Friday, February 10, 2012

Readings and Interpretations IV


All the previous “Readings and Interpretations” have focused primarily on the readings from class or readings tangentially related to class.  This week, though, I think it’s time I get started writing about the research project I’m currently working on.  A problem is, though, that this is a collaborative project I’m doing with a couple other doctoral students and some professors, and I don’t think I should write so publically about our ongoing research.  So I think I’ll keep the details vague about our project in this week’s post, and I’ll probably finish this journal in a different format that would allow me to go into greater detail about the specifics of the project.
I’m excited about the project because it deals with writing in the hard sciences, which is a topic I’m very interested in.  It’s a subject that can be examined from a lot of different perspectives, and we (the other researchers and I) are keeping our options open at the moment.  We’re not limiting our scope to only the rhetorical, genre, or pedagogical activities involved in science writing, but we’re reading the extant literature that looks at these activities in the sciences.  So we’re well aware that all of these activities are important, and we’re keeping them in mind as sorts of secondary studies that we might attempt after we’ve gathered our data and finished our primary study.  In other words, there’s a lot that can and will be done with the data we’re going to gather and analyze.
The group met this morning to work out a plan for the next month, and one of my questions was if, before we start gathering data, we should set some categories of things to look for.  I’m new to this kind of study, so I was glad to learn that I wasn’t the only one wondering about this.  But we decided that we’ll approach it as more of a grounded study in which we formulate hypotheses as we move from data to codes to concept to categories to theory.  Of course we all have hypotheses working in our heads, and we all expressed one or two just in casual conversation during our meeting, but I think it’s best that we keep these hypotheses out of our early stages of research to keep ourselves from somehow leading or shaping our data to fit our preconceptions about it as we collect it.  This decision to take a grounded theory approach has us questioning our assumptions from the outset, and this questioning has already proven useful.  I’ve noticed that I have a lot of preconceptions about a type of writing that, I have also noticed, I actually know little about.  I’ve caught myself making generalizations about how scientists think about writing that I simply have no right to make.
It’s invigorating to work with a motivated group of people.  Every research project I’ve ever done was completely solo—me and books and articles and a Microsoft Word document.  I didn’t really think of myself as a particularly good collaborator, and I didn’t really think I would like collaborating.  But I was wrong about that.  I’ve come to the realization lately that a lot of aspects of my writing/researching process that I thought I was certain about are not as set in stone as I believed.  I had a way of doing things, and I thought that deviating from that way in the slightest would throw everything into disarray.  I am a much more adaptable, flexible scholar than I ever thought.

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