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VIII. Going Public With Your SoTL Project: How to Go Public

Apr 06, 2018 by Caroline Eisner

In this final blog, you will learn how to write up your SoTL project so that others can understand and critique what you studied and what you found.

Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences: IMRD

The sciences and social sciences are characterized by a problem-solving methodology that researchers replicate in their published papers. Researchers specify a research question or questions, devise a method to collect and analyze data to answer these questions, present the results, and then discuss the results in the closing section. Typically you hear the acronym, IMRD, for the structure of Social Science and Science articles: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Sometimes, you will also hear the Results section referred to as the Findings.

Writing the Introduction

The Introduction provides the context for the research and addresses the following:

  • Significance of topic
  • Information gaps
  • Research question

Significance of Topic. Research always has some reference to the real world, and it is important to make it evident that there is real-world relevance for the topic of your paper near the beginning of a manuscript. Here you assert why your topic is important, convince the reader that your research on the topic is worthy of investigation, and that your approach makes sense and is valid. Generally you cover this in the first few paragraphs of the paper.

Information Gaps. Next, explain the information gaps in the literature associated with your topic. Use past studies to set the stage and provide the reader with information regarding the necessity of your project. Here you will clearly name your research topic by identifying some issue that demands attention.

Research Question. At the end of the Introduction, after you have reviewed enough literature to justify the case for your study, announce what your study will do. Most often this is posed as a research question although sometimes it is stated as the study purpose or aim. This short section or subsection forms the important transition linking the introductory part of your article, the context of the problem and prior theory and research, to the methods of your study, alerting the reader what to look for.

Writing the Methods Section

The Methods section covers several topics in short subsections. In the Methods section, you should clearly describe the specific design of the study and provide clear and concise descriptions of the procedures that were performed. Sufficient detail is required so that another researcher is able to replicate your methods and results. Be completely transparent when describing the study. A clear Methods section should contain the following information:

  • Description of the population and how you obtained your sample
  • Measures, instruments, and scales
  • Procedures for data collection and data analysis
  • Proof of IRB approval

Writing the Results Section

The Results section needs to provide the answer to your research question. If you can summarize this information in a few sentences, use text to report your findings. If there is a lot of data to report, adding a table may be the best method to represent the results.

Present your results neutrally, as you “found them.” Be matter-of-fact and provide an unbiased reporting of the results. Do not interpret, compare or discuss the findings. Present your findings without comment or elaboration. Reserve all discussion of their meaning and significance for the Discussion, unless, of course, Submission Guidelines or the Instructions to the Author for that particular journal advise otherwise.

Writing the Discussion Section

Writing a good Discussion is hard work because you need to use your critical thinking skills to interpret the results, analyze their relevance and importance, suggest limitations to the generalizability of the results, interpret implications for practice or policy, and provide your ideas for future research.

Although discussion sections differ depending on the nature of the study, the clarity of the findings, and the target journal's focus and perspective, here are some general guidelines.

Research Question. Begin the Discussion with the answer to the research question you posed in the Introduction.

Interpretation. Explain the meaning and significance of your results and write the description in such a way that the reader can interpret what the results mean at a basic level. Point out how your study contributes to knowledge in your field or subfield, and how (or whether) your study's findings may have filled a gap in the literature that you noted earlier in your introduction. Here is where you synthesize the meaning of your findings with those of others and, in so doing, you emphasize your study's contribution to the field.

Limitations. Address your study's limitations. Be forthcoming about what could not be done and what might limit the generalizability to other populations and settings.

Implications. After emphasizing the contribution to the field, go a step further and provide information about how your findings have implications for future scholars of teaching and learning.

Future Research. Finally, include two to three sentences summarizing your recommendations for future research.

Read through several Discussion sections from the journal you plan to submit to learn the norms for what to include and how to organize this section.

We hope that this blog series has provided useful information and answered many of your questions for those of you new to SoTL. We hope you will begin your own research on your teaching and your students' learning and let us know about the results.

References

Bass, R. (1999). The scholarship of teaching: What’s the problem? Inventio, 1(1).

Bloom, B. S.  (Ed.) Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H. Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co Inc.

Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: Anker Publishing.

Shulman, L. S. (1999). Taking learning seriously. Change, 31(4), 10-17.

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