Sondra Perl and Experimental Research

Blog » Sondra Perl and Experimental Research

Posted on 18 Apr 2013 05:38

Ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to do a project where I had test subjects carry out a carefully laid out experiment that I’ve prepared. I think it’s the coolest thing ever when you can take data from these experiments because it just seems so tangible and interesting. With this in mind, I guess it’s no surprise that I found Sondra Perl’s “The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers” to be a highly interesting read.

Perl’s research, as the title of the work implies, looks at how unskilled college writers write. Her data is collected by an experimental session involving “unskilled writers. The means with which she selected these “unskilled writers are simple.” She selected candidates for her research based on writing sample and willingness. She then brought them into a closed room to be observed as they wrote a short piece on political science. As the students were writing, they were asked to externalize their thoughts. From this, Perl gathered various pieces of data: the actual written products created by the students, the verbal composing tapes that recorded what the students said as they composed their writing, and the interviews held after the experiment. An interesting aspect of her research was the “code” created from the data. The code basically simplifies the findings of each student. Various letter combinations represent the actions of the student during the time the research is conducted. For example, if the student is talking and writing at the same time, Perl would record “TW” in her code. From this code, Perl creates a timeline that details how the students wrote.

Perl’s research shows the general thinking process of many “unskilled writers.” This data is useful for changing the manner in which professors and teachers teach writing. By examining the patterns and themes, these educators may be able to identify the faults in an individual student’s writing and fix it before further educating them. The research reveals the need to teach writing based on the writing process, not on the actual product.

Perl’s research is actually a really good motivation and model for the research I am planning to do. To me, an experimental research project will yield the most interesting an applicable data. The tentative plan for my research involves researching how those in the engineering field react to crises and unexpected situations. My plan is to have volunteers play a game with an unexpected twist in the middle. I plan on recording how these individuals react to the unexpected twist and how they plan on overcoming it. Using the data of the game results, recordings of reactions and interviews I plan on conducting afterword, I hope to create a sound conclusion from this data.

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