As I explained in the section devoted to students' pre-existing notions about research, most, if not all, participants of the study entered the course with a baggage of negative attitudes towards research writing, particularly towards secondary research. The section of this study devoted to students' expectations of primary research assignments further showed most students' uncertainty about what to expect from primary research assignments. It shows that, once engaged in primary research, students generally expressed enthusiasm towards it and towards new types of research assignments. The presence of both negative attitudes towards research and enthusiasms for new types of writing assignments, based on both primary and secondary research influenced most students' performance in the course.
Before I began teaching this course, I certainly anticipated that many, if not al, students would have to reevaluate their understanding of research and make significant adjustments to their research writing practices. In fact, helping them make such re-evaluations and adjustment was one of my primary pedagogical goals In this section, I would like to show and analyse important features of this adjustment process to the new types of research writing assignments by analyzing student papers. I hope that my analysis will highlight important pedagogical problems that may be encountered by any teacher teaching such a research-based course.
I will now discuss student performance on the first two assignments of the course in detail.
As noted in the assignment sheet, the first major writing project of the course was a family member interview. Students were asked to develop a list on interview questions (which were late workshopped in peer groups) and conduct the interview in person, by telephone, or via e-mail. I recommended e-mail since this form of communication provides an "instant transcript" of the interview and allows the interviewer to ask follow up questions easily. For this assignment, the students were not required to conduct any secondary research.
"One early morning, in late May, during the year 1988, the phone rang in my little 12 by 10-foot office. The office was located directly next to the garage in the back of my small, blue, three-bedroom house in Cincinnati, Ohio. I had built the office nine years before when I was given this job at the Florida Department of Citrus. Even though The Florida Department of Citrus is located in Lakeland, Florida, they needed a field representative, handling the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, to live in Cincinnati. I accepted the job, which required me not only to move away from my hometown Niagara Falls, New York, but also work out of my home. I answered the phone the same way as I always did, "Florida Department of Citrus, This is Leo speaking." I expected the call to be from one of my big customers who I had been waiting to call me back. He was supposed to be returning a call I placed to him earlier that day, but instead it being was an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the phone. Expecting to be picking up a new customer, I was very cheerful and personable on the phone, but to my surprise it wasn't anybody who wanted to do business" (Anne).
This is the opening paragraph of a paper by a student who is interviewing her father about the family's move which happened some years ago. In the beginning of the paper, however, the student fails to indicate that she will move straight into the interview and the readers are left confused as two who is speaking and where the interview actually begins. The rest of the paper is written the same way--it is basically a transcript of the interview with no indication of the author's presence. This is an audience awareness problem as well as source reference problem. This passage from Anne's paper is a prime example of how incorrect or absent references to the research source may create a rhetorical problem for the writer and the audience. On the flip side, writing teachers may wish to use similar examples to show students that source reference and citation systems serve not only formal but also rhetorical purposes.
As I showed in the section of the study devoted to the students' pre-existing experiences with research, a majority of the study's participants had never conducted primary research before. Instead, they were used to the traditional research paper assignment which, among other things, purports objectivity and neutrality of the author. After all, writers of traditional research papers are supposed to work with positive and verifiable data, on the basis of which far-reaching conclusions can be drawn. The nature of primary research in general and of interviewing in particular is different. The interviewer can hardly expect or be expected to draw universal conclusions from his or her data, and most students realized that. They understood that, through interviewing a family member, they are investigating one person's perspective on one specific event and that large-scale conclusions of the kind expected in the traditional research paper could not and should not be drawn from such an interview. At the same time, some students' internalized knowledge about research writing (the idea that research writing equals the traditional research paper) appeared to conflict with the requirements and rhetorical moves of primary research. For such students, reconciling the perceived need to be objective and the writing task which demanded a degree of subjectivity and personal investment was a challenging task. For example, one student, Jack submitted a final draft of the interview which had only a few textual clues to the fact that it was, indeed, an interview, and no end-of-paper reference to the source of the data or the time of their collection. When I pointed out to Jack that he had to cite his sources throughout the text and well as document them at the end of the paper, he replied, "I misunderstood you. I thought we were supposed to write a completely fictitious paper. I did not know it was supposed to be like a regular research paper."
As a teacher, I certainly hope that Jack's interview data were not "fictitious," and he has a transcript to prove it. What his response shows, however, is that, in his mind, there is very clear distinction between researched writing which is objective, neutral, and needs to be documented, and personal or "fictitious" writing which is subjective, loose, and not based on external data. The sharp distinction which exists in students' minds between personal and researched, analytical and emotional, brings up an important teaching point. The learning and teaching of citation and documentation methods may be much more than instruction in form and avoidance of plagiarism. It may be, as Doug Brent has suggested in his 1992 book Reading as Rhetorical Invention, teaching students what it means to construct a text which would not have existed "without [the writer's] having considered other texts" (103).
Q: "When did you know that music was what you wanted to do?"
A: "Well it's not like there was any event that lead me to pick this occupation. It's like ever since I can remember this was in my head. I never knew anything else. All I knew was; I like music and that's what I am going to do."
Q: "Who influenced or influences you in shaping your musical style and how so?"
A: "First off, I would have to say my uncle has done a lot for me. He's the one that put my first drumstick in my hand. My father being a singer, and musician himself, is the on that put rhythm into my genes and bloodstream. My heritage being from Barbados has put a little bit of a west-Indies twist to my beats. If you are not from the islands, you wouldn't be able to tell though. Also, people that help me with my style are rappers and performers that have done this for years like, Nas, Mobb Deep, Biggie, and others from usually the Queens and Brooklyn boroughs of New York City. Some producers like Timberland, DJ Hi-Tek, and Premier have given me bits a pieces that help shape me as a whole. Mainly, I was, and still am, influenced by Bob Marley. I think of him as a lyrical prophet. His words are so powerful. He stopped a war with one song. His words give me a sense of hope and move me to do everything I can to show that the black man can be successful and educated at the same time."
In this paper I chose to write about the first time my family moved and how it affected us. I used a combination of my own personal memories and an interview with my father to depict the events of the move. I felt my father would be the best person to interview in order to provide two contrasting opinions about the move.
What looks like a fairly typical introduction to a school paper achieves some important rhetorical goals. First, the writer lets the readers know that this is an interview. Second, she points to the fact that we are about to hear two accounts of the same event--one from herself and one from her father. These indicators signal to the audience what to expect and read for.
Throughout the paper, Angela rather skillfully combines her own recollections of the move and her father's account of it. She also does a good job blending in summaries of her father's responses to the interview questions while letting us hear his voice through sound use of direct quotations. Here is one typical passage:
"Just before preparations for the move began, both my mom and dad were aware that moving was inevitable, but neither wanted to say anything. For one, my sister and I were getting older, I was eight and she was four, and although we had just gotten bunk beds, we were already getting on each other's nerves and it was obvious that we both needed more space. But even more pressing than the growing family was the gradual fall of the neighborhood-in the months before our move there had been two robberies, one across the street, and one three houses down. My dad knew his responsibility was to keep his family safe, but he was working late hours and concerned about the amount of time we spent at home without him. The thought of moving scared him; it was a lot of work and he didn't think we could afford a new house, so he pretty much kept the thought to himself. So with moving out of his mind for the moment, you can imagine the reaction of my father and the rest of the family when my mom came home one day, turned to my father and said, 'Honey, we're moving.' 'I was surprised, upset, and mostly scared,' was my father's initial reaction while I ran screaming and crying to my room."
The passage begins with the author's summary of the events as she remembers it. In the fifth line, however, the writer moves into showing her father's perspective of the move. She concludes with a sentence which is a combination of direct quotation and summary.
What makes this paper more successful than the previous two is the author's ability to use her research to add depth and texture to the story instead of simply giving her readers a transcript of the whole interview. Research thus becomes a means of enriching the narrative through adding another person's (the author's father's) perspective to the account of the move. The interview is not an end but a means.
Unlike the interview assignment which required students to conduct primary research only, in the family member profile project they were asked to combine primary research, such ax interviewing, with secondary research. In asking students to combine the two kinds of research, I was hoping to encourage them to move away from the view of research writing as a purely academic exercise and show them that all writers conduct both primary and secondary research. The following is an analysis of the specific challenges which arose out of the assignment.
In the family member profile assignment, I did not ask students to prove anything or to provide any kind of final or generalizable answers. Instead, secondary research was supposed to be a way for them to enrich their understanding of and knowledge about their family members and their histories.In the first draft, students were asked to conduct primary research (e.g. interview the subject of their story or other family members). In the second draft, I required them to conduct supplementary secondary research to deepen their own and their readers' understanding of their subject. In responding to their rough drafts, I pointed to places where, in my opinion, secondary research could add such depth.The following is an example of how this transition from primary to secondary research played out in one student's paper.
"'The plane hit the ground before I did and the Germans were waiting on me when I hit the ground. When I landed, I looked up and there was a German soldier standing over me with a rifle right in my face. I didn't have time to think, they began to search me and I must have made some move because one of the soldiers got mad and shot at a brick wall beside me with his automatic rifle. Pieces of brick flew into my face and cut it pretty bad." (Gold) 'I was taken to a German camp and put into an underground room. It was pitch black, I couldn't see a thing. After I sat there for a while, I could hear breathing. The next morning, by the light peering through a crack in the ceilings, I saw my co-pilot had also been captured and was in this room with me.' That was the last time Mac saw his co-pilot. 'I was taken by train to an interrogation center in Frankfurt, Germany the next morning. When we arrived in Frankfurt, I saw three American airmen that had been captured by German civilians and were hanging from telephone poles. We were always told that capture by civilians was much worse than capture by the military.''
After this, she researched the conditions in which American POWs were likely to be kept under in German camps. She even managed to find information about one large camp near Frankfurt where her grandfather had been kept for a while during the war.
"In late June 1944, [grandpa] arrived at his new camp, Stalag Luft, IV, located near the Baltic Sea, about two miles from the small village of Kiefheide, between Danzig and Stettin. There were four compounds of 2500 prisoners, 10 barracks of 250 men each." (Wilks).
After this piece of secondary research, the student moves back into reporting the results of her interview.
I have given these excertss from student writing and commented on them because they can provide us with valuable insights into ways in which our students may adjust to new kinds of research writing assignments, including the assignments containing primary research. In the Conclusions and Implications section, we discuss what the results of both of our study might mean for the teaching of research writing.