Tag Archives: methods

5: Blakeslee/Fleischer Prompts, Ch. 2

Prompt 6 (Blakeslee p. 27): Brainstorm a list of (broad) questions relating to your topic:

  • How does medical communication affect patient actions? (And are the privacy guidelines and ethical considerations involved in studying medical communication too much for a fledgling researcher to overcome?)
  • How do legal writings like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act actually affect citizens? (And which citizens, and how can I measure this?)
  • Is journalism a branch of technical communication? (And who defines it so?) Does this contribute to the difference in the gender/sex of people entering these fields?

By the end of my research, the question I most want to be able to answer is this …

How does gender (not just sex) affect the ways that people perform and perceive communicative activities in professional/technical settings … how does knowing about these performances/perceptions shape communication?

Prompt 7 (Blakeslee p. 27): Try using a tool provided by the authors to formulate a better research question:

I am looking for recurrent themes as described on page 24. First, I will “manually” consider themes in what I’ve been reading and writing. Main themes involve rhet/comp, gender, and tech comm. As the latter two can fall under the umbrella of rhet/comp, I will move forward with the assumption that I should be looking for ideas related to gender and tech comm. As this is already how I formulated the very drafty research question above, I seem to be on the right track.

Now, for something completely different. I used Wordle.net to create a word cloud based on my personal blog, where I often post items written for classes or responses to extra reading I’m doing. The biggest words in the image below are apparently the ones I use the most. Here is the result:

Wordle generated this image from my personal blog.

Wordle generated this image from my personal blog.

While I am interested in authorship, I am exploring that concept in another class right now. As such, it appears that I should consider refocusing my research on students. Since my ultimate goal is to teach, this makes sense … it’s just that my journalism background also makes me drawn to issues outside academia, and I think this connection is important to my students.

So, the conclusion of this exploration is that I might want to focus my research on issues of gender in technical communication and that I might want to do this in a way that involves or interests students.


4: Blakeslee/Fleischer Prompts, Ch. 2

Prompt 2 (Blakeslee p. 15): Respond to the following questions:

  • What issues interest or concern you the most in your field?

First, my specific area is rhetoric/composition. Within that area, I am most interested in technical/professional communication (especially medical, legal, and journalistic contexts), gender issues, visible rhetoric, and new media studies.

  • What do you want to learn more about?

I want to learn more about the intersections of these areas of interest, especially how new media and gender issues affect and are enacted within the areas of technical/professional communication mentioned above.

  • Of the reading you have done in your courses or on your own, what has been most interesting to you? What are some topics you have read about that you find meaningful?

When I try to think of specific influential texts, two that I come up with are Francesca Bray’s Technology and Gender and Eva Brumberger’s The Rhetoric of Typgraphy. Both of these texts discuss issues of gender and technology and how they affect communication and/or society.

  • What’s been the most interesting to you (in your field)? What contradictions have you observed between what you have read and learned in your coursework and what you have experienced as a professional? Or … what observations or insights have you gained in discussions with your classmates and instructors? have any of your classmates or instructors identified issues in your field that interest you and that seem to warrant further research?

I am most interested in those places where my areas of interest intersect, and this is largely because I find practical application to be important. I mention above my interest in legal and journalistic contexts; I find these important because they affect such broad segments of the population. Although I enjoy theoretical research and research focused on academia, I sometimes feel that a liberal arts approach requires us to expand our horizons and that it is somewhat contradictory to take advantage of this approach without doing research that could potentially benefit the public. Essentially, I want to do research in areas that affect people. I want to be able to explain to a non-academic why what I do is important. Because of this need, the public contexts are an important part of the work I want to do.

  • Why do each of the topics you listed interest you?

Technical/professional communication interests me, in part, because it is a respected field. With one foot in this realm, I’ll have to spend less time fighting people to prove that I’m relevant. But it also interests me because of my background in journalism. I have seen the effects journalistic and legal texts can have on people’s lives, and I think it is important to examine such effects more thoroughly.

The effects of those texts are changing daily with the advent of new media like social networking and RSS. Again, this is a field where I see potential for growth, and I’m also fascinated with how these technological advances will change the way we compose, communicate, and think.

I’m drawn to gender issues, most likely, because I’m a woman and a feminist (and because I was raised a feminist).

I’m drawn to visible rhetoric because it has been so often cast aside by “serious” academics (or so it seems) and yet it is such an influence in the average U.S. citizen’s daily life.

  • Why do you want to learn more about the topics you listed? What do you want to learn about them?

I want to learn more about the topics above because of their incredible implications for our lives. These issues speak to the way we think, the way we construct relationships, the way we live. I want to learn how we can do those things better–better meaning in ways that are more fair, more sustainable, more transparent.

  • Why do the topics you identified from your reading and other sources hold meaning for you?

These topics hold meaning for me because, as stated above, they affect the fabric or our lives. I believe that knowledge of these subjects can substantially change the ways we live.

Prompt 3 (Blakeslee p. 19): Think of something you have read in your area of interest that you found troubling or lacking, something with which you disagreed, or something that seemed contradictory to your own experience. Identify it and try to articulate the problem or difficulty you had with it.

After reading Brumberger’s article (mentioned above) I’ve often wondered if there is more quantitative, gender-based research in the technical/professional communication field that I’m missing. I’ve recently learned (from our Smagorinsky text) that this may actually represent something of a gap in current research.

Aside from this, I’ve found that research in my areas of interest often leads me to research on race and class issues as well. I sometimes find discussions of race and class issues in these contexts to be both troubling and lacking. (These are the texts where I suddenly realize I’ve been arguing with myself and I have to consciously refocus on reading.) However, I am also somewhat uncomfortable speaking in this area because of the political ramifications of trying to express opinions on such heated topics (especially since my opinions often differ from the standard academic party line)–which perhaps means that it is something I should explore in more depth.

3: Reconsidering the semester project

No Prompt (extra entry): More thinking about my semester project

I believe my previous idea for the Research Proposal would be difficult to do without duplicating work for my classes. Regardless of whether this would be acceptable, I’m not interested in doing less work at a time when I need to be producing a lot in order to prepare for the conclusion of my coursework. However, I believe I’ve found an interesting opportunity in the reading for today—one that is in an area that is less trendy, which I like—and that opportunity might also still allow me to submit a proposal to ATTW.

Anne Beaufort’s chapter on Writing in the Professions in Smagorinksy provided a lot of sources about professional and technical communication, which, obviously, is one of my areas of interest. She notes, though, that methodologies in this field have often lacked “triangulation of data to increase validity,” have relied on self-reporting, and have ignored social contexts (234). If Beaufort is correct in perceiving this lack, then this is an area where new scholarship might be both welcome and useful. To take the idea further, Beaufort also mentions that work on gender differences in business communication represents a gap in professional writing scholarship (226). As this coincides with another of my areas of interest, this gap represents a real opportunity for me. I am now trying to think of ways to work within this space that will be highly relevant to my other research.

2: Considering the semester project

No Prompt (extra entry): Thinking about my semester project

In thinking about my Research Proposal project for this class, I’ve been trying to come up with ways to make the proposal work for me most efficiently within the broader framework of my doctoral studies. I’d like to propose a study that I will actually do, first of all. I’d also like this study to be a driving force in a major piece of writing I will do in the future, preferably part of my dissertation. I also am hoping to come up with a study idea I can present at the ATTW conference (which has an upcoming proposal deadline of Oct. 8).

The idea for the study I am currently considering actually grew out of my work in another class. I am taking a topics class on authorship with Amy Robillard this semester, in which we’ve been considering the difference between the terms writer and author and whether there are hierarchies that come along with those terms. I’ve grown interested in the academic perception of digital publishing versus traditional print publishing, and I think a survey-style study on this would be terribly interesting. It would also fit with my interest in technical communication (and thus would work for ATTW) and might provide fodder for my paper in my authorship class as well, though I obviously won’t conduct the actual study until the Spring semester.

Concerns I have with this study are twofold: 1) Am I absolutely certain that this is something that will be useful to me in my future work, particularly in writing my dissertation? 2) Can I separate my work in this class enough from my work in my authorship class, so that I’m not double-dipping, so to speak?

1: Blakeslee/Fleischer Prompts, Ch. 1

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.