What is your Social Persona?

Reaction to:

Yu et al. When students want to stand out: Discourse moves in online classroom discussions that reflect students’ needs for distinctiveness.

What motivates graduate students to participate in online class discussions? To understand graduate students’ discourse moves, Yu et al. offer two constructs, uniqueness-seeking and optimal distinctiveness, to understand students’ interactions in online discussions. They referenced three previous research studies:
1.) Learners need to adapt to learning in the digital world, especially now when learners have to adjust to learning online. In Lin et. al. study, the researchers explore the impact of CMD (Computer-mediated Devices) on learning. Based on Herzeg’s study, he concludes that “the language of CMD is expressed in a less formal register (or a less formal manner); the interactions are without the benefit of extra-linguistic cues (or nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, hand movements, or tone), and a sense of community may be fostered. CMD provides the opportunity for equal participation, but that does not always happen. Therefore, I propose that the instructor needs to promote a more democratic discussion by stating guidelines so that a few students do not dominate the entire conversation.

2.) Researchers have identified “three patterns of conversation” in online discussions and note that these patterns are “social, fluid, and recognized.” One model is “the metaphor of identity-as-difference,” and the other metaphor is “identity-as-position.” From these perspectives, the students form a “social presence.”

3.) From this online persona, Yu et al. draw upon the research of Synder and Fromkin on “uniqueness-seeking needs” and Brower on “optimal distinctiveness” where individuals have to balance the needs to be unique with the need to conform, to strike a balance between “differentiation and affiliation.”

From there, Yu et al. present their research questions: “How do students uniqueness-seeking needs relate to the different discourse moves they exhibit in online discussions? What does a comparison of discourse moves and feelings about the online discussion (enjoyment and engagement) across the semester reveal about the students with different uniqueness-seeking needs?” In terms of methodology, they used a “discourse analytic approach and comparison coding” and a “modified case study.” They collected data by analyzing the transcripts of the 13 graduate students and had them complete surveys at the beginning and the end of the year. The researchers had the students rate their uniqueness from low, moderate, to more than moderate. In terms of Results, the researchers provided the Comparison Codes in Appendix B, in which they categorized the types of discourse moves as either social or cognitive. They also described social personas such as the cheerleader, the moderator, the topic initiator, and the personal connector.

After providing an extensive Data and Results section, they offered a Discussion and Implication section that one conclusion is that students with higher uniqueness needs tend to make more cognitive moves than social moves. For students with low uniqueness needs, there was a small gap between social and cognitive moves.

After reading Yu et al.’s research study, I have questions regarding their initial research questions, such as are “uniqueness needs,” the reason for graduate students to participate in online discussions. Did the researchers consider intrinsic and extrinsic motivations? Based on the surveys, some of the graduate students were interested in seeking clarification on confusing parts of a reading assignment. They may have an intrinsic motivation of wanting to learn the material, especially if the readings relate to their dissertations. They also want a good grade in the class, which may motivate them to participate in online discussions. What about the role of the professor? Does he value more cognitive or social moves? Did the professor communicate the academic expectations communicated to the students at the beginning of the course? One would expect that on a graduate-level course, the professors would expect some cognitive moves during an online discussion. Professors set the tone and expectations for the class. Did the professor facilitate the online discussion groups? Did he check in with them at the beginning, middle, and end of the course?

Nonetheless, I found Yu et al.’s research study useful for my purposes in that students need to be engaged while participating in an online discussion. They need to find the material intellectually stimulating and to internalize the information to keep them engaged. Make the information relevant to them and their intellectual interests. Also, it is equally essential for students to make cognitive and social moves. Yes, both cognitive and social. In an intellectual setting, cognitive contributions are helpful, but so are social moves. Why social moves? By making personal connections to the materials, especially during online learning, one can gain a deeper understanding of the material when internalize or connecting the information to themselves. As for uniqueness-needs: Some students may have a desire to stand out to gain an award, a research grant, or a recommendation.

Uniqueness vs. Similarity, Comments on Yu et al.

I thought this was a very interesting article. In some ways I tried to liken my various experiences with what was being discussed and with the data shown, as I’ve both taken online classes and have existed in many online communities in the past and do so now. I will admit that the density of findings and discussion on the results became a lot to take in, but I will attempt to give a reasonable description of the article nonetheless.

Yu begins in relating the purpose of the study, which is to attempt to place a preexisting psychological term, uniqueness-seeking, into the ways students interact within online course settings. Yu offers several terms which we see throughout the study, beginning with optimal distinctiveness, which is the most balanced state between uniqueness and similarity achievable for online participants. It is then how this uniqueness-seeking interacts with the discourse of an online course transpires which makes up the research here. If uniqueness-seeking is the conceptual basis for the research, it is computer-mediated discussion or CMD which makes up the mode of study for Yu. It is likely that most people understand inherently the properties of online discussion forums, but for consideration’s sake it is always helpful to explicitly consider them. As it is, those properties are the less formal language often used online, the lack of “extra-linguistic cues” found in face-to-face interactions, and the community fostered in those contexts. I find that last one particularly interesting to think about. One quality of the generation of a thing is how it does so in the face on any restrictions which may be put upon it. In considering that an online forum for academic discourse would be something created in the absence of some parts of what constitutes a typical interaction (tone, facial cues, physical community), CMD creates something unique.

Yu then discusses social identities and communities within the bounds of these discussion forums. Concepts like self-identity become important when there is more of a freedom to present yourself differently than you would necessarily be forced to face-to-face. This is to say that your identifying traits, your gender, ethnicity, etc., are optional parts of your online identity as opposed to necessary parts of your in-person identity (from others’ perceptions). What this affords is a different kind of what Short et al. calls social presence. Social presence being the importance derived from interpersonal interactions comes through in this setting more as a chosen level of participation rather than a compulsory one, as the setting is one of CMD.

The following section of the research goes more into the distinctions found in social identity, but also how those distinctions come together all the same. The two forces of “assimilation to and differentiation from others” make up social identity, according to M. Brewer. For Yu’s research, this point holds some significance. It is this very assimilation and differentiation which creates the trend of social uniqueness which will be spoken to later in the article. For now, social identity is more generally defined as being related to what level of personal affect is shown in online interactions and makes up a large part of enjoyment in the class as well as what is taken away by the student.

The method which Yu uses for this research is a case study. 13 graduate-level students were surveyed at the end of each class and their transcripts collected, as well as their having pre/post-course survey taken speaking to a perceived uniqueness scale. The specific method for the case study involved breaking down the group of participants into pairs, determined by similar levels of contribution to the discussion for class. The method of coding the data involved the construction of certain “moves” within the parameters of the research question. These moves were categorized as social, cognitive, and moderator. Further, social moves denoted instances wherein the participants related themselves as being real people and shared personal experiences, cognitive moves denoted instances of meaning constructed from interactions between participants, and moderator moves denoted instances of participants managing online experiences. All discussions were transcribed, and so the researchers formatted the data found in the transcriptions as “coherence graphs” which connected chronologically connected conversations the students had based on what messages related to each other topically.

The following section includes a quite lengthy, though perhaps thorough is a more fair way of putting it, description of the findings for each pair of students. I’ll admit that my effort reading through the findings and annotating them became a touch muddled after a certain point, but the final section of discussion and implications was clearer. What Yu indicates as to their findings is that there was a variety of uniqueness-seeking among the participants. Despite the variety, there existed a general trend of those different levels either remaining about the same throughout the semester or decreasing. Yu also states that cognitive moves were on average the most commonly seen codes found within the data. And as with any good research, a concluding openness to the findings and concerns for the research were offered. That the researchers can’t generalize findings with such a small grouping, some potential ESL restrictions, a high academic proficiency at the graduate level and how that may impact findings, unknown differences between people with prior understanding of material or none, that students in the study also met face-to-face in another class, these were all listed concerns.

As I mentioned initially about this article, I did enjoy it. I will say that for me at least, there was a certain density here which I think precluded my completely absorbing it all, but I believe discussing it in class will help with that. People having different personalities does of course affect the ways in which they interact typically, but how those interactions are further altered or how they are diminished in an online setting was something I enjoyed reading about. One potential contributor of how a student may take to online academics from where I’m coming from is comfort in online communities from the onset. The setting may be outside of the research, but how comfortable a student is in typical online discussion patterns may also change how they interact.

Discourse Moves

As the development of technology continues to progress apace, educational institutions are increasingly adopting online contexts for teaching and learning asserted, learners in today’s technology-saturated world need to develop strategies and skills to undertake new literacy activities in which technologies and the Internet play a crucial role.”

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This article was assigned at a period of time in our lives. I’ve always found it interesting how assignments have been assigned to us in months advance, but somehow the world changes around us based on the given assignment. In this unfortunate case, COVID-19 happened, which has resulting in many of my classmates to sit behind our computer screens in the comfort of our own homes. Also, we are suspected to change our whole approach to learning overnight.

I find it completly ironic how we, the I find it completely ironic how we, the generation of technology and social media don’t receive the full experience of virtual learning then we would in the classroom. This is the result of being a millennial–someone born between 1980 until 1997. We were around when technology was born, however, we still enjoyed being outside, being home “when the street lights came on”, and actually have face to face conversations.

By having virtual learning, it limits the ability of the full learning experience then someone would in a classroom setting. I don’t speak for everyone, but for myself, I strongly prefer to have classes in person where I’ll be able to absorb my classmates’ responses and my professors’ lessons. 

Computers in Human Behaviors


The base of this article is discusses the phenomenon of online classroom discussion surrounded around these two proposed research questions: (a)How do students’ uniqueness – seeking needa relatae to the different discource moves they exhibit in online discussion? (b) What does a comparison of dicource moves and feelings about the online discussion (enjoyment and engagment) across the semester reveal about students withdiffrent uniqness – seeking needs? The research was conducted through 13 graduate – level students, in the setting of an onlince clasroom. The groups were broken up into 4 subgropus catogorized as: Group 1 (high contributors), Groiup 2 (mid contributors), Group 3 (low contributors), and a special case. The data was drawn using the discource anaalytic approach and constant comparison coding.


This article was very helpful to my own research interest! As far as I can see, there is reall a gap in literatuer for this article (again, not a true professional). This article was simplistic in a term that I was able to follow along while also making my own mental ties. This article has a lot of relevence to it, espically now that under these curcumstances, students are pratically glued to their screens! But any who, I enjoyed reading this article.

Turing Theory into Practice: Making Connects!

I recall in the early stages of the semester when Dr. Nelson explained how articles embed (non technical terms) within articles can ultimately help us in our own research inquiries. Quietly honestly, I had no idea what the was talking about. But now, approximately 3 classes away from this semester being over… I get it! I plan use this article (and others embed into it) to finish off my last couple of articles needed for my Research Proposal. Another takeaway from this article is the formatting I would like to go with within discussing my literature review. The Background literature in this particular article was laid out very simplistic and easy to follow. I like to format my scholarly work in way that is simplistic for not all, but most to understand!

Choose Your Method: A Comparison of Phenomenology, Discourse Analysis, and Grounded Theory.

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Qualitative research is a type of social science research that collects and works with non-numerical data and that seeks to interpret meaning from this data that help understand social life through the study of targeted populations or places. People often frame it in opposition to quantitative research, which uses numerical data to identify large-scale trends and employs statistical operations to determine causal and correlative relationships between variables. This type of research has long appealed to social scientists because it allows the researchers to investigate the meanings people attribute to their behavior, actions, and interactions with others. Qualitative research is designed to reveal the meaning that informs the action or outcomes that are typically measured by quantitative research. But this type of research is not just prevalent in the social sciences. As we learn from this article qualitative research and its methods are now commonly used in our health care systems. Qualitative researchers have made significant contributions to health services and policy (HSP) research, providing valuable insights into the ways we conceptualize health, illness, patients’ experiences, the dynamics of inter professional teams and many aspects of care delivery. Qualitative methodologies, such as grounded theory, ethnography, and phenomenology, are now regularly employed to pursue a variety of HSP topics. Qualitative researchers investigate meanings, interpretations, symbols, and the processes and relations of social life. What this type of research produces is descriptive data that the researcher must then interpret using rigorous and systematic methods of transcribing, coding, and analysis of trends and themes. Methods of qualitative research include:

  • observation and immersion
  • interviews
  • open-ended surveys
  • focus groups
  • content analysis of visual and textual materials
  • oral history
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The chart labeled Figure 1 introduces us to the similarities and differences between Phenomenology, Grounded Theory and Discourse Analysis. Figure 1 is in an hour glass like shape which outlines the history, philosophy, goals, analytic methods, audience and products of each method. It’s a clear and cohesive chart that does a excellent job of highlighting the key differences and similarities between each method. In this article Starks and Trinidad compare and contrast all three methods. They also state in regards to Figure 1:

Phenomenology, discourse analysis, and grounded theory are the products of different intellectual traditions. However, their coevolution in the history of ideas means that the boundaries between them are porous. This is depicted in the figure by the vertical dotted lines that separate the three approaches. In what follows, we provide a brief summary of the intellectual lineage and basic value commitments of phenomenology, discourse analysis, and grounded theory.” (Starks; Trinidad, 2007).

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So lets start with the fundamentals of each methodology which we all have discussed, studied and presented in class. Phenomenology is an approach to qualitative research that focuses on the commonality of a lived experience within a particular group. The fundamental goal of the approach is to arrive at a description of the nature of the particular phenomenon. In its most basic form, phenomenology attempts to create conditions for the objective study of topics usually regarded as subjective: consciousness and the content of conscious experiences such as judgments, perceptions, and emotions. It seeks through systematic reflection to determine the essential properties and structures of experience. 

The phenomenological perspective is nicely captured in a remark attributed to Einstein that expresses the difference between embodied time and chronologic time: Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute, That’s relativity.” (Starks; Trinidad, 2007).

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Discourse analysis is a research method for studying written or spoken language in relation to its social context. It aims to understand how language is used in real life situations. Whereas other areas of language study might focus on individual parts of language such as words and phrases (grammar) or the pieces that make up words. Discourse analysis looks at a running conversation involving a speaker and listener (or a writer’s text and its reader). In discourse analysis, the context of a conversation is taken into account as well as what’s being said. This context may include a social and cultural framework, including the location of a speaker at the time of the discourse, as well as nonverbal cues such as body language, and, in the case of textual communication, it may also include images and symbols. 

“Careful analysis of language, using what Gee (2005) has described as the seven “building tasks” of language (significance, activities, identities, relationships, politics, connections, and sign systems and knowledge), can shed light on the creation and maintenance of social norms, the construction of personal and group identities, and the negotiation of social and political interaction.” (Starks; Trinidad, 2007).

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Grounded theory is a research methodology that results in the production of a theory that explains patterns in data, and that predicts what social scientists might expect to find in similar data sets. When practicing this popular social science method, a researcher begins with a set of data, either qualitative or quantitative, then identifies patterns, trends, and relationships among the data. Based on these, the researcher constructs a theory that is “grounded” in the data itself. This research method differs from the traditional approach to science, which begins with a theory and the seeks to test it through the scientific method. As such, grounded theory can be described as an inductive method, or a form of inductive reasoning.

Grounded theory examines the six “Cs: of social processes (causes, contexts, contingencies, consequences, covariances, and conditions) to understand the patterns and relationships among these elements.” (Strauss; Corbin, 1998).

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The next section of the article is about The Approaches and Methods of each methodology and how they compare and contrast. When each is employed as a research method, differences emerge with respect to how the researchers frame research questions, sample participants, and collect data.

Framing the Research Question. Phenomenologists ask questions about lived experiences, as contrasted with abstract interpretations of experience or opinions about them. (Van Manen, 1990). Discourse analysts explore how knowledge, meaning, identities, and social goods are negotiated and constructed through language-in-use. Grounded theorists inquire about how social structural and processes influence how things are accomplished through a given set of social interactions.

Sampling. Phenomenologists are interested in common features of the lived experience. Data from only a few participants who have experienced the phenomenon-and who can provide a detailed account of their experience. Typical sample sizes for phenomenological studies range from 1 to 10 persons. With Discourse Analysis sampling different groups that participate within a given discourse can illuminate the ways in which participants appeal to external discourses and identity their influence on the discourse under study. The sizes depends on analytic objective and the data source. Grounded Theory relies on theoretical sampling, which involves recruiting participants with differing experiences of the phenomenon so as to explore dimensions of the social processes under study. The researcher continues to add individuals to the sample until she reaches theoretical saturation. Typical grounded theory studies report sample sizes ranging from 10 to 60 persons.

Data Collection. In all three approaches data collection strategies can use a mix of observation, interviews, and close reading of texts. In phenomenology observation of how participants live in their environment through time and space provides cues about how they might embody meaning. For discourse analysis observing participants speech provides insight about how the participants use language to accomplish their goals and position themselves in relation to others. Interviews are an important component of qualitative research data collection. In a phenomenological or grounded theory study the objective of the interview is to elicit the participant’s story. Both researcher and participant assume that their words will be understood as spoken and intended, in essence their words will speak for themselves. However, in discourse analysis the objective of the interview is to capture the participants language, including any references or appeals to other discourses. In discourse it is not assumed that the researcher and participant necessarily mean the same thing when they use the same words. In this context words are not assumed to speak for themselves.

When it comes to Analytic Methods all three methods are fairly similar. All three interpretive methods distill textual data to a set of categories or concepts from which the final product can be drawn. Coding Van Manen (1990) stated: “that phenomenological analysis is primarily a writing exercise, as it is through the process of writing and rewriting that the researcher can distill meaning.” Analysts use writing to compose a story that captures the important elements of the lived experience. By the end of this story the reader should feel that he or she has experienced the phenomenon under study and should be able to envision themselves coming to similar conclusions about what it means. In discourse analysis the objective is to understand what people are doing with their language in a given situation. So coding the coding phase entails identifying themes and roles as signified through their language use. Gee (2005) described the analytic process as one of searching for textual evidence to show how language accomplishes the seven building tasks. Grounded theory involves a constant comparison method of both coding and analyzing data through three stages: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding.

The Role of the Analyst is very important in qualitative analysis. The researcher is the instrument for analysis. The researcher makes all the judgements about coding, categorizing, decontextualizing and decontextualizing the data. Each of the approaches has its own techniques for monitoring, documenting, and evaluating the analytic process and the researcher’s role to assure the validity and trustworthiness.

Audience and Product the products of research will vary based not only on the analytic approach but also on how far the analyst carries the interpretations of the findings. Phenomenological analyses produce thematic descriptions that provide insight into the meaning of the lived experience. It is often written out as anecdotes or thematic stories. Audiences for these analysis include clinicians and others whose practice would be enhanced by understanding how individuals live through and make sense of a particular experience. The products of discourse analysis use evidence from participants narratives and other texts to expose the ways in which people use language to accomplish their objectives; as such, discourse analysis often have a pragmatic aim and require more analytical abstraction. This audience usually includes clinicians, interventionists, and policy makers. They use discourse analysis to understand how framing and language can help achieve a desired outcome. Although the goal of grounded theory analysis is to produce theory, some analysts only identify patterns within and between categories. Audiences for grounded theories include clinicians, practitioners, and researchers who are interested in designing interventions to support engaged in social processes explained by the theory.

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The last part of the research article details how researchers applied the three approaches to a Single Data Set. I won’t go to far into details for the conclusion because there is a detailed chart and three brief data sets that are there to help us compare and contrast the methodologies. I’m also excited to see what Kevin has to present for us on Monday. I hope to gain more knowledge and insight into this article through his presentation and his break down of it. It’s always nice to hear my fellow cohorts interpretations and perspectives on each article. We all are unique learners with a distinct voice and each one of us brings new insights and ideas to everything we have read and presented on so far this semester. So I will just briefly explain the premise. An interview study with 25 primary care physicians (PCPs) that explored their use of informed decision making (IDM) in the context of prostate cancer screening. Table 1 summarizes the differences with respect to the purpose, research questions and audience. This table is helpful in dissecting the data and information gathered from all three approaches. Phenomenology: PCPs Lived Experience of Decision Making Under Uncertainty: The analysis reveals aspects of PCPs lived experiences of decision making under uncertainty. The product of the research is a thematic description of the common elements of the experience. The audience in this case includes other physicians who can use this to make sense of their own difficulties with decision making under stress and uncertainty. How The Discourses of Medicine and Public Health Constructs Doctor-Patient Roles and Identities. Examining how PCPs and how they talk and converse with their patients about prostate cancer screenings reveals which discourses they and their patients bring to the encounter as well as what other factors in the conversation trigger use of one preferred discourse over another. This analysis can help in understanding how discourse in medicine and public health can help or hinder the IDM techniques used by PCPs. The audience for this is great for medical educators to help PCPs asses patients assumptions and expectations and address these in conversations that warrant informed decision making. Last but not least: Grounded Theory: Making the Most of the Visit: The goal of this analysis is to develop a theory that explains what circumstances lead to prostate cancer screening discussions in primary care settings. Also how and why doctors and patients engage in these discussions. The six C’s are used to discover the conditions that shape the clinical encounter between doctor and patient. In the IDM study we learned that many factors affected whether and how PCPs discuss prostate cancer screening. First limitation was tight appointment times and scheduling. Patients expectations were also a factor to consider in prostate cancer screening discussions. PCPs were more likely to engage in an involved conversation with a patient if the patient had not already made up their minds about whether to be screened. In these cases doctors were trying hard to meet their patients needs, offering information, expert advice, and ways for their patients to weigh the pros and cons of screening and their future treatment plan. In grounded theory analysis what is seen to be most important is making the most of the visit. The audience that can benefit from this finding is clinic directors and others with an interest in promoting informed decision making around cancer screenings.

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Overall I enjoyed reading and analyzing this article. I did my best to present and highlight the most important facts. I thought learning about the three different methods was important for us as a class especially at this stage in the game. We are all about to embark on our final research proposal projects. While some of us will continue on even further in the research field (not me). For the final article to be a compare and contrast of three methodologies that we already studied was great. I think its safe to say we can all use a refresher. It can only be a benefit to us and our own research endeavors going forward. Reading this furthered our knowledge and understanding into each of the three methods and how we can apply them to our own proposals if we so choose. I gained new insights about my own proposal. I also learned more about phenomenology and how it applies to my personal research. I embedded three videos below which I think give a great overview of each method we studied in this article. As I said before, it never hurts to have a refresher on the methods. Hope it helps and good luck to everyone on their final proposals! Yay our final blog! We did it guys! Xo