Case Studies

This week we looked closely at another method for approaching qualitative research. Understanding the genre features of qualitative research: A case study by Y.H. Guo was a case study about a failed case study research project. The “meta” one-two-punch of Guo’s design afforded us new insights about what is important when undertaking qualitative approaches, as well as the various possible pitfalls of this methodological approach. In the end, it was the compelling (and depressing) story of grad student “Lin” (pseudonym of course), and his false-starts-in-research, that exhibited for us a variety of mistakes when conducting a case study approach.

A case study is one of the most commonly used methodologies of social research. With the case study approach, we come to understand that social constructs should be interpreted rather than measured. Case study is an empirical inquiry which investigates a phenomenon in its real-life context. In a case study, multiple methods of data collection are used, as it involves an in-depth study of a complex phenomenon. A common contentious issue with case study methodology overall is whether the findings of the study of a single social unit can be generalized over the larger population of similar units. But the trend here with qualitative research (and more specifically, case study research) is that knowledge production moves towards dynamic, holistic, and individual aspects of human experience. In this way Guo alluded to the significance of situational “representativeness” rather than the demographic “representativeness”.

This was a quirky yet useful study, opening our perspectives to what affordances may come from approaching a case study effectively. Thank you to Brittney for leading us through some of the highlighted pitfalls of Lin’s attempt to do graduate level research work (i.e. a lack of a Lit Review before gathering data; lack of thoughtful design for a variety of different research instruments (working effectively in concert); imprecise/vague instruments for data gathering; lack of preparation/understanding in how to interpret the data; lack of communication with a research adviser; failing to seek support).

Our class slides

Jump starting your own ideas for your research

We discussed how to begin the journey of your research. You are now entering the “Discovery & Invention” zone. Remember in the early generative stages of starting research that there is a crucial difference between a topic and a question. Reminder: avoid the “narrow down the topic” trap (…because…you cannot narrow your way out of topic land.)

  1. Make yourself vulnerable
  2. Be affirmative and non judgemental
  3. Write down your ideas
  4. Generate questions internally- consider both your curiosities and your assumptions

Your to-do list

Please read: 

Leander & Lovvorn. (August 2006)  Literacy Networks: Following the Circulation of Texts, Bodies, and Objects in the Schooling and Online Gaming of One Youth Cognition and Instruction 24(3):291-340 DOI: 10.1207/s1532690xci2403_1

Blog 6 due 3/7 – Please write your blog reflection on our Actor Network Theory article for discussion. 

Daniel will lead our discussion in class next week in Part 2 of our class time, after we meet with Craig Anderson in Part 1 of class. 

In addition, please do at least 15 mins of “freewriting” to generate early ideas about the topics you might have in mind. Some questions may come to mind that might be useful when visiting the Learning Commons (Library Rm. 115). Please try to formulate a few questions for us when we are exploring the search engines with Craig.

Have a good weekend, and glad to mention that we have made it to March!

Autoethnography

Last night we explored the first of a series of research methodologies that are commonly used in the field of Writing Studies. Autoethnography is a research method that uses personal experience (the “auto”) to describe and interpret (the “graphy”) stories/cultural texts, experiences, beliefs, and practices (the “ethno”). Autoethnographic methods include journaling, looking at archival records – whether institutional or personal, interviewing one’s own self, and using writing to generate self-cultural understandings. The key thing to do if pursuing the autoethnographic method is to find common threads in your research, identify your main themes, and use the information you have gathered, combined with your own narrative understanding or experience, to create a complex self-reflective narrative. Many of your fellow MA in Writing Studies peers have applied this methodology to the their thesis work effectively. Examples of autoethnographic research within our own program include extended studies of: -intergenerational cultural assimilation, -fan fiction studies, -gaming culture and learning, -effects of the pandemic on teachers, and -digital literacies in early childhood. There are many more examples over the years (this list is just off the top of my head). The autoethnographic research method is no doubt a rich terrain for thoughtful and self-reflective writers.

I am glad to have taken a moment to consider the basis for this methodology – the practice of ethnography (…remember my example of observing “skater” or skate boarding culture in Central Park?) With ethnography – this would involve a researcher writing about this group of people (someone from the outside looking in). In autoethnography, the “group” (the researcher) writes about itself. Either approach (both ethnography or autoethnography) share the ‘graph’ root: they seek to ‘write’ some human experience, to represent it to an audience. For most practitioners, such ‘graphing’ does not imagine it is producing a scientific, objective understanding; rather it accepts that representations are necessarily subjective and involve complex relations between representer and represented. But that terrain, in and of itself, is worth “a deep and careful self-reflexivity” that might yield a new production of meaning/knowledge. To sum it up another way, autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.

The readings offered us some powerful examples of the work. Thanks to both Valerie and Fran for walking us through two different articles. These two readings made the process of autoethnographic research more evident (in different ways). In addition to these two references, some of you have been exposed to this research methodology in previous academic readings (covered in ENG 5020). And I am sure you might have read other texts (in other contexts) that have applied an autoethnographic approach. I enjoyed our discussion of the ways this methodology might work (or not work) depending on context and execution. I also thought the consideration of the reader’s empathy (in the reception of such research) was an interesting reflection to close the evening on. The autoethnographic method most certainly requires vulnerability as it fosters empathy and creativity…all while honoring subjectivity and eliminating boundaries.

Our class slides:

Your to-do list:

Reading for next class: 

Guo, Y.-H. Understanding the genre features of qualitative research: A case study           

Please write Blog 5 due by 2/29. This blog should be a reflection on this “Case Study” article for discussion. Brittney will lead our discussion of the work in class next week. 

See you on campus (in our regular classroom) next week!

Liminality & Research

What a wonderful discussion last class. A special thanks to Tyler, who really opened up thoughtful discussion about your own “position-ality” as MA grad students who are now embarking on a journey into research. Indeed you are on a threshold of sorts. It is a place of relative discomfort. This is a key time in the development of your own, overall, intellectual growth. Your research agenda will become one aspect of your professional and personal identity. With that in mind, it is interesting to grapple with pre-conceived notions that we might take from the past. We must apprehend certain expectations, and even in the face of them, work to foster our own capabilities, passions, and determination to do the work we find compelling.

Along the road towards a sense of personal empowerment (that is critical to good work – i.e. “the self-centered researcher”), I am glad that we also took a moment to shed further light on the context of higher education . “The Academy” has long established its authority over knowledge production through protocols like “peer review”, and challenging “hoops” to jump through like tenure. These milestones in an academic career are not for the faint of heart, and in short, the work is “not for just anybody”. The bar for rigor and excellence (…is this the “end all, be all”?…) is set very high for a tenured University professor in a field that is founded on prestige (without much opportunity). And so these “traditions” (and their effect on people) have trickled deep down into the culture of higher education.

In some sense, our class was all about thinking that through, connecting the dots, and understanding broader contexts for the enterprise of research. Your are now in a “liminal position”,. You are at the threshold (or the edges) of certain “training”, and you must find your way (authentically) to produce your own contribution – new knowledge that has your “stamp”. Tyler’s discussion asking us to consider methods and attitudes towards research was a great place for us to start. And his presentation “walkthrough” of Purdy & Walker’s Liminal Spaces and Research Identity: The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers was just the right footing to set off on our journey together.

Our class slides:

Your to-do list

Next week we will take a close look at the first example of a Writing Studies “methodology” for research. Please read:

Your fourth blog is due the morning of 2/15. Please write a reflection on our autoethnography articles for discussion.

Remember to read your peer’s blogs, so that during our class discussion you can offer thoughtful “shout outs” to some of your classmates next week.

Happy Valentines Day! See you next week. And remember, we will be meeting in ZOOM!

Laying the seed for your research growth…

Last night it was great to see you all chatting and hopefully getting to know each other a bit more in our “speed socializing” protocol. It makes a difference when you get to know your classmates a little more, and you have a chance to share with different people in your learning community. I hope you derived a certain amount of energy and even hope from your different mini-conversations. There are so many interesting and special people in this class!

So, I think the seed of broader understanding has been planted. We are now on our way. We have surveyed “the landscape” that research emerges from. And we have covered a general sense of what research entails. To quote Fran again – “research isn’t cute” – it takes patience and perseverance, a tolerance for failure (or at least failed attempts), and it certainly takes your close attention. It takes some passion and care. To paraphrase Rachel – it also takes a revisionist’s disposition. As writers, we know that “revision” in writing is really just what the the writing process actually is. You write -and rewrite- until you discover and refine your meaning. Research is similar (in this sense of iteration) – it requires your time, your hard work, and mostly, your endurance.

We discussed the general distinctions between quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods for data collection and analysis. We have covered terms like “generalizable” and “bias” and “instrument” . And we have spoken a bit about the political specter of “the Academy” (which amounts to all the institutions/individuals with “skin in the game”) – the universities, the foundations, the grant funding agencies, the grant officers, the peer reviewers, the evaluation committees, etc. We also discussed the CARS model which is quite useful in identify a starting point for your research inquiry ( i.e. Establish a territory, …Establish a niche, …Occupy the niche).  Let’s remember those 11 closing questions (found at the end of the CARS article) when we proceed in class.

Our class slides from 2/1

Your to-do list for next week

Please read:

Purdy, James and Joyce Walker. Liminal Spaces and Research Identity: The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers. Pedagogy. 13.1 (2012), 9-41.

Tyler will begin our presentation series next week based on this article.

**Please note: For each of your class presentations, the presenter should develop their own “lesson plan” or protocol for how we will engage with the text and the ideas as a learning community.  Presenters are encouraged to give us some guiding questions or prompts/ideas we can respond to and work with, and lead us in certain pedagogical exercises that will open up our understanding of the ideas for that week.  Be creative with the readings!  Think about new ways to work with colleagues to share this material and engender meaningful discussion.

Please write your 3rd blog: 

**Please write a reflection regarding the above Purdy & Walker reading. And also remember to read your peers’ blogs before class in order to prepare for a meaningful discussion in class.

____

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Yes, …it is indeed the season of winter doldrums…that “I-can’t-wait-for-winter-to-end” feeling that produces mild but manageable sluggishness (and also ….warm food cravings??).

To all of you – remember to take care of yourself. Eat well, move your body, take a nap if you have the opportunity, …and before you know it, the Spring will burst forth!

What is research?

Starting a new semester can be exciting, but it can also be draining (perhaps in invisible ways that are unforeseen). This is the case, even if we start new seasons of life with a positive attitude. It is important to me to know the energy level of the room. I think it is a significant “life skill” to consider where people might be coming from. With this in mind, I am grateful for our weekly check-ins. You shared some telling metaphors about how you feel at Week 2 of this Spring semester:

The grad school path you have chosen will not always be easy, but remember that challenges are opportunities in disguise. The trick is in enjoying the learning process. I hope we can continue to have insightful discussions like the ones we started with last night. Your first impressions of what research might be revealed many important insights: -research is discovery, -research is the pursuit of truth, -research can be life changing, and -research is a way of thinking, …deeply. Research yields new knowledge, and it can open up new possibilities in this dynamic world. Anyone can do research.

I am glad we settled the first part of our Course Calendar negotiation – we now know all of your presentation dates, and your the research methodology you will cover for the seminar group. What remains is your own selection of the specific reading(s) for your presentation. Please email me the following information pertaining to your own presentation – the name of your selected article and the link. In addition, please insert the article name and that link into our Calendar worksheet.

Your to-do list for next week:

Read

Please read the following two selections:

Research methodologies. A comparison of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods

Swales & the CARS Model

Write

Please write your second blog (due before 9am on 2/1). What are your impressions regarding the differences between quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods? What are your thoughts on the CARS model? Any new reflections of the research process?

Send

Please email me the name of the article (and the link) of your chosen reading for your own seminar presentation. In addition, please insert this article name and the link into the Calendar worksheet.

See you next week for continued discussion and further community building!

Getting Started!

It was wonderful to see you all last night – and to welcome our new MA in English, Writing Studies students (who are starting the program for the first time this semester), and also to welcome back the rest of you (including those who have taken a bit of time off and are now returning). I can sense that you will be a thoughtful group, and that the talent and diversity in your class ranks will result in a dynamic learning experience for all. This is going to be an insightful Spring semester!

Last night we discussed the overall purpose of the course, and I hope you will begin to think about your own “research identity”.  There is ground to cover in understanding research in the field of Writing Studies.  And perhaps there is much ground to cover in discovering the kind of research you might like to pursue in the future (i.e. your eventual MA thesis project). No matter what course of inquiry you pursue for your final thesis project, all of you will engage in active and formal research processes to complete this degree. In this key seminar, you will explore many established research methodologies that are foundational to our field.  Meanwhile, you will also discover your own motivations and values regarding the overall research enterprise.

Our class slides/agenda from 1/18:

When I see you next, we will start by picking up on that early discussion of your current research identity. The intimate nature of the course will lend itself to an atmosphere of attentive discussion and thoughtful group reflection.  In other words, we will ponder the shared readings and consider many examples of established research protocols, as we continue to develop a more personal sense of ourselves as researchers in the field of Writing Studies.

To do list:

  1. Please create your new (free) WordPress blog and share here. (Note: please do not use a blog from a former class. I prefer you create a new site for this course.)
  2. Please read: Introduction to “Where Research Begins
  3. Please search our class Reading Roster for research methodologies of your relative interest – choose a preferred date (or two) for your presentation, as well as the topic for your presentation. We will work out our presentation schedule (by collegial negotiation) on the evening of 1/25. **I hope to have a kind volunteer to take the lead on the first night of presentation on Feb 8th. Please note that for the first presenter (who will kick off our presentation series on 2/8) the reading is already pre-selected.
  4. Blog #1 is due by 1/25 in the morning: Introduce yourself to your new MA in Writing cohort (in whatever way you would like to). Tell us a little about yourself, and why are you pursuing an MA in Writing Studies? How would you describe your current “research identity” or your feelings about doing research?
    • (**Reminder: the deadline to publish your blogs each week is no later than Thursday mornings at 8am).

See you next week!  

Looking forward to it,

Dr. Zamora

Welcome to Writing Research & Methods

Welcome back (or welcome to) the MA in English-Writing Studies program at Kean University!

As you all know, ENG 5002 “Writing Research & Methods” is one of two required courses devoted to developing your academic foundations in the graduate field of Writing Studies.  ENG 5002 “Writing Research & Methods” is typically taken in the Spring semester (as the second of the two foundational courses). The class is dedicated to the notion of research.  (**If you are starting your program journey with this foundation course, no worries. You will follow this Spring ’24 course up with ENG 5020 “Writing Theory & Practice” in Fall 2024).

This class will help you further understand the process of research within your chosen field of study, and through this experience you should further discover yourself as a capable researcher.  I know it will serve as a critical cornerstone for all of you as you carry on in your journey in the MA in English, Writing Studies program.

Our weekly meetings will be intimate gatherings wherein we engage in the rigors of theoretical inquiry and further consider research methodology in the field of Writing Studies.  In this setting, I am confident that we will stumble upon and uncover many new ideas & understandings together throughout the course of the semester.

I look forward to getting to know each of you even better this semester!

Sincerely,

Dr. Zamora

ENG 5002: Where Research Begins

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