Guidelines for the Preparation of a Synthesis

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Example: Conclusion (review the purpose of this project, summarize your “findings” and discuss the connections between the various themes/experts’ theories and this work.)


If work and family life become autotelic, then there is nothing wasted in life, and everything we do is worth doing for its own sake. (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, 113)
The Critical and Creative Thinking Program's unique curriculum and pedagogy has helped me to re-discovered a creative energy. The transformative experiences triggered by course work and classroom experiences allowed me to see new ways of defining myself and the role of work in my life. I learned that it is through exercising and refining my higher-order thinking skills that I put my "... own stamp on [my] life, creating a bridge from [my] inner world to the outer world" (Bepko and Krestan 1993, 8).

That I would seek to apply creative and critical thinking in the workplace is not so far fetched. Many noted researchers have found that: "Creativity ... allows us to transcend and to make meaning of what might otherwise seem senseless" (Bepko and Krestan 1993, 261). The essential human need for creative expression is described by noted author and professor of psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1996):

Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives... First, most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity... second... when we are involved in [creativity], we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life. (1 2)

While the intellectual understanding of my need for more fulfilling work had become painfully obvious by the summer of 1997, change was a slow process for me.

My early research on the demoralizing effects of "toxic" (Reed 1993, 112-258) management styles, the need for "spirit and character in the workplace" (Hawley 1993, 1), and the satisfaction that comes from "work ... that ennobles ... and brings meaning to [one's] efforts" (Autry 1994, 75) found its way into many final projects for other courses in the Critical and Creative Thinking Program. Each paper added a new or deepened an existing facet of my way of defining meaningful work. Often not conscious of the cause of my discontent on the job, I sensed that whatever was wrong was not fully within my power to correct. The corporate culture had to change from within and starting with the leaders at the top.

"Change grows from belief  - the forms of our lives take shape in response to our sense of personal conviction" (Bepko and Krestan 1993, 258). Small shifts in meaning making often accumulate unnoticed, until we are faced with a crisis or significant decision. It is at the "choice points" (195) that we notice that we are doing things differently. My meaning making evolved over the three years in the program, and it continues. I savored the opportunity to use my discontent with work as fodder for my homework assignments and final projects. At each turn, I worked to integrate my new learning with my need to define personally meaningful work. It was only after facing my needs head-on and sharing them with my classmates that I was ready to put my learning and beliefs into action. In the winter of 1997, after less than two years since my last change of position, I took a risk and pursued a promising job opportunity, armed with a rich understanding of the essential characteristics of personally meaningful work.

Example: Discuss the findings of this paper/your work relative applicable theories.

Aspects of Personally Meaningful Work.

Prominent theorists and practitioners in the fields of economics, management and organizational psychology are warning organizations to embrace participatory management styles. They warn that skilled professionals are seeking more people-centered environments and are willing to change jobs to find personal fulfillment from their work. Such changes in philosophy bode well for all employees who seek to make a meaningful contribution to their community and not forsake their personal values in exchange for a paycheck.

Among the experts who espouse people-centered organizational structures are Peter Senge (Director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Robert Reich (former Secretary of Labor). Each offers a perspective on the successful organization of the future which suggests that such entities will need people at all levels who possess the capacity to deal with complex situations. Situations that will demand higher-order thinking skills and dispositions. According to these experts, successful organizations of the future will need people who understand and use the thinking strategies I have acquired in the Critical and Creative Thinking Program.

Example: Future use of this work/final thoughts.

Final Reflections - A New Position.

While corporations, governments, and academic institutions struggle with implementing the latest in organizational theories, it is the individuals within the workforce who must face the daily balancing act between money and meaning. Fortunately, my recent efforts at finding meaningful work have met with a fair degree of success. In January of 1998, I accepted a new position at the Department of Public Health that gives me a great deal of flexibility and creative freedom in accomplishing my responsibilities.

The project for which I was initially hired entailed the implementation of a federally-mandated data collection and automated transmission project for the 553 nursing homes in the state by June 22, 1998. Once implemented, I would be responsible for on-going maintenance and data use projects. Two months into my tenure on the job, I was assigned to implement a second, federally-mandated data collection and automation project for the Commonwealth's 210 home health agencies by January 1, 1999. As MDS/OASIS Automation Projects Coordinator, I am implementing and managing these data collection and automation projects with the technical assistance of three colleagues in the Management Information Systems Unit (MIS) and one help-desk staff person. I have been given sole responsibility for the success (or failure) of these projects. My work continually tests my higher-order thinking skills and usually demand a bottomless cup of humor and patience.

Example: Final paragraph of the paper ties up the issues and meaning of thiswork for you.
While many of my colleagues still do not fully comprehend the concepts of critical and creative thinking that I employ in my work, they acknowledge and appreciate the unique value that I am able to bring to these projects. The satisfaction surveys from in-house staff and external agencies who are submitting data indicate that the training sessions are very helpful and engaging. The help-desk response time and courtesy ratings are exemplary for those in our region. Most importantly, staff at the individual sites have personally expressed their gratitude for our patience, empathy and sense of humor. For them, it has made all the difference in their desire to comprehend complex regulations and their motivation to overcome the road blocks to success. For me, it is the first time in many years I am doing work which is personally meaningful.

Example: Note alignment, capitalization and order of items within each entry.


Abbott, Edward A. 1984. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. New York: Signet Classic.
Autry, James A. 1994. Life & Work: A Manager's Search for Meaning. New York: Avon Books.
Bateson, Mary Catherine. 1989. Composing a Life. New York: Plume.
Belenky, Mary Field, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule. 1986. Women's Ways of Knowing. New York: BasicBooks.
Bepko, Claudia and Jo Ann Krestan. 1993. Singing at the Top of Our Lungs. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Bohm, David. 1985. Unfolding Meaning. London: Routledge.
Bolton, Robert, Ph.D. 1979. People Skills. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Bowie, G. Lee, Meredith W. Michaels, and Robert C. Solomon. 1996. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. Third Edition. Orlando: Harcourt Brace.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1996. Creativity. New York: HarperCollins.
Davis, Gary A. 1983. Creativity is Forever. Third Edition. Debuque: Kendall/Hunt.
Dewey, John. 1991. How We Think. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
Frankl, Viktor E. 1997. Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning. New York: Plenum Press.
Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In A Different Voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hawley, Jack. 1993. Reawakening the Spirit in Work. New York: Fireside.
Lipman, Matthew. 1991. Thinking in Education. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Newman, D. P. Griffin, and M. Cole. 1989. The Construction Zone: Working for Cognitive Change in School. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Photocopied.
Reed, Stanley Foster. 1993. The Toxic Executive. New York: HarperBusiness.
Reich, Robert B. 1991. The Work of Nations. New York: Vintage Books.
Roth, George and Art Kleiner. 1995. "Learning Histories: 'Assessing' the Learning Organization," The Systems Thinker. Cambridge, MA: Pegasus Communications. Photocopied.
Senge, Peter M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline. New York: Doubleday.
Shekerjian, Denise. 1990. Uncommon Genius. New York: Penguin Books.
Tillmanns, Maria L. A. 1994. "Philosophical Counseling: The Art of Hearing Through Experience," INQUIRY: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines. Photocopied.
Zindel, Paul. 1970. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds. New York: Bantam Books.

The CCT Synthesis is not officially a Master's Thesis, so some of the Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses & Dissertations at the University of Massachusetts Boston do not apply. (The relevant pages of the January 1999 edition are indicated in parentheses in what follows.) It is not submitted to the Graduate School (Guidelines, p. 2) and so the deadlines are not as tight (G, p. 1). No copies are deposited in the University library or sent to University Microfilms (UMI) (G, p. 4-5, 13). One copy only on archival paper is required (G, p. 2); once bound, this is kept in the CCT Program. The check for binding is payable to UMass Boston, GCOE Account #2-50364 (G, p.3).

The section on Format and Style Requirements (pages 5-11), the Pre-submission Checklist (pages 14-15), and the sample pages still apply and are reflected in these Structural Standards. However, up until the final draft is completed, I suggest using 1" margins and 1.5 line spacing; this makes the drafts easier to read and save paper. Moreover, attention to the formal requirements tends to distract from the re-thinking and revision that is necessary for your Synthesis to become a powerful exposition of your work and thinking. In the same vein, leave the writing of your abstract until the final shape of the Synthesis has emerged.
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