If all goes according to plan, I will be working on my thesis next semester. I'm considering three different areas of research, each with its own pros and cons. Read about them below, and then vote to indicate which one you think I should go for. Talk me through this.
Thesis Topic A: TOEFL Repeaters. Many students seeking to gain entrance to English-speaking universities take the TOEFL many times...like, a LOT of times (if they don't get a high enough score the first time, or tenth time. Really). What kinds of patterns or generalizations can we extract from these scores? The actual research question would be more focused, but you get the idea.
Pros: Cold, hard data - no touchy-feely questionnaires or live human interaction/interviews required. There is something so beautiful about a quantitative study. Plus, one of my professors has done research on this topic and I think I could get some great direction from her, or piggy-back on a study she is carrying out.
Cons: My heart isn't in this topic. I am interested in it, but I'm not passionate about it. I'm not sure that's a strong enough foundation on which to build a relationship with something as starkly straightforward as TOEFL scores.
Thesis Topic B: The Power of YouTube. I told you about this already. Basically, how can teachers use YouTube in the classroom to increase motivation? To tidy the research paper up for a thesis topic, I would be more specific about what kind of video and what kind of motivation.
Pros: You guys, that research paper was so fun it practically wrote itself. Plus, I have two classes of my own to experiment on (and plenty of videos to choose from). The topic is attractive and I think the results could help a lot of teachers. It's also very hip.
Cons: The word "motivation" can quickly turn into research quicksand. Sooooo much has been written about motivation that I would definitely have to put in my due diligence when it came to reading/writing about it. Also, I worry that even after a lot of thought and effort, this topic could still come across as fluffy. It may be hard to find a clear focus.
Thesis Topic C: Intercultural Competence. Wait, don't go! It's more interesting than it sounds. The nature of English language teaching – spanning nationalities, ethnicities, and countries – means that students and teachers may often come from different sociocultural backgrounds, where styles of learning and culturally acceptable teaching methods vary. Teachers who are fully qualified to teach English may still feel anxiety in the classroom when confronted with students whose cultures and learning practices are very different from their own. What kinds of challenges do non-Arab teachers in the Gulf experience? Are they given training? How do the experiences of teachers with ethnorelative outlooks compare to those who are ethnocentric? Etc.
Pros: This is something I am deeply interested in, for obvious reasons: basically, WELCOME TO MY LIFE. This is the thesis I would write for 20-year-old Bridget tutoring Korean kids in Russia, and 22-23-year-old Bridget teaching English to Syrian teenagers, and everyone else out there who has to work through their culture shock to teach people who are very different from them. I think it's a relevant topic and it also has the possibility of being highly useful for teacher training programs.
Cons: I think this is the most work-intensive topic of the three. It would likely require student AND teacher surveys, plus a teacher focus group. Just the thought of coordinating with all those people within the pressured timetable of a thesis gives me pause. Also, "culture" is another kind of research quicksand.