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specific methods

As a preliminary stage of this research, we conducted one-on-one interviews with five student researchers: two graduate students (Derek and Janine) and three undergraduate students (Adrian, Katie, and Mark). (All participant-researchers consented to the use of their real names in this study.) We selected these participants based on our sense that they relied on and found value in online resources in conducting research. We came to this research from different institutional positions and settings. One of us (Jim) interviewed graduate student peers doing work on issues of technology and writing at a large Midwestern university (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). One of us (Joyce) interviewed undergraduate students who approached using online resources in a variety of ways for her classes at a midsized southern university (the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg). Though not a representative sample, these participants all saw online research as integral parts of their research and writing processes.

These interviews were semi-structured and lasted approximately one hour. In the interviews, student researchers answered questions about their online search practices. These conversations took place in locations with access to a computer and Internet connection, and several participants used these resources to demonstrate their practices at the computer. We used screen capture software to document these processes. We then transcribed the interviews, noting themes that ran through them and attending to the metaphors participants used to structure and reflect on their search experiences.

In our approach to collecting and analyzing these interviews, we made use of a type of "theoretical sampling," an idea introduced by Anselm Strauss as part of his grounded theory approach. Strauss defines theoretical sampling as a process in which decisions about interviews and observation are based on a reciprocal relationship with evolving theories. (The term "theoretical sampling" comes from an interview with Strauss in Qualitative Social Research Forum 5.3, September 2004.) In our case, we allowed the comments and ideas of each participant to generate theories of use which then freely informed the subsequent interviews. Additionally, while participants were not given transcripts of earlier interviews, they were made aware of their location within a conversation about research practices. As a result, the narratives of each participant cannot be seen in any way as isolated events that can be coded separately, but rather as the lived experience of individuals who interact in a variety of ways within the social and cultural spaces of academic research. These interviews are part of a larger dialogic exchange surrounding research practices.

In the same way, our own participation in this project cannot be viewed as including only activities of observation or analysis. Rather, we saw ourselves as participants and practitioners, working with our subjects to develop theories about how they (and we) do research. This kind of activist stance means that we often engaged in activities of idea generation with our subjects. We also acted as intermediaries, sharing information between participants. For example, we sometimes told one participant that another participant had mentioned a similar idea, or asked a participant what he/she thought of an idea generated in a previous interview. We feel that this activity on our part created a different kind of validity for our research, because it represents a true dialogue between the researcher/specialists and the study participants. This stance allowed us to both learn from and with the participants, and encouraged the study participants to act as researchers of their own processes. This kind of interaction is noticable in some of the excerpts that we've provided--both in the sound and video clips and in the transcripts we've provided of interview segments (see the words link).

Finally, we want to note that whenever possible we've included audio clips from the interviews. In some cases, these clips repeat the transcribed text used in the body of the article. We've included these audio clips because we feel that they provide both a sense of the interaction that occured in these interviews and because we wanted to provide as much rich detail as possible of the particpant's voices, ideas, and perspectives.

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A Beginning
A Lament
A Challenge

Literature Review

A Crossroads
Research in Writing Studies
Research in Other Disciplines
Alternative Research

Methods & Methodology

Methodological Frameworks
Specific Methods

Findings: Multiple Tool Use

Everybody Loves Google. . .
Googling Graduate Student Style
Googling Undergraduates
. . . They Love Too
Amazon Remediated
Last Stop: Library
Libraries Remediated
Academic Resource Responses

Findings: Playing Online

Playing Researcher
Janine Plays
Adrian Plays
Academic Play

New Directions

Further Research