All posts by beatonmkean

Discourse Analysis

This week’s reading “Discourse Analysis: Making Complex
Methodology Simple” by Tatyana Bondarouk and Huub Ruel was all about analyzing discourse–which is the way in which people talk or write. While in the past researchers used positivism to study people’s relationships to IS (Information Systems) there is a growing interest in how people talk and write about IS and the impact this discourse had on people’s relationships to technology. As I read and skimmed the paper I was immediately curious as to how discourse analysis would even be possible. The data collection involved in discourse analysis seemed (and still seems to me) like a daunting and confusing task. Part of the problem is outlined in the paper when the author(s) state: “what we state, express, write and/or bring into a dialogue is already a reflection on our ‘inner’ language, or thoughts. Then, how to understand a ‘real intention’, what was supposed to be stated?” (Bondarouk and Ruel 4). In other words, we are trying to interpret and study language with language (which is the source of our confusion in the first place!). The authors, however, go on to explain, however, that it is the interconnection of texts that give value to discourse analysis. Essentially, rather than viewing language simply as a form of communication, discourse analysis aims to study how discourse shapes the world. All in all, while interpreting language itself is exceedingly difficult to study, zooming out and studying the wider content or effects of discourse provides more concrete data.

An Exploration of Phenomenology as a Research Method

“A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Thomas Groenewald really got me thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of phenomenology as a research method and opened my eyes to the state of science and philosophy in modern times. Phenomenology is a very complex methodology and I appreciate the fact that this paper attempted to both justify its existence and explain its origins and inner workings.

Perhaps the first thing that jumped out at me from this paper was the excerpt Groenewald included from a book titled Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton: “The social order of European capitalism had been shaken to its roots by the carnage of the war and its turbulent aftermath. The ideologies on which that order had customarily depended, the cultural values by which it ruled, were also in deep turmoil. Science seemed to have dwindled to a sterile positivism, a myopic obsession with the categorizing of facts; philosophy appeared torn between such a positivism on the one hand, and an indefensible subjectivism on the other; forms of relativism and irrationalism were rampant, and art reflected this bewildering loss of bearings” (qtd. in Groenewald). This quote, I believe sums up the emergence of phenomenology as a research method and the current tumultuous state of the world in a few short sentences. According to Eagleton, following the First World War, the Western world had become disillusioned (the bright hopes that many had for the future–specifically in regard to technological progress–were shattered) and spiraled into nihilism and uncertainty. Scientists developed a positivistic view of the world (meaning that they viewed the world as a series of causes and effects with no room for subjectivity or theism) while philosophers divided into two camps: the positivistic and the subjective (those who do not believe in external truths). A German philosopher named Edmund Husserl, however, aimed to put an end to the identity crisis the world was facing via the creation of phenomenology. Husserl essentially combined positivism and subjectivity with this new methodology by asserting that concrete truths do exist within the consciousness of individuals. As an example, my enjoyment of apples is a concrete truth that can be studied as a phenomenon (obviously this is not the best example, but we’ll go with it anyhow). While my liking of apples could be defined as subjective (it is a choice isn’t it?) it is really not given the fact my conscious experience already inclines me to enjoy apples. I can argue with a stranger on the street about what the best fruit in the world is, but I cannot argue with my own thoughts, feelings, and senses. If one were to study this phenomenon–perhaps through a series of interviews–that study would be phenomenological.

While this seems quite straight forward, I can certainly see complications with phenomenology, the primary concern being that it is, in essence, the study of consciousness, and a researcher cannot involve themself in a murkier field than that. With that said, I appreciate how it at least tries to account for the absurd complexity of our species rather than glossing it over entirely with numbers or mythology. All in all, I am intrigued by phenomenology and believe that it will continue to captivate the interest of researchers going into the future.

Game Writing

This week’s reading” “A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy” was quite interesting. As a formerly avid fan of open-world role-playing video games (I would probably still be one if I had the time), I have always been fascinated by the immense amount of writing and creativity that goes into the development of such games. It is, frankly, mind-boggling to consider that each quest, line of dialogue, item description, and so on was actively considered by a writer or team of writers. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that–unless the video game is not very good–all of the content contained within it feels unified thematically and stylistically. This, I believe, is mainly what sets game writing aside from other forms of writing.

In his paper, Seth Andrew Hudson more-or-less outlines the bones of a curriculum for a game writing pedagogy. First, however, he set out to understand what exactly sets game writing aside from other forms of writing. This, he deemed necessary, given the relatively small amount of relevant literature on the subject. He described such texts and the heart of his dilemma as follows: “these texts [texts related to game writing] are of limited use to researchers or educators looking to develop and enhance pedagogy. ‘There is nothing like game writing’ captures the common sentiment of these texts” (Hudson 4). In order to develop a better understanding of why game writing is “nothing like” any other form of writing, Hudson interviewed seven game writers in an attempt to outline areas of competency. These areas are as follows: writing and storytelling, communication and collaboration, understanding systems and dynamics, tool proficiency, and understanding play.

The writing and storytelling area of competency is rather self-explanatory, but I found the other categories to be quite interesting. First off, and as I mentioned previously, collaboration is a key competency for game writers. Most games, as Hudson points out, were not created in a week by a few individuals in a basement as is often the stereotype. In contrast, most games (especially large and detailed ones) draw the creative input of dozens–or even hundreds–of writers with their own contributions and visions. Due to this, communication and organizational skills are, no doubt, exceptionally important. In addition to being talented writers and communicators, however, game writers must also be somewhat familiar with the tools of the industry (how to actually make a game, use technology effectively, etc.). This, I imagine, is one of the most difficult aspects of the gaming industry and what likely scares many writers away. Finally, game writers must “understand play”. While films, television, and novels have their own rules; video games are no different. If a writer wishes to write a video game quest/ storyline like a novel they will almost certainly create a final product that does not lend well to actual gameplay even if the story itself is good.

All in all, game writing is far different from most other forms of writing and has many unique demands. As a result, game writing cannot be studied or taught in the same way as other forms of writing.

An Ironic Title

The academic paper “Reducing Confusion about Grounded Theory and Qualitative Content Analysis: Similarities and Differences” by Ji Young Cho and Eun-Hee Lee sought to clarify the differences and similarities between grounded theory and qualitative content analysis. The authors identified 6 key areas to compare and contrast grounded theory and qualitative content analysis. Later the benefits and drawbacks of each approach are weighed.

To begin the paper defines grounded theory which is a methodology used in qualitative research that focuses on developing theory directly from data. It emphasizes the collection of data and analysis simultaneously which is called constant comparative analysis. In this method any insights from data analysis are also supposed to be used to guide future data collection. The benefit of grounded theory is that it is helpful in creating new theories when existing ones are lacking or are difficult or impossible to test.

In contrast, qualitative content analysis involves identifying themes/ patterns in data and categorizing them. This makes data easier to interpret and can unveil unique discoveries and connections. It seems that this method allows researchers to interpret data using existing theories by breaking said data down in logical ways. Qualitative content analysis also allows for the use of inductive approaches in data analysis. The inductive approach is when an observation is supported by patterns/ data to generate a theory. Conversely the deductive approach begins with a theory and supports it with observations until confirmation is achieved. All in all, qualitative content analysis allows for greater flexibility in data analysis.

Both grounded theory and qualitative content analysis have their strengths and weaknesses. A major benefit of grounded theory is that the researcher is not confined “to an already existing realm of theory”. Grounded theory allows the researcher to form and explore an inquiry where no relevant theory exists. With that said, grounded theory is not without its problems. For one, a researcher may waste time and energy on a generating a theory that is, ultimately, not significant or useful. To put it simply, this method takes a lot of faith and an extensive amount of work and patience on the part of the researcher even if it is easier to conduct in its early stages (at least for those who prefer the freedom grounded theory offers). As for qualitative content analysis, a significant potential benefit is that enormous amounts of data can be processed/ categorized. However, while categorizing data may be simple, interpreting said data is a complex and time-consuming process.

The Lowly Space-Time Continuum

“Literacy Networks: Following the Circulation of Texts, Bodies, and Objects in the Schooling and Online Gaming of One Youth” by Kevin M. Leander and Jason F. Lovvorn was a difficult paper for me to process given its length, and complexity. I will do my best to digest the important aspects of it but will abstain from using direct quotes so I can allow my thoughts to flow freely.

Basically, this paper explains how literacy is related to space and time (a term that the authors can’t seem to let go of) and influences our understanding of space and time. This concept reminds me a bit of code-switching (hopefully I am not entirely off-base with this connection) which is the unconscious practice of changing one’s demeanor based off his/her setting. The paper also describes something called the Actor Network Theory which describes how the world is made up of countless variables (which can be humans or non-living things that exchange information such as computers/technology) that all influence one another creating a complex web of events and ideas. This is a complicated theory, but it fascinating in the sense that all literature is influenced by either: 1.) previous writings/ art/ speech/ etc. or 2.) the observable world and circumstance (kind of reminds me of the “remixing” article from last semester). To put it simply, this paper deals a lot with the nature of inspiration, in a sense.

At any rate, that’s my best shot at processing this article and I didn’t even get to Brian and his school and Star Wars video game adventures. I must say that his purpose in the article did fall flat on me at times and I am uncertain if his case study was all that effective in reinforcing the authors’ message.

Lin’s Great Folly

This week’s reading “Understanding Genre Features of Qualitative Research: A Case Study” by Yi Huey-Guo details the ill-fated master’s thesis study conducted by a graduate student named Lin (pseudonym). Lin made several errors over the course of his data collection and research process which, unfortunately, brought his study to a complete halt. With that said, Lin had the odds stacked against him from the start given the fact that he was the only researcher in his class who was utilizing the qualitative method. Lin’s university (like most universities) placed a heavy emphasis on quantitative research while neglecting the value of qualitative research. For this reason, Lin had little support from his professors or tools and knowledge at his disposal to conduct his research.

Lin’s topic was one that I found to be quite intriguing. He set out to determine the motivations of English major undergraduates to learn English in the first place (bear in mind that Lin was attending a Taiwanese university and all students in the English program were required to write their thesis in English). professors were not too impressed by his chosen topic given that it had been done many times by previous students and had become “stale” in their eyes. However, Lin set out to conduct his research qualitatively rather than quantitatively which set his methodology aside from his peers. Personally, I would have had reservations about such a daunting topic from the start given that it is very difficult to determine one’s motivations for anything–let alone something as complex as learning a second language and choosing it as one’s primary area of study. Nevertheless, Lin set out to determine just that.

Unfortunately for Lin, he lacked the skills, preparation, and (more than anything) the support to conduct his qualitative study. He had an introverted personality and was unsuccessful approaching strangers, thereby limiting his pool of potential candidates to interview. The candidates that he did interview were fellow English majors whom he shared a class with which led to a number of problems including the aforementioned participants getting carried away in irrelevant side conversations or speaking informally since they viewed Lin as a peer rather than a researcher. Understandably, the data gathered from this approach was difficult to interpret and Lin did not have the necessary resources or guidance to draw any conclusions from his interviews. His professors harshly scolded his tactics and–before long–it was clear that Lin’s thesis was doomed.

On the bright side, Lin’s failed research project contributed to Li-Huey Guo’s case study. By interviewing Lin and taking the time to research the errors he made, Guo both identified key mistakes that other novice researchers might make while also highlighting ongoing issues in the perception of qualitative studies.

A Response to Autoethnography

I have to admit that I was dreading this particular topic after perusing an article concerning autoethnography last semester and finding myself thoroughly confused. This time around, however, I found it very digestible– most likely as a result of Tyler’s excellent presentation last week which was closely tied to the general idea of autoethnography.

Reading these articles felt like somewhat of an epiphany given that I have written essays in the past in a manner that I would consider autoethnographical (and these blog posts are essentially autoethnographic in nature) and have read countless articles written in this style. Bell Hooks’s article from last semester (the title eludes me) struck me as a possible good example of autoethnography in action as Hooks mixed her personal and ethnic experiences with quantitative research to make a commentary on flaws in higher education. Notably, I recall her style of writing to be easy to comprehend as well, which seems to be a welcome signature of autoethnography. After all, writing an autoethnography is essentially a narrative that is generously sprinkled with academic research.

The “narrative” quality of autoethnography allows researchers to share their unique voices, opinions, and even biases without attempting to disguise these things as objective facts. Rather than portraying their perspective as superior, autoethnographic researchers are entirely honest with their readers and acknowledge their own existence as an author/ researcher/ human being. Not suppressing their voice within their work comes with other benefits as well, principally the fact that they are more likely to meander their way to a new idea or perspective in doing so. As Sarah Wall expertly put it in her article “An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography”: “It is suggested that the freedom of a researcher to speak as a player in a research project and to mingle his or her experience with the experience of those studied is precisely what is needed to move inquiry and knowledge further along. If a researcher’s voice is omitted from a text, the writing is reduced to a mere summary and interpretation of the works of others, with nothing new added”. In other words, by not attempting to hide your voice or shy away from sharing personal experiences while writing a paper, you are more likely to say something truly original and contribute to the wider field of research.

A good example of a researcher offering up their own perspective in a first person narrative can be found in this week’s second reading: “Whose Story Is It? An Autoethnography Concerning Narrative
Identity” by Alec J. Grant. At the start of this article, Alec argues the value of autoethnography in qualitative research. Particularly, he highlights that story telling can be therapeutic (for both the reader and writer) and offers up a more picture of the author and his/ her stance. Following this opening explanation, Alec wrote a brief narrative detailing his early life and academic career. This narrative is written in a voice that contrasts sharply the style presented earlier in the same paper. Alec is raw and open with his feelings and perspective which made for an interesting and educational reading experience. All in all, I think he makes a strong argument for the value of such narrative writing in qualitative research.

Response to “Research Methodologies”

My first impression of Martin Gunnel’s “Research Methodologies: A Comparison of Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods” was that I needed to take two baby aspirins, lie down somewhere dark and secluded, and stare into the void. With that being said, and as several other classmates pointed out in their blogs, the general ideas expressed throughout the article were fairly simple and it became far easier to read after the opening paragraph.

To begin, Gunnel briefly outlined the two currently accepted methodologies when conducting research: quantitative and qualitative. He also mentioned that a third methodology that merges both methods is currently gaining traction amongst researchers. The quantitative method, as Gunnel stated, is the most prevalent of the three methods and the reasoning behind this seems quite clear. The quantitative method operates off of the principle of the scientific method which calls for observation, experimentation, peer review, and so on to obtain an objective/ factual result. An example of this method could be surveying a large, carefully selected population for a survey in order to generate a statistic. At face value the quantitative method sounds great, but, as my high school history teacher once said: “there are liars…dirty liars…and statisticians” meaning, of course, that even studies using the quantitative method can be corrupted by human biases.

On the other hand, the qualitative method takes into account individual subjective experiences. As Gunnel explains: “Quantitative studies try to understand intangible evidence, such as emotion and behavior. Qualitative methods are applicable to studies that involve relationships between individuals, individuals and their environments, and motives that drive individual behavior and action.” To put it simply, this methodology attempts to account for the complexity of the human experience. In my opinion, this is equally as important as the quantitative method and its cold hard facts because, we as humans, ought to recognize the complexity of certain topics rather than brush over them with facts and figures. By conducting case studies, for instance, researchers can dive deep into the peculiarities of the human mind and interpersonal relationships to better understand challenging issues. At the same time, the qualitative method is not without its flaws either given that it is often far more difficult to conduct at a large scale and is subject to biases, lies, and so on.

Luckily, the third method mentioned by Gunnel merges both methodologies into one with the aptly titled “mixed method”. This method “involves philosophical assumption that guide the direction of the collection and analysis of data and the mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches” which provides a fuller view of the research problem at hand. In my opinion this sounds like the best of both world with the only issue being the added difficulty of conducting mixed method research. I imagine that the quantitative method will always reign supreme in the frequency of its application given how much simpler it is to conduct and the fact that it generates more eye-popping headlines, but the mixed method is, no doubt, superior from the standpoint of an honest researcher.

At the end of the day, all three methods are valuable tools for researchers and have provided the world with invaluable information and analyses. Hopefully the mixed method will continue to gain traction going into the future since it offers a more complete picture by respecting the scientific method and accounting for the nuances and complexities of certain problems simultaneously.

Self Introduction

Hello everyone! My name is Max and this is my second semester in the Kean Writing Studies program. So far it has been a great experience and I especially appreciate how different the general “vibe” is in comparison to my BA. Overall, I feel as though I have learned a lot in a short space of time and I have had fun doing so.

Aside from my studies here, I am a middle school English teacher in Edison, a job that I thoroughly enjoy. At first, I was not quite so sure that I would like it because I am not particularly social and had always hoped to land a more solitary job related to the subject of English, but I am satisfied how things worked out. It’s a difficult job, that much is true, but I find that I rarely dread going to work as I have done in previous professions. In the past I have worked as an EMT, a medic in the National Guard, a file clerk, a phlebotomist (this was by far the worst never work for LabCorp if you can help it), and a few others. In spite of working a range of jobs, however, I have always hoped to land a position doing what I love the most which is writing.

In my free time I love to read, write, play guitar, travel, and spend time in the outdoors. I love science fiction, the classics and have a particular fondness for Russian literature. Most of my reading and writing is fictional as I enjoy the creative freedom that fiction offers. In the same vein, playing guitar and writing music is extremely important to me even if I do not plan on ever playing live (I suck) as it is a fun creative outlet.

In the future, I hope to travel more–both within the United States and outside of it. I think that traveling is one of the best uses of a person’s money since it serves to inspire and broaden one’s perspective. One day, I aspire to walk the Appalachian Trail in its entirety, but until the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll just keep dreaming of it.

Anyhow, that’s all I have to say, but I look forward to meeting you all and reading your posts.