Monday, February 23, 2009


The difference between case studies and surveys
Surveys are done to generalize about a population whereas case studies look at more discrete factors of particular individuals and so cannot be generalized.
n = sample population
N = target population
You have to be specific whenever you define/describe population

What about confidence limits? require random sample technique
How do we do a true random sample? number target population; choose people at random using some method. You can use a system to randomize--(e.g. every fifth student) systematic random sampling
Cluster sampling--individual units within a large population.
n : k rations...are variables... for every k, the rule of thumb is to have 10 n's to getreliable data. Formulas include Spearman Brown,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Qualitative Descriptive Research

Notes taken by Alicia

Qualitative descriptive research (case studies) - Ultimate goal is to improve practice. This presupposes a cause/effect relationship between behavior and outcome; however, this method will ONLY let you hypothesize about variables and describe them. When you move to show correlation among them, you’re doing quantitative work. But remember, correlation does not mean causation.

With these studies, you can examine factors that *might* be influencing behaviors, environments, circumstances, etc. You cannot prove cause/effect for certain.

Purpose - Case studies identify and provide evidence to support the fact that certain parts/variables exist, that they have construct validity (i.e. people agree these are the parts). Qualitative-descriptive method is a necessary precursor to quantitative research: you always need to operationalize variables–define them.

Subject selection critieria -

  • Begin with a theory, which already has construct validity
    [in UXD, a text for this would be Universal Principles of Design, since it is ripe for application to projects]
  • Subjects need to be representative of the thing under study so that it becomes possible to generalize findings to a wider community.

Data collection techniques -

  • Content analysis: coding for patterns (i.e. pattern recognition) across subjects
  • Think/talk aloud protocol

**The success of this methodology hinges on inter-rater reliability, that measure of agreement between coders. [The best example of how to do inter-rater reliability in composition is "The Pregnant Pause: An Inquiry Into the Nature of Planning" by Linda Flower and John R. Hayes.]

When there’s low inter-rater reliability, it could be because…

  1. All else being equal, the raters weren’t well trained
  2. Your categories were not operationally defined to a sufficient degree. Categories should be as concrete as possible.
  3. The raters themselves are flawed: they are not experts; they are ideologically opposed to the study or to potential findings; they are fatigued. When critiquing a coding study, it’s apt to question who the raters are.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Empirical Research

Foundational terms in empirical research:

Measurement - the process of quantifying variables.
- Its 2 parts are qualitative and quantitative.
- 2 options are to select:

  1. measurements which already exist and have proven reliability and validity.
    - Measures which exist can be direct or indirect.
  2. measurements which don’t exist. In this case you have to show reliability and validity.

Variables - That which is manipulated in quantitative reseach. These are described in qualitative research.

Qualitative Research - identify (fact), describe (definition) potential variables, and attempt to prove they exist (& that they have construct validity, reliability, etc.). You actually have to persuade people that this is the case, and so you’re always already engaged in a rhetorical practice, even when you’re doing empirical research.

Quantitative Research - object is to show relationship (quality) between variables–i.e. to persuade people that some [usually causal] relationship exists. This presupposes that the variables exist, which means that you have to 1st qualitatively show this to be the case.

Methods of evaluating composition:
(Critical question is always are these direct or indirect measures? IOW, do these methods measure the student…or the rater…? Answer to this will tell whether they’re direct or indirect measures)

- Holistic Evaluation - Give one score based on overall impression. No factorial breakdown. [low inter-rater reliability]
- Analytic Evaluation - Break down based on categories or variables
- Primary Traits - Put the object into categories based on how well it fits into the description of that category. Will end up with several scores. (e.g. the Eng 103 descriptive grading rubric)

Types of Data:
(Type must match statistical measure to ensure validity.)

  • Nominal - Classifications which can be named.
  • Ordinal - Rank ordering. Not equidistant between points. [e.g. A, B, C, D, F...Likert scales]
  • Interval - Has equal distance between variables. [more powerful statistics are associated with these]
  • Ratio - Interval data with an absolute zero. Almost never crops up with human subjects.
    - Z-Score - lets you normalize across a large population. But you have to exclude to normalize. (measure of reliability)

Reliability - measure of agreement or disagreement between raters or instruments (r = -1 - +1). Inter-rater reliability should approach +0.7 to have predictive power that what you’re describing is actually there.
(Out for a nightmarish situation: if your research is predicated on r=0.7, and you don’t achieve this, you can argue that r is a social construct, which is inherently predicated on truth by consensus, and is therefore not really a “scientific” or precise measure.)
3 types of reliability:
- Equivalency - you’re triangulating with multiple instruments and all of the instruments are giving the same results.
- Stability - do the instruments/people change over time? If yes, that’s a reliability issue.
- Internal - Consistency of instruments/people. Granularity and scale.

Validity - measuring what you say you’re measuring. Reliability is a necessary condition for validity, but it’s not sufficient. You can have construct validity, without being able to measure it reliably. Likewise, you can measure something reliably without it having construct validity.

What is the difference between reliability and validity? You can reliably measure something you did not intend to measure in your study, or around which your study does not hinge.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Modes of discourse


What is the discourse about? the mode determines the organization, arrangement, etc. Common modes of discourse include description, exposition, narration, and argumentation. Modes of discourse are dependent on aims and then used a means to achieve that aim.

Cicero's stasis ushered in modes that dealt with legal rhetoric. These include questions of:
  • fact -- description
  • definition -- classification
  • quality -- evaluation
  • action -- narration
discourse helps us to re-establish the importance and centrality of learning about the uses and effects of language.

The modes of discourse: Narration, Description, Evaluation, Classification, all of which are strategies that a writer uses to develop ideas for a specific aim in a specific kind of discourse. Do these modes of discourse account for rhetorical choices and composing processes? The issue of making choices is crucial in invention.

Discourse exists at the level of aims and modes; some aims include persuasion and exposition, and these can be attained through modes such as narration, description, classification, and evaluation. Aims affect the components of the comm triangle so that, for example, persuasion focuses on the decorder who aims to move to action

Aristotle would say that a successful argument uses certain strategies, such as, self=presentation as trustworthy; engage the emotions of the reader in a manner that supports the thesis and presents logical support. A successful essay would contain intro + thesis; refutation of opposing arguments; good reason that support the thesis; and a conclusion.

A mode is a way of viewing the subject as either static, dynamic, abstract, or concrete. Most discourse uses all four modes, however, one mode may be the dominating factor.

  • Narration gives prominence to changes taking place in reality
  • the description reports on the reality; the unique aspect of what makes a thing a thing...vivid depiction as is
  • classification places things in groups, classes...the class to which a thing belongs
  • evaluation is a summation that renders judgment
All four modes are reports of ways of looking at reality, with each mode presenting reality from one perspective, perhaps, at the expense of others.. Modes and subject matter go well together. The mode tells us the object of the discourse; for example, narration moves the action forward while the evaluation comes after the fact.

These modes of discourse also grow into the vocabulary of scholarship, with literary history (documenting change) narrative; literary criticism, evaluation; literary theory, classification; and literary analysis, descriptive.

Five Master Terms
Kenneth proposes "the five master terms as a generating principle" (50). Burke deals with motives and so a generating principle allows you to "anticipate" motives that may not be so readily apparent. The master terms are, of course, the components of his pentad: act, scene, agency, agent, purpose. These terms overlap in many respects, create ambiguities, but ultimately reveal motives, that can be evaluated through the ratios. These five terms can even be used to cover a number of philosophies (52). The terms work through a set of dialectical pairings, e.g. agent/scene (people-things); agent/purpose (means-ends).

Which of Kinneavy’s modes best describes each reading and why?

Miller's paper proposes an intellectual tradition for understanding what takes place in technical communication. According to Miller, there are a number of considerations to make; these are:
  • kairos--the moment
  • praxis--context
  • techne--know-how
Kinneavy;s Theory of Civic Discourse in Miller's article helps tease out the aims of the essay, which are to prepare students for professional writing in the workplace. His theory brings to the fore particulars related to writing in terms of audience and purpose, which serve Miller's article well. The value of Kinneavy's theory is that it helps organize, explain, and predict, say conclusions arrived at through direct observation. Theory allows students to think about their writing, which is different from following prescribed rules. Contingency comes to bear, as does the rhetorical situation that calls for attention to exigency. Theory helps explain why in that it provides a framework within which practice can be undertaken; it helps writers to identify the aim of their writing, which in the case of tech writing is crucial.

"what discourses are about explains what is called modes of discourse" (128). He makes reference to issues of stasis, which is the genesis of discourse. When rhetoric starts as a discipline is when something is unknown--hence epistemic rhetoric. rhetoric is a way of knowing; you do rhetoric when you want to know about something. Stasis are heuristic for deciding what the point of adjudication is that needs to be investigated so as to come to new knowledge; discover a new truth, etc.
Stasis--when you have at least two forces compete with each other and come to a point when they create static; unmoving. Stasis theory attempts to find where those things come together. It is intended to be used in order, starting with questions of fact, then definition, then motive/quality.... and lastly forum. There has to be cognitive dissonance; something that violets our sense of what is real to prompt us to get rid of the impose order; to make sense of it
Fact: did Brutus kill Caesar?
Definition: Yes he killed Caesar , but was it murder?...this raises the question: what is murder, etc
Motive: It was murder, but he was justified because Caesar was a tyrant
Forum: time/place appropriate to resolve the issue? right person; evidence, etc.
Kinneavy: modes of discourse are ways of looking in on things so you can understand reality; it's a perspective from which you stand. The modes screate space for the genesis of discourse. Without the modes, rhetoric is impossible. They are ways of constructing reality
The noetics:
Communication needs a sender. receiver and content. When the needs of the sender are at the core, the discouse is expressive; the object is persuasion; the content is informational. In the centeer is a literary. When the sender needs to express, it is romantic; the receiver is affetive in a social constructive way. The truth is subject to the individual.
Kinneavy is interested in narrative as a window into reality. hence narrative is expressing changes over time. Topics that lend themselves to origins of things and how they have changed over time; shifts from one emphasis to another that may involve socio-economical issues..

Narrative modes ( chronological ways of organizing)
  • narratives show causality; this happened because of...shows causalities in the narrative.
  • narrative explains processes; it lets you theorize....define, explain, narrative imposes structure when theorizing a procedure
  • in stasis theory, questions of facts are considered historical; past or future facts--> do this and you will create that
  • the narrative mode is a way of becoming
Descriptive modes are being (whole-to-part organization) how you would theorize a dissertation, say, to include the different parts, e.g.
  • take the whole (which may be a social network) and break it into parts (interface, technology, users, lurkers, contributors, etc)
  • A good descriptive mode has to parallel the concepts..for example, interface and lurkers are not at the same level of generality. There ought to be discreet parts that do not bleed into each other
Classificatory mode of discourse
Clemson--what is Clemson? -->university-->what are the specifications that any university has--> colleges (admission requirement, faculty, students,) lists have to be comprehensive; there has to be a parallelism [colleges is not on the same level as admission]-->demonstrate that all these things are contained in it
Syllogisms--The logic of the classificatory system is a syllogism. Any university has z, x, y, characteristics; Clemson has z, x, y. so Clemson is a university. You have to have a major premise; has to be inclusive;

Popular in teaching writing. Based on epistemologies of science--if you want to know something, if you can understand it as a particle, as a wave, as a fields, you can predict its future. You need to know a thing as a static object--the distinction between being and becoming. E.g when does water start? As a vapour? When does it stop being water? when it becomes ice? To know everything you need to know about a thing:
Particle--static (what a thing is [Static--break it into its parts; what makes up the composition of the thing? ( a whole-to-part analysis)
wave--dynamic (how the thing behaves all the time [historical,
field -- relation (how it relates to others in its field of influence [compare to others, reputation,
Something may be valid, but not necessarily true. If the major premise is negative, the conclusion must also be negative

Evaluation is exactly the same as classificatory with the one difference. when doing evaluation, you render judgment; you attach a value. You always have to classify positively because of the nature of a syllogism (any good social network has c. b.m; MySpace doesn't have c. b.m; MySpace is a bad social network. Everything else obtains (criteria, parallel, generalizations, etc)

Dilemma (di--two/lemma--horns on a bull) a dilemma is two horns on a bull coming at you. Both seem to be true but require a conclusive take. 1st chapter 1 horn of dilemma; 2nd chapter, second horn; 3rd chapter...? You can rid yourself of the dilemma by eliminating one horn. Or you can jump between the horns by introducing a third term that shows there is no dilemma because there is a wholly different perspective unexplored.
A compare and contrast question, e.g. Compare and contrast Burke's and Plato's theory of rhetoric is actually classificatory; classify the theory of rhetoric; the elements of theory of rhetoric. classify what Burke says; what Plato says

Deconstructing What's practical about technical writing? by Carolyn Miller. Additional Miller publications
She defines practical; defines what she means by an art (craft) --she says it's a science of doing something--the high sense of the practical because you can teach it to other people there are a set of procedures. As opposed to knack . there is an Aristotelian sens of techne as opposed to a Platonic sense (which he says is a knack; can't explain how so it's not an art). The low sense of the practical is when you can do but can't explain. A technician has a knack, but no theory. P16 The defense of tech writing in academe--why tech writing belongs in a university and not in a vocational school. She justifies it by explaining that it is used in professional practice...p17 in its eagerness to be useful, tech writing has set a basis ...without the high sense of practical--the art you cannot decide if the thing is being done well (which is theory). Theoria alone is not good; praxis alone is not good as it doesn't give you evaluative tools. She resolves it use techne as the middle term (p.22). Technology isn't just about practical so she introduces phronesis , which she defines as prudence. The Greek, professional judgment.

The Phaedrus evaluates speeches. Sets up a set of criteria. so a speech has to be
  • technically correct,
  • exhaust a subject and
  • speak the truth. These are the criteria for good rhetoric.
Three speeches:
p.142 Phaedrus does the speech, Socrates is overcome by the speech
2nd speech is wrong p.147 Phaedrus asks why the speech is dreadful. The speech sinned against love.
3rd criteria his third speech is a lie; not truthful. not a good speech
Then he gives his example of rhetoric, in which he speaks the truth, uses dialectic. So the sophistic rhetorics of Lysias are negatively evaluated against the rhetoric of Socrates, against criteria he sets up.

Hackos and Redish
Descriptive mode of discourse that breaks down the categories of task analysis...physical, social,

Monday, January 12, 2009


I am now following Tharon Howard