Saturday, April 4, 2009

The dissertation post

Usually I don't volunteer much info about my dissertation project; I tend to view it kind of like an unpleasant health condition: not something you want to blather on about to people unless they really want (or need) to know. But since one of my readers expressed some curiosity about it, I decided to go ahead and post a brief description. So, if you're curious what I do when I'm not drawing/crafting, working on etsy giveaways, playing with my kitties or being snide on my blog, feel free to read on. If you're not curious, however, I absolutely totally and completely don't blame you--unless you're not curious and looking for a free sleep aid--in that case, this might be just what you need ;)

I'm doing my dissertation on a study of writing center practices (for those unfamiliar with writing centers: they are common in universities and colleges, and are usually staffed by students willing and able to help their peers revise their writing. They don't provide editing "services"--in other words, you can't drop off a paper to have it fixed--but rather peer tutoring with the goal of helping clients get the personalized attention that can help them continue to improve their writing skills, regardless of their current skill level. For example, at my writing center I work with everyone from first time college students who are very uncomfortable with writing to people writing their dissertations).

Specifically, I'm investigating the practice of reading aloud in writing center sessions--usually most sessions start with the client, or occasionally tutor, reading the client's paper (or letter, or poem, etc.) aloud. However, there hasn't been much discussion in the field as to just why this is done and what the effect is of doing this. Writing center directors argue over the effects, and preferred practices, and so on, but no-one has really done any specific investigations into what is actually going on as a result of the reading aloud.

That's where my study comes in: I'm recording tutoring sessions under three different conditions--one where clients reads their own writing aloud, one where tutors read clients' writing aloud, and one where tutors read clients' writing aloud while using a method called "interpretive reading" to (hopefully) help writers see where their intents are being clearly communicated and where they aren't.

By doing this, I hope to be able to discuss some of the questions writing center directors care about, like how we help writers increase their audience awareness, take control of their own writing, and generally continue to develop as writers.

Ok, that's it--no more dis talk, unless someone asks another direct question. And if you're still reading this far despite having no interest in education or writing, pleasant dreams ;)

5 bits of commenty goodness:

Mishkat said... 4/4/09, 12:53 PM

Thanks, Becca! I thought it was really interesting. I'm very curious about what you'll find. I'm so NOT an auditory person - I learn visually (if I want to remember something, I take notes). So I'm not sure how reading my writing aloud would help me. But maybe it would - I've never had anyone do it!

P.S. My MS was on forms of sulfur in Chesapeake Bay tidal marsh soils as related to vegetation, salinity, and landscape position. It was actually pretty interesting (to me!)

Laura said... 4/4/09, 1:04 PM

Interesting - thanks for sharing! My hubby got his PhD many years ago - I know how much work and frustration go into it (he is at U of L in the CIS Dept - College of Business).

KimberlyRies said... 4/4/09, 4:05 PM

Well, I read your blog post and I am still awake. LOL! That is interesting Becca. Good luck w/ your research!

storybeader said... 4/5/09, 1:45 AM

that's very interesting. I didn't write a dissertation for my masters program, and I've never heard of this. When did the practice start? Are you just looking at your university or many different places? That would be interesting to see how different regions work it!

Higgins Design Studio said... 4/5/09, 8:09 AM

To be able to write your dissertation, create, play with the kitties, list on Etsy.... blog AND live your life is great! Love your creativity, your kitties and hearing about your dissertation... most I have heard about have had to do with Engineering or Science, this actually sounds interesting to me...