6 October 2020
Over the last few years, I’ve done meta-work into research methodologies and methods with the field of technical and professional communication (TPC) and in the rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM). I’ve said that methodologies and methods is a strand of my research that brings together my two main areas (RHM and TPC). As our project on contingent labor was published, I realized that I had done some important definitional work around some terms and concepts related to research. The latter part of the introduction offers a fairly detailed explanation of the research study design along with our decisions and justifications.
I have long said that we need to train graduate students and even faculty better in regards to research methodologies, methods, and practices so you can take some of the information gathered here as a small primer on how to do research or on how to think about doing research.
Research study design: is a comprehensive plan that provides the rationale and justification for methodology, methods, and practices with an intense and transparent focus on ethics. The study design should serve as the roadmap for the research project and remain flexible enough to change when situations arise during the research project. (Critical postscript, p. 213)
Sustainable research: that which can be replicated and confirmed, refuted, or modified through such iterative testing, and it must be considered trustworthy through its transparency of conducting and describing the actual research process. (Empirical research, p. 4). Sustainable research should minimally
- state research question(s) or problem(s) clearly and directly;
- connect explicitly to previous research and research questions rather than the standard of focusing on the ‘‘gaps’’;
- discuss data collected and how it addresses the primary research question(s);
- explicate methods and define terms;
- locate methods in the framework of research study design;
- explain results in terms of data collected (this needs to point to interaction with other fields as well as helping build future research); and
- note directions for future testing of the research (this is different from current practices calling for future research. Instead it encourages researchers to focus on taking research and building on it). (Empirical research, p. 22).
Research categories: overarching rubrics that involve the use of multiple methods of data collection to address a research question or problem (examples of which are ethnography, case, study, and experiment). (Empirical research, p. 7)
Quasi-replication: a research study that examines the same set of questions as the original study but includes significant changes in the methods or practice of research. Framing our study as a quasi-replication connects it directly with previous work but acknowledges that there are important differences in the study design. (Errors in professional writing p.257)
Quasi-saturation: the point in qualitative data analysis where there is data saturation around key themes or concepts even if one is still gaining unique information based on participants’ experiences. (Introduction to contingent project, p. 14). Read the complementary discussion of saturation.
Asynchronous interview: as a one-on-one qualitative instrument that is delivered to participants through some available technology (such as email or third party tools for questionnaire distribution). Interviewees can then respond to questions at a time convenient for them. Such interviews differ from a questionnaire and other survey types in that, outside of demographic data, all of the questions posed to individuals/interviewees were open-ended. (Research practitioners, p. 349)
Case study modification: Researcher Yin (2003) defines the case study research method as an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used (pp. 13–14). We seek to modify this definition by adding two parameters
- Time: A distinct starting and ending point of the event
- Materials: The items on which the research focuses her or his analysis when examining the events (Empirical Research, p. 11)
Convenience sampling versus convenient access: Convenience sampling focuses on subjects that are easy to reach that are also representative of the actual users. The key part of the phrase is sampling. It is still necessary to obtain a sample of users legitimate the research questions being asked. Convenient sampling still focuses on the audience that the research needs. It seems, however, that TPC researchers are selecting participants based on convenient access, which is to select participants based on any individuals who are readily at hand, such as students or university employees. (Empirical research, p. 20)
- exposition research, the development and, typically, promotion of a certainpedagogical or theoretical framework is the integral point of the article. (Pedagogical, p. 14)
- teacher reflection came to denote an article based on a classroom experience from a teacher-based point of view. (Pedagogical, p. 15); it includes a teaching case, a reflective component and an implicational component
In the Methodologies for RHM book, Blake Scott and I described mutable methodologies. I am a bit sorry that we did not make a super clear definition of it. But the point of mutable methodologies is to combine to make malleable and mutable methodologies and methods to address complex problems. Most of the recent we need to do in rhetoric, writing, tech comm, RHM, and related fields requires mutable methodologies, that is, methodologies that are mutable to better address the complex questions at hand.
Thinking about research methodologies, methods, and practices needs to be iterative and ongoing and I look forward to continuing that work. Here is a diagram that I use when I teach research and the corresponding explanation of it. This diagram is the basis of what will become a more extended definition of research study design.
I’ll be trying out some new ideas and approaches to teaching research in the spring, and I hope I have the energy and space to blog about it.