A Couple of Short Ones: Phenomenology and the Research Question

It appears that we had two articles to read for our next class. They were pretty short, which is a good thing in my opinion. I do enjoy reading long research articles as much as the next person… (-_-) but sometimes straight to the point approach is the way to go. I should also note their easy-to-read natures, especially after the dense ones which we were assigned to read last week.

The first article, titled Qualitative Research Question Examples, served as a review for creating proper research questions. I still seem to be going back and forth on my own research question but I believe I’m getting pretty close to what I need before I start the actual proposal. It’s funny how it is stated in the article that the question might start at a very general point and eventually end at a much more specific one as it develops over time. That is exactly what happened with mine. Then again, it’s probably just common sense. The earliest version of my question, if I recall (I did not write it down), was “How does language proficiency effect the self-identity of learners?”. Looking back, that was a very vague question to conduct research for. My current version is “How does awareness of low language proficiency (conscious incompetence in second language) effect learner autonomy in academic settings, especially in terms of developing strategies to meet academic standards?”. The point was making the research question more specific to a particular case but I might’ve actually made it a bit… too specific? I don’t know. Depending on the research, I may have to tweak it a little further in order to make it fit. We shall see.

The second article, titled Phenomenology Research Overview (or at least one of the pages), introduced a new research method. Although I had heard phenomenology before, I was not quite familiar with it overall. The article describes it as “a qualitative research method that is used to describe how human beings experience a certain phenomenon”. The emphasis here is on the point of view of the participants; ignoring social or cultural norms, traditions, or any other preconceived assumptions in service of properly analyzing “perceptions, perspectives, understandings, and feelings of those people who have actually experienced or lived the phenomenon or situation of interest”. The article also mentions the “four aspects of a lived experience” that phenomenology method aims to observe, which includes “lived spaced, lived body, lived time, and lived human relations”. I was originally planning on going with the case study; the method that emphasizes “exploration and description of a phenomenon”. However, seeing how the phenomenology shifts that emphasis to the individual, it might be a better idea to go with that instead. It could allow the research (in theory) to possess an intimate layer.

As far as its strengths go, the article states that the phenomenology method is regarded by its focus “on the wholeness of the experience, rather than its individual parts” and mediation as “a means to have the voices of the participants heard which may prompt action or at least challenge pre-conceived notions and complacency”. Also, in comparison to other methods, it is stated that “it does not test a hypothesis, nor is there an expectation that the results predictive or reproducible”. One particular downside of the method is apparently its subjective nature which “may lead to difficulty in establishing reliability and validity”. I believe that I’ve heard that issue before with some other research methods we’ve looked at. It might just be a general issue with qualitative research methods. Although it sounds like a better fit for my own research question, it is still somewhat difficult to choose between the two methods. I might have a more solid decision after the presentation, and the lesson that follows it, in our upcoming class.

Overall, I did enjoy reading the articles —short and sweet.

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(Additional details are missing) Retrieved from: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/phenomenology/phen_overview

Rucker, M. (2016) Qualitative Research Question Examples. Retrieved from: https://unstick.me/qualitative-research-question-examples/

Reinventing the Invention in My Inventory… What?

The article, Reinventing Invention, Again, by Peter Simonson was the assigned reading for the next class. Although I’m quite certain that this was a very well-written article in accordance to academic standards, I personally found it to be all over the place and difficult to follow. Perhaps, I wasn’t in the right mind while reading it. Who knows? Still, there are a few key elements from the article that I believe I can point out and talk about them here.

As it is in the title, the article was about theory of invention. Simply put, invention is “a broad variety of research methods and discovery strategies”. There is a brief etymology at the beginning of the article. Without going too in-depth, the term invention is apparently “derived from the Latin invenire, which in the rhetorical idiom translated the Greek heurein (which ‘eureka’ is also derived from)”. I guess it makes sense because that’s what people cry out when they discover something, right? Eureka! If that’s a common occurrence among researchers who utilize invention theory, I refuse to do so for my own proposal… What am I saying? It actually sounds a lot of fun! The author also makes the distinction between invention and discovery by sharing Carolyn Miller’s observation on it, which is stated as “two senses: that of coming upon what already exists (discovery) and that of contriving something that never existed before (invention)”. However, this specific distinction is a bit confusing, if I may be frank. On its own, it makes sense but the invention theory is often defined as some sort of discovery, even on this very article. So, which is it? Or rather, I should ask if we really need to make this specific distinction? I’m not quite so sure, really.

The author claims that invention theory is “constrained by two longstanding prejudices”; one being “a continued logophilia” and the other is “normative privileging of creativity and newness”. This was the first time I came across the term logophilia. Apparently, it means “the love of words and word games” —I wonder if it includes puns as well. I assume… the author managed to back his claim by the end of the article (I shall neither confirm nor deny that I’ve read the whole thing). Personally, I fail to see how logophilia can be considered a prejudice for invention theory if that definition of the term indeed holds up. The author tends to emphasize on the “inability to shed the inherited logophilia” within invention theory, which makes me think that there is a definition error of some sort. My guess is that the author approaches the term from a more dialectical angle, which would mean “form of a language which is peculiar to the concept of invention theory as it originated”. I might have to confirm that. As far as the “privileging of creativity and newness” goes… Maybe? I guess I can see how that notion could complicate things. As a side note, it’s odd to see a gerund form of privilege (proof of higher academic standard?).

Another point that was mentioned in the article was the modernization of invention. It turns out, this call for modernization was being reviewed since the early 1920s. Two particular names that are brought up include Hoyt Hudson and Elbert Harrington, who apparently “focused their theoretical comments on invention as a pedagogical subject”. The author states that their individual efforts “brought invention theory into new and deepened contact with the human sciences, especially linguistics, sociology, psychology, and anthropology”, and “cast invention as a process of discovering already-existing knowledge through research or topical lines of thought”. The term discovery is used to define invention theory here, which adds to my confusion as stated earlier. It is interesting to read about how one person builds on what another had accomplished earlier on, and how it potentially affects the future progresses on the theory.

I guess, I should also mention the modernization effort of McKeon —since certain somebody annotated his name on the PDF file. It is stated that his attempt “was firmly grounded in the historical tradition, which he had been writing about since the 1930s”, and “historical inquiry led him to see the changing fortunes of rhetoric in dynamic relation to philosophy, poetry, and other arts, and to view the present in long historical perspective”. A brief research on the internet also revealed that many experts in the field failed to recognize his contribution despite being considered an important figure, along with a few other recognizable researchers, in the invention “renaissance” that apparently occurred in late 1960s (Was this already included in the article?). It actually sounds impressive. I get a feeling that we’ll be talking more about McKeon in our upcoming class.

There is so much more information to be extracted from the article but I’m going to have to “throw the towel” at this point. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it was difficult to follow. The good thing is that we’re going to have a presentation about the topic in the class, which I’m confidant will include all the other aspects of rhetoric invention that I’m… sort of neglecting here. Unless our next class manages to change my mind, I do not plan on using anything I’ve got out of this article for my research proposal —even if I must sacrifice the guilty pleasure of “eureka!”. So, I do not feel the need to draw any connections to my research question here. I’m not so sure that I can do it even if I wanted to, honestly. Overall, it was a… great(?) article.

P.S. – It’s nice to be more expressive once again, after last week’s required (presentation) response.

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Simonson, P. (2014) Reinventing Invention, Again, Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/02773945.2014.938862

Post 4- An Introduction to Discourse Analysis

Processing and Organizing Language = Discourse Analysis.

In this week’s article, An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Analysis, university professor James Paul Gee presents a concept for understanding language and the way it connects to society. He argues that individuals should study language as action and affiliation. Individuals use language to connect to others and create meaning in their everyday life. Gee states,

“If I had to single out a primary function of human language, it would not be one, but the following two closely related functions: to support the performance of social activities and social identities (i.e: different ways of participating in different sorts of social groups, cultures, and institutions) [emphasis added] and to support human affiliation with cultures, social groups, and institutions.” ( pg. 1)

Gee further explains this theory giving reason to how those two functions of language

Furthermore, Gee discusses the concept of political language. This political language he describes does not mean the common democrats and republicans stands that most people are familiar with. Instead, this political language takes a particular perspective on what the world is like and gives background context to how people view life.
Gee further discuss how both social and political language allows us to speak, write and create communication. People are able to build things through language. He presents the seven building blocks which are…

  1. Significance
  2. activities
  3. identities
  4. relationships
  5. politics ( the distribution of social goods)
  6. connections
  7. signs systems and knowledge

In the article, Gee describes each of the seven building blocks and how language is significant for each.

Social languages: 

Overall, I thought the chapter was a great resource for understanding discourse. Gee provided clear examples and discussion of different types of language analysis. Particularly, in the discussion of social languages, Gee explains how individuals experience different styles of speaking in different social context. In the text, he provides an example of the vernacular and technical version of the social language.

For example, a student studying hornworms night say in everyday language, a variety of language often referred to as “vernacular language” something like “Hornworms sure vary a lot in how big they get,” while the same student might use a more technical variety of language to say to write something like “Hornworm growth exhibits a significant amount of variation.” (pg.20)

It is clear to notice the difference in these two sentences. At any moment an individual can switch the way they use language. The switch between these two types of language is a way for individuals to recognize identities. A person will have a more technical language in a classroom setting and be more aware of their professional identity. In contrast, a person speaking with their friend or peer will be less professional and speak in vernacular language. Both of which is the identity of one individual. I understood this concept clearly because this way of speaking is practiced by everyone. People are skilled in the ways they use language to communicate in every daylife.

Click Here to Read The Chapter  

Presenting: Discourse in IS

Response to Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple

As is its title, the article focuses on the discourse analysis in research, particularly the information systems (IS). Discourse analysis can simply be described as an examination of “the details of speech or writing that are arguably deemed relevant in the context and that are relevant to the arguments the analysis is attempting to make” (Gee 2010). In this particular case, IS is chosen as “context” in which the authors of the article could demonstrate the importance of discourse analysis. The main reason for that choice is apparently the significant growth of “multiplicity [in IS field] that is echoed in the discourse, which policy makers and end-users use when they talk or write about IS”.

Information Systems (IS) is considered a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The article points out the shift in view that occurred around the 90‘s. Apparently, IS research was “dominated by the positivistic view” before the notion of “multiple perspectives on the exploration of a dynamic implementation” emerged and replaced by the interpretive view. It is stated that the goal of the discourse analyst is exploring “the relationship between discourse and reality, interpret a hidden meaning, and mediate it between the past and present”. In terms of adopting a discourse analysis in IS, this hidden meaning is apparently achieved “by a constant interplay between texts (project documents, interviews with the end-users or managers, manuals of IS), discourse (sets of the texts), and context (historical and social background)”. The article also states that “texts are almost irrelevant if taken individually. It is only their interconnection that makes discourse analysis valuable”.

I believe, the closest statement to a claim that could be found in the article is the following: “…the systematic amplification of the philosophical origins of the theory of discourse analysis” is not supported by the researchers, which leads to “…a framework bridging the philosophical foundations, theoretical implications and ‘doing’ discourse analysis” being neglected. In other words, the interpretive nature of the research is not emphasized enough. The research conducted by the authors, and presented at the end, as well as other general information related to discourse analysis that sets it up, is supposed to display what sort of bridging framework that they believe is required, or crucial for authenticity. Although, it is difficult for me to say that they fully accomplished that task —some parts were a bit confusing, they were able to describe their intentions and the results clearly.

The article draws the origins of discourse analysis to “the philosophical discussion on hermeneutics”, which “views interpretations as interminable, or open”. It is stated that “interpretation is not an occasional additional act subsequent to understanding, but rather understanding is always an interpretation, and hence interpretation is the explicit form of understanding”. Thus, discourse analysis does not indicate the interplay between the language use and society “as deterministic but implies the mediation that is in hands of an interpreter”, whose “worldview and the special goals of the project” shape his/her approach to the interpretation. This is a very important point in the article, and it relates back to the “claim” above. It is not that difficult to imagine how the negligence of this notion in a research could cause serious problems, especially in terms of “trustworthiness” of the results. Though, I wish these particular issues were addressed more, perhaps even exemplified, it the article.

Their conducted research, and the steps they had taken to reach it, displays a lot of qualitative aspects. It is indicated that the concern of the authors were “on the social context of the use of technology and discourse that supported it”, and they focused on collecting “empirical data about knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes of managerial employees, members of project teams and end-users in the companies”. Their interviews were aimed at “obtaining both consistency and diversity”. They also mention “hermeneutic levels distinguished by Oevermann (1996)”, which is also included more thoroughly in Gee’s article, and how they used it in their analysis to examine the components and the constructs they obtained during their research. Going back to the “claim”, they draw strong attention to the supportive aspect of how they conducted the research overall. As I’ve mentioned, though, it is difficult to examine its success without a clear comparison. Still, I would say the results are well put together.

Finally, in the conclusion section, the authors make the assertion that, despite its shortcomings, there are strong reasons for adopting discourse analysis in IS field; such as the reflection of real life interactions or “the trustworthiness of the discursive-based study being assessed by the interplay between open-ended interpretations and their transparency”. Still, some of the shortcomings do leave a question mark in my mind, particularly the emphasis on “shortage of clear procedures” or being “highly labor intensive”. I do not necessarily see this type of research as the best candidate for my own research proposal, but at the same time, I find the interpretive nature of it very intriguing. Perhaps, spending enough time to compare it to some of the other research methods that we examined in the class could change my mind.

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Bondarouk, Tatyana and Ruel, Huub, “Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple” (2004). ECIS 2004 Proceedings. 1.
http://aisel.aisnet.org/ecis2004/1

Conducting A Case Study

In the chapter Teaching Research Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences, university professor and author Donna M. Zucker present details on How to Do Case Study Research.  At the beginning of the article, she provides a definition for this type of research. She writes…

According to Bromley (1990), it is a “systematic inquiry into an event or a set of related events which aims to describe and explain the phenomenon of interest” (p. 302).

Although the terms “case study”, “case review” and “case report” are used interchangeably in the scientific and professional field, in essence, they all have a similar definition. A case study is about examining the phenomena within its context. The article describes how unlike an experiment, there is no subject influence during a case study. The researcher is not part of the environment or the context that is being studied. They are simply studying the cases related to the context. She explains the steps to properly conduct this type of research.

Case Study Methods

  1. The case study must fit your research question
  2. The student must select a type of case study. (single case study, multiple case study or intrinsic case study)
  3. Select a depth (holistic or embedded)

After collecting data, the researcher must analyze that data and determine common themes between all the cases. The themes they create will provide meaning to the case.

Reflection: 

Zucker presents a logical and clear strategy to conduct this type of research. I believe this type of study is the most used research strategy because it can provide the researcher with interesting data and results that may not have been able to be collected through other types of studies. Although this type of study allows you to do go more in-depth into the phenomenon of a subject, the methodological method of this study is more difficult to justify. Even so, I agree with the author’s reasoning on why case study research is the most effective form of research on at any educational level.  

The article highlights data as the most important aspect of this type of study. Case study research entails multiple sources of data including interviews, observations, artifacts, documents, and other important sources. Mapping the data from multiple data sources is an important task. I believe this is the most important part of case study research because analyzing data is what creates meaning and relationship between subject and context. I also believe that because it is the major aspects of this study it is also the most challenging to complete. Even so, Zucker concludes that any student is able to conduct this type of research by carefully following the methods.

 

A Brief Look at the Case Study

I thought describing the case study would be fairly easy. This article, How to Do Case Study Research by Donna M. Zucker, made me reconsider that notion. Apparently, there are a lot of layers that require more attention than one would expect. If I may be frank though, the explanation of these layers were a bit confusing at times.

A case study, simply put, is a qualitative research method that consists of analyzing “the development of a particular person, group, or situation over a period of time”. According to the article, its overall design includes five specific components: “research question(s), propositions, unit(s) of analysis, a determination of how the data are linked to the propositions, and criteria to interpret the findings”. So far, if I were to conduct a case study, I have a research question and potential propositions to begin a research. I guess I’m halfway there. My main concern would be dealing with the latter two components. Figuring out the unit(s) of analysis based on the specifics of research is easy but I’m not certain about the criteria aspect. Although, I believe that I did work on a case study before, when I was an undergraduate, I can’t seem to be able to recall the details about it. I need to examine more examples in order to grasp it and utilize it effectively myself.

The article breaks the case study into three stages/categories: “An instrumental case study is used to provide insight into an issue; an intrinsic case study is undertaken to gain a deeper understanding of the case; and the collective case study is the study of a number of cases in order to inquire into a particular phenomenon”. If I’m not mistaken, that case study I mentioned above was about figuring out the reasoning behind common errors by ESL students in terms of pronunciation. As I’ve said, I do not necessarily remember the details. I do remember, however, that after going over some of the individual cases presented, I analyzed multiple cases to draw parallels between them… somehow —did I skip out on the intrinsic one? It did get pretty convoluted though. Hence, it is important to note that “using more than one case may dilute the importance and meaning of the single case”.

It is also stated that “each case study must outline the purpose, then depending on the type of case study and the actions proposed by the researcher, the researcher could determine the possible products of the study”. The four specific purposes of a case study research are indicated as exploratory, descriptive, interpretive, and explanatory. If I had to pick one for my potential research question (reminder: Does the proficiency level of language has any impact on the students’ ability to improve learner autonomy?), I’d go with exploratory as the main purpose —right? I’d basically be exploring the existence of that impact by conducting studies related to it; interview with students, review of grading on assignments, and review of proficiency examinations. It is suggested in the article that “developing a protocol will serve as a frame of operation and include all the necessary elements in the proper conduct of research”, which is pretty much crucial for the final write-up and presentation. I do not believe developing that protocol is as easy as the article makes it sound like though.

There were a few other aspects mentioned in the article but I wasn’t able to keep up with all the details. I might’ve also rushed through the article. So, I’ll leave those for the in-class discussion as usual.

 

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Zucker, Donna M., “How to Do Case Study Research” (2009). Teaching Research Methods in the Social Sciences. 2. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.umass.edu/nursing_faculty_pubs/2