Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

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Multimodal Mondays: Prezis and Source Use: Engaging in a Multimodal Annotated Bibliography

posted: 3.23.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Jessie Miller is a Master’s Candidate in Written Communication at Eastern Michigan University, where she teaches first-year composition and consults in the University Writing Center. In her Master’s project, she uses discourse analysis to analyze the language First-Year Writing instructors use in assignment sheets where they ask their students to compose digitally. Her research (and her Master’s degree) will be completed in April 2015. 

Since I began teaching, I have been increasingly interested in the role technology plays in the composition classroom. Last year at Cs, I presented a digital pedagogy poster on how I engaged with social media and technology in my classroom. For one of the large projects of the semester I assigned a multimodal transformation of my students’ research essays. They had to re-envision their essay on a social media platform of their choosing (i.e. Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). As I worked through this assignment with my class, I found myself negotiating the affordances and limitations of each platform with my students. Digital multimodal projects, I had realized, could easily become unwieldy. [read more]

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Categories: Digital Writing, Guest Bloggers, Multimodal Mondays, Presentations, Research
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Are indexes obsolete?

posted: 1.29.15 by Andrea Lunsford

A posting on the Free Library Blog recently caught my eye, particularly the following paragraph:

Most students also don’t know that many books are indexed. Thus they are unaware that the nature of the assignment might not require that they read the whole work, but rather that they use the index to find the relevant sections which address their own topic. As long as they understand that context matters and learn to read efficiently within a work, they need not be defeated by hundreds of pages of text. Without these skills, it’s a safe bet they haven’t been introduced to bibliographies, chasing notes, or any myriad of other useful appendixes at the back of the book. (See What students (and often their teachers and their principals) don’t know about research and an enriching liberal education.)

Students don’t know books are indexed? [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Handbooks, Working with Sources
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Wikipedic Knowledge

posted: 4.30.12 by archived

A very long time ago, in one of my first BITS blogs, I wrote about “Steering Around Wikipedia, Instead of Steering Clear.”

I suggested that, generally, if we don’t tell students to avoid Wikipedia as a research source, this is the first place they will go.  And they may gather research that is much too general, or that is not reliable.  Worse, they might plagiarize directly from Wikipedia, or write an essay that sounds like one long paraphrase of a Wikipedia article.  One way to address this is to lie down right in the lion’s den—to actually start research with Wikipedia.

I want to return to this argument and update it a little with a few more resources.  What I am outlining here might even become a lesson plan for a single class.

First off, we can show students that a Wikipedia entry is itself a remix, a remix of all of the general knowledge about an issue.  But each Wikipedia article also includes all of the material that has been used to make this remix.  For instance, at the bottom of most lengthy Wikipedia entries, you can find a list of “Notes and References” and resources for “Further Reading.”  Students can sort through these references and divide them according to their assumed reliability and authority, and you can help them see that some sources are more useful and acceptable than others—and you can show them why.  Many “Notes and References” and resources for “Further Reading” lead students directly to very reliable full-print texts that they can access to jump-start their own research.

Alan Liu at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has collaboratively developed a student policy for the use of Wikipedia that speaks to and expands some of these ideas. [read more]

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Categories: Jay Dolmage, Research
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“The” Research Paper

posted: 11.22.11 by Steve Bernhardt

During an informal discussion in our department the other day, a group of writing teachers were talking about the genres we assign in first-year writing. Of course, the genre of “the research paper” loomed large, and I wondered out loud if the definite article signaled some special generic status—some sort of reification or calcification. I think it does.

There are other ways to talk about this assignment, including simply “a research paper,” or better yet, “a researched paper,” or “papers that use research findings to make their arguments.” These rephrasings move us toward the indefinite or newly known, and they move us from nouns and noun substantives toward more reliance on descriptive or verbal phrases. That last rephrasing really tips the scale, as it invites reflection on what “research findings” are, where we find them, and how we use them. But any of these alternative locutions would free up some of the presuppositions behind the genre, offering a bit of breathing room for determining exactly what is expected.

And students do arrive with their own expectations. A surprising number of my first-year students had written “the research paper” in high school, typically in their senior English class but sometimes, too, in history or social studies. They know the genre is mainly about compiling a lot of source material and then somehow organizing it into a long paper bracketed between a title page and a list of references. They are pretty sure it is double-spaced. They also know it is not “the five-paragraph essay,” a much less intimidating and more practiced genre. [read more]

Comments: (2)
Categories: Research, Working with Sources, Writing Process
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The Long, Slow Revolution, or What’s Taking So Long?

posted: 11.9.11 by Nedra Reynolds

For the third fall in a row, I am asking students in a secondary English education course to produce a multigenre research project, ala Tom Romano. For the third fall in a row, students look at me blankly as I introduce this project, and then, after they have seen some models, they get very, very excited. In a few weeks’ time, I will be reading and enjoying researched writing different from anything these writers have tried before.

Inevitably, as we embark on this multigenre research journey, someone will ask, “How come I have never heard about this kind of writing?  How come none of my other teachers have assigned this?” This question also comes up when I assign Ken Macrorie’s I-Search; Suzanne Rubenstein’s book, Go Public; or even when I suggest that they might (take your pick) use first-person, use humor, quote song lyrics or a sitcom, play with different fonts or formatting, write in a form other than five neat and tidy paragraphs, or ignore formal documentation for sharing source information—a suggestion that I’m not the only one making! (See the very recent “Citation Obsession? Get Over It” by Kurt Schick.) I find the question “How come this is the first time I’ve heard of this?” difficult to answer, but legitimate.

For these English education students, my fall course is the only one in their curriculum that focuses on methods of teaching writing. Following it, they begin student teaching at area middle and high schools, but many of them are working now in the schools with cooperating teachers, and it’s typical for them to share anecdotes, fresh from their experience: one reported, for example, that her cooperating teacher started a unit on the research paper with a lecture and a worksheet on MLA documentation style. While hearing that makes me sigh and makes Kurt Schick shudder, it’s not the teacher’s fault. The system is stacked against innovative teachers and in favor of testing companies. But when students arrive at college believing that one should never use “I” in writing college papers, I wonder where we are in this so-called revolution in the teaching of writing. [read more]

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Categories: Research
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Attention to Detail

posted: 11.8.11 by Steve Bernhardt

[See also Doug Downs’ take on this topic—a happy coincidence, entirely unplanned.]

My Intro to Comp students are working on annotated bibliographies this week, using styles appropriate to their disciplines (MLA, APA, Chicago, CSE). I know some instructors prefer that everyone work with MLA and hope that whatever students learn will transfer to disciplinary standards sometime in the future, but I find that students are motivated to learn the expectations of their disciplines. A few of the students’ questions in class the other day established that some of them have paper assignments in other classes, and those classes expected Chicago style in one case, CSE in a second, and APA in a third. I suggested that we might as well concentrate on learning what they are likely to need. Writer’s Help is turning out to be a great resource, as students can go to the different models and figure out how to apply the information to their particular source information.

This kind of work, which calls for attention to detail, is really quite technical. Students need to determine exactly what kind of source they have, find their way to a matching model, and then apply it to that. Even if all the source information is at hand, getting citations correctly formatted is a challenge: name formats, colons, spacing, italics, capitalization, parentheses, periods, commas. Can we focus on details, notice tiny differences, work toward utter consistency? Because this attention to detail forms part of my instructional goal, I don’t encourage students to head immediately toward citation generation software sites, though we talk about them and identify some good ones. [read more]

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Categories: Research, Working with Sources
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Student Research Habits

posted: 9.1.11 by Andrea Lunsford

Inside Higher Education recently reported on a two-year ethnographic study across five college campuses that looked at how students use their campus libraries in terms of research. (The reports of the study will be published this fall by the American Library Association as “Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know.”) Working with two anthropologists, the librarians at these institutions interviewed and observed student researchers at work.  What they found is not surprising but troubling nonetheless: in short, as the report put it, “their students’ research habits are worse than they thought.”

Students in this study did what most of our students do: relied on Google to a dramatic and often debilitating degree, usually without knowing how to limit a Google search or to use specific databases within Google.  Students also preferred the simplest databases and revealed that they didn’t understand search logic at all.  As the article notes, today’s students “might have grown up with the language of the information age, but they do not necessarily know the grammar.”  According to one of the anthropologists working on the project, their findings explode “this myth of the ‘digital native.’  Just because you’ve grown up searching things in Google doesn’t mean you know how to use Google as a good research tool.”

The study also revealed that students are confused and anxious about research. Ironically, they need research librarians more than ever, given the amount of information confronting them. Yet the students in this study showed “an almost complete lack of interest in seeking assistance from librarians during the search process.” [read more]

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Categories: Research, Teaching Advice
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Popular Culture and Common Knowledge

posted: 8.11.11 by Jack Solomon

The question of what constitutes common knowledge, for purposes of documentation, has come up here on the Bits blog, so I thought that a particular look at common knowledge and popular culture might be in order. Indeed, since one of the fundamental premises of Signs of Life in the USA is that our students’ existing knowledge of popular culture makes that topic especially useful for teaching critical thinking and writing skills, the question of how to document that knowledge is an important one.

The distinction between common knowledge and knowledge that needs documentation is often rather relative. It is common knowledge, for example, that Family Guy is a popular animated situation comedy. Any statement in a paper to that effect does not require documentation in any popular culture class that I teach. But in order to analyze such a program semiotically, students must be able to situate it in a generic and historical context, and here things get tricky. Any analysis of my own, for instance, will involve years of accumulated knowledge and viewing experience—what might be called “cumulative common knowledge”—that cannot and need not be documented. I watched The Flintstones as a child, for example, and so can immediately bring it to bear upon an analysis of later animated family sitcoms without needing documentation (indeed, how could I document it?). But my students do not, and cannot, have that sort of experience, so must conduct research to find the kinds of TV shows that may be relevant to their analyses, and I require them to document their sources for any information that they find. [read more]

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Categories: Citing Sources, Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology
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Thinking about Research in the Disciplines

posted: 5.25.11 by Barclay Barrios

I have come to believe that quite often students don’t know how to connect the work we’re doing in the classroom to the work they will come to do in their disciplines and majors. So this semester, I’ve crafted a disciplinary research report assignment to address just that disconnect.

The assignment is fairly low stakes writing in the context of our course, but it does give students a chance to see how research and researched writing happens in their chosen field. They discover that MLA isn’t the only citation system in the world. They realize that sometimes three, five, or even seven authors will work together on an article. They find out that some fields use a lot of jargon.

But they also see that across all the disciplines, ideas matter. What matters is the ability to apply, connect, assess, test, extend, modify, or refute those ideas. I tell students that the whole purpose of any theory is to predict or explain reality. And when they read in their disciplines, I think they really start to understand what I mean.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Research
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posted: 5.18.11 by Barclay Barrios

Sometimes I feel like plagiarism is some sort of irresolvable residue, built into the system of writing programs like a haunting remainder. As Director of Writing Programs at my school, every case of suspected plagiarism in the English department’s writing classes comes to me. We have a zero-tolerance policy in our program: any bit of plagiarism on any assignment at any time and we pursue charges of academic irregularity.

I stand behind that policy, mostly because in my experience as a teacher cutting any sort of “deal” with a student who has intentionally or unintentionally plagiarized always comes back to haunt me.

And yet.

This semester one of my strongest students—an international student—turned in work with sentences from sources woven into his text but not cited or acknowledged.  I should have pursued charges but used it as a teaching moment instead. Since this particular class is focused on researched writing, it gave us as a class a chance to discuss citation, paraphrase, and plagiarism; for that student, it was a second chance.

Still, I’m not sure how I feel about the disjuncture between my actions as an administrator and my actions as a teacher. How do you handle plagiarism?

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Categories: Citing Sources
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