Lesson 19

Announcements and Logistics

  • I added a few times and dates to the conference schedule
  • Revision discussions about midterms already under way

Objects of study in Engineering

Engineering in academic contexts
Novice or student engineers
Engineering grad students
Engineers who work in academia
Engineering in professional contexts
Engineers who work in non-academic sectors

Literacy skills Engineers use
composing in technical genres
oral communication
non-English literacies: programing, drawing, computer aided design

Writing studies methodologies

experimental study — aims to reveal some otherwise hidden aspect of the writing process under specific lab conditions

  • using process research methods to record subjects performing writing or communication tasks

→ Example: stage an experiment on a population of science students as they compose lab reports, observe different strategies used
→ example: stage an experiment on a population of peers in this class where you have them perform a writing task and compare some factor about the writing (placement of quotations in an argument, say)

ethnographic study — aims to reveal some unique perspective on writing or communication that is evidenced in a specific community

  • using participatory observation to investigate how a pre-existing group of subjects use writing and communication

→ Example: go to a professional setting where engineers work and study how different genres of writing are used in the workplace
—> Example: Do an ethnography of an upper-devision engineering class discussion vs an intro-level one

qualitative study – aims to reveal something about written products, genres, or style using real-world examples

  • using close analysis of multiple texts to discover trends in writing or publishing in a given discipline or population
  • using close analysis of multiple texts to discover trends in writing or publishing across multiple disciplines or populations

→ Example: compare written texts produced by your group members over the first year of your college career to discover how you comparatively developed
→ Example: compare published writing in two academic journals either across a period of time (writing 50 years ago vs today) or across two disciplines (engineering vs architecture)
→ Example: compare course design and pedegogy across a range of courses at CCNY (collecting syllabi, interviewing instructors)

quantitative study—aims to gather novel data to answer an abstract question with verifiable results

  • using surveys and statistical analysis to develop a new data set

→ Example: survey a population of undergraduate and graduate engineering students to discover if and how they feel satisfied by their writing instruction at CCNY

Composing Proposals (A + B

Object of study: Writing or communication as done by engineers (computer scientists, etc) at any level of professionalization or in any context of use

Writing studies methodology: Research approach suited to ask specific questions about your object of study

Objective of Inquiry: Explain what you want to discover, reveal, or test in this project



Question: How should we share our proposals?

  • Online
  • Oral presentation

Group work: Composing practice proposals

For next time


  • Sondra Perl, “The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers”
  • Carol Berkenkotter, “Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer,” and Donald M. Murray, “Response of a Laboratory Rat—or, Being Protocoled”
  • Nancy Sommers and Laura Saltz, "The Novice as Expert: Writing the Freshman Year" (PDF)
  • Jack Selzer, "The Composing Process of an Engineer" (PDF)
  • Betty Samraj, Lenore Monk, "The statement of purpose in graduate program applications: Genre structure and disciplinary variation" (PDF)


  • BP7: Summary and focused response to one article (due 4/18 at 10pm)

* What is this author's methodology of study?
* What does she try to discover using this methodology?
* How might this methodology be useful for your own writing studies research project?

  • Prepare a brief 3-part proposal for the final project to be performed in class on Thursday
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