Reflecting on My Research Proposal: Using Orna Frenez’s “EFL Writers’ Social Networks: Impact on Advanced Academic Literacy”

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In her article, Orna Frenez states her research interest in “investigating the role of the social environment in developing graduate students L2 advanced academic literacy within an English as a foreign language (EFL) setting.” She defines the social environment as “the interactive relationships with students, teachers, advisors, and classmates.” In the Theoretical Background and Rationale, Franez uses an interconnected theoretical approach by taking existing research on “valued literacy practices” and applying this theory to the context of an EFL setting. In one sentence, she cites three sources; in another sentence, she cites fourteen sources. She also looks at social networks and draws upon the research of others to examine the impact of a student’s identity on the selection of a social community. She concludes that students may not have access to certain academic and social communities to achieve advanced academic literacy. Franez is careful to use qualifying language by using conditionals such as “may,” and she is careful in anticipating rebuttals. 

In terms of Methodology, Franez uses phenomenology where she “explores students’ perspectives” and provides a “descriptive investigation” in the form of interviews. She provides a table to describe how participants were selected. In Table I, Dr. Nelson pointed out that researchers use pseudonyms. In terms of data collection, Franez recorded the interviews. Then the data were categorized into four themes and patterns: 1.) academic environment; 2.) social environment; 3.) participant’s identity and goals; and 4.) L2 advanced learning practices. In terms of Data Collection and Instrument, she had the students complete an after-interview questionnaire. As for the Results and Discussion, she provides results in the following areas: 

1.) Academic Environment, Franez concludes that students exposed to language in a solely academic environment such as learning from lectures and books may not be able to acquire advanced literacy skills. 

2.) Social Environment: Students who interact with advisors, professors, students, and co-workers help develop advanced academic literacy by providing feedback to students and revising their essays. Specifically, Franez concludes that “academic social networks contribute to promoting advanced literacy skills by establishing goals, modeling literacy practices, and establishing academic expectations.” She also notes that non-academic social network members such as colleagues play a role in promoting advanced literacy skills. 

3.) Participants’ Identity and Goals: Franez conludes that a student’s self-categorization as academic, professional, or personal as motivation for them to seek certain types of social networks.

4.). L2 Advanced Literary Practices: Franez concludes that the more academically motivated students are more likely to acquire advanced literacy skills. 

Unlike other phenomenological studies, she offers her conclusions at the end of the article. She ends by saying that L2 instructors need to adjust their literacy expectations based on the motivation of their students. Do the students consider themselves academics? The students’ identity and social networks that they seek are factors in the acquisition of advanced literacy skills. 

Frenez’s article, along with Professor Nelson’s commentary, was helpful during the revision process of my Research Proposal. From our April 13 class, I realized that as a novice researcher that I needed a framework when my research proposal, which reminded me of Thomas Groenewald’s Introduction in” “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated,” where he stated that within phenomenologists do not follow a prescribed research design. However, I contend that novice researchers need a framework to help them with their first research proposal. Drawing upon my experience of writing my first research proposal, I argue that high school students need a structure to help them with longer writing assignments. It is not necessarily formulaic to provide them with a 5-paragraph structure as long as they are encouraged to break this structure when they are more confident writers.  

So, the purpose of Blog 9 is a metacognitive exercise on the revision process based on Franetz’s article and Professor Nelson’s commentary.

Here are thoughts about my Introduction: Did I draw the reader in by stating the purpose of my topic in the first sentence? Yes, I provided the significance of my research proposal. I did not realize that the Introduction should be around two paragraphs. Why are we not including an Abstract? I also decided to move the background information on Grammarly to the Introduction, which is similar to Fanez’s definition of academic literacy. For now, I am satisfied with the Introduction.

Now, moving on to the Literature Review (or the Thereothetical Background and Rationale). Did I hear correctly, six to eight pages for the Literature Review section? In Franetz’s article, she wrote two lengthy paragraphs. Based on a lack of research on the efficacy of online grammar checkers for non-native English learners, I decided to use an autoethnographic approach since I am a frequent user of online grammar checkers.

As for Methodology, I decided to focus my study on my writings and not my students’ writings since it will require an extensive IRB process that does not appear too practical while my school district is grappling with COVID-19. I am pretty sure that my principal has more pressing issues to address. So, why is this research study on grammar checkers essential in light of this pandemic? During remote learning and remote working, the primary mode of communication is through emails, memos, or letters. Having clear writing is crucial now when it is our primary mode of communication.

Overall, I am happy with the flow of ideas in my research proposal. My next step is to reflect on and examine my previous essays. I will need to create a chart and analyze the types of errors Grammarly can pick up.

At least, I have more clarity in my research design and need to complete the Data Analysis and Results and Conclusions. 

Here is my revised draft as of April 19, 2020:

My Experience with AI-powered Digital Writing Assistants: An Illustrated Autoethnographic Study

Introduction: Although online grammar checkers have gained popularity in recent years, there has been limited research conducted on the impact of AI-powered assisted digital writers on students’ revising and editing skills (Cavaleri, 2000). Therefore, my interests lie in the intersection of writing, specifically grammar, and technology; the focus of my research study is Grammarly, which is considered one of the most accurate grammar checkers and the most user-friendly. 

Briefly on Grammarly for those who are unfamiliar with it. It was founded in 2009 by Max Lytvyn and Alex Shevchenko. To use Grammarly, users copy and paste a text into the input box, or upload a document. “Grammarly’s free version provides grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure and style support” (see Figure 1). “The premium subscription, which costs $139.95 a year, checks and additional 150 grammar points and provides plagiarism detection, vocabulary enhancement suggestions, and a contextual spelling feature and gives users a score out of 100” (Grammarly, 2015) (see Figure 2). It also provides short explanations of each grammar issue it addresses and provides corresponding feedback, which often includes examples of both correct and incorrect usages in green and red, respectively (see Figure 3). Users can click the suggested correction to apply it to the text, or click “ignore” to move on. Users can also read through the feedback without needing to accept or ignore each comment. Before reviewing the text, the premium version also asks users to select audience, formality, domain (academic, business, general, technical, casual, and creative), tone, and intent” (Grammarly, 2020) (see Figure 4.) (Moré, 2006). There are other online grammar checkers on the market, such as Paperrate, Grammark, After the Deadline, and Language Tool, which I intend to test the accuracy and effectiveness in my study.

My study examines the algorithm of Grammarly, evaluates other AI-powered assisted digital writers on the market and provides my perspective as a high school English teacher who offers students access to Grammarly Premium and as a graduate student who uses Grammarly Premium for my writing assignments. Overall, my study will provide best practices and recommendations to enhance the overall learning and teaching experience for students and teachers who are interested in purchasing a paid personal or institutional subscription to Grammarly Premium.

Literature Review and Theoretical Background and Rationale: A majority of the studies on the impact of online grammar checkers involve non-native English speakers in other countries. Two Australian researchers Michelle Cavaleri and Saib Dianati contend that online grammar checkers such as Grammarly promote “self-directed learning and student self-efficacy” (2016). Furthermore, research from Potter and Fuller found that the use of online English grammar checkers increased students’ motivation, engagement, and confidence in grammar rules and English language proficiency” (2008). 

Because there is a dearth of research on the efficacy of A.I. writing assistants in high schools in the United States, I plan to use autoethnography, which is a [qualitative] research method that “seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experiences (ethno)” (Ellis, 2011). Specifically, I plan to use a “layered account which focuses on the authors’ experience alongside data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature” (Ellis, 2011). Therefore, I am the subject of the autoethnographic study. I offer my 19 years of experience as a high school English teacher English and my two years of experience as a graduate student, pursuing an M.A. in English Writing Studies.

Methodology

Subject of My Data: I provide the perspective of an English teacher teaching a large suburban public high school in New Jersey. Some teachers are reluctant to embrace online grammar checkers because they feel that the machines will replace them. That is not true. I believe that AI-assisted digital writing assistants will help teachers rather than hurt them. The reality is that there is overcrowding in public schools, and unlike private schools, public school teachers do not have the luxury of having a class size of 10-15 students. In 2020, public school teachers face a class size of 20 – 30 students per class, and with the increase of students in English classes, there has been an impact on the quality of writing instruction. As a teacher in a large public school in New Jersey, I have had 28 students in my A.P. Language and Composition class. (There are teachers across the country with class sizes up to 30 students.) In my high school, we have 40-minute class periods. During writing workshops, it is mathematically impossible to revise and edit every students’ essays promptly. Students would sign up for a writing conference with me and would want me to revise and edit their entire essay. It takes me at least 10 minutes to look over a draft and multiply that by 28, which is 280 minutes or over 4 hours per one assignment. However, some of the writing conferences would take longer than ten minutes. I tried limiting the writing conferences. I tried teaching the students to revise and edit their essays. I tried scheduling writing conferences during the students’ study hall, and after school, but it became overwhelming and time-consuming. So, this year, in 2019, I took a leap of faith and purchased Grammarly Premium ($139.95/year). I allowed my 10th-grade students in my Level I (college prep) and Level II (regular track) to use my personal Grammarly Premium account to revise and edit their synthesis essays. 

Data-Collection Methods (Layered Account):

I offer “vignettes of my experience with various online grammar checkers, multiple voices, and introspection” (Ellis, 2011). I provide first drafts of my writings for graduate classes and for blogs that I have written with and without the use of Grammarly Premium. I want to examine the reduction of errors in my essays and to assess the types of errors that online grammar checkers successfully were able to catch. Cavaleri and Dianati make an essential distinction that “grammar checkers do not claim to teach grammar; they are tools to bring potential problems to the writer’s attention” (2016). Grammarly cannot replace a human editor.

To Be Continued…

Literacy Networks for ESL/EFL

The English language is a universal language with many people around the world and should be taught in schools if students are interested in working professionally where they will need to communicate in English.  However, I am not saying to lose one’s cultural identity with their own language, but to increases opportunities, they strive for.

Having these ESL/EFL students’ ability to use these platforms to learn literacy is extremely important. We are now in a digital age, where everything is online, including business, education and all forms of communication. Being able to communicate one language is an easier way to share important information around the world. 

Impact on advanced academic literacy development

Summary

In this article, Orna Ferenz (PhD in Linguistics) conducts an experiment based on L2 English learner, NNSE graduate students, with experience in a required EFL academic writing course. Each participant within the study holds different degrees, study backgrounds, and native language: 2 PhD, 4 MA; 5 Hebrew native speaker and 1 Russian native speaker. This study shows how a socially driven environment has an impact on the students’ advancement in English literacy skills. Ferenz wants to know if social networking beyond the basic groups (ex: teachers, classmates, advisory, and etc) will progress the students’ abilities in building social and academic relationships.This research conducted interviews and post interviews to collect data from the participants. 

My Thoughts

In my personal opinion, I believe there should have been more participants. Even though it was pretty simple to follow through (thank you!), I think the research would have came out a lot different. Six people can not generate enough information to go off. Referring to Megan’s post:

“I think this study could have been done differently. Out of 31, 200, to choose only six representatives ( 5 females and 1 male), is not proper. I understand choosing different academic departments, but I think Ferenz could’ve used more samples, split the six into an equal gender amount (3 boys and 3 girls), or expand the study outside the university to possibly other universities with similar departments and/or increased the length of time for the study (half a year).”

I totally agree with Megan in the sense of adding more diversity. But now even questioning Ferenz research, it makes me ponder on my own…

Making Connections

In a way, my research approach is somewhat similar to Ferenz (specifically surveys being conducted.. possibly some interviews). I am hoping that I have at least 10 students using my program (T.A.W.P) and fun fact.. a lot of the students I will be working with are L2 learners (Spanish and Creole being the native languages). My expected time frame of working with them is September 2020 – November 2020. Obviously my subjects are much younger and do not hold the educational background as the subjects in Ferenz study, but there are some common ground: L2 learners, all at the same school, etc.

Examining EFL writer’s social networks: Impact on advanced academic literacy development

Orna Ferenz,  holds a PhD in Linguistics from Bar Ilan University, Israel. She is a senior lecturer in the EFL Unit at Bar Ilan University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate EFL courses. In her article, she conducted an experiment based on six Hebrew speaking, NNSE graduate students, with experience in a required EFL academic writing course. Everything took place in 2003/04 at a large university in Israel.

With each participant having a different major (2 Ph.D and 4 M.A.), the purpose of this study was to see how a socially driven environment affects the students’ advancement in English literacy. Ferenz wants to know if social networking beyond the basic groups (teachers, classmates and etc) will progress the students’ abilities in building social and academic relationships. In order to achieve these goals, Ferenz conducted interviews and post interviews. Unfortunately, she doesn’t believe it is possible (341). From her small sample, she recognized the trouble students were approaching. It seems as though, the students were focused on improving their growth only within the university because they didn’t have many options for diverse English learning (343). 

I had to read this twice. It was that the concept was hard to comprehend, but I think I began overthinking what Ferenz was aiming to prove. The other articles that we have been reading conduct research that comes out a bit more confusing. I considered different possibilities, such as Ferenz, herself, not being a native English speaker or she is and moved to Israel for Hebrew learning continuation. She did say that she interviewed the six and wrote their answers verbatim, which threw me off trying to understand their thoughts. My natural instinct was to correct the word order or question what they were saying. But is it possible, this is Ferenz’s point? If more exposed to English literacy in social or academic networking then the students’ approach and word usage may be different. 

I think this study could have been done differently. Out of 31, 200, to choose only six representatives ( 5 females and 1 male), is not proper. I understand choosing different academic departments, but I think Ferenz could’ve used more samples, split the six into an equal gender amount (3 boys and 3 girls), or expand the study outside the university to possibly other universities with similar departments and/or increased the length of time for the study (half a year). If they’re using social networking, could it be the type of network being used or is it a particular social media?

 

Medea wrote a comment on, “Ferenz talks about social circles being necessary to advanced academic literacy. Aren’t they ubiquitous? Why or why not?”

Before I replied to her comment, I admit I wanted  to define Ferenz’s key words because although I may know the meaning sometimes it’s good to have a wider perspective. Ubiquitous means found everywhere, present. If I consider academic literacy to mean the ability to understand a range of vocabulary (academic). Then I am accepting that it is possible to gain an advancement in my vocabulary by simply being around people. I think this is true to an extent. Social groups choose to speak if their own lingo and associate themselves in a narrow minded way that suits them (personal interest), topic, location and purpose. If in an academic setting then I agree but it can be said that not uncommon to have a diluted form of vocabulary amongst casual group mates. We, meaning all people, will gain some form of vocabulary from various circles, that doesn’t necessarily mean academic like. Especially with social media involved within most groups, then we might as well get it directly from the internet. If we choose to remain within a small sample or parameter, then we won’t be able to progress.

EFL Writer’s Networks: Impact on Advanced Academic Literacy Development.

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I found this article very informative in helping me to figure out how to format my own proposal. It also reinforced to me how important it was for me to include pertinent information in my proposal and to make sure it was placed in the proper place. I liked the layout of this article because again it helped me to restructure mine in a more concise way. Learning about EFL and L1 and L2 language learners was interesting to me thanks to the Global English linguistic course I took with Dr. Ruth Griffith last semester. So for me this article was taking everything I learned a step farther by applying it to the impact that EFL writer’s social networks have on their academic and language development. I was immediately intrigued and was excited to learn more. The main purpose of this research paper was two fold and posed two questions: One, what type of relationships do English as a Foreign Language graduate students form in order to develop L2 academic literacy? Two, What impact do these relationships have on a student’s acquisition of L2 academic literacy and writing. What is important to note is that the findings show that social networks do in fact play a key role in L2 learners academic literacy acquisition and practice as a disciplinary communication.

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The introduction of the article highlights the key concept of the research which is the effects the social environment has on and plays in L2 academic literacy and learning. The purpose of the study: “Is to investigate the role of the social environment in developing graduate students’ L2 advanced academic literacy within an English as a foreign language setting. (Ferenz, 2005). By adopting and analyzing the students social networks the researcher was able to make connections and build on the premise that these relationships and the environment the students are in all play a important role in their learning, writing and language acquisition. Data is provided from interviews and post interviews of various students, six with advanced MA and PhD NNSE writing students. In the following paragraph the theoretical background and rationale is explained. Dr. Nelson points out this section is similar to that of a literature review. In it an important fact is raised and that is how each student’s unique and distinct identity plays a important role in their learning. Two factors, one literacy is a social practice related to identity. Two, social networks relation to their to identity. The research shows that when you are considering the advanced academic literacy of students again there are two important key components to remember: “One, literacy practices are acquired through socialization with practitioners of the valid literacy. Two, a writer’s identity may impact the writer’s motivation for acquiring L2 advanced academic literacy since literacy is a function of a writer’s identity and are valued by a writer according to his or her social identity.” (Ferenz, 2005) In order to understand the impact a social network may have on a person requires clarifying the concepts of identity and social identity. Even though most peoples self-definition is dynamic and unique most individuals seek memberships in social networks or groups that are beneficial to them and their goals.

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The methodology is not specifically named but it seems to allude to that of phenomenology. The researcher refers to students “perceptions and descriptive investigation” reinforces this fact. A qualitative method in the form of interviews was used. I agree that those pre and post interview’s were effective for this particular study. These interviews were vital for gathering important information and facts from the student’s. The use of a smaller sample of students allowed for a more in depth analysis. Interviews were the best choice because it helps identify student’s perceptions of their social and academic environments. Most important it is that it draws on self reported data. The study was conducted in a large Israeli University. The predominant language spoken was Hebrew except for the English Language and Literature department. The students are required to participate in EFL academic writing courses, to help expose these students from diverse disciplines to the experience of EFL academic writing. This requirement allowed for a population from which a sample could be drawn and tested for academic literacy. Graduate students were chosen based on their familiarity with L1 academic literacy and their acquisition of disciplinary knowledge. The data collection included six interviews which were audiotaped with permission. The interview was conducted in both English and Hebrew. The analysis process was the interviews being transcribed verbatim and then categorized according to four emerging and reoccurring patterns and themes from the data analysis, the themes were similar to the variables we need to use and implement in our research proposal. The next few pages included charts with various background information on the participants. They were small charts, very clear, and very concise which made the data even easier to read and analyze. One chart included the academic environment which included: the learning materials and language. Another chart was the academic environment: which included the people and language. The final two charts included the social environment: participants social networks and lastly the participants desired social identity. I liked the use of the charts which were not overwhelming to read. I was able to clearly interpret the information. The data collection and instruments used were that following the initial interviews the participants were asked to complete a post interview questionnaire aimed at verifying explicit language use within their social networks. The participants were asked to identify the people with whom they interact within three settings: work, home and university, to identify the languages they used with each of the people, and to estimate the extent to which they use either English or Hebrew within the academic setting.

In conclusion the study found that within an EFL environment, the participants identities and goals appear to impact the nature of their social networks which in turn influence each student’s L2 language acquisition. The academic oriented social networks were shown to reinforce the social and cultural features of advanced academic literacy, utilizing disciplinary avenues for knowledge production and representation, as well as modeling English language use. In contrast the non academic oriented social networks were reported to emphasize general literacy practices. The second part within this conclusion of the study highlights what was found in the participants identity literacy practices. Identity was crucial in this research study. For the students with a non-academic oriented identity, their goals were professional or personal, and they undertook their L2 literacy practices initially in L1 and then L1/L2, focusing on ideas. For the non academic oriented students, functioning in the academic institution would require a switch for them in their literary practices from one setting, their work, to another, the university, and acquiring a set of literacy practices appropriate to each setting. But the data did show that not all the participants wanted to acquire a deeper understanding of L2 advanced academic literacy practices. The result was that not all EFL graduate writers developed a social environment capable of assuming a role in the socialization process towards L2 literacy. The students who encounter any difficulties with L2 discourse production processes may look for help to advisors, who may not be giving them the appropriate assistance in achieving L2 literacy. I think the results of this study are important for FL learners and teachers. Through this study we know how a student’s identities and goals influence their motivation to acquire L2 academic learning. This is an important finding and shows the significance of staring by having a discussion with students about their individual goals and their identities. Another important finding is that a writer’s use of L1 and L2 may serve as a diagnostic tool indicating the extent of L2 language acquisition this would be a good starting point for language instruction. I’m glad we had the opportunity to read and interpret this research article because it helped me to take a closer look at my research proposal and see what I need to work on and how to divide it up to make it clear and cohesive like this article was. I embedded this video below which I think is a really interesting Ted Talk about one ESL teacher’s experience of how he teaches his students English. In some ways it relates to the article we read and overall I thought it was very informative in giving us a glimpse into the teacher’s role in EFL student’s education and goals. I’m excited for the presentation this Monday! Hope you are all well and staying safe! Xo.

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Improving my Proposal

I’ve had a bit of work to do catching up to where I feel I should be lately. It’s led to me scrutinizing what I think the good and the bad of my proposal is thus far so I can definitely offer some thoughts. I know it isn’t exactly what this blog needs to be talking about but I’m hopeful that my literature review is strong. If anything, it is too long per text. Delivering information pithily is not particularly my strong suit so in a general sense I imagine I could certainly work on this. I think the best way of tackling this is showing the proposal to someone for feedback, since I have a difficult time seeing my own writing from anyone else’s perspective than my own. This lends itself to my having a pretty intense sense of self in my writing but I fear it can make my work isolated from other people. Getting some feedback on the structure more than the content would probably help level me out a little, or maybe it would make me double down, it’s hard to say. But I actually also believe that reading other people’s work would be of benefit to me as well since it would allow me insight into where other people are coming from and how they are expressing the same things I am in their own way.

But to be more specific of what in the material of my proposal I feel needs work, it would be the methods. The problem I’m having is that I can generally assess the research I want to do, and I can assess literature on the subjects of mindfulness, reading, mindful education, mindful reading, different populations, statistical analyses of previous research, etc., but to make it my own research proposal seems challenging. That is to say, generating the research as it would be mine instead of someone else’s, while also using other people’s research to contextualize mine, is difficult. Figuring out exactly what the “gap in the research” is and coming up with the method of approaching filling that gap is tough. It feels like I’m approaching quantitative and qualitative research, since the prompt involves collecting numerical data and testimonials. I guess what I mean by all of this is turning my idea and my research into an actual research prompt complete with methodology and practical application is a connection I am struggling to make. In this, I also think investing in my classmates’ proposals would help, since it might give me an idea of what I could do.

What is your Relationship with Grammar?

(Source: Warriner’s Grammar, 2020)

What comes to mind when you think of grammar? Some of my classmates never had direct grammar instruction. Some of my classmates grew up with a whole language approach, where phonics or grammar was not formally taught. Some students like myself were taught in a traditional way where I spent two years of middle school, 7th and 8th grades, diagramming sentences from the Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition Handbook. In two years, Mrs. Mohr, my seventh and eighth grade English teacher, covered the entire 961 pages. We sat in rows and completed grammar exercises every day. We learned grammar rules. We diagrammed sentences. 

The middle-school language arts curriculum is very different now than in the 80’s. I cannot imagine a middle-school language arts teachers teaching grammar drills every day. As a result of my experience with grammar, I am confident in teaching grammatical rules to my students. There are some English teachers, and teachers in general, who do not feel comfortable teaching grammar to their students, especially since they have not been formally trained in grammar instruction. So, what is your experience with grammar?

For some of my classmates in my graduate-level English classes, they have not been formally taught grammar and feel disadvantaged and embarrassed when they are required to share their writings on social media. Their professors and peers can see grammatical errors. 

Luckily, some students use Grammarly, and others have purchased Grammarly Premium to help them locate pesky grammatical errors. Although online grammar checkers are popular, there has been little research on the effectiveness of them. Thus, the purpose of my research study is to test AI-assisted digital assistants such as Grammarly Premium and make recommendations to improve the functionality of it for writers at all levels. Moreover, I would like to present my proposal to the President of Kean so he can purchase an institutional subscription so more undergraduates and graduates can use it. 

I look forward to your feedback on my research proposal. 

Twitter: pham_linda

Email: lindapham@optonline.net

The Reason behind my madness; Back story of my research!

Upon entering into Spring 2020 semester, I had an idea of what type of job field I wanted to enter into. From Summer 2019 up until now, blogging and using the digital space is something I have grown accustomed to through using this method in the M.A. Writing Studies program. With that said, I decided to delve into the world of technical writing. Even though I knew I wanted to continue my writing studies academics into technical writing, I was not sure how narrow I was in my search. I knew I liked to write in the digital space; I wanted to get into technical writing; and I wanted to use this career field to educate students… but how? That is when this semester of Spring 2020 opened up a world of possibilities!

Not only am I currently a student at Kean, but I am also a part time graduate student at NJIT. Within this semester at NJIT, I am currently taking Advanced Information Design. The core of this course is to pick an interesting topic that I am knowledgeable about to creating an eLearning tutorial. Knowing in the back of my mind that I potentially want to use the Writing Process for my thesis project, I decided to go with turning the Writing Process into my topic of my ID course. As I continued to learn more about Instructional Design and apply my knowledge of the Writing Process to my project, an idea popped in my head; “This eLearning is actually coming out pretty cool! Now how can I put this to practical use?” My target audience for this project is 3rd grade students, so why not use real 3rd grade students? This is where my research took a turn in the perfection direction! Not only will this tool be potentially impact, I am also gaining experience in the practical use of Instructional Design. I am excited to see where this research takes me!

Research Proposal Evaluation

Despite the fact that I’m in my second semester of graduate school, I have never written a research proposal before. I felt embarrassed that I would be the only one in my class who has never written one before, but it turns out that most of my fellow colleagues haven’t either.

With most of my assignments, I find that it’s difficult for me to start and finish any paper or assignment. With writing my research proposal first draft I was unsure how to start it. I looked online for outlines and references, but there were so many different formats that it became overwhelming.

Dr. Nelson, later on, that week emailed us a detailed outline that I used as a guideline to help me tackle the first draft of my proposal. I was very nervous submitting my draft to Dr. Nelson because I was unsure if I was heading in the right direction or not. However, it seems that I did much better than I gave myself credit for.

Email from Dr. Nelson responding to my first draft of my research proposal

After receiving these revisions, I feel as if I will be struggling with the literature review section since I was unclear what exactly it was before starting this assignment.

Ways I Will Tackle the Literature Review

  • Research more articles that will best fit my topic
  • Cross-examine all information gathered from articles that will benefit my proposal
  • Outline mini essay-like responses on how the information will benefit my research

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.