I had flashbacks of being back in my undergraduate program at Kean, awaiting and consciously avoiding the infamous Research & Technology course while reading Purdy and Walker’s scholarly research, Liminal Spaces and Research Identity: The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers. Ask any Kean undergraduate student about the required Research and Technology course, and I doubt they will smile and jump gleefully as they tell you all about the course requirements. If anything, they may cry while telling you all about the course (lol).
Honestly, I’m being dramatic. The course really wasn’t all that bad as we took the adequate time in the beginning to develop research questions that had meaning and value to us, and we wrote through and conducted each step of the research process together (we all had our own inquiry question and topic, of course). I conducted research on the prevalence and purpose of visible tattoos on college students at Kean in certain academic majors. I had a newly found liking toward tattoos as a form of self-expression and wanted to know if the stigma associated with professionalism stopped students in getting visible tattoos on their body in hopes to acquire a job related to their major of study.
My Research & Tech class certainly had the feel or vibe of no soldier left behind – if ya know what I mean. We followed the “linear, print-based model of research” through sequential steps and deadlines, so that by the time you blinked you were done with one section and moving forward and on to the next (Purdy and Walker 10). The process was so fast in such little time that there was no time to be anxious about it (which, I guess was nice? lol). Instead, all there was time for was to just go – go – go and do – do – do and get it done- done – done! My professor made the sequential steps seem manageable for an anxious, introductory student and she had warned us to not fall behind – several of times. I was lucky enough to have friends in that class, along with a really cool and dope professor who wanted us to not only like but to feel connected to our chosen research topic.
Purdy and Walker’s scholarly research really had me reflecting back on my experience as a dyslexic and anxious introductory student who knew little of herself, so how in the heckedy-heck would I know how to cultivate my own research identity? (lol) I know now what a research identity is, and the crucial steps taken toward cultivation (Thanks to Purdy & Walker <3). The central claim behind their research is that English Studies teachers should promote a better understanding of the research identities students must cultivate to pass university classes and beyond. Such known and newly developed student-research identities could “help to prepare future, educated civil participants” and provide students with a sense of who they are and why that might be in relation to inquiry research (Purdy and Walker 9).
There was no shock in reading about how the composition handbooks and texts given to introductory students to help learn about scholarly research only emphasize the very things that intimidate us or the very things we don’t know how to do. And, ugh – still no surprise to read about the straightforward, linear assumption of conducting meaningful research and collecting data.
It is absurd to assume that students coming from all over would be willing enough to leave behind their already-formed, pre-determined, complex identities of online researchers to find a new identity in pursuit of writing a hefty research paper. HAHAH – it’s laughable, honestly. Anyway, I felt Purdy and Walker’s research heading toward the direction of opposition against the infamous prescribed pathways of research. Especially after learning how recursive and circular in nature qualitative methods can be when conducting research, as the data usually takes the lead for itself. So, I decided to comment my authentic reaction before reading past page 10.
~~~ Here it goes ~~~
Regarding Susan Miller’s (1991; 51) call for attention on the problematic teaching attitudes and tools that frame introductory students’ as researchers, I instantly thought of and about the lack of scholarly and academic writing and research preparation or proper exposure in and throughout the secondary or high school years. This lack of preparation creates a major disconnect for newly, incoming college students. Especially, considering the many different and unique places – states, county, school districts – the newly accepted students come from. University students come from all over and bring with them differing degrees of knowledge and academic skillsets that are culturally connected to wherever it is they come from. This diversity of multiple distinct academic identities adds an additional layer of complexity onto the professor’s job of building adaptive, flexible research identities from students’ already existing knowledge-identity.
I thought of this issue before reading on because I personally felt the disconnect in the process of reading and conducting scholarly research during the beginning years of my undergraduate experience. However, I was also not the student to take academic risks nor challenge myself in high school like I can do now. I was down deep in the belief that dyslexia had made me forever dumb. So, I brought with me to Kean this unproven, fictional narrative that I’m incapable of anything scholarly, or incapable of anything academically challenging.
So, please – imagine my fright when I heard about the required Research and Technology course that every academic major had to take at some point. I’m no longer scared of reading or writing academic research papers, but the idea of having to re-conduct, re-engage with, and re-organize research to fit the very ‘identity’ I still know very little about seems . . . well. . . not cute. Lastly, I’d like to pay my respects to Purdy & Walker for firmly believing in instructional methods that act as a threshold for introductory students “to unite oneself with a new world” because I sure as h*ll didn’t feel united.
Francesca Di Fabio