Ground Rules for how I’ll use this blog

Ground rules for how I’ll use this blog

Basically, the blog is informal research that may finally lead to publication, if I find answers to some of the questions that have been pestering me of late. Before I lay out specific rules, I should spend a few moments discussing research in general.

So, Research in General. . . .

As an “academic,” someone professionally employed as university faculty, I often write articles for publication in academic journals. Most of my published research so far involves responding to other writing professionals (composition teachers, scholars, etc.) about controversial topics that appear in the academic journals, such as the role of politics in teaching and how we should respond to plagiarism. I also have done analyses of persuasive speeches and articles and published them in journals that cover “rhetoric”—briefly, how persuasion works (I’ll be glad to send readers information on my published articles).

In contrast, most of my actual research on whether and how my teaching helps students learn has been for classroom and university “assessment,” which we do in our own academic degree programs and classes to determine what our students are actually learning and how we can improve their learning. None of this kind of research is ever published except in internal reports for my university.

In order to publish on actual student performance, I would be required to submit a proposal to our Institutional Review Board, which looks carefully at any “human subjects research” that anyone in the university community wants to do. I am actually working on some proposals to collect student writing for possible analysis and publication. I have to describe very carefully exactly what I intend to do with the writing I collect to make sure that it doesn’t exploit the students or harm them in any way. I have to be very clear about confidentiality and anonymity—for example, I must make clear that I will never name a student or identify her in any way.

How My Research Here is Different. . . .

The research that may result from this blog is a little different. It’s a more personal attempt to share and communicate with others who have experienced this whole business of “learning to write” or “learning to be a better writer” from many different perspectives. I expect that I will talk about or summarize formal, published research if and when I find it, but I’m just as interested in opinions, feelings, memories, hopes, and joys. The blog doesn’t have any connection with my university; it’s an exploration for me to learn more.

All the same, if it is to ever lead to a publication that will shed more light on the process of learning to write, and therefore may actually help future teachers and learners, I have an obligation to treat it with the same care I would treat research gathered from my students. So here are the ground rules I am setting for myself, as well as for anyone who discovers this blog and wants to join in.

  • First, I will never name anyone who contributes to this blog in any piece of writing, published or unpublished, other than the blog itself (since people may want to address each other’s points) without express written permission.
  • Second, I will never quote anyone who contributes to this blog in any piece of writing, published or unpublished, other than the blog itself (since people may want to address each other’s points) without express written permission.
  • In referring to readers or respondents on the blog, I will use only the user name or pseudonym supplied by the respondent.
  • I am asking readers to supply an email address so that, if I ever wanted to ask permission to use a specific quotation, I could contact that reader. That is the only use I will ever make of that email address.
  • I may refer to general discussions and points that readers make. I may, for publication down the road (or not), write things like “Readers often expressed the view that X” or “A small group of readers felt Y.” I may paraphrase specific points or questions: “One reader pointed out that xxxxx.”
  • Although it’s hard to know whether this project ever will lead to publication, I will always let readers know where I am on the project and make sure that they know whether any publications have come out of this experience.

If anyone encounters this blog and wants to comment on or ask questions about these ground rules, please do so. They are certainly subject to revision if good suggestions are made.


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