Berkenkotter Methodology - Peter Zupo

Blog » Berkenkotter Methodology - Peter Zupo

Posted on 19 Apr 2013 00:59

The piece that I read was “Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer” by Carol Berkenkotter. In this piece, she took the methodology of using an experimental study to discover what she wanted. She took famous author Donald Murray and placed him in a comfortable setting with unlimited time, as opposed to the normal laboratory study with controlled time, to see his habits when forming a piece. She then compared these habits with a scenario where he is placed in a closed room with a limited amount of time. When Murray was in the comfortable setting, she used a voice recorder and told him to speak aloud anything that he is thinking. At the end of the experiment, she had 120 hours worth of tape from a 62-day experiment and then she calculated the percentages of his methods when writing a work. This made the experiment partially quantitative and partially experimental.

Using this methodology, I believe that Berkenkotter had several purposes. I think that one of this is to break the “norm” but not conducting her main experiment within a laboratory setting. In her piece and in Donald Murray’s later reply to the experiment, they comment on the fact that for the most part, many of the experiments that deal with figuring out how people approach their writing have been done in a closed setting and with people who aren’t professional writers (i.e. children, students, etc.). It seems that she wanted to break the “norm” because she placed her test subject in a comfortable setting with a large amount of time and her test subject was a professional.

Another goal that it appears that she had involves wanting to teach others how to approach their writing. By breaking up Murray’s approach to writing into categories (planning, evaluating, revising, editing), other writers can be taught how much time they should contribute to each of these processes when writing so that they can produce superior writing. However, Murray later comments that teaching other writers about these processes cannot be done on just the data from him being experimented on, other professional writers must also be experimented on so that a general consensus on the percentage of time spent on each of these processes can be attained.

I think that this methodology would be very helpful if I were to do an experimental and quantitative experiment. While focusing on one specific goal, it also has other background goals so that Berkenkotter was able to achieve multiple goals within one experiment. Comparing one experiment to another that is deemed “normal” while also finding out information about a completely separate goal is very creative and can be very useful. If I end up doing an experimental study, I will look to the Berkenkotter experiment for reference when it comes to designing an experiment. Unfortunately, I will not be able to have enough time to compile 120 hours of tape but I still think that it would be a very helpful experiment to model.

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