Blog post 8

Apprehensive is what I’ve been feeling for weeks leading up to the research proposal. The best I can do as a writer is to contribute what I know and think about a topic at this particular time.

If I think about it, I have suffered from writing anxiety for as long as I can remember. From my college days, when I felt the pressure the night before a major paper was due. I remember as a sophomore in college, I would spend countless hours reviewing my notes to make sure I have the right answer, the answer the professor had provided. I would shuffle through rubrics to make sure I had all the requirements, though the rubrics were vague. To now, where even conducting an email to a superior takes hours, just because I want to ensure I am flawlessly responding.

I/we have all been taught a product of writing. I am always searching for the RIGHT answer, not a genuinely created response, but the fitting answer. I think that is what has provoked my writing anxiety throughout the years. Murray asserts in his article “Teach Writing as a Process, Not Product,” that many educators have been taught a product but have never been taught a process. Murray states, we are “trained in the autopsy, we go out and are assigned to teach our students to write, to make language live.” What he is saying is, unavoidably, teachers use their training in studying and analyzing literature when teaching students. We expect our students to examine literature the same way we do, and despite the “repetitive autopsy,” the product does not improve. Often the educators blame students for this. The students are then passed on to the next teacher, who is inevitably trained in the same way. Year after year, the student receives criticism, and no matter how brilliant, it makes no difference because, as Murray asserts, “when we are teaching composition, we are not teaching a product, we are teaching a process.”

Murray reveals the process; it is “the process of discovery through language. It is the process of exploration of what we know and what we feel about what we know through language…using language to learn about our world, to evaluate what we learn about our world, to communicate what we learn about our world.” Ultimately, he means leaving the opportunity of discovery into the student’s hands, leaving it to them to make ethical decisions based on life. The shift from product to process can be easily made by dividing the writing process into three stages: prewriting, writing and rewriting.

Murray has inspired my research project, and ironically before starting the research proposal, we were required to read Peter Elbow’s article “Phenomenology of Freewriting.” Elbow, in his article, describes the usefulness of freewriting in the classroom, arguing that the point of the practice is “to write and not stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or think about what you are doing.” I’m glad we had to read Elbow’s article because it took me back to Dr. Zamora’s class to where Murray and Elbow earlier inspired me, and that is what drove my project on writing anxiety for her class.

I can say with a whole heart; freewriting has helped me, in a sense, to control my writing anxiety and also feel more competent in my writing. Even while conducting the research proposal, I found my self taking time to freewrite to get my thoughts together. The hardest part for me has been in the methods section. That’s when I used Elbow’s technique, and I free wrote for ten minutes on all the ideas I had for the methods section, then I evaluated what was on the page. The methods section became more evident to me, it still needs work, however, and I am still going to freewrite to come up with more ideas out of the million ideas already running through my brain.

I didn’t even realize until writing this blog post how important freewriting has been to me. I am happy I chose a topic for my research proposal that I feel so strongly about, even if I feel incompetent, I know I will get through it with freewriting. It makes me that much more excited to see the results at the end of my research project to see if there are significant effects of freewriting on students writing in the long run.

My Reflections On My Research Proposal: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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This journey into the world of research methodology has been a difficult one for me. The terms, theories, charts, numbers and graphs left my head spinning. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts and in class discussions my brain is more of a creative machine. I have never been a science or math type of gal. I always excelled in reading, writing and literature. So this class has proven to be much more difficult then I had anticipated. However through this journey I’ve learned to appreciate and embrace research methodology and the entire process, which I once found to be extremely tedious. Through the lively class discussions and awesome presentations both IRL (in real life) and now virtually, I’ve been able to understand the key concepts much more clearly. I feel like each week I learn something new and my confidence builds in my abilities to execute a decent final research proposal. Now I find my research topic: Conquering Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Through Expressive Writing as a passion project of mine. It’s highly emotional and deeply personal to me. So what initially started out as a daunting and annoying (sorry) research proposal project has turned into something valuable and special to me. Not only have I learned a tremendous amount about the various methodologies that work and don’t work for me, but I have embraced and became enthralled with writing my own autoethnography. I thoroughly have enjoyed expressing myself and sharing my struggles and triumphs with you all through my proposal. It’s also been an enlightening experience to see how much amazing research has been done in the field of expressive writing and the positive therapeutic effects it has on various mental health disorders. I found a plethora of information to back up my research and claims and that makes me feel even more confident in my decision to pursue this topic for my research. It’s a rewarding feeling to know that expressive writing has not only helped me overcome my debilitating anxiety and obsessive compulsive symptoms but to know for a fact that it has also helped others in their mental health struggles makes me feel blessed and more hopeful for the future of various therapies that can positively impact and save the lives of so many mental health sufferers like myself. Hope is alive.

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Now as far as the negative aspects of this research process there have been a few stumbles along the way. My initial rough draft proposal caused me a lot of stress because the grade I received was a lot lower than I had anticipated. I had a mini break down over the grade (ask Medea and Meagan) but I’m better now, thanks girls! I felt like I deserved the grade, as hard as that is to type out and say aloud, based on what my proposal was lacking, even though I did try my best. I know the low grade was warranted and I learned a great lesson to push forward and keep trying. My main source of confusion is the Methods, Measurements, Data and Analysis portions and how it can be applied and analyzed within my autoethnography. The subject was ME, so I was already nervous and unsure of what that meant in terms of me formulating measurements, analysis and data collection. This is all new to me so I’m literally learning as I go. Some classmates have mentioned a background in statistics but that was never a course I had to take in my academic journey so I literally was starting this research process from scratch. I also can’t remember the last time I wrote a research paper? Possibly in high school and maybe freshman year in college? Which was many, many moons ago, please don’t remind me (I’m old). Even at that time the research was not such a precise process as it is for our proposal. Once I made the final decision on a research topic I then had to decide which methodology worked best for me. That made me fearful and I doubted myself throughout the entire process of deciding. But ultimately after the presentations, readings, discussions and through a process of elimination I decided to go with autoethnography. I felt like it was the best fit for my particular topic. I also liked the idea of personalizing my topic and seeing how it was relevant within our culture I also like the socially conscience aspect of it. I didn’t want my proposal to be rigid and uniform and just about graphs, charts and numbers. I wanted to dig deeper and give my proposal a personal touch that I hope other people can relate to. After re doing my proposal and having a discussion with Dr. Nelson I was able to formulate new ideas and fix my proposal. All of his suggestions and comments were extremely helpful and now I’m much more confident in my abilities to execute. My fears for the most part have subsided. I’m ready to conquer the methods section for my final draft. I thank Dr. Nelson for his kindness and patience throughout especially during such chaotic and stressful times. I have bombarded him with numerous emails and questions yet he’s always quick to respond and help me out. I appreciate it immensely. I also thank him for the opportunity to write about our research proposal process on this blog post. I can’t wait to read what your journey’s have been like and I hope if anything writing it out on your blog has made you feel a huge sense of relief! That’s what expressive writing and writing in general is all about, finding inner peace and clarity through the act of writing. I hope you are all staying safe and I miss you lots! Take care everyone. Xo

I am My Research and My Research is Me.

Thinking of a research topic was one of my top three most stressful priorities this semester. I admit at first I was aiming for a topic that would’ve pleased my professor’s eyes but when that idea failed miserably, I needed to knock it off and think. When I took my time to process the information and the purpose, words, thoughts and ideas fell into place. Why not choose a topic that relates to my character? Here are the words that stood out to me: PTSD, self-esteem, writing (expressive & creative).  I think by me sharing those words, you as the reader of this blog, can figure out the puzzle.

Honestly, I am not aiming to create an impact. My goal is to share my story and study. I think some writers have the talent to make a bold impact and others are possibly modest in their approach. For me, this study is like a dialogue I am having with myself. I know it sounds strange but it’s the truth. I am my research and my research is me. There is a saying, “You cannot help others until you help yourself first.” Here’s TED Talk to inspire. I try to listen to these as an inspiring method for my research, which is me.

After my proposal was returned, I have a better understanding on what is expected in a proposal. Although I have to alter my format for my literature review, I would like to share an article I read.

   Expressive Writing in Psychological Science 

 Summary: 

In this article written by James W. Pennebaker, he discusses how he became interested in expressive writing, when at the time it was considered a phenomenon (Pennebaker, 1997). He chose research on how expressive writing can be a helping factor in healthcare. In the 80’s, he conducted a 80 questionnaire-study on symptoms and sensations from particular factors such as personality and situational. These questions went to approximately 800 students. With a broad amount, the questions trickled to one targeted focus about a past traumatic experience prior to 17 years of age. Pennebaker noticed 15% shared a yes but it wasn’t the actual act of the trauma but more of the need to hold that secret. He reexamined the study to noticed that most of the students were affected from the trauma because of keeping the secret. 

When Pennebaker realized the stress of having to hold that secret was creating changes in emotions, behaviors and physical health, he researches actually took off (1997). He decided to narrow his focus on the mental and physical aspects of health. When the students were presented with the opportunity to write down their feelings in a secretive and sacred way, the results showed that their health began to change. Holding onto the secret was considered a form of toxicity in their lives; whereas now having given it up released forms of stress, anxiety and any other symptoms.

Thoughts:

Although Pennebaker’s study is becoming more recognized within the psychological and medical fields, he is notably known for finding a connection between expressive writing and health.  From what I have viewed from browsing Google, is that his study has been replicated many times with positive outcomes. I appreciate his dedication to trying to understand the importance. Though some researchers may disagree, Pennebaker pretty much says you have to be the one to believe in what you’re studying because you know the reason and the positive effects it may have. From his reading, I interpreted expressive writing not so much what happened as it is how you feel about what happened or is happening. His goal was to develop expressive writing prompts to uncover the potential health benefits from writing about emotional upheaval. 

Laurel Richardson wrote a book called Writing: A Method of Inquiry (2000). I’ve learned from my summer writing workshop that an inquiry is something you want to know or discover. Writing helps to deliver and somewhat satiate that need to discover or uncover. Pennebaker mentions that the foundation behind emotional benefits aren’t entirely understood, which is more to the reason why the study is worth it.  

One thought is that describing your feelings with words may be somewhat “cathartic”, releasing pent-up feelings that may be dragging you down. To me cathartic, also catharsis is a word that is rarely heard but has an old school medical term, which it is, meaning to purge emotions. He is referring to medical terms as a means to simplify the process. Secondly, the act of writing can help you organize disorganized thoughts into more cohesive ones that give meaning to an upsetting or traumatic experience.  Third, it can also be that the process of writing enables people to learn to better regulate their emotions because they gain a sense of control over upsetting experiences life throws at them. Carolyn Ellis, a autoethnographer believes (expressive) writing is a way we seek to improve and better understand our relationships, reduce biases, encourage personal responsibility and raise consciousness and promote change (Ellis, 2002). Autoethnography takes on what Pennebaker is discussing, we write to reveal and it becomes therapeutic.

Works Cited: 

Ellis, Carolyn (2002b). Being real: Moving inward toward social change. Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(4), 399-406.

Pennebaker, James W. “Expressive Writing in Psychological Science.” SAGE Journals, vol. 13, no. 2, 9 Oct. 2017, pp. 226–229., https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617707315.

Richardson, Laurel (2000). Writing: A method of inquiry. In Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp.923-948). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.