Inquiry, Engagement, and Storytelling: Using Narrative to Develop the Skills of Research Writing
By Jacqueline Cason
Context of the Inquiry
ENGL 414 RESEARCH WRITING, FALL 2009
The course invites students to embark on a journey of deep revision to produce an academic research paper that meets disciplinary expectations for inquiry, method, reporting, and documentation. Though students may compose an original research paper, the course is ideally suited to students who are prepared to adapt an existing project to a specific academic community. Research Writing prepares students for opportunities to communicate effectively in their personal, professional, and civic lives.
Focus of the Inquiry
Students often write in isolation, unaware of the systematic inquiry taking place in their field. They cite sources dutifully and mechanically as an end in itself, not as a means to entering an ongoing intellectual conversation.
Course Design and Implementation
While maintaining an emphasis on deep revision, I revised course interaction and content to reflect relevant Alaska Native pedagogies. Together, these strategies were implemented to foster more meaningful engagement with sources and an enduring understanding of disciplined inquiry.
[ Course Syllabus | Assignment 1: Research Considerations | Assignment 2: Forum Analysis | Conducting Research Assignment | Library Tour Movie | Research Proposal | Course Research Project | Weekly Address 1 | Weekly Address 2 | Weekly Address 3 | Weekly Address 4 | Weekly Address 5 | Weekly Address 6 | Weekly Address 7 | Weekly Address 8 ]
I have discovered that Native ways of teaching and learning coincide with the teachings of ancient rhetoric. Both encourage researchers to inquire within a community, and both emphasize the contextual nature of knowledge, communication, and persuasion. Attending to relationships; giving time to self-reflection; paying close attention, listening, and observing; and emphasizing experiential learning—all constitute best practices for research writing.
My investment of time in live chats and weekly addresses helped create relationships of trust. I participated in extensive conversations with individual students who felt comfortable seeking guidance as they confronted the challenges that research writing presents.
I value the individualized nature of this course because it accommodates students from all disciplines and provides them extensive support and feedback for their writing. However, individualized elements can lead to isolation and undermine the social nature of research. The re-design has provoked me to use technology to create a space where students can tell the story of their own research and listen to others tell theirs.