Entries in this category (English 497) will all use the format used in this title and will appear sequentially. These are responses to Ann Blakeslee and Cathy Fleischer’s prompts in their text Becoming a Writing Researcher.
Prompt 1 (Blakeslee p. 2): Reflect on a recent experience with research.
My most recent experience with extensive person research involved the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. My family visits Dauphin Island, an tiny island south of Alabama, every year during the summer. As the Deepwater disaster unfolded, I realized the spreading oil would likely affect our vacation. I began to read more news reports on Deepwater in attempts to determine how major the disaster was (it wasn’t yet known that it was the most significant oil spill disaster in American history) and which directions the oil was heading. I also read up on the Exxon Valdez disaster to learn how responses to oil spills are coordinated and what the long-term effects on the environment might be. This was rather frantic research because we had a limited time to decide whether or not to cancel our vacation. After the deadline, we would lose the deposit on the house we had rented. Thus, I looked for any information I could find, although it was mostly online. I looked at major news agencies, small newspapers in southern Alabama, and even blogs belonging to people and companies on Dauphin Island. The blogs proved to be the most useful resource because of their local access. During my research, I also found many sources discussing the effects of the disaster on Gulf Coast economies as tourists cancelled vacation plans. Ultimately, we went ahead with our vacation, both because we had determined that our patronage as tourists was desperately needed and because we didn’t believe the oil would hit Dauphin Island. We also decided that if the oil did come in while we were there, we would join in the cleanup efforts. Once on the island, we visited a local estuarium to find out more about how the oil spill would effect the local environment. In the end, the oil came in the day after we left. In a short while, I’ll probably begin researching again to find out the situation for next summer.
Prompt 2 (Blakeslee p. 4): Draw comparisons to the authors’ research stories.
In my research described above, I used research strategies similar to Blakeslee and Fleischer’s in several ways. First, I catalogued my own knowledge of southern Alabama to find resources for more information. I also talked to family members to see what they’d heard and what their opinions were on canceling the vacation. I consulted many online sources about oil spills in general and this one in particular. I sorted through sources to determine which were most relevant; for example, many major media outlets were constructing stories far more dire than the local blogs and small-town newspapers. My family and I arrived at a new understanding about Gulf Coast economies and the sustainability thereof, which was a major factor in our ultimate decision.
Prompt 3 (Blakeslee p. 4): Think of two occasions on which you conducted research for academic or professional purposes …
I am currently conducting research on composition, specifically the effect of classroom ethnographies on composition pedagogy. I was motivated to do this in order to better fulfill my role as a Program Assistant for the Writing Program, and I’ve been using many of the preliminary strategies such as cataloging what I know, talking to others, and consulting outside sources. Thus far, this research has been productive in helping me feel that I have another area of specialization that will eventually make me more marketable.
I have also recently conducted research into the rhetoric of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I was motivated to do this research after a professor encouraged me to work on a seminar paper and get it into publishable shape. My strategies for this paper involved all of those mentioned above, but most especially analyzing and comparing sources. I compared the linguistic data derived from the PPACA to similar data derived from online news sites and other medical websites, all of which profess to be responsive to the needs of the U.S. public. This research has been productive in that I have created a manuscript that I feel confident enough in to send out for publication.