Revolution Lullabye

August 25, 2007

CCR 691 8/27 Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — by revolutionlullabye @ 9:36 pm

Barton, Ellen. “More Methodological Matters: Against Negative Argumentation.” CCC. 51:3 (Feb. 2000) 399-416.

 The author in this article argues against using negative argumentation to justify their research methodologies because she claims that it threatens to limit the scope of methodological education and research in the field. She explains that during the 1990s, the field saw an explosion in the discussion of ethics extending into ethical research methodologies, which was loosely defined as both giving back to the community and having the researcher and participant engage collaboratively and reflexively in the research study. This new ethical model was often promoted as being the alternative to “traditional” and “hegemonic” research methodologies, and this repeated negative argumentation to defend ethical models against other research strategies has led, the author contends, to an unnecessary and potentially scholarly stifiling abandonment of other methodologies. The author argues that the collaborative models work well for ethnographies and small-scale case studies but not well for large case studies or empirical studies.  The devaluing of empirical studies, the author claims, allows the field to ignore the ethics inherent in empirical research frameworks, takes away the field’s ability to ask certain questions about language and language production in other contexts, and limits the methodological choices offered to new scholars who might need empirical frameworks to answer their new research questions.

Quotable Quotes

 “Research outside this particular ethical creed is criticized as research that silences its subjects in favor of its academic, disciplinary, and methodological tyranny” (402).

“In turning away from research products in order to foreground processes, in turning away from more distanced relationships to insist upon more intimate ones, the field risks losing other kinds of research designs and analyses” (404).

“Ethical does not always mean personal; ethical can mean distanced as well” (405).

Some questions cannot be formed collaboratively with research participants – researchers draw on a larger body of specialized knowledge. “Such questions are not unethical” (406).

The author’s argument has been to develop “an enhanced understanding of the ethics of all methodological frameworks in composition established by means of positive, not negative, argumentation. Composition is in a unique position to practice and display such methodological and ethical diversity for the entire university” (409).

Composition is able to use an entire range of methodologies, “from empirical investigation to humanistic inquiry” (410).

Notable Notes

Last full-scale empirical study of student writing was the Connors/Lunsford Ma and Pa Kettle study published in 1989. Time for a new one? I just read that article a few days ago and remarked how one of their claims was that visible student grammatical errors like it’s/its confusion might be attributed to the growing reliance of students on other forms of media besides print, but I wonder how the age of the internet has affected that – I believe students now do read more because of the web. An interesting study, wouldn’t it be?

 I think Barton is dead on in her argument. Although closely collaborative research is important, it’s true that people who practice it sometimes revert to basking in the ethical feel-goodedness that it gives them. Casting one research methodology as more ethical and good than another is limiting and misleading – what is important is the results of the research, and as long as the researcher proceeds in his study with good intentions and a solid understanding of what he is doing, his methodology shouldn’t matter as long as it is sound.


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