduction & Induction

By William M. K. Trochim

In logic, we often refer to the two broad methods of reasoning as the deductive and inductive approaches.

Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a "top-down" approach. We might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data -- a confirmation (or not) of our original theories.

Inductive reasoning works the other way, moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call this a "bottom up" approach (please note that it's "bottom up" and not "bottoms up" which is the kind of thing the bartender says to customers when he's trying to close for the night!). In inductive reasoning, we begin with specific observations and measures, begin to detect patterns and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore, and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories.

These two methods of reasoning have a very different "feel" to them when you're conducting research. Inductive reasoning, by its very nature, is more open-ended and exploratory, especially at the beginning. Deductive reasoning is more narrow in nature and is concerned with testing or confirming hypotheses. Even though a particular study may look like it's purely deductive (e.g., an experiment designed to test the hypothesized effects of some treatment on some outcome), most social research involves both inductive and deductive reasoning processes at some time in the project. In fact, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we could assemble the two graphs above into a single circular one that continually cycles from theories down to observations and back up again to theories. Even in the most constrained experiment, the researchers may observe patterns in the data that lead them to develop new theories.

Details at:

Positivism & Post-Positivism

By William M. K. Trochim

Let's start our very brief discussion of philosophy of science with a simple distinction between epistemology and methodology. The term epistemology comes from the Greek word epistêmê, their term for knowledge. In simple terms, epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge or of how we come to know. Methodology is also concerned with how we come to know, but is much more practical in nature. Methodology is focused on the specific ways -- the methods -- that we can use to try to understand our world better. Epistemology and methodology are intimately related: the former involves the philosophy of how we come to know the world and the latter involves the practice.

When most people in our society think about science, they think about some guy in a white lab coat working at a lab bench mixing up chemicals. They think of science as boring, cut-and-dry, and they think of the scientist as narrow-minded and esoteric (the ultimate nerd -- think of the humorous but nonetheless mad scientist in the Back to the Future movies, for instance). A lot of our stereotypes about science come from a period where science was dominated by a particular philosophy -- positivism -- that tended to support some of these views. Here, I want to suggest (no matter what the movie industry may think) that science has moved on in its thinking into an era of post-positivism where many of those stereotypes of the scientist no longer hold up.

Let's begin by considering what positivism is. In its broadest sense, positivism is a rejection of metaphysics (I leave it you to look up that term if you're not familiar with it). It is a position that holds that the goal of knowledge is simply to describe the phenomena that we experience. The purpose of science is simply to stick to what we can observe and measure. Knowledge of anything beyond that, a positivist would hold, is impossible. When I think of positivism (and the related philosophy of logical positivism) I think of the behaviorists in mid-20th Century psychology. These were the mythical 'rat runners' who believed that psychology could only study what could be directly observed and measured. Since we can't directly observe emotions, thoughts, etc. (although we may be able to measure some of the physical and physiological accompaniments), these were not legitimate topics for a scientific psychology. B.F. Skinner argued that psychology needed to concentrate only on the positive and negative reinforcers of behavior in order to predict how people will behave -- everything else in between (like what the person is thinking) is irrelevant because it can't be measured.

In a positivist view of the world, science was seen as the way to get at truth, to understand the world well enough so that we might predict and control it. The world and the universe were deterministic -- they operated by laws of cause and effect that we could discern if we applied the unique approach of the scientific method. Science was largely a mechanistic or mechanical affair. We use deductive reasoning to postulate theories that we can test. Based on the results of our studies, we may learn that our theory doesn't fit the facts well and so we need to revise our theory to better predict reality. The positivist believed in empiricism -- the idea that observation and measurement was the core of the scientific endeavor. The key approach of the scientific method is the experiment, the attempt to discern natural laws through direct manipulation and observation.

OK, I am exaggerating the positivist position (although you may be amazed at how close to this some of them actually came) in order to make a point. Things have changed in our views of science since the middle part of the 20th century. Probably the most important has been our shift away from positivism into what we term post-positivism. By post-positivism, I don't mean a slight adjustment to or revision of the positivist position -- post-positivism is a wholesale rejection of the central tenets of positivism. A post-positivist might begin by recognizing that the way scientists think and work and the way we think in our everyday life are not distinctly different. Scientific reasoning and common sense reasoning are essentially the same process. There is no difference in kind between the two, only a difference in degree. Scientists, for example, follow specific procedures to assure that observations are verifiable, accurate and consistent. In everyday reasoning, we don't always proceed so carefully (although, if you think about it, when the stakes are high, even in everyday life we become much more cautious about measurement. Think of the way most responsible parents keep continuous watch over their infants, noticing details that non-parents would never detect).

One of the most common forms of post-positivism is a philosophy called critical realism. A critical realist believes that there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study. (This is in contrast with a subjectivist who would hold that there is no external reality -- we're each making this all up!). Positivists were also realists. The difference is that the post-positivist critical realist recognizes that all observation is fallible and has error and that all theory is revisable. In other words, the critical realist is critical of our ability to know reality with certainty. Where the positivist believed that the goal of science was to uncover the truth, the post-positivist critical realist believes that the goal of science is to hold steadfastly to the goal of getting it right about reality, even though we can never achieve that goal! Because all measurement is fallible, the post-positivist emphasizes the importance of multiple measures and observations, each of which may possess different types of error, and the need to use triangulation across these multiple errorful sources to try to get a better bead on what's happening in reality. The post-positivist also believes that all observations are theory-laden and that scientists (and everyone else, for that matter) are inherently biased by their cultural experiences, world views, and so on. This is not cause to give up in despair, however. Just because I have my world view based on my experiences and you have yours doesn't mean that we can't hope to translate from each other's experiences or understand each other. That is, post-positivism rejects the relativist idea of the incommensurability of different perspectives, the idea that we can never understand each other because we come from different experiences and cultures. Most post-positivists are constructivists who believe that we each construct our view of the world based on our perceptions of it. Because perception and observation is fallible, our constructions must be imperfect. So what is meant by objectivity in a post-positivist world? Positivists believed that objectivity was a characteristic that resided in the individual scientist. Scientists are responsible for putting aside their biases and beliefs and seeing the world as it 'really' is. Post-positivists reject the idea that any individual can see the world perfectly as it really is. We are all biased and all of our observations are affected (theory-laden). Our best hope for achieving objectivity is to triangulate across multiple fallible perspectives! Thus, objectivity is not the characteristic of an individual, it is inherently a social phenomenon. It is what multiple individuals are trying to achieve when they criticize each other's work. We never achieve objectivity perfectly, but we can approach it. The best way for us to improve the objectivity of what we do is to do it within the context of a broader contentious community of truth-seekers (including other scientists) who criticize each other's work. The theories that survive such intense scrutiny are a bit like the species that survive in the evolutionary struggle. (This is sometimes called the natural selection theory of knowledge and holds that ideas have 'survival value' and that knowledge evolves through a process of variation, selection and retention). They have adaptive value and are probably as close as our species can come to being objective and understanding reality.

Clearly, all of this stuff is not for the faint-of-heart. I've seen many a graduate student get lost in the maze of philosophical assumptions that contemporary philosophers of science argue about. And don't think that I believe this is not important stuff. But, in the end, I tend to turn pragmatist on these matters. Philosophers have been debating these issues for thousands of years and there is every reason to believe that they will continue to debate them for thousands of years more. Those of us who are practicing scientists should check in on this debate from time to time (perhaps every hundred years or so would be about right). We should think about the assumptions we make about the world when we conduct research. But in the meantime, we can't wait for the philosophers to settle the matter. After all, we do have our own work to do!

Details at:

Philosophy of Research

By William M. K. Trochim

You probably think of research as something very abstract and complicated. It can be, but you'll see (I hope) that if you understand the different parts or phases of a research project and how these fit together, it's not nearly as complicated as it may seem at first glance. A research project has a well-known structure -- a beginning, middle and end. We introduce the basic phases of a research project in The Structure of Research. In that section, we also introduce some important distinctions in research: the different types of questions you can ask in a research project; and, the major components or parts of a research project.

Before the modern idea of research emerged, we had a term for what philosophers used to call research -- logical reasoning. So, it should come as no surprise that some of the basic distinctions in logic have carried over into contemporary research. In Systems of Logic we discuss how two major logical systems, the inductive and deductive methods of reasoning, are related to modern research.

OK, you knew that no introduction would be complete without considering something having to do with assumptions and philosophy. (I thought I very cleverly snuck in the stuff about logic in the last paragraph). All research is based on assumptions about how the world is perceived and how we can best come to understand it. Of course, nobody really knows how we can best understand the world, and philosophers have been arguing about that very question for at least two millennia now, so all we're going to do is look at how most contemporary social scientists approach the question of how we know about the world around us. We consider two major philosophical schools of thought -- Positivism and Post-Positivism -- that are especially important perspectives for contemporary social research (OK, I'm only considering positivism and post-positivism here because these are the major schools of thought. Forgive me for not considering the hotly debated alternatives like relativism, subjectivism, hermeneutics, deconstructivism, constructivism, feminism, etc. If you really want to cover that stuff, start your own Web site and send me your URL to stick in here).

Quality is one of the most important issues in research. We introduce the idea of validity to refer to the quality of various conclusions you might reach based on a research project. Here's where I've got to give you the pitch about validity. When I mention validity, most students roll their eyes, curl up into a fetal position or go to sleep. They think validity is just something abstract and philosophical (and I guess it is at some level). But I think if you can understand validity -- the principles that we use to judge the quality of research -- you'll be able to do much more than just complete a research project. You'll be able to be a virtuoso at research, because you'll have an understanding of why we need to do certain things in order to assure quality. You won't just be plugging in standard procedures you learned in school -- sampling method X, measurement tool Y -- you'll be able to help create the next generation of research technology.

Details at:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Difference between a Master and a PhD dissertation

The one of the highest form of dissertation is PhD dissertation. So it is necessary that it should be properly written without any error. Many students don't even know how to write or start dissertation, on which their degree depends. Master's degree is a professional degree, while PhD degree is usually attains to teach at university level.

Dissertation is submitted at the end of your academic career, at master's and at PhD, and your whole study and observation is dependent on dissertation. Dissertation is also known as thesis, in some universities thesis and dissertation is treated separately. Thesis is one that is submitted at the end of master's degree, while dissertation is submitted at the end of PhD.

There are number of differences between master's and PhD dissertation which are as follows:

1. Master's dissertation needs enough information and argument of the literature in the particular field of study; while in PhD dissertation the contribution of knowledge is important.
2. Master's dissertation needs good style and presentation; while PhD dissertation needs good presentation and style.
3. The amount of material that needs to be produced is also one of the main differences between master's and PhD dissertation.
4. PhD dissertation takes much longer time to complete while master's dissertation will complete within a year or less.
5. The standard of writing for master's dissertation is relatively lower than the standards for PhD, and also PhD dissertation is more strictly monitored by the advisory committee.
6. In master's program you can easily take help in writing a dissertation from your professors, but in PhD program you will have to work much more independently.
7. Master's dissertation is much shorter in length then PhD dissertation. Master's dissertation varies between 10,000 to 20,000 words or 80 to 100 pages, while PhD dissertation is more than 90,000 to 100,000 words or 300 to 400 pages.

Above are the main differences between master's dissertation and PhD dissertation. Writing a dissertation, whether it is of masters or PhD is not easy. It requires number of years for research and writing a good dissertation.