Meeting the Students' Needs

After multiple conversations, Juliana's professor and I reached two conclusions. First, students need to be walked through research experiences, at least their first time. This includes breaking down research procedures into explicit elements, as my colleague did for Juliana and her classmates. Students encounter these steps one at a time, not as a list like those that make up Downs and Wardle's prompts. I adopted a similar approach when I started teaching ENG 3005. Through this process, my colleague and I articulate our methodology, define appropriate tasks for students, and ask for authentic scholarship (Grobman and Kinkead, 2010 p. x) appropriate for Writing Studies.

Second, students at Kean seem to have an easier time learning how to do primary research if data gathering and analysis are initially separated. These acts require different skills and have different goals. Data gathering emphasizes observation and gathering as much information as possible without judging it. Analysis emphasizes classification of those discrete bits into larger patterns and drawing conclusions from the patterns. This requires moving from observation to evaluation. As different as these stages are in abstract, data gathering and analysis blur together in practice, confusing inexperienced researchers. Keeping a firm separation between them helps students learn when to switch goals and when to apply the appropriate skills.

Dividing the two, however, adds a lot into an already packed course. I also felt students would see an activity meant solely to practice gathering data with no attempt to analyze it as busy work. In response to these concerns, I decided it would be easier for me to provide the data for one project. This assignment would help students learn to define a research question, create analytic categories, and write up the results. We would delay having them gather their own data for a future project. Because I did not know of any data which was not already part of published research, I created it.