Umberto Eco published a little book for his students, How to Write a Thesis, in which he offered useful advice on all the steps involved in researching and writing a thesis—from choosing a topic to organizing a work schedule to writing the final draft. Eco’s approach is anything but dry and academic. He not only offers practical advice but also considers larger questions about the value of the thesis-writing exercise. How to Write a Thesis is unlike any other writing manual. It reads like a novel. It is opinionated. It is frequently irreverent, sometimes polemical, and often hilarious. Eco advises students how to avoid “thesis neurosis” and he answers the important question “Must You Read Books?” He reminds students “You are not Proust” and “Write everything that comes into your head, but only in the first draft.” Eco’s index card research system offers important lessons about critical thinking and information curating for students who may be burdened by Big Data. How to Write a Thesis belongs on the bookshelves of students, teachers, writers, and Eco fans everywhere. Already a classic, it would fit nicely between two other classics: Strunk and White and The Name of the Rose.
While the different methodological approaches frequently complemented one another, they also mounted in practical difficulties as well as theoretical contradictions. Based on my research, and a wealth of other people’s research, this book aims to provide a guide map on how to study the lived, discursive and social and political nature of contemporary reality. My intention has been to write a book that I would have liked to read before I started my research.
The thought of mastering a set of diverse research approaches, and combining them, may sound daunting for any beginning researcher as well as an experienced scholar, struggling as we all are with multiple pressures on our time. The success of any research project depends on a difficult balancing act between being both ambitious and doable. Thus, I would not suggest all research projects combine several views. Rather, the aim of the different chapters of the book is to outline different ways of doing research and to promote a way of doing them in the best possible way, by highlighting their specificity, strengths, possible problems and omissions.
Understanding the tactics of collaboration can help make the unique value of working well together real. It’s important because the whole — all of us, humanity — can be greater than the sum of our parts. We often discuss collaboration in terms of its relationship to competition; competition, at its best, can make each part more valuable and more effective, but collaboration adds value to the whole by focusing on how the parts work together. Effective collaboration depends on effective relationships between humans. If the right people are in the room, and if there is time and space for like minds and potential partners to find and engage with each other, then even the worst-designed gathering can be productive. If the right people are also talented, driven, and a bit entitled, they will make the space they need to be productive regardless of the meeting’s design. However, setting aside time and space is not the whole story. Effective collaboration also requires that all collaborators gain value from collaborating. When the value is reciprocal, other barriers become smaller and the collaboration is easier to sustain.
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