All posts by rbabasha

In a Flash, it’s Over

My original idea for the research proposal didn’t pan out, but I suppose there’s always a chance that that will happen in the research process. In the end, I’ve arrived at a research question that I truly do find interesting and would like to explore. In my lightning presentation, I will (briefly!) share how I arrived at my current research question and explain why I think it is worth exploring.

Regarding both the slides and my pitch, I am definitely on Team Less-is-More for this presentation. (When I have not limited the words on a slide as was recommended, it is because I think that suddenly encountering words after a few bold images highlights the importance of those words, and that is the effect that I wanted to achieve.)

This concludes my blurb! I am looking forward to hearing everyone’s presentations tomorrow night!

The Last Post: Mixed Methods

After reading the last article, “When students want to stand out: Discourse moves in online classroom discussion that reflect students’ needs for distinctiveness,” I started thinking about the journey I’ve been on, learning about all of the different research methods we have covered in this class. I certainly know more now than I did when the class began, and it was interesting to see how the authors of this study chose to mix together two methods with which we are familiar, discourse analysis and constant comparison. The purpose of the study was “to explore how students with different needs for uniqueness participated in online classroom discussion and to examine their collaborative interaction in the dialogic process of the discussion” (Yu et al. 1).

The reasons that a person might seek uniqueness or avoid it and the ways that a person might express that need in an online discussion can be so varied that I wondered how the researchers would attempt to measure students’ uniqueness needs. It does seem like the methods that they chose were appropriate for the task, and including surveys in the design of the research makes sense to me. But the researchers did express that it was impossible for them to account for all potential variables: “The dynamic nature of online discussion entailed that more factors than simply uniqueness-seeking needs seemed involved in explaining students’ contributions” (Yu et al. 1). I can easily think of many variables that would influence my own participation in online discussions and have nothing to do with my interest in uniqueness (energy level, comfort and/or history with the other group members, my command of or interest in the reading, personal situations, events immediately preceding class, illness, uncertainty about the goal of the exercise, etc.), and I’m surprised that none of these occurred to the researchers. For me, this study was a lesson in how careful consideration of the set-up of a study in its early stages is essential to its success. This study took up a lot of the researchers’ time and involved a great deal of effort and, unfortunately, their lack of foresight prevented them from getting a clear answer to their research inquiry.

I wrote a blog post earlier in the semester in which I echoed Fran’s concern about going down a wrong path in one’s research. These researchers used discourse analysis (in part) and, in the end, had little to show for their efforts. Because I also intend to use discourse analysis, that old fear crept back into my mind. I’m trying to focus on the fact that I am following a different line of inquiry than theirs and I can learn from their mistakes. I’m feeling cautious but hopeful.

Are We There Yet? Yeah…Maybe!

I connected with this week’s reading more than I have with the other articles we’ve read recently. The article,“Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple” by Tatyana Bondarouk and Huub Ruel, was more appealing because I could understand the ideas more easily, Also, in my days as an English teacher, a large part of my time was spent helping students “explore the relationship between discourse and reality, interpret a hidden meaning, and mediate it between the past and present” (Bondarouk and Ruel 6). In fact, while the article was explaining what discourse analysis is, I started to think it could be a useful approach for my research project.

In my research project, I wish to revisit The Great Gatsby, and the article specifically lists “novels” as one type of text that can be the subject of discourse analysis (Bondarouk and Ruel 6). Although times have changed dramatically since the 1920s when The Great Gatsby was released, the accepted analysis of the novel has not changed with the times. In order to “give meaning to a text within [the] framework of [my] experience” and the “time epoch, culture, and history” in which I am living (Bondarouk and Ruel 4), I would like to produce a version of the novel that addresses problems that are revealed when it is read in a modern context. Since the article mentions “context” 23 times, discourse analysis seems like a viable approach given my intended project.

Discourse analysis is the first research method we have studied that seemed like it would allow me to pursue the research project in which I am interested. In its effort “to produce a framework bridging the philosophical foundations, theoretical implications and ‘doing’ discourse analysis” and “contribute to the existing body of knowledge by developing such a framework and applying it to the IS field” (Bondarouk and Ruel 4), this article managed to help me do something that no other article we’ve read thus far has done–give me that feeling you get when a haziness in your mind clears and you can finally see a path forward. It’s possible that I’ll end up going in a different direction in the future, but I feel much better continuing with my creative research project knowing that discourse analysis is an option.

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” ~U2

This week’s article was “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Groenewald. Even though I am not inclined to pursue phenomenology as my research method, I still took something valuable away from this week’s article. I had never before considered some of the logistical challenges that a researcher could face, and several were outlined in this article. It seems like a researcher can’t just focus on lofty goals like furthering knowledge in a field but must also play the role of project manager, dealing with logistical concerns that, if executed poorly, could invalidate the research. For example, Groenewald says that the researcher needs to make sure that everything needed to “ensure that recording equipment functions well,” including back-ups of “batteries, tapes, and so on,” is handy (48). Also, in a research scenario where people are being interviewed and a lot of weight is being placed on their words, it is important to conduct interviews away from “background noise and interruptions” (Groenewald 48) and have the subjects review “a copy of the text to validate that it reflect[s] their perspectives regarding the phenomenon that was studied” (Groenewald 51). Although some of these considerations may seem obvious, I can see how some of these requirements could easily be overlooked when designing one’s research approach. The logistical stuff interests me more than Groenewald’s explanation of phenomenological research methods. After reading Groenewald’s article, I can’t imagine taking all of this on as a solo researcher on a phenomenological study. (But can I be a research project manager? Is that a thing? Just in case, I’m going to start stocking up on batteries and scouting quiet interview locations!)This blog post is shorter than my other ones, but I’ve read about half of next week’s reading already and I believe I’ll have more to say about discourse analysis in next week’s post. Just like my classmates, I am trying to figure out how to approach the research proposal. Each week, as I read a newly assigned article, I think maybe this will be the one, maybe the research method I’ll use is in this article, yet each week I end up thinking that it’s not quite right. This week continued that trend, but I have a flicker of hope in my heart that discourse analysis might be what I’ve been searching for.

Phenomenology in Service of Pedagogy

In this week’s article, “A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy” by Seth Andrew Hudson, PhD, the author identifies a challenge in preparing students studying computer game design “with industry-specific skills” (Hudson 109) and argues that there should be more development of pedagogy for these students: “We have to teach students more than just technology; we have to ask ourselves, ‘What can we give students that the internet cannot?’” (Hudson 111). He believes that researchers can “engage with a new field that represents a convergence of technology, art, storytelling, and interactivity in the digital age” (Hudson 111) in a way that will benefit students. Hudson wants educators to come up with a better pedagogical approach to teaching computer game design. With each new study we read for this class, I wonder what happened after the study was published. Most often, I find myself wondering whether it changed anything. Taken alone, Hudson’s study does not result in the new pedagogical approach he desires. But Hudson mentions that he is a teacher, so why doesn’t he just continue working until his objective is realized?

The goal of phenomenology is to “[describe] the essence of lived experience,” which I take to mean that the researcher will be finished with the study once a description evolves. If I were going to engage in research to learn the “essence” of someone’s “lived experience,” I would want to do something more concrete and measurable with it in the end. I can’t imagine being satisfied at the end of a phenomenology research study. However, for those looking to scratch an intellectual itch or provide a basis for additional research that can eventually lead to action, I think that phenomenology is a good choice.

Exploring Actor Network Theory: The Life of Brian

Full disclosure, fellow classmates, this reading was another one that sent me seeking out your blog posts and, as of the writing of this post, I have checked out Daniel’s reaction paper and Fran’s blog post. I am impressed by Daniel’s grasp of “Literacy Networks: Following the Circulation of Texts, Bodies, and Objects in the Schooling and Online Gaming of One Youth,” by Kevin Leander and Jason Lovvorn. My own experience reading it was more similar to Fran’s. This text was super challenging to get through–I stopped reading the article early on and watched a few videos about actor network theory to try to get a handle on it. I also had to look up lots of the jargon, like Fran, and I considered abandoning the reading several times–I actually fell asleep while reading it more than once! But I did eventually get through it.

After I finished the article and started thinking about writing this blog post, I realized that most of what I read had very little impact on me. The only part I found interesting was the researchers’ interpretation of the teachers’ choices and their effect on Brian’s participation in class. As a former teacher, it was interesting to enter Brian’s school day and see how other teachers operated and how Brian reacted. It was both enlightening and humorous to learn that “Brian practiced the space–time of the English classroom not as a place to engage in research activity, but as a place merely to be informed about work that would be done elsewhere” (316-317).

This reading reminded me of “Body Ritual of the Nacirema,” by Horace Miner. Miner’s satiric anthropological paper pokes fun at American behaviors in the 1950s. Throughout the paper, Miner assigns extreme significance to unimportant daily rituals (Miner 505). Similarly, “Literacy Networks” exaggerates the importance of very minor details in Brian’s day. For example, his English teacher asked the students to put their research notes into a tub rather than a paper tray, so the researchers theorize that “Ms. Marshall was delayed in reading the cards, perhaps in part because the plastic tub was less of a well-worn and visible route in her evaluation processes” (314). No, dudes. Ms. Marshall is a high school teacher. She was delayed in reading the cards because she was teaching five classes and had a million things to grade and lesson planning to do. Maybe she decided to exercise one night or do her laundry instead of reading the cards, but I can most assuredly tell you that the reason she didn’t return the cards to Brian right away was NOT because of the tub

In his reaction to “Literacy Networks,” Daniel writes that “the emphasis on the importance of all non-human actants seems overstated,” and I agree. He explains that “[s]ince a pen can not analyze data, it can not be more important than a researcher.” The impact of the objects should be attributed not to the objects themselves, but to the people creating and using them. Placing an equal value on objects and people seems silly to me. Daniel sums it up perfectly when he says that “tools are important, but are definitely not as irreplaceable as people willing to do and capable of doing the research.”

Case Study: The Fate of Lin

This week’s reading was “Understanding Genre Features of Qualitative Research: A Case Study” by Yi-Huey Guo. The purpose of this case study was “to understand Lin’s qualitative research process from the perspective of writing studies.” I think that the author should have used a different case study to achieve this goal. This paper ends up cataloging Lin’s failures while pointing out that the very thing the author sought to better understand, Lin’s qualitative research process, is flawed and  incomplete. Overall, I found it painful to read about this guy, Lin, who was struggling to do this big thing in his life–write a master’s thesis–and failing, all the while getting lukewarm support from his professors and advisors. There was a part of me that wanted to yell at Lin and tell him to try harder, but I most often felt sympathetic toward him.

It seemed like Lin wasn’t getting enough training from his professors. For example, he lacked certain interviewing skills that would have contributed greatly to his success and streamlined his process. It just seems to me like he wasn’t even ready to write his master’s thesis. It’s no wonder that the author replaced the subject’s name with a pseudonym–to write this paper without one would have been cruel.

Given all of the setbacks and obstacles with which Lin struggled, I wonder whether it might have been easier for Lin to have chosen a different approach. The descriptions in the article make it sound like life would have been a lot easier for Lin if he had chosen a quantitative approach to his thesis, but I think that it might have been more effective if Lin had turned his focus onto himself and used autoethnography. Since Lin had set out to research what motivated the selected students to write and his own motivation to write lagged in certain areas, he could have explored why some parts of the research process were easier for him than others, what skills he wished he had, where things went off track when interviewing, how the academic culture affected his choices, and even how his feelings about his failures were affecting his research and writing processes. Perhaps by turning the lens on himself, he might have gotten closer to answering his question.

Early on in this course, I wrote in a blog post expressing that perhaps I needn’t be afraid of starting down a research path with a wrong question guiding me, because starting over in that situation would be similar to when I need to throw away my writing and start over. Similarly, Lin should have bravely acknowledged his weaknesses, discarded a plan that wasn’t working for him, and tried a new approach, like autoethnography. This case study has shown me that many factors can contribute to the success of a research project. Many of them are not in my control, but I can take charge of assessing my situation honestly and pivoting to a new method, when necessary. Above all else, I just hope that I can avoid the fate of Lin.

Autoethnography: Too Much and Not Enough

I’m impressed by my classmates whose blogs reveal a clearer understanding than I had after reading “An Autoethnography on Learning about Autoethnography,” by Sarah Wall, and “Whose story is it? An autoethnography concerning narrative identity,” by Alec J. Grant and Laetitia Zeeman. It took me FOREVER to get through these articles. For me, trying to understand autoethnography was like playing a made-up game with a child–I’d think I knew the rules and then they would change. It seems like an autoethnography can be just about anything, and that drives me crazy. I recognize that traditional, quantitative research opportunities are not always given or handled fairly and that, as a result, there may only be a perception of objectivity, but I don’t think that labeling personal narratives as research addresses this concern. I think that people’s writing about their personal experiences or examinations of their feelings can be valuable, both in a therapeutic sense and by drawing attention to a subject, but I initially struggled to see how personal narratives could fall under the umbrella of research. 

I’m also concerned about the possibility of deception in autoethnography. Source materials used by autoethnographers, like personal reflections or a journal kept for two years, are inherently subjective and, in order for the author’s intended effect to be achieved, the reader must assume that the writer is being honest. In Wall’s article, the author acknowledges that “traditional criteria such as credibility, dependability, and trustworthiness” are “not always easily applied to autoethnography (Holt, 2003).” How do we know that everything in the journal is true? I struggle to see the point of research that produces results that lack credibility.

After reading both articles, I was very worried about my ability to write this blog post about anything other than my lack of understanding. However, when Max identified some of bell hooks’ writing from our Writing Theory & Practice class as an autoethnography, I finally got it! It suddenly made sense to me how you could create new knowledge via a personal narrative and label it as research. I’ve been struggling to understand autoethnography because the definition of autoethnography is too all-encompassing, welcoming, and forgiving. While these are lovely attributes for communities, religions, and friends, I think that in order for something to be considered research, it should offer up more than just a personal narrative. In her book Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks rises to this challenge, interweaving her personal experiences and reflections with Paulo Freire’s theories, all the while tracking the evolution of her own beliefs about teaching.

I have emerged from this week’s assignment with a tentative grasp of what an autoethnography is and how it might be considered research. No offense to Wall, Grant, and Zeeman, but if I find myself in a position to write an autoethnography, I will look to bell hooks’ work for instruction and inspiration.

You Say You Want an Evolution

In their article entitled, “Liminal Spaces and Research Identity: The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers,” Purdy and Walker express concern that professors who dissuade students from starting a research project by using the internet may negatively influence their students’ research identities by discounting the value of the students’ existing research strategies. They are concerned that the students may miss out on valuable resources or, even worse, remain stuck in a “liminal space.” While I agree that such an attitude from a professor could affect a student’s idea of how to conduct research and cause them to abandon their previous research strategies, I have to imagine that the number of professors who frown upon using the internet to conduct research in 2024 is considerably smaller than it was in 2012 when the article was published. 

Most of today’s college freshmen were born around 2006 and had their high school experience colored by a pandemic which kept people out of libraries and likely required them to turn to the internet to do research for their schoolwork. Many instructors were forced to adjust their tolerance for internet research, and having done so, probably found it impossible “unring” that bell.

The internet is so integral to our lives these days–it is the first resource people turn to for almost every question. I agree that students should not “leave behind…what they already know about navigating digital spaces.” The authors point out that the internet research skills students develop from “nonacademic research” can be applied to their academic research, and treating the internet as an inappropriate research source can actually be detrimental to a student’s research, since “academic libraries now have extensive digital resources and article databases on the web.” The authors even make a strong case for why the internet may even be the superior choice for research, because it can be “hard to search across disciplines” in the library. They also point out that “the Web houses a more diverse range of texts” than those found in a library. Considering this, of course it doesn’t make sense to exclude the internet from one’s research sources.

Another of the authors’ arguments I’d like to address is their belief that “[t]eaching research as a closed, linear, universal process prevents students from leaving the liminal space.” While I can understand the authors’ concern with representing research in this way, I have to say that I don’t think that it’s so terrible. Does students’ first college class in research have to be the beginning, middle, and end of the students’ training? Instructors should be able to use this linear method as a starting point on which they later build and expand to achieve the results the authors desire. I think it’s okay to start slowly. Dropping a student in the middle of the internet during their first research assignment while giving them permission to look at anything and change their topic at any time could be downright paralyzing–I’m getting anxious just thinking about it! 

Overall, while I agree with the authors’ argument that students should not be barred from drawing upon their existing research practices when they enter college, I don’t agree that students will get stuck in a liminal space if professors take a linear approach to teaching research. I think that a linear approach could form a foundation upon which professors in subsequent classes can and should build. What I would really love to see is new research on professors’ current attitudes toward the research practices of college freshmen, because I expect that Purdy and Walker would be heartened by a positive change in perspective.