Essay Assignment

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Fall 2010

Cycle #2:  Researching and Writing about Process


In the coming weeks, we will read research studies written by real scholars who are inquiring and theorizing about the research processes of real writers.  We will read studies examining how writers interpret rhetorical situations, how writers revise, and how they feel about their own unique writing processes.  Though their research is very different (as are the products that communicate their findings), these scholars all seek to learn about the writing process with one aim: to help students improve their writing.  Related to this aim is also an investigation into that esoteric question “What is good writing?”  Our writing assignment for this cycle asks us to join in the conversations initiated by these scholars and to contribute to the body of research investigating these disciplinary issues and questions.

For this assignment, you will conduct a study similar to those conducted by Kleine (from our last cycle), Perl,  and Berkenkotter in which you investigate some narrowed aspect of the writing process.  While it would be useful to update the studies conducted by these published scholars, do not feel limited by their approaches to these topics.  There is still much to be investigated concerning the writing process and habits of students and/or published writers, including the physical environments in which they write, how they might write differently for two different purposes (say an academic essay and a short story), perhaps even the extent to which they read comments (by peers, teachers, and/or editors) and apply suggestions offered on drafts. 

Suggested Process:

To help define and limit the scope of your project, you should begin with a research question.  As an example, consider Kleine’s article for which he asks, “ How do research processes of faculty and students differ?”   You’ll then need to decide how you will gather data.  Whom will you use as subjects? Will you conduct surveys and interviews?  Will you conduct observations?  Will you use a “think aloud” protocol?  Once you decide on a method, you’ll need to collect the data, study it, and draw conclusions about it. 

Ultimately, you’ll write a paper in which you report your conclusions.  In crafting the paper, you can structure it as a research report in which you use section heading that define your methodology, present your data, and offer conclusions about it, or you can write a more traditional essay-style inquiry paper with an introduction (containing your research question), a body, and a conclusion.   

In reporting your data, you may find it helpful to include charts, graphs, etc.  While I am not requiring the use of such visual organizers, keep in mind your reader may find them beneficial in understanding how you reach the conclusions you do.

Research Requirements:

You will, of course, conduct field research.  Minimally, your study should be based on at least three subjects whether you are conducting interviews or observations/think aloud protocol.  Surveys should be administered to at least 25 people. 

In addition, your paper will need to set up the rhetorical context for your investigation by discussing where it “fits” into the body of research available on writing process.   This means you may have to do a bit of secondary research (to include those texts in our book) to find out if similar studies have already been conducted and, if so, how your research corresponds/differs.  If you cannot find similar studies, then you’ll have a lot to say about why studies such as your own are necessary.

Length: 1250 words 


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