Brief Research Proposal: Three Ideas, Only One Can Win

I am currently struggling to pick a topic to research for the rest of the semester. At first, I couldn’t think of anything I would want to research for an entire semester. Then I brainstormed with my wonderful dad, and now I have too many ideas! I’ve narrowed it down to three. If anyone reads this, please let me know which sounds the most plausible and interesting!

Research Idea #1: Is learning through imitation a valid form of teaching writing, or is it plagiarism?

A lot of writing center theory talks about how plagiarism is a big issue in the writing center. Many professors believe that writing center work is essentially plagiarism, so consultants are told to stay away from certain tactics that might verify this in the minds of the university staff. One of these methods is learning through imitation. This is a way that I learn, and I believe this can be a valid form of teaching writing skills if done right. To see how UNL professors and student writers feel about this, I would conduct either interviews or a survey with as representative a population as I can find. I would also talk about my own experiences in Professor Jennine Capó Crucet’s Intro to Fiction Writing course; she had us do “remixes” of our own writing based on the elements of other authors’ writing, which helped me immensely to add more tools to my writing toolbox. I would also do some textual/historical research on what writing center theory says about this type of teaching, and how professors typically respond to this.

Research Idea #2: How do different cultures define “good writing”?

The other day, I was talking with my fellow consultant Isaac about a consultation he had with a Chinese student. This writer explained to Isaac that the guidelines for “good writing” in China are much more set in stone than the guidelines for “good writing” in English. This got me thinking about how different cultures define good and bad writing (i.e. what are the standards and methods typically used to write, how is writing taught, etc.). First, I would try to access the demographic description of the UNL student community. I would pick the countries with the highest percentage of students in attendance (excluding the United States) and conduct research on how these countries view writing and the writing process. I could also do a few student interviews if international students are willing. This would give me an inside view of one or more of these cultures, and to make sure what I am reading is accurate in the real world. (This also ties in a lot with the “Writing Across Borders” videos we watched for class, which got me excited about how diverse writing can be. We should celebrate and understand that diversity!)

Research Idea #3: How has technology influenced the way we approach the writing process? How has it changed how we speak? Has the difference between colloquial speech and academic writing grown wider?

This is a less formed idea, but super interesting all the same. I would like to look at a shorter time span, like the 1990s or early 2000s until now, and research how technology has widened the gap between everyday and academic language. It would be interesting to look at the ways language has evolved in the years that technology has rapidly developed, and what this means to writers and writing centers. Should we be shifting how we think of writing because it is now on a screen versus something tangible? Do writers approach writing differently as more technology is integrated into their everyday lives? I would also like to see if technology influences the way people interact at the writing center. I’ve seen some people bring in paper copies, some read off their laptops, and almost all consultants take handwritten notes. This would involve mostly historical research, but a few interviews of students (some nontraditional to get an age difference) would definitely add to this research.

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1 Response to Brief Research Proposal: Three Ideas, Only One Can Win

  1. rmazima says:

    ok, Kathryn, you have some winnowing down to do!

    Idea 1: I’ll be honest; I’m not sure if this is the strongest choice, at least how it’s currently framed (which is kind of an either/or). If you wanted to do this one, you’ll have to do more thinking about what exactly it is about imitation that you are most interested in: perceptions of it, its perceived intellectual value in different fields, etc.

    Idea 2: As you know from Writing Across Borders, this is the subject of a whole field (contrastive rhetoric). BUT what you suggest about interviewing students would be interesting and meaningful, because then you could look at how individual students describe their own knowledge about what constitutes good writing, and you might be able to glean some information that would be useful for your fellow consultants.

    Idea 3: if you choose this one, I’d encourage you to focus less on historical developments and more on what you say about how technology influences a) individual writers’ writing practices, and/or b) how tech influences the work we do in the writing center.

    Basically, I’m trying to help you figure out how you could make the biggest contribution to knowledge in these areas, which is by focusing in on how these issues play out in actual people’s writing lives. Happy to talk more about it if you like!


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