Writing and Rhetoric

Professor recognized for study on how students define ‘real research’

icon of a calendarMarch 25, 2019

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Professor recognized for study on how students define ‘real research’
Elizabeth Allan
Dr. Elizabeth Allan investigated a hands-on approach to teaching ethnography, the study of culture. Her article about this study was selected to appear in the 2019 "Best of the Journals in Writing and Rhetoric."

Elizabeth Allan, Ph.D., associate professor of writing and rhetoric, is among a distinct group of scholars whose work will be showcased in the 2019 Best of the Journals in Writing and Rhetoric

Dr. Allan’s article "Real Research or 'Just for a Grade'?  Ethnography, Ethics, and Engagement in the Undergraduate Writing Classroom," is one of only 14 articles to be featured in this year’s Best of collection, which includes articles that have been nominated by journal editors as representing the finest scholarship of the previous year.

For the article, Dr. Allan investigated a hands-on approach to teaching ethnography, the study of culture. The undergraduate students in Dr. Allan’s study designed and conducted their own “microethnographies” to identify cultural factors that affect teaching and learning. 

In collaborative research teams, the students observed formal and informal learning environments, conducted interviews and documented people’s everyday learning practices. Dr. Allan found that this experiential learning approach benefited the students.

“Their awareness of research ethics increased, and they were engaged as active learners,” she noted. “However, some students viewed their own research studies as class projects “just for a grade,” while others considered their studies “real research.”

While previous studies attributed students’ perspectives of what counts as “real” research to external factors, such as undergoing ethical review or sharing findings outside the classroom, Dr. Allan’s study revealed a more complex, internal factor influencing how students viewed their research. 

“An outward-focused stance, focusing on how their research could benefit someone other than themselves, was the one quality that consistently characterized ‘real research’ learning experiences,” she said.

Representing both print and digital journals in the field, essays in the Best of collection represent a snapshot of the traditional and emergent conversations in writing and rhetoric –from classroom practice to writing in global and digital contexts, from writing workshops to community activism. All essays were originally published in other journals in the field and underwent a rigorous review process to be selected for the Best of collection.

Dr. Allan’s journal article was originally published in Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, in April 2018.

When the article appears in the Best of collection (due out by fall 2019), it will be accompanied by supplemental material, including a reflective essay on the origins of the piece, an extended discussion of the research methods, and discussion questions to facilitate using the article in undergraduate or graduate qualitative research methods courses, graduate courses on the teaching of writing, and professional development workshops. 

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