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Writing in the Wild
Preliminary Report Guidelines
Below is an outline of the major elements
to include in your 900-1500 word preliminary report. The report
should have four main sections, and these sections should be labeled:
Again, each of these sections must be clearly
labeled in your report (possibly with subheadings as well); the report
must have a title, and your name and organizational affiiliation (i.e.,
Eastern Illinois University) must appear at the top. Remember that this
is a preliminary report, not a final one, so it will consist largely of
a summary of your "preliminary" research activities and ideas to date,
not finalized results. Include enough detail so that it makes sense as
an independent document, but not so much that it far exceeds the prescribed
length, which is 900-1300 words. Save your
lengthier explanations and your more conclusive statements and insights
for the oral and final reports. As in professional life, some of the steps
required here are similar to those in assignments you have already written;
in such cases, it's okay (and even a good, time-saving idea) to draw directly
from your earlier writings. However, if you do so, be sure to update
such material so that it fulfills the requirements of this assignment.
The first draft of this document must be published and linked to the appropriate
section of your Assignment Index by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 24; Dr. Engles
will then have a conference with you to discuss this draft before you publish
a final draft.
an Overview of your project
a Research Methods section
a Preliminary Results section
a Discussion section
section one: overview of your
section two: description of research
First, describe your site. Set the
scene for the reader about the kind of workplace you have been researching.
What is the nature of the business or organization? Describe it in
the kind of detail that helps your reader form a vivid picture of the particular
kind of workplace you have been investigating. When possible, try to highlight
as well details that seem to have some specific relevance to your areas
Second, describe your primary research
subject or contact. Introduce your reader to the writer whose work
is at the center of your research project. What does this person do for
the particular organization or business? What kind of writing does
he or she do? What is his or her education and background? How old is this
person? Describe your writer in the kind of detail that helps your reader
form a vivid picture of him or her as a person, as a worker, and as a writer,
and again, try to focus as well on facts or characteristics that have particular
relevance to your areas of research.
Third, describe the other key people
writer works with. Who are they (if there is more than one) and what is
their relationship to your contact? What do they do for the particular
organization or business? What kind of writing do they do? What is
their education (if you know)? Describe them also in the kind of detail
that helps your reader form a vivid picture of them as people, and perhaps
Fourth, describe the kinds of writing
that your writer does. "writing in the wild" includes ALL forms of
writing (even e-mail and sticky-paper notes). How much of this person's
work consists of writing? How important is writing to his or her job?
Fifth, make your own biases explicit
for your reader. Good researchers realize that no one can be
purely objective; every researcher has a particular, unique perspective
that will influence how they see and interpret their understandings of
that which they investigate. For instance, this position might prevent
them from asking or even perceiving certain questions, and it will probably
influence how they interpret their results. Therefore, good researchers
consider, and then spell out, their potential biases, warning their readers
as best they can of how the research and its results might be influenced
by biases held by the researcher. Here are some questions of this
sort that you might answer in this section of your preliminary report:
Do you work at the site you are investigating? Do you already know this
"writer in the wild," or the profession this person works in? Do you have
other biases and if so, what are they? How might such biases influence
your research? Generally, do what you can here to explain to your
readers some of the possible biases brought about by your unique perspective,
and how that perspective might have influenced your research so far, and
also, perhaps, how it could influence the rest of your research.
section three: preliminary research results
Collecting workplace writing samples:
Describe the kinds of workplace writing that you have found and
documents that you have been collecting; then explain how you could
focus on them in light of the questions, concepts, and ideas you have formulated
so far for guiding your research. Also, are these documents written in
a professional or a literary style, as spelled out by Tom McKeown? Are
they a mix of both styles? Why are they written in a particular style?
Interviews: Discuss the methods
you used during any interviews, and any results so far from interviews.
How did you prepare for interviews? What types of questions did you
ask? Did any types seem to work better? As well as you can, summarize
how your discoveries from interviews relate to the specific questions,
concepts, and ideas that have guided your research up to this point.
Observations: Describe how
you have observed this writer in the wild, and how you have observed the
ways people work together in your workplace. What forms has your observation
taken, and how much have you done so far?
Other: Describe any other research
methods that you have used so far, including the use of library or online
sources. (Looking ahead a bit, remember that in the final draft of your
final report, you must cite at least three clearly useful sources that
you have discovered on your own. You may include one interview among these
three, though of course, you can include in your final report reference
to more than one interview; two other outside sources must be such items
as articles, web sites, and so on).
In this section, explain the preliminary
insights and realizations that you have discovered so far by collecting
workplace writing samples, and by conducting interviews and observations.
Make sure to relate what you have come to understand so far in terms of
two of our major themes (individual/collaborative writing and the increasing
usage of technology; socioeconomic class; race/class/gender/sexuality
relations; and professional/literary writing styles); you can also relate
what you have discovered to any outside research sources, but that is not
required at this point.
section four: discussion
This is the place to wrap up your preliminary
report by discussing:
Here too you might want to refer again to
the essays we read and discussed in class.
questions that arose that you haven't been
able answer yet
new questions that your research raised
(that you don't necessarily have to answer) and/or new problems you discovered
any preliminary recommendations you may
have about the way writing and/or work gets done in your particular workplace
Finally, conclude with a look at the
future--explain the kinds of research that you still need to do, and perhaps
how much, in order to complete your final report.