Archive for September, 2008

Surprisingly, I finished my reading early this week. Mostly, this is because I read much of Bernadette Longo’s Spurious Coin ahead of time. I didn’t do much by way of preparatory reading, so I’m glad to have it pay off.

Before I begin talking about Spurious Coin, I should mention that I read only the first four chapters; anything that occurs past that will not be covered. And while I’m at it, “Taking a Political Turn” by Nancy Roundy Blyler and “Undistributed Work Through Writing: How Technical Writers Manage Texts in Complex Information Environments” by Shaun Slattery are unlikely to get a very deep treatment, as I’m not sure I am rested enough to understand them right now, and may have to reread them. (more…)

Theory Practice Method

Posted: September 22, 2008 in Methods, Readings, Review, School
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I just finished the last of my reading for this week, On Theory, Practice, and Method: Towards a Heuristic Research Methodology for Professional Writing by Patricia Sullivan and James E. Porter.

The main point of the article, so far as I could tell, is that the dichotomy between theory and practice is an ineffectual one; the two should be considered together, because they absolutely inform one another. Also, Theory, Practice and Methodology all refer to things that exist in a continuum. That is, there is more than just one theory, more than one practice, and more than one method.

While this seems like an obvious thing, it’s a very important distinction to make. It’s very important that there be multiple methods. As they write, “research methodology should not be something we apply or select so much as something we design out of particular situations and then argue for in our studies” (301, their emphasis). Seeing methodology as something fluid opens up more possibilities for research.

They say there should not be a distinction, because there can’t be a complete separation of the two. as they say, “we always observe practice through the lens of some kind of rhetorical theory, whether we are conscious of it or not” (304). While this particular quote seems to privilege one over the other (depending on whether the supporting thing is more important than what it supports or the other way around), they do argue the limits of both theory and practice when taken as a whole. What we really need, they say, is praxis.

Thankfully, they define the term Praxis. I keep finding it bandied about as if everyone knows what it means, but I’ve never been sure. Thankfully, Sullivan and Porter write that “praxis refers to a type of conduct that negotiates between positions rather than grounding itself in any particular position” (302, their emphasis). And further that “Praxis is a ‘practical rhetoric,’ focused on local writing activities (practice), informed by as well as informing general principles (theory), and calling upon ‘prudential reasoning'” (305). So Praxis, then, is bridging the gap between theory and practice. Good. That’s settled then.

The Social Perspective

Posted: September 21, 2008 in Methods, Readings, Review, School
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I just finished reading The Social Perspective and Professional Communication: Diversity and Directions in Research by Charlotte Thralls and Nancy Roundy Blyler. It goes through three main approaches to technical communication (Social Constructionist, Ideologic, and Paralogic Hermeneutic) and then determines whether they can all exist together.

While reading this, one of my primary questions was trying to figure out where Thralls and Blyler came down on this issue. Which theory did they prefer? While they did an excellent job presenting the various parts and the various theories behind all three approaches, I did detect bias. I thought about going through and seeing which section had more research support, or to read it again and figure out where the tone felt most negatively biased. (more…)

This week, among a great amount of other things, I have been finishing Qualitative Research and reading Laboratory Life (The Construction of Scientific Facts) by Latour and Woolgar. Let me speak of them in order. (more…)

While this is intended to be a reflection of what I have been reading lately, I feel first I should make a confession, one that will make what comes after make a bit more sense.

Last week, I went to my first class on Research Methods largely unprepared. I had missed some of the reading. A rather large chunk of it in fact. This was not wilfull omission on my part; the book had not yet arrived from Amazon. But the fact remains, I had not done some of the reading. So, when I talk about Designing Qualitative Research, I am talking about all four of the first chapters, not just three and four.

That said, my reading this week was largely consumed by that book. (more…)

The Burning Question

Posted: September 9, 2008 in Brainstorm, Futurism, meta, Methods, writing

When I was in college, I came to the conclusion that the only way to really go through with a PhD was to have a burning question, something that kept me up at night, that demanded my constant consideration. I should say that by ‘came to this conclusion,’ I mostly mean that I was told this by people who I trusted, and it rang true to me.

Thankfully, at that time I had a burning question: Does personal identity depend on outside forces? This leads to questions about downloading the brain into a computer, about virtual persons, about cloning, and all the other great sci-fi geek questions. That question kept me going through my BA, and, though I wasn’t cut out for the Philosophy PhD program at the research university where I was at the time, the question still burned bright enough to get me an MA.

Yesterday, I was asked what my research question was. What do I want to research about? It was in class for Research Methods, so it makes total sense that I would be asked. I wrote something down, the first question that came to my head.

Last night, it kept me up. (more…)

I have officially begun the long and arduous road towards a PhD. Arguably, I began it long ago, and now have just started at the last institution. Whatever the case, classes started last week, and I’ve been reading like a maniac.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that keeping up is falling behind, which seems strange. But if I’m not ahead of the curve, I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up. So I need to get ahead, so that feeling like I’m falling behind really just makes me fall right to where I should be.

I’m intending to use this blog much more frequently now that scholastic time is all the time. Partially, I’ll be using it to ruminate on the readings I do for class. One of my classes, Research Methods, requires a kind of journal, and I’ll keep that here as well. But this is not one of those entries. (more…)