At this time this article was written, I had prepared two data sets. The first was my attempt to complete a version of Downs and Wardle's contested term activity (2003, pp. 167-68). It asks students to select a construct related to writing and write a public document (such as a newspaper column or blog post) in which they explain to a specific audience how Writing Studies has framed that concept. The discipline's view is usually different than the one possessed by people outside of it, so the students have to respond to those misconceptions. I prepared a magazine article on assessment that targeted parents of teenagers. The second data set focuses on a talk I prepared for a group of international students taking part in an English Language Immersion program at Kean. I was asked to simulate the type of classroom lecture students might encounter, so I chose to provide an introduction to Writing Studies. In this article, I will draw on the second data set, which I used in my ENG 3005 classes during the 2013-2014 academic year.
The set contains thirty-eight separate artifacts in multiple modes. This includes audio and video versions of talk-aloud protocols, copies of all drafts, and an email exchange between myself and the immersion program's director in which she suggested revisions that changed the direction of my talk. While excepts from the data set are embedded in this essay, all of it is available on the site pictured below. To go to the site, click on the image.
The students used this dataset to recreate classic writing process research in the vein of Sondra Perl (1979) and Linda Flower (1981). They analyzed these materials to determine what they teach about writing as a process, developing a specific research question their essay answered.
Admittedly, convenience was one reason I wanted to developed an online, multimodal data set. ENG 3005 is capped at twenty-five students, and it almost always reaches full enrollment. Photocopying even three drafts worth of my process would become prohibitively expensive, not to mention the wasted paper if a student decided to focus on only one draft. More importantly, though, the variety of multimodal sources created a complex research situation. Video recordings show my facial expressions and actions. Audio recordings unlock my thinking processes. None of these elements appear in printed texts, and they could provide useful insights for researchers. However, not all student-researchers may need this material, depending on their research question. Students would need to select the parts that best fit their research questions and ignore the rest. The assignment set pretty solid parameters for students, but the space within those parameters was made more complex by the data's multimodal elements. Essentially, this data set exposes students to some, but not all, of the messiness of primary research.