Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I am joining my research methods class in blogging this semester. It is my hope that I can be a faithful blogger, and that this blog can help me understand the research process better, and help me become a better writer.

Reading the Grabill/Simmons article is tough. Academic discourse is not easy, and Grabill and Simmons are raising some difficult issues. But as difficult as they are, I think they are important because of the way they highlight one of the essential features of scientific and technical writing: the (perceived or real?) gap between positivist ( research methodologies and the humanistic education most technical writers receive.

I feel comfortable with both traditions--because of my background as an engineer before I became a professor working in a humanist discipline (English/Rhetoric). I see the limitations of both logics. On the one hand, I understand the frustration scientists feel when the public responds "irrationally" to scientific progress. For example, few nuclear protestors understood or believed that the amount of radiation they would normally receive from a lifetime of operations of a nuclear power plant a mile from their house would be less than the radiation they would receive during a major sunspot eruption--an event that occurs naturally in nature.

On the other hand, IMHO positivists are guilty of hiding their research methodology behind jargon--they don't want the public to understand. Because when the computer statistician who conduct a nuclear reactor protection analysis based upon simulations assert that the chances of a major accident at a nuclear plant is "one-in-a-million," they don't bother to tell the public the assumptions upon which those statistical claims are made. For example, many accidents are based upon the assumption that only a "single-event at a time" occurs. In "real life," accidents begin with one event, but the stress of that event leads to others, and a "comedy of errors occurs. Take "Three Mile Island," for example: operator intervention actually made the accident worse.

No wonder the public is unwilling to simply let the scientists make the decisions for them!

Here are links to some student blogs.

Sarah's blog:

Sirc does a nice job describing a personal research process:

J. Elkins has a take on the DOL reading:

C.E.'s blog:

Bruce has some interesting comments on the class and on the DOL reading:

Brandon makes an interesting connection between emerging writers, and the indie movement in music:

Tysdaddy has some nice insight into his own pursuit of accuracy in writing, and its relationship to research:

Blogger18622's blog:

Helm's blog:

C625 student has a great take on the Grabill/Simmons reading:

If you had trouble with the reference to Saussure, try this:

Kim has an interesting response to the DOL article:

Deanna has some interesting reflections on how research might be valuable to her projects. Find them in the comments section of her blog:

Finally some links for you to consider:

Here is a link to Jeff Grabill's home page at Michigan State:

And here is a link to the Miami of Ohio page which contains pictures and a description of Michelle Simmon's work:

A very fine beginning!!!


Blogger Sirc said...

Hey Professor, you were on my list to Blog today. On my Blog I decided to discuss my systematic approach to deciding which idea I am going to work on for class. Right now I put the introduction to what I am going to do. My next blog I will start it. Also, I put the other students links on my blog.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Bruce said...

Dr Amidon -The link to didn't work for me.

9:56 AM  

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