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Dissertation: Methodology Chapter

As I write my dissertation, I've been mind-mapping like crazy. It helps me rein in all the material I'm using and everything I need to say. What follows is the map of my methodology chapter, which includes everything I really feel that I need to cover, i.e. stuff I would be remiss if I didn't say. But I want to know what you think: Assuming there's too much going on in this chapter as I've conceptualized it at this point, what can be cut? (This image links out to a bigger, readable one.)

Methodology Chapter of My Dissertation

The chapter basically has four parts.

  1. A review of methodological problems (or complexities) to consider in doing qualitative internet research. Some are from a roundtable on the subject, and others I have learned on my own.
  2. A general definition and overview of my approach: how I'm defining "rhetorical analysis," what is meant by a "feminist rhetorical approach."
  3. A description of my data collection and analytical procedure (to answer the "What did you do?" question).
  4. A reflective section that addresses situatedness and reflexivity -- locating myself in the research. This section is an important part of my overarching feminist approach.

I'm tentatively planning on doing it in that order, but I'm open to suggestions if you think another arrangement would be more coherent and sophisticated. [Edited to add: I should put the "operationalizing gender/online identity" point (which is just a little "how I define and interpret gender online" few paragraphs) under "general introduction." Probably better that way.]

Regular blogging

...will resume on Tuesday when I get back to St. Paul.

My whole dissertation (at this stage) in sixteen pages

I'm working diligently on this thing all the time, improving and clarifying it a bit each day, but I figure now's as good a time as any to ask for some feedback. This paper was published in the conference proceedings of the New Media Research at UMN conference (well, really it was just a spiral-bound collection of the papers presented, distributed only to conference attendees). They might be publishing the papers online as part of a white paper about the state of new media research at the University of Minnesota, but I'm not 100% certain of that. My writing sample for the job market will probably look a bit like this, so I welcome your comments. Leave them here or feel free to email me: Also, please shoot me an email if you decide to use this paper in any classes you're teaching; I like to keep track of that information.

Where Are the Women? Rhetoric and Gender on Weblogs (PDF)

Using Weblogs in Your Writing Courses

Using Weblogs in Your Writing Courses
Clancy Ratliff, Department of Rhetoric

Weblogs and Learning Objectives

One of the best reasons for using weblogs in writing courses is the potential for community interaction that weblogs can help to facilitate. While this is not true in all cases, and some writing teachers have critiqued weblogs' community-building potential, I have found that a course weblog (one community weblog for the whole class) to be an excellent way for students to get to know each other and to learn from each other. If your objective is to create a learning community, weblogs can help you achieve it by giving students a space to share their writing with other students in the class, who have the opportunity to leave comments under their classmates' posts. Weblogs are also a powerful tool for teaching students about writing for an audience, as they are public, and they reach an audience of not only the teacher and the other students in the class, but also readers outside the class who leave comments.

If your objective is to help students synthesize information and make connections through writing, weblogs can help you meet this objective by allowing students to take advantage of the Web. Weblog software makes it easy for students to create content for the Web without knowing much HTML, find online articles related to topics discussed in class, and share them easily with other students. In my experience, blogging encourages associative thinking.

Questions/Issues Raised by Weblogs in Writing Pedagogy

  • Having students keep individual blogs v. one community blog for the class, or several small-group blogs: advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Privacy for the students (if real names are used, people can find the students via Google)
  • Requiring weblog posts, or offering the option of keeping a print journal instead
  • The possible feeling on the part of the instructor of being "exposed" if students complain about the class on the blog
  • Outside participation: the fact that anyone outside the class can read the blog and leave comments (and they do)
  • Assessing weblog posts
  • Creating weblog post prompts (and the question of whether there should be prompts, or if the students should have the option to deviate from the prompt topic to a topic of his or her choice)
  • Avoiding "forced blogging"
  • Best practices for integrating the weblog into class discussion

Resources for Using Weblogs in Writing Pedagogy

Academic Blogging (A learning module about weblogs by Darren Hughes and other researchers at the University of Tennessee). Available at

Metablognition: Weblog Course for K-12 Teachers. Available at

UThink: Blogging at the University of Minnesota Libraries. Available at

Blogging Thoughts: Personal Publication as an Online Research Tool (PDF) by Jill Walker and Torill Mortensen. Available at

Weblogs as a Personal Knowledge Publishing Tool for Scholars and Practitioners
by Charles Lowe. Available at

Open Source Weblog CMS's: An Alternative to Blackboard by Charles Lowe. Available at

Falling out of love ... by premmell at Kairosnews. Available at

Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom by Charles Lowe and Terra Williams. Available at

Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs by Kevin Brooks, Cindy Nichols, and Sybil Priebe. Available at

A Course About Weblogs. Available at

(this) Space by Austin Lingerfelt. Available at

When Blogging Goes Bad: A Cautionary Tale About Blogs, Email Lists, Discussion, and Interaction by Steven D. Krause. Available at

NOTE: This handout is based on an handout from a previous presentation for the Center for Writing given on 29 October 2004; the handout is available at I encourage you to go there and view the links!

The material in this presentation is available under an Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons license.

Method, artifacts, and other dissertation-related notes

It's been too long since I've done a dissertation post (one week and five days, according to the list of categories on my sidebar), and I'd like to remedy that. So, first, a progress report: Several days ago, I sent out interview questions. The questions were, as you might recall, intended to help contextualize the "where are the women" discussions. Response so far has been better than I expected; I was afraid that no one would be around given that it's summer. At least two people that I know of intend to post about my project (as in, post my questions and their responses). I expected that going into it, and I assumed that some people would post their responses without talking to me first, so I'm telling those who do check with me that it's fine. And it really is fine, to be sure. Of course I do worry a little bit that people with very high Google page ranks will rip my research to shreds and their posts will be right there at the top when folks Google me, but it's a necessary risk. It'll be interesting to see how such a public research process will go.

I've been thinking a lot about process lately. Right now my committee members want me to include, along with my chapters, at least three appendices: a weblog primer, one on my project's implications for composition pedagogy (they're not requiring this one, but they said the pedagogical implications could go in an appendix should I choose to write about them), and one that's a kind of reflexive essay about my doing this project as both a woman and a blogger.

It's that last one I keep getting hung up on. I think I have a chapter's worth of stuff to say about that topic. I hope that will be okay with my committee; my guess is it will. I envision it as a chapter that addresses several issues related to method:

  1. A review and critique of methods used in previous qualitative internet research (not all of it, mind you, just the work on gender and computer-mediated communication in which I'm situating my research)
  2. An explanation of new methodological challenges presented by studying blogging (e.g. expectations of privacy) and common methods scholars have used to study them so far
  3. A definition and justification of my methodological choices (this would include defining a "feminist rhetorical approach" and what I mean when I say "rhetorical criticism" (Cf. Warnick*) and explanation of my purpose in doing interviews
  4. An autoethnographic narrative about my experience with blogging (as it pertains to this project -- e.g. why I blog, what it's been like doing my research in public, etc. -- it would also entail writing a blurb about autoethnography)
  5. A reflexive examination of my roles as feminist woman, blogger, and researcher studying gender and blogging (this would include issues of situatedness, degree of advocacy, and research ethics).

Feedback is, as always, appreciated. Now for something fun, which will definitely be an appendix in my dissertation: all the little artifacts I'm collecting, like the representations I wrote about recently. Here are some more quiz images, which I haven't had time to write about yet but hope to soon:

Many more below the fold:

I have lived with several Zen masters, all of them cats.

Well, actually I've never lived with a cat, but I couldn't help but think of that quotation by Eckhart Tolle when I read this NYT story about all the online shrines to cats (versus those to dogs), including cat blogging. One hypothesis: "Maybe the difference is that dogs are public, everyone's business. They go on subways and they go in parks. They are always caught in flagrante defecato. Cats stay home. They are private, nobody's business. To watch them in their homes is a privilege. They are perfect for the Web, the medium of voyeurs." A corollary: "Those cats [in The Infinite Cat Project] are like so many bloggers sitting at home staring into their computer screens and watching other bloggers blog other bloggers. Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere. Dogs would never blog." Looks like the NYT is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to stories about blogging.

Jealous of BlogHer Attendees

Oh well, at least they're putting good notes up. I'm particularly interested in Political Blogging Grows Up and Flame, Blame & Shame so far. I'll probably update this post as I find more links to add and have more to say about the discussions.

UPDATE: post-Blogher to-do lists.

Study of Weblog Ethics

While doing some digging around in Technorati, I found Weblog Ethics Survey Results, a research project by undergraduate students in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Andy Koh, Alvin Lim, and Ng Ee Soon surveyed 1,224 bloggers' views of four areas of ethics: "truth telling, accountability, minimizing harm, and attribution." They asked bloggers to categorize their weblogs as personal or non-personal and used those categories to foreground their analysis of the data. From their article:

This study explored ethical beliefs and practices of two distinct groups of bloggers--personal and non-personal--through a worldwide web survey. Over a period of three weeks, 1,224 responses were collected and analysed.

Our findings show that these two groups are distinctively different in demographics, blogging experiences, and habits. We also found that there are significant differences between personal and non-personal bloggers in terms of the ethical beliefs they value and the ethical practices to which they adhere.

Non-personal bloggers are typically older males, with more formal years of education than personal bloggers.

Non-personal bloggers tend to have more readers, update their weblogs more frequently, and spend more time on their weblogs.

Their study is making the rounds, but I would have thought more people would link to it. But it's summer, I guess. Susan Herring made an interesting comment that links the study by Koh, Lim, & Ng to some of the BROG studies. While I think Koh, Lim, & Ng have done some fine work here, I must say I'm a little surprised that Jonathon Delacour's thoughtful essay on weblog ethics, which touches on the fact that some people write fiction or creative nonfiction on their weblogs and that a journalism-based set of ethics is too restrictive for them, isn't cited (especially as it's the #1 Google hit for "weblog ethics").

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