Liminal Spaces and Research Identity
The construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers
By James P. Purdy and Joyce R. Walker
Students Accumulative Research
This week’s reading, “Liminal Spaces and Research Identity” by James Purdy and Joyce Walker was a roller coaster to say the least. Despite the fact that the article was long, drawn out, and quite boring I will say that there was some interesting material presented and I was actually engaged with in certain areas of the article. Now, there are definitely some points that I am still confused about (my brain is just not allowing me to connect the dots in some areas), and I am still a little foggy in terms of what liminality actually is in this context. I had to look the word up, and when I did, it was defined as being a threshold, or point of entering/beginning. I took that idea and used it to shape the way that I read the article and understand a “liminal space”. I appreciate the fact that it sounded as though Purdy and Walker were advocating for student researchers compared to what some other writers in the field have expressed (as so lovely portrayed in all the citations we see Purdy and Walker using, displaying what others have done in their research and what they have reported). To be quite honest, I was angered through most of the article. Not only am I mad that I am just now learning about research identities, but I am also worried that this can still be an issue in 2017 (this article was written in 2012).
I suppose I understand that everything is a process, and nothing is ever fixed overnight or in the blink of an eye, but I guess I thought we would be further along. Students are still instructed today to forget everything that they learned in high school or prior, and to conform to what the university says is acceptable. I see and hear stories everyday about professors coming up with their own way to interpret a particular practice/set of practices, which ultimately ends up leaving a student confused and in the wrong state of mind. And what is up with that word pollute? I am still a student myself, and just reading the word in this article as a way to describe first-year comp students hurt my feelings. Purdy and Walker’s urge to discontinue terminology like this, and to focus more so on encouraging students and allowing them to see themselves in a way they may have never thought they could reminds me of an article from Dr. Zamora’s class last semester titled “On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response” by Lil Brannon and C.H. Knoblauch.
I find that I am always coming back to either the aforementioned article, or the notion that students aren’t given a voice as much as they should be. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that alarming. I am grateful for courses (much like Dr. Zamora’s courses) that are directed in such a way where students do have a say in their education. Purdy and Walker mention this in the article, saying that students can benefit more from having the chance to give feedback regarding the practices they are being taught. However, I didn’t have professors like Dr. Zamora, Dr. Inskeep, Dr. O’Day, or Dr. Sutton for most of my college career; this has definitely worked against me to some extent because I do consider myself to be the type of student to separate all things research oriented in an academic setting from things that I do on a daily basis. I have learned since then that that can be detrimental to me.
I am still coming to terms with my own research identity, and fighting hard every single day to challenge what I know now and have been taught. I don’t think I need to give up everything that I have learned because I was instructed well in some areas and poorly in others. With that being said, I still have bit of work to do in combining it all together. Reading this article only made me more aware of how insecure I am when it comes to research and academia in general. Maybe I feel this way because at some point, I was a student in the very common situation of being told I didn’t really know anything, but that I was there [in college] to learn it the “right” way. Banking concept of education much? There are times I do not believe in myself as much as others have believed in me, but some days I’ll have unbelievable confidence in myself and my researcher identity. It is all very hard to keep up with and balance, and has probably worked against me at some point in my life by now.
The authors of this article are on to something when they say that it is necessary to adopt pedagogies similar to the one Megan Norcia (2007) provides. Norcia notes that it is beneficial for students to engage with resources in a digital context to do primary research in their first year (as cited in Purdy & Walker, 2012). Not only do I agree with this statement, but I also think that it should be carried through until a student graduates and even further. Introducing researcher identity (or the importance of it) briefly in a student’s first year is not enough. They are sometimes expected, then, in 2nd-4th year classes to already know these “basic” things are and it ends up being detrimental as they move forward (and yes I did forget the question mark on my meme). I am JUST NOW hearing the term researcher identity, learning about what it is, and figuring out what my own identity even is. I knew about a lot of what Purdy and Walker mention in this article, but I didn’t have the terms to express it in the way that they do. It is basically like knowing the issues existed, but not fully letting everything register in my mind because I am still within the issue. I hope that makes sense for all of you. My brain is still churning up there trying to find the right words. I am an English major. I promise!! It almost feels like I am starting over or back tracking even though I know I am only adding to the knowledge that I already possess.
There is so much more that I can address and point out with this article, but I will leave it on that thought. Maybe I have sparked something by now in anyone who is reading this, and I will like to allow time for that thought to sit a while. Moving along to Hypothesis… I really like the tool. I am a millennial. I grew up with technology. However, I have an old soul and I like the tangible experience of actually printing out my documents and writing in the margins so that is what I originally did. Hypothesis is an mazing tool, but it is going to take me some time to warm up to it because I do not like performing that stage of my process online. I feel I am that person who will know about and be able to appreciate the affordance of various technologies, but will use it sparingly in my own personal life. In no way am I knocking the tool, but it just isn’t for me completely; this doesn’t mean that I try to ignore all that it has to offer. I’m picky, I know. I am pretty sure that I will continue to use it now that I know about it, and maybe I’ll end up using it more than I think I will without even noticing.
Oh boy, this is a loaded question. Honestly, I don’t even know if I know where I am! (I find this comical and saddening at the same time). But I shall not fret. My first thought was similar to Hope’s urge and interest in researching for creative writing. However, I knew that this was very broad. If I am trying to have my thesis be a continuation of my electronic literature creation from last semester, I suppose I am actually grounded in researching about writing/composing poetry. I am also convinced that my interest here is in poetry with historical truth. So does that mean I am interested in researching history, historical lineage, or history of a people? If so, how do I begin to find readings about this? In addition, how do I then begin to tie this into the greater picture of digital literacy and so forth? So, I went to google scholar and typed in “writing poetry”. One of the first results that popped up was actually a book called Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media. That sounds perfect, and directly tied to what I am trying to get into when it comes to bringing creative works to a digital space. From there, I found five other interesting possible resources. I will have to look into the books and articles more and see if I can use anything from them. Have I possibly stumbled into a breakthrough? I think I can use a bit more guidance, but this is a start!