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Composing Research

A Contextualist Research Paradigm for Rhetoric and Composition

Cindy Johanek

Publication Year: 2000

Cindy Johanek offers a new perspective on the ideological conflict between qualitative and quantitative research approaches, and the theories of knowledge that inform them. With a paradigm that is sensitive to the context of one's research questions, she argues, scholars can develop less dichotomous forms that invoke the strengths of both research traditions. Context-oriented approaches can lift the narrative from beneath the numbers in an experimental study, for example, or bring the useful clarity of numbers to an ethnographic study.

A pragmatic scholar, Johanek moves easily across the boundaries that divide the field, and argues for contextualist theory as a lens through which to view composition research. This approach brings with it a new focus, she writes. "This new focus will call us to attend to the contexts in which rhetorical issues and research issues converge, producing varied forms, many voices, and new knowledge, indeed reconstructing a discipline that will be simultaneously focused on its tasks, its knowledge-makers, and its students."

Composing Research is a work full of personal voice and professional commitment and will be a welcome addition to the research methods classroom and to the composition researcher's own bookshelf.

2000 Outstanding Scholarship Award from the International Writing Centers Association.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix

Composing Research began, in truth, when I was a curious undergraduate guided and mentored by Dr. Judith Kilborn in the Write Place at St. Cloud State University. Eventually, the mixture of inquiry and text along the way resulted in a dissertation, inspired in part by Dr. James Treloar, (a former English teacher and) current statistics professor at...

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pp. 1-7

The history of composition studies is one of conflict and struggle. As a field relatively new to the academy, we have struggled to be valued, debated our very roots, and created tension among ourselves as researchers and teachers. The current debate between quantitative and qualitative researchers in composition has been discussed...

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1. Composition Research: Issues in Context

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pp. 8-27

The call for proposals for the 1998 NCTE Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, began with composition’s newest and most popular tool: the anecdote. The call for proposals was focused on the local, the personal, and the emotional. In sharp contrast to previous calls that often placed a particular annual convention (and its theme) in a larger...

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2. Research in Composition: Current Issues and a Brief History

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pp. 28-55

Current debates about research methods have often focused on where and how researchers view reality and evidence. Because we debate the value of evidence—rather than the contexts from which we gain that evidence—the rift between different kinds of researchers has resulted in stereotypes: ethnographers have criticized the...

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3. Numbers, Narratives, and He vs. She: Issues of Audience in Composition Research

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pp. 56-86

Our growing defense of qualitative research and storytelling in composition is accompanied by passionate arguments against the older, traditional research paradigm—a passion that, as conversation with others in the field has made clear, makes some of us look the other way or lash out at the “old school” whenever conversation turns to the...

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4. From Epistemology to Epistemic Justification: Toward a Contextualist Research Paradigm

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pp. 87-118

As rhetoricians, we have a long history of debate and verbal bantering. From Plato’s attack on Gorgias, to Aristotle’s criticism of contemporary handbooks, to Ramus’s arguments against Quintilian, to the nineteenth-century “art vs. science” debate, to our own time in which we debate the kinds of knowledge we value and the kinds of research...

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5. A Contextualist Research Paradigm: An Illustration

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pp. 119-163

My M.A. thesis was a cross-cultural learning styles study in which I tested the applicability of field dependence-independence measures as a means of assessing cognitive style among minority groups. I finished the project in the summer of 1993. Traditional in format, my thesis reviewed the literature from researchers who have asserted that...

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6. A Contextualist Research Paradigm: A Demonstration

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pp. 164-189

In the most traditional form, research reports often exclude personal experience or even the use of first person, resulting in texts that sometimes sound awkward (“the authors conclude . . .”) or impersonal and a-contextual (“the literature has failed to show . . .”). Our own sensitivity to context in composition studies has guided the...

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7. Predictor Variables: The Future of Composition Research

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pp. 190-204

To fully embrace the Contextualist Research Paradigm, we must take other steps that will enable us to do so. This chapter will focus on specific recommendations for changing the direction of our research trends: reconsidering MLA as a style manual, understanding the exclusionary voices of our storytellers, incorporating our research in our...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 205-209

What will composition look like in the future if we abandon numerical evidence entirely and tell stories instead? How would we tie all of those stories together, and how, exactly, would we find them useful to our teaching? We might learn one day that our postmodern critique of scientism has resulted not in a new understanding of the role...

References for Oliver Article

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pp. 210-214

Works Cited

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pp. 215-225


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pp. 226-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780874213225
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874212921

Publication Year: 2000