Sunday, October 14, 2007

How do "we" really do research?

I've been trying out some new strategies for teaching research in my first-year composition class, and although students seem to have appreciated the practical information I shared with them and allowed them to try out (an intro to databases, keyword and natural language searching, from broad to narrow to research questions, etc.), I am always struck by how different my own research strategies are. I am struck by how "we" academics produce research based on years and years of study, by the delving into personal databases of information, often to write about texts we have been reading, teaching, and/or studying for years.

So it struck me--why am I not asking students to write about the texts they are most familiar with? Why am I not asking them to draw on their personal databases? The answer, in one respect, is that I am--I let them define research projects. But I don't think I have ever framed research for my students in this way, nor do I spend enough time on letting them tap their personal databases. I'm actually being flooded with ideas as I write, so I am just going to list a few options I need to consider for the future.

--I think I am after a research process somewhere between the I-search and the My-story.
--I'd like to talk to, perhaps video or audio record, people talking about their research process, especially some advanced undergrads, in order to share that process with first-year students.
--I use a profile assignment in class that is generally quite successful, but perhaps I could move it from the start of the class to the middle of the class, and the students could be interviewed about their ongoing research (i.e. the expert being interviewed.

Okay, maybe the flood was a trickle, but those are enough notes for now. Back to work on this fine Sunday morning in North Dakota.

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