Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thoughts on a Big New Project

I'm in the early stages of planning my dissertation project--which means, of course, that I'm uncertain about topic, scope, method, and everything else. But I'm also excited, so it seems only natural to share that excitement here by posting my very first draft of thoughts. Feel free to comment on anything that seems exceptionally wacky.

I see productive ground to explore between two existing projects:
  • The LILAC (Learning Information Literacy Across the Curriculum) Group studies student research habits by observing the paths they actually take when they need information for academic work. In other words, LILAC studies how students research.
  • The Citation Project studies samples of student writing to analyze how they incorporated sources into their work. In other words, the Citation Project studies how students use the works they research.
Together, these projects promise to increase our knowledge about the overlapping activities of finding and integrating sources.

I propose a project that studies students as they perform both of these tasks (finding and integrating sources), but with an added dimension: I want to study some students as they compose traditional research-based essays and other students as they compose multimodal, remix-based work. This angle will produce stories about the variety of ways that students find and integrate sources when working in different mediums and when they have very different rhetorical purposes and audiences.

In short, I picture two student situations to investigate simultaneously. Student A must decide how to tackle the research and writing of a print essay, which will be read only by classmates and her instructor, and which is expected to follow academic standards for citation as best as she understands in that setting. Student B must decide how to tackle the research and composition of a multimodal assignment that may involve using found visual, audio, and video material, and which may be posted online for wide distribution, and which is expected to follow the rhetorical conventions of noteworthy multimodal compositions.

This project uses a blend of methods, which flow from my desire to A) follow the genealogy of the LILAC Group and the Citation Project, and B) study students working in different classroom settings, with different assignments. These methods include:
  • Video Capture / Speak-Aloud Protocol: As students search for sources, I will use Camtasia or similar screen-capture software to record students' paths to find sources, recording their narration of their reasons for their choices.
  • Citation Analysis: I will then analyze the final products that students submit for class by comparing their cited sources to their finished texts. With multimodal assignments, this stage will be especially interesting and challenging, as conventions for citing different kinds of sources vary among discourse communities; therefore, I will ensure that students will have been exposed to a number of examples of multimodal compositions that cite sources in different ways (if at all).
  • Case Study / Interview: I have strong relationships at two nearby institutions: an extremely large state university, and a small liberal arts college. At this initial stage, I imagine conducting in-depth case studies of the work of six students at each school--ideally, giving me a case study sample of three students writing each kind of essay at each school, for a total of twelve students. Alternatively, depending on the willingness of individual instructors to work with me, I could follow students as they first write traditional academic essays and later write multimodal compositions in the same class, for the same instructor. These case studies will be supplemented by surveys of the students' entire classes and by interviews with the instructors.

1 comment:

  1. Kyle, this is very exciting! I see so many possibilities here.