Friday, February 27, 2009


Doheny - Faria
To investigate the relationship between social(non academic)context, writing, and community formation
Research Questions:
1. In a given non academic setting how are writer's conceptions of rhetorical
situation formulated over time?
2. How do writers [erceptions of their social and organizational contexts influence
the formulation of these conceptions of rhetorical situations?
3. What are the social elements of writer's composing processes?
4. How do writers' perceptions of their organizational contexts influence these
5. How do writing processes shape the organizational structure of an emerging

Subjects Selection:
Microware Inc founded in January 1982. Chosen b/c this corporate community was still in development meaning that writing procedures were not fixed as you might find in established long standing companies. (focus was on 5 top executives mainly and the writing on the creation of the business plan document)

Data Collection:
Obervation 5 days a week over eight months. In increments of 1 - 8 hrs.
Information collected during formal and informal staff mtgs., hall ways, and open areas.
Data Collected:
1. Field notes - obesrvation / theoretical, methodological
2. Tape recorded mtgs
3. interveiws - open ended - history of company
40 interviews - discourse - comparing drafts of busines plan

Data Analysis:
Data review chronologically
Categorized / coded
based on theoretical framework (i.e. ethos) and particulars of behaviour surrounding the creating of the document specific to this ethnographic research(i.e. content related revisions and stylistic choices) The categories were tied to the major theme (influence of context of rhetorical process) and sub theme (community building and the rhetorical process)
Findings placed in contrast with earlier studies in order to expand on them.

Potential problems: Implications for teaching is premature - more evidence is needed
for such assertions. This point is acknowledged in a round about way in the conclusion section whic states its limits of generalizability. In addition, there is a problem with subject under study in that it was business that was atypical in that it was facing potential bankrupcy

Looking at the socialization process of becoming productive member in a specified discourse community.
Research Questions:
1) What differentiated simpler from more complex and higher status writing tasks?
2) What determines writers' social roles in this particular community of proactice
3) What methods of socialization were used for writers new to this organization and to what effect.

These questions feed into broader questions of social issues in the writing environment that effect learning socially defined roles and the impact of those roles on learning.

Subject Selection:
Chosen from larger ethnographic study about writing in nonprofit organization. Subject names : Pam and Ursula frin Job Resource Center. Good writers / newcomers / greatest change to writing duties/roles during the year of the ethnographic study.

Data collected: 1 yr duration
weekly audiotaped conversations (interviews - w/ subjects and with executive directors/experienced writers inside and outside JRC), photocopies of writing they produced weekly - drafts and revisions / observation / field notes /
interviews - open ended and discourse based -composing process/textual decisions/ rhetorical awareness

Data Analysis:
Categorized- via pattern identification / triangulation - 1) different data sources with one another 2) comparing different responses over time from informants 3) soliciting informant's response to drafts of the research report.
Findings were appropriately limited to study as there was a total population of 4 which made generalizability not possible.

Findings are : text heirarchies / knowledge play into social role acclimation and advancement.
Apprentice advancement application to university based writing practices should be explored as well as businesses made aware that acclimation of writers into the writing community of the organization is a long standing process and not a one day seminar.

Strong argument due to extensive triangulation with other studies and theories.

Standardization practices within writing reveal instabilities in writing and also points to how such practices support "taste" and in doing so power heirarchies

Subject Selection:
90 seventh graders at Sander's Middle School (SMS)working on "the building project". From economically challenged families and half of whom did not do well in school or on tests. Focused primarily on groups within which were the four students she had good rapport with.

Data collected:
Extrapolated from larger 8 mth project. The building project has a duration of 2 mths.
Data: audiotapes classroom and group discussions (transcripted), videos, student writing, field notes, texts students drew from to create their speech, community surveys, interviews

Data analysis:
first level - Speech and writing coded/charted across trajectory of: production/consumption/distrubution
Second Level - Examined forces the shaped composition (353) The identifying of Unifying and Stratifying forces - Questions used: what were the standardizing forces at work in students' writing? What were the forces that stratified?

Findings: unifying forces: explicit teaching and genre memory. Students appropriation of essay form - played up emotional appeal; covered up contradictions/conflict(362) by emphasizing "we" and downplaying contradicting info; intertextual/interdiscursive alliances - students dismissal and use of information available to them - dependent on strategy used by instructor to present to them and personal choice.
No generalizability - and within study there was a limitation to how the conclusions could be applied given that the writing/speeches dealt with came about under varying processes(367)

Problem: Environment under investigation was not natural in that it stemmed from the researcher's own suggestion.

Ellis descriptive - evocative/emotional autoethnography
Retelling of her experience during 9/11 and its immediate aftermath so as to encourage others to tell their stories in order to find personal and collective meaning in the aforementioned events.
Self and peripherally - her family members with whom she interacted during 9/11 and its immediate aftermath

Data: recollection of events

Data Analysis:
Bateson's framing and Goffman's frame analysis.(395)Calls for one to look closesly at the elements that create a scene with emphasis on the meaning one ascribes to each element.

Ellis' retelling and analysis (framing) of own experience exemplifies what she hopes others will do so that an individual and collective meaning of the 9/11 events can occur. generalization limited to subject of study

Anderson Decriptive -analytic autoethnography

research/purpose: to clarify the potential and promise of analytic autoethnographic research (rooted in symbolic interactionism) as a legitimate qualitative research tool by laying out its 5 key features (descriptive).

realist autoethnography texts, history of ethnography via - studies and theoretical scholarship based on practices with regards to autoethnography, sociology, and emperical research.
Data analysis:
realist autoethnographic texts evaluated in terms of features they best exemplify out of the 5 key features of analytic autoethnography practices. In addition analytic autoethnography practices and benefits are evaluated through triangulation with practices refered to under data.

Findings: Analytic autoethnography - requires community immersement in a way that can monopolize time and possibly sacrficice field note taking(389)however it allows for the searching out of relationships b/n different social and personal variables which can contribute, in a more weighted way than evocative autoethnography, to qualitative research pursuits.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Surveys and Sampling

Surveys are a type of descriptive research that allow researchers to focus on a few variables within a sample, a smaller yet representative group, of the larger population. In this way, surveys enable researchers to collect decriptive information about readily observed or recalled behaviour within a large group or population of compositions, courses, teachers, or classrooms in terms of the sample.

In surveys, the subjects under investigation are referred to as a sample. In order to determine which subjects will be part of the sample one must:
1) Determine large population from which sample's to be drawn
2) Determine size and type
*takes into consideration (confidence limits / precision- what degree of
imprecision is acceptable?)
Once the previous 2 points have been addressed one can go on with the actual selection of the individual subjects.

Random sampling : easiest - often referred to as the best way
* number the population (adhering to rules for listing)
* consult the chart of random # to draw sample - which involves - point at which
researcher will start table, direction of reading
**Charts can also be made by calculator or computer with random number function**

Systematic Random Sampling
* Must have ordered/organized subjects (interval unit) in place.
* Observations to start at point picked at random in the ordered unit
* Must examine population for any natural or planned order in it
* Complete population must be accounted for. size of population/size of sample
unit = desired sample size.

Quota Sampling
* A population and known characteristics are identified and then samples picked
that have corresponding characteristics
* Helpful when one knows percentage of incidence of specific features (such as
sex / race/ etc) of a population

Stratified Samples
* Used when some part of population are of more interest than others.
* Main population stratified - researcher focuses on strata of most interest
* Allows for a closer look at specific characteristics within a population
* Potential downfall - Due to size of strate in comparison to population and the
other strata, confidence limits may exceed that which is acceptable for

Cluster Samples
* For use when one wants to study individual units within a large populaiton but
doesn't want random b/c of potential difficulties with other variables.
* AVOID unless you have a statician to aid as a consultant.

Data can be collected using almost any type of data collection methods. It can be collected in the form of questionnaires, paper collection, interviews, test results, etc. (63) In the case of questionnaires and surveys there are two type of questions one might use: open ended or objective scored questions (aka multiple choice)

objective scored questions are succint, easy to analyze, standardize, and comparable whereas open ended questions are longer in length, allow more variance in the response, are less predetermined, more difficult to analyze, and can be limited by writing ability and time of person filling it out.

If one chooses to use questionaires or surveys the following must be adhered to:
Editting and revising questions for directness, simplicity, clarity by way of
* Submitting them for review by others
* Using a small pilot sample of population for review of intial responses

It is important to kp in mind the common problems of open ended questions - ambiguity, asks information that respondent doesn't have/know, poses suspicious questions.

Once the information is collected analysis can ensue.
One must determine the number of variables represented as a "K" and the number of
sample units (aka number of subjects within sample) represented as n.
Their relationship is plotted using a rectangular matrix.

It should be noted that "n" will by much larger than "k" b/c one wants to study a few features of a large group that's been reduced to a sample.

The analysis of information collected from a sample depends on the type of information collected.
Three types of data that can be collected are: nominal, interval, and rank order.
Nominal - simple counting and/or percentages (easiest to table)
*Type of nominal is frequency data - percentage and proportion
(more convenient for sampling studies)
Interval: come from test scores w/ large number of items, ratings, grades (can calculate confindence limits or precision of results (More difficult to table)
Rank order - type of interval - subjects/compositions/teachers placed in heirarchal order and assigned ranks from 1 - n (equal intervals are ASSUMED)

One can analyze data collected in terms of range / standard deviation/ variance
Range : (highest score of a variable - lowest score of a variable)
Standard deviation = to 1/5 ti 1/6 of the range
Variance : measure of differences b/n scores - square of standard deviation

for nominal data expressed in percentages - standard deviation is derived from mean
for interval data - precision related to standard deviation on variables of population.

Generalizations can only be made from sample to the group that the sample represents. In doing so, the generalization must account for the confidence limits of the variable(s) under investigation.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Case Studies

Case studies, a type of qualitative research, examine and analyze segments of whole situations as they occur in order to identify new variables and questions for further research. Subjects are selected based on their relation to the theory or hypothesis that fuel the purpose of the case study. For example Graves chose 8 students that she felt best represented the community she was attempting to gain information about. Likewise, Brandt interviewed individuals who among other things were born in a specific timeframe, and Hayes and Flower chose 4 subjects that exemplified the categories of writer's they wished to study.

data is collected in a number of ways. For example Emig gathered information from several sources: conversations and tape recording among other things. Hayes and Flower collected information via their subjects writing and also through questions asked of the subjects directly during the research process, Brandt observed writing sessions, executed interviews and collected other records related to the subjects.

Analyzing of the data results in category development and coding.This can be done via the "General Inquirer" or the "writer's work bench". Category development can also result from researchers imposing thier theory onto the data collected or from the data and theory/hypothesis shaping each other.

In the end : generalizations are difficult with the use of case studies. Often case studies result in information that can only be stated to be applicable to those that were studied and suggest further research in the area; however, a study that incorporates and builds on older studies such as Flower and Hayes increases the generalization of the information that results from the study.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Woes of Internet Research

When I think internet I think panopticon; however, instead of there being a single point of view from which all parts are visible there are multiple.

It is this multi-angled view, a characteristic of the internet, that impacts the way in which researchers deal with human subjects.

What is private or public behaviour?
When can/does covert observation take place?

The "common rule" a federal regulation involved with "the protection of human subjects" proves to serve as the primary source of problematic issues related to internet research. It is as such because of the inherent ambiguity in definition of the public and the private on the internet.

The blurred boundaries of that which is private and that which is public affect the process of informed consent, the assesment of risks involved, and the protocol a research project must establish in protecting the privacy of an individual with regards to their rights to personal privacy and the confidentiality of the data which they provide.

In essence, the basic ethical principles, as described in the "Belmont Report", come into question when utilizing the internet, especially with regards to "respect for persons" and "beneficence" as described in the aforementioned. It is as such simply because the internet was not accounted for during the development of the Belmont document.