Researching Writing
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Researching Writing

An Introduction to Research Methods

Joyce Kinkead

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eBook - ePub

Researching Writing

An Introduction to Research Methods

Joyce Kinkead

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Researching Writing is an accessible, informative textbook that teaches undergraduates how to conduct ethical, authentic research in writing studies. The book introduces students to the research approaches used most often and offers a course framework for professors creating or teaching research courses themselves.Author Joyce Kinkead lays out the research process, including finding and defining questions, planning, and starting the research. Expository content introduces the language and methods of writing research, and specific methods are demonstrated in published examples, illustrating student workusing student work and showing that it is possible for students to join the scholarly conversation in writing studies. Other features include student activities, instructor resources, student resources, and links to external content on journal websites, digital publications, YouTube, and similar work.The first-ever textbook for research methods in writing studies for undergraduates, Researching Writing takes a hands-on approach that excites and engages students in the depth and complexities of research and will influence the creation of courses in new writing majors as the field continues to grow.

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Part I

The Research Process

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.
—Zora Neale Hurston
Part 1 lays out the primary aspects of doing research and explains the parameters and contexts for research in writing.

The Research Process

Why Do Research?

Researchers are curious. They wish to know the why or how of an issue, and they hope the findings of their research result in additional knowledge and, perhaps, even make a difference. Being a researcher means seeing more intensely. Research also has the power to change people. It can be, in fact, a transformative experience, as the investigator is empowered to pose questions, design studies, investigate, report on results, and recommend alterations in policy or practice. Thus, research adds to the knowledge base of the field of study and has the potential for significant impact.
Hardly anyone worries about polio now, as the vaccination Dr. Jonas Salk developed in 1955 meant people could avoid the devastating disease. But prior to 1955, polio literally terrorized the nation, reaching epidemic proportions with almost sixty thousand cases in 1952. Many people died or were crippled for life. Some were placed in machines called iron lungs that helped them breathe, as they could not breathe on their own. As a child, I watched a television show that featured an adult in an iron lung. Talk about claustrophobia. The disease affected children primarily, but adults, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, were also victims. The subject of Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World was a polio victim. The well-known violinist Itzhak Perlman performs sitting due to the debilitating effects of the disease. Dr. Salk began working on a vaccine in 1948. When it proved successful, he was hailed as a hero, yet he refused to profit by taking out a patent on the drug.
While Dr. Salk’s research was scientific, the current research that seeks to eradicate polio worldwide is sociocultural. It seemed at one time that polio could be completely eliminated; however, lore about the vaccine permeated some rural areas around the globe, particularly those populated by people with Muslim beliefs, that the vaccine would hurt children. As a result, hundreds of cases still appear. But with researchers working through community and religious organizations to educate leaders about the devastating effects of the disease and the value of the vaccine, the number of cases is decreasing in some areas of the world, a hopeful sign.
Humanistic research plays a role in the fight against polio, too. Technical communicators design appropriate technical documentation to educate and inform community members. Researchers such as Rebecca Walton note that standard technical documentation that puts the facts forward to users may not be effective. Instead, technical communicators do a needs assessment of the issue and then design appropriate documentation for the specific purpose. This may include showing people in familiar garb and surroundings. Such an approach brings the situation closer to being recognizable by users. The power of narrative and storytelling may also be evoked in effective documentation. Walton (2013; Walton, Zraly, and Mugengana 2015) works in user-centered design, and her particular interest is enhancing technical communication in third-world countries.
Researchers are working at this very minute trying to find cures for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and even the common cold. Research in health-related issues is a high priority for any nation, as it contributes to economic, social, and personal well-being. The United States is known particularly for its research in health, defense, technology, energy, and space exploration. And, over half the nation’s basic research is undertaken at its colleges and universities.
Students who engage in research are helping to ask questions and solve problems in a wide range of fields. This is important work. In addition, students benefit in multiple ways. Undergraduate research has been identified as a “high impact” practice by researcher George Kuh (2008, 20) and his team, who, through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), found that many colleges and universities provide research experiences for students in all disciplines. Students’ early and active involvement in systematic investigation and research offers a “sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.” Students grapple with “actively contested questions, empirical ...

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