"Good learners, like everyone else, are living, squirming, questioning, perceiving, fearing, loving, and languaging nervous systems, but they are good learners precisely because they believe and do certain things that less effective learners do not believe and do." -Postman and Weingartner (31)
Project 2: I-Search on Questions about the Discourse Community
In this essay, you will select a question or set of related questions on the use of communication in or the functions of your discourse community, and will work through primary research to begin to find answers to these questions. We will be using Ken Macrorie’s “I-Search” method to work through the process of composing the essay. The I-Search, that is, 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?
What does the paper “look” like?
The I-search paper 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:
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 did for Reading Response #4 (Macrorie and Postman and Weingartner) 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 done 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
In this project, you will collaborate with 2 to 3 other students on projects that evaluate a need for change or intervention within a familiar discourse community, and will write a proposal developing that plan for intervention. These evaluation/proposal projects will be 2000-2500 words.
To complete this project, work through the following steps with your group (see course schedule for specific due dates):
In the evaluation (which is the introduction to the paper), you will work through the following points:
From here, you will move on to develop your proposal. The evaluation serves as a discussion of the issue and a lengthy, developed introduction of your proposal. That is, it sets the stage for what you are proposing.
As you move into the proposal, expand on the following, providing evidence where needed to support your claims:
Sample Collaborative Student Proposals
Project 3 Proposal (PCAT Test Prep)
DLW *This project was translated into a three-part presentation for the Rushton Undergraduate Conference in 2014. The proposed project was actually implemented on campus in Fall 2014.