In this essay, you will select a question or set of related questions on the use of communication in or the functions of a selected discourse community, and will work through primary research to begin to find answers to these questions. Your work here will provide the basis for the final product of Project Four in collaboration with 2-3 classmates. We will be using Ken Macrorie’s “I-Search” method to work through the process of composing the essay. The I-Search is a process of researching a question, but also refers to a particular form of writing, one that is based in questions, rather than answers, and which centers on a narrative of research (we will unravel this a little more in our class discussion).
The I-Search paper will be 1500-2000 words long, in MLA format.
How do I begin?
- To start, review the questions you have included in your responses so far, and consider which discourse community you would like to work on learning more about this semester (you have already written about this d.c. for the rhetorical analysis and you may continue working in it for the next one, the proposal, and potentially beyond that).
- Group related questions together, and spend some time brainstorming any other related questions. These research questions will guide your inquiry: the reading, research, and writing you do for the paper.
What does the paper “look” like?
The I-search is a narrative of sorts, describing your search for answers to your research questions.
Macrorie lists four parts of the paper, though, as he notes, this is flexible:
- What I Knew
- Why I’m Writing
- The Search
- What I Learned
In this way, the introduction begins with what prompted the questions you’re asking, and the paper moves on from there, in narrative fashion. The writing you have previously done may help you get started, but you also might more formally write about what you knew about the topic and why you’re writing the paper.
The body of the paper, then, is the narrative of your search for answers and your reflection on the process and use of methods. I often suggest that you begin with the source that is “closest” to you, the one that is easiest to access, and see where the information you find there leads you. However, you might also have a more concrete research plan in place when you begin.
You will use primary sources for this paper, things like interviewing, observation and field notes, surveys, other documents from the context you’re studying. What you choose in terms of methods and sources depends, of course, on your research questions. We will work through some readings and mini-presentations in class in order to learn more about these kinds of methods.
The conclusion of the paper is likely going to be different than the traditional conclusion you may be used to in academic writing. While you may be able to summarize what you’ve learned, it’s also just as likely that you will be left with more questions, or will have gone down an unsatisfying research path. This is also worth writing about, as you are nevertheless learning about the research process, and can always carry your inquiry forth in a future paper.
Sample Student I-Search Projects
Due by 11:59 Sunday, October 26, 2014
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