Archive for the ‘Methods’ Category

For those keeping score, I spent Thanksgiving break writing. I wrote a solid draft of both a paper on Artificial Authors (mainly on BRUTUS, the storytelling machine) and a research proposal. It is the latter that I want to talk about, because I will be doing a short presentation on it in a little more than an hour or so.

All semester, I’ve been trying to focus, to narrow down my topic as much as I possibly could. A few weeks ago, with the last presentation, I came up with something. The idea I am looking at, from the large view, is how new technologies are brought into the classroom. So I decided to take a single case and look at it. Specifically, I decided to take a technology that is used in classrooms, but hasn’t been for very long: PowerPoint.


The reading for this week was chapters from Carol Berkenkotter’s upcoming Patient Tales and a chapter on researching through discourse and textual analysis. I’ll start there.

Discourse and Textual Analysis are where I feel most comfortable. They don’t involve human subjects, they proceed at the pace of the researcher, and they involve close attention to detail. Add to that some rather extensive background in this sort of thing (it is pretty much exclusively how my Philosophy training was focused), and you have a pretty understandable love of this kind of research. This is the stuff that feels like research. The books spread out across the huge desk, the notes, the piles and piles of papers. Sifting through mountains of text, looking for that one perfect quotation. There’s an honesty to it, I think. A visceral joy that may not come with other kinds of research.

I’m not saying other research is inferior, nor do I want to imply that it isn’t “real”; there’s a lot that other types of research can do that discourse analysis can’t. DA is, in many, many ways, very limited. It’s a first step, usually. A jumping off point for research to begin from. Other things, like Case Studies, offer a whole lot more. What I’m saying is that different research methods work better than others for specific projects. You have to pick what method to use for each project. That feels about as obvious as saying that the sky is blue, but I know for students (myself included) this is a lesson that has to be learned. Well, not exactly learned as pointed out.

Now let me talk about Berkenkotter…


The Presentation

Posted: November 6, 2008 in Methods, Pedagogy, School

Well, the presentation went well. I was originally going to present what was written in the previous post. In fact, I printed it off. But before we got to the presentations, Laura Gurak talked to us about case studies, and about the difficulty of finding one little thing. While she was talking, an idea came to me. An idea that is small enough that I can get set up by the end of the semester, but that still informs my project at large. (more…)

At the start of the semester, I had a research question planned out. It was basically asking what the future holds for technology, and how we can prepare for using that technology in the classroom. Since then, I’ve refined things a bit. And in the interest of clarity, I’ve broken it down into a list of more specific questions:

  1. What methods can be developed to shorten the time it takes to incorporate new technologies into the classroom?
  2. How can we make sure that the way we incorporate a new technology is the best way to go about it?
  3. What technology should we prepare for?
  4. What potential paradigm shifts are coming, and what do they mean for pedagogy?
  5. How do we prepare for those shifts?

All good questions, I think. And all focusing on a common theme. Which brings me to a brief presentation I’ll be doing later today.


Technical Cyberspace

Posted: November 3, 2008 in Methods, Readings, Review, School
Tags: ,

This week was a mercifully light one for reading. The only article to read was Laura Gurak and Christine Silker’s “Technical Communication Research in Cyberspace.” Which is good, because I also spent time working on my research proposal. But that’s for another post. For right now, let me talk about cyberspace. (more…)

Last week, I read “Feminist Criticism and Technical Communication” and wondered to myself why it had been assigned. It was so out of place compared to the other reading for the week. Well, it was. It was actually reading for this week. Which makes much more sense. If you’re curious about my thoughts on that article, look back one week.

For this week, I want to talk about”Making Academic Work Advocacy Work” and “A Different Place to Birth,” both by Mary Lay Schuster (the first with Amy Propen). I’ll start with Making Academic Work Advocacy Work.


In this, the second post for reading this week, I will pick up exactly where I left off, with the forthcoming article by Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch titled A Work in Process: A study of the Development of Single-Source Documentation and Document Review Processes of Cardiac Devices. This article is a report on an ethnographic study (technically a case study, actually) of a writing team at a biomedical company as they transitioned over to what is called single sourcing. Basically, the way I understand it, single sourcing is where writers create a series of ‘topics’ that are then selectively chosen based on relevance for individual manuals for products, so that manuals can make more sense and be more usable, so that 230 topics could contribute to 100 manuals, rather than a single unwieldy 500 page manual (8).

Writing these topics is a collaborative exercise where feedback is given from outside readers (4), so “technical writers must negotiate social tensions and conflict as they work with others to create single source documents” (3). This means that writers had to work with people who were non-writers but experts in the field and try to develop a single document that everyone approved of. I can imagine the tension. (more…)

So there’s a lot of reading this week. Unfortunately for me, I was sick for large chunks of last week and most of the weekend, so it took me longer than usual to get through it all. But I have, and so I present now a few select comments on the things I read. I think this may end up with multiple entries

First we have Mary M. Lay’s Feminist Criticism and Technical Communication Research. Among other things, this was a description of how feminist research works, how it “might suggest new and different ways to gather and interpret data in recognizing the voices, needs, and interests of diverse women” (166). But also how feminists don’t generally believe that research is objective (167) and at the same time believe that “Gender is the primary variable” (176).

This bothers me. And while it’s very difficult to talk about feminism as a whole without being labeled “Part of the problem,” I will endeavor to forge ahead anyway. Here is my problem, generally, with feminism: I feel it goes too far. (more…)

This week I read, among other things, “Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Research” by Charney, “Working Memory in an Editing Task” by Hayes and Chenowith, and caught up on my reading about Empirical research. In reading all this, the major conclusion I’ve come to is that while Empirical research is interesting, and while the conclusions this research can draw are important, reading about them is, to put it mildly, difficult.

I’m not going to review these articles here. This week, I am more reflecting on these works in and of themselves and as representations/lessons for the semester thus far. (more…)

Quite a bit of reading this week. Much of it was outside of what was assigned for class. But I’ll get back to that. First, let me talk about Mary Sue MacNealy’s Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing and the three articles I read. (more…)